Best AV-PreAmp for S88 mk2?

Hi together,
I use the S88 mk2 with the Marantz AV7706 and NAD M28. Any recommendation for a better combination?

Yes. Run the exaSound directly into the M28.

But if the exaSound volume control is active there should be done a DSD-to-PCM-conversion inside the DAC. It is pity that there is no USB multichannel DAC with a high quality 8-channel analogue volume control.

I found this information on the volume control in the S88 owners manual.

Hardware Volume Control and Volume Bypass
The s88 DAC volume is controlled by the ES9038PRO DAC chip. Audio data is always bit-streamed over the USB interface at full scale 0db/32bit resolution. Volume processing is performed by the DAC chip right at the border between the digital and the analogue domains. This architecture offers signal to noise ratio comparable to the best analogue volume controls. Setting the volume to 0dB turns all volume processing off and sets the s88 DAC in volume bypass mode.

It is a volume control by the DAC chip itself. The 32 bit resolution should be good enough for every (low) volume setting without any audible loss respectively noise. I am a passionate DSD fan. For DSD there must be a conversion by using the DACs volume control unfortunately. I would say for level trim is a conversion necessary too. I do not unterstand why the company claims the volume control as trademark (ZeroResolutionLoss), according to the description it should be the usual way handled by the ESS DAC.

Fully agree!
Problem is (I’m also a DSD junkie), that it’s hard to find nowerdays an multichannel pre with an analogue multichannel entry and an analogue volume control.
I’m using since years an Emotiva XMC-1 and believe, that this pre is for music a better option than the Marantz.

See Mike’s contribution but why would you prefer an analog VC? Digital with an upsampled signal is effectively lossless and much more precise.

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Those DACs are not capable of native DSD because the control is done in the digital domain. It is only possible if the output carries the full and not manipulated signal. You can only use an extern unit with analogue volume control (chip) like the Marantz 7706, Marantz 8805 or the Emotivas with analogue 7.1 input to avoid conversion.

Hi Kal,
I agree with you, but what to do with watching multichannel movies?
I want the combination with top music and video.

Have you had the S88 connected to the 7.1 channel analog inputs on the AV7706?

My setup has an S88 and OPPO 205 connected to the 7.1 analog inputs on my Denon 8500H for music with a Coleman 7.1sw. OPPO 205 also connected to my receiver with HDMI for 4K Dolby Atmos movies. Cable box, Nuc/Rock, Roku all connected to the receiver with HDMI. Receiver pre-outs to a NAD M28. Everything is always ready to go using the receiver/M28 combination with 7.2.4 speaker arrangement. The M28 powers the ground level speakers with the receiver amps powering the height/ceiling speakers. All managed with a Logitech remote for ease of use for my wife and I.

I assumed you were using a similar setup with the AV7706 and looking to separate the S88 for more direct playback.

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I don’t watch movies on this system.

Hi Mike,
that’s nearly the same setup. I have connected the S88 with the 7.1 anlog inputs on the AV7706. But I’m using ohly 5.0 Gauder Vescova loadspeakers. I need no subwoofer. My Oppo 205 is connected via HDMI with the AV7706.
Andy we both looking for a soundupgrade, when It’s possible.

I don’t understand how the S88 volume control works other than what I read about signal gain attenuation in the digital domain. Mine is set to 0 for max volume and bypasses the volume control.

The Denon 8500 also has the 7.1 analog inputs and is similar to the Marantz 8805 with 13.2 channels except for the Denon receiver having 13 amps onboard and RCA vs XLR outputs. I understand there are differences in sound signature.

The 7.1 inputs are a vanishing breed with both Marantz and Denon excluding them on their newer models. Appears to be the end of the line for those of us that use the 7.1 analog inputs and want/need the additional channels.

I’d be surprised if you could do any better for sound quality with other AV-Preamps or receivers over what you have with the S88/AV7706/M28 combination using the 7.1 analog inputs. Other options may have Dirac vs Audyssey, more channels, more bells and whistles, but other than the channel count the rest is bypassed when using the 7.1 analog inputs.

Thinking at this stage any SQ difference would come down to amp/speaker choices, and of course S88 directly to the M28 as @mitr mentioned.

I’d be interested in what you come up with as an alternative.

You are right about the 7.1 inputs. I use a Marantz AV8805 for multichannel. Unfortunately the new AV10 does not have the 7.1 inputs anymore.

Volume set to “0“ should be fine for native DSD listening without degrading sound with its build DAC volume control.

I’m open to sound quality upgrades when possible.

I’m content with the sound from the Denon 8500h / S88 MK II / NAD M28 / B&W 702 S2 combination using the 7.1 analog connections. That is my only option for Native DSD MC with Roon. I can also switch to the OPPO 205 with the same setup for Native DSD Stereo. Both sound true to the source in my opinion but I’m not an expert listener by any means.

I usually alternate those with NUC / Denon / HDMI zone, for something different, which includes Room Correction and crossover to the subs with Bass Management.

The 3 DAC options for playback keeps me entertained, not actively looking for more, and that keeps my better half happy.

I am thinking about possible speaker upgrades. Have the B&W 702 s2’s in front with the 10 year old 600 series bookshelf sides and 600 series towers in the rear. Will be auditioning the new 702 S3’s in front, 705 S3’s for sides with the 702 s2’s moved to the rear when our local Audio Video shop has them available for demos. The S3’s have more trickle down technology from the 800 series D4’s and I expect the sound will be so much better than the old 600 series. I seriously doubt if they will be returning from the demo.