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Questions and Answers

Why use a Pre-Amp at all? Why not just connect my CD player directly to the power amp and use variable output of the CD player to control the volume?

That would be a great idea if your CD player, DAC or Phono Pre-Amp came equipped with a 126 step attenuator that used only Vishay® S-102 resistors. These very expensive and transparent resistors have to be heard to be believed. The most dramatic listening test of all is to compare the sound of the "Variable Out" of your source with the clarity, dynamics and purity obtained by using the "Line Out" from the same source and going through the Vishay® S102 attenuator of a Placette unit instead of the built in volume control of the source. This simple test (and the one below) demonstrates what a very weak link the volume control in your system really is.

What exactly does "transparency" mean as applied to the Placette?

We use "transparency" to mean that the Placette has no sonic signature of it's own. In other words, if you insert a Placette in series between the Linestage you are now using and your Power Amp, the overall sound of your system will be unchanged because the Placette will accurately pass the signature of your Linestage intact. But when you remove the old Linestage and just use the Placette, you will hear all of the musical detail you have been missing. And the Vishay® S102 resistors deliver this clarity without adding the brightness and smearing that is the bane of lesser volume controls. Placette offers the only Volume Controls that are guaranteed to be literally transparent.

Isn't a Passive Pre-Amp the most transparent of all because it doesn't have to go through any electronic circuitry?

This is not always true, although many lower quality Pre-Amp output stages certainly do more harm than good. In almost all cases, it's the volume control itself that is doing the most damage and then that damage is then passed on in full by the output amplifiers in the Linestage to the power amp. Since all passive designs are inherently flawed with serious matching and frequency response limitations, it's only by using Vishay® S102 resistors with their perfectly resistive load that a truly transparent passive line control is possible. This means that the Placette actually has an input resistance rather than input impedance. All frequencies, from the deepest bass to the highest highs are passed through with perfect linearity. Nothing is added or taken away.

Why do passive controls cause such a loss in dynamics?

As a general rule, it's the impedance limitations of the typical high-end volume pot that causes the poor reproduction of dynamics and high frequency loss. But because Vishay® S102 resistors provide a perfectly resistive load with virtually instant rise-time, our passive customers report that the dynamics are actually improved over what they were using before. Of course, the Placette's Active Line-stage also offers a resistive load (with an even higher input resistance) and it has the additional advantage of a very low output impedance to provide the ultimate in perfect transparency and dynamics. Keep in mind that even the slightest unevenness in frequency response or phase distortion will add a false sense of dynamics since the apparent volume of the playback will vary as the pitch of the music varies. These factors also add a muddiness to the sound. The goal of Placette users is to get as close as possible to the actual sound of live acoustic music by eliminating all distortions and colorations from the volume control.

Do all passive controls lack good Bass response?

Most passive controls do not transfer frequency extremes well. But because of the non-inductive load provided by Vishay® S102 resistors, Placette Passive Controls are able to accurately pass along a perfectly linear signal including the deepest bass. Keep in mind that it is very difficult to build a Tube Linestage or Transformer Volume Control without a slight bulge and some muddiness in the bass. If you sense that your system needs improvement with bass response, we would suggest that you add a Sub or change the set-up rather than try to correct the problem by adding Preamp distortion.

Can a Pre-Amp be too transparent?

If transparency is defined as the absence of distortion, then no distortion is always better. The fear that many audiophiles have is that a transparent Pre-Amp will allow the distortions of their sources to come through. Although this maybe true in a few cases, it is also true that the most irritating distortions they now hear are caused by the volume control itself. If you have not heard what your system sounds like with a truly transparent Vishay® S102 attenuator then you have not heard your system at anything near its true potential. We guaranty this with our 30 day in-system trial. A Placette will dramatically improve the resolution, clarity and smoothness of any system not already using a volume control made up of discreet Vishay S102 resistors.

What causes the "brightness" that is so often associated with solid state?

If you measure the frequency response of most stereo components, you will find that very few actually measure with a significant bias toward high frequencies. In fact, most components have a slight roll-off of the high frequencies in an attempt to minimize the true cause of brightness, which is high frequency distortion. This is an extremely irritating kind of distortion that often drives many listeners to use tube equipment or Transformer Volume Controls to simply roll-off these troublesome frequencies. But a Placette Remote Volume Control or Active Linestage will allow all of the musical detail through without the distortion, brightness and smearing of the conventional volume control. In fact, most listeners are so used to this slight, constant tinge of brightness that listening without this distortion for the first time is a revelation.

Don't several companies offer Vishay® resistor stepped attenuators?

Some do but at a significant increase in price. But a lot of so called Vishay® resistor volume controls simply run the audio signal through a single Vishay S102 and then ground the signal through a much cheaper resistors This does not provide the clarity that Vishay's are known for. The signal must also be grounded through a Vishay®. And the Vishay® resistors used must only be the very expensive S102. And many stepped attenuators built today use active switching to select resistor values and this can cause non-linear distortions and irritation like we are all used to hearing when listening to AV receivers. Just as important, the cost of building large switching attenuators is so high that most only have 30 to 40 steps so it is often difficult to select the exact volume level desired. Placette products use only Vishay® S102 resistors in the volume control and have 126 separate volume steps. Remember, Vishay® is a company with many divisions. Like General Motors. The so called Vishay-Dale resistors are simply Dale resistors that cost only a few cents each. Only the Vishay® S102 resistor is truly transparent.

Why don't Placette Products have balance controls?

A remote operated balance control is available on all Placette products as an extra cost option. We have only built a very few Preamps with this option because the tracking of our stepped attenuator is so perfect that it is not needed. The volume output from each channel is always perfectly balanced from channel to channel at every one of the 126 volume steps.

Does the remote control of Placette Audio products affect the sound quality?

Absolutely not. If it did, we would not offer it! The control system mechanically selects the resistor for each step. The actual volume control on all of our products is totally passive. The only active audio circuits are in the Active Linestage that use two separate, discrete, Class-A output amplifiers. Each of these two amplifiers uses an additional eleven Vishay® S102 resistors in the signal path. These utterly transparent amplifiers also serve as the finest headphone drivers available today.

Why would some people say that Vishay® resistors are not the best sounding?

Very few people have ever actually heard the sound (or lack of sound) of a properly designed Vishay® S102 resistor stepped attenuator. But once you hear that clarity, it becomes very addictive and you quickly lose your tolerance for even the slightest trace of volume control distortion that you will then easily hear in other systems. Also, since these resistors are so costly, many manufactures' are reluctant to use them because they would more than double the retail price of the Pre-Amps they build. Placette sells direct to the customer and so we pass this savings on in the form of much higher parts cost and unequaled Preamp performance.

Why don't you recommend balanced operation?

We offer truly balanced versions of all of our products at twice the cost of single ended units. To build a truly balanced volume control or preamp requires building four channels of everything instead of the usual stereo pair. Because of the very high cost of the Vishay® resistors and adding extra internal controls and interlocks, it's very expensive and it only offers an advantage in a very few situations. But, because of the extremely good tracking of our balanced four channel volume controls, noise cancellation is the very highest possible because the plus and minus signals are always exactly equal but opposite in phase at every volume setting.

What about the wonderful, warm midrange of tube electronics?

The midrange frequencies are still there of course, but because of the much lower distortion they are even sweeter. But along with that midrange, you also get the delicate, undistorted, brightness free highs and the accurate, deep and controlled bass. In short you get all of the musical detail that was recorded at the source exactly as it was recorded. You will have full access to everything that your source components can provide for you. You will find that most high-end source components are already much better sounding that you ever thought possible.

What type of system is most compatible with Placette Line Stages and Volume Controls?

Because Placette products are so transparent, they offer outstanding performance in just about any system. And since they don't have a sonic signature of their own, you can judge each new source or power amp on it's own merit, not just on how compatible it is with Preamp distortion.


  Guy Hammel (owner)   -   682 Granite Way Boise, Idaho 83712
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