Try the new Cary Audio CD-308T. It features a tube output stage with variable gain. Does upsampling too!
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It can be a very good idea (if you like the direct sound). The most important thing to consider is the quality of the volume control on the CD player's variable out. A poor volume control will sound worse than a decent preamp. Do a search on CD player's with volume control, and you should find plenty of previous threads on the same topic.
I agree with Phild.
A player with an analog variable output is IMO far superior to those with a digital volume contol.
I have found that there is a need for the cd player to have sufficient output to drive your amp.
I run a Resolution Audio Opus 21 direct to my Lamm mono blocks.
There are a few units out there that seem to do it all. The Levinson 390 the Audio Aero Capitole come to mind. I've owned all three and the Resolution Audio is my prefence and is less than half the costs of others in their class of excellence.
I have yet to put an adequate pre amp and interconnect in my system that reveals the same depth of detail and harmonic richness that comes thru without any pre amp and I've tried combos well into five figures in cost.
At 3K the RA Opus 21 is a no brainer.
I have to confess that I have never personally tried the Audio Aero Capitol, I have only auditioned it at the shows. I did try the Wadia 861 and my own Accuphase 75V connected directly to my amplifier, and they did not sound even close to what you get through a good preamplifier !
I think that all our recommendations might help, but at the end if you have the possibility to perform a test, that is what you should do.
Audio Aero Capitole MKII is highly recommended !
AA has high quality analog volume control and high output impedance that would be perfect match with your tube amp or any medium input impedance SS amp.
You like having a good tube preamp,DAC,CD transport,2 interconnects,and 2 power cords which would cost you more than $20,000 to get the same performance.(I'm not kidding)
Simple the best !
Put me in for Audio Aero too ! Brilliant tube magic sound. You must wait for it to break in. I it better than the wadia 850 (too in your face with detail), or the levinson (boring) near as much as the AA.
In general I agree with Tok20000. The AA is the notable exception. It's tube output stage is so dynamic, smooth and musical you WANT to hear as much of it as possible. If you don't care about tuners or analog, the AA is head and shoulders THE best cd playback I've heard. If you want to go really cheap, the older sony xa7es's are pretty good for $900ish.
Aa alternative is to pick up a used (or new) placette passive preamp. Mate that with a cheap transport and a Bel Canto DAC 2.0 (or whatever floats your boat). Provided a source component has a reasonably robust output stage, the placette's compete with price no object preamps. If your source component has a wimpy output stage you will experience a lack of dynamic drive. Personally, I hate it when that happens. With my main system's mondo-output stage source components (hotrod scd-1, MR-78 tuner, Cal Alpha DAC, Pass ONO), I find the placette gives greater resolution than a high quality preamp.
I agree with John about the Placette Passive linestage. It replaced the Line 3 SE in my system. The SFCD-1 cd player was excellent with the passive, but I recently changed to a Granite 657 with the level control which allows the tube analog output to be adjusted from 0-30v.
I'd really like to hear an Audio Aero Capitole Mk 1 or 2 in my system, but would anticipate using it with the Placette for the volume control. I'd like to hear how it compares with the Granite 657.
Peter Moncrieff has a very favorable review of the AA.
The Granite is an excellent player and you'll be able to buy the Placette and lots of cd's with the money you have left over.