Herron pre upgrade...

My system has evolved to a point where I am looking for some specific sonic improvements. I am a huge fan and loyal customer of Herron components. They have been the highlight of my audio purchases over the years. Recently, I had my amps upgraded to M1A's and am enjoying them. My pre is the vtsp 1a-166. The rest of my system is comprised of an Arcam CD23T cdp with Dunlavy Cantata's and mid level Morrow cables and PC's.

I am currently researching a "possible" speaker upgrade (current thread running in the speaker forum). But putting that aside, I have read tremendous things about the Herron's VTSP 3A. The improvements I am looking for I can best describe relating to instruments, most notably guitar strings and piano notes. While things sound good, they seem slightly flat to me or to fall off quickly. Overall low to mid volume performance is another trait I would like to improve. Currently, there is quite a step-up in musicality at mid+ volume levels. Often a touch higher than preferred for daily background music.

Being a hobby enthusiast at best, I would be very interested in hearing from others who may be able to help critique the components I have assembled. Any input related to the 1a vs 3a preamp would be great also. Maybe I should be considering the jump up to the 3A before moving up to another speaker.

Thanks for your time.
I have the 3a in its latest iteration and see no reason to upgrade from here. Never having the 1a or 2a, I can't make a comparison. The Herron is not tubelike IME, more neutral than other tube pres, e.g., the Joule models which to me are more magical but problematical in terms of age and troubleshooting.

The only glitch I've had with my Herron were some noisy tubes. Although Keith doesn't believe in rolling tubes and sticking with the EH 6922's, I found some NOS tubes in critical positions that solved my problem.

Suggestion: call Keith and ask him to send you his latest preamp to audition for a short time. Or he can refer you to a dealer who will.
Not specific to Herron, but upgrading the preamp could result in a very significant improvement in the system. If you have the chance to audition one without risk, I think that would be the way to go. From the tone of your post, and maybe I'm wrong, you sound like you basically like your system, but you're getting a bit bored. It happens. But I still think that few people here really understand the upgrade a preamp can make. Providing you're moving to a better one, of course. Good luck.
I previously owned a Herron VTSP 1a-166 preamp and my experience echoes yours and Tenebaum, I found the preamp to be overly neutral, lacking a bit of air and dimensionality. I ended up selling it and have never looked back. I currently run an older Deja Vu Audio preamp and am very happy. I firmly believe there is no more important piece in a system than your preamp. As Chayro says above the improvement can be quite startling. I can't offer any thoughts on on the VS3a sorry.
The Herron 1A pre was my first Herron Product. It has trumped other similar budgeted pre's even through several amp changes. Recently, I made the step to the matching Herron M1A amps. It was a revelation in detail. So much so, I pulled the Arcam CD23T back out of the closet to replace the Bryston cdp we long ago decided on for its perceived added detail. The Arcam cdp absolutely provided a much more pleasant presentation in our environment which I would certainly consider lively.

Now after some critical listening and paring of components, I am indeed bored and willing to attempt some more refinement. We have a flute, piano, and guitar player in the household. So naturally the music quality is a priority. I have no desire to revisit changing amps at this time, so I have been focused on a more efficient speaker upgrade that would mate well with the Herron M1A's. I do not believe my current Dunlavy Contata'a to be that efficient at 90db 4ohm. But after much reading and not being particularly unhappy with the Cantata's sound, I am thinking the preamp may be a logical next step for some exploring.

Thanks for everyone's time who has commented. I very much enjoy reading the great articulate feedback and experience of the many members.
In my view your weakest link is the Arcam CD23T. Digital has improved immensely over the past 2-3 years and you will benefit much more from upgrading your CD player first. This should significantly improve resolution and musicality.
Hey Mlo97,

I will echo Tenenbaum16's comments on getting in touch with Keith Herron.
If you haven't yet had the opportunity to talk with him I'd say pick up the phone and call him. His love and passion for music is evident in his products and I think with your family's involvement in music you guys would hit it off and he may give you some suggestions for speakers to use with his equipment.
Mlo97 I had the 1a-166 before I upgraded to the 3a-r02. I think you would find the upgrade worthwhile. I found a greater sense of space and air around the instruments and a better grip on the music. I'm a big Herron fan and would also suggest that you call him for more guidance. I would also agree with Dover that you might want to consider another cd source at some point.

I would echo Chayro--through nearly a half dozen linestage changes I have found that the preamp has a surprisingly large impact on the system sound. I would also second those who suggest you call Keith--you will be hard pressed to find a more willing and honest partner in your audio endeavor. Not an ounce of guile or ego--just good common sense, engineering expertise and musical sensibility.

As for the VTSP-3A--I have one (R02) but did not upgrade from an earlier model so I cannot say for sure how they might differ. I can say that the VTSP-3A is by FAR the finest linestage preamp I have had in my system and one which I can confidently say will be there many years from now. I know that Keith has recently released an R03 version which may (somehow) be even better than the unit I am currently listening to. Regardless, it strikes me as odd that Keith's VTPH-2 phono stage gains widespread kudos (well deserved--I own one) but his linestage does not seem to have as wide a following. I find the linestage EQUALLY compelling and worthy of any serious music lover's system. Best of luck with your journey!
Follow up...I did have a conversation with Keith. As always, he provided some good information for me to digest and will be building me a current model 3A. Should anyone have some input for a move up from the Arcam cdp, I would love to hear them. Thanks to all who have replied.