You're not hearing what your amp is capable of. I agree with others that the preamp has more to do with the sound of a system over an amp; they're both important. I've heard ok amps sound very good with a great preamp, but not a great amp sound great with an ok preamp. Try the Rogue pre... can't go wrong with that brand.
kingdombuildingcon it's no problem mixing ss and tubes assuming there are no impedance mismatches or anything but I think, and others here too, that a tubed preamp is the way to go. In fact many do the reverse of what you propose and pair a tubed preamp with a ss amp. I would say unless you have some compelling reason to get a ss preamp stick with tubes.
In my experience, the amp makes a much bigger impact than the preamp. I was using an Outlaw 975 as my DAC and pre and then switched to an Odyssey Candela and Schiit Bifrost Multibit DAC. There was a difference, but it wasn't huge. I then "upgraded" my Odyssey Candela to an Aesthetix Calypso Signature, which is 4.6x more expensive than the Candela. I would not say that the Calypso is that much better.
However, when I upgraded my amp to a Sanders Magtech from Odyssey Kismet in Stratos monos, the difference was quite pronounced. I'm running Magnepan 3.7's. YMMV
Let's just say it depends. Gerenally speaking, I advocate getting the source in order, then amp/speaker cables/speakers unit and preamp the last to bind everything together. In this case you match preamp to both amp and phono stage, and dac that you already got. It might be in the end the most important component - more reason to do it when the rest is set. Could be done differently, yeah.
I tend to recognize more of a difference in preamps than amps in my setups. More detail specifically, maybe ’air’ as some define it.
I’m not doubting other’s opinions at all. But I know when I ended up with my first nice preamp, (nice to me) it changed my expectations regarding what was possible.
Much more refined and expensive gear than mine on here. In my case it was a preamp that retailed for around $2,500, but I really enjoy it.
These ST100 specs makes it a great candidate for a passive volume control, which will be the most transparent/dynamic way of getting your music from the source to the ST100.
Before you spend big bucks on an active preamp you should give this a go.
This a great value for a passive just $49 and you can return it if you wish.
I agree with the suggestion of a passive preamp. I got a Creek OBH-22 Passive Preamp, primarily to use as a remote volume control. But, it turned out to be quite a good preamp - incredibly transparent, clean, clear, detailed, dynamic, etc. It just passes the signal on to the amp and speakers without any distortion.
Hard to believe - but it seems to sound as good as my 40 times more expensive ARC Ref 5se active preamp in many respects - though, the ARC may have a bit better soundstage... not sure... it's so close.
Of course most passive preamps are very simple (e.g. unbalanced interconnects, few sources, etc.), but the quality of the sound can be amazingly clean and clear.
But... if you want the rich, warm, sound of a tube preamp (really distortion), then you won't find that in most passive preamps.
limniscatelimniscate, i believe that you came to the conclusion you did because of the following - the Odyssey Kismet is not capable of driving your Maggie 3.7 because it just does not have the output current capability needed for this particular speaker. It was never intended to drive current hungry speakers like the Maggie 3.7 - no flaw in the Kismet amp; just an inappropriate amp-speaker match-up.
The Magtech OTOH is designed to drive ESL speakers + is excellent at driving planar speakers like the Maggie 3.7. The Magtech outputs 400 or 500W/ch compared to the 160W/ch for the Kismet. the Magtech is even higher current output than the Kismet - the Magtech has 10 output transistors for push current & 10 for pull current whereas the Kismet has 3 push & 3 pull, if i remember correctly.
The Maggie 3.7 are very current hungry - there is an Audioasylum member who is driving his Maggie 20.1 bass panel with a 2500W/ch class-D amplifier & he says that amplifier clips sometimes when the volume is turned up! This gives you an idea of what sort of current is required to get the best out of the larger Maggies. Not exactly the same speakers as yours but quite similar.
Now that you have the Magtech in there try swapping preamps to see if you can hear a bigger difference.....
I think the Odyssey Kismet does 200w into 8 ohms but would agree that it probably wasn’t powerful enough to drive the Maggies. I bought the Aesthetix after I switched to the Magtech. Is it better than the Candela? Sure, but not even close to what I would consider 4.6x better.
I’m considering trying out an ARC Ref 5SE, Herron VTSP-3A(r03), or Zesto Leto 1.5.
On another note to the OP. My brother went from a Denon receiver to a McCormack DNA-1, and the difference was pretty noticeable.
A word to the wise about passive preamps (about which I've done much research and had some real life experience):
1 - Passive preamps, in return for their simplicity & purity of signal path, expose you completely to potential impedance mismatches and/or gain mismatches between the specific & your system. Without trying a given passive unit or doing calculations of voltage & impedance values in your system (in front of & downstream of the passive)--taking into account interconnect length and capacitance--you cannot be certain you won't encounter any impedance or gain mismatch with your system.
2 - I own two passive preamps. Once cost ~$100 & uses transformers. It should sound terrible, but actually sounds quite good, nearly as good as a medium-grade active preamp. There's no detectable bass drop-off; no increase in treble peakiness/brightness; and plenty of volume at reasonable settings. The other is rather expensive (costing 5 times what the cheaper unit costs) & built like a tank by a well known mfr; it uses a very high-grade stepped potentiometer. It sounds awful in my system, with bass clearly lessened, treble clearly brighter, and I have to turn it alarmingly high to get satisfactory volume (that's a bad sign w/a passive).
I believe that, purely by chance, the cheaper passive has neither an impedance mismatch nor gain mismatch in my system, while the far more expensive one has both. It's the luck of the draw...
My advice is simple: if you want to try passives, start small money-wise and try 1 of these 2:
A. Luminous Audio Matrix II Passive: for ~$225, you get a passive built to match your systems specifications (in the order process, you specify key system specs that help assure the unit will not mismatch w/your system). That's very intelligent and helps prevent buyer's remorse. This is a very well-reviewed & well-liked unit; or
B. Tisbury Mini Passive: This British-made unit (easily available from the mfr on eBay for ~$130) has 3 gain settings, an invaluable feature to prevent gain mismatches. It's not fancy, but many like the sound.
Fortunately, the Creek OBH-22 seems to match most of my equipment pretty well - so, it is a bargain for me - though, I’ve not tried it with all of my various speakers, amps and sources.
Not an EE but, I agree - Impedence, gain and current matching is a critical factor in attaining the best sound from your components. I became aware of impedence and gain matching, with some headphone amps I have / had.
I wondered why the X-CAN v3 would sound great with my high impedence phones and less so, with my low impedence phones, while the X-CAN v8 just the opposite. It turned out to be an impedence matching issue. Makes all the difference.
I got rid of the denon. I got the Rogue pre 99 super magnum. It sounds pretty good. I also bought the Antelope zodiac DAC pre. A hand full of people not knowing what’s what for gear, but with a pretty legit music background thought the Zodiac alone as a pre/dac sounded better than the Rogue pre with the Zodiac working together. This is with cheap speakers. I have Penaudios coming in next week. That will be the real test.. So yea ROGUE ST100 needed a pre, who knew.. The difference is real. 1500 real? Yes I would say so and I like to have my money in my account.