As good as the Freya S is, it's not in the same league as the BAT.
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Look at the Schiit Freya + $899, as you have 3 different flavours in one, passive, tube, or solid state.
It's got everything, many inputs/output, remote, xlr, se, inputs and outputs, 128-Step Relay switched volume almost as good as going direct.
Or if you don't care for tube part, the Freya S for $599
And you can send it back if you not taken with it. Win win in my books.
I would think the Adcom GFP 750 would be a step up from the Aragon 28k? So the Freya S bested that based on what you said.
In terms of going direct George. I have a Cary CDP 1 CD player that can drive an amp directly. I tried that awhile back and although dynamic, I felt it lost some body. Perhaps it was cables/power cord.
Yes, going direct will be the most dynamic you can get with the Cary having 3.0 V RMS (at 220 output impedance) a perfect match.
It’s possible that your source needed the bit of colouration that a active preamp will give, or you could use warmer sounding cables to do the same, then you’ll also get the better dynamics as well that going direct gives.
As no active preamp can increase dynamics (compared to going direct as you have done), unless the active pre has a DBX dynamic range expander inside it, but they sound rubbish.
The gain on the Aragon is 28db, which is normal (most amps are 26-30 db). The max gain on the BAT is 20db, but it also has 70 db of volume control range (using a shunted control, so there should not be an optimal volume range for the volume control). As such, even with the gain, you should still have more than 40db of volume control. As such, you should be fine.
Regarding the Freya S v. GFP-750, the GFP-750 was ever so slightly smoother in the midrange, but the Freya S imaged better. Both have no grain. Over time the passive mode on the Freya S (and the OG Saga I bought on closeout for my desktop system) have really grown on me.
O.K., this explains it. The VK-23SE preamp has a transformer-coupled output stage. Thus the "SE" designation. Normally, the output stage incorporated capacitors (not claiming to know the technical reasons). Apparently, the transformer-coupling is superior to caps. Whatever it's doing, my VK-33SE sounds like a dream (also transformer-coupled)!
My understanding is that capacitors are normally used in the output stage to prevent DC offset from potentially damaging speakers. The capacitor acts as a high pass filter. There are other ways of dealing with the potential DC offset. Like many things in audio there are disagreements as to the least audible way to deal with DC offset.