Pre-amp Suggestions for Tubes & Electrostats

I am considering testing a pre-amp in a system that now consists of VTL 450 monoblocks, Martin Logan SL3s, Sony SCD777ES, and a Cello passive attenuator. I am not sure if I 'need' to replace the passive pre yet but am interested in giving it a try and expect to add analog eventually. If I do make the switch to a pre-amp, it would be to something to keep through further iterations of the source and speakers (I assume the VTLs are 'permanent'). Musical tastes eclectic but primarily listen to classical music (from chamber music to opera) and jazz.

I had been strongly leaning towards tubes but I recently heard a JRDG Synergy II in someone else's system and noted it made a remarkable difference from before (can't for the life of me remember what 'before' was) and so am interested in learning about good tube AND SS pre-amps which would match the system and welcome any and all suggestions on pre-amps (or advice to keep what I have).
I would save some money and replace your CD player and passive attenuator with the Audio Aero Capitole 24/192. It has a remote volume control and very high output. It would allow you to run without a preamp and go directly to the amps. You will also be quite surprised at how the Audio Aero fares against SACD.

I am a dealer for the Audio Aero so my recommendation may seem biased. I can put you in touch with many people that are using this very same setup with fantastic results.
I agree with Jtinn, the audio aero is amazing, it does things digital shouldn't be able to do! I think a few more listening sessions(with the capitole) and I will be ordering one, I am speechless as to describe how good it sounds. I think if it was able to have a tone-arm and spin a record, it would fool a lot of people, I have heard a lot of the best digital(I live with accuphase) and NOTHING sounds like that.
To respond to your didn't specify a budget range, but in the <$5K (new) range, I strongly suggest you try to listen to both the Placette active (solid state) and the First Sound Presence Deluxe MkII (tube). Both are terrific.
The Mcintosh C42 or the C100 are excellent SS. Mac is coming out with a new tube preamp soon that is suppose to be THE tube preamp of all time.
I'm a little doubtful about adding an active stage to that system, unless there's an obvious matching problem between the Sony and the amps, or unless you want more functionality that a simple passive attenuator doesn't give's hard to get good active curcuits that also have as resolving a volume control as the Cello.
But sounds like you might be somehow dissatisfied with the system?

Assuming you're trying them out, I would think that one of VTLs better tube preamps would be a good match to your amps. Also Joule Electra LA-100, Sira, Cary, etc.
my 2c.
Since you expressed an interest in analog, may I recommend mine (everybody recommends theirs!)? An Atma-Sphere MP-3 with a great phono stage. It's kinda' homely but I got a custom gold finish which does dress it up a bit. It's also fully balanced which I assume would go well with your VTLs.
Jtinn & Tireguy; Thanks, I hadn’t thought about that possible solution. Someone mentioned in another thread that Audio Aero is coming out with a CD/SACD/DVD-A player called the Prestige. Will the Prestige have the same 24/192 redbook capability (and/or DAC) as the Capitole? Anyone know a price range?
Drubin; thanks for those two. I live in Japan and have never seen either of them here, new or used (though I guess that’s what FedEx is for). I did not mention a budget because I wanted open recommendations from people with a variety of experiences and budgets.
Tacs; I'm not really dissatisfied – I very much like the ‘open-ness’ of the Cello, simply open to tinkering and looking to the future which probably has analog in store. I do have one 'problem' currently - can't change the volume while feeding the baby - a remote would be handy.
Travis; fully balanced great for VTLs except current CDP isn’t balanced out (only the SCD-1 among that line).

Thanks to all for the suggestions already posted. Keep’em coming!
The recently discontinued tube/ss hybrid LAMM L1 is superb, and used ones come now and then on Audiogon, and the Pass X1 ss unit is almost equally good, and those are always around here. I've had both, and think they're both truly excellent.
Jadis JPS-2 two moduels preamp using 3 12ax7 and one 12au7 tube, would be the first choice, Nagra PL-P shall be the second.
I definitely go with the warm and sweet tube preamp CJ17LS or CJ16LS (more expensive) and they are very high performance with their 6922 tubes.
I have to state that the Capitol going direct is very good but it is still better using a very high end preamp ahead of it.

We recently did a shoot out with the Audio Aero Capitol, the Oracle(out of business), the Wadia 861, the Linn, the Sim Eclipse, the EMC 1 with 24/192 upgrade, the Audio Meca Mephisto 2, and the Accuphase 75. Everyone of the players sounded better with a preamp and we did try the Accuphase, the Wadia, and the Capitol direct. We used both the Red Rose Silver Signature preamp and the First Sound Paramount preamp. Granted both preamps are expensive but if we are talking the best sound which is what we were seeking the difference was significant.
One interesting point is that there is very little difference between the Mephisto 2, the EMC 1 with 24/192 upgrade, and the Audio Meca Mephisto 2. I personally like the finesse and delicacy of the Mephisto 2 but in the shootout the EMC 1 usually came out on top with the Capitol on its heels. Sonically those 2 players are very much alike. The difference being in aesthetics and build quality and I believe the slight edge that went to the EMC 1 probably had to do with its extraordinary control of the bottom end.
A few years back many reviewers raved about the magic of the Camelot Uther direct and many people whom purchased it were shocked when they finally got around to putting in a great preamp how quickly what they had considered state of the art was just in essence adequate. I personally would never use the Aero direct unless it was a money issue.
I know that the thought is very appealing of one less component but if you want to experience everything that the Capitol, Wadia or the Accuphase have to offer insert a preamp like a First Sound, Red Rose Silver Signature, a Blowtorch etc.
Too often a preamp is viewed as little more than an attentuator and I believe alot of Audiophile's are in for a very big surprise when they add a preamp to any player that has a volume control.
Just another perspective. I wish that there was a one box player with a great quality preamp built in. I wish for many things. I wish Pass labs would build a reference integrated X amp. I wish that $500 powercords transformed ones system in the same way that $2000 powercords. I wish I could find a cable that did everything that the Vahalla's do at a down to earth price.
In your system would a Capitol going direct sound better than your Sony with a great preamp. I believe it is a toss up. But a Capitol or any of the 24/192 upsampling players with a great preamp would be a huge step up.
By the way I am a dealer. I do not carry the Capitol but NUVIEW the Western distributor was kind enough to loan me one. I do carry the EMC 1 and the Mephisto 2. I was looking at the Oracle very seriously because of the outstanding looks and it makes a great transport but they are gone.
Good luck!
The Jadis is beautifully euphonic, cheating slightly in the midband on the warmish side of neutral, whereas the Aesthetics Callisto is dead neutral, with a wonderful deep and layered soundstage and dynamics which equal the Jadis.