Try adding a Dac or some speakers. That might spruce things up a bit :~)
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If you want to give your cdp a shot and see how it does driving the amp without any further gain stages hooked up, try contacting Nice_Tom here on Audiogon. He currently has a very reasonably priced 1 input passive attenuator for sale. It uses Cardas input and output RCA jacks, a Sonic Frontiers supplied stepped attenuator, silver litz wiring, etc... All for $75 plus shipping. Besides being a killer deal, he's a good guy and you can trust him. Sean
Sounds like you might want to look at the Placette passive preamp. It's basically a volume control unit with one input--doesn't get much simpler or more transparent than this. FTAudio also seems good if you don't need a remote.
I'd also recommend either a DAC(EVS Millennium DAC, Kora Hermes, Modwright P3A, etc.) or send the Sony to someone like Ric Schultz at EVS to get it modified. Between this and the preamp I think your system will open up to a new level. Best of luck.
The Audio Aero Capitole is pricey, yes, but given that it can be run direct to your amp(s), it obviates the need for a pre-amp, given you're CD only. Add to this that it is a 1 box solution, you have no need for separate transport/ DAC and digital cable. This $$ saving somewhat offsets the price of the Capitole. And it is one of, if not the, finest digital front end I've heard. I've had some awfully good pre-amps, and running the Aero direct is my preference. You don't mention a price point, so.....
Creek makes a passive preamp with remote. I forget it's model number, but at around $200 it might be worth a demo since it's pretty cheap so you don't have much to lose. They often come up used on Audiogon, too. The other thing that comes to mind is the monarchy audio DACs with built in pre-amp. I think that's the 18C ... they come up occasionally used for about $400. I have a monarchy 22A DAc which is pretty old but sounds quite good to me.