To preamp or not to preamp???

I have been lookig for a tube preamp to mate with my Pass Labs X-250. There are several I would concider, the Supratek middle of the liine model, Thor 1000, and maybe a Joule new 150. Today I placed a friends modded Metronome tube CDP direct into the Pass X-250 bypassing my preamp and now I am thinking of replacing my Sony SCD-777ES with a better CDP with volume control first, there are several that have been discussed on Agon, Wadia, AA, RA Opyus 21, Accuphase, Cary, Levinson.

So what is your recommendtation for me:

1. Get a better CDP with volume control to run direct for now until I can get more funds to get a really good preamp?

2. Get a really good preamp and then repalce the Sony when I can afford the upgrade?

3. Or, I could probably get a really good preamp now and also get my Sony CDP modded by Richard Kern ($1000 available funds for a mod on the Sony) as a third option until I could save up for a better CDP.

Thanks and Happy Listening.
When I got my first Wadia I removed my Krell krc hr and never gave it a second thought. I am extremely happy with the sound. The addition of anything into the signal path that changes the sound can only be a detriment. You have already tried it so you know the answer.
The solution for me was to attach directly onto the RCA input jacks of the power amplifier one pair of EVS Ultimate Attenuators from Ric Schultz at This eliminates the preamp with its interconnect, but allows adjusting volume even when you use fixed output from CD player. He has a model for transistor amp, and a model for tube amp. The performance of your amp is then unleashed as there is no tuning or shading of the analogue signal entering your power amp. Retail price is only $350 per pair. A wonderful bargain which costs less than the interconnects it makes unnecessary, and really optimizes in a "less is more" way.
If the only source you use is a CDP, I'd say go ahead and try one without a preamp.
I'm using a Shanling CD T100 direct without pre amp and like it better that way. Do you need a pre amp for any other components in your system? If your planning on buying a new CDP sooner or later, do it first and compare no pre amp to with pre amp.
To preamp or not to preamp depends entirely on what's important to you in musical playback.

I've tried passive pres and while the sound seemed more balanced, I felt the soundfield flattened and became lifeless. I greatly preferred having any of the tube preamps I owned in the signal path.

My preference in listening seems to be completely counter to what Kenscollick suggests, and I realize I'm probably in the minority in that regard.

So I think if you're looking for attributes a good tube preamp can introduce to the sound go that direction. And if you'd rather the preamp get out of the way try a passive preamp or look for a CDP with volume control.

Good luck!
I've tried removing my tube preamp (which I don't actually need) but cannot even make it through one song before it goes back in the chain. I love what my Wright WPA12 does for my system (a more palpable musical presentation).
Most sources today put out sufficient voltage to drive power amps into clipping, so gain from a preamp isn't needed. Placette audio and Bent audio both make execellent passive attenuators that will do what you need done and preserve the transparency you've discovered. Both companies offer a money back if you don't like the unit.