Tube preamp as foundation for 2 channel upgrade

I have a multichannel ss system that sounds sterile. The main components are:

Anthem AVM2 processor
Aragon 8008 X 5 amp
Esoteric DV 50 universal player
Talen Raven C front speakers
Bohlender Graebener ribbon center channel / rear speakers

I have been struggling with the decision whether to go with a better quality SS processor, or split the preamp function between a 2 channel preamp and a processor, running the interconnects from the DV50 to both so that in 2 channel mode I use only the preamp and in HT mode I use both.

I have been told that tubes may liven up my system, and I am leaning towards a good tube preamp for 2 channel with a separate perhaps lesser quality solid state processor for HT. Later I will address upgrading the amp - not sure if that will go tube as well.

My budget is limited...<$4,000 for both the preamp and a replacement processor. My Anthem is malfunctioning and the manufacturer was unable to fix it (talk about frustrating!!!), so I am replacing it.

Finally, I have an older Denon turntable with a Grado cartridge I'd like to reintroduce into my system, and get back into vinyl, so the preamp should have a phono input.

Thanks in advance for your advice.
The problem is (are) the five bare bones SS amps in the Aragon. I think the simplest solution would be to get a tube stereo (or pair of monoblock) amp(s). Drive it (them) with the "Front" (or "Main") outputs from your processor (and just drive your center, rears, etc w/ the Aragon) That way you'll get rich sound out of your Talons in both 2-channel and HT modes.

Don't get me wrong re: SS amps. There are some great SS stereo and monoblock amps, it's just that the amps in the Aragon fall far short of that category, as do the vast majority of multi-channel amps.

Im sure you've read it elsewhere, but the amp and/or speakers have the biggest effect on the sound of your system. The Talons are nice speakers. You should find a decent amp to go with them.
I would tend to agree about the Aragon amp being the culprit, although I've never heard a Aragon product. I do know it was never on the 'good match for Talon list'. I used to have Raven-C's w/Pass X250 running a X2 preamp then later a Cary tube preamp (when I had the space for such a monster setup). If I were to own Ravens again I would probably find a Sim W5 or Belles amp & find a good Joule Electra LA 100 pre. Those are great speakers & you will be delighted with them once you find the right mix. good luck & happy listening.
This is an issue that I have thought much about as well. I also currently use a ss processor (B&K) and a 5-channel budget amp (Adcom) but also a Counterpoint ss amp for the front speakers with much refinement over the Adcom. And I too have Talon speakers (Khorus in front and Peregrine in back). The system is fairly good but definitely in the sterile zone compared to my all tubed music system in another room.

I tend to agree with Nsgarch's comments in these forums but I would typically not run with tube amps in a HT system ..... especially if it doubles as the home's primary TV setup. Tube amps can generate a lot of heat and they become VERY costly to maintain; their reliability can be an issue due to tube failures, etc. So only if this system was not on all the time would I even consider tube amps here. And it seems like such a waste for movies/tv anyway.

Time and time again I have found the make or break link in a music system to be a tube preamp. And unfortunately, only a handful of models out there even cut it for me. This is very different than having heard and enjoyed some very good amplifiers, including many ss. So if you are looking to resolve the "sterile" issue, the tube preamp is the direction I would go.

I also looked into finding a tube preamp with HT bypass that would link the inputs directly to the outputs through a switch AND not require the unit to be on...and thus conserve tube life. But so far no luck. I had heard rumors the Modwright had this feature but Dan Wright wrote to me that his preamp did not support this. So if you end up with a tube preamp, it will most likely be on all the time and generating a little heat.

You can go very far for $4k. I would look to put half into a tube preamp and the other half in an amp for the front channels. The Modwright 9.0 line stage gets a lot of praise here in the $2k zone. And I believe there is a phono option for these. If you want to get less in cost, the BAT VK3 series is another model that has an optional phono board.

As for amps, something like a used Ayre V5 or V3, Bel 1001, McCormmack 125/225 would be what I would look into. And with the Talons having 90ish db sensitivity, they really rock without the need for super high powered amps.

John is right, I forgot that with HT, the system will be "in use" in one form or another all the time. So go for (at least) a really good SS amp to drive the Talons, and if that still doesn't do it, maybe you could just get a simple tube linestage and put it between the processor's main outs and the new SS amp?
Radical Upgrade suggestion

Sell the Talons, Never buy speakers built in Utah or Colorado!

Now you have almost $8K to spend

BYE Bye BG's


Sell the Aragon, very "sterile" amplifier

Now you have 10K ish?

Sell the Anthem ($.5K?

Buy 3 Blue Sky Big Blue Monitors (they are active) and four System One 6.5 monitors $7K (Guitar Center carries them)

Use what's remaining to upgrade the processor., fact is sell the Esoteric DV-50 too, get a used Meridian G68xxl and a Pioneer DVD won't miss the Esoteric!

You may have some money left over, but you will need some balance interconncts for the speakers to processor connection.

Thought I'd give you a view of your system possibilities from a different perspective.
I have a similar arrangement to what you are considering. I’m using a tube pre w/bypass, and tube amps for the front two channels (no center). My HT processor/receiver is used to drive the rears and of course for processing. Who says you have to use the tubes when you watch television. When I’m watching TV, I use the built-in TV speakers. For the occasional concert that may be on TV I turn on the tubes. For movies, the whole system is also up and running. Best of both worlds and no excess wear and tear on the tubes. Also, I think for the up to $4K that you’re considering spending, you could pick-up a nice used tube amp and replacement processor, and then when time and money permits pick-up a tube pre as well.