Will adding a preamp dramatically change my sound?

You can link to my system below, but basically it is a Cary CD player with internal analog volume control direct to a Spectron Musician II amplifier into Totem Forest Speakers, with quality cables and power cords. Honestly I don't feel anything is lacking, but still find myself getting curious about what effect a preamp would have. Anyone have any experience going from a CD direct to amplifier, and later adding a preamplifier? To what result?
Generally the problem with CDP-to-amp direct is the use of digital volume control, which can greatly compromise the sound. However, since your Cary is providing analog volume control and Cary generally uses high quality parts, I doubt you'll gain much, if anything, by adding a pre.

As you spend more and more, both analog and digital volume controls can, and usually do, get better. Still, if this is going to be your only source and there's a good match with your Spectron (you'd expect that from Cary) then you're probably in great shape.

Cutting out a set of ICs is almost always a good thing. In fact, you'll probably gain more by upgrading your ICs and PCs than adding a pre.

Anyway, there's no harm in trying a pre-amp, but don't buy without doing and A-B comparison.

you also want to consider the output impedance of your player in relationship to the amp. A preamp could lower the impedance making it easier for the amp to drive the signal.
a preamp may color the sound, creating a "flavor" you may or may not prefer. it may be worth your time to listen to a feww preamps.
Some CD players (e.g., my Raysonic CD 128) sound fabulous through an active linestage and pretty dismal through a passive or straight into a power amp. I would definitely experiment and not prejudge the result. Dave
I used a Camelot Uther IV dac with anolog volume control direct to amp for many years. About 8 months ago I added an Aesthetix Calypso preamp which in my opinion provided a significant improvement. The pre added more weight and a richer tone to the music and also more depth to the soundstage. In this discussion forum you will find what I found, there are many people for as well as against pre amps in this situation. Buy well known used pre and you can alway resell if you don't like with little risk.
FWIW, I'm using a Calypso too. Great preamp. Dave
Hi Jswarncke! I use to run an AA Capitole direct into the Musician. I added a pre and the entire soundstage changed. The bottom and mid sections were more dramatic. It also pulled out detail in the upper end. The end result was that the sound was better than via direct input. IMHO it's a no brainer when you hear the difference.
Thanks to all.

Zenieth that is the kind of personal experience I was looking for (but afraid of, since it means opening the wallet again). Which preamp did you purchase?
YMMV, listen first. Notice that no one was starting with Cary.

I have tried several CDP's direct to amps with various results. First was an Audio Aero Capitole direct to ML amp which was very good. I tried (at the same time) a Wadia direct and did not like this. At the time that I ran both of these units both via direct and via preamps (Cary and BAT), I like the AA best direct with the Levinson amps but not as much with my BAT VK 60 mono amps, where the AA improved going through the preamps (to the BAT amps). The Wadia improved with either amps going through preamps. But the wadia had digital volume control.

I now own a GNSC modded Resolution Audio Opus 21 which is capable of running direct as well, but I have not really given this unit much of an opportunity this way. I run it through a Calypso and it performs great. As an added bonus it has digital inputs.

If I were you, I would strongly recommend borrowing a decent to good preamp from a friend or dealer and trying the preamp route. In addition to giving you better overall performance, it may also help with your soundstage height issues and your Hawk speakers. The Wadia's sound stage improved significantly with a preamp in play. The AA was less noticeable in this regard (with the preamps I was running at the time).
Can any of you explain why an active preamp is to be preferred instead of passive preamp or no preamp at all? In my system an active preamp is better because I hear more bass slam, there is an "organic" quality to the music and midrange has more "bloom". These findings are quite similar to Sgunther's (see his post).

I have had it work both ways depending upon the exact components you are working with as usual.

Sometimes the Pre-Amp helps,sometimes it does not.
You just have to try and see.

Some Combinations are better than others and there are so many variables I can not predict the result.

On another note,I wonder if you are employing the FeedbAck Signal Sense Circuits in the Musician II ?

I have been experimenting with this and have yet to fail to be amazed with the improvement this has made.

At first I was under the impression that I needed special cables to get this to work but it turns out this is not really the case.

I would try this first if using a Spectron.

It depends entirely on the output capabilities of your source, and the sensitivity of your amp(s). If the source has the drive to achieve the SPLs you enjoy with your amp/speaker combo, you'll be happy. I thoroughly enjoyed the transparency I experienced with only a Placette Passive Linestage, and with MOST sources had all the dynamics, sound stage, extension, etc recorded on the disc. BUT: With those that were recorded at lower levels(some of my favorites) there was inadequate signal. Now I'm using a TacT pre that gives me just enough gain to overcome the differences in my discs, is still very transparent, and gives me a bunch of flexibility with regards to time domain and room tuning. Then again- There are a lot of people that enjoy the various things that pre-amps add to(or take away from) the music. Some mistake grain for detail, microphonics for warmth, etc. Then it becomes a matter of personal tastes as to what is "right" for them.
Yes, and it could be for the worse. Try before you buy. Sometimes less is more.

I agree with the other posters that for the most part one cannot make a blanket statement that an active vs. passive vs. no preamp is always best. Unfotunately, like most all suggestions, there are just too many variables. One must try different approaches to determine what is best for each owner, considering the variables of different equipment, cables, room and musical preferences.