Well If you want signals that are weak to pop out of the noise get a good SDR receiver or transceiver that is direct sampling. I have DC receivers that outperform modern
radios in terms of making weak signals pop out of the noise. My R2 DC receiver is actually better than my K3 and TS590s in dealing with and making weak signals more readable. The only radio that will outperform a good DC receiver is the SDR direct sampling which after all is a modern digital direct conversion receiver.
SDR receivers make the best CW receivers. One of the reasons for this is that the INBAND RX IMD is so low. Many radios like the K3 have high fatiguing levels of RX IMD
The ARRL used to test for RX IMD, they dont anymore. On many radios the AGC's contribute a lot of distortion on the signals so its a combination of a good AGC design and a linear audio chain. Needless to say current model radios with 20% distortion and over driven 1 watt PA's dont help. They can never for example equal a tube radio for crystal clear clarity.
My K3 also appears to so noisy and harsh, despite the DSP upgrades. For this reason its the receiver I use when I relax and enjoy CW I prefer to use a SDR receiver. For weak signal reception, the SDR is unequaled. Despite my SDR receivers having less sensitivity than my main ham radios they can hear very weak CW signals that are virtually undetectable. I must say radios like the K3 can detect these signals but the readability without using heaphones is very poor. With a SDR receiver you can click on a very weak signal and it will be there crystal clear and sharp like the best analog CW radio. Signals just pop out in your face and this is how I remember working CW with my old radios. I could work a mishmash of JA's on 15 meters that were on the noise floor of the receiver and copy them like they were 5/5. I cant do this with my K3 without fighting the radio and twisting knobs all day. On the SDR i just click and adjust the filter with and theres the signal loud and clear and not moving the S-meter.
Anyway try a good DDC SDR receiver, I am sure it will mee your expectations. This is the problem with the current receiver debate. Its all about chasing numbers for contesters who only use their radios for a few time a year. The rest of us who do daily hamming and operation have to live with all the poor design features like fatigue. phase noise, audio hiss etc etc. A good receiver should have a good set of numbers and be a joy to listen too all day. This is not what you always get with many of the so called best grade high receiver number radios. For the general ham digital receivers and transmitter will be the best bet in the future. I had a chance to play with the Flex6000 series of radios and on CW receive they are excellent despite all the problems with this radio. I am no recommending this radio to you but if you get a chance have a listen to a Flex6000 radio on CW its awesome just like its is a Hermes or any other good SDR radio.
I'm back into ham radio and mostly CW after a roughly 12 year lag. My last rig was a Ten-Tec Argosy with 1.8 Khz and 500 Hz crystal ladder filters. My current rig is the Kenwood TS-590.
Could be my imagination, but CW signals don't seem to pop up out of the noise as well with the modern rig as with the old setup. But also, I am using a noisier antenna and different QTH as well. And it has been a very long time ! Anybody have thoughts on this ? I still have the Argosy (in need of a new dial string) and it might be interesting to set up a side by side comparison.