a better digital front

Need I lil help here. I am in the very infantile stages of selecting my next "step up" up grade. So here is what I currently own front to back. Meridian508 24 bit cd PLAYER> Harmonic Tech magic link 2 (xlr ic)> Pass Labs x0.2 pre> Harmonic Tech magic link 2 (xlr)ic> Pass Labs x350.5 amp > Harmonic tech pro 11 speaker cables> Thiel 3.6. I am wanting to upgrade my digital front. My question is what would garner me, my desired objective? A dac? Could I use my Meridian as a suitable transport, in tangent with a worthy dac to acheive a stepped up improvement in audio quality (liquid, detailed, non-earfatigueing). As of yet I have not set a budjet boundrey as I would like to know all of my options from top to bottom. I could spend a good nickle on a digital front, while if that same nickle garnished me better results at the speaker end.
Here is what I am hearing: I am enjoying my sound greatly. However some times there in the music I hear some subtle barried detail that I can just barley hear deep down in the area that makes an "auiophile, a audiophile". May be timber decay or snare decay, or the voice harmony boundries that are just so ever almost there (defined, and seperate... but fused together do to the fact that there is just better gear out there to help raise more vails. I know the Thiel 3.6 is a far cry from where I want to go, how ever I'd like to first explore what I will need digitally to just bring out that WOW factor both NOW, and when I finally upgrade my THiels. Apples and Oranges I know. But some reason my gut says do the digital first, and speakers at some other point. I could be wrong and will entertain that notion.
But any purchase from this point on needs to be stepped up improvement. or I'll just stay with what I have. I hate spending hard earned cash for minimal improvemnts at this point. I'd rather spend 5k for the desired step up than 1k for minimal gain. There is a lot of areas for improvement here, and I'm at the point where I'm just gonna have to invest ,and I have to make good educated decesions in order to avoid the pit falls of high end mis-matching.kinda want to hear any and all opinions. KNowledge is power : ) thanks for reading
Max Pain

You Have an Excellent CD player/transport now. The 508.24 is already reference quality and was given Stereophile Class "A" for years.

What you are looking for is greater resolution.

Have you maximised your efforts at reducing your noise floor? That is the key. Places to look include: AC power, grounding, cableing and the resolving power of your current equipment and making sure you are getting 100% of the potential out of your current system. (and it is a system). Everything matters from the AC outlet through to your speakers and room interaction and seating position and material.

Try listening to your system through a pair of modest headphones. If you can hear what you are missing with the headphones on, you will know that your system is capable of resolving the signal it is receiving.(bass, m range, treble, PRaT all of the audio lingo....Listen)!

When you listen through the headphones you remove all room interactions, EQ problems, balance, speaker placement seating position etc.

What you have now is what you got. If it sounds utterly fantastic and you start hearing micro and macro details you never heard before, holographic soundstage, 3D the band is there in the room... whatever, you will know it is your set-up and not the equipment. Make changes one at a time get a pad and pen and take notes, use tape etc.

You and many others who read this and are in the mood to upgrade may find out that they already own the best equipment. (p.s. there is no Best component in any category). You just need to do the hard part.

Buying equipment is easy, and if you have good cash flow you could be buying and selling a new sysytem every other week. That is not the goal or is it? Sometimes I wonder.

It seems like some people are constantly buying and selling, there names appear evry few weeks. Some people have 300 to 500 deals. They also complain about the Merry-Go-Round. Go Figure!

These are the people that keep audiogon up and running. They will never get off of the treadmill. IMO, if someone has alraedy bought and sold 300 pieces of gear, it is likely that they have already bought the best components time and time again and yet they are still looking. Also IMO, that is why audio magazines and reviewers stay in business. Every week/month/quarter there is a new top "10" in whatever category you like. What they don't tell you but you should know intuitively just by reading the reviews is "EVERYTHING SOUNDS GREAT, WILL WORK WELL IN MOST IF NOT ALL SYSTEMS, SHOULD BE PURCHASED BY THE READER IF LOOKING AND IS HIGHLY RECCOMMENDED BY THE REVIEWER."

In short, what this means to me is that, "Almost without fail, any piece of equipment you buy is going to sound fantastic, perform as good or better than its peers and will mate with gear you already own with no problem and will be enjoyable". (Realize that you still need to pay attention to what you have so that you don't go and buy a 85db 2ohm speaker to mate with a 10watt tube amp with a weak transformer or impedence mismatches etc).

In closing, you have great components already, I am surprised with the quality of your gear you have a deficiency. I am betting that your set-up and room are keeping you from experiencing their best.
Brilliant assessment by the previous poster!
The single most dramatic change I made was upgrading wires!

Google "crimson r.m. Music-link". Start with the speaker cables, and then change out every interconnect. They take some breaking in but you will be amazed by the performance of these little known gems. When I swapped out my HT Pro 9 it was like getting a new pair of speakers!

Trust me on this one.

Soulbrass, I agree too. Tom has hit it just right. However, I would add that since it is all about the music, MaxPain needs to spend more time in exploring new music media. For every dollar I currently spend on gear, I spend 100 on acquiring new music media. I love to find new artists, old ones and often I am amazed how I've missed so many great musical talents. A few weeks ago I discovered Katherine Jenkins. Wow, what a voice. This weekend I played her Blu-Ray 'Believe' at the O2. Tells you there is a lot out there, and it is not in the gear.
Really great advice from Tom. Should be required reading for anyone wanting to upgrade a component. I also like the advice of working on your power and buying more music.

I just got a boost in clarity with a non-shielded power cord on my pre-amp. I would tinker around with lowering your noise floor with good power delivery as mentioned by Tom.
What Tom said is good..So things to do that will really help. First off do you have dedicated AC lines.. BIG improvements in low level details. Figure $300.00 to $500.00 to have a professional install dedicated line(s). what you want are 20amp breaker, 10ga Romex, High quality outlet ie. Oyaide R1, Furutech GTX..and don't let the electrician talk you out of 10ga wire they just don't like working with 10ga cause it's so stiff. You don't mention power cords or line conditioning.. HUGE improvements available there to all aspects of SQ, better bass, macro and micro details, lower noise floor, everything. A good choice there would be all Shunyata just can't go wrong with Shunyata, their products are consistently excellent. Do those things and then reevaluate I think no I'm sure you'll be very happy with the improvements.
I have had wild success by matching the 47 Lab Flatfish with an Audio Note 2.1 DAC. I have run a variety of all sorts of sources through my system and non even approach this pairing's height of performance.
I am in the very infantile stages of selecting my next "step up" up grade.

So you're lying on the floor kicking and screaming, "I want, I want, I want?" ;)

I agree with the others -- your current gear is pretty good. If you don't want to upgrade the speakers (consider some Focals with the Beryllium tweeters -- you'll love the resolution), have a look at your power. Are you using a conditioner of some kind, and good power cables? I have no experience with Harmonic Tech, but if they aren't giving you the resolution you want, consider some Morrow balanced interconnects -- they're pretty remarkable for a reasonably-priced cable.
All, Very good advice indeed. And I want to thank you all for the "sound" advice. I do have room treatments in place per say. And this is a good point to bring up because it reinforces the very same same fact I try to drive home to others I must share space with. I'll be it I may have to compromise a plant for a big round bass absorbant.... I do have to move the coffee table during marathon listening session. Music? Well I indeed have quite the investmant there to, ranging across Genre's and the perspective. Yes we are limited to what has been laid the disc. In the past I had considerd and would love to own a TT, and the same holds true for the SACD.... But my mass collection being red book CD keeps me from just having to have. Cables and Power? now that is the meat of where, due to above advices is now where I am going to look into, though I have owned several ICs and speaker cables and the HT was or is what I considered a good enough cable for the moment. Maybe I've finally grown out of them. I had borrowed a Power condetioner in the past the only one I've tried but felt it but all the music too in my face forward and tunred things a bit NON_TRANSPARENT but will certainly intertain adice on a suitable condetioner at the momenyt I have none. I should have mentioned that I do use a Shunyata Python helix on my amp... and a home made power cable on my CD... both had good results so they're still in. NO I am not kicking and screaming that I want for the sake of wanting. I am stating that I am ready to make another step up and as you can see I have passafied my mind thought from a digital front to now yes, looking into my/a suitable power supply and perhaps cables. As was stated above... sometimes we spend a a k or two or three, hear a diferent sound and asume since you spent a k and you hear a differance it's an improvement. NO! I've since learned that lesson. I will and have made changes that didn't meet my tastes and passed the products along. Not always for the better, still wish I'd have kept some Cardes IC's but they have a good home in my friends system. I beleave there are still veils to be lifetd, I beleve I can still taylor my sound for the better to suit my tastes. I fell that I am ever soo close yet I am not there. Which has prompted this post.
Thank you all for som evry good advice, and Would like to continue to discuss plces for improvemnt. So I geuss it's now to ask current or former PAss, NMeridian, Thiel owners what the used to great success. I am looking for transparencie, liqued detail , ye pratt, and bass weight whic at the moment I am completlt satisfied, so don't want to sacrifice my low end less it's moree tight and deep. THanks for reading