Advice on going from mid level to high end

There are a bunch of advice threads focused on how to assemble your first system. I'm hoping to get some advice on making the move from an established but still affordable system to something that's more high end.

Like most people on this site I've always been interested in music/audio. I assembled my first more serious system about 7 years ago, buying much of my equipment used over several years. I have a dedicated room and my current set up is:

Polk LSi15
McCormack DNA-1
TAD-150 sig preamp
VPI scoutmaster
Cambridge Audio 840C
Cables include a mix of Shunyata, Harmonic Technology, and Analysis Plus

I think it's a great setup but I've been fortunate to hear a number of very high end systems and would love to move up over the next few years.

For those of you who've made the transition from a $5-6K system to a $15-20K system, what advice do you have for the uninitiated?

Many thanks.
Don't, until you can actually hear new speakers demo'd in your present room. Your room may be the limiting factor. Once you find a set of speakers that sound much, much better with your present electronics, then move on to the other components. I have once you get passed the $10K mark for a system, diminishing returns set in. At one point I took my system up to almost $30K, only to back down to about $10K where the sound equaled the hi end price. While you are waiting, increase your media collection. It is all about the music.
Before you consider moving on, have you optimized the set up of your present speakers, listening position, and room acoustics? If not don't drop a dime until you have explored this thoroughly! There is so much to learn. The stuff you now have can sound fairly good if you pay close attention to this aspect of audio.

If you have actually mastered set up in your room, its time to think about EXACTLY what about the sound of your system you want, or need, to improve or change. If you can't define your goals you have very poor prospects for improving your system except to rely on some good luck after expending some serious coin. You might just need a lot of luck to decide which of your present components need to be changed to gain your objectives. New speakers are commonly the first choice, but I've seen some pretty good improvements which were made by changes in the electronics, so IMHO you've really got to spend some time in the think tank before you consider any changes.

BTW, I agree with Buconeroll7. Buy music in the format of your choice while you can, unless you are willing to rely on the internet. I also agree with him IF new speakers are the fundamental key to getting you to where you want to go.
Whadaya want? Whadaya tryin' to do? (I just watched some John Wayne movies). I could relate my own experience over the last 15 years, upgrading 2 systems 4-5 times each, buying and selling used, if I had enough time.

I pretty much made each decision based either on lust for some components I read about, or dis-satisfaction with my then-current system. So I went thru several diff. systems, with diff. combinations of Krell, Cary, VTL, b&w, Merlins, Totems, ARC, you name it. Loved or liked many of those, & have some good memories.

But I always had a purpose: upgrading this pre-amp, or this cable, or speaker, etc. because I wanted a diff. or "better" sound.

What do you want, pre-amp-wise, or speaker-wise? You have a very good power amp....w/o knowing your pre-amp or speakers I might suggest focusing on those.
The best move I made was to listen to as many systems as possible to learn what I needed. Then go to an audio show to hear 100's of speakers over the course of a weekend. You'll at least come away with 3 brands to investigate further...and eliminate others no matter how popular they are in audio circles.

To me the speakers will determine the right amp...then the amp will lead you to the right pre amp and so on. To start with amp or pre amp would then dictate the speakers you can choose from and that is putting the cart before the horse.
consistent with the previous posters, i'd look first and foremost to upgrading your speakers. you have excellent amp/preamp/sources; my sense is the polks are your weakest link. there are numerous threads regarding the best speakers in the $3-5k range and beyond; i personally like psb, vmps, revel, proac and von schweikert, but go out and hear what moves you.
Agree with previous posters: time to go listen to some speakers. Good luck and have fun.
Get the room acoustics right. You might discover you don't as much change.
I'm with those who advise on room acoustic and speaker placement treatment before looking to upgrade your components. I owned the LSi-15s a couple of years ago and believe they perform above their price point.
With a poorly set up room you'll never achieve the best from any speakers.
I would consider an upgrade to the DNA-1 by Steve McCormack at SMc Audio.
Wow, I really appreciate all the advice.

Speakers and room treatments are high on my list of future upgrades. When I started this thread I was also hoping for some more general "philosophical advice" about making the jump from mid-level to high-end audio.

In that spirit, I think the posts so far suggest the following more general advice:

1. recognize up front that the improvements you make with larger investments may be smaller and more incremental than you expect,

2. be sure to optimize your current system before making changes, for example, with speaker placement,

3. know exactly what you want to improve with future upgrades,

4. hear as many systems as you can, for example, at a national audio show, and

5. build your system around the speakers.

All of your advice definitely resonates with me. I'd love to hear some additional perspectives from others who've gone down this path before me, though.

thanks again.
I second Rja. Upgrade the DNA-1 at SmC Audio. Steve McC will take it from a diamond in the rough to the real thing!
That VPI Scoutmaster certainly needs no upgrade. Since garbage in equals garbage out, I would start with a new CD player, and work my way down the chain.
I've read both your posts, & I still have no idea, of what's bugging you about your current system, or what you're trying to improve, or change to a diff. sound, or any new components you're interested in???? It can take a lot of research & buying/selling just to upgrade 1 component successfully, let alone a whole system.

If you asked "what should I upgrade in this system", or upgrading this pre-amp, or speaker, you'd get more responses. Unless it's more of a "theoretical" question.....?

Sorry I wasn't clearer in my original post.

As you suggested, I'm asking a more theoretical question. Before I buy a new component I always do a fair bit of research and will spend time auditioning different manufacturers that make my short list. I'm not terribly unhappy with my current system or looking to upgrade any particular component right now but there are things that I'd like to improve on. For example, I think my current speakers a bit lacking in the lower frequencies and overall I'd like to have a bit more resolution of low-level details since I listen to a lot of jazz and classical. As I move ahead, those will be some of the things that I'll be looking to improve.

Maybe I can make my question clearer with an analogy to shopping for a car. I have a pretty good sense of what to consider when I'm buying a sedan to commute back and forth to work in. I've never bought a high-end sports car, though, and don't really have a sense of what to look for in shopping for a car like that. I'd want it to "go fast" and "handle well" but beyond those huge generalities I really wouldn't know how to go about making a smart buying decision. I also don't have unlimited financial resources either, so I'd want to proceed more deliberately in making what for me would be a big purchase.

So my question is a more philosophical one, what general advice would you give to an early-stage audiophile who's gearing up to go shopping for higher-end audio equipment?

thanks again for your thoughts so far--and to everyone else.
Philosophical? Okay- Being an audiophile is like being a mosquito in a nudist camp. You know what you want, but have no idea where to start.