Best Bang for Buck - Time to Upgrade

Dear Audiophile,

I would love to hear opinions rendered on the most cost effective way to upgrade my current system. After many years of complacency I am feeling the need for a tune up.

Here's the set up:

AR Classic Turntable with Grade signature MM cartridge
Rotel 855 CD player
Proton Tuner
Audio Research SP 6E with mods (sideral caps, gold rcas, upgraded power cord)
Quicksilver KT 88 monoblock amps
Vandersteen 2CE signature speakers/sound anchor stands
Discovery interconnects and bi-wired speaker cable

I am tempted to pick up the bargain Oppo cd/dvd player as technology has probably improved quite a bit since I bought my cd player. Otherwise I am open to suggestion.

In terms of my listening preferences it includes a lot of rock, blues, jazz and a sprinkling of classical.

The recordings that always sounds best on my system are the Chris Isaac album called Heart Shaped World and the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue.

Thanks for your help!

It would probably be handy to know what your budget and goals are.
Do you have two or three dedicated AC power lines with audiophile quality outlets (such as the Porter Ports)?
If not, I would start there, with your power filtration system so you can really hear what your system is capable of.
Alex, I second the suggestions by Lak.

What you should also consider is some acoustic treatment. You could consider some bass traps which will firm up your bass response and you can look into treating the first reflection points in your room.

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IIRC, the Chris Isaak album is recorded in HDCD. You might want to consider getting an HDCD-capable CD player, that will really open your eyes.

Upgrading your digital source could be a nice way to go if your budget is limited. But I'd go with Denon way before Oppo. All the Denon mid-level and better DVD players support HDCD. In addition, they will let you enjoy the newer DVD-Audio and SACD discs. Well-done DVD-Audio and SACD *kill* regular CDs in every way. I am quite satisfied with my Denon 3910 and was also quite happy with the Denon DVD 2910 that it replaced. These are available here for $250-$500.

The 3910 is an especially good value - very well-built (and heavy), excellent "feel" on the controls, *tons* of setup options, superb video capabilities, and it can play every shiny disc out there except for the newest high-def formats. In addition, this unit is the darling of the "mod" industry, so you can have it hot-rodded to out-perform even the best current CD players.

Oh yeah, these units also support multi-channel sound. Well-done multi-channel is *superb*, so much better than 2 channel that it ain't even close. This is, of course, IMHO...

Beyond upgrading your source, if your budget allows, you might want to consider upgrading your speakers. The Vandys you have are *excellent* speakers for the money, but they are no match for something like the Gallo Ref 3s. There is a pair of Ref 3s on Audiogon for $1599 right now - if you can afford 'em you ought to jump on those.

Finally, room treatment should be strongly considered. Bob Reynolds is absolutely right, speakers and the room make the biggest difference - nothing else is even close except for the cartridge in your turntable. But the speakers and room will work for EVERY source, not just vinyl.

I second the powered subs, or maybe even consider a set of used 5's, assuming you are happy with the Vandersteen sound, might be more load than your mono blocks want though. Somebody that listens to a lot of rock and blues (me for instance) will get a real kick out of hearing their favorite music with nothing missing from the bottom. Another upgrade that I was happy about is a Hagtech Dac. Good luck.