I'm a big fan of integrated amps. The best I've heard in my twenty or so years as an audiophile is the Mastersound 300BPSE from Italy. It produces a huge soundstage and a midrange to die for. Happy Holidays!
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Here are just few suggestions : ...............*but before you start anything crazy do some homework - read reviews, users feedbacks, audition whatever you can or what in your mind can get you where you want to be.*
Match speakers to amplification:
Your integrated isn't bad. I personally like most VTL gear and it could make sense to have it modified by qualify person (I can recommend someone if you choose that road). Right mods can shock you.
If you keep your amp and mod it (mods can cost you around a grand), I would look in to Zu line of speakers (Druids), Omega Super 8 Alnico XRS.
Above speakers work extremely well with low power SET amps as well. If you decide to replace your current integrated, I would suggest looking into Melody I2A2 integrated (click for review).
Another recommendation would be Emerald Physics CS2 speakers.
They do however need to be bi-amp. Wyred 4 Sound (4 channel amp) works very well with these speaker.
Last but not least, the source. Look for used Lector CDP. You should find one for around a grand on used market.
Keep in mind that these are only suggestions and my personal faves in your budget. (buy used for better deals)
You can make improvements by focusing on building from the inside out but I think your most significant improvement will be different minimonitors with larger woofer (see list below.)
Keep the VTL and switch out 2 x 12AU7, 2 x 12AT7, 4 x EL34 tubes for more power and different sonic signature. Then start your auditions of speakers with...
Totem Mani 2 Signature
12type tubes Mullards
EL34 types from Mullard, Genelex Gold Lion or Black Sable
Upgrade your cable and IC to get the last 10% to 15%
I'd also submit you play with tubes first, if you haven't already. Perhaps that and the addition of either mods to the 840c or the addition of a DAC which reclocks and dejitterizes the signal.
If outright change is the deal, then once done with the tubes, I'm thinking only other monitors will be needed, but I'd tend to say a DAC too. I'm pretty happy with what I've heard of Silverline speakers. My hunch is their top monitors would be great for you.... also, on that note I've heard several folks speak quite highly on the Audio Note monitors too, as to their overall performance being most involving.
Going thru a Lavry DA10, Apogee USB DAC, and now a Bel Canto DAC3, A good DAC was exactly what I needed to introduce to my system.
You've a great many choices here in which way to go... but I honestly don't think you need to throw $5K at your current rig to get noticed gains and definite improvemnets. tubes, a different power cord maybe... or a different power cond.... all will or can provide you the goal you seek for well under 5 large. IMO
'course, if you just want to get other speakers or another int... then by all means... do that. I just am amazed at what power cords, tubes, and DACs can actually do to change a system into sounding like it is another completely different rig.
I used to own a Graff GM5050, not the integrated but the straight power amp. It was a nice amp, good sound, great looks, but definitely suffered from reliability issues. I eventually traded it into Deja Vu Audio for my current amp, a Deja Vu stereo EL34 amp that sounded even better and has had zero issues. FWIW the best sounding amp I've ever had in my home integrated or not, was a push-pull Cary 2a3 integrated. They are a very rare model for Cary and are not high powered, perhaps 12-15 watts, but wow! I have since wondered if a pp 2a3 topology might be great from any competent engineer, that'll be my next move, you might consider it as there seem to be some affordable 2a3 amps from China, Melody comes to mind. Happy listening!
I would start at the source and upgrade the CDP first. Starting here you would know the quality of sound and could work towards the speakers. There are Audio Research CD 3 MKll's for sale at around $3000 now on Agon, they are a very capable player at a good price. I think spending $5000 on a CD 7 or similarly priced CDP is a waste. Spend the difference on cable improvements CDP > VTL ETC.
If you haven't messed around with room treatments yet I would look into that first. As others have said, your gear is pretty good already and you admit it might take quite a bit of $$$ to truly upgrade. Straighten out your room first then look at upgrades. Or, better yet, mess around with treatments while researching upgrades - double your fun!