MC I've missed you (a long journey back in time)

I have a small listening room in my basement with my "time capsule" system from 1983. About 20 years ago I lost my room to my kids so I packed up my gear and put in a tv and receiver for them.
Eventually they grew up and moved out (more/less) and a few years ago I tossed the entertainment center and put my system back together.
It survived storage quite well other than I had to re-foam the woofers in my subs.

Still, the room was needed as a spare bedroom on occasion so I didn’t want to risk my pricey MC cartridge. I mounted a $50 Grado and was happy. (The one thing(s) I sold off when I stored my gear were my turntables, my current DD Sony PS-4300 is pretty solid but I didn’t feel it was worthy of a better cartridge)
I added a DVD player & flat screen TV as concession to "multi-use room".
Recently I had to add a DAC to this system when my DVD player quit and I found inexpensive players no longer had analog outputs. The addition of a Topper D30 revealed the weaknesses in my Grado so I felt ready to risk mounting my trusty Alpha 1 MC.

My new headshell arrived today (Jelco magnesium with adjustable azimuth) and with the help of my Dennesen cartridge protractor I was soon in analog nirvana. Or was I?
I’ve only had about an hour to play and I have to admit that while I *think* the analog side is better, I’m really surprised at the vast improvement from processing the digital thru the $120 D30.

I didn’t know how much I missed doing this.
Hey welcome back! Things have come a long way since 1983. You can have a lot of fun upgrading if you want. AudiogoN is a great place to try new gear at lower cost buying second hand. The cool thing is buying high quality used gear you can usually resell stuff for about what you paid if you don’t like it and try something different. Lots of good advice here as well. (Though you will have to sort through it to find what makes sense to you.)
There has never been a better time to be an audiophile. There is so much going on and so many ways to find and enjoy music.

Happy audio new year!
Thank you.
I don't seem to be very adept at trading up. Always seem to sell at the wrong time, buy at the wrong time, choose the wrong horse in the race.
I had a Micro Seiki BL-51 TT, and Technics EPA-500 tonearm (+ 4 arm tubes of different mass). Each are now worth thousands but I sold them for a couple hundred each, and it was all "mint". Discouraging.

I can only afford "best bang-for-the-buck" equipment and mods now.
" I don't seem to be very adept at trading up."

Got a good chuckle from that one. Join the club. I sold a Marantz 2325 receiver in perfect condition with the original cabinet for $100. Now they are worth $1500, albeit refurbished. I have several more examples.

The other side of the coin is that this is the golden age of audio - both used and new. I have a Topping D50S DAC that performs incredibly well for $230. Last summer I got a pair of mid 90's $8000 speakers in excellent shape for $1500. There's never been a better time to build an excellent system with a reasonable budget.