next step please

hi there, posted a thread a while back but got few responses. hope this one would draw attention of others. i currently have a rotel rcd 951, denon avr 2700 and aegis one spkrs with ixos interconnects and monster cable for spkrs. yes, yes, yes. i know you're already thingking of what would be the next upgrade. have some options: buy an integrated amp or a power amp (receiver as pre) with a future upgrade of adding an audiophile preamp. budget would be from $500-700. hoping for suggestions, thanks a lot...zean
FWIW, my suggestion to you is to very carefully think out where you want this process to end - long range. Then start identifying the components (or types of commponents) that would fit into that system, and buy them as you can afford them. As it is now you will be endlessly upgrading to no end and will spend a lot of unnecessary money.
A nice, useful response from Newbee and I agree with it. You need to find out where you want to go. The best way to start this is to listen to some very good systems and make notes on what you like about them. Don't worry about the usual audiophile vocabulary if you're not comfortable with it--it's your feeling reactions to the music which count the most.

Once your ideas have coalesced a bit, start listening in your price range for components which give as much as possible of what you liked about the big boys. There are two rules of thumb which I always go by. First,small upgrades don't make it. They cost a lot in the long run and tend to make marginal improvements, sometimes only differences.

(N.B this is *not* true if you have a toxic or broken component somewhere. When a friend showed me how bad my speaker cables were a few years ago, I retired them for fifty bucks' worth of Audioquest Type 2 until I found the ones I wanted.)

Second rule: the source rules. Upgrade starting upstream. A $3K source with $400 worth of electronics will keep you happy much longer than the reverse.

That said, I would guess from looking at your list that the Denon is the weakest point, as you suggest. Your speakers are some of the best you can get at the price and the Rotel player is decent. A really good preamp (read: a worthwhile purchase) and its interconnect will not be in your price range just now. If I were you I would go for a good integrated amp.
I pretty much agree with both above posts, get a plan down with a long term goal in mind, your post is vague as to your goals. Remember that most good gear lasts and sounds good for a very long time, the (latest greatest) is often times a lot of hype when dealing with many of the componets that make up a good audio system. Many times here on audiogon you see a system post, where the owner has taken many years to put a very fine system together, there is no reason you can not do the same. Vague goals=Vague system every time.
I will quadruple-echo all the previous comments. Excellent, excellent advice. I wish someone would have told me this eight years ago. Follow it and you will come closer to Nirvana much sooner. However, I must I am enjoying the journey!
thanx for the very informative responses, very helpful indeed. by asking what goals, do you mean HT or 2-channel? well, i'm going for the 2 chan. anyway, i very do appreciate your time answering my question. again, thank you.
Hey Cyanzky,

I think part of determining your goals is to have an idea of what it is about your system you'd like to improve.

You state that you're interested in 2 channel, but what kind of music do you like to listen to? Knowing what kind of music you'd like to enjoy on your system can help determine what type of gear to consider. Building a system around jazz and metal would involve two different approaches.

For jazz you might want to create a system that reproduces vocals and acoustic instruments well. This may involve tube equipment and not require the purchase of high current amps and big speakers.

On the other hand, a system based on producing big sound for metal, soundtracks, etc. could require more powerful solid state amps and possibly different types of speakers whether they be floorstanders or monitors integrated with a sub.

Another factor is figuring out how far you want to go. I know this isn't easy, and to be honest I'm in much further than I ever imagined I'd be. But putting a ceiling on what you want to spend and maximizing your system around this budget is a good idea in the beginnning. This will help prevent you from upgrading as often as some of us, and hopefully sit and enjoy a system for a few years and not weeks before changing things out again.

Get out and listen to many different types of gear. I realize this could be dangerous, because if you hear something that blows you away and it's very expensive, you may either become discouraged or raise your spending limit. The great thing about Audiogon is that many people here can give you cheaper alternatives to the expensive systems you hear in high end audio salons. I've discovered so many great manufacturers through the members of Audiogon that I never saw in the audio magazines or in a any stores.

Listening to other systems will also help you determine the type of system characteristics you like as well. That is, do you like sound that is romantic and intimate or something big and bold.

Read through the Audiogon archives and look at other member's virtual systems. If possible note their goals and compare that with the system they built.

In general I would suggest:
1] Determine what kind[s] of music you'd like to reproduce with this system and how you'd like it presented.
2] Create a budget
3] Visit audio stores and listen to friend's systems as much as you can
4] Peruse the archives here and look at member's virtual systems.
5] Don't spend a lot on cables, isolation tweaks or power conditioning in the beginning. These are important, but on a restricted budget they can be dealt with last if at all since they can in themselves become very expensive upgrades.
6] Make sure your listening environment is sonically optimized and your speakers properly placed for maximum effect.

Specifically in your case:
1] I agree that the Denon is probably the weak link and starting with an integrated would be the first good move.

Good luck!
If you are going 2 channel, then chuck the Denon and add that money to purchase (assuming not already done). Get yourself a good British integrated SS amp, say, the older 25W class A Musical Fidelity (can't remember, getting way too old, A1, I think). Then save for new speakers, say, vintage Rogers 15 ohm LS3/5A's; sell yours and add to it to get them; your next $500 jump. At this point, and regardless of the wire naysayers, you will have significant limitations from your wire. Hunt around for some old Discovery PC's ($75 used) and IC's (@100) or some Kimber, get the idea. Then, since CD is begging about the same time as cable, look at that. By that time, say a year from now, and given that most of us will be out of work by then but still scared enough of "brown people" to be ignoring it, an Audio Aero Prima should be down to about $650, so scam one of those, and, blah, blah...then you will be pretty happy.
thanks for the responses ASA and GUNBEI. you people are very helpful indeed. to answer your questions, i will be very happy if i could put up a system with standmount speakers, listen to my favorite classicals, easy listening, etc., etc in a 5 x 12 meter room. i do admit that my denon is the weak link, that's why i'm asking what's a more lodical move: a power amp or an integrated. the reason for this is because i can get a musical fidelity X-as100 used for $400 here. but somehow, i do not need that much wattage, right? so would a AA Puccini be the right one? yes, i do like the sound of tubes. for the MF A1, clearly that was a very musical amp indeed. anyhow, didn't buy it thinking the 25 wpc wouldn't be enough. boy, was i wrong! MF doesn't make them anymore. anyhow, thanks again for your kind workds...more power
Well, I don't think I'm going to say much new here, but I think the best upgrade is always in the speakers (to a point). Good speakers will sound better through crappy electronics (in general) than crappy speakers through good electronics.

But given your price range, and what you current own, then changing out your Denon might yield the best results. McCormack is a SS amp that's known to have sound close to tubes. Used DNA-0.5's are close to your price range for an amp ($500-$700). The other suggestions are good as well. But that doesn't leave you with much funding for a preamp, but you could run your Denon as a preamp. Does this defeat some of what your trying to accomplish in bettering the sound, I don't know, but you could try it.

The Musical Fidelity A-2 was a good amp and can be had for something in or under your price range, and was a very good integrated when it was released. The thing with an integrated setup is that you have to either be willing to discard it if you upgrade, or be satisified with the sound for a long time. Integrated, IMO, are good for secondary systems where you aren't going to be as critical.

I think you can find a preamp and amp you are happy with in the price range you are looking.

Preamps to consider:
NAD 118
McCormack TCL-1
Conrad-Johnson PV10/PV11

Amps to consider:
McCormack DNA-0.5
Rotel RB-980BX
Forte 4A

I'm not as familiar with tube gear, so I'm afraid I can't offer much there.

Basically, you need to really demo equipment (in your current system, if possible) and decide where you get the best bang for the buck. Don't bother listening to anything outside of your price range. What you want to see is if there is a noticable difference between what you currently own and what you can afford to purchase. Yeah, a $20,000 CD player might sound good, but does it sound $19,500 better than what you have? And since your budget can't afford it, why listen to it?

Don't bother replacing your cables. There is a lot of noise about cables, but even the real professionals argue over the benefits. Look on the internet for DYI speaker cables if you think you really need an upgrade there.

Hope something I said might help, and best of luck!
Cy, your Puccini just came up for sale at $625. If you get it, let us know how it turned out.
unfortunately ASA, only a few here sell their stuff worldwide. i'm from manila. anyway, i'll keep on dropping by and hope for the best...
Yea, Manila is a tough one; ya know with all the middle east terrorists holed up in the Phillipine jungles probably making WMD's (or, maybe hiding Saddam's there!) and Americans so afraid of brown-er people in general, and then there is always the proximity/logistics issue, and...I hope you can use this forum to put together a nice system. Find a guy with good feedback, preferably mature and not pushy or a bull-shitter, trust him and pre-pay with overnight letter (@ $25 if I remember), cover the shipping, and you should do alright. I'm a picky seller and I've sold a couple of pieces to non-North American buyers in this way. Good luck. Mark
Sorry to come back late in the discussion. I don't think it's so much 2-channel or HT which is the important decision, although you do have to make that choice at some point. You can start with stereo and add HT capabilities gradually, and I used to plan do do that myself. (I gave up on it when the stereo system eventually just got too good, so that HT sources simply couldn't compare.)

The important point in identifying the goal is the sound. You need to know what you can aspire to. That won't help you pick out your system's current weak point--which you have already done well--as much as it will help you choose what to buy from the offers available.

Good luck!