Order of importance

I recently upgraded my system to Thiel 2.2, CJ MF2200 and CJ PFR. I went back to using my old Denon 1520 CD player from a new DVD. I was told by a salesman that the order of importance in a system is 1)speakers, 2)source, 3)preamp, 4)amp. Therefore, I was told to buy a new CD or use the Denon as a transport and get a DA converter. Any thoughts on this and what DAC to consider?
Now this could get me flamed but I would not put speakers first. Your source is very important preamp/amp , then speakers. I'm not saying that your speakers are not important, but componets have electronic signatures they all sound different. So if you go and by a 5000 dollar pair of speakers, your going to be SOL, if your speakers don't match well with your componets. SO if you start building your system with ok speakers whats the worst that can happen, you have a great sounding system that will sound better when you get new speakers, or you can have a terrible sounding system that you can't stand listening to because the speakers you bought show off all the flaws in your componets. As for new CD or Transport/Dac, I can't help you on that. It's a toss up, but prehaps you should forget the Pre amp, take that money get a great DAC with volume control and cut a step?
Well, you got the conventional advice, I suppose. The truth is that good revealing speakers can sound awful with poor amplification, so the order of importance depends on what you're starting with. If I were in your shoes, and I assume you are happy with your speakers, I would forget about a dac and look at any of a number of new one box cd players with the latest 24 bit dacs. You can find them in a wide price range.
Briweve beat me to it by a few seconds.
I agree, get the CD player first. Thiel speakers, any of them, are revealing enough that you should get enjoyment out of a source upgrade. CJ equipment demands a good source as well. The CJ PFR is on my short list of pre-amps to upgrade to. I use a CJ PV12 right now, and my system is topped off with a Meridian 508.24 cd player. IMHO, I believe that a system is only as good as its weakest link. Why spend a lot of money on one component and then not much on another? It's like putting low-octane gas in a sport car--It will run, but not well. You've got a great system with the CJ and Thiel combination. I think a good CD player would make it even better. Hope this helps.
I have found that no component is 'more important' than the others. Great amplification with poor speakers sounds at least as bad as poor amplification with great speakers. I do agree that running a lesser cdp will sound relatively poor with Thiels. You say all your upgrades have been fairly recent, so I do not see the problem with starting with the speakers. Although I don’t believe in a component importance hierarchy, I have found that variance between speakers is a little greater than the variance between other components (n/a for turntables). What if you later found that you really dig the Thiels but your electronics were all wrong for them? Definitely get a new cdp or dac, though. I like the Linn Ikemi. It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly suggest picking one up. Haven’t heard them but I hear great things about Meridian 508.24, Wadia 830, Mistral, and Cary. Have fun
Price is a big issue, and your overall budget on where you expect to go is another issue. For me, I started by buying great speakers. They were a great deal, but it was the most expensive $2000 I ever spent. I had to constantly upgrade to get the most out of them. They became the stronghold--and everything (I mean everything) else was the weak link. In your case it seams simplier--you have good speakers and a good pre-amp. Your source is clearly the weak link. I also used a relatively inexpensive CD player as a transport and bought a good D/A (then a better transport--then a better D/A--then another better transport). So my advice would be: figure out where you want to go with the system--then it's easier to find the path. If you aren't concerned with the "future" formats--buy the best redbook CD player you can afford. I think the dollar value in single box designs is better than 2 box (unless you're like me and want the upgrade path of DAC-transport-DAC-transport) If you are concerned about the "future" formats consider a D/A that is fully upgradeable and then upgrade the transport that will accomodate that (as it becomes available). I know there are no DACs that do SACD (with the possible exception of Accuphase)--but some have the capabilities and will likely become upgradeable if that format really takes off. I have not invested very much in the future formats--I do have an SACD player, but it's not up to par with my CD playback system. It does have promise as being better, but until there's more software--I'm in the wait and see camp.
I'd like to add that I'm not unhappy with the system as is, although I will likely upgrade the CD. I love the Thiels and these are the cornerstone of the system. I have always liked the Thiel sound. I suppose I'm looking at optimizing the system as simply as possible. Getting a new CD or DAC seems to fit the bill. Your suggestions are much appreciated.
My Meridian 508.24 CD player goes great with my CJ pre-amp. You should listen to one. Also, do you have a price range for a player? You could probably pick up the Meridian used for $2000 here on Audiogon, new for maybe $3500.
Eugkim; there is no meaningful order of importance of components, but obviously you have to start somewhere. You say you like the Thiels, and that's an excellent place to start. Looks to me like you're well on your way to an excellent system.

The salesman was giving you HIS opinion, IMHO. But you've definitely got it right. I personally prefer the flexibility of a separate DAC and transport, but you may decide differently, and I don't think you can go wrong either way as long as you stick to good quality components that work in your system. Good Hunting. Craig.
I always love the "order of importance" debate. On several occasions during my life, I sold high-end audio gear, and the advice regarding what component is most important varies from saleman to saleman, and store to store. At one time, I thought that the source components (turntable, CD player, etc.) were the most important, because no downstream component can correct for mediocre signal input. If that logic is valid, then you must also have components in the rest of the audio chain that are good enough to preserve the original signal. That said, the most problematic components in an audio system are the transducers, since converting one form of energy to another introduces all sorts of problems with linearity and distortion. Back in the good old days of turntables, tonearms, and cartridges, the signal produced by the cartridge (a transducer) was also subject to a variety of mechanical bugaboos, including vibration and resonance. Today, since most people have systems based on digital rather than analog sources, there is only one transducer in the system, the speakers. Speakers must be linear, have fairly flat frequency response, and have acceptably low distortion. Most newer preamps and power amps have low to virtually no distortion and are almost ruler flat in their frequency response (at least that's true for solid state models, and the best tube units), so the impact of the amplification units are lesser, relatively speaking, than the source component or speakers. This is a long-winded way of saying that my ranking, by way of importance is: speakers (the only transducer); source component; preamp; and power amp. Let the debate rage....
In addition to all of the fine advice given above, I would like to add that unless some basic attention is given to room treatment you will have sufficient sonic time smear present in the room to diminish the full effects of any meaningful improvement. Beleive me when I say that I learned this lesson the hard way. Even just the most basic set of bass traps and abfusers can deepen and focus your soundstage as well as strengthen ambients.