Please recommend for my next upgrade

My upgrade bug bites me again, although I ok with my current system. My current system consist of:

Rotel RB 1080 power amp
Audible Illusions L1 preamp
Sony BDP350 Bluray player
Maverick Audio TubeMagic DAC
1 Volex 17604 power cord on power amp
Straight wire speaker cable
Other coaxial and RCA cables are just no name ordinary cables
Monster surge protector (not power conditioner)

I think my weakest links are:
Sony player
Maverick Audio DAC
no power conditioner
power cords

I know everything plays a role, but given budget constraint of $500, what would you recommend to upgrade first that will give me biggest bang for the buck? I am thinking probably the player and DAC. Any recommendation?
The first thing that comes to my mind is the OPPO BDP-83 blue-ray player that sells for $499 retail. Used in Audiogon is around $430.
I agree with Audiolui, but I would save and buy the SE version of the Oppo. It has WAY better audio performance and it looks like you're a 2 channel kinda guy. You could sell both the Sony and DAC to have some extra money towards the Oppo SE.

Next would be interconnects and speaker cable.
Yes, I am asking from the 2 channel perspective. I have another home theater set up with I enjoy blu-ray. Sorry that I didn't make it clear. So, if for 2 channel music, is the Oppo SE up to the standard?
The OPPO SE is definitely worth your trial.
If you haven't already, rolling to a better tube in the Maverick will get some definite improvement. I have that unit in my office system with a NOS GE 5670 ... pretty sweet.

Not sure about the Oppo SE. I auditioned that unit and IMHO it fell a little short compared to previous players - Sony XA5400ES and Tube Research Lab modified 2000ES changer. Also read a review where the basic Oppo was preferred to SE version.

You're not going to save much by getting used on A-gon. The Oppo is still new enough that not much value will be reduced from retail. Oppo Digital has an excellent return policy; so get it in for a listen in YOUR system, check it out for up to 30 days and then send it back if you don't like it. They're super fast on processing refunds too.

If you like the basic BDP-83, you could always get it modified downstream, after you save a few more dollars. ASI Tek is good ($450), and Modwright is better ($950). Good luck and happy listening!

BTW, with your system, your following step might be a power upgrade. The Volex is a very good cord, especially given the cost. Cryogenics International can cryo that cord and all your other wires for $75 a pound. Then add a Majik Buss power filter ($595) and you are much closer to where you want to be. Do some research about this little gem. It did some pretty amazing things in my system ... like make my PS Audio Noise Harvesters stop flickering and go dark!

Yes, this is a lot more than you asked for. I got a little carried away. It happens.

It seems you have a fair amount of needs/desires/places to step your rig up.

Mistakes I’ve made in the past surrounded my lack of perspective usually. Like my thinking OOOhhh, this rig is it for me. I’ll not be making significant changes soon.

But I always either did, or wanted to… well, earlier on for sure.

So instead of thinking in terms of bang for buck with this one amount of freed up pesos, perhaps thinking along the lines of where you want to wind up would be more beneficial in the long run.

I'd begin looking into power cords. Front end and back end, primarily. Source & amp. As your source could be and likely will be upgraded at some point later on, I'd focus on the amp's power cord needs now.

A pretty nice PC there will yeild sufficient enough results so that you'll feel you have bought a new amp! A friend brought over his 1080 for me to try in my system and simply by exchanging my PC for his on the rotel, he was quite impressed.

Check out a Voodoo Gold Dragon, Kimber Paladium, Audience, or Shunyata Taipan, depending upon which way you want to take the presentation.

I’ve always found once aftermarket power cords are in place the system’s voice is better revealed or allowed, if you will. So I’m big on pc’s in general as a formidable path to step up performance. They make for a great foundation or reference and will apply to other likewise devices too later on.

With those 9NTs, which I had some years ago myself, some nice speaker wires there will be a true plus. I liked Synergistic Research. I tried a few others too, Purist, Wireworld, Audience, Vampire, Monster & Canare. From where you are, some nice well heeled neutral cables there will last you thru more than a few upgrades elsewhere and allow you to hear those upgrades for what they are too!

It might not seem fun to drop $500 into speaker cables to you but it could very well contain a whole lot of wisdom.

Thereafter, looking into the cable loom including your digital link should be addressed as you can. Obtaining a good pr of main ICs should be the first move there IMHO.

Maintaining signal integrity via the wires in place is always a great idea.

RE Power strip?
It’s difficult to ignore for sure, especially if one is required, and I’d suggest you definitely look into getting something other than that Monster gizmo.

If one is needed insert a PS Audio Duet for instance, or something else around the $200 area that the Duet goes for these days.

As was said already, a better unit here will do you a better job and better here means pretty much, an investment of more than $500 if you plan on attaching all the system components. Running Springs Audio Haley is a safe bet, though they range about the $700 or more plateau..

But… even little things now can add up for you, like isolation footers for your source, pre or amp. Different spikes for them 9NTs too will help… maybe even a platform for them too!

It’d be a good idea now to enable yourself to hear the upcoming changes so speaker wires and power cords ought to gain some serious consideration.

Hope this helps.

Do have fun.
Correction from my previous post: Cryogenics International treats up to eight (8) pounds for $75.

Now back to OP request regarding "biggest bang for the buck" AND $500 budget. The question seems to be "where can I spend this amount and extract the most improvement out of my rig?" Revised recommendation: tube upgrade for DAC, Blue Jeans RCA's and coax, cryo treat ALL cables/wires, install Porter Port outlet, and add the Ground Zero speaker tweak. You should still have a little left over for some new music.

After re-reading the OP, I realized I went overboard on first response. Good luck.
04-23-10: Blindjim
I'd begin looking into power cords. Front end and back end, primarily. Source & amp. As your source could be and likely will be upgraded at some point later on, I'd focus on the amp's power cord needs now.
Have you met Macdadtexeas?
04-23-10: Macdadtexas
Don't get me started on power cables, that's just snake oil in a paper cup!!p
Now that'd result in an interesting exchange of ideas...
If you have not already tried a few tubes in the DAC and preamp then start there. The AI will work great with a cheap pair of AMperex Bugle Boy 6DJ8 tubes (I think that is what is in there) that you can get on ebay for $20. Upgrading your source and speakers would be next. You can try to get a dealer in your area to let you try a better CDP to hear if that makes a big improvement in your system.
If you own your own home, as opposed to renting, you could likely have two dedicated 20a AC lines installed for your $500.
Thanks for all the reply. Just a missing detail, my Maverick Audio is already using GE tube. Actually, I am using a Rotel preamp now, and just bought a used AI preamp, it hasn't come yet. So, since the AI is already a tube preamp, I am not sure if I still should use the tube buffer from DAC, it seems it is a overdoing .. but I will try. And I heard good things on the Ratheon tube on Maverick. I can also try different tubes on the AI preamp.
And it seems the next thing I should do is the power cord and add a power conditioner.
I did some research on the porter port .. if change the port for the power bar, would it still be better since there is a power bar in front?
For the CDP. I did some research people recommend Rega Planet/Jupiter, or Musical Fidelity. But I also read some people commeting that with new DAC like Benchmark / Lavry which has jitter reduction, chaning the CDP may not bring any improvement. I am more leaning towards to upgrade my DAC instead of CDP. It is more versatile as I want to set up a music server, and I don't want to have 2 player, one dedicated to CD and one Blu-ray. And actually, the Maverick sounds decent, but I haven't try other more expensive DAC like the PS Audio with Cullen mod, so, I can't tell. Does any one have any experience in both and can tell if that worth the upgrade?


I’ve found personally, the transport does play a part in the two box CDP/DAC setup. To what degree is the real question.

A very good DAC that aggressively addresses jitter is a VERY GOOD thing!

Especially if you plan on going ALL digital or with a server/PC based operation… as I and others here have done.

The Lavery folks do a great job overall with their products and support.

I tried one of their DACs and loved it… but another DAC was a better fit for my system in the end.

RE tubes…. If NOS 6DJ8 Amperex Bugle Boys for $20 EACH CAN BE HAD…. I’d sure like to know where myself. I’ve no need of those tube types but I’d sure buy quite a few for speculation purposes.

…or at that price perhaps one should buy well more than they need too as I’d suspect a fair number NOT to be NOS… but just used instead.

With regard to tubes…. Finding a tube vendor that is honest and timely, as well as affordable is THE key with tube gear.

“Now that would result in an interesting exchange of ideas...”

Uh.. yes… it has. Been there./ Done that already. It is what it is.

In fact I kind of wish it wasn’t so, but my experience says something different to me than his experience does to him…. And other’s like him. I respect their opinions yet simply find for myself, with my gear, (and several different pieces of gear along the way mind you,) that within the context of reasonableness, power cords are the fundamental step towards improving the quality of the sound, or merely altering it… more so than Ics… and usually for less money than with Ics.

…but that’s just me…. And of course, other’s like me that have found out for themselves the valu of aftermarket PCs..

Everything here… tubes, cables, power outlets, even… alter the sound or allow for gains within the system’s abilities.

Which area here gives the biggest change? Speakers. But that wasn’t on the docket this go ‘round.

Here I saw the need for a firmer foundation. A better source of reference. Therefore I submitted what I’ve done previously that stood the test of time and exchanges of various components, whilst providing me both a clearer and more precise insight to the presentation, despite those comings and goings of kit… and they do come and go.

That’s all any of us ought to do… not just guess or speculate. We ought merely share what we’ve done ourselves or should have done, given certain circumstances.

The biggest deal is that many posters have already made up their minds to some extent when such requests for assistance are posted, or mostly made up their minds…. And will go which ever way they please anyhow! Despite whatever wisdom might say otherwise.

At least here… in lots of cases…. The main benefit remains that of the OP, and not someone who has making money as their primary goal instead of purely lending first hand exp. The knowledge base here is far more often altruistic and worthwhile… and free.

Outlines and blueprints here are FREE…. The application of it however is NOT…. That rabbit hole can get very deep, very quickly.
My current Maverick DAC is only $200, to me, it is quite a bargain. When I first plug it in, I got an impression that it gives more detail and more dynamic. Then in one afternoon, I did a A/B test with and without the DAC. I found out the DAC just gives me a louder sound. If I switch to without, and turn up the volume a little bit, I can't hear any difference, or very very minor differences. I thought the processor should have a large impact on sound, but it seems not. Same as the power cord. After I switch the Volex power cord, I feel more bass. I didn't bother to do a A/B test because it is too troublesome. But now, I think it may be again just the loudness. Even the amp .. I originally use a Denon receiver, than I thought it doesn't have enough power to drive my speaker, so I bought a Rotel amp. After I hook it up, still very little improvement, just a bit more basss. To me, it seems the components that affect the sound the most are:

The source - CD
Preamp, each has its own characteristics. Adding a preamp sounds alot better than my Denon receiver.
And most important and obvious of all, the speakers. I tried quite some speakers, and finally land on B&W, and don't bother to try again, because it is too big to move around.

Although I am very tempted to upgrade the power cord, the ICs, the DAC ... etc, but I think maybe I should just save some money and upgrade my speakers to the B&W 802

The upcoming AI preamp is definitely gonna change the sound. Rolling/swapping in & out tubes will as well. Which sound is up to you.

Every BW speaker pr I’ve owned has responded exceedingly well to power. The 9NTs have less drivers than the 802N. But only a notch lower sensitivity rating… same imp for each. I got off the BW train following my 805Ns as I wanted to go with easier imp rated speakers that were more amenable to tube power.

Given the posts on the DACs sonic abilities you already have now, swapping it out for a better one likely will be your best step…. If nothing else changes. There too though, is an obstacle. $500 of them. You might corral a DA10 around that level… maybe. The Benchmark will be more, one like my BC D3, still more, and ones like the newer Ayres, & Brystons… again more $$$ than the budget..

Waiting… and saving to move into perhaps better, but surely more expensive speakers like the 802Ns will take significantly longer to save up for than the mere few hundred a better DAC will take to acquire.

Cabling is important. So is everything else. How much… to what degree… are the issues every audio hobbyist addresses or ignores.

Every option and suggestion herein are ones to do. Not just consider… but to do or go from with the current state of your system, and all will be beneficial. Depending of course on which choices in those areas you select.

Check out the DAC thingy… think about the wire deally and power line supply…. As you have the opportunity. Those 9NT ain’t bad speakers. They just need better front end gear attached to them A much better DAC that is more about music without sacrificing too much resolution & details will help a lot now.

Have fun
I listened to the Maverick for approx 1 1/2 weeks via the Audiocircle tour recently, and although my cd player is a decrepid POS the rest of my set up isn't too shabby. As a linestage the Maverick is so-so but I found the dac to be pretty good with a noticeable improvement in most areas, especially running it through my Tad-150 I'm surprised you haven't noted any type of improvement with the Maverick, most people that have listened to it have been quite impressed with it especially at it's price point. Have you tried bypassing the Maverick's pre section and running it through the Audible Illusion?