I would recommend working on your AC power. Once I got all my components and cables tweaked, I added balanced transformers and it made a great improvement to the system.
I also recommend dedicated AC outlets. One for your CDP and one for your amp. These will be worth while up-grades that will enhance any new component in the future.
Your system is fine as it is IF you like the sound it is presently making. If you are unhappy about the sound, what is causing it? Personally I think I would find the wires and CDP contribute to some excessive brightness but that is just a WAG.
One thing you might consider (if you haven't already) is set up your listening chair so it forms an equilateral triangle, or close to one. In a small(er) room you can get the speakers closer to the side walls by toeing them in so that the axis' of the speakers cross well in front of your chair. This will allow a wider soundstage and allow you to sit further from the speakers (Thiels really sound best at least 10 ft from the ears (my Thiels/my ears) because of the design of the drivers. The toe in will minimize side wall reflections, a must with Thiels also.
Next, assuming you did the above, bring you speakers out in the room a bit more, maintaining the triangle. This should improve your depth of image considerably. Mine were set at about 5' from the wall behind them 2.5' from the side walls, and the chair (ears) was 10 ft from the plane of the speakers.
I used this set up with Thiels 3.5's/ARC SP10II/Threshold SA3/BAT CDP/ and a Oracle TT w/Grace Cartridge. My room is 19.5x13.5x9.
Worth a try if you can do it. Just takes a few hours to see if your going in the right direction. If you are you can fine tune it further as time allows. Don't minimize the effect of the listening chair. A few inches can make a significant difference.
Hope you don't have those dreaded aesthetic problems.:-)
You have to determine what sonic characteristics you want to change. Then we can give you some advice as what to change. Do you want more dynamics, resolution, soundstaging, deeper bass etc, etc
If you're at the point where you're feeling vaguely dissatisfied with system performance, but aren't sure exactly why, I agree that power conditioning may be a good and likely place to start. But, before you accept coventional wisdom on it and start plunking down serious coin to get the gains you want, try this: go to the facebook page of Alan Maher Designs. You can't buy anything from him unless you friend him on facebook, but there's no other obligation. If you want the commercial, Alan makes a wide variety of gizmo's for systematically treating both system and home, but that's because he feels that one-box solutions necessarily fall down on treating RMI/EMI because they don't cover all the points of noise entry into the system - through home and system wiring, the components themselves, every appliance and power supply that's plugged into your home and even through the air. He offers some pointers on how his devices work at killing electrical noise, but don't bother coming to a full understanding before you try something of his because A) he is the only one that truly understands it and B) he doesn't have any patents on his gear so there's only so much he can openly divulge. Instead, just do this: look for a product he has called an "ION CBF". Ion as in the charged particle and "CBF" as in "circuit-breaker filter". This little dude tapes inside your circuit breaker box in about a 2-minute install (see his site for full instructions and Alan will answer any questions). Then you must wait 30 days - not 29 days, not 3 weeks, but 30 days. In the meantime you won't see what all the fuss is about - in fact (if you installed it right) your system performance will tend to go into the tank, but 30 days later your system's sound will be transformed - and in no small way either, just about everything will be better! I gaurantee it (everybody's system suffers from this kind of noise). Price?: $30, but I can promise you it will be the best 30 bucks you ever spent on your system. You'll likely be hooked on his products after that (I was), but the price of admission is as cheap as it gets for products that notably don't roll off frequency response or curtail dynamics as so many other kinds of power-conditioning products do. My advice is to do yourself a favor and give it a shot and see. Good luck.
Ivan you sound like a crazy nut who is trying to play head games with audiophiles lol.
Since you said you have a bug to upgrade I would say to try out some new wires. You could buy some used and you won't lose much if you dont like them you can just resale. Go for something in contrast to what you have now and see what you think.
If you wanted to do something big I personally would go for a top notch preamplifier. In my experience great preamps have rocked my world over any other upgrade. If you sprung for something like the CJ ART or ARC ref 3 I bet it would put a big smile on your face.
In relation to the quality of your system, 10 foot run of Kimber PBJ and the 8TC speaker cables seem like the weak point to me. I would definitively explore and play with alternatives. Check out threads on Anti-cables, Morrow Audio Cables.. to name a few. Some have a 60 day return policy (Morrow) so there isn't much to loose if it doesn't match with your system. I also second previous recommendations regarding AC power.
I'm surprised that no one has mentioned acoustical treatment. Whether you want to admit it or not the room in which you listen is the most vital component of your playback system and ignoring the effects it can have on the qulity of music played back in your space is tantamount to pure denial. Acoustical issues within your room should be addressed first, then everything else after. If you fail to address acoustical issues that may exist in yous listening environment then no amount of tweaking the other components is going to alleviate the sound quality isssues you may have. A good and reasonably inexpensive place to start would be Jim Smiths books or DVD, and then possibly moving on to the plethora of more tecnacal manuals that exist on the subject of room acoustics and how to tune them properly.
I agree with Rcrerar.
The sound you hear from your system is not just components. It's a combination of your system and your room. It will be the biggest upgrade for the money.
with your components, there is nothing to do! Enjoy it. Maybe moving the speakers will change the sound, which should satify the urge to do something.
To all nine responders in under 24 hours ... thanks for your inputs!
I have noticed an improvement from moving the speakers further away from the sidewall, and moving the sofa that was between the speakers to a side wall. Lyrics on vocals are now clearer, the imaging on jazz pieces stable and not at all confused like they were before, and the low level details on classical pieces like the cushion of air from a soft tympani stroke or violin pizzicatos more noticeable. Next step based on your inputs is to move the speakers further from the back wall and play with toe-in and listening chair position.
I have a little more treble energy in the system than I would like, perhaps from the live room. Only absorbing surfaces are a sofa, a chair and the area rug. Any recommendations on managing the treble energy in the room? Rcrerar mentions Jim Smith's books and DVD which I need to check out (so far am reading Robert Hartley's guide which does not have much info on this specific topic.)
Once the acoustics are handled it will be on to the cables and AC power conditioning ... what is your experience with the AC filters that clean out the RF and other noise vs the much more expensive units that create a pure 60 Hz? Do these units really work well with high powered amps that draw 1 to 1.8 kilowatts from the AC mains? Should I consider this just for the CDP and pre?
St01, I'm afraid I don't have too much advice on the excess treble energy if for no other reason than I'm an owner of a digital EQ, so if I have such a problem all I need to do is zap it, of course. But, traditionally people do generally try to solve frequency response problems by taking a closer look at equipment matching and/or cabling and/or room treatment. I suppose I just listed those options here in order from most expensive to least. Walk near to the center of your room and clap your hands loudly. If there's a lot of what they call "slap echo" that takes more than a second to die out, then you likely could use some room treatment. The idea is not to completely cancel all reverb, then your vocal intelligability would tank, just introduce enough treatment to balance things out. If you do not hear too much echo, your existing treble energy may in fact have another (electronic) cause. But, room-wise, high frequencies are the easiest to deal with and by the time you get to the lowest frequencies things can become space-consuming, technically complex and even expensive (though arguably worthwhile). There are acoustic panels specifically for the purpose of reducing the highs (or mid-to-highs) that are sold by Audio Advisor and the like, but lots of people tend to make their own panels from common materials and save (you can probably google for some of the different recipes or try searching audio forums). Or, folks have even used a strategically placed hanging tapestry or 2 of appropriate size (if they fit in your decor). As for speaker placement, there is something called the (George) Cardas method that is especially usefull for symetrically shaped rooms (or nearly so) which you can google too. Also you may want to consider which wall (assuming you have a rectangular room) you want to place your speakers along - the long wall or the short. People always argue about which is better, but I've found it seems to depend on a host of factors other than simple geometry - room contruction materials and construction design and so on - so you'll just have to try that experiment for yourself and see, but in general if your room is on the large side, you should try along the short wall first and if your room is a bit small, your should likely try the long wall first, but sometimes you happen upon an exception to the rule. But as far as AC regeneration systems go, although I have no direct personal experience with them, I'm not aware of too many people that have tried them and have sworn by them that have also tried other power filtering options. I suppose that the real underlying problem with AC power (which itself I believe IS a legitimate area of concern) is both EMI/RFI and power supply crosstalk. Crosstalk is created whenever one power supply's resonant frequency is different from another power supply's resonant frequency on the same electrical circuit (in this case your home) - note that this type of electrical noise formation applies to ANY power supply plugged into your home(!) - any appliance, any cell phone charger, computer, any wall wart...anything that draws a residual current while off but plugged into an outlet...which any more is just about everything - not to mention all the power supplies in your A/V components themselves. The standby current these devices generate are almost as strong as if the the device were on and being used. All these different frequencies combine and then recombine to produce higher order mutiple harmonics of those frequencies...all of which tends to (severely) restrict the audio bandwidth. But, to make it short, years ago I could have made a few recommendations on moderately or budget priced all-in-one AC filters, but since I stumbled across the Alan Maher Designs products I mention in my above post I've seen no need. These products are more effective and yet less expensive than anything I've seen. This guy doesn't advertise so as of yet he hardly shows up on anybody's radar, but I'm a convert mainly because I save big and there are no sonic drawbacks, only plainly heard advantages. Hope this helps.
Replace all the Kimber with Crimson Music Link. It will knock you over. If the Sony is your only source you could also consider getting rid of the CJ and replacing it with a good passive. The CJ is a good preamp, and I owned the same model for years, but it's very dark and overly tubie.
Sorry I didnt read about the treble energy. A cheap fix considering the wood floors would be Herbie's Big Fat Dots under the speakers and then a nice throw rug (not so cheap).
Power regenerators *MAY* dramatically improve your sources and pre, depending on how bad your AC quality is. None will be able to handle the Levinson amp. You could definitely consider an AC filter for it though (try before you buy!).
Dedicated AC lines are great, but you have to be willing to rip up your walls.
The Thiels are excellent speakers, but I bet you could improve them with a few crossover modifications. Not changing topologies, just part for part component swaps. Made a very big difference in my speakers. Of course, this assumes you (or a technician) can access the crossovers.
Acoustical treatment can yield very satisfying price/performance benefits, possibly the best. Many commercial options out there and they are very easy to DIY.
IMO, if we are just looking at the components and not at setup or treatment I would dump that Sony 5400 followed by the Theils