Simaudio I5 to separates?

I've been considering whether moving from my I5 to separates would be a worthwhile move. While I quite enjoy the sound from the I5, my only complaint would be a slight bloat in the upper bass/lower midrange area. Other than that, I really like its presentation.

That being said, I was quite taken aback upon hearing an all-Ayre system a year ago at the Montreal audio show - it was a full-5 system (ie, KX-5e, VX-5e and CX-5e). It had everything that I like about a high-end system - solid, authoritative bottom end, "you are there" liquid midrange and sparkling highs. The speakers were Sonus Faber Cremonas.

So...would my system take a significant step in that direction by moving to Ayre separates in place of my I5? Or would Sim's separates offer this same type of sound? Or am I going off on a wild goose chase, where I will spend a lot of $$ and not hear a lot of difference without also changing speakers?

Surely the I5 is popular, so if you had one and moved to separates - where did you go and what were the results?

FYI - my speakers are Totem Hawks, cdp is Ayre CX-7e, turntable is a Gyro SE with Graham 2.2 tonearm and Benz L2 cartridge with Sim LP5.3 phono stage.
I tried an I-5 with my Totem Hawks and found the sound to be somewhat thin and fatiguing to listen to after awhile. In my system, the Hawks sounded their best with at least 125 WPC of high current solid state amplification paired with a quality tube preamplifier. The SS/tube pairing brings out the best attributes of the Hawks--the amazing bass output and liquid midrange.
I'm very interested to know how you fare in this particular 'quest'. I also have an I5, which I love, but mated to JA RM7si Sig. For my listenning levels, this is sufficient power; however, I've been thinking about a tube pre, preferably with a good phono stage.
Not having ever heard the Hawk/I5 combo, I can't comment on the 'slight bloat in the upper bass/lower midrange area' you speak of. I have not noticed this in my setup.
You may want to consider an Ayre AX-7e / P-5xe / L-5xe along with your Ayre CX-7e (and then have your CX-7e upgraded to "mp" status). Then, run your P-5xe and CX-7e(mp) to the AX-7e using balanced interconnects.

Charles Hansen has said (over on AudioAsylum) that he'd prefer to listen to an AX-7e w/ an L-5xe than the 5-series without the L-5xe. The L-5xe is the next component on my list. If there's one person I trust in this hobby, it's Charles Hansen.

"Separates" doesn't always mean "better sound". Sometimes, it just means "more expensive" plus "another set of interconnects".
Whether you get the magic sound you are after by spending more money is always a difficult question as there are many variables including room set-up (ie, a great sound heard in one environment may not be so convincing in yours). Tweaking what you've got with cables, pc's and room conditioning may be a better path in the short term (although your profile indicates you may have done some of this already). Just to throw a curve ball, I just spent months auditioning high quality amps for my JM Labs 1027be's. Heard various Pass, Ayre, Cary, Krell, MF, Spectron and Simaudio integrated and separates. All with various things I liked and didnt like about them in my room. The greatest improvement though came from an Audio Logic DAC added to my system which I listened to only because the dealer had one with him when he picked up the Spectron. For me the solution was not what I was expecting and proved the value of experimenting widely in my own listenng environment. Good luck with the journey.
Thanks for the input, keep it coming. Am particularly interested in any comments from those who have had an I5 in the past and moved on to something that they like better.

To address a few of the comments made so far...

At the moment I'm looking mostly at used gear, and as such don't want to borrow any gear from a retailer - if I borrow a piece of gear, it has to at least be under consideration for purchase from that retailer. The way I see it, if I expect my preferred dealers to treat me fairly, I have to do the same to them.

I have done a fair bit of experimenting with cables, power conditioning etc., but the one area where I could look before going "big" is speaker cables - although based on the Kimbers' reputation, what I am hearing doesn't come from them.

I agree that separates doesn't always equal better sound - I previously had a passive preamp and Bryston power amp, and that setup was easily bettered by the I5, and the upgrade didn't wind up costing any money. But, I worry that an AX-7e would be more of a sideways step from an I5 and wouldn't be a worthwhile change, as it would be more of a change (some improvements, some drawbacks) than an upgrade.

In general, if I'm gonna upgrade, I'd like to make sure that it will be a real upgrade, not an incremental upgrade. The I5 really is very good, so that makes it harder to be sure.

The first step would be to buy a power amp and use the pre-outs from the I5, and then step 2 would be to replace the I5 with a preamp...of course, all of this would entail the purchase of 3 balanced interconnects as well, so it's not a minor project!!!
Tough call...depends on how bad you really want that magic sound.

My system sounds the best with separates.
Like I said, Charles Hansen says the AX-7e + L-5xe sounds better than the V-5xe + K-5xe (and he's the guy who designs these components). Actually, he said he'd "personally would rather listen to an AX-7e with an L-5xe power line filter than a K-5xe and a V-5xe without one."

His words, not mine. Best of luck.
I had the I-5 and switched to Pathos Classic hybrid int amp. I compared them side by side and preferred the Pathos for bigger soundstage, better high and mid, but I preferred the Sim for the low end.
If you don't now have the amp on a good isolation platform I would do that before anything else. I am using a Star Sound Rack and it made a tremendous difference. I saw some of their Sistrum platforms on Audiogon very reasonably priced recently. I would try one of these or a comparable product before I changed anything. You will not be out anything as you can use it under whatever you end up with.
IMO your bass bloat is probably from your speakers, the speaker placement, or room anomalies --- not the I5.

try moving speakers around before spending lots of $$.

sounds like you may want a gear change for sweeter mids and highs tho.
So an update after playing around a bit with power chords and speaker placement:

First off, my feeling that the problem was related to amplification has to do with the fact that when there's additional mid-bass energy, it can be due to a lack of power in the amps decreasing the response in the lower bass. I still believe that may be happening, but was not at the "base" of my problem (so to speak).

The problem was simple...the Shunyata Venom power cable that I was using on the phono stage was somehow causing a mid-bass bloat. I found this out when swapping the Audience powerchord into the phono stage and putting the Shunyata back on the CDP. When I did that, the CDP seemed to have a bit of a bloat but vinyl did not. Seeing as I've been mostly listening to vinyl these days, I had not noticed that the problem was much more evident on the vinyl side.

So...I guess what I have found is that while the Venom is a decent inexpensive power chord, there is a reason that I paid the extra $$$ for the Audience. Also, the phono stage seems to be a bit more picky about power chords than the CDP, which might be down to the CDP having a better power supply.

My next step, I guess, will be to replace the Venom with another Audience chord, before considering mega $$$ equipment upgrades.

(Oh, and it wasn't speaker placement - they wound up right back on their little "x" marked out on the floor)