Source vs. DAC vs. Preamp Importance?

Current Setup:

1. PSB Synchrony 2 Spkrs
2. Parasound Halo A21 Amp
3. Marantz AVR as a preamp
4. No Source yet (looking for a CDP)

I have 2000$ left to complete my setup. I was looking at a decent CDP w/preamp like the Audiolab 8200CDQ....but also thought maybe keep the AVR as a preamp and spend the 2000$ on a better used CDP only? The problem with the AVR is that it won't pass through a signal, it would convert A-D and then D-A before sending signal to my amp, how much would that degrade the sound from a good CDP? Is it better to get a great CDP and run it through an AVR's DAC....or get a pretty good CDP w/pretty good built in preamp?

If I had this to do over again I would have spent more evenly across all components. I am a newbie and any advice would be much appreciated!
The CDP and pre-amp are arguably the most important components.

Passive pre-amps in CDPs don't tend to be very good in comparison to a good pre-amp.

I suppose I'd look for a good CDP and use the Marantz for now. You can go 2 channel direct mode to the pre-outs and bypass all the digital stuff in the Marantz.
I would first get DAC with USB 24/96 capabilities to play hi-rez files from your PC and than get something cheap with digital out for red book CD playback.
The source is just as important as the speakers, but it will be ruined with most active preamps. I would recommend a transformer passive linestage, like the Music First.

The source, whether it is a CD transport or a computer must have low jitter in the master clock. This is the most important aspect in digital audio.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
The speakers are the most important component in any system.

Find a pair that knocks you out and work backwards.
i vote with marakanetz--get a good dac, which will give you a lot of flexibility in the future and likely be an improvement over the inboard dacon your avr. esp. in view of the rapid decline of cd as a media form, i wouldn't drop a ton on a cdp--you can get a solid used transport for a couple hundo. i'd look next at eventually upgrading your preamp--your speakers and amp are execellent.
Thanks for the input. Does anyone know of a good used CD/SACD player for under 2000$?

I have a new Dell Windows 7 computer but don't know a thing about how to download the hi-res files to a DAC. Is there somewhere I can learn what all is needed? Seems to be hard to pin it all down online.
look at some of the asynch USB DAC's that offer preamp controls (Wyred4sound DAC-2)and combine that with a Mac Mini as your digital source of ripped music or HD downloads. You should be able to do this for close to the $2K figure.
Wyred4sound will require the software installation while Antelope would not... just plug and play. MyTek is even more versatile than both Antelope and Wyred, but all of these excellent DACS will be very easy to handle and use. For me having a great headphone section is important so I'd stay for Mytek, Grace M903 or Antelope.
Have to agree with Audiofeil, speakers will make a much bigger difference to the overall system sound than a DAC will. Get a pair that works well with the room (and your tastes) then find an amp that likes to drive them. The front end stuff can be focused on after that and you will actually get to hear the differences they make. Adding a $10K dac or pre amp to a poorly balanced and integrated speaker/room combination will ultimately prove to be unproductive.