The Next Step - what would you do?

Dear Audiogoners,

i'm sitting here listening to my setup, and realising my last thread has lost relevance.

i have a choice to make now, after about 15 years of slow, consistent upgrading. i need to take my system to the next level. i'm sure we've all been there at one point or another. so my current system is:

Pass Labs Aleph 5
Pass Labs D1
CEC CD2100 [running Supra AES/EBU]
Thiel CS 0.5
MIT MH-750 speaker leads
budget XLR leads otherwise

so i see the choices as follows:
1. get an amp with more current, and bigger thiel speakers
2. move to bigger, more sensitive speakers [spendor SP100, big proacs]
3. get a new girlfriend

all perfectly viable choices, but i'm sure both 1. or 2. would be less expensive. i've run the gamut of musical styles, but as i get older, and my hifi becomes more resolving, i find myself drawn to recordings of un-amplified instruments, such as old jazz recordings. still, i like a little thump now and then, any system should be reasonably flexible.

So, Audiogoners, what would YOU do, and why??

all the best!
If you like the Acoustical Jazz then set up a second system with some older tube gear and Quad ESLs. This set up will lend itself to upgrades that will keep you interested for a few years.
Number 3 sounds good in theory - otherwise I vote for Number 2 or Tonywinsc's suggestion - or Number 2 and Tonywinsc's suggestion.
"so i see the choices as follows:
1. get an amp with more current, and bigger thiel speakers
2. move to bigger, more sensitive speakers [spendor SP100, big proacs]
3. get a new girlfriend

all perfectly viable choices, but i'm sure both 1. or 2. would be less expensive.'

That's a good one!

Ok, if you like the sound and just want more, go with the juicier amp.

Otherwise, if you are looking for something different, besides the girlfriend, it's hard to say without knowing more about what your goals are in changing.
I would say move out of the Thiel line. I've never been a big Thiel fan. For a big soundstage and more resolution, try Audiophysic Virgo II or Sonics Allegras
I have owned Thiel CS 1.5 and the CS 1.6 speakers and can tell you the newer 1.6 is much better. I suggest going with #2.

I might as well throw in an idea or two ...

What about the ultra efficient speaker route? Klipsch Belle, K-horn, Altec Model 19? The Aleph 5 should have more than enough power to drive speakers with that high of efficiency. You’re current system is hardly lacking from my perspective.

You might want to ask the question: "What is it you seek?" "What is it that you are looking to improve?" Your post leaves a lot to the imagination.

One other possibility that jumps out at me is adding a tube linestage. An ARC LS-25 with balanced in and out might give you a slightly more relaxed sound. That matched with the horns might be an interesting change. Then again, it might be a little too much switching around. Maybe start with the linestage? I am running a Modwright SWL 9.0 Signature with Proac Responce D Two speakers and I am really happy. That being siad: I am in a small bedroom so there isnt much space to fill. I have a close friend with a Pass Labs X350, an ARC LS-16 and B&W 802's. I found this to be an excellent combination in a fairly large room. The Pass amp and ARC tube pre seemed to match up quite nicely. He went through several combinatione before deciding on the Pass Labs amp. If the Aleph 5 isnt enough to drive whatever speaker you choose, possibly jump to an X150 or X250?

What worked for me was to first choose a speaker that fit my room and musical preference ... then find a linestage/amp combo that gave me what I was looking for in terms of presentation and volume level. Finally I purchased an excelent DA converter and I am very pleased.

My current system :

Modwright SWL 9.0 Signature
Mark Levinson No. 23.5 Amplifier (Low Freq)
Mark Levinson No. 27 Amplifier (High Freq)
Proac Response D Two
Velodyne DD-10 sub
Target Stands
Mark Levinson 360S DA converter
Wadia No 23 CDP
Sony NS 9100ES SACD
Logitech Transporter
ARC PH3 SE Phono stage
Denon DP 62L

Cables are a mix :

Cobalt ultra speaker cable (2 sets)
Signal Cable Silver Resolution IC's
Acoustic Zen WOW IC's
Cardas Crosslink IC's
Signal Cable power cords

Music :

Hard Rock

Good luck ...
Tonywinsc, i'd rather get a new girlfriend than have TWO systems! haha, thanks for the post but i neglected to mention my apartment is only 86m2, with no dedicated listening space. my system has to be in the living room, without sending off geek alarms [more than it already does].

Honest1 and Timrhu, you guys are right on the ball, i think the audio physic virgo or CS1.6 are good suggestions.

Horseface, thanks for your post, i have had Cornwall IIs in the past and would like to stay away from horns as i'm not crazy about their imaging qualities, or tone. though i did admittedly love the corwalls. and you're correct, my post was a little too vague.

i didn't really do a good job of communicating what it is i am after. For the record, i am satisfied with the overall tone and character of the system as it is, but i just need more resolution and dynamics. i realise there are generally two ways i could upgrade from where i am, and that is, more current, or more sensitive speakers. my question is not about 'what' to buy, but 'why'.

the real question is:
in your varied and likewise relevant opinions, Audiogoners, which direction would you choose to go, and why?

Before doing anything else, experiment with a better quality balanced cable between your D/A and amp. It could easily solve your resolution problem and really help with the dynamics too.
More information needed. How large is your room, how well damped is it, how far from the back wall can you have speakers, and how loud do you listen to music? There are a lot of choices you have besides the girlfriend (which would clearly be more complicated)even by audiophile standards, so before making any recommendations, I would like to know what have you've heard that you liked and disliked. Have you been to CES? It would be helpful to know if you like horn,panel, dynamic speaker, monitor, etc. type of sound. I listen to Magnepan 3.6, 20.1, Avantgard, Avalon Eidolon, Vandersteen, ProAc, Monitor Audio, legacy Whisper Signature, custom 107dB sensitive horns in our audiophile club. Thus, I can say that they all have merit, but personal preference will dictate the ultimate direction chosen. Jallen
Change the speaker first and hold on to the other equipment until that part of the upgrade is done.
Find a girlfriend who's dad is a HiFi store owner!!!
If you really want to have fun again; I mean fun like when you first entered into this hobby, like a proverbial shot-in-the-arm, a renewed interest as intense as ever before, then you must look into, research and find out all there is to know about, high-end music servers. I see that you’re embracing digital (not pursuing analog), so why not take your digital system to the next level. Straight digital files, when “played” via really good servers (i.e.: DACs) sound every bit as good as what any CD player can accomplish (and there will be more and more options/solutions – “DACs” available in the near future to choose from).

You owe it to yourself to experience this unbelievable (“new”) format. The future will bring true DSD streaming capabilities and the current high definition digital files already surpass anything on standard CD. This is all icing on the cake, because you can still hear your current library of Redbook CDs as you’ve never heard them before – from your chair, never having to place another CD in the transport, with access to as many songs, in any order that you wish, with absolutely no loss of fidelity or musicality.

Keep your current components (amp, speakers…) and put together a high-end music server. I swear that you will be utterly amazed – ask (ANYONE) who has made the transition for their opinions – especially the way they felt once they actually sat down and interfaced with the music…
Tonywinsc, i'd rather get a new girlfriend than have TWO systems! haha you have a death wish!?

Never open this thread when she's in the same room...
How about a sub?
thanks for all the answers [and humor]. but we're not addressing the real question, regarding an upgrade to either a higher current amp, or more sensistive speakers:

'in your varied and likewise relevant opinions, Audiogoners, which direction would you choose to go, and why?'

[except Elizabeth, a very relevant suggestion]

2chnlben, i'm waiting to make that jump, my whole library is already ripped as Apple Lossless. i tried streaming wirelessly to an airport express, and an optical cable to my DAC but the sound wasn't as good as from CD. when i can stream it wirelessly, and then via AES/EBU to my DAC, i'll gladly buy whatever it is they're selling.

Jallen, my room is 5m x 5m, unfortunately, and the ceiling is 7m at it's highest point, angled downward 30° toward my listening position. most of the walls are hard surfaces. i'm doing my best to dampen with carpets etc. the speakers are 2m apart, one half meter from the back wall, and i sit about 3m from the speakers. i listen at moderate volume, sometimes louder, seldom at low volume.
I would go with the different speakers. It is not just a matter of efficiency or power. It is a matter of what sounds like "music". The ProAc's and Spender's sound more musical to me than Thiels, and I believe would mate with the Pass electronics quite well.

Better interconnects wouldn't hurt either...
Knownothing, this is a point that i have heard many times before. i need to audition some proacs or spendors here in berlin.

or better[and more expensive] yet just buy the cs1.6 and an equivalent pair of proac/spendor, audition them in my place over a few weeks, then keep the pair i like best. i could A/B/C/D them against my old CS0.5, would be a fun test. CS1.6/response D15[or 2.5 or 140]/spendor S8/S9 [all second hand, of course]. opinions?

i'm shopping for interconnects right now, should have a nicer pair soon.
Your A/B/C/D-in-your-home idea is terrific and the best (only?) way to really evaluate gear IMHO.

With all I said above, the Thiel CS1.6's are hard to knock, very accurate but a little bass shy. Often however, honesty in music reproduction can get in the way of enjoyment and involvement, and a hump here or a dip there in the grequency response actually sounds more "musical" in many rooms and to many ears. The difference between theory and practice I guess...

I would prioritize your search this way:

Spendor S8
ProAc Studio 140
ProAc Response 2.5 (Bass King, tonal champs, but will never disappear in the room)
ProAc Response D15

I don't know anything about the Spendor S9.

The Thiels would either fall at the top or the bottom of this group, depending on your personal tastes. Given that you feel your current pair of Thiels are underpowered, probably towards the bottom with your existing set up. Just one person's opinion.
Your electronics are fine. I would up grade to an easier to drive speaker with a first order x-over and then use "Master Set" to position the speakers. You might even consider doing the set on your Thiels. I have set many Thiels and every time the owner was amazed that he had never really "heard" them before... Rod...
okay, on the way i have the Thiel CS1.6, and Sonics Amerigo, both second hand demo pairs, from hifi shops. the thiels i paid a premium for, and the sonics i got a deal on so they were almost the same price. =)

i haven't found the appropriate Spendors yet, and Proacs have the binding posts so high that i'd need to buy new speaker cables, as mine are 'just' long enough for speakers with connection at the bottom. i know this is a small point! still, i have to draw the line somewhere. for now i'll just A/B/C these against my existing CS0.5, and keep the pair i like best.

also, i'm upgrading my interconnects to PS Audio Xstream statement XLR, but they haven't arrived yet. [also waiting for a C.E.C TL5100 belt drive transport] so, i'll be sure to let you know how the comparison goes. thanks for all the great advice.

am i giving anyone else a case of upgrade-itis?

Wow, you actually took my suggestion (kinda) - I feel important!! I hope you like them.
Do let us know which way you go. If you haven't seen them, the binding posts on the Thiels are some of the best out there.
arrgh, i just missed a pair of spendor S8e for cheep cheep. thought i'd be clever and bid at the last second, then got the message that i wasn't allowed to bid because the buyer hadn't authorized international sending!

Honest1, i did take your advice [sort-of], but i don't like the appearance of the Virgos, and the Allegra was not possible to get in the finish i liked at the price i was willing to pay =). i'll be posting my impression of the Amerigos.

thanks again, everyone for all the fine advice!