Two Channel System Development Suggestions

I presently have the following gear:

Sim Audio Equinox CD Player
Arcam C30 Preamplifier
Proceed Amp 3
Paradigm Studio 60s

The electronics were purchased used here on Audiogon. The speakers are approximately one year old.

I am looking to upgrade my system one piece per year with an annual budget of $3,000 to $5,000. System is primarily used for two channel audio (I also have a Denon 2900 Universal player and Paradigm center channel and surrounds). I primarily listen to female vocals, jazz, folk and rock.

I welcome any suggestions as to what piece of equipment I should replace first. I would also like some input regarding recommended replacement pieces. I'm obviously not opposed to buying quality used equipment and strongly believe you can get your best value in used amplifiers given their long life expectancy and the lack of annual amplifier product enhancements (just my opinion).

I've learned a lot from Audiogon members over the last few years. Thanks in advance for your time and attention.
I used to own Studio 100's v1's and 2's and I felt they are a great speaker for their price point. I had a chance to use some Avalon Acents on loan for a few months. The Ascents are an old two way design and I only wish I could put into words the audible differences between these two brands. I think this is what's meant by the term, "more musical". The Paradigms went deeper but an acoustic Bass sounded much better through the little Avalon.

I've since purchased used Eidolons and they are simply stunning.

I have a Denon 5900 which had the full boat mod by Dan Wright and the difference was huge (from memory) as digital goes. He can tell you what bang for the buck would be best for you.

My inexperienced suggestion would be to start with an Avalon product then maybe replace your amp with an Ayre V3, then top it off with a Well Tempered turntable and a Benz cartridge. Keep your Paradigms for home a theater system.
I would stop before you have $80,000 invested in a stereo that you have to have in a $14,000 mobile home.

On a serious note, I would start with great speakers. My personal choice now, and we listen to similar music is Avalon. I had B & W for years and liked them as well and they keep their value. Bryston is another product that is great used. For amps and preamps, Jeff Rowland is a great product. Wadia CD players and transports are also great.
Your system is all solid state. Ever consider a nice tubed preamp like BAT, ARC, CJ or VTL with HT pass through?
In general, I think the speakers and the preamp are the pieces that most determine how a system sounds - speakers the most and preamp second, although you'll find differing opinions here on Audiogon about this. I've been doing what you're doing (upgrading a component every year or so) and this has held true in my upgrades. Good luck
I would also start with the speakers first. One can never spend enough on good speakers, although there is a point of diminishing return. I have been very pleased with my Veritas V2.4i speakers made by Energy. The B & W’s would be a good choice as well. Next I would go with a pair of Arcam P1 Mono Block Amp’s. They would be a good up grade for your system and should work well with your Arcam C30 pre-amp.
Thanks for the responses thus far. There are so many options out there that it's hard to determine where to start. I have really considered adding a tube pre amp first such as the Modwright SWL 9.0SE or the Aesthetix Calypso. Then again I also really like the new Evolution Series from Sim Audio.

I can see why people have a hard time jumping off the upgrade band wagon. I'm constantly finding better and more pricey toys. I think I would be very satisfied if I could get 95% of the top performance level at a reasonable price.

My problem is that I haven't done a lot of listening comparisons. It would be nice if you could go to one location and pick up four or five high quality items and bring them home for a shootout in your own system.

The most important thing to do before you upgrade is to get some room treatment. Room acoustics are critical in getting good sound. Please read up on them. The improvement per dollar spent is also excellent. Speakers and the room are the two most important things that affect the sound.

You want to treat first reflection points and add bass traps first. I've been in this hobby since the early 70's and wished I would have learned more about room acoustics long ago.

Another thing that is free is speaker placement. Like real estate the three most important things in speakers is location,location and location. Experiment with different distances between speakers,sidewalls and rear walls. Also experiment with listener position and the angle your speakers are toed in.

Then worry about upgrades. Call Ethan Winer at Realtraps after you read about acoustics. He has good deals on quality treatment. If you're handy you can make your own. Do a google on Jon Risch bass traps and acoustic treatment.
I want to add the room is a "Component". Cheers
You can merge HT and 2ch into one:
- Sell both CDPs to buy a McCk UDP1 (I sold my Equinox and a Pioneer DV59)- Cost neutral..invest in 4 Mondo traps + 2 diffusers.
- Get a 5.1ch pre / amp combo if you want separate(I went with Linar 10 5.1 integrated to keep it simple and economical). Separate, I would try Copland CT306 + Cary Cinema 5
- Buy 3 Avalon Studio Pro monitors (L/C/R) to get started into a 3ch system and then buy 2 more down the road for rear. Avalon sound for much less money (although I would love the Ascendant for front).
- A sub if you really want one (REL or MLogan) + a good projector

It is obviously a matter of taste and you have so many options but this is where I am heading. Good luck.
Many of us in this goofy obsessive hobby understand your frustration. The variables in equipment, your room, and the flavor of sound you're looking for make it almost impossible to come up with the perfect system for you.

If you look at this little thread as a whole you'll see that choosing a another speaker system rates high with the majority. On the other hand you seem to want to upgrade to another preamp, and that's OK. Personally, I experienced that the preamplifier is the second most important component in my system. Those are two fine choices which will undoubtedly out preform your current unit. Unfortunately you may not hear the full measure of improvement another preamp or even your current electronics (which aren't that bad) for that matter, with those Studio 60's choking the output.

When you see a speaker manufacturer building the same basic design year after year and still in business you need to take a hard look at those products. Besides Avalon Acoustics, Vandersteen came to mind. Both designers seem to put allot of effort into phase and time response. Both have had many of their design cues copied by other manufactures. C. Hansen, who designed the original Avalon and who designs Ayre electronics uses Vadersteen's 3A for voicing. He admits his favorite is Avalon's Diamond. I trust his ears.

Avalon Studio Monitors were designed for nearfield monitoring of every little inflection of miking, and gain setting, in the recording process. I have recently had lengthy experience with these in a control room monitor and post production environment and they are a huge leap forward in what you'll find in many studios today. They might also work well in a home theater. However, they are not the Avalon sound you get with Avalon home/Hi-Fi systems.

Keep in mind there are many of us who are satisfied with what we've finally ended up with. We're probably spending money on albums and live performances and not the next 2% increase in fidelity. Could we spend more? Sure, who couldn't? At some point you start listening to music and not your system. For me it was when the Eidolon's arrived.

Happy shopping.