It would depend on what you have to start with. You may want to list your current components so folks can advise you on which may suffice for a while. It also depends on your budget, and what the end point is you envision - that is, what kind of music, what acoustical qualities are important, space considerations, etc.
What is your present source?
good point. here is my current setup
B&W 804S speakers
Cary 303/300 cdp
Parasound Halo P3 preamp
Parasound Halo A21 amp
You'll probably have the most fun by getting speakers first, as they always seem to be the most effecting to the sound. Just plan out what kind of amp you are wanting when you get the speakers since this will greatly affect your amp choices.
That said, I think a world class preamp will blow your mind too.
I tend to agree with Ejlif ,,very good advice!go out and listen to everything you can!Take your time!
Ejlif, I am leaning towards starting with the preamp, then speakers, then amp. So far I really like the Ayre K-1xe preamp. It gives a nice warm sound with great vocal dimensionality and imaging. I will also look at the Plinius M8. As for speakers, I have no idea where to start. The 802D with Ayre components sounded great to me. The Vienna Acoustics also sounded awesome though maybe a little to laid back for me.
Mapleleafs3: I have a Cary 303/300 cdp and a digital music server.
I think that the CDP is fine.
I never cared much for B&W speakers
Pre-amp can have a profound effect on the sound.
Speakers are the most "fun" since they are big and will have vastly different sonic signatures.
I own the K1x, and it is maybe the best piece of gear I've bought. I can highly reccomend it.
I also have the Parasound JC-1 amps and am using Von Schweikert VR4SRs. This is a nice match, I like it a lot.
Have to agree with Swampwalker's pithy statements.
My own notion is that, all else being equal, it will be more fun to listen to the new preamp through the old speakers than vice versa, so I'd do the preamp first.
Probably just my opinion, but I would start with the speakers. I have heard some pretty great setups that had the parasound in the pre positon...Let me tell you, it sounded pretty good when it was feeding halcro monos. Best of luck!
I would suggest starting out with a tubed preamp. You have a nice cd player and pretty respectable speakers, so I would suggest upgrading the electronics. Since a preamp changes the system sound more than the amp in my experience I would suggest a good neutral tube preamp, like a Herron VTSP-1A, a BAT VK5i, or a CAT SL-1 MkII or MKIII. Just a few ideas, but more than anything have fun and buy used. That will save you from expensive mistakes. Happy listening!
To that list of tubed pre-amps, I would add Joule LA-100 & First Sound Presence Dlx.
How about a goal that your system is so satisfying you don't feel the need to upgrade anymore? I found that analytical multi-driver speakers like B&W (which are way better than most IMHO) make you dissatisfied. Maybe when you get to the point of tiring playing around with stuff you could consider Spendor S6, orS9. At least they crossover above 5kHz. But for really satisfying sound try single driver full range like Brines FTA-200 or carolinaaudio.com Jordans.
I'm just suggesting you keep an eye out for these 2 speakers and audition them when you can. Listen for 1/2 hour at least and the sound will grow on you vs. blow you away the second you hear them like the B&W.
With your current setup, I never liked Parasound digital amps. Try Classe, Musical Fidelity, or Jeff Rowland amps. Speakers are tough to buy and sell being so big.