Upgrade Path?

Hi all,

I currently run a (unmodified) Transporter into a Creek Classic 5350SE, and out to a set of Paradigm Reference Studio 60s (v.5 - latest ver.) in a small treated listening room. I've had this setup for nearly 3 years (the Creek for much longer), and am starting to think about changes.

While I'd initially thought upgrading the Transporter was in order, I'm coming around to the idea that my trusty Creek is the weakest link in the chain. I don't need the system to go super-loud - but the system's not feeling punchy enough for my taste any more. Dynamics aren't all they could be, regardless of volume. I like a big soundstage. Mine's pretty deep - but not very wide (this I recognize could be a limitation of my small room). I like very well-defined bass. I get deep, powerful bass - but things get a little muddy on fast bass lines. When I bought the Paradigms, I did so after many hours of listening to the same tracks on many different speakers. The final group was auditioned with my Creek, and I chose the speakers that sounded best with my little integrated. The Creek was certainly a limiting factor back then.

I'm wondering what you all think my upgrade path should be here:

*Upgrade my amp, then consider upgrading my source
*Upgrade my source, then consider amplification
*Do it all at once, with something like the NAD M2.
*Other ideas?

Thanks all!
The amp or the M2.

I bet the M2 would be a nice improvement all around.

Although I have not heard the M2, I do have the NAD M51, and think it is just a stellar DAC. If the M2 is of similar quality, it would be a very nice choice for you, and then I think the speakers will then be likely the limiting factor in your system.

Which is a good problem to have.
Differences between sources are important but tend to be smaller in magnitude than from pre, amp, and speakers. For that reason I'd upgrade the integrated first to get the qualities you're looking for and then deal with the source. A better integrated may make it easier the identify differences between sources going forward as well. I guess you could make a similar argument to do the source first, but this is the way I'd go fwiw.

By the way, if you do work on the integrated first I'd take a hard look at the Hegel H200 if it's in your budget as I think it might yield significant improvements in the precisely the areas you mentioned. The NAD is probably very good as well, but personally I want my DAC to be separate since things are changing so rapidly in that area. Hope this helps and best of luck.
Thanks folks. The amp seems to be where I'm leaning as well - I appreciate the confirmation. I'll take a hard look at the Hegel. I'm also considering the Channel Islands DP200 monoblocks, which I've heard and was impressed by (kinda reignited my upgrade-itis, in fact), and using my Creek as a pre. I've been struggling mightily with the M2 idea - I love the elegance of the solution - to actually bypass the DAC stage seems a sort of holy grail of digital to me - but digital is evolving quickly these days. Keeping a separate DAC in the mix seems wise.

As far as my speakers becoming the limiting factor in my system... I know, I know. I agree that's a good place to be, and kinda where I'm trying to get to (hopefully I won't decide I need new speakers anytime soon! - now THAT'S a project!)
I would say it is a toss up between source and speakers, however, since you bought the speakers specifically because of the synergy with your integrated I would upgrade your source first. My choice would be a tube CD or DAC for soundstage. Get abouve mid-fi and search for something that can be your reference for years to come. Consider upgrading the tubes as well. Punch is more likely to come from a bigger amp.