Very confused... Noob help needed

Hi Everyone,

Alright, I'm very confused to say the least... ...How about I just list various questions that are swirling around in my head, hoping that someone can straighten me out. Before you answer, a little on me: I'm a guitar play and tone freak. I've been through ~10 tube amps in the past 2 years searching for "the tone". I consider myself an audiophile because I can tell the difference between low and high end gear (and appreciate the low end gear for what it does). I despratly need to upgrade my home theater / 2 channel listening systems. I have a Sony 5.1 integrated amplifier, Infinity SM82 speakers, a cerwin vega center channel, and even worse rear channels. I want to upgrade *something*, but don't have the budget to do it all at once. Current budget is ~1k (+/- $200 used) for next component. So, here it goes:

1. Speakers or amplifier first?
2. Start with a 2.1 speaker system first, and add on later?
3. Just upgade my L/R speakers?
4. Just upgrade center channel (~80% use is HT)
5. Floor standing or small sattelites (leaning toward floor's due to the small child factor). In wall's are out of the question.

I'm after quality. I want to spend once and (hopefully) not upgrade until I have to (i.e. room changes, use ratio changes). As I said, I can tell the difference between good and bad, but probably cannot tell the difference between "2 goods" right next to each other. I could probably tell you the difference between them both, but really in the grand scheme of things, I don't think it matters much to me. My tollerance between the 'goods' is very big. Meaning, that I understand that there are differences, but feel comfortable that what I chose is adequate for my ear.

Does any of this make sence? ....or should I go to an audio therapist?! Thanks for humoring me. Looking forward to 1) a slap across the face to snap out of it or 2) some focus in my quest...
I humbly suggest: you choose your speakers before your amplifier, decide if you really need more than two channels, match all channels regardless of number as closely as possible and choose floor standers.
I'll add to what Unsound says -- when choosing your speakers, shop at good local shops (if you have them), and pretend you are shopping for an entire system, not just the speakers. Buy the speakers now, knowing what you will want to buy later to complement them. Even better if you can try some or all of it in your own room.
I too suggest you get the best 2 speakers you can afford now. Since you mentiond 1000 +/- 200, I assume 1200 is a possibility, so I'd urge you to wait a little and push it to 1500 even.

BUY USED. If you have good local dealers, fine, otherwise A'gon is best, people will help you with specific suggestions. Obviously, don't pay for fancy cabinets and finishes. Later you can add other components similarly: smaller speakers from the same company for rear channels, amp/receiver, etc.

Good luck.
Sony made some very good int.amps/Rec's. (I own a TA-AX6 Int. amp, and an early 80's Rec's and an 1990 STR-GX60 Rec. and a few other vintage pieces.) I will say if they are matched to the right spk., they will make a very musical system. Spk. cables and Interconnects will greatly influence the sound. You didn't mention your cables? If you're using really inexpensive cabling, you might want to upgrade these before deciding if a spk. change is in order. Bill
And a word to the wise: buy speakers and components first and finally cables. Cables make the LEAST difference in sound. Many on this site will want to cast me into the burning lake of fire for this comment, but many, many audiophiles agree.
I agree with the advice offered so far. You're likely to hear the biggest difference with an upgrade in speakers. Shop for a whole system at a local A/V specialist now, even though you'll be upgrading over time. This way you'll know (and anticipate) what the end result will be. I also agree with Bojack, cabling does make a difference, but should be viewed as a "tweak" to better sound, it's not gonna make the kind of difference that it sounds like you're searching for. Good luck, and have fun searching.
Don't forget room treatment, In my experiance, and thus IMHO, room treatment sits somewhere between speakers and components for sound improvment. It may sit on the top of the list in bang for the buck. google DIY absorbers for some advice on how to make them on the cheap, otherwise there are plenty of people who will sell you a nicely finished piece.