What are the weakest components in my system?

I have a very basic system but want to know where I can improve for the least amount of money:
Thorens Td 145
Nagaoka Mp11 cart
McClelland MQ-S35 Phono Preamp
Harman-Kardon AVR146
JPW-AP3 loudspeakers

I know that this is a very basic system, but would it sound much better with a better phono stage or cartridge?
would it sound much better with a better phono stage or cartridge
Methinks upgrading the H-K amp would do the trick better than changing phono, or cartridge...

Just tweak yr TT if you haven't, lots of info around.
I’ve asked it before in other posts and I’ll continue to ask it again; Are you using dedicated circuit breakers and some type of upgraded electrical outlets? If not and you are able to I’d start by upgrading your power (power filtration system). Should make a huge improvement by itself.
What aspect of your current system's reproduction seems most lacking to your ears at the moment? Do you plan to systematically improve all your components as finances allow? A bit of forethought can help missteps at the start of this process. I'd agree with Lak that good power is a great start in any system, but I'm not sure it's the best bang for the buck in your case. That would depend on how substandard your power is at the moment and whether your current system would reveal the benefits of cleaner power. It also depends on if the OP is a homeowner that's planning on staying put for while. The HK amp might be the first piece I'd look to replacing as well if you plan a systematic upgrade over time.
I am assuming the Harmon Kardon is an AV receiver based on the model # ... since your system seem to be dedicated to 2 ch listening, this would be the first thing I would replace. Maybe a vintage receiver/integrated with built-in phono stage
I agree with amplifier upgrade and like Jrinkerptdnet's mention of a Vintage solution. Sam Kim of Sam's Audio Labs is a master circuit designer and vintage equipment restorer/upgrader. Sam upgraded my McIntosh MR-71 to Triode and it's amazing. Check out this link to get an idea:


I also like the dedicated circuit upgrade because I did that and it does make a difference but that can wait. Replace your HK and then do the AC. You will then be able to easily identify the weakest links after that.
Dear Kmaclac: If I was you and if you are really interested on two channel analog system more than in HT then I will change the phonopreamp first or try the phono stage that comes in your receiver ( maybe I'm wrong and the receiver does not has a phono stage. ).

The other " move " that I will do it is to re-wire internally the speakers ( with better one. ) and maybe intent to change some parts in the crossover for better quality ones.
In the other side the IC and speaker cable that you are using to connect your audio system makes a difference and changing some of those cables could help.

You have several alternatives as you can read through each post in the thread.

Your call.

regards and enjoy the music,
Swapping the HK for a nice little integrated such as a Creek, Cambridge, Music Hall or similar will make a huge difference...unless you want theater too.
I found there is no inexpensive way to enjoy quality playback to a certain degree. Everyone has different listening standards/requirements.
Think about replacing your current phonostage (first) and receiver.
Speaker placement/room acoustics, clean records and a well set-up (isolated) turntable may help while considering changes.

I asked a similar question a number of months ago. While my question was about gear, a couple of the responses suggested that I focus on room acoustics/room treatment. It was great advice.

I knew my room had a little too much echo (e.g., could hear some echo when clap hands). After doing some research, I ended up buy some GIK Acoustics 244 broad band absorption panels. These made an incredible difference, not only in the bass, but smoothed out the entire frequency spectrum. I was able to hear notes that I could not hear before, voices were more focused, and little anomolies that I thought were on the recording were in fact due to my room acoustics. I had previously borrowed a $1,500 REL subwoofer (which was great) from a friend, and the approximately $400 I spent on five of the 244s (I have a large room) made a much bigger difference than this very nice subwoofer.

I have no idea what your room is like or how big it is, but based on my research and experience, I think the experts generally agree that any room can benefit from some type of broad band absorption (as long as there is not too much to make the room "dead") and/or bass trapping. You can find more information about room acoustics on websites such as GIK Acoustics, RealTraps, Decware, and many others. Also, a number of discussion boards (e.g., Audioholics, Audio Circle, and Audio Asylum) have boards dedicated to room acoustic info.

I just thought I would pass along some of the best advice that has been given to me on this forum.
Thanks for all the great feedback. I am running all components through a Monster Power Center HTS 1000: http://www.monstercable.com/productdisplay.asp?pin=4445

I do also use the HK in a 5.1 home theatre setup. So, I have thought about finding a vintage 2 channel amp with phono stage just for music.

Some of my vinyl sounds very nice, but I find some of the high end frequencies get harsh and tinny when I push the volume up. Is that the HK's power limitations or is it the cart and phono stage? I have considered the Audio-Technica AT-PEQ3 ATPEQ3 phono preamp, but not sure that is going to solve the problem.

Thanks again for all the comments.
A chain is no stronger than it's weakest link. If you are a real music lover, and you have the available means; I suggest you make a comprehensive plan to start all over, however, the amp is the heart of the system.
I also agree that probably your HK is one serious weak link in your system but I am also surprised that no-one has mentioned the speakers. Despite what Orpheus 10 said about the amp being the center of your system the speakers are the heart of your music. You do need a balance between source components and speakers but I have seen time and time again systems where a simple change of the speakers made a huge difference in the sound and the enjoyment of music.

For now disregard any advice regarding cables and dedicated electrical outlets. These things should be looked at after the overall sound of your system is satisfying to you.
The worlds best speakers will give you "Crappy" sound if you have crappy electronics; however, you can get boss sound with decent speakers and boss electronics. It should be possible for you to audition electronics before you commit, that way you can tell how much improvement you get from an upgrade.