What do I upgrade next to soothe the soul?

I currrently have an Aragon 8008BB AMP, 28K preamp and D2A2 DAC, plus Polk 2.3 speakers, MK MX145 sub, Nakamichi MB1 CD player and Monster M1 Reference interconnect (that I won in a CD Review contest with the entire Telarc Cd collection). I have the system setup in a 38'by 22' room that is fairly live with windows and woodfloors.

I was happy for years) and now am seeking a fresh sonic experience. And my wife would love smaller and visually attractive speakers. I love classical and Rock music. I want the system to play well at lower as well as higher volume. Music is one of the most importannt loves of my life - it truly soothes the soul. I live in rural area with no dealers for 200 miles.

Thinking of upgrading the Polks or CD player as the next step. What do you all think would make the most difference and any products you'd recommend. Budget 3K and willing to go used.

You are likely to get the most "bang for your buck" from upgrading your speakers, and from proper room treatment, such as installing diffraction / absorption materials.

One of the important factors, given your room size, is how loudly you like to listen to music. If you prefer to listen at high volumes, then you should look for a speaker that has relatively high efficiency (90 db or higher) (Horn speakers are typically high-efficiency, but they may lack "wife appeal", and not everyone likes their sound.)
Coincident Technology, for example, makes very efficient dynamic speakers. Virtually all "bookshelf" size speakers are of low-to-moderate efficiency, although there are a few that might be worthy of consideration.

Most of your system is of good quality, but in my opinion the Polk speakers are the "weak link". There are a number of very good speakers available today for less than $3000 (MSRP), and a number of them are listed in the most recent "Recommended Components" issue of The Absolute Sound. Among the speakers in your price range that TAS recommended are:
1. Audio Physic Yara ($2000)
1. Focal-JMLab 906 ($2200)
2. Totem Hawk ($2300)
3. Thiel CS 1.6 ($2400) (these speakers can be very bright, which may be a problem in your live room)
4. Reference 3A MM DeCapo I ($2500)
5. Von Schweikert VR-2 (($2500)
6. Spendor SP-1/2 ($2750)

There are four other speakers I'd add to this list:
1. Gallo Nuclear Reference 3 ($2700)
2. Spendor Sp-1/2 ($2750)
3. Vandersteen 3A ($2800) (or the Vandy 3A Signature: $3500)
4. Martin Logan Aeon "i" ($3300)

Whatever speakers you decide are worthy of final consideration, they will definitely be affected the large size and "liveness" of your room, so you will probably want a speaker that is capable of projecting a large soundstage (unless you effectively reduce the size of the room by adding some free-standing acoustic panels about mid-room). And, given the size and acoustics of your room, I think an "at-home audition" is virtually mandatory.

So, despite the fact that you have no dealers near your home, you should try to locate a good dealer that will allow you to take the speakers home for at least one night, and preferably for the weekend. If you will tell our readers where you live (which state, at least), some of us may be able to give you recommendations about dealers that are within a half-day's drive of your home.
Dear Sdcampbell
Thank you so much for your well thought out, helpful and detailed response. Though the room is large with much glass it also has alot of overstuffed furntiure and several carpets. Not sure how you measure the liveness scale. I will begin to research the speakers you have suggested. I am excited to have a place to start. I am in western NC - 2hrs from Charolette and 3 from Atlanta.
Until last week, I would have wholeheartedly endorsed Sdcampbell's response. Then I heard that darned APL Hi Fi Denon 3910 mod and my world went topsy turvy.

I can't believe the info that thing got out of plain old CD's - fabulous.

My motto with upgrades has alsways been, "Do it once." No stop gap moves, go definitive each time and you'll end up with a more satisfying system.

So, just for fun, seek out the APL player and see what you think.

Otherwise, I go back right in lockstep with the first reply.
Thanks enophile - I checked out the Apl on the web - looks great - wife would freak, at least until she heard it:)
Give Robert Taylor at Taylor House a call.He is about an hour west of Charlotte and is very helpfull.I've known him for 20 years and he won't steer you wrong.His # is 704-483-5730 and good luck.
Thanks Franklapdog I will call Robert
Nice response Sdcampbell. There was an interesting roundtable discussion in this months AS with Ivor of Linn and Dave of Wilson . Vhe viewpoints were polar for the most part but it was a fun read. I side with David though and feel a fresh speaker upgrade ususlly adds the most life to a system. Point taken and universally agreeded upon is that the weakest link is the culprit in a systems compromise and synergy is paramount in conceiving satisfaction.
It is a little over two years since I started this post, so just for fun I am updating. Since then I have upgraded my speakers to Von Schweikert VR4Sr's. That made a huge difference where I could really begin to hear the nuances of other changes. I upgraded my Transport and DAC to Northstar 192, my speaker cables and IC's to Guerilla, and my preamp from ss to tube - Audio Horizons TP2.0nB. So in two years the only thing that is the same is my amp. Plus I now seldom use the subwoofer.

Next to the speakers I think that the source (for clean detailed signal) and preamp (for inceased musicality) changes produced the best results. Half-hearted attempts at DYI room treatments did not seem to do much. In these two years I also purchased many new music CD's that were recommended here with delightful results in recording quality and exposure to new artists. I recently modded the DAC.

Each step added to enjoyment and I am now very satisfied and much more likely to listen. Whereas two years ago I might listen with full attention once every few weeks, for the last year I have been enjoying this type listening for a hour almost every night. Classical is particularly more satisfying than before the upgrades. All components chosen were recommended here and many audiogoners helped along the way. Thanks everyone for increasing my joy in music!