Your system is very different than the direction I have gone in this hobby, but I'll throw in my 2 cents anyway : )
How about a Schiit Bifrost DAC? It's a great DAC and cheap. Should improve on your Rotel CDP quite a bit. Plus it gives you the option to explore streaming in the future. I have the Schiit DAC in my headphone rig and like it very much.
Whether you wish to stop the upgrade 'mania' is up to you. ;) However, if you are looking for more presence...i will assume this means bigger sound, bigger soundstage.
Two choices imho...Get a much more powerful tube amp (assuming you like your current tube sound)...which should drive your speakers much further.
Or get bigger speakers...the challenge will be can the 10watt/channel amps you have drive the bigger speakers?
If you are doing this one step at a time, perhaps focus on amp...i love the Forte 4 amp (50watts/channel pure Class A)...second hand only today. Or one of the older CJ amps...MV60SE maybe? might be a bit tight at 1K...but perhaps the original MV60?
With good speakers, putting a much higher current thru them can have sometimes quite shocking levels of increased soundstage/power.
When it comes to upgrade, it's hard to stop at just one item to replace. The first two suggestions are a good place to start. The Bifrost will set you back about $400 or so (if you forgo the USB) which would leave you with $600 to put towards a powered sub, perhaps?
All the best,
My suggestion, do not buy anything without trying it in your system first. So only consider upgrades that you can demo or that have loaner programs. You don't want to get "stuck" with an upgrade that really isn't an upgrade.
I also agree with Lloydelee21, a bit more power might help.
Simao - Let me throw you a curve ball . . . all your current gear will sound better with acoustical room treatments! Best darn upgrade you can make. It isn't a bright shiny new toy like an amp or whatever but it can be used to widen soundstage, attentuate bass modal peaks that muddy the mid's and highs, reduce annoying flutter echoes, and much more. Unless you are sitting very near field, what you're hearing is something akin to 50% equipment and 50% room effects. Taking the DIY route allows the most flexibility, cost savings and the option of over engineering it if you like to meet your room's unique requirements. Oh yah, buy yourself an acoustical measurement tool such as Dayton Audio OmniMic which is an essential tool! Goood luck.
I struggle with room treatment, because I was told to do it right will cost between 5 & 10K. Do you think room treatment will improve every room?
i would agree with the dac suggestions. i have spent the last few years adding better cables, better room treatments, better tweaks. i got some good results. but two weeks ago i replaced my music fidelity v-dac with a emotiva xda-1 because it had 6 inputs for flexibility and it changed my system from ok sounding to pretty remarkeable. i'll spare the flowery language but i now have a image that is 3 dimensional.
My focus is on the source side so anything to improve that is should be more important than downstream (unless you have a weak link, like the absence of a DAC in your case). Clean sound comes from clean power/signal and what you hear should not be cluttered by too many or strong indirect reflections. In your case I would certainly invest in a good power conditioner as that would benefit all items in your system and subsequently, power cables and interconnect upgrades. Cheap tweaks in isolation (a must for source devices) and vibration control (amps and speakers) should definitely be considered, there are numerous entries here on the Gon about that. Room treatment can be more difficult as to find a compromise between room aesthetics, according to your partner's opinion, and room acoustics, unless you have a dedicated listening room. My practical advice for the first grand (you can never stop, that's the fun part!) would be:
1.) buy an used power conditioner for $300 (heck even a cheapo Belkin PF30 or PF60 is better than nothing) and replace the wall sockets with hospital grade ones (e.g. Hubble or PS Audio)
2.) an used DAC for $600 (many contenders)
3.) isolation tweaks (Herbie's Tenderfoot, Vibrapods which are very affordable).
Simao, we have not heard back from you so maybe you could sum up what you have done or going to do and we could go into the second iteration of advice/comments.
I totally agree with Lloydelee21. Your speakers have what I would consider minimum power, and adding a more powerful amp would be beneficial in many ways. To change speakers, then you need one with a much higher sensitivity, maybe 96dB or higher.
Thanks for all the advice all. Some updates:
1. I have vibration controls on both speaker and components in the form of mollytoes and pods.
2. It looks as if a DAC is the first thing I'll invest in. Ironically, I had a Creek OBH-14 DAC for years. When I got the Sophia, it seemed as if I didn't need it, so I sold it off. Live and learn.
3. I'm loathe to give up the Sophia. I bought it off audiogon; shipped it off to the Sophia headquarters in Virgina to have the caps and IEC upgraded and new tubes. I love how warm and bloomy it sounds.
4. No one has mentioned the speakers. Should I get better monitors?
Thank you again
Dedicated line(s)-power conditoning-isolation/rack and room treatments are essential for your system to reach its potential. Since your budget is only $1K have a dedicated line installed($200)-Hospital grade receptacle($50) and a RSA-Elgar($500+used). With around $250 left get your feet wet and look for some used minor room treatments. I do believe a cpd/transport needs an isolation platform not just footers. I'm getting great results with a Gregitek Stab 1.
In all honesty, I'm not going to invest in power conditioning or dedicated lines. I have my components on a Salamander rack, as I've always had, for the cd transport and a Mapleshade block for the amp. I truly appreciate the way-more-diverse-than-I'm-used-to advice on power conditioning and room treatments and such, but if I'm going to replace a part, it's going to be a component. I mean, I know enough about standing waves, diffraction, and such to use walls, corners, spacing, potted plants, etc. to enhance the sound.
So, it looks as if the amp is what most are saying to replace with one with a higher wattage. Okay. Sounds good. I'm somewhat surprised that the Rotel wasn't the first to go. Does a better CD player make that much of a difference?
Thank you as always,
Your Rotel cdp punches way above its price. I use an older Rotel as a transport to a newer DAC, it works very well for this. A couple of people have suggested a DAC, and I agree also. Your speakers are very sensitive and is a good match for your Sophia, which is also a good amp... Maybe a DACit from Peachtree, or Micromega dac might fit the bill? These are both very highly rated dacs.
simao, you speak of wanting more "presence", thus i'm surprised that no one has suggested adding a sub--your monitors only extend down to 60hz or so and might benefit from more low-end depth. hsu subs are awesome for the price, i also like mirage and svs.
Loomis - i do have a good old ML Descent; unfortunately, the Sophia doesn't have a sub/pre-out. But good call on that one, though.
Mik - thanks for the advice on the Rotel. I'd heard raves about it before I bought it and snapped one up when it came up on Agon. I think I'll be going the DAC route after all. Thank you for helping solidify that decision.
Switch to DNM Reson speaker cable from Mapleshade, you'll think you just bought a 4k tube amp.
A properly integrated sub not only adds heft and depth, it provides a more solid foundation for the sound from your monitors to ride on. The result is definitely more "presence".
REL subs can connect to the amp's speaker connectors, so not having a sub/pre-out is not an issue. New or used a REL would fit your budget. (I generally lean toward sealed cabinet, downward firing subs.)
I second the subwoofer suggestion. I added one a couple of years back. The improvement seems to somehow go beyond the bass extension (my monitors are rated down to 40HZ). The sound seems more natural, more complete now. I may go for a more powerful amp next, but I'm glad I did the sub when I did.
Of course, as always, your system and your ears may not agree.