what is my system's weakest link?

I have put together and entry level system, and have been enjoying it for a while now and feel it might be time to step it up and upgrade.

My system consists of:
Thiel cs 1.5 speakers
rega brio-r integrated amp
pro ject debut III Turntable

I use my system for playing records almost exclusively

What component should I switch out/upgrade first?

I have been looking into Mcintosh c28 preamps as an option to switch my integrated with, had a chance to listen to a system with that c28 preamp and it sounded great , warm and very detailed, and it seems to be quite affordable

Any way any advice or tips on what my next move should be regarding new equipment that is relatively affordable ($600-$1300 price range) would be appreciated

It seems that your speakers and amp get great reviews so you might post more information on your turntable for people to comment on. Something like a new cartridge, vibration control devices, or a tone arm cable might make a nice difference. Turntables are touchy beasts which is a big reason that I plan to stick with a digital source. A different phono pre might also be something to consider.

I have not heard your Rega, but just picked up a Yaqin MC-30L that I am very impressed with. One would be under $650 to your door with the upgraded tubes. You might read some reviews and see what you think. It doesn't have a phono pre so you would need to factor that in.

My thought is your amp. Thiel speakers are known to need high quality, high power/current amps. I may easily be wrong, but I believe that you need something better than what you have now to achieve the best sound out of the CS 1.5 speakers.

I agree with Chuck. The Rega is a nice little amp. Thiels like a beast to drive them, even at low levels. Not sure on the phono stage in the Rega either?
I agree with Krell_man. I have not checked you items specs specifically, but I suspect most any Thiels will not be driven to full potential except by perhaps the very best, biggest, and powerful integrated amps out there. A 50 w/ch SS amp may sound nice, but is almost certainly not up to the task of pushing any Thiels to their max, which is what you want to do to get the best sound out of ANY speakers.
Thanks guys this is very helpful,
I will definitely look into substituting my amp and perhaps enhancing my TT a bit via mat/platter/stylus upgrades.. any thoughts on what to get to spruce up the TT and any thoughts on my interest in getting that c-28 mcintosh + power amp as my new amplifiers? is it just a random obsession of mine or is this a good idea? :)
The McIntosh will be a SOLID investment that will last. Good choice.Anything you can do to improve the turntable would be a great choice as well. Be careful to match Cartridge compliance with YOUR tonearm for best synergy.Many cartridges do not go well with many tonearms. Be aware thats all.
Those Thiels would benefit from, and you would know it immediately, an amp supplying them with a stouter power supply.
I'm going to disagree with the consensus as I owned the Thiel 1.5s a few years ago. I found them to be overly bright with limited low end. The opposite of warm and inviting in my experience.
Guess what I think you should upgrade? If you like the time coherence aspect of the Thiels you should look at something like Vandersteen 1Cs.
Thiels are NOT warm, for that flavor, look elsewhere. Thiel have unique
charm. When fed right. Not inherently warm at all. More clean and
detailed, especially if fed right.
I agree that the Rega and the Thiels are probably not a good match. That said, I would probably replace the speakers first with something that is easier to drive. $1300.00 opens up a lot of possibilities on the used market. Specific recommendations would depend on your room and listening habits.

the room, which it is for all systems.
Music Direct has some great process on Focal Chorus 800 series speakers. I have never heard a Focal speaker that I didn't like. The 816v is a fantastic choice in my opinion.
I have a different take on this. The "weakest link" is the Project tt. The biggest "problem" is the Thiel/Brio combo. The Brio is a nice integrated and while you mention wanting a new pre, what will you do about a power amp? The C28 is a good vintage pre, but do you really want to open up that can of worms (restoration/reliability of pre, new power amp)? If it were me and the goal were the best possible sound for +$1000 or so, I would build a new system around the Brio which is a solid integrated, get friendlier speakers (I like the Vandersteen suggestion) which you should be able to buy with what you get for the sale of the Thiels plus a little more, and GET A BETTER FRONT END; something like this (no affiliation):


or even better:


I think you will have infinitely more satisfying sound this way. Good luck.
Bottom line is how much do you like the THiels and want to invest in getting the most out of them. AN amp upgrade would be the initial solution.

Focal is a good option to consider. They are much easier to drive than Thiel in most cases, and I tend to think of the two as being in the same general sound quality camp when things are going well. Worth considering. Triangle (also French like Focal and also generally much easier to drive than Thiel as well) would be another.
I see that the consensus seems to be that the speakers should be the first to go, I have to say that they would be my least preferred component to switch out, mainly because they fit beautifully in my space, which might not be able to accommodate every speaker, and though its superficial I really like the way they look, I have to say that the exterior of gear is quite important to me (and to my wife :)..) + speakers are hassle to have shipped to you etc.. oh and I think the sound great I mean I never thought they would be the main reason why my system isnt all it could be..

I guess thats why I felt prone to getting a new pre and power.. instead of the brio or perhaps getting a new cartridge for the TT or a new table altogether.. very confusing times.. hard to figure out what sould go :)..
During my crazy days of changing equipment almost as regularly as my underwear I owned a pair of Thiel 1.6s. They were only a little larger than the 1.5s but they were so much better to my ear. Much smoother sound with deeper bass. Also much better looking IMO. You can find them for less than $1k used if you watch.
I still prefer the sound of the Vandersteen 1c in that size and price.
All of my searching was an attempt to better the sound of my old Meadowlark Audio Kestrels. My quest seemed to focus on time coherent speakers such as Thiels and Vandersteen. There are a lot of nice options out there but I gave up searching a couple years ago.
I don't think there is a consensus to change speakers.
Moreytalmor, this is a perfect example of why it's important to give as much detailed and concise information as possible when asking for opinions on this forum. First of all, remember that these are just opinions (ours) and it's yours that count to the most. However, without all the facts we are forced to read between the lines. For example: THE ONLY comment in your post re the kind of sound you like was the reference to the Mc preamp as being "warm". OK, I figured, the guy wants a warmer sound. Reinforcing that assumption was what I know about the sound of the Thiels; they are not what I would call warm. Now we learn that not only do you think they sound great, but you like the way they look and seem to be reluctant to give them up. That's great, and nothing wrong with liking the way gear looks. OK, if they sound great then that tells me that the amp/speaker synergy is probably not too bad for your listening habits and tastes (notice I am still reading between the lines).

So, what areas exactly are you feeling the sound of your system is deficient on? What are you looking for? More fullness (warmth), more detail, bigger soundstage, more volume? Or are you looking for simply an overall, general improvement in sound from "great" to really great. Also, does your budget of $1300 include the proceeds from the sale of whatever it is you end up selling? What cartridge do you have on your tt?
I've been watching this thread
and almost responded a couple times. I see much good advice without general consensus.

You like your speakers, so I would keep them. Many posters have indicated that power may be limiting to get the most out of them. This is true for Thiels. How true it is for you depends on room size and listening level.

You have a good entry level turntable. However I would consider it to be the weakest link. The signal never improves beyond the source. Generally entry level turntables are sold with a decent cartridge. However, the cartridge is one component that can be upgraded for a significant return on investment. With a vinyl system it is important to match the characteristics of the transducers, cartridge and speakers, to tune a system toward desired tonal balance. A cartridge upgrade may give you what you are looking for. A cartridge with a touch of warmth, not tipped up on the high end, with strong bass, and cohesive midrange might be in order.

I have not listened to cartridges lately so can't make specific recommendations. Sorry. Maybe others will chime in.
Amp power ratings help determine how loud and clear things can go in various size rooms, but there is more to what the right power amp brings to the table sound quality-wise.

Current delivery (peak amps) is a better indicator of how well an amp will drive more difficult load speakers like Thiel even at low volumes. Driving better at low volumes generally means better tonality, detail, articulation and most other things associated with good sound, a more natural and "effortless" delivery top to bottom. A 40 watt power amp with high current delivery will sound different and likely much better, all other things aside, than one with less, in the case of the Thiels.

Source improvements may be hard to assess if the bottleneck is the amps ability to drive the speakers to their max, even at lower volumes, due to limited current delivery, as is more typical with integrated amps than separate power amps due to the physical limitations imposed by having powr amp in close proximity to line level and even lower phono level circuits.. Once amp/speaker combo is in a good place, then one is in a better position to assess how well changes in source devices work or not, and it will be much easier to make improvements with that from there.

BTW, most speaker designs that target extended bass in a smaller box (a popular choice practically for many these days) is likely to be a difficult load for an amp to drive. Thiels are just one case. They are very good speakers. Just not ones that will perform equally well with just any amp.
Frogman - You're right I haven't supplied sufficient details of what I am looking for.. Ill try and be more specific, hope this wont be to rambly:

I think my system sounds good I enjoy it alot, however it does not provide me with as memorable and exciting listening experiences as when I had chances to listen to systems that use mainly vintage gear (I have this friend...).
I am looking for that kind of experience, where the the record/music makes the room come alive where you can feel the player or the instrument in the room with you, when you can really focus on one separated element in the music and discover hidden nuances and detail that you never knew were there, but not so much in a sterile way, but a "warm" sound that comes alive, full of gain and power to give the record new life and meaning. though im not sure its power im lacking in the current system I rarely surpass the middle of the volume dial.. I feel that there is definitely volume in my system.. or so I think.. its more that character detail and general "experience".. I guess I just want to go from great to really great or beyond

My room is about 10.5 f wide and about 30 f wide, its an old rail road apt, ceilings aint to high either, the speakers and the listening couch/"area" or on the 10.5 side opposite each other, probably about 7-7.5 feet from speaker to ear.
Ill try to post a pic,, though I know that my set up might be less than Ideal, but then again.. looks are important.

The 1300 would be without the proceeds.. haven't thought that trough I guess

The cartridge on my tt is the default cart that the pro ject debut III come with the Ortofon OM 5E.

Hope this will help with helping me :) thanks again
A decent tube pre-amp might be the ticket to a somewhat warmer sound with the Thiels. A juicier amp to go along with it to better address the rest of the goals perhaps.

Dynaudio would be one brand to consider for perhaps a tad warmer sounding option to the Thiels.

Adding a powered sub or two to the Thiels might help also, espcially if you think they may be undersized to deliver good extended bass in what sounds like a decent sized room.

Lots of ways to skin these cats. WIres might help fine tune things as well later if needed, but may not be the place to start in this case.
Moreytalmor, my suggestion to you is to go slowly. You seem to have a
pretty good idea of the type sound you are looking for. This is all a learning
process and it is most educational to change out one component at a time.
You seem to want to keep the Thiels; great, that simplifies matters. While I
think you are a prime candidate for tube electronics, I would get a better
turntable/cartridge next and see how far that takes you to your goal. A
better turntable will give you more of the musical involvement that you are
craving. In fact, I might start by upgrading the cartridge first to one that is
really good and you can install on the better turntable that you will buy later
after you get a handle on your new sound. Don't sell the old cartridge; you
will probably want to sell the Project with the old cartridge. Don't be afraid
to spend what may seem to be a disproportionate amount of money on a
cartridge; rmember any information that you lose at that stage of things you
will never be able to get back no matter how good the gear upstream. Start
by reading this:

After all the advice here, the only way to figure this out is to listen to some different pieces. As Frogman says above, take it slow and go one piece at a time.
Your speakers are approaching 20 years old so I would still suggest you start there. There was a pair of Quad 12L2s listed on Audiogon today for $500. I have owned both the Thiel 1.5s and the Quads and believe the Quads have a much more exciting sound.
Although it can be a grueling experience, the best way to know is to experiment.
Dont have any!!
With a limited budget the Thiel 1.5 must go due to demands they make with amps and offer little in return. As mentioned by others look into Focal, Triangle or even a current Rega speaker RS3/5 and keep the Brio. If you must have a Thiel speaker look into a 2.3 or 2.4 for a long term system/project. IMO the 2.3/4 are the "Thiel" sweet spot but you will need patience and money to get them right.
Thanks for all the feedback guys, I am definitely going to explore some upgraded cartridge options, still need to consider switching out the speakers, but will take it slowly.. hope I get to the right spot :)