What next?

I've been trying to figure out what should be my next investment and not really coming up with a clear way forward.

I'm actually really happy with the way it sounds, but I subscribe to the theory that there's usually some incremental improvement to be had somewhere.

The only weaknesses I can think of are that a) the low bass could use a little tightening up, b) the soundstage could be slightly deeper and wider.

I heard a friend's DAC in my system that, while I preferred everything else about mine, had tighter, faster low end. Soundstage is really just a guess, I could have room limitations.

In terms of investing, I'm thinking next up will be under $1k. Down the road I may consider moving up the Aerial linen speakers or trying a set of Eidolons, and moving to Ayre separates.

I don't feel a burning need to spend the money, but, system assembly in its own right is a hobby (beyond just enjoying the sound) and activity keeps it invigorating.
Sometimes an inexpensive cable swap can do it. Do you have any older cables lying around that you've past on as you upgraded your system? Cables you haven't used with the newer components?

The reason I ask is that I did just that and it worked wonders. I have absolutely no need now whatsoever to change anything.

Sometimes all it takes is a small scratch to satisfy that itch.

All the best,
Room treatments?
Did you say investment?
Joncourage, Try a BSG Qol unit. It will make your system come alive.
Speakers, speaker placement, room treatments, and finally EQ is the first course.

The second course should be eliminating issues with your source, first Jitter if it is a digital source, and second the compression/noise/distortion of your active preamp. Best to just get rid of the active Pre.

Either replace the active pre with a good transformer passive linestage Like Music First, or use computer audio and a DAC that can give you a really good volume control with no noise or distortion.

Computer audio will allow you to use software EQ that is totally transparent, unlike hardware EQ boxes, even those that are DSP-based.

Good EQ can elevate your system dramatically as well as squelching the room resonant modes.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio

I can't tell really well from your system pictures, but the speakers sure seem very close to the back wall. Are they rear-vented? How far are they from the side walls? I see your floor first reflection is covered by the carpet. Oftentimes placement/reflections affect soundstage. Have you experimented with that?

I learned a lot about accoustics and placement and have treated my room. My speakers are far from walls, reflections treated, etc. Last week I played with toeing in and suddenly something has changed for the good in a way I'm still wondering if my mind is making it up - and if so, great: sounds great and it's free! Anyway, my points is don't underestimated the impact of placement and treatment.

My two cents!
I'm actually really happy with the way it sounds, but I subscribe to the theory that there's usually some incremental improvement to be had somewhere.

LOL....you just sound bored and you have some money burning a hole in your pocket. Why not just buy some new software and enjoy the music???
Lewinski is correct. Typical speakers must be a minimum of 30 inches off the backwall to image properly and get decent bass. Dipole speakers more like 6 feet. Sidewall HF reflections should be reduced with furniture or Sonex etc.. Use a mirror or mirror and a laser pointer to find the right spot for these. The optimum listening position should not be in the center of the room, but rather a bit off-center away from the speakers.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Investment? There is no such thing in buying any audio gear. Best you buy some Spanish government bonds and just enjoy the music.
Buy a record player. Even a Music Hall MMF-7 is good enough to give you a good taste of what it's about. If you don't like it, you can sell it at a couple hundred bucks loss.
Lewinski, Joncourage already has plenty of room tratment. Didn't you see the picture with his dog? Room treatment is highly overrate. If you need to fill your room with room treatment there is something terribly wrong with your system.
Lol, yes, definitely somewhat just bored and trying to decide what to do with some extra funds when and if they should appear.

Thanks for all the helpful info though!

Speaker placement improvement pretty much an impossibility due to room shape, furnishings and WAF. Somehow things seem to sound pretty good anyway, but I bet you guys are right that limitations to soundstage are about how far off the front wall I can get those speakers (not much).

I was thinking some bass traps behind the speakers in the corners and diffusion in front of the tv possibly, as far as room treatment. Nothing scientific but seems a bit logical perhaps.

Oh well. Just got a friggin huge hospital bill for an emergency room visit that needs some attention anyway and all kinds of other crap going on in my life atm. So no rush....
Speaker placement and room acoustics. Sorry I posted in your Virtual systems by mistake when viewing your stereo.
I cant tell if u have spikes on your speakers. If not, you need to get them raised off the floor. I also have a limited space situation and I'm using furniture sliders under my spiked speakers. I move the speakers away from the walls for listening sessions and the improvement in imaging is amazing.
Aurelex Lenrd bass traps in the corners of the room behind the spakers will do wonders for the bass.
Thanks for the recommendation on the bass traps. That's definitely something I want to do.

The speakers are on Sound Anchor stands, rigid steel stands with spikes. They are on the carpet which is directly on top of the concrete slab of the house. I like the idea of putting them on sliders to move into the room as-needed. I'll look at Herbie's.
yes, Herbie's is the place. I should have mentioned that.