What's more important speakers or amplification?

What would be a better alternative for $3200:

1. Use existing Sony STR-DA777 ES amp (5 x 120 watts)and invest $3200 in new speakers (Fronts, Center, rears, and Sub)

2. Spend $1600 for 5 channel amp and use Sony as Pre and the remaining $1600 on speakers (Fronts, Center, rears, and Sub)

What brands should be considered?
Is the Sony really awful as an amp, or is it okay?? I don't have any advice on particular speaker brands for home theater use, but I think you'd notice a $3200 speaker upgrade much more than a new amp & $1600 speaker upgrade...assuming that the Sony amp is average.
But I do agree that you will get more from just the speakers than trying to do everything for the $3200.....unless your willing to do the amp and the mains now, and gradually add on when finances allow.
Brands considered ?
Vandersteen, Paradigm, and Magnepan. Unfortunately if your electronics aren't up to par these speakers will tell you.
Chances are a better source will do the trick.More bang for your buck.
Sales people disagree because the most margin is in Speaker sales.40/50% VS 25% on average on components.
agreed. speakers aren't worth it if the amplification isn't up to their standards. but, if you spend 2200 on 2 channel amplification and 1000 on speakers, you could get a really nice sounding little system. maybe a used linn amp with some used kelidhs?
Speakers, speakers, speakers. Unless your amplification and source are really bad, the speakers are the key. All the rest is audiophile B.S. Be a lemming, or use your brain, the choice is yours. Charlie
I believe speakers, cables and interconnects would be the most important. By upgrading these components first you will be better able to hear the differences between the various amps and source components that you purchase in the future. For example while I spent only $600 on my CD player, I auditioned it through a Krell integrated amplifier on Martin-Logan speakers (the best the shop had) so that I could more easily detect variations in the sound of the several CD players I was auditioning. I also think that speakers have the greatest effect on the sound of a system.
Do good speakers make up for the bad signle an aveage source puts out no.They just make a bad signal sound bad.Conversly a great source will make an average speaker sound good and a truly great speaker sound great.
The truth is the margins in speakers have lead to the BS about speakers being the most important piece,Its BS allways will be.
I'll add another vote for speakers. But if you need to be convinced start with a blind comparison of the Sony and a new amp. If you have trouble telling them apart, you can safely put all your money into speakers. (Provided that you don't choose speakers that overtax the amp, of course.)
No matter how good your source and amplification chain are, bad speakers can break you.

No matter how good your speakers are, a bad source and amplification chain can break you.

In the first example, you can have all of the detail, resolution, musicality that you want. Feeding the excellent quality signal into speakers that are not tonally balanced, have poor soundstage / imaging capabilities, require more power than your amp can produce or running speakers that tend to overload due to compression and / or saturation, etc... will give you a less than enjoyable experience.

In the second example, putting a signal that is harsh, distorted, lacking in tonal balance, clarity, focus, etc... into some very high quality speakers will only reveal the shortcomings of the entire reproduction chain. This too will give you a less than enjoyable experience.

It's all relative. You're listening to and trying to build an audio SYSTEM. Think of it and approach it as a SYSTEM and you'll always have a balanced package. Your system is only as strong as the weakest link, from beginning to end. Sean

PS... it would be nice to know the rest of your system, room size, etc... so that people can judge as to what they think the weak link is. It is quite possible that you would be better off changing something other than your speakers or amp. Room treatments might make a bigger difference than either of those and cost WAY less ( if you're handy ).
i used to agree with those who are saying speakers until i heard the tiny rega alya speakers. i first heard them with all rega electronics, and they sounded pretty good. then, i heard them with an all-NAIM setup, a cd5, pre, and amp. they were different speakers. i couldn't believe how much they began to sing with the better source.

when natalie says that a good source will make an average speaker good, she's absolutely right. and if some of us really can't tell the differences between amplifiers, why are we in this hobby? seems like the money would be better spent on a nice crack habit.
Generally I agree with Sean. Speakers and Amp should be bought as matched combination. That is especially true for 2-ch audio. In that case, however, we are talking about 5.1 HT system for $3,200, which means building decent entry level hi-fi HT setup. In such setup Sony ES will do adequate job and later could be upgraded. I would allocate some part of your budget(like $500) on decent cabling and spend the rest on speakers.
Here's what I have currently:

Small Home Theater: Sony STR-DA 777ES amp, Pioneer DV-37 Prog Scan DVD player, Triangle Titus Fronts, Triangle Centrale Center, Mirage FrxS8 sub, Paradigm ADP-150 dipole rears (Kimber 4TC cabling), Panasonic 32HX40 32" direct view HDTV.

Listening Room: Jolida 502B integrated amp, Totem Sttaf speakers, Sony 333ES CD player (Goertz MI2 cabling). Echo Busters Corner traps and regular echobusters room treatments.

I completed the basement and plan on buying a 65" Mitsubishi for around $3400 for a 13' wide x 20' long room with 8' ceilings. I already have $1600 for audio. What's the best option:

1. Sell the Totem and Jolida- Should get $1600 for both (alas the $3200 figure). That would wipe out the small listening room. I would then need the basement system to double as Home Theater and Listening Room.

2. Keep the listening room and use the $1600 and equipment I already have (i.e. integrate Totems or Triangles somehow). I though about getting another pair of Titus ($500), a HSU sub ($500), and a $500 mulitchannel amp (used). Use the Sony as a pre.

3. Or I could sell the whole lot and start over.... my priority is 60%-40% home theater. If I could have one good system that does both. The basement room is a huge improvement over the small home theater and "listening room" (a 10'x12' bedroom). Thanks for yur help and suggestions!
Here is my experience. I started rebuild my system last year. Replaced KEF reference One with B&W 801 new music flow out old CD's. 95' Carver receiver was doing a decent job to drive B&W. Just replaced Carver with an Aragon amp, I do detect some differences but not dramatic changes like replacing speakers. Hope this help.
My opinion would be to work on making the front 2 channels the best possible and keep the Sony receiver on board for amplifying the center and rear speakers and processing duties. Use the pre-out on your receiver to connect the front two channels to another pre and amp or integrated. This could be satisfied by your Jolida if you like that or surf around for someother good integrated amp preferably with a HT passthrough. The Rogue Tempest, Plinius 8150, Manley Stingray, Pathos Classic One, these can all be had for under $1600 used here on Audiogon among others.
Your speakers seem pretty good, although for HT duties I would probably lean towards the Sttaf over the Triangle Titus. But it depends on what you like better. Let me throw out some options depending on what brand you like best. If it is Totem. Sell off all the Traingles and Paradigm's and hopefully this will allow enough fund to invest in a Totem center and surrounds, say the Dreamcatcher series. If you like the Triangle sound better, move the Titus to rear duties (or could sell Titus and keep Pardigms for rears,)sell the Paradigms and the Totems, and with whatever money that leaves you purchase your favorite pair of Triangle speakers within your budget.
Since 80% of home theater sound (dialogue) comes through the center channel, I would focus on the center channel that makes the voices sound the clearest, and most accurate, TO YOU! Once you have found that speaker, it is fairly easy to match the fronts and rears to it as a package.

I have helped several people put together systems after they had spent a lot of money on components and speakers, only to be dissatisfed with the overall effect. In each case I started with the center channel and the end result was a much better, balanced, system. And, much happier people.

I have found that the easiest way to guide someone is to tell them the basics. Some people have stated that without good speakers, no quality sources will sound they way they are supposed too. Or, without good sources no speakeris going to sound the way it is supposed too.

If you have limited resources, ie money, then I would recommend that you start with the speakers. They will last much longer than most electronic components. After getting the best speakers that you can justify, you can then take your time to locate the best match of electronics for that set of speakers.

Ideally, you will be able to locate the speakers and the electronics at the same location and that will give you a chance to decide what you want long term, what the minimum combination you will need to meet your immediate needs, and what your long term goal will be.

For example, I spent more on what I believe to be the best sounding speakers, TO ME, now, and skimped on the AVR. I know that I will upgrade the AVR to a much better system in the future, but I since I auditioned the speakers with the electronics I want for the future, I know that it will sound very good.

I hope that you noticed that I emphasized TO YOU and TO ME. Because, it is what sounds best to you that matters.
It has been my experience that it is much easier to get average speakers to sound good with a great amp than to get great speakers to sound good through a bad amp. I've tried this in home audio, car audio, and pro audio. A key to remember is that your system is only as good as the weakest link, be it your amp or speakers or even cable or interconnects. You'll have to explore your options and decide what will work best for you. As far as brands go that all depends on the type of sound that you like. Go out and audition as many different brands as you can. Stay away from the big chain stores. Small specialized stores are where you usually get the best help.