Responses from wspohn

Many higher end preamps are dated and ugly, why is this?
While I am not a fan of gear that looks like it was created by amateurs from articles in Popular Electronics I think that a lot of vintage gear is nice looking. Some of mine:      
Speaker covers
Only UV-A gets through window glass and you can ilter that out using an easily applied plastic solar window film.  No need to shroud the speakers.  
most beautiful (looking) speakers
I used to have a pair of these - I rather liked the unusual looks.    
Every day I see another turntable recommendation...
For $5K you should be able to find a very good used table and arm, and possibly cartridge. Look for something along the lines of a VPI TNT with good arm, or a Sota, for instance.  
Solid State Phono Stages
There are quite a few very good phono stages ad there are a handful of really special ones. I have one of the first sort that uses tubes in one system (Conrad Johnson Premier 15). It is very good.   I have a solid state phono stage in my other ... 
American Made Audio Products
Have always found that buying by how things sound a more sure method than where they were made, although for awhile I had a completely Canadian system (Classe electronics and Oracle TT).  
Tube Amp question:TUBE replacements: explain MATCHED?
@immatthewj  Interesting that they do bias in banks - my CJ does each one separately but it is simple - use a plastic screwdriver to adjust each of four lights until they go on, then just until they go off again  Takes a couple of minutes to do a... 
If money was and was not of any concern when buying speakers.
My first rule is to never buy new - whether it is cars or speakers. By the time you get them home, you just lost maybe 20% and with cars, by the one year point, 30-40%. Better to buy them used because you get more for your money no matter what le... 
Tube Amp question:TUBE replacements: explain MATCHED?
Nice that there is bias adjustment. Best case is individual bias adjustment (my CJ amp has this) which means that you don't need a set of matched tubes.  
What about the floor?
I also have wood floor with a large antique Oriental carpet on it. A smidge of damping but not too much. Suggest that you set up the room with no covering, nd then see if you have significant slap echo (clapping hands in an empty room usually pro... 
Speakers for string Quartets
While you don't NEED a separate system for acoustic string music, I have a hard time parting with gear from old systems so tend to assemble them into systems with certain strengths. My 'string system' is a pair of original Martin Logan CLS powere... 
whole house surge protector
Just do it! Had my whole panel replaced with dedicated circuits for audio gear but the first thing I arranged was a whole house Siemens surge protector.  
Most beautiful turntable under $5k
Another vote for the Oracle Delphi, and I like the rather stark look of my VPI TNT 5. Recently wanted a turntable for my  third system and didn't really want a run of the mill appearance. Ended up with one of these - look like a sculpture in plex... 
No more "High End" for me...Back to Reality Audio
The main problem people seem to have with the pursuit of good sound is when to stop.  Many do find a happy level that satisfies them and stop buying gear, but many others seem driven to continue obsessing and spending money endlessly. I am a type... 
Hegel H390/H590 with Wilson Audio Sabrina X
The 390 should have tons of power for your speakers.  The Sabrina X are lower sensitivity than many Wilsons but those amps have lots of grunt. (I drive a larger much heavier Wilson with only 70 watts).