Originally Posted by plasma_fan
I've got the itch to upgrade something and really not sure where to best put my money to use.
Currently running a paradigm monitor version 7 setup (monitor 7's, center 1, atom monitor for surrounds) through an older Pioneer 1018 reciever. Overally I am happy with the setup but want more/better. Im happy with my current dual sub setup so its not on the list.
Speakers, these paradigms are my first quality speaker and to my ears they sound great but I know there is better, lots better. I might consider something along the lines of salk song towers with the RAAL tweeter, but would want to go 'shopping' for a while and get a good feel for what I truly like.
Room treatment, I would have started here allready, however its a complicated room, about 14x19' with 4 doors, an open stairwell, 2 windows, and a patio door. The typical treatments people do would be complicated to incorporate and still have the room looking nice. On top of that a new home is in the near future...
Amp, the pioneer 1018 is ok for volume, Ive never felt its lacking during movies however I cant run at reference. With music I'd like a little more. I mean it gets loud but I can start to hear some distortion at lower than where id like, but its certainly not quiet at this point.
Reciever, really something more current with better room correction. This is probably the last item Im considering.
So truly what will make the biggest impact?
The statement in bold makes me think that room treatments should be crossed off the list. Room treatments are great and highly recommended, but may not work in your new home. If you are utilitarian and single like me then it may workout if you bring the treatments with you, but if you are concerned at all with aesthetics and WAF then I, personally, would hold off on until you get your new house. Lest you end up paying for room treatments twice.
I will agree with the poster who mentioned that getting a new receiver with Audyssey XT32 would be your biggest gain here. No need to go with separates. All-in-one AVRs nowadays are very, very good. I'm not going to go into the debate about how all amplifiers will sound the same within their rated output. A new AVR can be used in any home decor really. Especially if it's sitting in a cabinet or closet.
Second option would be speakers. I will agree with the others who have said that speakers and room interaction make the biggest impact on what you hear, but ou current speakers are not at all bad. I think your weakest link is your receiver. You can get better speakers now, but how will they fit in your new home? What if your new house can't accommodate a pair of front towers? Maybe the nice new, red cherry speakers you just spent $$$$ on don't match at all with the wood trims?
Here's my experience for reference:
Before I put acoustical treatments in my room, there was a huge difference going from a Harman Kardon receiver with no room correction to a Denon with Audyssey XT. There was even a difference when I upgraded from Audyssey XT to Audyssey XT32, though not as huge. The receivers were powering a pair of Revel Performa F52s. Adding room treatments made just as huge an improvement as upgrading receivers. I added an external 400Wx2 amplifier, but could not hear a difference until the volume went above 93dB minimum on the SPL meter. That difference was minimal and only affected the upper range of frequencies.
I'm going to throw a wrench into all this and add now that I've nearly completed my room treatments, I have found that listening to music actually sounds slightly better with no Audyssey room corrections applied. Of course I must admit that my source is an Oppo BDP-95 going analog out to the MCH analog inputs in my receiver though. For movies, I still use Audyssey as I have no choice if I want expand the cound field to use all channels.