I'm hoping you good people can give me a bit of advice. I haven't done any Hi-Fi upgrading in a while but feel it's about time I started again. I currently have an Audiolab 8000A amp, Arcam CD92 CD player, Tannoy DC2000 speakers and a Systemdek IIX900 record deck. As vinyl doesn't get played as much as CD's I thought the deck could wait until last. It'll probably have to be one item every 6 - 12 month but which would you advise looking at first?
I was thinking up to £1000 on each item. My thoughts were start with the amp?
So here is my advice for you - but I will make it slightly more complex for you by giving you two versions: conservative and more radical.
The conservative advice is that, yes, you could do several interesting upgrades to your system in several 1000-quid steps. As others have pointed out, you could get into the bottom of the tube amp world at that price, and you could go for a used example of a great solid state integrated (a Roksan Caspian, Leema Pulse, or other usual suspect could be had on eBay surely) - you would need to listen to your system for like, 4 seconds to hear your upgrade, if you did this).
Those Tannoys could be upgraded as well I suppose. You always have to be careful since it depends which amp you buy. But at that price you could buy DC6Ts, Neat Motives, or if you were luckly enough to find a used pair, ProAc Studio 140s. This would be the purchase where you go out with your new amp in tow and listen to a million pairs of speakers (or better yet, find a shop who will let you take home a demo pair, so you can listen to them in your briefs, which I find helps the definition, especially of floor-standers).
You could buy a nice DAC for a grand. I paid around 600 quid for the original Benchmark DAC1 back in 2002 and it's hard to imagine ever giving it up unless I go into hedge funds. But you already have a pretty good CD player - not sure how much better you will really get CDs to sound (though I guarantee they sound better through my Benchmark even if played on an internal computer CD drive sitting open on a table). But the difference is quite subtle compared to an amp upgrade.
My more radical advice builds on two of the points above. I would state (and I am planning a ranting original post on this subject when I'm ready for the flame war - I will show my cards here so my enemies may plan their defence) that one of the fundamental assumptions that you make - and that so many others make, as it is one of the basic religiously-touted Rules of the hifi industry - is that you ought to buy components that are roughly in the same price range.
THIS IS CRAP CRAP CRAP. Let's say, for arguments sake, that you are planning to spend four grand on upgrading a hypothetical system. Let's also assume that, again for the sake of argument, that your existing components are "worth" 500 pounds each (in sound quality not money, since we are also adopting the assumption of the Rule, that investment in price yields a roughly uniform increase in SQ through the whole system).
So if you have four components, you could follow the Rule and get a doubling of the theoretical quality of each piece, as follows:
Source 1: 500 > 1000
Source 2: 500 > 1000
Amp: 500 > 1000
Speakers: 500 > 1000
So let's say I, as a Free Thinker, elect to thumb my nose at the rule, and do this instead:
Source 1: 500
Source 2: 500
Amp: 500 > 4000
So who has the better sound? IT IS A NO-BRAINER. For four grand you could buy - and this is one of many examples, not a recommendation - a Bryston 2B SST2 or a Sugden IA-4 and still have enough left over to buy a decent DAC. Your system would be catapulted into another dimension of sound. You think your Tennoys are outdated. Maybe...but try hooking them up to an amp likeone of those and discover their rebirth.
I realise that part of the approach is the fact that it's easier to spend a grand at a time, rather than exercise a few years of patience (or the miracle of consumer credit) and do it all at once. But remember: four grand is still four grand.
Spending it a grand at a time gets you modest upgrades on your sources, a really nice, audible jump in amp quality, and in terms of the speakers, who knows. Might be better, might just be different. Spending it on the amp gets you a heart-pounding, spellbinding system, with a perfectly good CD player and perfectly good, if slightly dated, speakers.
Hope this is food for thought.