An idle stereo upgrade question: If I were to upgrade any part of my stereo system, would I get more bang for the buck upgrading my receiver, my speakers, or it would it probably not make a difference given my listening habits? Details on my setup inside.
Here's the setup:
I use an integrated receiver, the Sony STR-555ES
, a solid-state 5.1 model from about 1999 or so. It still runs well. It's from Sony's "Elevated Standard" line, so is not just their usual consumer stuff, but it's no NAD, Rotel, etc.
For front speakers I have B&W 601S2s
. For rear speakers, I have B&W DM302s
. I use an active B&W ASW1000
(pdf), a truly massive beast. I also happen to have a B&W CC3
as a center speaker, but I haven't hooked it up in years--I just run a 4.1 setup.
90% of the time, I just listen to music, which is all MP3s streamed from a computer to an Airport Express that's wired to the receiver. 1% of the time I listen to NPR. The remainder of the time is movies, but it's rare that I watch anything that I crave surround sound for.
I don't really have any complaints about the setup, though I wouldn't mind simplifying it. The receiver, for instance, has all sorts of soundstaging options, but I really don't want my living room to sound like an arena. In fact, I find that the rear speakers never get enough power in the surround setups and get drowned out by the front, so I actually just re-wired them to be B speakers in an A+B setup. Also, because of electronics conversion, I only use two inputs these days: a Blu-Ray player with a coaxial audio in, and the streaming MP3s with just one set of RCA connectors. No TV in, no MD, tape, cable, etc.--and none forthcoming.
So, would embettering any of this system provide an improved listening experience (given that I'm mostly listening to MP3s, which are clearly not high fidelity)? If so, would I get better results from upgrading the receiver (probably to a simple stereo amp, though I'd probably like to keep the A+B setup, and the sub), or from upgrading any of the speakers (I've long coveted B&W's handsome PM1
or their floorstanding speakers (which can be had used on Craigslist or at your local hi-fi shop for much less than new)? If an upgrade makes any sense, any recommendations? I can't seem to find an amp that is simple (and sounds great) that will give me an easy A+B and sub setup.