Advice for a new hi-fi customer

Hello, I'm hoping I can get some help/comments/suggestions in upgrading my system. I have consumer level stuff and only recently realised what I have been missing. I use my current system for audio and home theater. I know I need to upgrade everything but only have the $$ to do it in stages. Currently: Kenwood AV reciever VR-2080 (100wX5 with preamp outputs) Kenwood DV-2070 DVD player Bose 201 Bookshelfs Bose Acoustimass II Series 5 (Two sats and one passive sub) Bose VCS-10 center Cheap cables connecting them right now. I wish I had known more before I got some of the stuff I did, but c'est la vie. I am making up for that now by doing lots of research/listening before I buy anything again. I have listened to and really like the Magnepan 1.6 speakers.(86db sensitivty) I would like to purcahse those as my first upgrade. The Kenwood "should" be able to power them (not well, I know. :)). But what I would like to know is where I should spend my next 1000.00. I have put a general price cap for myself at 1000.00 per component or upgrade. For example, I was looking for 2 channel amps in the 1000.00 range to conmsider after getting the maggies. All components need to be compatible with home theater. I will probably use the preamp section of the kenwood for a while since getting a hi-fi piece to replace it and to what it does (AC-3, DTS, ) is rather expensive. I listen to all types of music but generally do my critical listening to female vocalists like Tori Amos, Liz Phair, Ani D'franco, Jewel, Leah Andreone. Also listen to, but not very critically, rock, alternative, eletronic, classical, jazz, blues, techno, even some rap. I have heard the 1.6's paired with KRELL 250mc monoblocks and a wadia 850 cd transport and REALLY liked the sound. (Of course total system price was like 17,000) Also liked the time i heard a different set of 1.6 with Rotel CD player and 130w Rotel amp, but the bass wasn't "as" nice. (this is MUCH more in my price range) So you could use that as a reference of my tastes. My room is medium sized maybe 18x20. (Haven't actually moved into it yet.) Thanks for any help, Nathan
I agree with checking out speakers first; compare some B&W CDM1 SEs to your maggies. they're about$1100. Or the B&W 805s for $2K. Try some Dynaudios, Thiel CS.5or CS1.5, PSBs, Vandersteens, Pro'll find many different "trademarks" in sound, and note the equipment used to demo them--have the salesman match them up with components in your range$$$ when at the store. Then you can sell off all your current gear and amass a setup that will get your juices pumping. If you like music, it's a thrill. Get going and best of luck.
Welcome to high end audio! The good news is that high end is not necessarily more expensive than top of the line mass market stuff. The other good news is that going to good equipment tends to rekindle one's love of music. One rule of thumb I follow is that with every piece of new gear, strive for something significantly better. Typically, that requires about a 2x increase in list prices BUT keep your eyes open for good used equipment and pay lots of attention to reviews. The price spreads in Stereophile's Class A and B categories can be as great as 10:1 -- that means there's some fantastic values to be had, and indeed there are. One way to prioritize spending your money is to spend each dollar where it will have the greatest impact on improving the sound. You already have a base system; upgrading the speakers is probably the next logical step, followed by an amplifier that can drive the speakers properly. Then think about a 2-channel preamp and how to integrate it with the HT setup so that you have a 2-channel audiophile signal path from source to speakers when you want to listen to music. After the preamp, there's the CD player upgrade. Or, you may want to do the CD player first, as the A/V receiver already provides a preamp. The idea is that as you upgrade, there's diminishing returns, so always try to bite off the biggest amount of improvement from an increasingly smaller room to improve. And the amazing thing is, you CAN trust your ears. It's more a matter of practice (listen to a lot of different things using a few favorite pieces of audition music) and gaining confidence that you CAN hear the difference in things. By the way, in picking audition music, try for a variety that represents different styles of music you like as well as different sonic aspects. The female vocalists you mention are generally well-recorded, polished voices (I use Sara McLachlan's "Angel" for one. It offers opportunity to evaluate the upper midrange for vocal reproduction, the sense of air around Sara's image, resolution by listening to the fine articulations of her voice (breathing, lip and tongue sounds), as well as reproduction of piano and cello that extend through the midrange and down into middle bass. The only thing you have to watch for is that the piece is so beautifully sung and recorded that it makes any system sound great! James Taylor albums are extremely well engineered and give opportunity to evaluate the male voice and acoustic guitar (lower and middle mid range). Jazz albums also are usually well-engineered. I like to take along the remastered version of Dave Brubeck's "Time Out" CD and listen to "Take Five". On a good system, you'd swear the sax player is standing there just left of center. You not only hear the sax, but the rush of breath through the instrument. Take along something to check for bass slam, and something to check for dynamics. Sister Hazel's CD "Somewhere more Familiar" is well recorded and gives a pretty good sense of a live bar-band performance. The real acid test for a system, I find, is classical music. It's hard to reproduce violins that aren't screechy, and to give a sense of presence and depth to the classical soundstage. These are just a few thought starters... enjoy the journey, and happy listening! Steve
ALSO, read "The Complete Guide to Highend Audio". And forgive old Bob's absurd tone in addressing the reader as "she/her". Political correctness run amuck...but it is the best source for the beginner, and even a few guys longer in the tooth.
Better check the preamp capabilities of the Kenwood VR2080. I had one and thought of doing the same only to find that the preamp was only for the sub. Could be wrong but check it out.