newbie seeks direction

Hey all....
i'm building a hi-fi system, and would love some input on what directions I should be heading. Not looking for info on what to buy, just what to look for.

My goal:
stereo setup that can be expanded to 5.1 if need be.

my target$$: $5k and under

my likes: I like a big sound stage with pin-point accuracy in the stereo image. I do a lot of ambient recordings with a Soundfield microphone, so dimensional detail is of upmost importance to me.

my use:
I play either normal audio CD's, or 24bit 96kHz recordings off of my PC. This means I'll need an outboard DAC for those high-res recordings. I would love to find a single box that would do it all (a combo pre/amp/DAC). If there is something like this in the 2-3k range, please recomend brands/models so I can do the research.

So far, i've demoed a pair of Martin Logan Ascent speakers and they blew me away.
My buddy has a nice system consisting of a philips DVD 1000 (or something like that) > conrad johnoson pre > mccmormick DNA amp > vanderstein 2ce signiture series speakers. I like what I hear at his house, but I liked the Logans better. Those were coming off of B&K gear.

Next up is a pair of Sonus Faber Concherto home monitors w/a Rel sub. The retailer told me "I think you'll like this", but it's got a lot to go up against. I fell in love with that ML's right away. I'm told that monitors are better for imaging than towers...but i'm still buzzing from those Logans!

Any way, any insight or help would be appreciated. I know that within this price range things become much more of a prefference in sound. Some like chocolate vs. vanilla..etc.
1-buy speakers that have a matching center channel if you need it.

2-either start with a stereo amp that the manufacturer makes a matching 3 channel amp or a find a multi channel amp that is bridgeable so you don't waste channels for now.

3-To get an audiophile quality pre-amp that will expand to 5/6/7 channels may break your bank and even be obsolete by the time you need it. Consider something like an Anthem AVM-2 which sounds awesome in stereo or multi-channel with great built in d/a and a nice tuner (this is just an example like B&K, Sunfire, etc...). You can get one used for around $1200. This way, if you get the upgrade bug you will have it. The unit has already been hit with depriciation and you won't take much of a beating selling it if you want.

Finally, I tried the same route as you and ended up with both theater in one room and 2 channel in another.
Good luck!
I really like Martin Logans too. Planar speakers have a particular presentation that, I think, makes them very interesting. The Ascents (at retail) would consume most of your budget. Like most better speakers the Logans are very revealing of upsteam components, so getting them to sound their best usually means more expense. The other issue is speaker matching for a 5.1 system down the road. It's difficult to blend electrostatics with a dynamic center and surrounds. ML center and surrounds with the electronics to support them could be costly.

You might want to listen to Maggies. They sound different than the Logans but are planar. They have a center and surrounds that are pretty cool - the surrounds fold flat to the wall when not in use. Maggies are less costly but usually need a high power amp to sound best. Check their website. Loren.
I wont' be of much help on the DAC, but I can comment on going from monitors to Martin Logans. I was convinced I couldn't get better imaging in my price range than with a monitor speaker. Very recently I had the Revel M20's that imaged very well. I sold them not two weeks ago and bought a pair of Martin Logan Aerius I. I am now convinced you don't need monitors to image well. My vote is to stick with the Martin Logans. I prefer them over the magnepan speakers I've heard. That may just be personal preference though.
5k ? Hmmm.
For your taste, I suggest the used combo:
Audio Physic Virgo II's - 2300
Adcom 750 preamp - 700
AES signature tube Superamp OR Adcom 5802 - 1000
Bel Canto 1.1 24/96 DAC - 500
CD/dvd player you have kicking around - free
AZ Satori spkr cables - 350
Supra EFF-ISL rca cable - 100

Later on, if you want to make it into a home theater with five channel, I would buy a denon 5600 or 5700 five channel receiver and an adcom 750 preamp. You can run the Denon into the processor loop of the adcom for the high quality front channels, and use the denon's amplifier to direct drive the center and rear channels. This will preserve your reference quality two channel, but add upper midfi five channel when you need it. You should have your dvd player go digital into the Denon and use it's DAC's for all five channels.

For two channel, have another transport such as a cheap phillips cdr 880. The BC takes both coax and toslink inputs. I would use the toslink input for your computer, and the COAX for your cd player. This is to eliminate electrical noise from your computer. The BC dac's are fairly impervious to quality of transport used. Much more than most DAC's I've used. You will have to call BC to verify that you can have these two inputs simultaneously connected. Some other considerations would be the Adcom 750 Cd player which take a COAX digital input for your computer, or a resolution audio CD-50. Of all choices, I would say the resolution audio will give you the best CD playback, followed by the BC, then the adcom.

If you want high quality five channel, the BAT vk-6200, the Pass Labs X-5, and the new Audio Research 150M amp are all wonderful sounding five channel amps. I don't know what to recommend for a quality five channel preamp. (Maybe a Krell HTS ? - I really don't have a meaningful recommendation)

On the choice of amps, I know the 15watt AES works quite well on AP Virgo's, but will not give you the slam of a solid state amp such as the 5802 (vastly underrated). My personal preference in lower cost systems is always to get a small tube amp for it's soundstaging and aliveness.

Disclaimer: I am a supra and pass labs dealer.
Talk to Wayne at BolderCables.COM for a DAC & CD Transport or Scott Nixon.

nOrh has a new version of the LeAmp that might be SOTA for $400 for a monoblock set.I am waiting for feedback,but if it's positive I will be getting 3 sets to Vertical amp my new speakers.

This might be the biggest steal in audio if it holds true!The amps are said to double in Power with each halfing of impedence and be capable of driving loads to below 2ohms.

Like I stated I am waiting for impressions,but they have to better the original LeAmps.

Preamp.If you do not nees a remote get an FT Audio.If you need a remote go with Placette.If that to expensive get a Creek.

Speakers--Listen for what you like.If you get ML's make certain your room is big enough.Check Innersounds also.

Cables---try Bogdan and 47Labs OTA or make your own with John Risch designs.

Happy Hunting!