Setting up a system - What to buy WHEN?

Hello audiogon gurus!

I've been a long time browser over the years, but only just signed up today. I'd like to get some advice. I'll try to be brief as possible.

So I'm going to be putting together a system in Q1 once I get moved into a house and have a listening space. But I'm just not sure in which order to buy these pieces. I have a cheap setup now that'll serve as the starting point. It's just some cheap bang-for-the-buck type stuff I've picked up on Amazon and at Best Buy. Nothing really worth talking about except for the Pre-Amp. It's "decent" but not Audiophile by any means. It's a Rotel unit that set me back around $700. I mention this because given this one piece being better than the rest, well, I think it might just move the pre-amp purchase to one of the later ones.

Here's a list of what I need to buy (Sorted alphabetically):

  • DAC      
  • Main Amp 1
  • Main Amp 2
  • Main Speakers  
  • Phono PreAmp  
  • Power Conditioner
  • Pre-Amp    
  • Turntable + Stylus

note: My plan is to hopefully be able to buy an amp that'll power both mains on it's own. Then circle back later, buy another of the same unit. Then I'll swap each over to monoblock mode - one driving each main.

So because of the cost of these items, Basically each line in my list will be a separate purchase spaced out over time. How long? I'm not sure. something something "money don't grown on trees . . . "

So I ask you all, what's the order of operations here? What should get bought first???? I currently have all of these units - now it's time to upgrade! I look forward to hearing from you.

ps. This thread isn't about brands ;)

I should mention the system will probably be used primarily for the turntable. After I source some HQ sound files, I can see streaming those frequently too. Maybe 50/50.
So I guess DAC would also be near the end of the list. And I'm also guessing either the TT or speakers would be the first thing to get upgraded. As to the order of the other pieces. . . . lol I'm still clueless.

Ps. Thank You, Al. I'll start looking for a good show to attend.

I would start with speakers. If you choose right you will enjoy them for a long time. Then power amps and speaker cables. This would make a speakers/power amps/speaker cables unit complete. After that - preamp to match the amp but also future phono stage and dac.
I would upgrade turntable/tonearm/cartridge last, this step is just as important as speakers. Tables/arms can last for decades.
But if you are going to buy used you will be limited by what's available at the moment, so it might be more chaotic and complicated. Ideally, you want to have the entire signal chain in your mind before proceeding. Still, speakers first, unless perhaps you want to use particular esoteric lower power tube amps and then match speakers to it.
I've built at least 2 dozen systems from ground up & I've always started with the speaker system , a solid 80% if not 90% of your initial budget should be to purchase a set of " full range " floor standing speakers that go down to at least 30hz & 20hz js even better ,make sure you get speakers that your absolutely in love with the sound and the looks because with a big ass speaker system asthetics become very important in your home ,you already have a good quality " HIFI " preamplifier with your $700 Rotel ,keeping the Rotel and building the system with the Rotel as your preamp will allow you to spend your next money on amification ,while amplification is important you do not need to spend over $300 on a pair of professional amplifiers that will give you 500 watts of 8ohm low distortion power if you visit your local guitar center & buy a pair of Behringer A-500 amps ,they are roughly $150 each and when ran in bridged mono give out 500 watts @8 ohms which is enough power to drive any speaker system with a DB rating above 88 db which is a very inefficient speaker and the amps will drive them ,I've done it , for the digital sources I'd visit Emotiva dot com and buy a brand new Emotiva ERC-3 CD player at $400 or less and you'd have a good quality CD player ,I own an Emotiva ERC-2 CD and it sounds just as good as my $5,000 McIntosh CD player , I'd scroll down Emotivas products line and buy a pair of top quality 12 foot speaker wires with banana plug terminations for $120 ,then for power conditioning I'd buy the Emotiva EMX-2 line restoration and power filter unit at $159 for my amplifiers and the Emotiva EMX-6 power filter for my preamp and sources for another $159 , I use the EMX-2s on my 1200 watt McIntosh monoblocks and the EMX-6 on my McIntosh tube preamp and McIntosh CD/DVD player with excellent results , I'd stay with that system for at least a year before I upgraded anything ,then I'd upgrade the Rotel preamp with a used McIntosh C-2200 tube preamp of which I have owned 1 for a decade , the McIntosh C-2200 is a very unique preamp that is the best I've ever heard ,the preamp has the most effect on overall sound than any other components except for your speakers ,once you've upgraded your preamp to a McIntosh C-2200 tube preamp as long as you chose the speakers you love it only gets better & you may not need to spend big bucks on high end amplifiers and sources , if your dead set on upgrading to better amplification Emotiva made a unicorn when they made their XPR-1 1,000 watt @8 ohm Monoblocks you can pick up used for $3,000 fairly easy & they compete well with my $26,000 McIntosh monoblocks .

Speakers 1st ,amplification 2nd ,source 3rd,power conditioning & quality speaker wires and interconnects 4th , upgrade your preamp if you must 5th ,then upgrade your amps last if the 500 watt Behringers aren't driving your speakers well enough .
Agree with @inna in that I would start with speakers. Speaker choice will dictate the requisite type of amp that will mate with them properly. A satisfactory experience relies on understanding the codependent relationship that speakers/amps necessarily have with each other. A preamp must also pair with the amp in terms of its gain structure and ability to interface with the amp impedance wise in a copascetic(?) manner.
Everything else will be less finicky as regards to its "fitting in" with the aforementioned items.

I personally favor high sensitivity speakers as these typically open up more opportunities to experience the uniquely seductive amplifiers out there and they are perfectly at home with lower power (read less expensive). Many other would take a different path.