To Jeff Fritz,
I learned the hard way that it is difficult to go backward on so many things -- a BMW M-series back to a Honda Accord, involvement with three growing children so back to dedicated listening time. With me, as my listening time dwindled (I would rather spend the time with the kids -- it goes by fast), I decided to scale back my system. As I begin to regain some audio time, I find my system far less enjoyable than I remembered.
Keep this in mind when you start shopping. This is what I have learned; sit down as many may feel it is audiophile sacrilege. Priority 1: the room, which you have totally covered and I feel this takes care of 45% of your audio needs. Priority 2: the speakers, and this is where I sacrificed too much and I would say is another 45% of the equation. Depending on your new budget, there are so many options for speakers. True innovators and enthusiastic novices alike have saturated the high-end market. Since you may want to support your advertisers, let us start there.
Dynaudio: I find it is unlikely you will be satisfied with the Dynaudio Contour 60s compared to your old Magicos. The price point is attractive, but you may find the fidelity gap too large. These are great speakers, but you may want to aim higher depending on your system’s price (or perhaps you may reach higher via Audiogon or your connections to the industry). Options: the Gryphon Mojos with subs could be an interesting option; I would love to see a real review now that they are available in the US. Lower-cost, mostly full-range Magicos with subs could be a great option given their similarities to the sound you’ve grown accustomed to. Bowers & Wilkins, the 802 D3 and 800 D3, do not really do it for me, but many like them. With Monitor Audio, I personally do not like the directionality of their ribbon tweeters. Then there’s KEF with their off-axis response and laid-back sound; I personally would write them off. They would have quite the contrast to the Magicos. Paradigms, which I have heard many times, sound too bright and overly (unrealistically) revealing. The measurements in Sound & Vision seem to confirm this. Vivid speakers do seem to be a great option -- maybe a new pair of G2S2s or B1 Decades with subs. Outside of your advertising circle there is always Rockport, TAD, Focal’s new Maestro/Scala Utopia Evos, Legacy (Aegis and V), JBL 4376/M2, and hopefully the forthcoming Revel Ultima3 Salon3, all with substantial engineering prowess behind them.
Electronics: If you were sitting, you may want to lay down for this one. I believe you can get 99% of the state of the art in performance with well-made mainstream electronics rather than the mega-priced/showcase gear. Check the specs to ensure they truly measure up, then perhaps try some blind testing. Tell me the Anthem Statement P2 for $4500 does not sound the same as (or damn close to) the extremely high-priced showpiece amps. The same argument can be made for preamp, cables, DACs, etc. I will stop here to prevent hate mail. My point is money spent here is better allocated to speakers. Yes, you may give up a little, very little, but the budget allocation to better speakers certainly offsets that.
One man’s opinion!