About 1 1/2 years ago, after ten years of experimentation, my system coalesced into something that is so completely satisfying that I seldom even pick up a hifi mag anymore.
The first breakthrough came when I introduced a Tact 2.0s Room Correction Processor/Preamp into the equation. It took a little getting used to and, after a life time of being exposed to the classic 8-12 db room induced bass hump, the sound initialy seemed lean but... I approached the technology with an open mind and, much the way one adjusts to a new improved eyeglass prescription, my I soon adjusted. I can't even imagine going back to an "uncorrected" system at this point but more importantly, I can't understand why this technology has been largely overlooked (save a single review of the first generation units about 5 years ago). It seems to me that we are on the beginnign of a new era in audio, on par with the introduction of Stereo, where digital room correction, in combination with digital crossovers, has the potential to utterly revolutionize the way speakers are designed and setup.
The second major breakthrough was completely unexpected and came as a result of a decision to ripp my music collection to a PC and stream, via a Squeezebox, directly into my digital processors. Using Exact Audio Copy to rip (which rereads the CD up to 50 times in order to extract bit perfect data) in conjunction with the bit perfect transmission (via the 2 way eternet connection of the Squeezebox) made me finally understand what high end transports had been trying to achieve (with limited success) for the last 15 years ie error free bit perfect data. The improvement in sound quality was absolutely stunning.Again this revolutionary technology seems to have been overlooked at Stereophile and I can't understand why.
My setup is relatively modest but, as stated, HUGELY satisfying. I've had many a visitor comment on it's musicality which is particularly impressive from young people who, with good ears and having heard some top end hi- fi systems, generally don't like the hyper detail, finicky setups etc etc.
Here it is:
Remote PC > hardwired to Squeezebox> Big Ben Reclockng device> Benchmark Dac1> Bryston 4bsst (highly recomended by Thiel for their speakers and very very good)> Thiel 2.4 speakers
Ps I won't bore people with all the stuff I've tried and auditioned but suffice to say, relying heavily on my musicians ears, I've heard most of what's out there, including the most outrageously expensive stuff available.