I have a VAC 80/80 (recently upgraded and re-tubed to 100/100) (http://www.stereophile.com/tubepoweramps/698/index.html) and Focal 918's (http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/focal-profile-918-loudspeaker-1/).
A Naim CD player and Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 round out the system. I bought all of this used over the years.
I generally enjoy the system. But one thing is missing and it's really bothering me. The sonic range about where a drummer's brush on his kit would play is really recessed. Its absence is prominent on Miles Davis' Blue in Green. I didn't notice it until I was auditioning a DAC with a pair of KEF's. Subtle piano work on Tourist Point of View from Duke Ellington's Far East Suite is also more audible in my car than my house.
The TAS review of the Focal suggested a recessed sound stage - is this "suck out" part of it? Or the softening sound of tube gear and a polite Naim the problem? The Stereophile review of the 80/80 talks about a problematic output impedance -- maybe that's the cause, which might suggest caution when selecting a new speaker.
So I don't waste the local shops' time or carrying a lot of heavy gear all over LA (that VAC is not light), I'm asking the forum if you think I should focus on new speakers or a new amp. Or new cables? Also, I am in the market for a new DAC like the Benchmark, Chord, Mytek or even NAD. Would the built-in pre-amp provide some balance?
A few other tidbits:
1. I have StraighWire interconnects. My speaker cables seem heavier gauge, but they're not branded as far as I can tell. Would new cables
2. The room is relatively bright - 12-14 ft high ceiling in a split-level open plan kitchen/dining room/living room. Because of an uncooperative cat, I can only have a wood floor.