I'm posting this here, since I can't think of any better place for it - apologies if it's not quite the right place.
The question is - what's the first thing you'd change about my rig, to try and make a step up in quality? Any advice or just opinion, no matter how specific or otherwise, would be welcomed. I'm just a little bit out of ideas on how to progress without spending £500 or more, so it would be good to see what any of you think the weakest link might be.
I'm not made of money - it generally takes me a few months to save up for each component, so things like upgrading to the Stax Omega II are not realistic :)
So, my current rig is:
Laptop/CD -> Arcam rDac -> Little Dot mkiii -> HD650.
The laptop and CD link to the rDac by USB and optical link, respectively.
I keep the gain setting the mkiii on 4 most of the time. My personal experience is that it REALLY changes the sound. I used to like the sheer detail and intimacy of the 10 setting, but found it quite tiring. I've changed the power tubes to Electro-Harmonix 6H30-pi and have generally settled on EF95 driver tubes. Current favourites are 1940's Tung Sol 6AK5's... particularly for Jazz and Classical music, and (and this was a surprise to me) some 1960's GE 5654 for Electronic stuff - they seem to be a little more prominent in the bass and extend a little further down. I've discovered gradually that I don't like the Mullard sound very much - everything I've tried - m8100, m8161, EF91, EF92, M8083, has sounded a little gritty in the upper mids/lower treble. I've also found my tinnitus has decreased majorly since I stopped using them.
Some thoughts I have been having are:
When I go away with work I use a Fiio E7/79 combo. It's fine as a portable setup, and while the quality's not anywhere near my main setup, I have noticed that it extends further in both the bass and treble. So I've been thinking solid state is maybe the way to go - Graham Slee kit seems to have a good rep with the HD650 but I haven't heard any.
Secondly - I think the rDac does a good job, but have no idea if there's any kit in the same price range (or cheaper) that might do a better job.
Thirdly, all my cables are pretty standard stock stuff. Having tried some blind tests years ago (and despite having pretty finely tuned ears back then) I couldn't tell any difference in quality between expensive and cheap cables. I'll always remain open minded though - there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our theories of AC signals, etc, etc, blah, blah.
I love my setup, but am something of a tinkerer, as I expect many of you are too.