Happy to comment on my journey and hopefully save you some money . The usual caveats - this is my experience and represents my sensibilities. I listen pretty much exclusively to classical music right across the board from delicate sounding acoustic intruments to massive orchestral music. Also, there would be people here on stereonet who have a tremendous depth of experience, far greater than mine and have spent a lot more money than me. But I do have enthusiam on my side
I have to agree that system matching and synergy is critical as is room acoustics. The former is a black art really and luck probably plays a big part.
1. I have built my system around my speakers. I really like Harbeth speakers. I have super hl5s. If my room was big enough (and I had the cash) I would definitely buy the 40.1. The fact that I like Harbeths reflects the fact that I like a full bodied rich sound. I have gone down the other track - lean, analytical - it was expensive and I just did not enjoy the sound. I have heard quite a few modern sounding hifi speakers which have a much leaner sound and cannot tolerate them. There are definite limits to my experience here - for example, I would love to hear so called full range speakers.
2. Concerning solid state, you would have gathered that I have discovered the Anthony Holton SState amps. Anthony is the real deal. These are very refined amplifiers and it is hard for me to imagine that they could disappoint anyone. I have tried all sorts of amplifiers in the past and have been a pretty dedicated valve guy but have never quite found the right tube amp. VTL was great but very expensive now. Prima Luna tube amps - I tried hard to like this amplifier but just could not. A lean sound that strips a lot of the joy from the music to my ears - I stress to my ears. I dont want to disrespect the fact that apparently thousands of people throughout the world love these amplifiers. I have ordered a Weston Acoustic tube amp from earle weston and it should be here by June. I like to have both a solid state and a tube amp as this keeps the music fresh. Tube amps have a big holographic three D sound that I like.
3. I have discovered that the old wisdom of pairing the solid state amp with a good active preamp really can raise your system to another level. I bought a second hand Bel Canto Pre 3 off Stereo net for about $1200 and it has been fabulous. Also, I have paired the Holton with a tube preamp made by Mark Houston of Retro Thermionic and that has been pretty incredible given that it cost me $350! Adds a big tube sound. I was looking to get an Elektra which is made in melbourne as i have heard very good things about it.
3. I play CDs from a dedicated CD spinner and send the signal to an external DAC. I am not interested in streaming music off a server or having my entire music collection on a usb stick. However, the whole DAC search can drive one insane as there just so many possibilities out there. One good thing is that they regularly come up second hand on stereonet as people become bored and for very reasonable prices - as they should last decades, it is great to buy used. I have blown a lot of money on trying to find the right DAC and in the end I stayed with three: 1. Lavry D10/11 - you can buy one second hand for about $400. Excellent rich sound. 2. Benchmark DAC 1 (or 2 or 3) - this cuts across what I was saying about analytical because it is quite analytical but I always come back to the Benchmark. Incredible DAC really and when paired with the richer sounding amp it is really an experience.3. Rega DAC - version one you can buy for about $400. A really good DAC.
4. I really love my Clearaudio Performance Turntable. MM Maestro cartridge. A thrilling machine. If you have an LP collection, then analogue is the way to go.
5. Phono stages - Manly chinook is a very very good phono stage. Also, I bought a retro thermionic (australian) MM Carbon phono stage for very little and that is quite simply one of the best bargains I have ever had.
Buying used on Stereonet has been a very rewarding experience and saved me a lot of money.
Hope that helps.