Now unlike spouses, it's a rather easy step to do this, and you can undo your mistake, or get another if the first does not suit. The main thing is how to maximise your buck.
Firstly, you have to look long and hard and listen too, as to why you really want to upgrade. Is it just because Mr Lee next door now sports 7 channels instead of 5? Or do you really want an improvement.
Now the common mistake is to spend very little in the beginning, then quickly realise that it was a mistake, only to spend more on expensive upgrades on cables, little tweaks which cost a significant amount and do very little.
Since this is mainly a Home Theatre post, let's assume the issue is less about music and more about the HT.
For music, if you have preouts, there are other options like adding a new stereo amp with HT bypass.
The items which give the most yield will usually be the speakers. If you used some tiny satellites for the sake of form, then these will let you down very quickly. Unless that's your only option, then getting a better speaker set, and in particular, paying attention to the centre channel and the subwoofer will give you the most yield.
There is nothing like a good subwoofer to enhance the experience, and you don't need to stick to the same brand. Or add a couple and you have twice the fun, but you need some knowhow to integrate the two.
If you are still using a non HDMI AV amp, that's an obvious target for an upgrade, but if you are already using one from the past 4 years, chances are that it will have the following features which I consider essential:
- HDMI with audio
- a auto-calibration system (I would buy the best I can get my hands on, saves a lot of hassle)
- at least 7 channels, with some form of Dolby Prologic IIx
- pre-outs for adding power amps / stereo amps
If you already have such an amp, what will you gain from an upgrade?
- first, the latest formats - now I don't really consider this to be very important, and as mentioned, if you have the ability to process lossless signals, and matrix it to 7 channels, then its all good
- 9 or 11 channels?
This is more of a want than a need, but if you have the speakers, the ability to cable up, then in my own experience, it has been a good experience
We can't have enough of this, but if you have pre-outs, then this is not really important as most AV amps don't perform to their ratings anyway
This is quite personal, and I won't buy an amp just for this, but most new models will have HDMI 1.4 and to be it's more important to get an amp with enough HDMI inputs
- better auto-EQ?
For me, this is worth paying for and was my main reason for getting a new amp. With Audyssey XT 32, I get more out of my speakers and two subs and it's been a good journey.
So if you want to drop some cash, I would go with these two first, speakers, then the amp. Things like cables, footers, new shelves etc are low and are most important to the audiophile who has spent a ton of money than the budding videophile.
For the video side of things, a new TV or Projector is of course welcome, but make sure it is BIG enough. No sense buying a small one again and make sure it is Full HD.