** UPDATES Sept 2019
Koetsu Blue Lace with Diamond Cantilever is the BOMB. Unambiguously the best cartridge I've ever heard. The diamond cantilever raises detail, speed and dynamics of Koetsu to a next level, without pulling it towards analytical. In fact, this change actually allows MORE of the famous Koetsu musicality to pour through the speakers. Added in March of this year. Mounted on the FR64S (this arm is now clearly superior to the Graham Phantom Supreme for Koetsus). I've also switched my SUT to the Choir Audio unit based on Hashimoto HM-7. My EAR MC-3 and Koetsu SUT (pictured here atop the VAC) also sound great with the Blue Lace, but the Hashimoto sounds HUGE with lifelike dynamics. Another change is rolling tubes in the VAC phono: 1 pair Mazda 12ax7 chrome plates (my favorite), 1 pair RCA black plates 12ax7, 1 pair Mullard reissue 12ax7 - this results in a tonal balance similar to the stock tubes, but with enhanced detail, 3D imaging, and bass impact. If it weren't for my need to closely track the stock tonal balance (because that works well with my system), I'd have all 6 Mazda chromes in there - and the Mullard pair is there because it's warm enough to counter the Mazda's top end (otherwise, it's a serviceable but not stellar tube). Stock tubes were VAC's selected PentaLabs (Chinese) 12ax7. The latest system pic shows a Rogue RP-9 preamp on the bottom rack shelf, but I still use the ARC REF 6 as my primary preamp. I'm also back to the Shelter Harmony on a Clearaudio Universal 12" for my 2nd arm, which I try to mix in to save hours on Koetsu - I haven't been very successful at this, however! As good as the Harmony/Universal combo is (for a while I was going back & forth between this and the non-Diamond Koetsu stone bodies), the Blue Lace just takes everything to another level.
** Updates Feb 2018
I have upgraded literally EVERYTHING since July 2017. I kept with the same general system composition; in many cases simply moving to newer model years and/or the next model(s) up. I did change from all Rogue Audio electronics to VAC & ARC for phono stage & preamp -- yes, I have to admit that was the right move for me to finally make. I've stuck with the Rogue Apollo amps, but bought the new "Dark" upgraded versions. And also bought a big-boy CMS Maxxum rack -- sayonara, Lovan!! I think I've kept like 3 power cords, a pair of AQ Kilimanjaro, and a pair of AQ Wild interconnects. Everything else is brand new.
** Updates Sept/Oct 2016
Added a few updated photos, and posted a more detailed comment on recent upgrades. My original upgrade plans, as enumerated below, were formulated in 2010/2011. I've finally logged updates to each of these items. The core Tannoy/Koetsu/Rogue blend has always remained in place -- because it sounds awesome! I've also had my beloved Koetsu Onyx Platinum recently broken (RIP to my girlfriend), and bought a new Coralstone to console myself.
Mazda silver-plate 12ax7 have been put EVERYWHERE. A friend introduced me to this tube in 2015, and I absolutely love it. BIG upgrade over the usual suspects: Telefunken (smooth & ribbed), Mullard long-plates, RCA long black plates, RCA 3-mica 5751, GE 5751 "silver clips", etc.
I've fallen a bit sucker to the cable industry, and have been moving up in the Audioquest line (mostly silver) when I can find the right ones used.
My headphone system has also gone crazy in the last 2 years: Stax SR-009, Stax L700, Head-amp BHSE (stocked with the ample vintage British/Mullard or Holland/Amperex EL34 on hand), Schiit Yggdrasil. Also have a KGSShv Carbon, Balanced-hev90 clone, KGST, KGSShv x2 etc. But the BHSE is the best. I also have a SR-007 Mk I, but strongly prefer the SR-009 and L700.
My (now very old) upgrade plans:
1) Tannoy Canterbury SE; their size is better suited to my room; the 96dB efficiency is also very appealing
** UPDATE: Did this October 2012 - A VERY good move in the end, though I must admit it's very frustrating to re-tune & adapt everything for a new speaker, even one from the same line as its predecessor (Tannoy Kensington SE). The Kensington needed a boost in bass energy and some relaxation up top. The Canterbury SE needs some help coaxing sparkle/energy up top. The Canterburys simply sound HUGE, and I love it.
2) Phono stage...perhaps a CineMag blue step-up to feed into the VAC Ren III's phono. Or, drop the VAC (as good as it is) and start from scratch. Perhaps a Hagerman Trumpet w/ CineMag blue or Artemis Labs?
** UPDATE: Finally settled on a Rogue Ares in late 2014, after the THIRD TIME buying this phono stage, lol. Its latest revision is superb when paired with: Mazda Silver-plate 12AX7, Sylvania 1950s Black Plate 12BH7 OR Mazda Silver-plate 6189, and Bob's Devices 1131 SUT (each of these makes a BIG difference). Finally, this combo yields notably better sound than the built-in phono of the VAC Renaissance III that I loved so much.
3) Table: Either a SOTA Cosmos or a Clearaudio Innovation Wood Compact (leaning heavily towards the SOTA due to past experiences)
** UPDATE: Got the Clearaudio Innovation, obviously, in Spring 2014. With Graham Phantom II Supreme tonearm. Great table/arm, but not without their imperfections. And expensive. VERY expensive. Overall I'm mostly happy with this table rig, though. Added the Clearaudio ring clamp and reference weight late 2014 (way too expensive, but nice).
All setup in an old loft apartment in a commercial district with NO RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORS!! The best time to crank the system up is midnight-5am - there's nobody within a mile! Solid, over-built late 1800s construction. No laundry hookups, no oven, no cable - but NO complaints from me for the overall benefits :)
** UPDATE: Still the same hookup :)