To Hans Wetzel,
Thanks for the reply. At the time when I e-mailed GoodSound!, I was having trouble deciding which "upgrade path" to take. In my previous "audiophile" life, I would obsess over the hardware, and as I began this process it started happening again. Then I remembered some advice I was given when I first entered the high-end world: speakers first, then work from there, and have fun.
As I write this, I'm waiting on a pair of A2s from Audioengine. Unless the A2s really impress, they'll go back and I'll try another pair. All of the speakers you suggested were already on my short list, with the addition of the EmotivaPro Airmotiv 4.
Being that I have no dealers near, I am doing the buying online and making sure I can return the product if its not satisfactory, which almost any reputable online dealer offers. I know I mentioned my budget for this upgrade being around $300. I've paid more for interconnects in the past, so this is pretty cool! It's real easy to just throw money at something, but the real challenge for me seems to be getting almost the whole slice, the most sound, for the least amount of scratch. I still keep up with a lot of the high-dollar stuff; it's fun to read about, but it's more fun when something a fraction of the price is about as good.
Every component is important to one degree or another, but speakers should definitely be the anchor of any system. You're also right in saying that the real challenge is finding the products that offer the most performance per dollar spent. That's our goal at GoodSound!, and it's gratifying to find a product that really overachieves.
The A2s are great little nearfield monitors -- my own mother has a pair! Good luck, Jay. . . . Hans Wetzel