Where is the significant point of diminishing returns on hi-end turntable?

For those that don’t know me I am newish to this game. Yes, I believe this chase for perfection in sound reproduction is a game. There are endless variables affecting the sound of every system and 100x that in opinions on each of these variables. I love cool $hit as much as the next guy but I am looking for an analog rig and I keep getting drawn into the seemingly endless "what about this option that costs tons more?". I started with a $6 to $10K budget and now I am considering a $25K setup (Table, cart and phono stage) after talking to a local retailer. I will be blunt, I want to be that guy in the Memorex ad from the 80’s that is getting blown away by his system (my impression is he is overwhelmed by the amazing sound coming from that speaker not the volume). Now that I have acquired some pretty descent stuff I am spending 15 plus hours each week listening and really enjoying this hobby. I don’t want to have any regrets and just be marginally satisfied with my setup but where do I draw the line? Back to my initial question; what is a reasonable amount to spend on an analog setup to achieve the best bang for the buck? I may be somewhat unique in that I don’t want to constantly be upgrading my equipment, I just want to buy great products the first time that are very satisfying and spend hours listening to great music. I don’t want to be the guy always chasing the next great thing.
Good opinion nkj
It seems you have some time into serious front ends ..

yes i was talking about the dd psb
Turntable is not a precision instrument, even the very best turntables sound different. High mass is no guarantee of high performance and wood can have a place in tomearms and cartridges.
Mmporsche, if you still have your Parasound phono, I suggest you keep it for now and address the phono issue after you have chosen the table/arm/cartridge. You want, if I am right, a close to near reference level phono. Don't rush it, the Parasound would do just fine for the time needed to settle on something much better. 
I was thinking about Otari deck too. Studer would be better but much more expensive. Long live the tape. Problem is that it doesn't live too long, for archival purpose it's vinyl. There are some places that claim to have master tape dubbs for sale, I think there was a thread here on the subject. But even if true, the prices are quite high, a few hundred dollars for each. My main idea is not to get those, I am interested in music that was recorded but never officially released. And it is on tape. Don't ask me how I am going to get it, I don't know yet. But I do know what I would be looking for.

@inna My father has the 3 Otari RTR machines in his studio that is now idle.  I am not planning to buy a Studer or any other RTR setup, just take one of his home.  Two are 1/4 and one is a 8 track (1/2 inch if memory serves).  I don't believe the 1/2 has any use to me but one of the 1/4 inch machines should if/when I bring one home.  

Let me know if you find any great options for RTR source material.

Rushton has been very generous with his time and information and I am investigating the used Wilson - yet another step higher on the ladder.

@nkj I appreciate the advice and I don’t want some high maintenance system. My objective is high quality sound with a reasonable amount of fuss/work. Based on what I have read from Rushton the Wilson doesn’t seem too high-maintenance. I am willing to wash records before playing them with the KL Audio, demagnetize them and then let it rip. I am 47, appreciate the finer things and like good engineering (watches, cars, audio gear, guns, etc.). I have raced cars for 14 years and I am not the guy always tweaking my setup in the pits before each race. I am more the set it and forget it. I will spend the time and learn how to set it up once properly and make some minor tweaks but that is it. My goal with music is to relax and forgot about life stresses. 
As someone very experienced and knowledgeable said, with Walker table/arm things to pay attention to are dynamics and bass. Do not buy it without thorough auditioning. There are good reasons why some people get rid of their Walkers and go with something else, most interesting unusual direction are highly modified vintage Technics SP10-MKIII and other vintage tables. Those Technics are much more than what you are prepared to spend, I guess.
I don't like guns and have zero interest in watches but I do like custom knives. Actually using one in the kitchen, though it is much more than a kitchen knife.
Anyway, many people do double or triple water rinse on regular record cleaner with vacuum after ultrasonic machine. And you don't have to clean records each time before listening to them, you know. I only use vacuum machine and clean the records after 10/15 plays or so. The difference is usually small compared to after, say, 25/30 plays, but a little less noise.

From reading your initial post you seem to be looking for music and not a gear head? After many years of $10k tables I've recently set up a Garrard 301 system with a modest Jelco 12" tone arm and Van Den Hull MC 10 cart  with my custom plinth about $7k invested and to be honest i'm listening to music again. I've considerably increased my enjoyment of music and listening times.  I've got a huge upgrade path just in the table I have with so many options and upgrades available I can easily take this set up to the $25k and up levels. but in the end is i'm listening to music again not the gear. do some research and don't be shy of a 50 year old design as they will suck you into the music your toes will be taping and you'll have a big smile on your face for years to come. and when you do feel like you want an upgrade just add  something to improve the Garrard.

You could also get a Loricraft Garrard 501 they have redesigned, or one the many people out there doing Garrard rebuilds and mods from the reasonable to the extreme like Shindo 301 at $25k

@mmporsche you will get many opinions as you observed. What I understand is that this is new for you, quality is important & set and forget is paramount.
 With your budget it may not be a bad idea to touch and feel some of these tables by traveling to a show or flying out to a dealer.

The Walker is a formidable table- never owned one. But I did own variations of its less refined predecessor. There is a learning curve and heavy lifting involved.

My point is get the best table with the least fuss based on your current experience, time available and patience. Sure, some of the exotic solutions provide benefit but they bring other concerns.

As to @inna, perhaps you didn't fully read my post. I said that the iterations of adjustments and improvements are endless- of course tables can all sound different. A McLaren and a Porsche are precision mechanical devices that handle differently. I bet Kuzma or Brinkmann might argue their products were built with precision.

Good luck and let us know where you land.

In searching the classified section last night I see a clearaudio master innovation.  German made, looks like a nice design. Thoughts?

Mapman, when I bought my used Technics over 5 years ago, I replaced all the transistors, with the same one's it had originally, and replaced all the capacitors with "Black Gates". That was after I discovered it was easy to work on.

Now, I can record a CD, and get similar detail as you would from an LP on playback. This is analogous to a mechanic making a "hot rod" go faster than a new car; since I know this can't be done (according to audiophiles) I don't expect anyone to believe it.

happy listening.
Thoughts on Clearaudio turntables: Glitzy, over-priced, and no.  Lots of chrome and lucite, if that's what you like.  Walker or SP10 Mk3, far better, IMO.

Before you buy a Wilson speaker, make the effort to hear one; they are available for audition in some of the better audio salons.  You might have to get on a plane, but in the end you'll save some angst.

orpheus I believe it.  I record from my Linn Axis all the time and guess what the digital recording is indistinguishable from the original vinyl.

Now I am getting fancier these days as well and learning to use Audacity to make the digital recordings better than original in case of records where recording is not great to start with by optimzing dynamic range, etc.
I said Wilson above and intended to write walker. I already have new Voxativ speakers. 
mmporsche I heard a few Voxativ speakers at Capital Audiofest.  Very nice!

"I also believe that wood and plexiglass don't belong as part of a precision instrument- just me."

Try this simple little experiment next time your at your local Home Depot or similar store. Go to the isle where they have the extruded aluminum bars - take a 3 foot one and gently drop it on the cement floor take note of the sound it makes once it hits the floor.  Then go to the isle that has the hardwood take a piece of hardwood like oak for an example - you should easily be able to find a smaller piece gently drop it on the floor and take note of the sound it makes.  You may change your opinion :-)

MMporsche - if "set it and forget it" is what your looking for find a table that has a SME arm on it, they are about as "set it and forget it" as they come.

Good Listening



With all due respect, if you want a "set and forget" system, you’re better off putting your $25K into a digital front end that gets you as close to the sound of great vinyl as possible. You can do it these days; digital has gotten that good.

In order to get the most out of vinyl, though--or even just to make your $25K sound like $25K--you really have to be willing to participate in the sound, every aspect of it, and actively.

Why? Because vinyl is experiential on both sides of your speakers. We love the sound because it engages completely--because it has the potential (as Coleridge described the ideal poet) to bring the whole soul of man into activity. Activity. Vinyl is not really a spectator sport. You have to get in there up to your elbows and then your ears, and that takes time, patience, and commitment. Gradually, you sediment in the experience and knowledge you need to realize the medium’s wonders, and that’s part of its charm.

So, I’d echo some earlier comments and say, get ready for the long game. Spend money on quality tools for set up, a variety of them, and learn how to use them. Become a patient student and experimenter; read all you can, ask the village elders for advice, and simply try and err. In the process, you’ll understand what makes the medium work its magic on *your* ears; and, like Dr. Strange, you’ll learn how to conjure that magic at will. Only then will you get your money’s worth, and your $25K will sound like a million bucks.

I already invested $6k into my DAC and that's good enough for me.  It is very nice but I know how good vinyl can sound when done right. 

To be clear, I enjoy tweaking and some of the ritual associated with viny. I just don't want to spend more time preparing to listen than actually listening. That is why I chose the KLaudio cleaner; seemed to be the balance between a quality cleaning and low end user involvement. 
Nottingham arm is also set and forget it, just spend couple of hours or less to set the VTA and anti-skate and VTF and leave it alone. Check the settings every year or so just in case or if you hear the difference.
What I most dislike about playing vinyl is cleaning the stylus before playing each side and flipping records every 20 minutes. Cleaning records does take time and effort, but you don't have to do it often unless you constantly buy many records. I think, mmporsche is on the right path, it is just difficult to choose when you have good funds and not many opportunities to compare. But many people keep their tables for a very long time, so it requires a special attention because of that too.
Dear @mmporsche : """ I appreciate the advice and I don’t want some high maintenance system. My objective is high quality sound with a reasonable amount of fuss/work. ...... I am more the set it and forget it. I will spend the time and learn how to set it up once properly and make some minor tweaks but that is it. """

""" I just want to buy great products the first time that are very satisfying and spend hours listening to great music. """

Analog is not " set it and forget it ", could be but depend on other personal factors.

""".... very satisfying ? """

if that is what you are looking for then may I ask you: which is your level of analog satyisfying and how do you know it’s exactly that?

I think that first you have to fix your knowed personal premises to achieve it but even that money is no object ( and this fact can only help to start and for up-grades. ) I thing your overall analog knowledge ignorance level is not adequated for what you posted in both threads. I know that because IMHO you are not asking the rigth questions.

I see you as a " child " that needs and like to buy a new toy and that’s excited to do it and react emotionally to many of the gentlemans advices and after that you have more doubts than certainty of which toys fill your needs.

My take is that you think you know your needs but in reality you don’t. You are a wise man but true analog high end is a new " land " for you. You need to learn before pull the trigger.

You have to start asking you: step by step which is the path/road ( detaliled one. ) where the cartridge delicate and way sensitive electrical music information must pass till arrives your ears and where at each one of those single steps the signal is degraded ( always is. ) and the level of degradation is not the same.

You have to learn where the signal suffer more degradation to take care scrupulously on those single links with higher degradation levels in order to achieve audio system degradation at minimum. So, analog rig is only part of that audio system. Important? yes but analog rig is not an island surrounded by nothing but for a real " furious sea " where degradation means: distortions of every type and at the ends means that as higher distortions comes as less MUSIC we listen.

You can pull the trigger rigth now ( is your money. ) but if I was you: learning experiences are more important because you are not " dying " now.

Wise money investment is the key not the money. Money is always important but more important is if you know for sure how and why spend it. Same like when you choose a Porsche over a Ferrari where you don’t only buy a Porsche but a precise Porsche model. Why is that?

Regards and enjoy the music,

I just don’t want to spend more time preparing to listen than actually listening.

Me neither. Who does? I typically clean an album once, use a brush before each play, and keep my styli clean. But you will want to fine tune your set up, play with various cartridges, etc., hence my statements about tools and activity.

To your Clearaudio question: I owned an Innovation Wood with a Universal arm for 18 months and never really cottoned to it, finding it somewhat hard and thin. I didn’t like the DC motor being built into the support pillar, either, as it was noisy and clearly audible on the armboard through a cheap stethoscope. I replaced it with a Brinkmann Oasis, which is much better, IMO. Each on a Minus-K. I did like the Clearaudio’s capacity for two arms, though (my other was a Phantom II, now a Supreme in use on the Oasis), and it was speed-stable.
I'm with Raul on this one.  If you have been racing I assume you are familiar with gifted builders and machine shops and the hands-on set-ups that win races.  If there is one area of hi-fi that is analogous to that sport it is TOTL vinyl replay.  It's very much a hands-on thing.  Clue: in TTs and tonearms there has been little progress since the best from Micro Seiki, Luxman, Technics, and Kenwood. You can take these decks, add a few tweaks, and be done with it.                     

mmporsche, the number of LP’s one owns, and the frequency with which one anticipates acquiring more of in the future, should be taken into consideration when deciding how much to spend on a record player. It is my opinion that the greater the number of LP’s a listener owns, and the greater the number of hours a week that owner listens to them, the more $ spent on a player can be justified, and should be allotted.

There is the old joke about the audiophile who has a high-priced player, upon which he spins his very small collection of audiophile LP’s, listening to them only for their great sound quality. Building an awesome music library on LP is, to me, a very noble endeavor. It takes years to assemble a collection of LP’s containing great music, rather than just great sound. You may already have such a collection, but as that was not mentioned I thought the subject should be brought up.

@bdp24 I have access to over 5000 albums.  I disagree with your quantity over quality, I much prefer the latter.

@dgarretson Yes, I know how to rebuild a motor and repair anything on my race car, however, that doesn't mean I always do the work myself.  I usually leave that to the experts and I focus on the driving-the part I enjoy the most.  I believe the same is true with setting up a turntable.  I can understand how to do everything but that doesn't mean I am going to do it.  I am seeking out the local experts and will have them setup my table.  If I need to adjust something than I will certainly have the knowledge and tools.  

I am sure I will upset many of you but it appears that a good number of you seem to enjoy working on your setup more than listening to music.  That is certainly your choice but not mine.  

Back to the car analogy; there are many people that love to build their car and constantly tweak the setup in the paddock before a race.  Some were successful, most were not.  I focus on the driving and the race craft and believe I had more fun.  That is my strategy for listening to music.  

You disagree with my "quantity over quality"? What quantity over quality? It appears my point was misconstrued. 5000 LP’s is enough to justify ANY table!

"   I can understand how to do everything but that doesn't mean I am going to do it ".

Exactly. This is not American frontier three hundred years ago. Besides, I think we should support each other as professionals if possible. But, there is one thing that I will always do myself even if I am not in the mood and that's sharpening a knife. I was taught the basics and then spent hundreds of hours to perfect the technique. Yes, I can always send my custom knives to the makers who will sharpen them for free, but not better than I can, faster but not better. You do it by ear and by touch - any knife, any original angle, no guessing.
Mmporsche, you should enjoy playing reel to reel deck, including music recorded from your favourite record albums. Decks are great, you just have them serviced from time to time and clean the heads every, say, twenty five hours, and that's about it.
Some others might disagree but I wouldn't rush to spend thousands on isolation platform and footers. I mean Vibroplane, K-Minus, SRA custom, top of the line Stillpoints. Any of them might be the best solution for your particulat table  but not nesessarily so, besides, they are quite expensive. It's not possible to know what would work best without experimenting. You could ask the table manufacturer for the advice, in addition to your " local experts ". Many just use thick maple platform with good brass cones under it or Symposium platform with rollerblocks. Neither is the best, I suppose, but may be close enough depending on the table and hearing abilities. With my modest set-up I can't hear the difference between 2" and 3" thick maple platform under my table, I keep 3" one though because my table is on the floor and the 3" is much heavier and sturdier.
Where is the significant point of diminishing returns on hi-end turntable?
From my experience the significant point of diminishing returns on a hi-end ’table begins after attaining a consistently high degree of speed accuracy.

Necessary conditions include clean records, a level table/platter, a top-notch alignment and optimal VTF. Get those five things right and you’re off to a good start.

A budget of $30k for 'table and 'arm should give you enough headroom to investigate alternatives that will cause a minimum of mechanical headaches and last for many years.

inna, "... I wouldn't rush to spend thousands on isolation platform and footers. I mean Vibroplane, K-Minus ..."

Given the amount the OP in spending on the system, and analog front end, the cost for a Vibraplane or Minus K is not that significant. Not having one of those under a turntable at that level is an oversight. 
mmporsche - I am seeking out the local experts and will have them setup my table.  If I need to adjust something than I will certainly have the knowledge and tools.

Local experts – implying someone that will get you to about 8-9 out of 10 on the first setup. Local experts have familiarity with certain brands.
based on the info you have provided on this thread, one of your objectives is "set and forget"

If this was me, I would be looking to get real life experience, opinions, from actual owners here, on those table setups/ brands that the local experts represent and are promoting. I would be listing out the brands.
Otherwise, you will continue to get new TT candidates here from members.

Good luck in your hunt. 
It would help if the OP would identify his current TT and also describe why he is not satisfied with the Parasound phono preamp.
My current TT is a Pro-ject Xpression Carbon. It sounds okay but ever since I replaced my front-end with more revealing amp and speakers (Voxativ) it definitely shows its weaknesses. I have heard how good something can sound with these speakers at RMAF and other places. The sound is not as deep, rich and involving. I just used my new KL audio last night and put on a newly arrived Quality Records pressing of the Cowboy Junkies Trinity Sessions. I definitely could appreciate the better quality vinyl and the KL audio unit definitely does a good job of removing the clicks and pops. The thing I notice most about my current setup is it can get a little shrill in the upper octaves and it is if I am missing information, like the needle is riding in the grooves, just not deep enough. Just an analogy of course.

@ct0517 the local expert I am speaking with currently is Thom Mackris of Galibier. I like the idea of someone willing to come to my home and set up the table and work with me on the adjustments, at least initially. I have not heard his table yet, hopefully soon.

The two local shops that are considered experts in analog have no interest in loaning me a table to hear it with my system and I believe that is really key to finding something you like. I assumed that based on my budget I could have this service, apparently not.
Keep up what your doing , I'm watching from the sidelines. This is above my level ,but very interesting. I find the comments busting on your budget ridiculous. It's your money buddy and the range your in seems fitting to me .. people spend 20k on a rug . I can't doesnt mean they shouldn't. Enjoy the adventure . Although I suspect you will continue your quest for audio nirvana at any level .. 
You're in good hands with Thom.  You're better off taking his advice than trying to derive any useful information from the 80-odd disparate responses on this thread.

Wrong. Our collective has more knowledge than one man. Besides, we don't want to sell any turntable to him, except for that Walker offer.
As for the dealers unwilling to let you hear the tables in your home, well, in their view you are not very likely to buy from them and I understand that you didn't offer them 'consulting fees' for this kind of audition. Pay them and you'll almost certainly get it. I don't know about Colorado but in New York City area if you pay enough someone will come to clean your record before you want to play it at just about any time of the day. But that 'enough pay' should be good enough. It's modern America, money rules, big money.
@inna I did offer to pay for the in-home trial. They said there is too much risk is loaning out expensive turntables. Amps and other gear is a different story. "Too much can go wrong with a turntable on loan". Apex is less than 15 minutes from my house, so not like they even have to travel any distance. Oh well, probably their loss but I guess they have a lot of business os someone else will just buy it off the advice provided over the phone.
I see. It's a damn problem and internet shopping does more harm than good.
The point I try to make but find is seldom taken is step back and start 
with the room. If deficient your journey will be handicapped
from the start.
If you have already taken this into account your a wise person and 
much more likely achieve your goal.

Dear @mmporsche : """ I usually leave that to the experts and I focus on the driving-the part I enjoy the most. I believe the same is true with setting up a turntable. I can understand how to do everything but that doesn’t mean I am going to do it. I am seeking out the local experts and will have them setup my table. If I need to adjust something than I will certainly have the knowledge and tools. """

I don’t think that you just " left "/come down from your family car and suddenly gone inside a car race driving in a race car.
No one borns with that knowledge level, always exist a learning curve when we go inside a " new territory " and high-end is a new territory for you.

Every single of your posts reflects that fact: a new territory where you amost know nothing even that you said: " how to do everything ".
One thing is what we can think and what we really know about.

What are you trying to explain all of us with your posts? that you are already at the top or nearest on that learning curve/ladder?

IMHO and with all respect to you the only truly wise action you took it was to ask in this forum, even that your questions were not the rigth ones.

How do you know which or where are those experts you are talking about and where you will leave everything in their hands?

""" experts and will have them setup my table. """

I already posted here: table set up is only a link on the overall audio chain.

I don’t know how will you know that not only the table set up but the audio system is running at least at average quality level for the items you own. ?. Sorry for my ignorance level but could be that I’m missing many things with your approach and through your posts.

""" it appears that a good number of you seem to enjoy working on your setup more than listening to music ... """

maybe and that’s part of the learning curve that seems to me you think already passed for. Today I just listening at 98% of my time.
 Do you think that K.Roseberg or N.Lauda never in true passed for that learning curve? or maybe you can live with " mediocrity/average " results. Is’t fine with you?, if yes then you don't need a diferent analog rig that the one you own.

Example: I'm sure that no one buy a Formula One car only to see it in the garage and switch on/off to " listen " the kind of " noise " motor. 

Anyway, I would like to know and could be interesting for you to share:  which is your reference to be sure the expert table set up is " perfect "/well done ?

Btw, I think that in audio the best path to go/start is to have an open mind, always.

Regards and enjoy the music,

Get a used (but with a really good bearing) VPI Mk IV table, get what ever arm and cartridge you want (within reason), and viola:

set up your stereo on a concrete floor, put the table into a closet - the isolation you'll get will propel the tables performance upwards several rungs - maybe over $15k worth of table .  Also throw in some small area rugs, and ASC full traps in the corners, 1/2 traps on the back wall.  Lose the turntable dust cover also, just use a sheet of plastic, nobody is going to see it in the closet, make sure the arm comes off the table at the end of the vinyl to save your nerves and cartridge.

My rig is that table, a Lou Souther linear arm, and a Shelter 501 Mk 3, and a second "bass" table MF 7.1 with an AR 33PTG/II.  Linears don't do bass that well, and linears that are pushed by air?  No thanks.

You might want to try for a lower end base table, and borrow/beg other tables to check out.  If you can't tell the difference it's a vanity purchase.  From the 70's onward the best cartridge you can get on an arm that resonates at the right frequency, with the proper alignment, on a belt drive table that has the motor isolated from the table is most of the way.  Then you've got to get a killer step up - most pre-amps can't do the job.  Big transformer fan, but top notch SS units like Pass's do very well too.

I'd ignore MM cartridges and stick with low/mid compliance MC's, and look at the linear trackers, no way an arm on a pivot can touch a linear for quiet grooves and low wear.  My UHQR's sure appreciate it.
Given how difficult it is to make turntable/arm/cartridge/phono stage comparisons in a meaningful way--a point I touched on earlier--CT0517's advice above is pretty good- get with some people--civilians, not dealers-- in your area-West Coast?- who have some top tables and spend some time hanging with them. Most audiophiles I know are very generous that way. You can thus avoid the dealer bias -- I'm not down on dealers, generally, but their job is to sell you what they offer-; you also want long time user experience, which can be invaluable. 
I "get" where you are coming from in terms of not wanting something fiddly but still being able to do routine maintenance and adjustments. 
If you are looking for something to buy and keep, and not be worried about the 'next best thing'  I'd do exactly what you are doing: researching, and spending some hands-on time with some of these turntables. 
I have my favorites and preferences but see no need to name check brands here- there are a lot of good tables and arms out there. 
good luck,
(I was a car guy too, and have fond memories of hurtling around the track in a CGT with Hurley Haywood as my coach for a day). 
bill hart

I can mainly speak from what I own and love: VPI Avenger turntable, Zesto Audio Andros 1.2 phono stage, and the
cartridge options are many: Ortofon, Transfiguration, Miayaja, Koetsu, etc.. all are excellent in their own right but vary based on your personal taste.  The VPI Avenger can be manufactured in belt drive with an analog speed controller by VPI (extra $1000) and gets a lot closer to the magnetic and direct drive, which gets at your diminishing returns question.  The avenger table also allows multiple arms if you own a lot of mono and stereo records.  I would go with the VPI Avenger (future proof), VPI ADS speed controller, Zesto phono stage (tube phono stage with multiple inpits and gain/loading flexibility), and one on the high end carts I mentioned above.  The dealer I work with sells all of it, and definitely think it will be under $25k and well in your budget.  Let me know if want to talk with him.  Best of luck
While it's tempting to focus on money (this entire thread does exactly that), as usual with audio gear and money, other things matter so much more. For example, I'm stunned to find almost no mention of MUSIC in this thread--certainly little if any from the fellow that started it.

And that's where I would want to begin this conversation. I couldn't start to understand his wants and needs without understanding what he started listening to in the first place--why he amassed all this pricey equipment at all. It totally matters whether he loves music (if so, what kinds?); vs just uses it for background, or for system demos (hey, it happens, just like w/Porsches--you think they're all used on racetracks?). Does he play an instrument? What's his connection to music in general?

Even for someone with far deeper pockets than most of  us, simply chasing ever more expensive gear is just an open-ended form of frustration...a gerbil wheel you never get off...unless the "pleasure principal" that underlying the whole enterprise is defined & confronted. Unless, that is, the only pleasure in sight is acquisition of hardware. In which case we're all just flailing in unison on this string.
I have an analogue front end that would be about $25K new - but I paid maybe half by buying used carefully over a few years.

You might want to consider doing that.
If someone doesn't mention his preferences in music and generally doesn't go into details, then there are reasons for that and in any case it's his business. Why push the man, even by some with elements of attempts at almost brainwashing ? Is this the price of 'club membership' to be like most? Also, some obviously envy his financial resources to a large degree. But even envy can be presented in different ways. He has to go on the defensive from time to time because we force him to. 
Bill's idea of local audiophiles is an excellent one, but I don't know if it can be realized, for various possible reasons. It's not West Coast, it's Denver, Colorado.

It was maxell tapes, not memorex...

I have a clearaudio innovation with an universal arm and an air tight cart.  Lovely sounding.  And above all, ultrasound cleaning is a must.   Needs to be included in any table thinking
@desktopguy My father owned and operated a small audio visual production company my entire life. I was fortunate in that I would receive his hand me downs from time to time including a reel to reel in my bedroom when I was around ten years old He also worked in the radio business and often brought home albums on a regular basis. I still remember him giving me this album by this band named Foreigner. I think it was 3 or 4 months before it started becoming popular, very fun. Anyway, music has and always will be a constant in my life whether I am working, driving, cooking, reading, etc. I have an in-ceiling Sonance system installed in our home for background music along with a Sonos tied to Tidal. For serious listening I listen to my new gear I acquired at RMAF last month. I have averaged 2 hours a night since I installed the new Voxativ equipment. Tonight was closer to 4 hours.

I enjoy all genres of music as long as it is quality music and most importantly was recorded well. I have a keen ear for quality growing up in the studio. Tonight I listened to the Cowboy Junkies, Bill Callahan, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, Chopin project, Yo Yo Ma (Goat Rodeo Sessions) and Anne Bisson. I also generally enjoy good female and male singers as well as classic jazz, blues, country to name some more. I have access to more than 5000 albums from my father’s radio days in his collection (mostly 50’s through the 70’s). Although many are not in great shape due to their frequent plays.

Lastly, I find it comical that many people on A-gon are questioning my reasoning or qualifications to own and operate a hi-end system. My father taught me how to use his very expensive professional equipment from a young age, showing me how to splice and edit 1/4 inch tape for example. How to use the mixing board and what all the sliders and pots controlled. So I am sorry I didn’t formally post my audio CV before eliciting advice from A-gon and have subsequently been called "rich", "stupid" and a "child". Think what you want, I have nothing to prove here. I am simply seeking advice and getting a lot of attitude - not from all but from many. I sincerely appreciate the actual well-intended advice.