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.
WRM, If you ask a barbershop question, you get a barbershop BS session.

Yes, Whart, a REAL 1955 550RS Spyder, serial number 0053.  James Dean's car was 0055.  I got it as a complete but shabby car in 1986, about when values started to rise like a rocket, and I very stupidly sold it in around 1999, after having restored it to perfection.  Original engine, transmission, all numbers matching.  Sometimes I dream I still own it.  Some other times I want to kill myself for selling it. Actually, I would as soon have back my 1959 Carrera GT Speedster.  That was a more drivable car for the street and might arguably be as valuable today as a 550.  It's more rare than a 550.  100 mph in the Spyder on the DC beltway really focuses the mind, I can tell you.

How about a relative way of looking at it such as ’equal to the amount spent on speakers’ or ’1.5 x amp + pre’?

I just did a quick calculation: I spent 66% more on my analog front end than on my speakers. In fact the  analog front end was almost equal to 

A methodology such as this very loosely correlated what the system will be able to deliver at the ear.
Lewm- how wonderful that you had stewardship of that car. Thanks for the reply. I'm not a "Porsche guy" (though I've owned a few of them and have enormous respect for the marque). The question--not to derail this thread- is whether you'd be willing to put such a valuable car in traffic today. I admire the people who do, but it takes a certain mindset. Good for you! 
whart,whenever I drive a 356 or similar car on the roads today, I always drive in one mode only----Defensive!! To say it takes a certain mindset is so very true...........but its better than having the vehicle rot away as a trailer queen, lol.
Davey- yes, and the same thing comes up (at a slightly different cost/risk) with certain valuable old pressings. I choose to play them rather than keep them on a shelf for posterity. As far as public roads go, it's the wild west out there! Drive safe. 
This thread is inspiring me to set up my old Rega Planar II in the back seat of my Porsche 911. Maybe a McIntosh car amp in between, and some of those Gallo speakers over the dash? I’m guessing the point of diminishing returns would come mighty quick (at least that’s one clear answer for the OP).
Yes, Whart, a REAL 1955 550RS Spyder, serial number 0053.  James Dean's car was 0055.  I got it as a complete but shabby car in 1986, about when values started to rise like a rocket, and I very stupidly sold it in around 1999, after having restored it to perfection.  Original engine, transmission, all numbers matching.  Sometimes I dream I still own it.  Some other times I want to kill myself for selling it. Actually, I would as soon have back my 1959 Carrera GT Speedster.  That was a more drivable car for the street and might arguably be as valuable today as a 550.  It's more rare than a 550.  100 mph in the Spyder on the DC beltway really focuses the mind, I can tell you.

If you still had those two Porsches today Lew....you'd be able to afford all the $10,000-$15,000 MC cartridges on the market today.....
And realise that most of them don't compete against your Acutex 320LPM....😜
...so I’m just asking what do you consider "suitable"?
Orpheus10, my apologies for the delay. A bit over a dozen years ago, I was on a similar search to the one the OP finds himself. Over our time in this hobby, my wife and I have made it our practice to choose for what makes a difference in our musical enjoyment and to change equipment only infrequently. When we have made an equipment change, we’ve sought to make it a material improvement in our enjoyment of music and not make lateral moves. Typically, I do the research, come up with candidates and then my wife (who is my listening partner) joins me in the listening evaluations.

A dozen years ago, our search was for a "final" turntable that would be the turntable to which we could expect to end our audio ventures still listening.

The turntable we settled on is one we probably could not afford today, but the price at that time, while still very much a stretch, was one we could manage. We’ve never regretted the investment for an instant.

That turntable is the Walker Audio Proscenium Gold turntable. You can find the review I posted on Audiogon here:

Rushton, I'm sure I've seen that one in "Stereophile". Since I've got a good movie on pause, I'll complete my post later on. I was just about to throw the towel in on you.

As far as I'm concerned you probably can't get any better.

Talk back atcha in a while
I'm sure I've seen that one in "Stereophile". 
No, not on Stereophile but it has certainly been in The Absolute Sound (Jonathan Valin) and Positive Feedback (David Robinson).

Rushton, you didn't disappoint; no matter what the rest of the rig consists of, the source is the King. I've never heard anything in that ballpark, not even in the high end salons.

I'm sure that table is in one of the Stereophile issues, I'll find it tomorrow.

May you and your wife ride on sonic clouds of bliss till the end of time.
mmporsche,  Forums become quickly side tracked in addition to being littered with opinions of individuals who obviously have never owned nor heard any similarly priced analog setup.  If posting another thread here has not yet convinced you of this already, then just give it time.  Where to draw the line, you ask, well just far enough to achieve your personal bliss... or maybe just beyond.  My opinion, coming from someone knowledgeable (myself), who lives for analog and music, around $25k, for pure playback ability the Artisan Fidelity Achates Idler drive, Reed 2A arm, and used Tron Electric phono preamp.  Another front end to consider, if going the belt drive route might be a TW Acustic Raven AC, but definitely a unique flavor and slightly more mellow to my ears.  TW's arms are decent but not my "cup of tea", if you will, so would try a Reed perhaps or Schroeder entry level instead.  The Herron tube phono stage might be another serious candidate if you cherish musicality and flexibility not to mention lies around your price range.  

Did someone mention a 1959 Carrera GT Speedster? Vintage Porsche for the collector, another real beauty...

mmporsche, Forums become quickly side tracked in addition to being littered with opinions of individuals who obviously have never owned nor heard any similarly priced analog setup.

This thread has already become littered with too many "Ferrari250's".
Car talk aside, Ferrari250 actually makes a cogent point which echoes something I wrote a while back in the thread; the OP needs to narrow down his choices based on picking a drive system before proceeding.  The best of the best belt-drive, idler-drive, and direct-drive turntables will each have a subtle sonic signature that is a product of its very nature.  Only by listening in one's own system can one discern which flavor is personally preferred over the long haul.  For example, after a lifetime of audiophilia, I find that I prefer idler-drive and direct-drive vs belt-drive, but I realize others may feel differently.  What I do think is that it takes more bucks to acquire a belt-drive that can compete at the same level with less costly idler- and direct-drive turntables. 

F250, I found the Carrera GT literally in a barn in far northern Vermont in 1979.  There was hay in the car, and some of the parts were in the rear of the barn covered with more hay.  The owner had advertised it in the NY Times, and up to the time I went to see it, had had virtually no responses, for $12,000 minus the correct engine.  I later acquired the factory correct original engine from an eccentric Porsche mechanic in Canada.  With its pushrod engine installed, I drove the Speedster from the purchase point somewhere outside Burlington, VT, to my home in Washington, DC, with no top on the car, praying it would not rain and that I would not freeze to death. It ran beautifully, and I enjoyed the trip.  There's nothing quite like a long star-lit night drive in a primitive open car.

Yes, Halcro, I would be in clover if I still owned those two cars.

The point of diminishing return is that where it will take significantly more investment in order to make a minor improvement- one that might not even be worth writing home about.

In LP reproduction you have four things that have to be tended to properly:

1) the arm must be able to track the cartridge such that there are no LPs made that can stress it in any way whatsoever. This requires a fair amount of adjustability of the arm. The ability of the arm to track the cartridge correctly is **far** more important than the actual choice of cartridge! Its the time spent setting up the arm correctly wherein lies the payoff.

2) vibration and damping control in the platter pad is a lot more important than most people think and is more important than speed control. It affects the tonality and neutrality of the 'table in a big way.

3) Rigid and absolute coupling between the platter spindle and the cartridge body must exist. To this end, the coupling and deadness between the platter bearing and the base of the arm must be absolute; further there shall be no play or 'slop' in the bearings of either the platter or the arm.

4) speed control is the least important but should not be ignored! If the speed varies slightly, any radial tracking arm with experience changing tracking pressure on the channels encoded in the groove. This results in a slight 'shimmer' in the soundstage, something that anyone who has heard a good RtoR setup knows exactly what I'm talking about (since tape is immune to this issue). You can't hear slight speed variation as pitch, you hear it as a shimmer in the sound stage.

The Triplanar easily represents the point of diminishing return in tonearms (if not also the state of the art). It has the world's hardest metal bearings, meaning that they can be adjusted for zero slop (which can't be done with jeweled bearings) and will stay that way for decades. Further, its the most adjustable arm made. It has a damped arm tube. The bearings are mounted in the plane of the LP surface, insuring constant tracking pressure with bass and warp. While there might be other arms that can do some things better, there is no arm that covers **all** the bases as well.

Platter pads are tricky. The unquestionably best one was made by Warren Gehl before he started at Audio Research. He recognized back in the 1970s how important controlling vibration in the LP was and spent close to 15 years getting it right. Its long out of production but is still the deadest and most neutral with the correct durometer. One of the currently available better alternatives (which we use on our turntables) is the platter pad made by Oracle. The pad should be the same hardness as vinyl (not harder and not softer) so as to not reflect vibration or favor a frequency band. In addition it should have damping properties to control both the LP and the platter. Its a big deal and hugely ignored or plain just misunderstood, including by most manufacturers!

As far as the 'table itself, the new Technics SL1200G is an example of diminishing return. The only turntable made that is more speed stable is the Technics SP-10 MkIII (that is to say, the performance of the new SL1200G is closer to the SP-10 MkIII than is the SP10MkII; place a Sutherland Timeline on its platter and you will see what I mean). In addition, the new SL1200G (quite unlike the older SL1200s) has a rigid plinth that is also damped (with three different damping systems and the platter is damped too). It is surprisingly well thought out.

If one mounted a Triplanar on this turntable (which is possible as the stock arm is easily removed), one would have achieved a very good example of the point of diminishing return, as such a machine will easily compete with turntables costing 10s of thousands of dollars more no worries and will easily blow away cheaper examples.

Triplanar 'Classic' arm: ~$5000
Technics SL1200G $4000
Oracle platter pad $300
cartridge of your choice:

That fulfills the diminishing returns criteria. I think there are more examples, but this combo seems to be one of the best. 

Apparently the analog forum has become a status forum as opposed to what is stated. Notice the statements made by expensive sports cars.

This might be a reflection of this society; not only do we worship wealth, but those with wealth expected to be worshiped. That is what is stated between the lines with the veneer of analog audio.

That's not the worst, the worst is that those without out such wealth, actually worship those with it, thereby reinforcing the behavior of the "Lamborghini's"

If that sounds like it's off thread, this trolley jumped it's tracks sometime ago.
Hi orpheus10,

The trolley jumped the tracks way before that I'm afraid. 

Best to you orpheus10, sincerely,

Issues over the OP's user name, Porsche and any sizable amount of money spent toward a turntable started with the first response. There has been an undercurrent of skepticism toward higher priced turntables in this thread and the discussion about sports cars seems to have added to it. But, as one of those who posted on both subjects (high end turntables and sporting cars) in this thread, I ask you to look for any hint of snobbery, elitism or "wealth worship" on the part of those who made such contributions. In fact, most of the folks I know who have spent oodles on turntables are not rich people--they just have different priorities. Likewise, many of us who have owned exotic or vintage cars are not necessarily rich (I pointed out the example of Ed Niles, above, who was a work a day lawyer with a keen recognition of the value of obscure sports cars long before they became cherished museum objects).
Perhaps the topics are analogous- both represent embodiments of mechanical engineering and design, sometimes to a very high level. But, don't confuse that with worship of Mammon. That's certainly not where I'm coming from and I doubt some of the others who contributed to both topics here are encouraging an elitist view.  You can enjoy these things without rancor.
bill hart
Orpheus, You don't know me at all, so please temper your assumptions regarding my character.

Lewm, you ignored the statement "Littered with opinions of those who obviously never owned or heard any similar priced setup".

"Litter" is stuff that belongs in the trash can, does it not?

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

That was the original question. No where is 100k implied, or anything approaching a "Statement of the art" rig.

It is but natural that there are many different price points that will answer the original question; even those who are "littering" the discussion.

Lewm, I don't know you at all, and I don't recall addressing you personally until now.

My statement was meant for two types of people; those who are wealthy, and expect to be worshiped, and those who wish they were wealthy, and worship those who are wealthy; which one are you?

The first response was quite reasonable. The only difference between his and my own is I would include 2k worth of tweaks, and possibly different tone arm wire if it was feasible.

My apology in advance for being one of those who are "littering" the discussion.

I liked "Oilmanmojo's" response; Dual was one of the top line turntables for me, and I loved Sansui tuners, Bose 601 corner speaker was considered boss as well.

That was long before I stumbled into a high end salon. Rushton responded positively to his post. Me and Oilmanmojo have come along way since those happy days of Dual and Bose.

I don't know where mmporsche is now, but my statement was about the "undeniable" undercurrent in this discussion, that I implied with the "Lamborghini" post.

There is nothing I hate worse than being misunderstood, therefore I will explain my opinions explicitly.

This post is for those who are not wealthy. I bought "Speakerlab" speakers back in the day when"Bose" and "Klipschorn"" were considered the big dogs.

Klipschorn paid Speakerlab to quit selling kits that were too much like their speakers.

I bought interconnect wire by 100 foot rolls that was sold by a company that sold to TV and Radio stations. This wire was a silver and copper composite. They no longer sell that wire to individuals. I asked for the replacement wire, and I don't know why I haven't thrown what the sent me into the trash because it's no good.

Any time the poor man finds a way to get around "truly obscene high prices" they pay the guy to quit manufacturing whatever it is.

No one knows how many millions they pay those people, because it happens without any news, you just can't find whatever it is any more.

While I've mentioned things like this before, the vast majority on "Audiogon" agree with such behavior; I don't know why? Unless a person has stock in one of the companies it's of no benefit to him; it doesn't matter to those who are wealthy, but it matters a great deal to those who aren't. Fortunately I have enough of that interconnect wire to last a life time. I even had a business selling "interconnects"; that got around by word of mouth. Of course I don't have any more wire to sell for interconnects.

I look at "Sherlock Holmes" and "Hercule Poirot" a lot. I find it most interesting how the "serfs" bow and scrape before the wealthy, and how the wealthy even had someone to help them dress. That went on for ages.

Not just too long ago, the "serfs" had the highest standard of living in the USA ever in the history of mankind. That's all been lost. Now if a "Serf" has a big screen TV, he considers himself wealthy; maybe when he can no longer afford a big screen TV he will have to face reality; but that requires a brain, and TV has squashed that.

Is this "off thread"? Maybe and maybe not. If you can afford a "Lamborghini", this is most certainly off thread. If you are in the "middle class" that no longer exists because those jobs are in Asia, this post is quite pertinent.

I like to see where people's minds are; if they are aware of other important things beside "audio". Although this is not the forum, there are very smart, highly educated people here at "Audiogon".

There is nothing wrong with being rich; J.F.K. was rich, and he made a big difference in the lives of people who were not rich. The first thing somebody is going to say is "He was a Libural". What's that? it's some word people are programmed to use when they can't think of anything else to say.

Democrat, Republican; those two words are meaningless; they are words politicians use to screw us all around. After they eradicate the people like me, and others who have the ability to think; it's game over.

Many people have blasted me when I got off base. Now I need to know if there are any who approve of getting offbase occasionally?

Enjoy the music.  
Get some Wilson Alexandrias and you'll quit chasing that rainbow of supreme sound.  Heck, even some Sophia 3's would be heavenly.  I don't care what electronics you have, the speaker is always the end guy on the food chain and the one that you'll benefit from the most with good investment.

He already has the spruce cone and paper whizzer Voxativ 9.87 which can be driven by a mere 2watts - so I suspect Alexandrias as good as they may be are not on the cards.

Thats a hot debate there .. i have a thread on it and it gets heated lol .. i thought that too , but i have surpassed my 5k retail speakers easily messing with tt phono sect and cables .. i think it is relative to the speakers personnally. I could see a set of say 20k cresendos with a serious  Nottingham etc in the 20-30k easy with phono, cables  and cart . I would be looking heavy at linear tracking in that range myself . But i can't  run with the porshe bigdogs i have too many guutars lol 
As usual, Bill says it well.
Oleschool, I had no idea you like Nottingham, you always mention VPI.
The word is, including Fremer’s word, that Pear Audio’s $10k top of the line table/arm are exceptional. Pear Audio tables/arms is reincarnation of Nottingham reflecting the latest disigners’s ideas. I haven’t heard that table, few did actually, but given a chance I could take a risk and get it. The alternative for me would be Nottingham Dais with their best arm. But as I said, I would consider SME too, unless I just decided to get the Pear Audio.
inna ,
Its hard to beat up on a product that kicks ass. Honestly this thread is above my level.I am very interested though,and have some dream tables in my head lol

how about that Acoustic Signature Ascona that just came up ?
Today's fantasy may be tomorrow's reality. At this level, as I said, I have faith in British tables. When you go even higher, everything is open. However, I will never go higher, this level would be enough for me. Besides, I am planning tape project, reel to reel deck, not to mention electronics, speakers and cables upgrades. This should keep me busy for many years. I rarely upgrade but when I do it is always a big step, even if I only upgrade one cable.

Does anyone own this rig?; it's from "Continuum Audio Labs"; Caliburn, Cobra, Castellon; Turntable, tonearm, stand.


Enjoy the music.

Dear @garretc: Agree, speakers/room are perhaps the most important link in an audio system along the source. Now, not all kind of electronics can make an Alexandria/room can really " dance ", we have to take care here too.

@shadorne pointed out that the speakers choosed by @mmporsche can be driven by " a mere 2 watts ": so what?, that's does not means that the Voxativ are the best out there.

In the high end audio world the audio link where we can find more manufacturers and models is precisely on: speakers, because its critical importance as you said and because exist no perfect speakers. Even inside same speaker manufature there are diferent speaker " flavors ".

Perhaps and is only  my opinion the hardest audio link to choose is the " rigth " speakers  and for mmporsche was the easy link.

Regards and enjoy the music,
@rauliruegas I chose the Voxativ loudspeakers and integrated amp because it was the best combination I heard at the show within my budget, actually triple my budget but how can you put a price on love.

They sounded the most natural compared to the other speakers I listened to for a number of days and in the past.  I am very satisfied with my purchase and have become a strong proponent for point source speakers - at least Holger's.  

I spent a number of hours listening to the Gavia II from Thom Mackris.  Very nice presentation.  However, we switched over to his prototype rim drive using magnets and I became hooked on the more pronounced delivery of each note.  Problem is the deliverable product is slated for 6-9 months away and the price is well above my total budget.  I am now focused on an Artisan Fidelity Lenco table.  I may just pull the trigger and try it out.
Almost forgot to mention that we connected my "meager" Parasound JC3+ and it was not a significant downgrade over the Herron.  The Herron had a better soundstage whereas the JC3+ felt a little more constrained, however, it was not horrible.  Likely the difference between SS compared to tubes.  Certainly a quality phone stage for the money IMO.
Dear @mmporsche : Lenco, good. Do you already decided the cartridge/tonearm combination and the rigth phono stage for your speakers/room can really " dance "?

regards and enjoy the music,
I am looking at a used AF Lenco with an Origin Illustrious arm.  I really enjoyed the sound of the Soundsmith cart at RMAF this year but I am very open to suggestions.  Please and thank you.
If you go that route, you might have AF make a couple extra arm mounting boards, finished as you want, so you don’t have to try to match finishes at some future time.
@railiruegas I agree with you entirely about speakers being the key. I was just acknowledging that mmporsche has gone down a particular path that likely precludes a very costly switching of speakers. For sure the Wilson Alexandria would be in another different league (not necessarily better if you like low power tube amps) and  from what I can gather Mmporsche is really into the single driver whizzer cone style speaker and he has top of the line in this style.
Dear mmporsche, I think the AF Lenco is one of several good choices available, and it is not crazy expensive, either.  Good decision.  I own a highly tweaked Lenco L75 myself, so of course I would approve.  So it sounds like you've got both "ends" of a system, and all you need is the "middle", the phono stage, linestage, and amplifiers.  High quality SET is very suitable for Voxativs but I urge you to consider low power OTL tube amplifiers as well, such as the S30 from Atma-sphere.


some comments on what you said earlier.

I started with a $6 to $10K budget and now I am considering a $25K setup

I spent a number of hours listening to the Gavia II from Thom Mackris. Very nice presentation. However, we switched over to his prototype rim drive using magnets and I became hooked on the more pronounced delivery of each note. Problem is the deliverable product is slated for 6-9 months away and the price is well above my total budget.

First - You will never forget that moment. Also things in the analog vinyl world move real slow (33.3 rpm) :^)
 6-9 months is but a blip.

Secondly - in regards to budgets. If you have multiple "interests", I find that budgets are all relative anyway. For example with my own experiences.
I have two constant year round interests - running and music (meaning buying/acquiring of music)
I also have at least three seasonal interests; audio gear (colder months), cars and boats (warmer). It's a good thing these are seasonal interests. fwiw I spent more on running shoes in 2016 than actual audio gear.

So just something for you to consider before you make a decision. This is after all a hobby. I know in my case also when Audiophilia Nervosa does strike,  I tend to remember those moments. 

Cheers Chris

"Apparently the analog forum has become a status forum as opposed to what is stated. Notice the statements made by expensive sports cars. "

The following is not based on any real persons living or dead and any resemblance to any serious remark is totally coincidental.

You want status? My wife is a four star chef and my mistress has B52s and can crack walnuts with her A__.  ;^)

Enjoy the music and keep your sense of humor.
After much consideration I purchased a used Artisan Fidelity Lenco.  

Lewn,i already have everything except a cart and possibly a better phono stage. Rauliruegas has offered to help me choose an appropriate cart. I expect to receive the table late next week. 

Thank you for the suggestions. 
@mmporsche Congrats. Raul's advice is a valuable asset. Looking forward to your comments about how it all sounds when you get it setup. The AF tables are certainly beautiful, I'd love to hear them one day. Cheers,

Post removed 

I just acquired a Townshend Rock 7. I've been in this hobby almost 3 decades. I purchased a VPI Classic 3 SE Sig a year ago.

This Townshend Rock 7 (blows) the VPI away my friend! And at a significantly lower retail cost. The problem is, it is no longer in production. Be on the lookout for any Townshend table. His designs, defy the norm.

That is such a cool table. I was a dealer for Transfiguration cartridges and thought they were excellent. Not to bright like many MC cartridges, just a sound you can love. 

Let us know.


Table is arriving Wednesday sans cart though @rauliruegas is helping with that piece.

I picked up another load of vinyl from my dad’s collection yesterday. Can’t wait to hear it on new table. Having great fun listening to some truly classic music in the meantime (ella, Nina, Vaughn, Frank, Sammy......)

Also grabbed one of his reel to reel machines.....ugh, does it ever stop. Now I’m also looking for great r2r source material.
Audio manufacturers love it when they have fooled people that more expensive = better or newer = better.Its all hype smoke mirrors and masks.I would have more respect for the question if it were about the least costly turntable arm and cart that sounded good.Your question has no valid answer.