Allocation of analog resources

I'm at the point where I'm beginning to seriously trading up from my current analog rig (VPI Classic 1, JMW Memorial tonearm, Lyra Delos).  My next move may well be into separate 'table and 'arm.  I know there are no rules (but how about a guideline or two?) regarding how to allocate an upgrade budget?  In other words, if I pick a turntable that costs X dollars, about what percentage of X should I be expecting to spend on a tonearm that complements it, and what percentage of X should I be thinking of as a cartridge budget?  Obviously, it will vary from package to package, especially since some products punch well above their price, but what would you set as a starting point guideline?  

Thanks, and happy listening,
I owned a VPI Aries for twenty years with a JMW arm and a $2,500 cartridge. It was very synergistic with my system. I now own a Linn LP12 with Koetsu Rosewood signature. With the table and arm I would double or triple the cartridge investment. I think the table and arm would support that.
dawgfish, I do not think it is useful to look at it this way. First of all, what is the turntable you really want, the one that is a stretch but you know you could get there in time. Good turntables well cared for will last a lifetime.
So maybe you cheap out on the tonearm and cartridge knowing you will up grade them in the future. The turntable will determine your choice of tonearms and then the cartridge. The cartridge is a disposable item, the Turntable and tonearm not. You pick the tonearm that you like not one that fits your price ratio. If you can't afford the one you like now get the next one down knowing you can upgrade later. 

I’m gonna go with @Mijostyn here, with a few additional thoughts. First, the analog front end also consists of a phono stage so I think you have to take that into account in any effort to budget. Second, I’m a big believer in used gear, since a lot of the high ticket stuff depreciates fast, especially in flavor of the month circles. A reputable dealer/manufacturer who will stand behind what they sell is a thing to be cherished.
One turntable I always wanted to explore, but have not (given what I presently use) is the Platine Verdier. I think member @Syntax has some hands on experience with it, and might advise. (He could also say stay away, so his thoughts would be welcomed, at least by me).
The ability to run more than one arm is kind of nifty-- I have that ability with my table, see here, but it won’t balance easily on the Minus K platform I use for isolation, so, for practical purposes, I run one arm- a linear from Kuzma which requires an air compressor. That adds to complications, though truth be told the arm has been trouble free- the compressors require attention periodically.
I’m pretty brand agnostic-- I guess you have a variety of options- both with respect to drive systems and mass. I like what the high mass tables do, but you have to have the ability to isolate them, which may be problematic if you are dealing with springy floors.

Cartridges- pick your flavor. I’m currently running Koetsu stone bodies, but there are plenty of great cartridges out there. I’m not as inclined to go used on the cartridge. I think a lot has to do with associated equipment and how you want the system "voiced"-- it is almost impossible to evaluate these things in other systems, given all the variables in play, including room and set up.

Up your game- sure. Budget allocation? If I could buy a top of the line vintage Micro-Seiki, I’d lay out for it, even if it went beyond what you had initially planned to spend. But, that’s me. I heard a relatively cheap Audio Technica cartridge being played on one of the current uber tables with a vintage 12" arm, and it held its own with some tres cher LOMCs.
Have fun with this. It can be a long term investment that you should not have to worry about if you find the right source. Part of it may also come down to ergonomics and design aesthetic. I know, that sounds like the wrong way to approach this, but recognize that your perception of the table is going to include more than what it doesn’t sound like. (In my experience, the better the table the fewer artifacts it introduces to the sound, and discerning the absence of something isn’t easy until it is absent by comparison).
I was at this stage about 6 months ago. I had a system that was nice, but wasn't at the level I really wanted. I had been saving up for the last few years to purchase some components that would be a substantial jump in performance over what I was using. I had a basic UTurn turntable ($300) with an Ortofon Blue MM cartridge and their phono stage. It was really nice no-frills turntable that had moments of good clarity, but was never going to equal a higher end model. I was running it through a Yamaha integrate amp.

I decided to make a substantial jump in build quality and flexibility (ability to change tonearm in the future). I purchased a Dr. Feickert Volare turntable ($2900) after lots of research. I mated that with an Origin Live Onyx tonearm and a Hana SL MC cartridge. That is a big jump in cost compared to what I was using. I also replaced the Yamaha with a McIntosh c2700 preamp with a built in phonostage (I love the sound of tubes). This was a huge expense, but the sound improvement was absolutely stunning. My old system sounded like a wax cylinder recording in comparison. 

I don't suggest that anyone make that level of investment jump. This was a risky move to go from a sub $1000 turntable/tonearm/cartridge/phonostage/amp to components that are 10 times that in cost. I am lucky in having a family that actually talked me into spending that money. My wife now loves listening to albums (it was hit and miss before) because she says it now is closer to a live performance. 
@whart “front end also consists of a phono stage”

… he is very correct. The Phono stage is critical and inexpensive usually means highly compromised sound. My phono stage now costs the same as my turntable/arm/cartridge, but my system has sounded pretty good at 1/2 the cost of my TT/arm/cartridge. I think phono stages get good at around ~$5+ new.

I personally only buy used components with no moving parts. Mechanics can be misused and damaged in subtitle ways. Typically all electronic components work or they don’t. But my point of view is I don’t take things apart.

@femoore12 “This was a risky move to go from a sub $1000 turntable/tonearm/cartridge/phonostage/amp to components that are 10 times that in cost.‘

I adamantly disagree with this statement. I do understand that when you do a purchase like this it feels like a huge risk. But in reality it is not. Moving up in cost by 10x… unless you do something terribly wrong is a virtual guarantee of a jaw dropping, wonderful improvement in sound. This is the quickest and surest way to awesome sound. You cannot do it blindly… but this big of jump covers minor errors.

You could argue the risk is that if you just don’t care about the sound quality it could be a let down. But I don’t think you would be inclined to make such a move unless you already knew yourself well enough to know you do.

The quickest way to be frustrated by this pursuit is to trade sideways expecting big gains. To jump 10%… or 25%. Many of us have done the 10x and it proved the incredible opportunity for enjoyment and ongoing sonic improvements that are possible,
I have the same table. Since you’re using Lyra Delos, that means you likely have a $3-5K phono stage which allows it perform the way it should?

After that, you’re ready for a $10K+ setup. Open to used? Even better.
Research everything at your max tolerance level$. No shortage of choices, that’s for sure.

Used Avengers or DD HW 40’s show up used at decent prices now and then, if you want to stay VPI. Personally, I’d get a used HW40 and put a fancy 2nd aftermarket arm, call it a day.
Similar to what has been stated, my take on it is:

Table- learn and discover what basic sound quality the three drive types offer and to which you gravitate towards ( belt, idler, DD ). then get the best ( and best built ) you can now you have a foundation piece.

Tonearm- ditto above but for the three main tonearm types ( unipivot, gimbal, linear ). I would add the additional use/ handling factors for uni and linear in terms of comfort of use. Now out this on hold a bit and go to cart...

Visit carts is same way and circle back to tonearm when it comes to creating a happy tonearm/cart pair.
While everything matters I agree that cart is the best place to skimp as you will be replacing it at some point :)

Lastly phono preamp. This is hard as really good phono pre’s are expensive...but there are value leaders in the under $5k zone already well discussed here. Now you have a ’sound’ from the table/arm/cart start to demo phono preamps...

Have fun!
My current phono stage is an Audio Research PH-5 and I'm very happy with its performance.  (Although new tubes are probably in the offing -- it's always something...)

My basic premise is that balance is required in each part of your system.  I think there are a number of quality 'tables out there in the $5-7k range.  It seems to me that you're missing out on some (and maybe a lot) of what those decks can do if you slap a $900 arm on them.  At the other extreme, it doesn't make sense to me to put a $15k arm on a $5k turntable.  So what's the sweet spot -- something around $2.5-$4k for an arm?  And then the cartridge -- maybe I'd keep my Delos for some time, as it's almost brand new, but would it then become the limiting factor?  Should I look at moving up the Lyra line or look at a $4k Hana Umami Red or equivalent.  

I'm not so much looking for "buy this" recommendations, but general guidelines on how folks allocate their analog budgets.

Maybe it's too a vague a request.  If so, sit back and enjoy the music.  I know I will.

Happy listening,
I don`t think that your request is too vague, but there are many considerations.
Your phono stage is quite good, IMO, so I would concentrate on turntable/arm/cartridge, and roughly allocate one third of your budget to each component.
There are also a lot of second hand bargains out there. Second hand cartridges are a bit risky, but turntables and especially tonearms are pretty safe to buy. You can`t go very wrong with something from SME or Fidelity research.
Balance is important to some degree. Your Lyra cartridge is a good match with your AR phono stage and if you get a new cartridge it should have output about the same as the Lyra.

A good tonearm is very important, and a tonearm costing as much as your turntable is fine. You will get more out of your cartridge with a better tonearm.

A used AMG Giro turntable might be a consideration for you. The AMG tonearm is an excellent tonearm
"something around $2.5-$4k for an arm"

If you're adventurous, using the VPI as a temporary home for a really nice arm is another option.

Something like this, in the 10" would be a huge upgrade on the substantial Classic base. 

As some are mentioning, I wouldn't be so concerned about cart. Looks like you have competent phono stage to grow with.

Kuzma will put all your existing carts and future in another league. The arm can eventually go with  the appropriate Kuzma table, or whatever you decide, if  you don't get both at the same time.

Classic 1 is perfect tweakie base. It reminds me of the Rega P5 which can be jacked to approach the stock VPIClassic 1. Classic 1 with a few thought out tweaks should approach something near $10K.

Stock the Classic 1 is weak without SDS/Phoenix. Perhaps you already have that covered as well?  Arm and speed control should elevate it considerably.
The Audio Research PH5 is a good phono stage I have had a PH2, Ph2se, ~PH5, PH8, and now a Reference 3. All great phonostages at their price points.
I adamantly disagree with this statement. I do understand that when you do a purchase like this it feels like a huge risk. But in reality it is not. Moving up in cost by 10x… unless you do something terribly wrong is a virtual guarantee of a jaw dropping, wonderful improvement in sound. This is the quickest and surest way to awesome sound. You cannot do it blindly… but this big of jump covers minor errors.
This is an excellent point. I should have framed my comment that I saw as risky because I had never made this significant of a jump in cost before. I would have felt so guilty spending the money if I made a wrong decision and it sounded the same. However, it did work out well beyond what I expected. 


There is a used Dr. Feickert Woodpecker with a Kuzma Stogi 12" tonearm on another website for sale at $5,500. A lot of performance for the money

No relationship to seller. I just saw the ad.
 I sure understand the feeling though. When I did this the first time I knew that I would feel like and absolute idiot if this enormous expense didn’t pan out. It would be a permanent mark against the pursuit and my judgement. 
Having done this many times now I realize the risk is not that high.
You are on the right track to be looking at table and arm as separate components. There is no right or wrong way of doing it. Also the idea of having everything be about the same level is fine and normal, but only if you don't look too closely at it. Then you find that by far the best way to go is find a table (or arm) that is a LOT better than your current arm (or table).   

You don't "lose" or "miss out" on anything doing it this way. Quite the opposite, you gain, big time.   

For example, I started with a Basis table, Graham arm and Benz Glider. After quite a few years the Glider was upgraded to Ruby. This was a nice improvement. Everything was really well balanced performance-wise.  

Until I started to realize all the inherent problems with so many connections in the signal path. One of my strongest suggestions whatever you do, avoid anything with a phono interconnect. Look for an arm with integral hard wired phono leads. Less money, better sound. 

The Basis table was upgraded to my own build of the Teres turntable. This was a nice upgrade about in line with cost. In hindsight I would say the table and arm were about equal in cost and performance.  

Then I upgraded from Graham to Origin Live Conqueror. This was huge! Game changer. Whole other league. Not even close. That arm cost more than the table. Think I cared about that? Not one bit!   

The smart move in your case I think is to plan for something like that. Look for either a really good table you can run your current arm on for a while, or a really good arm you can put on your VPI. When doing this you will find it helps a lot to ignore all the advice you will get about compliance, mass, etc etc yada yada. Focus instead on what will actually fit without modification. Because resale on your VPI will impact total cost and nobody wants to buy a drilled up VPI. VPI buyers are plug and play. You are moving beyond that but need to keep them in mind to some extent.    

This is if you want to build your own choosing from everything out there new or used. If you want to buy new it gets a lot easier. Study Origin Live website. Tremendous amount of info including their recommendations for how much to spend on each part. Having done this now since the 1970's I have to say he is right about the table and arm being far more important than the cartridge. Also what he has to say about the "value" of compliance and a lot of other technical stuff so many audiophiles focus on. Get a good arm and you can forget all that and just focus on how it sounds.  

Huge subject. Hope this helps.