Equal $$ for Phono OR Streaming?


Consider the following situation. A friend who's watched me put together my system has decided to follow suit. He's inherited some very good speakers and amplification (no DAC) from a relative and has about wants to finish out the main elements of the system with the best possible source. He has about $4-6k to spend and wishes to spend it on either a phono stage/TT combo OR a DAC/streamer combo. (For content, he is willing to spend either on vinyl or streaming services to fulfill whichever path he chooses above.)

Focusing simply on the potential for sonic quality (rather than, say, the variety of music one can stream), where do you think his money would best be spent and why? Could he reach the same outcomes after spending on a TT, cartridge, phono stage, record cleaner, isolation table and all the other accoutrements necessary for a good phono set up as he could if he bought a good DAC, streamer, etc.?

If your tastes weigh so heavily toward analog or digital that you can simply decide this without considering the details of the comparison, please try to set those aside and answer based on what he might be able to get for $4-6k.

8700e65e 845e 4b1b 91cc df27687f9454hilde45
Lol, you can be both a collector (of lp’s) and enjoy! Analog is well worth the effort and expense.
However, digital also must be done right, it is just much easier. Streamer should be first rate, you won't find serious dac for a few hundred dollars, cables are also important, as are power cords. 

I’m a vinyl guy, and I happen to think the very highest levels of check-the-box / by-the-book sound quality, plus enchantment, plus wow factor, are monopolized by vinyl.  But I enjoy digital 20% of the time and I’ve spent time and money going through several DACs.  With that backdrop, if I were your friend, I would buy a PS Audio Directstream, or a HoloAudio May, and assign himself the vinyl path as the step after that.  I just think it’s very hard to beat those DACs with vinyl for under $10-15k.  Cart + tonearm + table + phonostage + LPs is expensive all at once, and better approached iteratively.  And, that’s part of the charm of the analog hobby.  In contrast, you can jump straight to excellent sound with a DAC.  Once his vinyl side betters his digital (and that may take some trial and error, and it may be a few cartridges down the road), he’ll know he’s successfully gotten to the next ladder rung.  I’m jealous of him, in the same way I’m jealous that my wife hasn’t started The Wire yet.   
@hilde45

in my experience i have come to believe excellent streaming can be achieved at about 50-60% of the cost of a phono front end of equivalent quality (including the critical phono stages, cost are as paid, generally bought second hand)

i will use my own case in the front ends of my 2 systems (which i built for performance but with attention to value as well) to illustrate...

streaming 1: bluesound node 2i to sonnet morpheus dac or audio mirror tubador ($3500 cost including cables)
phono 1: well tempered labs amadeus/ps/dynavector tkr to ayre p5xe on townshend platform (~$6500 cost)

streaming 2: bluesound node 2i or w4s-modded sonos port to mhdt orchid w nos tube/adapter (~$2100 including cables)
phono 2: oracle delphi 2 tt/ps/origin live silver/benz glider to lehmann decade on townshend platform (~$4300)

key points:

1) phono front end does not include add’l paraphenalia like tt cover, stylus force gauge, feikert/mint alignment tools, strobe, anti static/zerostat, onbow, okki nokki cleaner etc etc... at least $1500 more there...

2) then, the record collection, if you don’t already have one will cost thousands to build!!! .... versus $200-300 a year for a lossless streaming service (or 2), a mere pittance...

3) while playing records is fun and a lovely ritual, i honestly enjoy streaming at least as much as playing records... and i enjoy the sound quality equally

4) note for $6 grand in second examples... you can have BOTH streaming and phono front ends...

hope this helps

I recently made the decision to say goodbye to my vinyl. I have over 1000 lp’s and will keep about 75. If your friend has made the decision to go analog I have an interesting collection that will soon be sold.