How Much Is TOO MUCH for a Analog front End?

Hello All
I have a question hopefully you can help me decide.After having had the "bug" (you all know what I mean) for much of my fomative years, I have reached a point in my evolution that I've got the urge to upgrade my front end to that last step.
What I am contemplating is a purchase I am almost afraid to make. Having read soo much about these killer tables from various "cottage" companies (Teres,Redpoint,Galibier,etc) I have really got the itch.Not that my current front end isn't giving me enjoyment.It consists of a VPI HW-19 mk III in between 3 and four status, twl modded OL Silver arm,with various carts, a 103,Dyna DV-20X etc.,
but what I'm getting hot and heavy about is a Galibier Gavia,Schroder mod 2 or maybe Redpoint Medel B with the same mod 2 arm?
but were talking roughly $9-10k not exactly lunch money.
So this brings us to the question How much is TOO much for a table/arm set up? (now thinking about it this maybe the wrong place to ask this question lol) should it be in proportion to my income?
give me some input.In all honesty, I won't be able to purchase it til maybe August If I start saving now.
Please give me some indication,as I am bordering on an Intervention!!

you have a fine front end I myself have a VPI Hw-19 yes i will upgrade but i just don't beieve we have to spend thirty thousand plus to have a first class analog system.
I suggest that you listen to your dream setup and see if it is something that you are willing to spend the money for. Listen also to things less expensive and things more expensive and make an informed decision.

You may have answered your own question. You've certainly hinted at an answer. If spending a certain sum for a certain item would cause you to feel stessed, guilty, financially stretched, etc. then that is too much for you to spend. Of course only you can weigh those emotional and financial factors.

Stringreen's advice is reasonable but perhaps premature. Listening to a "dream" setup that you ultimately decide you can't afford may not be the best move. Better to decide on a budget you can live with first, then listen to things that seem within reach.

We've had visits from several A'goners in the last year. Several of them ended up spending a great deal more money than they planned. One recent visitor came to hear a Teres table. He ended up buying a used Teres/Schroeder and he's very happy. Somewhat to his surprise, he has also ended up buying our cartridge, preamp, amp and even RCM! That little visit cost him $16-18K more than he'd planned, and that was with finding everything used.

So be careful what you audition, you might like it!
FWIW, don't forget that the differences between a good 3K front end and a 10K front end are very subtle and would be lost in the actual performance limitations imposed by many average/good quality phono pres, pres, amps, and speakers (and it only takes one turkey in the chain to defeat the benefits of the new system).

If you already have a high-performance (resolving) system, look at your check book balance, the extent to which your wife's eyes bug out when you tell her what you want to do, look at the stars when on your knees praying, and hope you make the 'right' choice! :-)

I still look at the glossy photos of naked women in the rags at my barber shop, but I always go straight home. Nice to have something to dream about..........:-)
Dougdeacon,excellent advice.Its nice to listen to great stuff but if you really cant afford it,waste not your time or the sellers.
All present good points,I needed some grounded views, but it seems after reading many threads,reviews,posts etc. It would seem that many are taking this step to audio nirvana, I know this should not be a determmining factor, but with the way inlation and adjusted costs have risen, what was a $3k set up of the 80's is now the $7-8K setup.Am I thinking right? I don't want to come across as If I will make this purchase every 3 years or so this may (WILL) be my last
front end while I can then focus on fine tuning the rest of my set up.
Schipo good point but how far can you take it? give me a few pointers, what made it so satisfying?

Newbee, for being a "Newbee" you are wise beyond your namesake as I think about it my chain may have some weak links that WILL get exposed with this newer HIGHER resolution front end.

Thanks all but please keep the thoughts coming
What kind of isolation are you using for your VPI? I recently improved the performance of my Nakamichi Dragon simply by using pneumatic isolation - a bicycle tube (partially inflated) between the stand and the shelf under the TT. I had the shelf, so my cost was $5. I own a VPI HW 19 Mk IV, and know - with it's stand alone motor - that it's a heavy unit. But you might look into the possibilty of something like that if you don't already have the TT well isolated.
To me, it sounds like you should wait. Great TTs like the Galibier and Teres will still be around in a few years. If you are dying to change something until you feel comfortable spending the money, you might try a different angle... While the sound is different, you might try doing something like a Lenco/ROK/similar in a new plinth a la the "Home Despot" thread. From all I have read, you can get considerable quality for not huge money. You could probably buy/rebuild/replinth a Lenco, do a Ladegaard tonearm set-up and that would put you out $2k or less, leaving a lot of money for a cart, an arm which could be used on any table you wish in the future, and it would teach you a fair bit about what makes a TT work and what makes it work well.
Maybe you should just play CDs for a month or two. I'd bet that when you return to playing LPs on your VPI it would sound unbelievably fabulous just as it is.

Another consideration: Is you VPI modifiably to their new rim drive? Maybe that would provide that extra weight and pace that gives people the urge to turn to a mass-loaded turntable such as the ones you mentioned.
For us working Joe - $10-15K should get you there close to Nirvana. Ridiculous table like the Continuum Caliburn is just that - plain ridiculous. For the money, the Teres 340 with the Verus drive is an excellent choice and great value; throw in the Graham Phanthom or Triplanar VII and a Lyra Titan and you are there; I was plenty happy with that combination for a long while till i found my custom TT with the Kuzma Airline.

The Schroeder i am sure is very good but not worth the wait and i don't think can beat the Air bearing tonearm. Also, once you heard a good mass-loaded Turntable (i am sure to get some hate mail now), the VPI or Oracle is NO match !!

So to answer your question, how much is TOO MUCH - well it depend on your pocket book but anything above $30-40K is too much in my opinion...
Not too long ago I went from a very respectable table setup that was tweeked to sound much better than stock.

I went to a Raven One/Graham Phantom (using the same cart I had on the old table).

A fanastic analog front end is the best purchase I could have made. I will most likely never upgrade (Unless I suddenly came unto a ton of money)because the amount I would have to spend to significantly better that system is just way out of range. Sure I'll consider a better cart, possibly an SRA stand, who knows possibly even upgrading to the stand alone motor, but not the table and arm. I believe the level of improvement from a top end analog front end is so profound, that the results would be audible even on a mid fi system!

Now I'm not suggesting someone drop a $10K turntable/arm onto a $5K system, but I think even a modest $10K system would sound that much better with a $10K table/arm - even with a cheap cart!

The cart can always be upgraded down the road, but you would have the building block of a reference system. I doubt that many of us here who actively play LP's wake up thinking "damn I should have just kept my old table."

Not to start any wars, but if your were thinking of dropping $10K on a digital front end, I would not have the same advice for you. In fact I'd tell you to probably get a $1000 PS Audio Dac driven from a computer or perhaps their new $1500 transport.

Analog is mature, fantastic sounding, and a top rig can easily keep you happy for the next 15 years or more while the rest of your system evolves.

And believe me, I am by no means loaded.
This is a valid point I've often thought about but never got atound to. Currently my 19 rests on 3 generic brass cones glued to the base, sitting on a 5/8" slab of marble,all ontop of a Target wall mounted shelf.what are your thoughts?

first off I envy you but love you system,I sit here with my eyes closed dreaming about what it must sound like.Funny you should mention this regarding the Lenco as I had a chance to buy one and declined b/c all I could think is now I have this table but not the know how to build/replinth.
these type of projects have always interested me .
Does any one know of a suitable builder to accomplish this?

I have not heard of this from VPI I must research.

but I'm still saving :^)!!
If you are going to consider going to that level, a much more audible improvement can be had by a different route for your LP playback. Get someone to upgrade the resisitors your phono section; This is completely independent of the brand, how much it costs, etc, since there are NO manufacturers out there that are doing the entire signal path all with Vishay resistors. They are not cheap (I guess its relative........they are compared to the 5 figures you are considering for a new table), but will give you resolution you never even knew existed on the LP. They also lower the noise floor a ton.


Braab, There seem to be various views on the best way to mount components, from very rigid to not rigid. On another forum (the crooked path) there has been an ongoing thread about this. One person - a recording engineer who has obviously spent a lot of time and work on setting up his room and system - believes that ground vibrations are a main culprit in degrading sound. Therefore, do NOT strive for rigidity from the component to the ground. He recommended the pneumatic idea, in addition to which he uses a type of ball bearing assembly under components. The pneumatic aspect takes care of the vertical vibration while the ball bearings allow the energy from the lateral vibrations to disipate harmlessly. I haven't tried the bearings yet but will. And, by the way, he especially believes that isolating digital components this way is beneficial. But just using the tube under my TT has - I do believe - improved the performance noticeably. I think this works. The bearings idea is still theory to me, yet to be tested.
12-28-07: Braab8
I have not heard of this from VPI I must research.
Here's a closeup picture of the feature, and here it is on the VPI Super Scoutmaster Reference Turntable. Supposedly it'll be available separately as an add-on option, but details are sketchy. It's shown and listed as a separate add-on in MusicDirect's hard copy catalog, but it had no determined price and few details at that point.
I'd say whatever your reasonably comfortable spending should be the limit... i.e. there is obviously no set limit.

Some folks have lots of money and the thought of spending many thousands doesn't fly, others I'm sure have excellent tables in more modest homes for example. It's all about priorities.

I'm moving from a Scoutmaster to a Raven AC, (finally decided on that over Raven One), as over time I have changed my perspective on upgrades. I used to like incremental upgrades but now think it makes more sense to take a big leap to your "dream" component, (assuming you can fund it), and stay there for much longer. Fewer bigger steps if you will. No right or wrong way, just my opinion.

So, for me the cost of a Raven is about what I'd look at as the upper end. If I can't get what I want out of analogue for that I ain't getting it as I don't see me ever sinking more into a table. I may change it one day but for me I think that is more than adequate and enough that most of the general population would think me an imbecile. ;-)

I'd say, get into a good table/arm combo in that range, particularly if you're lusting after it anyway, and enjoy it for the long haul. You'll have a solid cornerstone to your system and appreciate improvements elsewhere.

Best of luck whatever you do.
Great responses.

I would just add two things. I can't think of a worthier place to "start" upgrading than the analogue front end.

Second, I think it is pointless to proclaim a point at which the price is "ridiculous" and below which it is reasonable. That is obviously purely subjective. The pursuit of excellence in any field is something that with any luck will never end. The sense of balance in this pursuit is predicated completely on context which is by definition personal. Whether it is worth it to a given person to devote his life to breaking an Olympic record is their choice. At what cost is always a good question. Just be sure to answer that question honestly and then look at how you can pay that cost "effectively."
So this brings us to the question How much is TOO much for a table/arm set up?

Whatever you can afford without negative consequences afterwards...

In other words, don't mortgage your house to buy a Continuum Caliburn. ;)
Regarding the rim drive for the VPI. I spoke to Harry about it and he said that it is a significant upgrade that is realitively cheap to add to the current Scoutmasters. The kit includes a new flywheel which has the drive wheel attached. The motors have to be reversed which means they have to come out of the assembly, and 2 wires have to be transposed. He said the sound of the lower mids and bass is much improved (he said had the power and extensions of the best CD), whereas the highs are retained as vinyl. The upgrade he suspects will be about a year in coming (I spoke to him on the last days of 07 - did he mean in a week in 08).
You say your table is on brass cones and a stone shelf. That would seems to be a poor choice. Brass cones impart a "brassy" sound to whatever I tried, and a stone slab should just aggrivate that resonance. In truth, you simply cant rid yourself of resonances, but you can move them to a place that doesnt effect the sound. I have my Superscout on a Gingko platform which seems to do what I want. You might touch base with their website and/or speak to them. They are very nice and helpful. I have my conponents on a 1 inch slab of medical grade Ultam which I cut for each component..expensive, but the best shelf I've heard. Even then I have the components off of their own feet and on something called Pon-Tunes. These are similar to Rollerballs and I am satisfied.
I think if you have to save for 6 to 9 months to buy
the next upgrade, it's really not that big a deal. 6 to 9 months from now, you still won't have extra money, you'll still be 6 to 9 months older, but you'll have a better analog rig! And you'll have something to obsess about in the mean time- if we weren't all relatively obsessive, we wouldn't be reading about the gear on a forum
when we're not listening to the music and equipment. Of course, there's audiophiles who do computer stuff while they're listening, but I digress.

Go for it. Your friends and family will be glad you finally get it because they'll be tired of hearing about it (a trick I learned from one buddy dealing with his wife).

Good luck on the decision,
I'm still laughing,,that is a good trick, but I was gonna siphon off just enough cash from "our"(my wife and I) budget to fund this little project, You are right I am obsessing over this table. I know myself I will not come to a happy medium til I get this set up.

Stringbeen I will look into that.

New question: seeing as how I have to live with this current set up for the next 9 months I need to get the most out of it.
I know there is a thread for it but,regarding the TWL tonearm tweak, I have the weights , drilled them out but cant for the life of me figure out how to mount them. I drilled them out so they're almost identical in weight, and cannot find the right inner diameter drill bit so that they "press fit " over my Ol silver's mounting yoke. and if thats not bad enough I can't find the right adhesive to make them "stick"
any help would be greatly appreciated.
pics and all!!
I jsut haven't figured out which one......
til then thanks all
I'm glad you decided to
go for it!

I have a little story to
share about the importace
of a good table.

I sold some raw drivers to a gentleman who insisted I listen to his system in his wreckroom

He had three turntables, but the one that took your eye as soon as you
entered the room was a table that had a ten inch thick electric blue platter. it had the same blue color motor
which was far from the table that ran a long belt. Very beautiful/ exotic !

He proceded to play some
records on the lessor tables that had the same cartridge.

sounded good but he told me that the bigass rig
sounded about 4 or 5 times better.

I said noway!
Not with the same cartridge and simual arms.

When we twek steros we
look for 10 or 20 % differences.

I've never heard of a 4
or 5 times improvment!

So here we go, he drops the needle and instintly
ny jaw dropped to the ground.

I would never believed
how much of a difference
a table could make!

the table he bought cost him $20,000.00 the arms were nothing special just
black 9'' pivot arms that
cost $1000.00 to $1500.00. Cartriges were all the same micro rubies@ $3000.00 ea.

So there you have it, my
shocking experience with
gorgeous kickass table.

After about 10 months wait I finally recieved
my schroder arm.

It's gorgious and very easy on the eyes and always a pleasure to handle.
Now if only my magenetic bearig table would get here I will forever have a smile/grin that cannot be removed!
So... what was this magic turntable with the 10" thick electric blue platter and long-ass belt drive that made a 4-5x improvement?
Going from a quality $3000 front-end to a $10000 front-end is certain at the point of diminishing returns, IMHO. The gain from $500 to $3000 is relatively large and easy to appreciate. With the next step you must get everything perfect and then it's only a small increment.

You seem to have the bug to do it, so I'd suggest spending some of your budget on travel, if needed, to hear before buying. 10-grand is a lot of money, but it also makes the cost of travel less objectionable. I think this'll greatly reduce the chance of buyers remorse.

WELL Jim?!?!?!? come on...we're waiting

From an old Twl HIFI modder, use a dab of super glue gel to hold the weights on. Don't drip it into the bearings! ;-)

If you ever want to remove the weights (you won't) a drop of acetone will cut the super glue.

>12-31-07: Dcstep
Going from a quality $3000 front-end to a $10000 front-end is certain at the point of diminishing returns, IMHO.<

Totally disagree. The $10K buys an incredibly quieter turntable, a better tracking/quieter tonearm, and a much higher resolving cartridge.

It's imperative to have the downstream components as well but the difference between $3K and $10K is night and day.

Hardly diminishing returns to the serious listener.
ditto A'feil. Although it may seem counterintuitive, as the system gets better and better the differences show up more and more.
A matter of opinion, clearly.
DC step, have you done many comparisons, or are you merely speculating? A $10k rig is much better, and it is the opposite,the differences become larger, not smaller.
My experience might help you and I'll pass along a couple insights along the way. For years, I had a Well-Tempered Turntable which served me, ah, well, fine. It had delicacy, enough nuance and openness that on my Crosby Quads, with a low powered ARC power amp and a serious cartridge (a Lyra Parnassus, back in the day), I was happy. I iced the system for ten years due to other interests and logistical complications, and about two years ago, when I decided to resume my hi-fi pursuits, I set up the system once again. It sounded great, surprisingly, but also suffered from the same limitations it had when i last heard it. (Limited dynamics, bass and dbs, largely due to the Quads). I decided to revamp the system, from front to back. I bought a Kuzma Reference with Triplanar, and installed the latest Lyra (Titan i). Much better bass, more dimensionality; granted the table was considerably more expensive than the WTT, so that should have been no surprise. I then got the opportunity to trade the Kuzma/Triplanar back to the dealer and take the Kuzma XL/Airline arm combo. It was a great deal, and this, a much more elaborate table/arm set-up, has amazing foundational bass and a quality like the proverbial mastertape. But, it is not easy to isolate, whereas the Kuzma Reference set-up, with its integral isolation system, was a set and forget proposition. It was also capable of being mounted on a wall shelf, unlike the bigger Kuzma, which is simply too heavy (at least for my walls). Moral of story: the less expensive table, on balance, may be better for some purposes, having less to do with the overall quality or potential of the table than with your ability to install and use it easily, and set it up in a way that gets the most performance out of the table without isolation or related problems. FWIW.
Headsnappin, yes, I've heard a $10+k SME and some VPIs in the middle price range and, of course, several Linns (in the middle). Of that experience, I'd say my TT/arm/cartridge system gave better results than half of those and was slightly less resolving than the other half.

Problems were that none of those comparisons were A-B, in my system. As a practical matter that's extremely hard to do, since few of us are set up to be reviewers, so we go listen to someone else's system or in a store and don't bring our equipment along. Still, my aural memory is pretty darn good and what I'm saying is as accurate as 99% of what you'll read here.

Proper set up of a TT is at least as important as its price point. I'd love to hear four or five TTs set up by the same tech with the same cartridges in my system (with somebody to swap things out while I sat back and relaxed). Unfortunately, that's pretty unlikely to happen, so, like most of us audiogoners, I have to move around between systems and locales to hear different TTs.

BTW, I respectfully disagree with you and feel like the difference between a $500 rig and a $3000 rig are much larger than between a $3000 rig and a $10000 rig, based on my own listening.

If one had a highly resolving system and good listening skills it would be apparent that the differences between $3000/$10,000 table/arm/cartridge are much greater than $500/$3000 table/arm/cartridge.

That's a fact, not a matter of opinion.

Thank you.
01-03-08: Audiofeil said:
"If one had a highly resolving system and good listening skills it would be apparent that the differences between $3000/$10,000 table/arm/cartridge are much greater than $500/$3000 table/arm/cartridge.

That's a fact, not a matter of opinion."

Well, no one can acuse you of having anything short of extreme arrogance. Do you live in Colorado? I'd love to show you otherwise.

It costs too much if:

1. You have to place it on a credit card and pay if off slowly.
2. You have to place it on a credit card and not begin making payments for a year.
3. It causes stress on your budget of any kind. Will it keep you from paying the rent? Electricity? Food? Necessities for the kiddos, wife, husband, etc?
4. You have to sell off property or valuables to fund the purchase.

I am serious and this post is not made in passing. I have read of some of the sacrifices that some audiophiles have made for a piece of equipment. Only purchase it if you can do so and not feel a financial quiver in doing so. Having said this, there is nothing wrong with saving for a piece of equipment as long as it does not prevent the purchase of a necessity in your household.

Spoken from a music lover and a mom at heart,
HI all

I want to contribute my experience, but I always say - beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

Based on my experience, I must say that I agree that there is a great deal of difference - for the better - when you move from a 3k to 10k deck.

I had a Roksan Xerxes TT with Rega RB 300 arm, with a Sumiko Blue Point Special cart. - around USD 3k. When I changed that to a Kuzma Reference Stabi TT, Stabi Reference arm and Koetsu Rosewood Signature cart. (around 10k), the music/sound is a lot quieter, more refined, with better resolution all around. There is no way you can compare the quality of Koetsu and Sumiko cartridges. BTW, the 2 TTs were using the same pre/amps and speakers.

I am now using the same Stabi Reference TT, but with Triplanar VII arm and Koetsu Jade Platinum, and the improvement is miles better than our previous set-up.

I can not say "How much is TOO MUCH for an Analog front-end", but I have heard an A-B comparison of the Kuzma Stabi Reference and XL, using the same Benz Micro LP carts., but Triplanar on Reference and Airline on XL, and the difference is night-and-day. Both were ABed using an ASR Basis Exclusive phono, via Karan pre/power and JMLab Alto Be speakers.

I am now considering to buy my next TT, and would USD 30k for the Kuzma XL and Airline combo (without cart) be too much ?

Cheers ... Peter
I had a HW19/SME 4/Benz Glider and when I went to an Aries2/JMW 10.5/Koetsu Urushi this was a tremendous improvement, so it fits the price range improvement model Audiofeil mentioned earlier.