I personally agree with you about upgrades in general. I would say I bat 500 on upgrades being good or bad. With the Raven AC that was one of my lucky ones. I won't list the number of mistakes I made listening to people here on Agon and some reviewers. But... I also benefited highly from some of the advise. The advise, needs to be taken in context of the system & listening biases & experience of the user. I know Thomas' listening biases very well and have heard his system in his house. I also trust him as my recommendations to him to try XYZ have yielded similar opinions. Based on this alone, I trust the Black Night to be an improvement over the AC. He himself finds it a nice improvement over the AC, and hasn't ever told me something is good if it isn't. In fact he has discouraged me from many of my ideas due to his experience. What is funny is that he even accepts when his products don't perform and will admit it, and go the extra mile to satisfy his customer. I know quite a few people who have recieved updates on their equipment even without requesting such.
In the end, I will only know once the Black Night is in my system. I have it scheduled for next month, but might delay it as I find not having to setup a turntable a good opportunity to repaint the room and do some decorating. (difficult to move a turntable around the house w. all the arms etc.) My Raven AC has been sold, but I have a few SACDs which I have listened to next to the exact same LP and know what the differences were. In the end I will know if there is an improvement and how much. Just based on the engineering it should be a marked improvement. The improved Battery PS will yeild darker and quiter backgrounds. The Motor will have even more torque and maybe more speed stability (although I can't imagine how as it is so perfect now, but the upgraded power supply made a easily audible improvement over the original that i would never believe. Also, I have done major cable upgrades to hear no difference. I am the first to admit when I don't hear the difference.) the platter being made from a slab of copper should be a nice improvement as well. Copper has some properties whereby it is the best surface for a turntable. I think more than we realize, it does wonders w. the electrical shielding in equipment and might contribute in this way to the cartridge. Then the plinth is made from anodized aluminum. The material cost alone is susbstantially higher than the Raven AC. I don't know of any turntable manufacturer who has invested so much in the material cost for the construction of a turntable. What does plastic, or acrylic really cost? Anodized aluminum is much more expensive than steel. And then copper is even more expensive. In the Black Night you do get what you pay for in terms of material costs. Does it yield a sonic improvement. I will let my ears be the judge, in my system w. my music. This way I can know for sure. Do I expect it to be much better than the Raven AC. No, the AC is that good already, but if I get a 10-15% improvement in detail, dynamics and air then I will be more than happy. I just don't want to lose the musicality of the system I currently have. TW has had a few people who have listened to the Black Night in his home and have purchased them instantly. One comment was from a Conductor who felt he never heard a violin sound real on any system until he heard it played back w. the Black Night w. the Breuer and Colibri combination. Of course TW's speakers are in a different class than most of ours w. the Cessaro Betas modified w. field coil drivers in one section, and fully active. With his speakers you hear everything. The problem is after listening to the Cessaro's you want them and it takes a while to readjust to what you listen to at home. But horns for me are big & ugly and so there will be no way.