There is no reason to stay away. Gunther makes a great product and is constantly improving it. He is a wonderful machinist and an avid audiophile....also fun to be around. His tonearms are excellent also.
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My Final Tool has been rock solid reliable for the many years I've had it and the factory supplied excellent support when I purchased an upgraded motor. I'm only aware of one Audiogon thread mentioning poor customer support (back in 2008.) That's fewer negative comments than are seen here on some other well known turntable manufacturers. If the desire to upgrade strikes, I'd buy another Acoustic Signature with no hesitation.
I would imagine all turntable manufacturers sell relatively few of their highest end models compared to their entry level products. Across the range of all audio products, I've noticed those who purchase the most expensive products tend not to discuss their purchases in forums so much as those of us with lesser financial means. As to whether there would be differences in reliability between lower end and higher end models, metal Acoustic Signature tables follow pretty much the same engineering design principles. More money gets you more metal and mass, more platter silencer technology, more vibration damping, etc. The only variation in electronics is that the Thunder and Ascona have the Alpha-DIG motor power supply and the lower end models use the Alpha-S power supply.
"Thanks Photon. One concern I have is that it just doesn't seam like many people in the USA own the higher level Acoustic Signature models. I am wondering if that is due to limited USA distribution or something else. The reviews have all been excellent but I don't see many users."
*Unfortunately, I think this holds true of most all German manufacturers. Perhaps AMG is an exception, having a very established importer behind them. I recently heard a Brinkman Spyder table, and it was extremely good.
I owned the Acoustic Signature Mambo in the past and think it was an excellent table. Better than many higher priced tables I've heard since. Wish I never sold it....
I now own the Ascona. But it has been used in a different, low-frequency limited system so far. Once I have experience of using it in my main system I'll provide some feedback.
Anyway, I highly recommend AS tables. I suspect the Storm is their best value today. The Novum also looks very interesting.
I purchased a WOW XL from Gene Rubin earlier this year. It's one of the lower priced turntables; however, I did get the TA1000 tonearm with it.
I am quite pleased with it overall. I did have an issue with the shielding on the tonearm cable (a 6-8" section was not shielded at all which permitted interference to be induced). A-S Germany and the importer did fix it by replacing the tonearm with the DIN version (and fully shielded DIN cable from Avanti Audio fixed it); however, the replacement took almost 8 weeks. During this time they had my tonearm and the tt was out of commission. In my opinion, that could have been handled better.