'Junk In = Junk Out.Its nearly always the case of diminishing returns the further up the audio chain we go.'
Yes, but wasn't that the old 1980s Linn mantra that they nicked from the computer industry (gigo)?
With the advent of digital, distortion levels have been barely measurable.
Aren't mechanical transducers now the only existing parts of the audio chain where we can still measure distortion?
In particular - microphones, cartridges, and loudspeakers.