Turntables.....A point of diminishing returns?

   This post is sure to elicit many opinions. Everyone knows that a good audio system is a series of building blocks. Amps, speakers, cables, etc. To find the weakest block in any system can be a challenge to make a particular system sound as good as possible given the funds on hand. Almost anything can be improved upon. But, where does it end? There seems to be a point that an audio system, thru improvements, is about as good as it will sound. At least to the owner.
   No end to opinions about analog sound. Tables, carts, cables, amps, setup, and others. With all the renewed interest in vinyl, many are looking to optimize their current setup and others are content with what they have. Congrats to those. Other than looking at this as just a hobby, at what point does one just say...that's all my system is capable?
   I say this because in the audio world there is almost no limit as to how much money can be spent on equipment. If you fit into that category, I am envious. "Oh..Look at what this costs". But, as far as sound goes, is there really any tremendous benefit to spending mega dollars on equipment? I single out turntables because it's one of pieces that can demand those big dollars. One who can afford expensive tables probably has the funds for other expensive components.
   Look at this table. For $650k I wonder if it sounds many times better than the one I have.....

I recently purchased a turntable - just below ‘reference level’.
I owned a Rega RP1 and my budget was $5k but I preferred to keep closed to $3k. And I was prepared to focus on digital as my source. 
I listened to Rega tables with a Linn LP 12 as the upper end table. 
The Rega P3 had better dynamic range than my table. An improvement but frankly something I’d buy because the sound was comparable to a transistor radio next to my digital source.

I heard the P6 and the dynamics were a step change. The quite sections of music we’re almost quiet and the higher frequencies had more detail. I was thinking’I could listen to this over the convenience of streaming’. 
The P8 was next, and the quiet sections were quiet- the details in the high frequencies were defined and detailed and the bass guitar resonance was life like. 
I decided not to listen to the LInn table because I didn’t want to rationalize spending any more money.
Are there diminishing returns yes - at what level of spending that’s the $650k question

I have a LP12 but it's not in use anymore because my other tables are better. So yes, you can get better return on investment.
Good question. The answer depends on your means, preferences, and sensitivity. Let’s say you have a really expensive (for you) $5K turntable and you love music and a good system and your income doubles? That $10,000 table looks more enticing and reasonable.
Also, folks like to say is it worth it? Is it 10% better? A ridiculous and relative thing. However, the high end is really competitive on sound, and any company producing $50K or $100K tables (and is in business for more than ten years) is going to compare well with the competitions at that level. Anything I would say above the $5K range will have a lot of comparisons with competition as is not a hype... table. 
Also high end companies use research to advance the art as far as possible to their flagship and then let what they have learned trickle down. That is how a good high end company works. Research leads. This is why it is usually best to review the best the company can do to see if you like their house sound... then ratchet back to what you can afford now. Then in the future, as your income and rest of the the system gets better... you can move up the chain.
Having said this. I used to own a VPI Aries table and upgraded my Phono stage... (these things get a LOT better with cost) to the Audio Research Reference 3 and each time benefited greatly. I then swapped out my VPI for a new high end Linn LP12... which I assure you is cost competitive with other tables at this level. While my digital end cost $41K my analog end is a bit less... it definitely bests the digital end... although they are both fantastic. There are a lot of great tables out there in the $20K range. I like my new table as it is more balanced and musical than my VPI. But they both make great tables... so does SME, etc.
I have heard a number of expensive tables...Yes, they get better with price. Audibly better. And for the same price will beat an appropriately purchased digital end.
I have been doing this for fifty years, and over that time my income has risen, the tables have gone from $200, $500, $2000, to $5,000, and $21K... and each time the difference was greater than the last... but behind the scenes my other equipment was changing to support the front end.
So, I think the answer is personal for each person, given their tastes, income, and values. But if you have the interest and means there really isn’t any end until you get into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I know some folks that have the means to buy whatever they want.

How about the $30K SAT tonearm? How much if any sonic difference. can there be compared to a $4K Kuzma 4Point? Both are expensive but the SAT is IMO insanely priced - regardless of what MF claimed in his review in Stereophile. But then again he really liked the $16K Grado cartridge!
Maybe not insanely priced if Swedish Audio Technology can sell a production run to dotcom millionaires!
At least an expensive TT requires considerable production work compared to a phono cartridge!
Whats is the reason to discuss some of the ugliest and most expensive things instead of discussion about something beautiful and affordable ? Why you are so concerned about something you can’t even buy anyway? 
I'd like to say beauty is in the eye of the beholder....that is one ugly turn table. 

I think they need to include some sort of turn table screen with it so the buyer only has to listen to it!
Playing with VTA on the screen while playing might be fun for about 5 minutes.  After that I probably would trade it in for another ridiculous hi end turntable and repeat the process-enjoy the novelty and become jaded.

Meanwhile a Rega, VPI or whatever is sitting on another shelf getting regular play.
There seems to be a point that an audio system, thru improvements, is about as good as it will sound. At least to the owner.

True. In the sense that wherever you decide to stop, that is about as good as it will be.

The idea of diminishing returns however I have to say is bunk. And I know it is bunk because I have been doing this a very long time. My system is tweaked to the max. Find another one out there doing everything I am. Go ahead. I really want you to do this. NOT to show off how good I am but because I relish the opportunity to find someone else with some ideas I haven’t thought of that will make my already incredible system better still.

This is no idle boast. I am currently talking with several different guys about crossover upgrades. There’s guys out there with way more experience who know these subjects way better than me, and I am smart enough to seek them out and pay attention when they speak. Which caps, resistors, and inductors will work the best for me? I’ve done this enough to know even the great builders like Eric leave a whole lot on the table. Same for amps. Same for turntables.

You asked specifically about turntables so here goes. I started with a Basis. Upgraded it by hardwiring a better power cord to it. At this point I didn’t really know what if anything to expect. Just thought I would try it. This cheap $75 power cord made a real improvement.

That’s $75 for improvement on a $2500 turntable. Are you with me here? Where are the diminishing returns?

Next I upgraded the whole motor to the Teres motor pod. Greater cost, greater improvement. Hard to quantify these things let’s just say I got more than made me happy. Nowhere near diminishing returns on the motor.

Skip ahead to where I have made the Miller Carbon turntable. https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/8367 The first iteration of this cost not much more than I got from selling the Basis. Diminishing? Ha! Increasing is more like it!

Am I done? No way! Let’s take just one tiny little part: the bearing. Inside the stock $250 or whatever it is bearing are a brass thrust plate and stainless steel ball bearing. After noticing a lot of wear I did some R&D came up with what I thought were better materials replaced the factory bits and heard a really nice improvement- much lower noise floor, greater detail, improved dynamics. Not bad for $10 worth of ball bearings.

I could go on and on all day with examples like this.

Let’s cut to the chase. Anyone says there are diminishing returns, there are only two real possibilities. One, it means they are tired or spent and looking for an excuse to stop. Well if that’s your story knock it off. What you should be doing instead of making up excuses is sitting back enjoying what you have accomplished! Enjoy what you have, relish it, don’t go knocking the other guy who by the way probably also happens to be enjoying it, he just continues to go for more.

Or two, and this is the big one: you’re doing it wrong! A system is only as good as the sum of its parts. There are a LOT of parts! The turntable you are focused on right now is made up of a whole lot of parts. Bearing, platter, plinth, you know the drill. Each and every one of those is just sitting there waiting for you to come along and figure out how to unleash its potential for improved sound.

If you think there are diminshing returns it is probably because you have spent your money on the hamster wheel of perpetually chasing the next component. When instead of spending thousands on an amp you learn to spend tens on caps, or hundreds on Townshend Pods, Synergistic Fuses and ECT, fO.Q tape, things like that, then you will understand why I say diminishing returns are bunk.

Go and try it, you will see.
Neat system.
Two major improvements: Triplanar arm and LDA Quartz Power Supply.
I bought a Woodsong Garrard 301 with an Ortophon RS 309D which is a Jelco.
The Triplanar makes the Jelco sound like a toy. Worth every penny.
And the Long Dog Audio power supply necessitates a couple of small changes to the 401 but transform the performance of the motor. Designed to work with 220v instead of 110v, the LDA converts the power to 220 and the frequency to 59hz from 60.

You might also consider sending the 401 to Chris at Woodsong Audio to be rebuilt. At least partially.
The responses indicate that most of us, including me, don't understand the question, if any.  How can one say whether that $650,000 pimped up hymn to bad taste is "many times" better than yours, jprnde, given that none of us has a hope of every hearing the thing, let alone do we know what turntable you now use?  I would venture to guess that somewhere inside the $650,000 thing there maybe lurks a good $25,000 turntable; maybe.  The turntables you named (LP12 plus various Rega turntables) are all of the same ilk: lightweight, belt-drive, and British to the core.  Not that that is a bad thing, but some sonic limitations would seem to apply.  There are certainly many many turntables in between those Linn/Rega models and whatever is your own Nirvana.  In other words, what you have can be bettered for a lot less than $650,000, probably at least an order of magnitude less. 
Here’s an interesting video from youtuber VWestlife.

Does a better turntable actually sound any better?


Personally I’d stop at something like the Technics 1200G if not sooner with the SL1500c.

Even the modest Audio Technica AT- LP 140XP has its fans, including YouTuber Andrew Robinson.

Lewm, I agree with you 100%. 

I have a first generation tricked up VPI  Classic 2.7 (sic).  It is actually a basic Classic 1/2 plinth, which I improved.  Many years ago, I switched out the basic 600 rpm motor to a Classic 3 300 rpm motor.  Shortly thereafter, I switched out the tone arm and tone arm base to the Classic 3 stainless steel tone arm and base.

My cartridge is a Lyra Kleos, which works just fine. My electronics are all recent ARC SE suite gear.

I am thinking about switching out my Classic 3 stainless steel tone arm to a 3D tone arm at some point.  No rush though.

In the meantime, I enjoy my system.  Maybe to some, it is sonic swill, but I do not care.  I still love spinning some great vinyl and am happy as a kosher clam.


You do not list your system (it's free to do so).

Not a clue as to what your OP is REALLY about.

I’d like there to be a point. But there really isn’t at this point. The more sensitive your system the more the sound can improve by an input improvement. It really boils down to balancing your income / musical appreciation as to where you stop... unless money is truly no object... then it is amount the very cutting edges flagship stuff we read about.
I am not sure at which point we have finishing returns.  Maybe at the $5000 mark?

My table is the VPI Avenger Reference with Fatboy... so that’s like what?  $21,000?

I am betting the SAT is still better by a significant amount in the aspects of reproduction that matters.  At some point, what matters to you may seem large even if to someone else it is infinitesmall.
@joey_v I think you hit the nail on the head "At some point, what matters to you may seem large even if to someone else it is infinitesimal."
Exotic turntables are like museum pieces.   You don’t judge them solely on performance.  Consider them engineering works of art. 
@lewm , "pimped out hymn to bad taste" That is the best expression I have heard in a long time and a florid understatement:-) Even the Air Force Zero is several hundred steps too far. 
To put this degree of effort into a medium that is inherently imperfect defies reason other than there might be a few uneducated rich people to make money off of. They are much better off buying art work. It might actually appreciate. These tables are just as likely to sound worse as better and I am very serious about that. Over the years I have heard some very ornate equipment that did not sound so hot certainly relative to the expense. It is entirely possible that some very reasonable well designed turntables might even out perform many, if not all of these mega buck tables. Anyone can throw a lot of money at a problem. The trick is to solve it for as little as possible. This not only goes for turntables, but cartridges and speakers as well.
Think about it. you can drive to work in a Honda Accord or a Lamborghini Hurican. Who is going to be more comfortable? What about the Honda vs a Mercedes 300 E. Not much difference. I can understand liking finely crafted and engineered things but in realty the Mercedes and Lambo are just raw ego for many of the people that buy them. They can not be seen driving a lowly Honda. If driving excellence and fun are the issue you buy a 911.
IMHO there in no need to spend more than $20K on turntable, tonearm and cartridge. $60K gets you a very marginal, questionably audible improvement. More than that? Go get yourself a Ferrari. At least you'll have something nice to look at.
In the late 80's when CD's came out, I very happily ditched all my LP's, TT and support geegaws and replaced all my LP's with them. Now, 30 some years later, I decided to get another TT, and some LP's. I'm still scratching my head as to why. They are still a pain in the ass to fool with, and really don't supply sound that is any better then modern tech. It's purely a nostalgia thing, like having a Princess Phone and a land line. At 70 years of age, I have also recently decided that I am done trying to "one up" myself with my HiFi system. I have a great sounding system. the best I have ever had. I have the financial ability to pursue an even better system, but I see no reason to continue down this never ending path. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to reach a point where you can acknowledge that you have reached it.
   hobo1452 is probably the only one to grasp the point of my original post...."Point of diminishing returns". That term in itself is one that is mostly based on personal opinion. At what point does one say "that's the best I can do"? There are always people who are happy with what they have and those who want more. Nothing wrong with any of them. Those wanting to constantly improve are often innovators, those satisfied with what they have accomplished are satisfied, and those that don't care. All types exist.
   This forum has provided me with very valuable info and helped me in many ways. Just wanted to hear some opinions on the subject when I hear about LARGE amounts of money spent and whether the gains are large or small. Can't fit turntables or any other single component into that question. Of course, the entire system matters. Thanks to all for your comments.

My experience, in retrospect.

Technics direct drive: good enough. 1975
Rega 3: Good. A major improvement in every respect. 1985
Nottingham Analogue Mentor: Way better. 2000
Mentor upgrade to Wave Mechanic power supply: Well worth it. 2010
DIY air bearing with no surfaces in contact: Astonishingly better. 2017

Of course, the better the TT the more one can hear improvements in tonearm and cartridge. Bad craziness to put a Durand with a Koetsu on a Rega. IMO

To me answers to these kind of questions fit best on an S-shaped hysteresis curve with a few inflection points. #1 at about $600, the Project Debut Carbon Evolution has set a pretty high bar for an entry level turntable. #2 Midway up the curve at about $2000, there are a myriad of excellent tables from Rega, Project, EAT, and others, with room in the budget for a $500-Class cartridge Hana E, Grado, Ortofon. The next point, which is the #3 upper 'knee' in our curve is in the $5,000-ish range. Here you can start discussing VPI, Linn, the higher-end Regas and Clearaudio, as well as moving into the kilo-buck cartridges. Beyond that, the improvements tend to be more incremental than monumental and the investment as much in artistry as technology. 

The bumper sticker version is something like this: the first 80% will cost 1X. the next 10% costs the 3X, and the next 9% 10X. The final 1%, 100X. Your mileage may vary.

"at about $600, the Project Debut Carbon Evolution has set a pretty high bar for an entry level turntable."

It certainly has, especially with the acrylic platter.

My Rega 3 back in the 1980s comparitively cost about the same but it was still a good upgrade to the LP12. The Carbon I suspect gets an awful lot closer to the Linn.
"The bumper sticker version is something like this: the first 80% will cost 1X. the next 10% costs the 3X, and the next 9% 10X. The final 1%, 100X. Your mileage may vary."

That's not a bad analogy - and the Carbon/Ortofon Blue is easily 80% or more up the ladder.

The more expensive Technics SL 1500C might even be 90%!
Lovin’ my pro-ject the classic as well as its bigger brother the classic sb...great turntables for the money, especially when you upgrade the cartridge to say a Hana EL or Goldring Eroica LX or a Ortofon Quintet bronze or black. Using both a Rothwell and a Jensen step up into a Tavish design tubed phono preamp, see no need to improve much further. Also own the music Hall MMF-7.3, another ridiculously good turntable for the money. I got the walnut version and run the stock 2m bronze on it, a great cartridge. I've only mentioned 3 of the 6 turntables I own. I'd much rather have a variety of TT's than one super expensive one, that would bore me to death. 
The equipment meant people have is way better quality than the equipment much of the music was originally recorded on....
very good question and point.

 I heard a 1 million usd system
VS 100k system. same brand speakers and amps. diff level 

yes alot better the 1 million dollar one. it's like surround sound. and detail is out of the world  the sound cover the whole big room and very pleasant and transparent. 

but it doesn't mean buying the same turntable on 100k system  you become the 1 million dollar system level .. mileage varies and sometimes due to better integration they can get close. you need better components to show the quality. 

expensive doesn't really mean always better in system wise . in fact it gets tougher to setup and integrate. and I heard many  expensive setup sounds sound very bad.. 
buying a Ferrari doesn't make you a better driver if you know what I mean but the quality is there for you to exploit. 
there is a point where you can have spectacular turntable sound and for a lot less than 650k. That is just a fashion statement or bragging item, all about the look, not the sound.
buying a Ferrari doesn't make you a better driver if you know what I mean but the quality is there for you to exploit.

Right. Buying a Ferrari makes you a worse driver. Duh.  https://youtu.be/2lF3AcZjdTg?t=21
@ Op really?

A component sounding at a value based on its MSRP?  And comparing performance against the MSRP...

I can understand performance varying company to company based on their IP and systems though I don’t expect that variation to be reflected across the market. 
Yes, there is a law of diminishing returns based on an individuals budget and preferences. 
It appears you have asked a question as disguised statement. 
Look at this table. For $650k I wonder if it sounds many times better than the one I have.....

This is probably a total cost of all studio equipment used in recording and mastering process, including all instruments used by musicians.

If some rich people are ready to pay $650k for an ugly turntable just to reproduce their records there always be a manufacturer of such turntable especially for them and the only difference between really good $6k turntable and $650k turntable is margin of the manufacturer, this is the main difference everyone can notice.

I do have aquantaince who have caliburn..

hardly knew that guy but was told that was not his main tt

he prefer goofing around with his super tweaked  lenco l75. 

my observation is.. rarely people  have the willpower and finance to really pull off the ultimate system. sad to say it can be hugely disappointing buying a totl item and realize there is more to it, having the right condition to get it sound like 500k. or it just sound like normal tt. 

also my buddy used to own kronos. it's fantastic? but very difficult to set. it's too advanced at that time for all of us and just a ear bleeder. funny story is he downgraded to the bottom direct drive. learn from ground up and now start to improve Alot setting up the TT. and now slowly conquering more expensive stuff step by step. his sistem is about 80k. you really think you hop In a super car and you become a great driver. if u really tried one you probably wind in the drain for trying.. need more skill driving one.. that's the analogy we used in high end equipment. 
Post removed 
It appears you have asked a question as disguised statement.
thereby seeking its affirmation.
Now the question is, would you buy it if you had the funds, to support it, and go so deep with accompanying components, or ignore it?
The possibility that it would sound better than most is hard to tell, as more likely we will never have the chance to try something like this. Being ugly or not is not the point but at that price it should better deliver. Uncharted waters.



My sister has the Pro-Ject Classic (cherry finish) and she loves it. She needed something to play her vinyl from her student days and started off with the decent Pro-Ject basic.

She did have some hum issues with the original leads but swapping them over fixed it.

I can’t see her ever upgrading from that - knowing her sense of aesthetics. It is a great looking deck and goes well with wooden furniture.
I saw a Facebook feed about ridiculous things rich people spend money on. The most appalling was loo-roll made of gold leaf worth $1.3 million dollars.
Put the £650k into context and it is not so ludicrous.Not sure if they make that £650k version, but the technology was used to design their tonearm which I think is perhaps the greatest contributor to the sound. It has active parallel tracking - its about £30k - not cheap. That said it is better VFM than either an SAT arm or the top of the range Vertere.
Think on this - value  and price is wholly relative to means. 
@mijostyn has written an excellent post I must say. I think silly money cartridges are exactly that. Better performance can be had with money being spent elsewhere - subs, room treatment... I heard an all kondo set up from cartridge - tonearm wires all the way to speaker internal cables. I was utterly unimpressed by the sound - very coloured with a golden sheen throughout - throwing money at a problem ain't always the solution.