My comment said gear in general I wasn't focusing on tts but you can still buy a nicely sorted out Garrard 401 $600-$700, stick in a nice plinth and put it up against some of the popular ones in 5-6 figure range and see for yourself. For obvious reasons we won't get into brands and models.
Yes, in its day the Garrard 401 was a very good turntable. I could have bought one during its production period but purchased an alternative, whose sound I preferred. In the meantime I’ve owned several excellent turntables with substantially better performance than the Garrard, but which admittedly also cost substantially more. But that’s not quite the point.
The point is, the results I am now getting from streaming are way, way better than those I obtained from the turntables I have owned.
Interestingly, when I started building my current streaming system, I found that I had a free top shelf on my rack and an excellent phono amp available, so I spent an amusing few weeks buying a turntable, arm, cartridge, arm cable and all the set-up tools. As I’d sold all my records, I purchased ca 170 mainly EMIs and Deccas of my favorite classical pieces, conducted by some of the best conductors of the time. All the records were classified Mint or Near Mint. I also bought ca 25 new 180g re-issues of my favorite 60s and 70s popular music including stuff like Led Zep, Pink Floyd, the Nice, Pentangle, Fairport Convention etc.
I spent a very relaxing day setting up the turntable, getting the whole thing nicely level and balanced, getting VTA, Azimuth, and all the other alignments correct. The phonoamp allowed me to accurately set up all the matching electrical parameters for the cartridge, so by the time I was finished, I was prepared for quite a sonic treat. And it didn’t disappoint. But what it also did was instantly bring back memories of previous iterations of vinyl. The system sounded in a word ‘old’. To begin with there was the noise….first of contamination but also of a small diamond traversing a convoluted groove cut in a plastic medium. As I sat and listened, the music worked its usual magic, with tremendous involvement. The presentation of the music took me back to earlier times, in the same way the pungent smell of a steam train instantly regresses me to the feelings and emotions of childhood days.
But the more I listened, the more I wondered what was the point (for me). I was going to a lot of fuss and bother…..into and out of sleeves, record clamp, cleaning stylus, cleaning record, cuing etc. only to be rewarded with a sound that was noisier, less enveloping, less dynamic, less extended at the frequency extremes, less vivid, less spatial. Now this isn‘t a condemnation of vinyl. The sound was lovely, but it was nothing like as good as I can get from excellent, highly optimized streaming. There’s no doubt that a better TT, better arm, cartridge and phone amp would close and even obliterate the gap, but there’s also no doubt that spending the same money on improving streaming would maintain the difference.
At the time this happened I would guess that my vinyl set-up was about twice the price of my streaming front end. In the meantime I traded the new TT, arm etc. and spent all that money plus more on streaming and the results I’m now getting transcend anything I’ve ever heard from a vinyl set-up. Again that‘s not to say that vinyl doesn‘t have the beating of streaming, but I’m guessing I‘d need to spend an awful lot to better the SQ my streaming set-up is currently delivering In order to achieve a similar level of enjoyment.
So in conclusion, in my set-up and in my experience, streaming truly has all the musical delivery attributes to quality unreservedly as ‘high-end’ audio and is in no way inferior to alternative audio media, when evaluated in terms of the overall pleasure delivered.