My answer is - When you can pick up the better bass and immediately spot the better tone and playability - or lack thereof in some cases - you are ready to move to a more refined instrument. If you honestly can't feel or hear the difference, why bother? I have to say my life was pretty happy till I played an Alembic Epic. Wow! I LOVED playing that bass. It taught me SOOO much about what I would like and dislike in an instrument. It taught me how crappy my technique is because EVERY NOTE good and bad was clearly audible. It taught me how a real bass should be build and how everything should work together without compromise. It was the best money I ever spent on a bass. I no longer have it because I found my true home in modified Jazz Bass pattern instruments. Good ones that cost alot of money. And good ones that also happen to be inexpensive ones. But I am so thankful for that Alembic.