We all know audio hi-end gear is priced in a manner that defies comprehension sometimes, cables in particular. But sometimes even the cheaper end is harder to fathom. I bought a Cartridge Man digital gauge 9 years ago from the Elusive Disc when I purchased my VPI Aries (I had little choice, they told me I needed a gauge if I wanted to set up the table and this was the only one they had....cue another $250 on the total!). Now maybe you change cartridges every year and need to check tracking force every month or so but not I. Once set up, I employed the gauge maybe two or three times more when I changed cartridges at year 4 and again last year.
I pulled it out this week to check tracking force after a little modding of VTA and the damn thing was dead, even after the required 24 hour charge up. OK, no surprise, time for a new battery (confirmed by a read of the not so well-written manual). Unfortunately, the battery is not user-replaceable and the manual instructed me to contact the US Distributor for further assistance. No slam on the responsive Bill from AudioFeil but what I learned was that this gauge has to be sent back to the UK for battery replacement and 'updating' at a cost of $140 plus shipping to England. Yes, this is a gauge we are speaking of and an almost perfectly functioning one, albeit with a dead battery.
It may be true that the resulting modified gauge would contain a new battery pack that in future I could replace myself, but I find myself wondering why any digital gauge for measuring stylus tracking force would require this amount of work and cost when relatively accurate digital stylus gauges to do the same job can be found online for under $50 new. I guess the others are not audiophile approved. Given sunk and extra costs, I decided not to own a near $500 gauge -- I guess that makes me an audio cheapskate.