I think I might have posted something very similar a year or two ago, though not as articulately. I played a B&H Lafleur for over 20 years before finally getting a Stradivarius, which was like changing from a fork-lift truck to a limousine. But I believe I had plateaued on the Lafleur, and I experienced a very pleasing feeling of improvement once I had the Strad. I wouldn't put this down to just the equipment though, but also to the accompanying shift in attitude which prompted the Strad purchase in the first place.The 'easy' path was denied to me as child. I'm convinced I became a good trumpet player (not phenomenal, but good) thanks to the combination of determination, a good ear, and a lousy trumpet. The latter forced me to develop a strong foundation of flexible lip and air support in order to develop an intonation and sound that I was happy with. I do not believe I would have made anything like the progress I achieved then if I'd had available to me the quality of instrument I can now afford. I would have met and exceeded people's expectations too easily and lost a lot of the incentive to push myself to better things.