One of the reasons that a novice such as myself find these type of discussions so valuable is that it gives us insight into why more experienced members have made buying decisions based upon their own field work with a wide variety of products. We can all learned from our own and other peoples "mistakes" and hopefully this allows us to make better buying decisions in the future.
The part that becomes more difficult is when valued recommendations from knowledgeable and experience members falls outside a person's own financial comfort level at a particular time. In these tough economic times, we all want to make sure that we are getting value for the money we spend. There's an old saying about "putting a $50 saddle on a $10 horse". Sometimes its hard to see the wisdom of putting a $1500 tripod under a $600 body and $200 lens.
In those situations, we less experience members are looking for advice on the best way to do incremental upgrades.
Would one, for instance, be better advised to buy the best head they could afford and use it on their existing legs? Or would you get more value from a more robust set of legs first? Could you even attach a high-end ball head to a middle-tier or economy set of legs?
In the end, it's all about enjoying our hobby and taking the best photos we can with the tools we have at our disposal. When we think that perhaps our results are being hampered by one of those tools, we look for solutions. For me, these forums have been an invaluable resource towards making informed decisions. Thank you all for sharing you experience and your wisdom.
P.S. - And in the spirit of full disclosure, I am currently using a Velbon Victory 450 with its stock PH-156 pan/tilt head. I'm a long way away from being top-tier...in talent or tools. ---------------------------------------------------- "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is."