I'm in the process of saving up to upgrade my machine. I am currently using my first ever sewing machine (an inexpensive Singer). My focus is primarily on quilting, although I do make some clothing for my 2-year old daughter, in addition to hemming pants for my son, etc. I think I've narrowed it down to the Janome Horizon 7700, a new Bernina 550QE, or a used Bernina 440QE. I was looking at the Janome 6600, but I think the lack of a free-arm would be a deal-breaker. Also, the 7700 has a bigger throat.
I've seen some scary reviews for the Janome 7700, but many of the quirks seem to have been worked out (the 1/4 inch foot, feed dog adjustments, etc). I do still have a concern about it's ability to sew over thick seam intersections, but the reviews I've seen that note this as a problem seem to be in the minority. The acufeed built-in walking foot is very appealing, as well as the automatic thread cutter, lighting, and I hear good things about the free-motion quilting.
The Bernina 550QE was the machine I was dreaming of until I saw the Janome 7700 (which has a bigger throat and seems like more machine for the money). I do want something that will last and I've never heard of someone having a Bernina that quit. I like the feet on the Bernina better, but the thought of how much I'll end up spending on extra feet and accessories is off-putting. I'd love to have the BSR too, but at $1k, it just seems over the top expensive. I also worry that I'll regret spending so much money and wishing I would have gone with a less expensive machine.
The 440QE to me is really just a cheaper alternative than the 550QE. I've heard and read wonderful things about the 440, and I know I'll be able to find a used one at some point for a decent price.
So is there anyone hear who has had both machines? Is the stitch quality of the Bernina that much better that it justifies the price? Is Janome just as reliable? Has anyone been loyal to one and then switched to the other without any regrets? Help!