Top of the line are Barudan, Tajima, ZSK and I don't know if they are still made but Happy and Toyota. After that SWF, after that I wouldn't touch them. Mostly made in Japan or Germany is top line. South Korea next. Stay away from the Chinese made machines.
If you want a single head, get a full size, not a compact. But I wouldn't recommend a single head. For the price of a 2 and single head you can get a 4 head and turn out much more work. Now, having said that, having a 4 head and a single head can make sense. It does for us because we do a lot of letterman jackets and it keeps the 4 head free for larger jobs.
I have a Happy HCA-1501 single head - purchased 1999, SWF 4 Head - purchased 2001
Both still strong.
The Happy is still a floppy disc for design input, SWF was converted to USB a few years ago.
Have to replace the SWF as they don't make parts for it anymore, so I am getting a Happy 6 Head.
I've experience with Melco, Tajima and Brother machines. I can definitely say all of their tech support and replacement parts availability has been good. Plus all of their models are usually made in Japan. It's always better to have more heads since some designs can take 20-30 minutes to sew out. If you have the space and budget get a 4 head. If you are strictly doing this as a hobby a single head might be better.
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