You Don't Need an Expensive Espresso Machine for Great Espresso!
Have a look at these photos. These are a series of shot pulls I did a few years ago on a Krups entry-level espresso machine (I think it was the XP4050 model) that went for as little as $100 on sale, and as much as $175ish. 

Pretty much any espresso machine capable of producing 9bar of pressure, maintaining temperatures above 198F at the grouphead, and preferably without a crema enhancer (this one had one, I think I modified it to remove it) is capable of making great espresso if you have your other correct tools needed for the job. It helps too if the espresso machine's portafilter is chromed brass (like this one was) or solid steel - aluminum is a poor choice because of how it handles heat. 57mm, 58mm is the preferred basket size, but this Krups was 53mm.

What's the real secret? The grinder and your coffee. The grinder is so much more important to great home espresso. In this one, I was using a Mazzer Mini espresso grinder, but even a grinder like the Baratza Preciso will do a stellar job for home espresso at half the Mazzer's cost. $300 for the grinder, $150 for the espresso machine.

And of course the coffee. There's no substitute for fresh ground, fresh roasted, high quality coffee. Your coffee should be between 4 and 12 days after being roasted - no older. Your coffee should be ground seconds before brewing (when you grind coffee, it loses about 75% of its stored CO2 in the first 2 minutes - and that CO2 is important for transporting flavour, oils, lipids, and for creating crema). 

The Grinder. The Coffee. The two most important things in the four things important to great espresso (the other two items are the espresso machine, and you!).
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