Up to Eleven

aka: Goes To Eleven
Try to top this.
Nigel Tufnel: What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put [the volume] up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.

Often, some people have the need to top things. It could be because of dissatisfaction with something, a need to best someone else (often known as "Keeping up with the Joneses"), or some other reason. Either way, you would like to take something, and push it beyond what's been done before.

Unfortunately, things like time, money, technology, and/or other factors will only allow that so far. So you just end up topping the last thing by a small amount. So you've been forced to leave room for your own thing to be topped later on. Then you top that new thing, this can lead to an all-out "topping" war. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on the circumstances.

Exactly what is topped can vary. It could be a commercial product (like computer and gaming tech), an architectural feat, a world record, or something else. Whatever thing, this trope is taking the highest bar set, and taking that "Up to Eleven".

For those who aren't into guitar (electric guitar specifically), the phrase "Taking it up to eleven" is a reference to the volume setting on a guitar amplifier; the maximum setting on most (especially older) amps is 10, however newer amps (most often Marshalls) with the "11" option (which is beyond loud, believe us on that one) came out, and you can even take the volume higher with gain/equalizer settings on distortion boxes. More recently volume eleven has become partially obsolete as many Marshall amplifiers sport 0-20 volume knobs, essentially taking the trope itself Up To Eleven.

Conspicuous Consumption and Absurdly High-Stakes Game often involves this.

The term became an official phrase in the English language thanks to its inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Not to be confused with Beyond the Impossible, which is beyond what should be possible according to the internal logic of a story. This trope is more likely to be a competition between two or more groups or one group against itself, where one group goes beyond what is considered the limit but still possible.

Compare Serial Escalation, Sequel Escalation, Tim Taylor Technology, Exaggerated Trope, The Same but More, Comical Overreacting, Rank Inflation, Loud of War, Readings Are Off the Scale, Loudness War, or Lensman Arms Race.

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  • What's the difference between a musician, an engineer, and an entrepreneur? A musician says "This amp goes up to 11!" An engineer says "It has the same amount of power, all they did was add an additional designation to divide that power." An entrepreneur says "For the right price I can get you one that goes up to 12."

     Professional Wrestling 
  • King Kong Bundy has, as a central part of his gimmick, the "five-count". Normal pinfalls go to a three-count; when Bundy pins someone, to show how badly he's beaten them, he holds up a hand and yells "FIVE!", demanding the referee count to five instead.
    • A fairly common joke on commentary when an opponent gets knocked out cold is that the referee could count to 100 and the pin would still be successful.
  • The Rock writes in his autobiography, “The Rock is Dwayne Johnson … with the volume … turned … WAY … UP!note 

  • There is a game in improvisational theater called "Toppers", which is this trope.
  • Lyrically referenced in one of the choruses of the song "Raise Your Voice" from the musical version of Sister Act.

The Trope Namer is This Is Spinal Tap:
Nigel Tufnel: ...These go to eleven.

Alternative Title(s):

Goes To Eleven, Turned Up To Eleven, Up To 11