classic rock lps on VPI

I've detailed in previous posts my dislike for the sound of mediocre recorded rock lps on my VPI Scoutmaster with JMW 10.5i.

I have elicited opinions about a second tt setup with a Thorens TD160 for rock recordings and VPI for the rest. I'm not sure I want to go this way.

So, in an effort to use the VPI for both types of recordings, I've returned to seeking a mod program for the VPI that will allow for pleasant listening to both the rock and the rest of my already excellent sounding lps.

I've had some very excellent suggestions for a second tonearm wand that will be used exclusively for the rock recordings. I can get it either custom wired with Cardas wire, or the standard Discovery cable. At this point I am pointing towards the Cardas, as I've heard its warmer in the mids. I also thought the Discovery cable was a bit closed in on top on my previous JMW 9 tonearm, ie. the Cardas. Any thoughts on this?

As for cartridge, at this point I'm pointing towards either a Sumiko Blue Point Special MkIII, or Denon 103R, possibly modded with wood body. My only concern with the Denon would be low compliance. May not match up well with the 10.5i tonearm? Any suggestions here?

Finally, I've had suggestions for the Mini HR-X feet, adding a bit of spaciousness, warmth, refinement. Any feedback on these?

Thanks, Scott
What don't you like about the VPI? What is it sitting on?
The VPI simply illuminates all the warts of mediocre and poorly recorded lps. I want to ameliorate those warts so that classic rock records will be more enjoyable.

My table sits on a DIY wall shelf. 1200lb. capacity supports, 3" thick solid maple spiked to supports, Bright Star Big Rock sitting on maple, VPI on Big Rock.

I've tried the VPI on a Ginko base and siting on bare maple, prefer the Big Rock over either.
Dgarretson, I noticed your using a thread drive on your VPI. I just installed a thread drive on my VPI, I have it so there is minimum slippage, but I suspect higher side forces on both tt motor bearing and tt bearing because of increased tightness of thread. I notice your guide roller system, I would like to implement the same system. Is this something I could do myself, or perhaps you could supply to me?

I have yet to hear my table with the thread installed, perhaps tonight.
I think that the plastic platter has an adverse effect on PRAT. A platter mat seems a better answer than an arm wand. Of course, it screws up the VTA.

My suspensionless TNT is great with rock music & your Scout is very close in design, so you should be able to get there.

Regarding siting, you have exactly the same Scout/wall mount/Bright Star set-up as a fellow I know who benefitted greatly from adding springs under the Bright Star. If you like I can forward you his contact info. Try this & forget the VPI minifeet. This should eliminate irritating glare or tizziness that may be mistaken for resolution in the VPI. With large, low-resonance springs under the heavy Bright Star, the VPI becomes more resolving but sweet & supple across HF. Also, it's worth cutting up or making a replacement birch ply top for the Bright Star, so as to isolate the motor and each plinth foot from every other foot. With this step you eliminate vibration & ringing across the sandbox top from returning to the TT.

With these changes and maybe some tweaks to MC cartridge loading, you should find what you're looking for. If not then move on to another cartridge.

Try five $7 springs on-line from McMaster-Carr P/N 96485K125. The center spring is to be moved around for leveling. They are 1-15/16”D x 4”L and use .148” diameter wire ground flat at the ends. They compress 23.7lbs/inch, up to a total deflection of 2.88”. So a 50lb load compresses each spring about half way down and leaves .88” of unused travel before the spring binds. You can also buy sorbethane sheets from this vendor to wrap around the central windings of each spring for dampening.

The part of my tensioning pulley system that will help you the most is the relatively easy to construct pulley on the motor housing. This is cobbled together with a pressure roller bearing assembly from Boca Bearing & sleeve, alum bar stock, and allen bolts from Ace Hardware. You do need a few tools & thread taps to make it. The added tensioning wheel at the motor lets you reduce lateral tension on the motor & platter while still obtaining grip with the thread. Finally, for smoother treble, try running the thread on the flat section of the platter between the grooves.

I adapted my pulley system from Frank Schroeder's new tape drive TT. Email me if you need more details.

Cardas cables not only add warmth, but also are grainy and not too punchy in the lows. I would suggest Purist Collosus. They greatly expand the soundstage depth and width, have a very "tuby" sound...they roll off the highs, but still keep the sweetness. I think they are much better than Cardas. I have a pair (single ended) that I would lend to you if you want to pay shipping costs.

BTW, listen to piano when setting up the thread drive. Piano will shimmer if the thread is too tight or too loose. Hopefully you have a speed controller, as thread digs deeper into the motor pulley than a rubber band & changes the drive ratio. But it's worth the trouble.
Before you do anything else, I'd suggest buying a MintLP Best Tractor made specifically for the VPI and your arm, and following the instructions to set overhang and align the cartridge. The MintLP protractor in designed using a mirror to make alignment very exact by utilizing the parallax effect.

Using it made a significant improvement in my vinyl set-up, and I suspect it could in yours as well.

At $90, it's a relatively inexpensive tweak, and one that will be useful for as long as you own the VPI and the presently installed arm.
Thanks guys for the suggestions.

Viridian, I've heard acrylic may not always be best. I've thought about mats, Herbies or whatever, just wonder whether they will damp sound more than I like.

Dgarrretson, I've thought about a similar move to the springs, Aurios Pro Max under the Bright Star, wonder how that would differ from the springs. I know the springs are cheaper for sure. I will get back with you on the idler arm setup. Yes, I have the thread running on flat area on platter, and I do have sds. I saw your improvement on the SDS, looks very interesting. I also saw your BAM mod for Merlins, I'm running Merlin VSM-MMs with the SBAM, I may want to go there as well.

Tvad, you previously mentioned this tweak, may be very worthwhile, I will definitely check into it.

Alas, it may turn out that all my plans for the VPI may be put on hold, at least in the short run. Just a few minutes ago I was given an opportunty to possibly purchase a mint Thorens TD 124 MK.II at a damn good price. I would use my modded Rega on it, at least in the short run. From the reviews I've seen, this could be the answer for enjoyable listening to rock lps, if not all lps!
Stan, forgot about your post. I know about your dislike for Cardas cables, we differ on this one. I'm also talking about the tonearm cable, not the cable from the junction box to the phono pre.

Thanks for the offer on the Purist cable, I do like Purist, am presently using the Dominus on my digital, and formerly used the Venustas in various places in my system. I have no doubt that what you're saying about the Colossus is true.
Personally I loved using Nordost Valhalla this far up the signal chain.
Be aware it takes an incredible long period to burn in tonearm wire using that tiny signal of the cartridge.

Typically Nordost ICs and speaker wire take 350 to 400 solid hours to run in.

Dealers will burn your tonearm wire in for a small fee, worth having it done.

What I'm getting at, if your tonearm wire isn't fully burnt in ,your not hearing all of what your table arm and cartridge can do. And it's not subtle

I found VPI tables in general dark sounding and for sure Cardas wire is dark sounding also, I would imagine the new rim drive have cleaned up the sound.

Using such a revealing wire this far up the signal chain has enormous advantages over most anything else available,

Also using more Nordost wire to your phonostage would be a good idea.

Just make sure it's fully burnt in before making changes within your system.
BTW, one way to see if the thread drive is tensioned correctly is to give the record clamp a clockwise twist while the TT is running. If you hear the thread complain against the motor pulley, then tighten the thread. If tightening doesn't fix it, then you can get there by adding the tensioning pressure roller at the motor pulley.

I doubt the Thorens will get close to the tweaked VPI.
Stiltskin, I burned the Valhalla in for perhaps 200 hours with some modded IC's connected to a cd burn in disc. High level signal is burning tonearm wiring in, perhaps I need more. Still, I"m not hearing anything in the wiring that sounds as if it needs burn in. There is plenty of impact, refinement, transparency with quality recordings.

Yes, the Thorens may not do it for me either, either way it will be interesting to compare and contrast. I just want more impact and a fuller, perhaps even darker tonal balance for the rock records. Right now, they sound so lightweight, this may be a silly analogy, but its sort of like a ballerina dancing to rock music, just doesn't add up. The VPI is polite and refined, light on it's feet. I want down and dirty, a real strong foundation for listening to my rock records.

I know a quality sub would really help my situation. Can't have one, however, got a police call with my last sub.
I would most definitely follow all of Dgarrestons suggestions on tweaking your table including NOT buying a second table.

This money saved is money better spent else where.

Also look into Tvads suggestion on a purchase of a highly accurate arc protractor.

Rergarding your tonearm.
200 hours on your tonearm wire is not near enough.
I'm sure things sound fine at this point, but there's more, a lot more. Things will open up and bloom from top to bottom.
When the Valhalla is fully run in there will be absolutely no hint that its even there passing a signal.

If there is any bit of brightness or coolness in the treble region while listening it needs more time on it to settle down.
What I just wrote I know this may not help with your classic Rock listening issue.

I'm just letting you know there is more to be had by logging time onto your tonearm wire.
I am going to keep the VPI for some time, even if I get the Thorens. I going ahead with Dave's tweaks for the VPI, also in the initial stages of building his equalizer for my Merlins.

On the protractor, my only hesitation stems from the Fremer tt setup DVD, in that he uses the Wallytracker to set up a Scoutmaster tt, he then puts the cartridge on the VPI jig and everything lines up exactly.

I'm sure your correct on the tonearm cable, I will give it another 200 hours on the RCAs with cd burn in disk.

Thanks again, Scott
I took a look at the Wally Tractor website, and it appears that it is essentially the same as the MintLP, with both offering similar precision guidelines on a mirrored surface for alignment and overhang (using the parallax effect).

The Wally website mentions a Universal protractor for $250, but I didn't see a price for a table/arm specific protractor.

For my money, having used the MintLP, I think the $90 cost of a table/arm specific MintLP protractor versus the $250 Wally Tractor universal protractor makes the MintLP hard to pass up. Add in the roughly 10 day turnaround time for the MintLP versus the waiting period for the Wally Tractor that I have read about in several previous threads (maybe this has changed recently), and the MintLP seems like the way to go.

Also, the instructions for the MintLP are outstanding, and alone are worth $90, IMO.

Perhaps the Wally instructions along with the Fremer DVD cover the same bases, though.

Anyhow, the Wally Tractor looks quite good, but I couldn't justify the additional expense unless there's an element I'm missing.

OK. MintLP fanboy signing off...

I was taken with the Wally tractor and many of his tools after seeing the Fremer video as well. I orderred about $500 of equipment from him in person which he said he had in stock. Unfortunately, 3 months latter I still had no merchandise from him. Luckily, the check hadn't cleared so I cancelled it. It's a shame he's that unreliable because the tools look useful. Go with the mintLP and save some frustration. I may do the same as I'm not sure how much I trust the VPI jig. It never seems to lay flat and I wonder if bending it as Fremer suggests distorts the results somewhat. The one Wally tool I'd like to have is the analogue shop to make electronic azimuth setting easier and more accurate.
...OK, one more thing...

If you order a MintLP Best Tractor, I suggest also purchasing the optional 10x Peak Lupe No.1961 for $10. Not having purchased it myself, I can see how it would have made a nice improvement over a magnifying glass. Also, the $10 price is less than half of what you will pay for the same item in the USA.
Thanks Tvad. I may have to do just that.

Just another chiming in to agree w/Stiltskin's comments about the Valhalla slow burn in. Give it time.

There's no reason why classic rock LPs shouldn't sound great on your setup. Something is wrong. What about those particular LPs bothers you?

FWIW, I find many of my older rock LPs are beat up, garage sale finds. IME, the ZYX cart, w/its contact line stylus does a better job of minimizing surface noise than the Shelter cart I've previously owned. Have you tried any different carts, and found the same problem w/rock albums on all of them when played via 10.5&VPI? Also, I've heard the 103R on a JMW9 and its a decent combination; not great but decent. Cheers,

Spencer, as previously mentioned, they sound compressed. Lousy microdynamics, small soundstage, nothing like live music and/or quality recordings, they are simply lifeless and boring. There are no tonal imbalances or spotlit frequency abberations. I've heard the exact same variability in cds as well, so it really doesn't surprise me. Read the thread I posted on lp quality, some people more expert than I, have some interesting insights.

I did enjoy these lps more on a lower resolution setup (Thorens TD160, Sumiko Blue Point Special). I suspect this was because that setup sort of homogenized all my recordings, the good ones didn't sound as good as they were capable of sounding, the bad ones didn't sound as bad as they were capable of sounding. Sometimes resolution hurts!
Sometimes resolution hurts!
Sns (System | Threads | Answers)
Amen, brother.
two rock solid performers. if you want to had a fun factor and cool factor all at once, try a decca maroon or an AT150 on that thorens...and stand back. don't dance around too closely to the table.
I have had a number of recommendations for that AT cartridge. In the meantime I've ordered another Rega tonearm board from, going to send if off to Pete Riggle for some custom fitting to his VTAF and teflon insert. I will then be able to dial in exact VTA (perhaps lower in rear to bring up bass), and I know that Rega arm likes to be loose as a goose, so the teflon insert should help here. At that point I'm at the end of the line for mods to that table. Then I get the AT or perhaps a Denon 103R. Now we might be rocking, a bit more resolution than I had previously, yet not enough to expose all the warts.
the AT is actually one of the best carts out there...even if you compare it to mc's 1500 range. i would be the first to admit it outperforms and rocks better than most..and yes that includes the exotic handmade stuff from europe and japan. no warts either. i have collected over a half dozen decent to great carts over the last 2 decades and actually have 2 of the AT's just in case they pull the plug on it.

You've might already tried this, but VPI recommends setting vtf all the way or even a bit beyond the heavy end of the manufacturers suggested range. I find this helps in bottom end and dynamics.

Also, if you don't have a ringclamp, and have a chance to try one out, give it a shot. Besides rendering warps as a non-issue, it really helps give rock records jump factor.

VPI's house sound has been accused of "big, brawny American brashness" that runs counter to what you seem to be describing. That makes me think you certainly can lick the problems you're having. FWIW, w/my VPI, I get good dynamics on rock lps, and soundstage that is wall-to-wall and through the back wall. Hang in there. Cheers,