Continuation of my Thread on VPI, Basis, Origin...

....Graham etc.
First off thanks all for your help and advice.

So here is where I stand. I believe that I have a good unit...Aries/10.5/helikon/Benz M2 BUT my integration was not thought out well. Possibly better match with cartridges and arm. I also believe that the weakest point in my set up is the 10/5 arm. So I am leaning to an upgrade to the arm. I hope I can keep my cartridges...I like to use both (one or two months at a time). My candidates are Graham 2.2, Origin Live (high end version) and then possible the Vector.
Now the question. If I got this route, so I change the table? Will a Basis 2500 make a difference, a Big difference?? My advice in another thread says yes.

Finally, this afternoon I was listening to the EMI recording of Rachmaninov "The Bells" and toward the end of side one, close to the spindle, I began to hear low level rumble for about 3-4 revolutions. Is this the result of poor anti-skate, turntable feedback, poor isolation (I have a pretty good table for the set-up) poor recording??? I tried this section of the record on BOTH cartridges and same results.

Comments please....again, Thanks
Hi Rwd. About the low level rumble on that record, there is some possiblility that it is the record that is the problem. If the rumble does not occur on other records, I wouldn't worry about it.

Regarding upgrades, the order of upgrading in analog systems is first the TT, then arm, then cartridge. Upgrading the TT will yield more sonic improvements, than upgrading the arm or cart. Also upgrading the arm will yield better sound than upgrading the cartridge. However, in your case, where you seem to have a particular difficulty with your arm/cart matchup, then this needs to be addressed.

Of course, personal opinions on which TT to consider, are subjective. My personal feeling on moving to the Basis 2500, is that it is a small move. It may be a little better than the Aries, but not alot(IMO). If you want to move up from the Aries, you are going to have to make a fairly major step, because you are getting into the area where small improvements start costing alot of money. A Verdier La Platine, or a TNT Mk V, or another turntable in that kind of range will be required to get significant improvements. This is not to say that the Basis or others wouldn't help, but the change won't be overwhelming(IMO).

Of course, and you knew this was coming, if you were to get a Teres Model 255 Signature in Cocobolo for about $2800, you would be way up there in the high end performance levels, for not alot of money. A major step up from the Aries, for about the same cost of the new Aries.

With a upgrade of the TT like this, all the changes in arm and cartridge will sound all the better, because the TT will give a better foundation for them to work with.

If you can't make the leap of faith to go with the un-auditionable Teres, then you are relegated to the major brands that we are all aware of. This is fine, except you have to pay alot more to get a similar performance level to the Teres.

If you email Chris at Teres, and tell him you are considering a 255, he may send you one to try out. You won't be sending it back once you hear it. Tell him you need the armboard cut for a Graham 2.2.

Phil Sieg, a reviewer for Listener magazine, who owns a Platine Verdier, posted this on Bottlehead Forum April 27,2002 after he reviewed the Teres and other offshoots from the Teres project.

"I will say this. If your TT budget will stand $3K (w/o arm & cart), you can make your final TT purchase. Certain manufacturers of 5-figure American tables should be very, very scared." Phil Sieg, Listener Magazine

So I am not alone in my opinions of this table.
I like Phil. I think that he is not only a good writer, but i also think that he knows his stuff. If he had that to say about the Teres, i would not doubt that it is a force to be reckoned with. Sean
I can not offer you any educated or experienced advice concerning the above choices, but the thing about your question that leaps out at me is, you don't even say exactly what it is about your current set-up you are not happy with. It does seem unlikely to me though, that between a modern arm such as the 10.5, and two such different and popular modern MC cart's as the Lyra and the B-M, that they would all be poor matches. Considering that the Aries is a well-regarded but unsuspended design, what is it supported by? Has everything been professionally set up, or set up knowledgably by yourself using the aid of precision guages? What are your phonostage and phono cable situations? I haven't seen your other thread, but it seems to me this one lacks sufficient information to draw conclusions based upon.
Hi Aries was set up by a fairly knowledgeable person. The arm 10.5 cartridges as well. My concern is the arm....the 10.5. You see, I had tried the HR test record for anti-skate and the arm faired poorly....Many people have advise against the arm because of the unique anti-skate system (twisting the arm cable).
I listen to vinyl only and so my concern. As TWL said, this is a system and I believe I went too quickly and choose good gear but not matched good gear. So here I am.....
Have no fear, RWD. This is nothing that hasn't happened to a million people before you. It's just that alot of things change when you decide to start using lower compliance cartidges.Medium and higher compliance cartridges will get along with just about anything these days, so long as you don't try to mount them on a brick. When you get to the lower compliance stuff, all-of-a-sudden, things are a whole lot different. One of the main reasons for this, is that there has been a trend for years now, towards lighter arms and unipivots, for better vertical tracking performance. But this is the worst thing to have when you are using a low compliance cartridge. So it radically narrows the field, in terms of the arms you can use. It is my opinion, that eventually the "audiophile with an ear" will discover that the best of the MC carts are low compliance. When that happens, the whole world is upside down. Most of the arms don't work anymore. Very great care is required, in your selection of arms and carts, because of the high energy that is transferred back into the arm by these cartridges. Any weakness in this area, will immediatly be displayed to you. FWIW, the Lyra website specifically states that a gimbal bearing type arm should be used on all their cartridges. Most unipivots are immediatly obsolete for this type of cartridge, although the Graham does have a record of good performance with lower compliance. The outrigger weights are the "saving grace" of this design. I can't think of any other unipivot that will suffice with the low compliance stuff. And even with the outriggers, it still doesn't have the bass response of gimbal arms like SME V or Origin Live. Also, gimbal bearing arms are subjected to the rigors of low compliance, by a potential of "bearing chatter" if the bearings are not of the highest quality and precise adjustment. And stiff, anti-resonant arm tubes are also required. With low compliance you are putting the arm to it's maximum stress test, and anything that is not superior will not perform well. But, when you have a sufficient arm design, the low compliance cartridges will give sound quality that is quite unlike everything else. That is why Koetsu, Shelter, Supex, Lyra, Denon, and the like, have the sound and reputation that they do. These are not made low compliance simply to make the arm have a hard time. They are made low compliance to sound better. The makers would not make them like this is if it wasn't necessary for the sonic end-result.

The added weight, stiffness and bearing configuration that makes an arm suitable for these cartridges, is not necessarily ideal for the other higher compliance type of cartridges that are so prevalent. So arm makers are making light arms to suit the majority of carts, which are medium to high compliance. You need to zero-in on the arms which are correctly suited to the type of cartridge you plan to use. If you plan on Lyra, Koetsu, Shelter, Denon, or "classic" type MC designs, then you need to get an arm that will suit them. If you plan to go with Benz, Clearaudio, Dynavector, Grado, VDH, and the like, then you can use most any of the better available arms.

I am telling you this now, so that you will know what you need to know before you spend any more money. You have found out what can happen, and now is the time to re-assess, and make a well thought out decision about the future of your analog rig. You must know the direction you want to go, before you choose a road. There are known guidelines that have existed for the last 25 years or more about how to go about this process. I am trying to show you some of them.
Isn't the Graham 2.2 a unipivot design? Is so, given what TWL says about their incompatability with low compliance mc cartridges, wouldn't it be just as problematic with the Helikon as the JMW arms.
I have a Basis 2500, Graham 2.2 and a Ruby 2. I used to have a full boat Linn front end. The Linn front end had nothing I don't have now, but my new front end has superior image focus and bass control. The Graham has adjustments that allow you to tweek the arm the way you like it, plus it is very easy to switch arm wands allowing you to use both cartridges in no time.

Will it sound better, materially, than what you have now? It will be an improvement but how much is pretty subjective. The comment that a TNT V is a bigger step than the 2500 is open to debate. The Basis competes well with the TNT and has the advantage of a much more compact size. The engineering of the Basis gives one security it will run for many trouble free years. The TNT isn't chicken feed either.

The more exotic turntables mentioned are, I'm sure, fine units. That said, get a unit from a company that will be here to service it in five years or is so well engineered that it is unlikely to need service. I chose the Basis because other than replacing the belt or motor, there isn't much to go wrong. Oh yeah, is sounds great to.
Jackcob, yes I agree with what you say about that, as I definitely prefer gimbal bearing arms with low compliance. But, there is a somewhat mitigating factor with the Graham, because it has the "outrigger weights" that tend to stabilize it better than most unipivots. That said, I am strictly into low-compliance cartridges and have a gimbal bearing arm, because I think that is "where it's at" for controlling a low compliance cartridge.

However, one must realize that there are some strong points to unipivots, especially in "liquid" midrange reproduction, that some people are after. And, with all the unipivots out there, many people have a "bias" or "desire" to have a unipivot.

So, taking that all into account, I still think a very high quality gimbal bearing arm is preferable, but if a unipivot must be selected, the Graham is by far the best candidate that I know of. It is undoubtedly one of the best tonearms made, and it has some stabilizing features that help it overcome some of the traditional difficulties that unipivots have. I did not say, nor will I say that it might not have some small difficulty, or be "on the edge" of its capability. I did accept RWD's seeming desire to remain with a unipivot design, and made the best recommendation for the application, as far as a unipivot is concerned. The Graham 2.2 has been used by many with Koetsu carts, which are lower in compliance than the Lyra, and good results were reported. I still do think that an OL Illustrious would be the best candidate overall, because I have the OL Silver, and it has the "liquid midrange" qualities of the best unipivots, as well as the stability and bass response of the best gimbal bearing arms. The Illustrious has a higher lateral mass than my Silver, and should be even better at bass response, and also has a better bearing set than my Silver, so should be even better at resisting any chatter. My Silver handled a DL103 quite well, which is far more demanding than the Lyra. The Illustrious has some lateral mass advantages over the Silver, and should be a better performer because of this. However, the Silver is a competitor to the Graham, at a much lower price. It is a good value in this regard. But RWD is looking for a "flagship" quality arm, and the Illustrious is the "flagship" of the OL line. Any improvement in performance over the Silver puts the Illustrious at the top of the heap, of all pivot arms(IMO). The Silver is at least a match for any of the others, like Graham 2.2, SME V, Ekos, Aro, JMW, etc. Possibly the Breuer may exceed it. I seriously doubt that any pivot arm exceeds the Illustrious. There are precious few that may exceed the Silver. They may in a certain category of performance, but not in the overall. The SME V may have 1% better bass response than the Silver, but cannot match the Silver in the midrange, and musicality. The Graham may have a touch more liquidity in the midrange, but cannot match the Silver in bass response. The Ekos may have a slight edge in detail, but sounds clinical compared to the Silver. Overall the Silver is within a hair of all of the strong points of all the other great arms, and has them all together in one arm. It is an extremely balanced performer of a very high level. The Illustrious is even better, and that should speak for itself.
I don't mean to confuse the issue, but the immedia arm I would think would merit consideration. Alan perkins used lyra cartridges in the design of this arm.
As was stated above, you haven't really made clear which direction ou want to go. The vpi arms are said to have a certain sound to them, as is said both the graham and immedia. (the vpi turntables, for that matter).
You are definitely in the big leages, so to speak, as far as quality is concerned, but yet I get the impression that you don't feel you have what you want. I think it would be wise to assume that you are not happy with the particular sonic signature of the things you have, as you have stated that you think you have made bad matches, but it should be pointed out that many people have the same rig you have and really like it, and problably prefer it to the sound that you are trying to achieve. In order for you to like something, it has to be your favorite. I would think that this is more than a matter of which is a good match. From what I hear, all of the possibilities mentioned here for arms are good matches and actually designed around cartridges like yours. I feel you will have better success in identifying your taste and the various sonic signatures of the arms and/or tables.
I would suggest waiting on any upgrades until after the CES in January. VPI will be coming out with a few upgrades for the Aries that are said to improve performance substantially. In particular, the platter/ring of the new TNT-HRX will be available for the Aries. VPI also mentioned plans to roll out an upgrade for the JMW and a new motor assembly for the Aries. The arm upgrade will, I think, be a new VTA adjustment device that will offer greater rigidity than the current one. The new motor assembly will apparently be oblong-shaped and will house both a motor and a flywheel (somewhat like the new motor on the HRX).

Lastly, I believe a new low-wattage motor is available from VPI. This motor produces less vibration than the current motor. It is my understanding that this new motor can be easily dropped into the current motor assembly.
Hi ya Been Rwd? I think I gave some input on a thread with a similar question you ask now. Not sure. I will pass along what myself and friend Jcbtubes felt about these TTs. The VPI with your arm, the top of the line Audio Research Phono Stage, The pre amp i do not remember. I am sure Jcbtubes will remember should he post. I think the cartridge was a Benz, not sure of the spelling. The VPI that we listened to was the latest, greatest, TNT at the time. This took place about a year ago. Very nice sounding setup.

We then listened to the Basis 2500, Graham arm, and i think a VDH cartridge. The phono section we listened to did not have near the reputation of the ARC phono section. The preamp used was made by Jcbtubes. As nice as the TNT sounded, it could not come close to what we heard from the 2500. We tried to be as polite as possible. Very hard when it was so obvious that the TNT was no contest for the Basis 2500. I realize there could be many reasons why the TNT failed to compete with the 2500. I would love to give a good reason. We did not do this comparison in a manner which would benefit the Basis. In fact, The TNT had a dedicated stand, some kind of device that makes sure the motor is always running at the proper speed. But the TNT sounded slow, rounded, too rounded, not even close in bass performance, with a soundstage that sounded a bit closed in in comparison to the basis. Again, there could have been a problem that we could not figure out with the TNT. I will end this story saying that Jcbtubes bought the 2500. After what was heard, he would have been foolish not to.
This is no attempt to put down the TNT. It has such a great reputation, I would never be so foolish to degrade this TT with such a great standing among many audiophiles.
Twl's learned response is instructive as usual, but fails (perhaps out of necessity, given the context) to address two of the fundamentals I was attempting to point out above: A) Rwd apparently is not happy with *either* a low-compliance Lyra *or* a medium-compliance Benz in this arm, and B) we still do not know what it is *sonically speaking* that makes him unhappy, other than his set-up's observable performance on a test-record's anti-skating track, something which Harry Weisfeld would probably tell you to expect with his arm. So we know that changing arms could improve performance on that test track, but what of the sound? We have no way as yet to intelligently proceed in the only area that really matters (and still don't know about the phonostage and cables). I will continue to stick around this thread to learn what I can from those who possess more experience than I, but find it frustrating when help is requested without providing needed specificity and detail, and am uncomfortable with the idea of change for change's sake, or seeing someone, with the best of intentions, basically blowing with the breeze depending on what others say, based as it must be so far upon imcomplete information provided.
Zaikesman, there is some information from Rwd's previous threads, that is at play here. He is having a problem with the JMW and the Helikon, as a combo. The Benz is not a problem, as I see it. From his previous threads, he has identified the JMW/Helikon matchup to be less than ideal. Apparently, he would rather switch arms, than the cartridge. So this is what this discussion is revolving around. The latest discussion on TTs, relates to a new question he posed about whether he might change TTs also, when he is making this move. I think he needs as much input as possible, because this is a major move for him, and alot of money is at stake. This is the time to strike at the heart of the matter, so he can get the best combo, the first time out.
RWD, as I mentioned before, I am also using a Helikon with a JWM-10.5 on an Aries. While I also had trouble tracking the same antiskate bands on the HiFi News test record, I honestly have no desire to switch arms or cartridges. I couldn't be happier with the sound of the Helikon. For that matter I am also fond of the JMW -- particularly since swapping arm tubes, and thus cartridges, is so easily accomplished. I also have a mono Helikon, which is an absolutely amazing cartridge. By far, I get the best sound in my listening room when playing mono records with the mono Helikon. That I can so easily swap between cartridges is a HUGE plus.

I understand that you can swap arm tubes easily enough with the Graham as well. I am not sure if you can do so with the non-unipivot arms. If your listening tastes lean heavily towards classical, jazz, or 60's rock, then you may want to consider leaving yourself open to swap cartriges in the future.

It is my understanding that true mono cartridges, such as the mono Helikon, will soon be available from other manufacturers. I believe that you can now special order a true mono version of Grado cartridges from the Sonata model on up. Benz will also be coming out with one -- possibly a mono ACE.

Jumping back to the stereo Helikon -- prior to acquiring that cartridge I used two different Clearaudio cartridges; first the $1200 Sigma and then the $1600 Clearaudio Victory. Both tracked the HiFi News LP antiskate tracks better than my stereo Helikon -- and yet neither approached the Helkon's ability to get out of the way of the music.

IMHO I think there are better places that you can spend your money on than a new arm or table. The first thing that comes to mind is a Vibraplane (makes a HUGE difference) -- and from there a second arm tube and a Helikon mono.

That's just my two cents. I hope it helps.

Hi All...sorry for a brief delay (busy at work)...I would like to answer make some very good and valid points! I am quite happy with the "sound" of my Benz m2 and Helikon cartridges. However, I began to notice some inconsistencies with my 10.5 arm and the see my posts below.....

OK...I just spent 2 hours with a very knowledgeable technician trying to figure out why my new (2 months old) Helikon (regular) runs in on the lead in groove on some records. My arm is a VPI 10.5 and the tech is quite good at set up and VTA etc. We tried playing with the tonearm cable on the VPI (this is the cable connected to arm tube and the rear arm connection and is also used for anti-skate). We checked the weight, VTA, and still on some records (yes some older Mer's) even newer runs in for a few revolutions or grooves. It is very annoying but does not happen at the end of the record and it plays quit nicely overall. This should be a good question for Helikon/VPI arm 'goners.

Thanks for your help!
Rwd  (Threads | Answers)

.....and so I believe I began to notice a problem with the anit-skate. I did some twisting of my arm cable (this is the looped cable form the arm to the junction bos for the JMW arm....and the problem was solved.
Then I switched to my Benz cartridge. When I switch cartridges I remove the complete arm wand witch also contains the counter weight and that arm cable I referred to you see...the arm twist position is now gone and has to be reset. The next problem I noticed was when I viewed a Thread by addressed poor anti-skate problems with the JWM arm.....see below.....

11-19-02: Rwd
Sid, I just received my Hi-Fi teat record yesterday. I will test it on my Aries/VPI 10.5/Benz M2 and then my Helikon. I will report back.

TWL...your advice clearly seems as though you have great experience in this area. We all (vinyl lovers) thank you for your candid and straight forward remarks (although we sometimes don't want to hear the truth).
Let me check my cartridges out and get back to all.
Rwd  (Threads | Answers)

Finally....TWL has been very helpful.......I am happy with the should I am getting now, but if I can IMPROVE the sound with a better tracking cartridge/arm/table........??? Why not? If the JMW arm sounds fine with bad anit-skate.....what would a Graham or Origin or Vector arm sound like??????

(I hope you can follow the older threads that I cut and pasted into this one....)
Rwd, I think that looking at your situation the way that you are is very commendable. You are looking at moving toward the best sound that you can get, without "clinging" to any one particular item. This is the way to get the best out of your system. If I found another TT, arm, or cart that I could afford, that gave me better performance than what I have, I'd jump on it in a New York second. And then I'd tell everybody on here about it.

I recognize that there are different opinions on what you should do. I am only offering my opinion based upon what I know. There is more than one way to "skin a cat". The things I recommend are from my point of view, on the best sound that I know of. But, certain things are "written in stone" also. If you have a good working knowledge of the "written in stone" things, you can make your own judgments based on the good foundation. I tried to make some of these available to you so you could be as informed as possible on the subject. Ultimately it is your decision on what you do.

My personal belief is that tonearm stability is of paramount importance with low-compliance cartridges. Also cartridge/arm mass matchup is critical. Sufficient lateral mass is crucial. Rigidity, anti-resonance, and bearing precision is vital. Without ALL of these factors properly matched, you will not achieve maximum performance from a low-compliance cartridge. Yes, they will work if not perfectly matched, which you have found out, but they will not work as intended, and that is where alot of discussion comes into play, because some people think that just because a cartridge is working in their arm and sounds good, that it is doing all it can. This is clearly not the case. Much closer attention to all the particulars is required to extract the full extent of the arm/cartridge capabilities. And this is where we are at, isn't it? So you must be diligent in pursuing all the data possible to arrive at the best combination. Only then can you determine which cartridge sounds best, or which arm, or which combinations. Without that, you are making decisions based on a somewhat reduced sonic performance level, that is provided by a less-than-ideal matchup, and thus the conclusions will be flawed. I am of the opinion at this time, that you aren't yet aware of just how much that Helikon is capable of. It hasn't been allowed to perform at its best. To hear it at its best, you must put it into the proper carriage, which is what we are looking at.

In addition, you must remember, that an arm can only provide what the TT will allow, and there is room above the Aries for improvement, so even if you get the perfect arm for the Helikon, you will still not be hearing it at its maximum. All aspects must be considered as individual parts, and as a total system. The Helikon is good enough to be sitting on the world's best TTs, and be quite at home there. As you improve your TT, you will hear even more from your Helikon, that you didn't even know was available from it. If it is in the right arm.
Thanks Rwd and Twl for your clarifications. Let me just state for the you-know-what, that I personally find Harry Weisfeld's (VPI) advocacy of the supposed non-necessity for a proper anti-skate control to be, shall we say, non-convincing (as a point of theory, that is, never having used the VPI 'arm). To my mind, he should either: A) Declare that in his philosophy of record playback, anti-skating is a spurious concern, which he will not be addressing in his designs, period; or B) Acknowledge that skating is a real force which needs to dealt with in a predictable manner, and provide a calibrated control to allow this adjustment to be performed in the normal fashion. But simply opining that skating is a spurious concern - and therefore superfluous to correct for (or that the cure is worse than the disease) - but then turning around and saying that if you wish, you can accomplish the adjustment equally as well by futzing with the twist and the angle of the tonearm leadout wires, strikes this groove-surfer as a decidedly disingenuous and unsatisfactory solution. And it seems obvious one that doesn't work very well. So whatever other virtures his design may possess, or however good it may sound, if I were in the market for an 'arm in this range (and here is where I have to admit my de facto disqualification from being taken too seriously in this debate!), I would be looking elsewhere. But that's just me. :-)
Id' like to close this thread by saying "thank you " to you all for your kind advice, especially TWL.
I plan now to do some research on more TT's and arms and cartridges...and I WILL get back to you when I have decided which way to go. You probably will know 'cause I'll be posting more questions in the future.