Getting The Most Out Of My Scout

Hi Folks:

For a variety of reasons I've decided, for now, to keep my VPI Scout and upgrade my cartridge from a Dynavector 20XM to a Dynavector XX2MKII. Before my cartridge arrives and I make the change I'd like to make sure I'm getting the most possible performance out of my Scout. I am aware of the following upgrades that are available through VPI:

300 RPM Motor (I have this already)
Super Platter and Bearing
HRX Mini Feet
JMW9T Arm (with Nordost wiring?)
Stainless Steel Clamp
SDS Speed Control

Are there any I am forgetting?

Here is my question: Which of the available upgrades will provide the biggest performance improvement? If anyone cares to rank order the upgrade options that would be great.

Final question: I am interested in using a better set up jig (better than the stock one from VPI) when I install the new Dyna XX2MKII. Which of those available allow the best cartridge alignment for this table? I've seen a few out there but cannot tell which would be the best to use.

Thanks for your help!
In my opinion the SDS is the biggest improvement of all you listed. What's wrong with the VPI setup jig?
Most people like the Mint, I have not used one because I don't think my eyes are now good enough to get much benefit from it. Instead of the HRX feet I recommend Star Sound brass threaded cones, the 1/4 20 ones. I have directly compared them to the VPI on my Aries extended and they were much better. I am both a Star Sound and VPI dealer so have no favorite here. I have recommended them to several A goners and have had some very good responses. I am using them under both of my demo tables, tightens up the bass and increases the transparency. Actually more in line with Harry's general philosophy than absorbent feet. I am not sure the Super Platter is still available. I would not spend too much on the Scout, it is a very good table but you could move up to a used table from higher up the line cheaper than adding accessories to the Scout and you still would not have as good a table doing this. An SDS is always good as you can use it with most tables, VPI or other. If I were to buy another arm it would have a table attached to it. Use the Scout until you are ready to make a major move and them upgrade to a new table arm combination.
I know you have no intentions of buying all these upgradesn you listed, just to make your scout sound btter.

Because if you did come up with such a sum, and spent it on another, better turntable, that money would make the Scout sound like a $44 plastic garrard table from the 70's.

The VPI Super Platter is no longer available, but the new Classic Platter is, for $800 big ones.

It might be time to look in another direction.
Markd51: You are correct--I do not plan to buy all the upgrades listed--only the one or two that provide the biggest bang for the buck. I understand that it would be foolish to double down on an entry level table. But, for reasons I do not wish to get into here, I'd like to keep the Scout and perform sensible, cost effective upgrades (should they exist) in an effort to squeeze out maximum performance from this table. I've gotten some helpful tips here and offline (thanks Islandmandan!) and may get some others from folks who have contemplated the same path forward as me.
I was hoping islandmandan would contribute his ideas. I've seen and heard his system and I can tell you the man knows his stuff. He is an excellent source.
The ring clamp!!
Get a Mint LP. It will open your ears. This is one of the biggest improvements I've got on my vinyl rig.
Th biggest impact on my Scout was my learning how to set up the cartridge properly. After that, I would try different cartridge/phono stage combinations until I came to a sound that I enjoyed. None of the upgrades is going to significantly change the sound from something you don't like to something you do.

P.S. I would also suggest the Mint protractor. It appears to be based on the same system as the Wally Tractor (which I use), but the Wally is essentially unobtainable.
Have you tried the black diamond clamp it is a significant improvement over the stock vpi clamp and if you can one used it's a good value.


Isolation platform (Gingko)

Trans-fi Terminator Tonearm (better option than the VPI arm)
If you can get a Aries 1 platter with the cork/aluminum/acrylic sandwich it will give the biggest bang for the buck. You may not need anything else. The SDS is nice, but not as important as the platter.
MarkD51 said,

"make the Scout sound like a $44 plastic garrard table from the 70's."

Hyperbole is fine but this is a silly statement. :-)
A few years back, my entry level TT was the Scout. Out of the box, it was a little flat but after much tweeking the sound to my ears was great. I used the Mint tractor which really made a big difference and also the Cloud 10 isolation platform which took it up anothet level. After that, I went up the Ortofon cart line and found that the P Winfield cart absolutely opened this table up. I have since sold the Scout but still have the Cloud 10 isolation platform if you are interested

Good luck
The scout is a great TT.
Years back i had them on Ultra Symposium-makes a huge discernible difference.
The Mint LP protractor is also very good. The difference is the quiteness of the sound as well as the free flowing sense of musicality.
I would highly recommend the MINT LP as well.
You have the Scout on a wall shelf mounted to the upper portion of your cabinet. Have you tried placing TT on a solid table somewhere else in your room? I wonder if this might allow you to gain some additional performace from what you already have.

I have completed the following for my stock Scout:

- 300 RPM Motor
- Signature Tonearm
- Super Platter
- ring clamp
- silk thread belt drive
- PS Audio P300 (speed regulation)
- ZYX Fuji cart

I use a solid oak end table having spikes on the legs for isolation and leveling. The table is mass loaded with LPs. A solid maple block has been placed on the table and isolated using some Sorbothane pucks I had laying around. The motor sits on a piece of slate isolated by smaller pieces of Sorbothane I cut from a sheet purchased some time ago.

This performs way better than anticipated so the only thing I will do in the near future is to the get an SDS one day. I think the best thing I did was to place the TT on the end table and add the maple block.

Another TT will be several years down the road as there is no hurry at the moment.
Dodgealum...have you received your Dyna XX2MkII cart? What tweaks/upgrades to the Scout did you end up doing? What's the sound like compared to your prior setup with the Dyna 20X cart? Thx

The Mint Tractor arrived today and a digital stylus force gauge should be here by the weekend. I plan to redo the setup with the 20XM and then put the Scout back in the system to see what improvements can be wrought from a more precise setup. The XX2MkII should be here in a week or so--should be interesting!
Dodgealum...sounds good. Would love to hear the results from your use of the Mint Tractor with both carts and overall improvement (or lack thereof) of optimizing cart setup. Especially interested in the 20X vs XX2MkII comparison once you get both carts dialed in optimally. Thx
OK, it was interesting. I began by checking the setup on my 20XM to see whether I got it right with the VPI jig and a basic Shure stylus gauge. First, I checked the tracking force. I had carefully used the Shure gauge and thought I had it set at 1.85. Wrong! Actual tracking force as measured by the new digital gauge was 2.345. Next up was the alignment. To my utter amazement I found that I had nailed it with the VPI jig. So, rather than put the table back in the system to see what a change in the tracking force would yield, I skipped that step and went right on to setting up the XX2MkII. Using the Mint is not all beer and skittles--it takes time and can be fatiguing (on your eyes, back, nerves, etc). But, after lots of practice with the old fine motor skills I got it right where I wanted. Then set the tracking force at 1.853 and let her rip. Sounded great--I mean really, really great--right out of the box but I got some really minor mistracking in difficult passages so I increased the tracking force to 1.952 and BAM all that went away. Now I'm breaking the cartridge in and with only three sides played am already smitten! Very similar house sound to the 20XM but with much greater resolution, inner detail, speed and frequency extremes. Reviewers sometimes talk about a "veil being lifted". I would say so indeed. Anyhow, got to get back since the side is over and I want to get 10 or 15 hours in before I start any serious listening.

Oh yeah, one other thing. My early JMW9 does not have a fine adjustment screw on the rear stub of the arm. I purchased 1/2" ID O'Rings at the Home Depot for $1 and slid one over the rear stub. This allows me to make super fine adjustments to the tracking force without moving the large counterweight (and screwing up the azmiuth adjustment). This is a nice "fix" if you have one of the older style arms, which are a pain in the neck to get the tracking force right since the slightest movement of the big counterweight yields big changes in the tracking force.
You can try a tube below your Turntable. It will be a better isolation device than any rack, feet, cones ... and it is very cheap.
Instead of investing all of those bucks in upgrading the Scout (aka: "Doing the VPI tango) you may want to consider buying another and better TT. scales are unnecessary. By that I mean (and have posted on these pages many times) that every cartridge off of the assembly line is just a bit different from its brothers, and therefore needs different pressures to sound its best. If the literature says the cartridge is designed to work between .75 and 2.75 grams, that means that somewhere in that range there is a perfect VTF ...not that the cartridge will play best at any VTF between those limits. I find that a scale is only good to get me in the "ballpark"..meaning the Shure scale is perfectly good. By the way...the Shure scale is far more accurate if you take the reading at the edge of the platter, with the front "feet" hanging off of the platter. Anyway, I urge all to experiment with various VTF's between the manufacturer's suggested limits to find the optimum VTF for YOUR cartridge. Also check it every few weeks, because it WILL change.
Doak: I thought of this and spent a fair amount of time looking for a table that would work in my application that would substantially outperform the Scout without spending more than double the price--I came up empty. With the XX2MKII now installed I'm feeling pretty darn good about my decision to hang on to the VPI.
I think the Classic blows the Scout away, and I have had both, and the Aries. It does not need all of the upgrades to get to the next level. I got rid of my SDS and arm on the Classic is better, IMHO, than the 10.5 that comes on the Aries, and blows away the JMW 9 signature.

I would buy a Classic again in a heartbeat. The only upgrade that I have, and it is great, is the periphery ring, but I would suggest that for any non-vacuum hold down table anyway.
I'm wondering what makes the Classic a better table? I can't see substantial design or engineering improvements over the Scout series that would account for significantly better sound. Enlighten me please, Classic advocates.
It's very scientific, it just sounds better. Deeper, fuller, more extended. I don't know what the technical reasons are, but it's a better sounding rig. I have never heard anyone who had both say any different.
Dodgealum...check out this link at on the Classic tt. There were a bunch of cynical comments about the design of the Classic tt and both Alan Sircom of Hifi+ and Harry Weisfeld (founder and Pres of VPI) responded to the critics/cynics concerning the design principles of the Classic. Interesting read if nothing else:
It's very scientific, it just sounds better. Deeper, fuller, more extended. I don't know what the technical reasons are, but it's a better sounding rig. I have never heard anyone who had both say any different.
Cmalak, thanks great article.
Well, I've read the Audio Beat review as well as (most) of the posts at the linked forum and I'm not convinced. First, I fail to see how a motor mounted to the plinth of the Classic (no matter how well isolated) can introduce less vibration than the outboard set up on the Scout series. Second, there is no mention of the bearing construction in the review (the website simply says "silent inverted type") so I do not see any evidence of superior bearing design over the Scout series. Third, the Classic uses the noisier 600 RPM motor while most Scouts (like mine) have the upgraded and quieter 300 RPM version. While the feet, tonearm (and wiring) of the Classic are probably superior to those of the Scout, I doubt these are of a magnitude to put the Classic in an entirely different league. Bottom line: these tables are more similar than different and other than a different cosmetic wrap I fail to see what all the fuss is over this table. I suspect the biggest difference sonically has to do with an aluminum versus acrylic platter, which will make the tables sound different though I'm not sure one material is better than the other. Overall, the VPI's are good value for money tables but are not, IMHO, in the same league as some of the better tables out there like the Raven One for example.
You have not heard the table, by reading your comments. Your analysis of the engineering behind the tables is spot on, which is why everyone, myself included, is shocked when they hear the table.

The reason every review is outstanding, is becuse the table is really that good. Also, there is a reason production is so far behind demand. I think VPI is shocked at the demand response, I think they thought it would be a cool, retro, niche deck for the modified AR, Thorens, Garrard, Technics crew. In fact, I assume it has actually hurt sales of their much higher priced decks, and I bet they never counted on that.
Macdad...I agree with you in terms of VPI's surprise, although, believe me, I think Harry Weisfeld/VPI is extremely happy with the response they are seeing with regards to the Classic because, their higher priced tables are very low volume sellers, so they are happy to cannibalize some of those sales and build the backlog for the Classic. I am sure it is still a very profitable table and this gives them some stability of sales that they can plan around.
No, I have not heard it yet and am certainly open to a change of heart but it just baffles me that it could be that much better given what I've read about the design elements. I'll have to give it a spin and see for myself.
Cmalak, you are exactly right I am sure. After having a couple of great Clearaudio tables, I bought a Scout, and did some of the upgrades, then switched to an Aries I (the one everyone raves about being incredible with the original platter). I used the SDS and ring clamp on both, and really didn't like either of them anywhere near as well as my Clearaudio Solution or Performance, and I was planning on trying out a much more expensive Sota (hey, I found out they are made about 2 miles from where I grew up) rig, but after hearing a Classic in someone else's setup that I knew very well, I decided to try a VPI one last time.

I have never been sorry in any way that I bought this table. I don't know why it does, but it just absolutely rocks. The Whole seems much better than the sum of it's parts in the this instance, to quote a well warn cliche. I got rid of the SDS too, I don't know why, but it made no difference in the set up. I do still use the periphery ring, well a new one anyway.

I am skeptical of most of what I read on audio, and that skeptisism is usually justified, but in this instance, I was dead wrong. I really think this table could be a seminal piece of gear in the same manner the still excellent Linn LP12 is.

I'm a big fan if you can't yet tell. I'm sad that I am running out of pieces of my system to replace. It sucks getting content.
Macdad...I am sure you will find a way to upgrade/replace/tweak your system :-) Glad you are having such a good time with the Classic. I am still waiting for my dealer to get it in so I can take a listen. This will be my first tt setup so I want to take my time and make sure I get something that floats my boat.