Got a New CD Player and Now I'm Bummed

Hope to get some help here...I recently added an Esoteric X-03SE to my system the details of which you can see here. I've always been a huge fan of vinyl and have a large collection--many more LP's than CD's. The problem is my digital front end is now WAY better sounding than my analogue set up. (My last CD player, a Naim CDX2, was about on par with my table--better in some areas, not as good in others). I'm finding myself listening to many more CD's while my LP's are dying for attention. I never thought this would happen to me! So, now I'm faced with upgrading my analogue to the point of parity (or better?) with my digital. (Wierd, right?). I could use some suggestions. One limiting factor is the overall height of the new analogue set up cannot be much taller than what I have since it needs to sit on a wall mount shelf that fits inside our entertainment center. So, I need a table/arm/cartridge set up that sounds DRAMATICALLY better than my Scout/JMW9/Dyna 20XM but doesn't need a ton of head room. What do you think I need to spend to get significantly better performance than what I have already? What would you all suggest for a new analogue front end? I'm thinking a Scoutmaster, Sota Cosmos or perhaps going back to an LP 12 with works. Ideas? Thanks!
Just leave everything as is and wait for a few months. Listen and enjoy. Your opinion may shift over time. Is there any real reason to make a quick change?
I agree just wait... Heightened expectations and the thrill of new gear can skew thoughts and opinion in comparing gear. As the new gear settles in and you get accustom to it your point of view may shift.

Sometimes the fact that something sounds different is heard as sounding better when it may not in reality. Time has a way of being more fair and/or critical to new gear vs older gear.
I'll wager half your TT problem is that pretty cabinet. Even if you're married to the entertainment center, you might try resiting the TT on an experimental basis.
I would not spend significant amounts of money to get a marginal improvement in vinyl playback. I would save the money for your next digital upgrade. I think that most of the sound quality improvements have been wrung out of vinyl but cd players and cds are just starting to hit their stride. I think cds and cd players will continue to improve significantly for years to come. Then there is the promise of 24/96 or better digital downloads somewhere in the future.
Thanks folks. I'm certainly not in any rush however the superiority of my digital front end over my analogue is quite clear and unlikely to change over time. As to the location of the turntable--it is really the best set up I've ever had (and I've tried most of them). If you look closely you will see that the Target shelf passes through the back panel of the entertainment center. It is bolted to a piece of 5/8 birch ply that is screwed to wall studs. The table is literally floating within the entertainment center, immune from footfalls and airborne vibration generated by the speakers. Also, I've replaced the MDF shelf on the Target with a Symposium Svelte Shelf. All in all, this is the best isolation I've ever achieved and has the added benefit of being out of harms way to boot.

I just feel that while the Scout is a good player and an excellent value for money, there must be vinyl rigs out there that will fit into my space and outperform the Scout in a meaningful way. Perhaps I'm wrong here but I've always operated under the assumption (untested really) that the best vinyl playback will outperform the best digital playback. Now that I've upped the ante on the digital side it would only make sense that I will need to spend a comparable sum to get similar performance out of my LP's. Actually, let me put that as a question--do you think at this point in time one needs to spend less, the same or more on a vinyl rig to get the same level of performance out of digital? In other words and speaking generally, if my CDP retails for around $8K, do I need to spend about that much to approximate the sound of my Esoteric? Or does the inherent supremacy of vinyl mean I can spend half as much to get similar quality sound? (Or for those who may tout the superiority of digital, do I need to spend half again as much to get the similar quality sound?

I'm very curious as to where people are with this. I've always accepted as an article of faith that, all things being equal, vinyl will outperform digital. But the degree to which the Esoteric spanks the Scout (granted, at four times the price) I'm not so sure anymore.

BTW, I've run A-B tests here with a number of recordings in which I have both LP and CD format. Several of the LP's are quality (audiophile) issues such as MOFI's, etc. These were put up against standard Redbook CD's in the shootout.
There is a a lot of potential for improvment just with your cart. The Dyna 20X is a great cart for the money, but you can do a lot better. That alone will make a big difference. Just a move up the next step in the Dyna line is dramatically better.
I feel that the next level up for the Scout in analog is probably the biggest improvement. I spent many years with several very good turntables (Scout, Michell Tecnodec, P3, Linn Basic) but was never completely satisfied on all account in comparison with digital. And I agree - my friend's esoteric is awfully close to his Scoutmaster, Dyna 20XM setup.

If you are looking for a compact table (which I did) the DPS turntable from Germany would be my contender even if the price has gone up quite a bit due to the Euro/US$ exchange rate. Another important step as Ejlif has pointed out would the cartridge and phonostage. I find that my Lyra Argo with JLTI phono contributes as much as the table to the improvement in my analog setup.

Now Esoteric, Meitner, etc doesn't even come close to my analog setup anymore in all areas; Realism, speed, detail, top-end extension, bass extension and control, layering of the soundstage and instrument separation.

Finally, I agree that the place for your turntable is not ideal and would be the first thing to change; the compact 60lbs DPS table may even be too heavy on that shelf anyway. If you change the location, you can also consider several other good tables: Galibier, Teres, Verdier, etc.
Well its got to do more with the character of your cartridge in my opinion.. I would suggest an even better cart, and look at ones that supposedly have a more opposite character to the one you have, might be the CD player is not as dark sounding and warm as your previous, or vice verse, maybe more presence so to speak, so I suggest maybe trying a cart with better jump factor, and then you will not be so bored with it. I have no experience with your dyna cart, but I am sure many will get you a totally different tone to match up better or exceed your new CD player. I can say if you want a very strong rock sounding cart, very clean, tons of raw dynamics to match the best of CD players, look at the Ortofon line, kontrapunkt series and even the Jubilee. By way almost every MOFI half speed or 33 I have owned have always been pretty DUll sounding, not a good indicator vs. using some better standard vinyl recordings.
Sell the CDP and move up in your vinyl setup. =8^)

Ejlif has some wisdom here. Dyna XV - 1S and a EAR 324 or one of the better Phono amps will do the trick.

Liste to Restock as he also has wisdom.
Sorry to go the other direction but upgrade your preamp, my friend upgraded to an ARC LS25 from your SP16 and it was a huge upgrade in soundstaging depth and width; and, then get a good phonostage.
If you change tables, your phonostage will still really be holding you back. You could get a Dynavector phonostage P75 Mk1 or Mk2 and use the Dynavector enhanced mode with your cart which should elevate your system quite a bit for very little money and space. I have heard good things about the EAR phonostage suggested also.
The very first thing I'd do is get a VPI SDS power line/speed controller for the Scout.

No offense, but I wouldn't play my vinyl much if I had to reach that high to change a disc. You must be pretty tall :-)
I agree with Cytocycle concerning a preamp/phono stage upgrade. I recently had to have repairs done to my VAC preamp and I auditioned an SP16 (didn't like it) and a Manley (no phono) which was far superior to the SP16. I purchased the Manley to use while the VAC was away. My backup phono stage is a Phomonena which I used with the Manley. I don't have an audiophile approved turntable but it works and sounds just fine for me. When the VAC was away for repair they performed a mod to the phono stage that is remarkable to say the least. Prior to repair, for the most part, the cd system sounded better. Now the LP playback kicks out some serious dynamic and detailed music that beats the cd system.
In the least, if you are married to the SP16, try a quality outboard phono stage. Your turntable is superior to what I'm using and I think you would be astounded by what a real good phono stage would do.
I'm probably going to get spanked for this but I'm going to offer an opinion. I've found that systems with mid-efficiency multi-way, crossovered speakers, digital and analog generally sound closer than they do on systems I prefer - low-power SET and single-driver horns or front horns.

I recently tried to go all digital. On my system, with a Shindo pre, Yamamoto or Art Audio amp and Lamhorns, no digital comes very close to analog. Digital can sound good, but the level of nuance, realism, and envelopment is in another league with vinyl. It's nothing subtle

Is it more revealing, or just different - somehow tailored to vinyl?
I agree with DGarretson and Dopogue (both friends of mine), move the tt out of that cabinet and onto a solid non-resonant support that does not enclose the tt, AND get yourself a motor controller, SDS or Walker. After that, if you're not happy, then I would look at changing the premplifier. Perhaps your dealer will let you borrow an alternative product to try. But that cabinet is a definite liability for vinyl reproduction, sorry to say.
I appreciate the comments and suggestions. I agree that an upgrade of the preamp and/or cartridge are logical steps but wonder whether either will provide the jump in performance necessary to meet what I am getting from the Esoteric.

On another note, I'd like someone to please explain why my turntable set up is limiting the performance of my Scout. In my 25 years with at least 6 or 7 different tables and as many support stands (Target rack, Arcici Lead Balloon, platform hanging from ceiling, ETC) this set up is clearly the best in terms of isolating the table from airborne and table induced vibrations as well as foot falls. Please read my description above, look at the photo (ask a question or two if you like) and offer a rationale for why this doesn't work as well as I think it does. To just say "it's too high" or it is a "definite liability" or "not ideal" isn't much help or very persuasive.
I'll take a shot at it. From the one photo, it appears that the tt sits on a Target wall shelf which is in turn bolted to the back wall of that tall cabinet, in which also sits your TV and other gear. Thus, vibrations emanating from the tt are coupled to that wall which will be set into motion and resonate at a certain frequency. Further, vibrations from your other gear may be coupled back into the tt via the wall/wall shelf interface. Moreover, I have a bad feeling about enclosing the tt on five sides (top, bottom, right, left, and rear); the tt radiates noise and vibrations into the air around it and the enclosing surfaces may also be resonating due to that effect. Better to mount the Target shelf directly onto studs in your wall, out in the open. But don't forget about the motor controller idea either.
Agree with LewM. I just have the feeling that you're created a resonance
chamber by enclosing the tt that way. Dave
Dodgealum, I think a big part of your dissatisfaction is that analog is just so in vogue . . . think Hansel in Zoolander . . . "he's just so hot right now!"

Many on Audiogon currently mirror the audio press, and I find it interesting that if somebody prefers the sound from their CD player, then the turntable is surely broken . . . and no shortage of opinions on how to fix it. Yet when the opposite is true, the response is frequently some variation on "YEAH!!!!! ANALOG ROCKS!!!!"

I actually got the impression from your post that your turntable actually sounds quite good . . . it's just that now your CDs sound REALLY good. There's nothing wrong with that . . . why not just sit back and enjoy your system for awhile? It's quite possible to have a system where the digital side is better than the analog, and still really enjoy both.

And you'll probably make better decisions about your turntable rig when you're in that initial frustrated, dissatisfied mindset . . . which is one I can very much empathize with.
Also, before abandoning the Scout, considering trying a carpet thread in place of the stock rubber band. The thread should be able to get grip on the pulley, assuming that you have the 300 RPM motor. I think you'll find that bass gets tighter, treble gets both smoother & more resolving, and the presentation generally becomes more focused, continuous & less sluggish. There are suspension mods that could further improve performance, but it looks like you don't have much room in the cabinet for additional layers. I assume the arm/cartridge has been carefully set up, but personally I would be challenged to get geometry spot on with the TT elevated & enclosed.
Same here. My digital rig indeed outdid my last vinyl setup. The most important areas where it fell short were: image/soundstage and dynamics. When I added it all up the reality was I didn't have the free money laying around to buy the gear I needed to get an analog rig where I wanted it. As a result I listened to vinyl less and less. I still believe a good analog rig will outdo digital. BUT because there are now and have been few new releases on vinyl in the last 15 years or so I decided to let it go.......... for now. Maybe again someday. I do miss it.

Moreover, I have a bad feeling about enclosing the tt on five sides (top, bottom, right, left, and rear); the tt radiates noise and vibrations into the air around it and the enclosing surfaces may also be resonating due to that effect. Better to mount the Target shelf directly onto studs in your wall, out in the open. But don't forget about the motor controller idea either.

It's not really the sound emitted from the turntable that is important but the sound coming from you speakers that will resonate inside the cabinet. Enclosing a turntable on several sides, or placing it in a corner is always a problem. Just play a constant sin tone in the range 40-100Hz and listen in the corner vs. open space. The sound volume is usually quite a bit increased close to walls or corners.

Also, I agree mounting the target shelf to the cabinet seems to defeat the purpose of the wall mount. It would be much better to mount the shelf to a wall as Lewm suggested.
This is exactly what I suspected--that the critical posters did not fully understand exactly how my table arrangement works. I will copy below what I wrote in this thread:

"If you look closely you will see that the Target shelf passes through the back panel of the entertainment center. It is bolted to a piece of 5/8 birch ply that is screwed to wall studs. The table is literally floating within the entertainment center, immune from footfalls and airborne vibration generated by the speakers. Also, I've replaced the MDF shelf on the Target with a Symposium Svelte Shelf".

I know it is hard to see this in the photo posted with my system--I purposely made it look as though the Target shelf is bolted to the back of the cabinet by sandwiching the cutout piece between the wall and the Target shelf. To reiterate--the Target shelf passes through a hole in the rear of the cabinet and bolts directly to a 5/8" piece of birch plywood, which is buried in the wall and screwed into the wall studs. I can literally hang all 225 pounds of me on the end of the shelf and it doesn't budge. As to surrounding the table on all sides (except the front) this actually prevents airborne vibration from getting to the table. Again, this arrangement is the best I've been able to engineer and, if I can add, is the envy of every one of my audiophile/analogue buddies. I say this only to reinforce the point that the Scout is getting the best possible support and yet still falls short of the performance of my digital setup.

I think Kirkus and ET have raised an issue worth discussing--the orthodoxy within the audiophile community about the superiority of vinyl. I will admit, I have been preaching this gospel for a good long while. However, it seems plausible to me that improvements in digital recording and playback have now given digital the edge. There are still good reasons to have an analogue set up but superior sound quality may not be one of them. Again, I haven't had the opportunity to listen and compare similarly priced vinyl and CD players at the upper end of the market but it is clear to me that my Scout cannot keep up with the Esoteric in nearly every major point of comparison. I wonder whether the whole "analogue rules" movement is based more on dated perceptions of digitals flaws and nostalgia than how these formats compare in their current iterations.
I have heard it said that this dealer I know if he could properly set up a Rega Planar 3,it would beat a $30,000 dollar CD Player. Why? One of the reasons would be that 16 bit digital "sound" is inferior to full-range analogue sound found on L.P's.In short we are talking about 18.5Khz as opposed to 40Khz or 50Khz found on some L.P's.CD is what is outdated my friend not records.
If you look closely you will see that the Target shelf passes through the back panel of the entertainment center. It is bolted to a piece of 5/8 birch ply that is screwed to wall studs. The table is literally floating within the entertainment center, immune from footfalls and airborne vibration generated by the speakers. Also, I've replaced the MDF shelf on the Target with a Symposium Svelte Shelf".

I agree, that is a very nice solution. However, my guess is that you will still get increased sound pressure levels inside the enclosure and are therefore susceptible to airborne vibration. You could measure the sound pressure level using a SPL meter inside the unit and at several places around your rooms to compare. Try several frequencies to check.
As for the analog-digital comparison: I agree my friends Esoteric beats his Scout on several levels as well. That is not true anymore when you step up to a more top end table - my compact DPS with Lyra Argo and JLTI phono does pretty much everything better than the Esoteric. The differences couldn't be more pronounced in my system. But then my SET based system may just resolve these differences more as Paulfolbrecht indicated.
i have a clearaudio ambition cmb with a Lyra Helikon SL and has recently beaten the crap out of a friend's new digital rig: stereophile's digital product of the year, the 16000 dollar chord transport and 64 bit dac. Any good analogue setup can easily kill almost any digital frontend, with an exception of dCS's recent Scarlatti, which begins to approach analogue, but its not there yet...
I don't quite understand how you think "The table immune from footfalls and airborne vibration generated by the speakers." Isolated from footfalls to a large extent but form speaker airborne vibes, now way. I have to agree with Restock that the cabinet maybe actually reinforcing low frequencies and then focusing them to the TT. If the TT was in an open situtaion the sound waves have less of a chance to be focused. Try a stethescope on the plinth or support shelf and see what your hear. You'll always have airborne vibes to contend with if your TT in in the same room as your speakers.
I would try adding a PH5. The improved phono performance btwn that and a SP16 is huge. The bass improvements alone are amazing. It's a really great sounding phonostage. I think adding a PH5 would be better than adding a LS25 simply because a good sep. phono will be better than a better preamp w/phono, not to knock a LS25.
Then a better cartridge. I think a mistake is thinking that a TT under $2K can't do a similairly priced cartridge justice. I have a friend with a HW19 MK3/RB300 I sold him my Benz Ruby2. Compared to the Denon MC and his ClearAudio MM there was no contest. Is he getting all from Ruby2 with his TT, probably not but his treble is to die for. If he added a PH5 it would sound amazing.
The ARC LS25 doesn't have a phonostage 'LS= Line Stage Only' and requires an external phonostage. I was just saying that the higher end LS26,LS26,Ref2 all provide superior soundstaging to the SP16 and LS16.. so both the CD player and phonostage would improve..

So ideally upgrading the Phonostage and Linestage would provide a huge improvement. Even the cheap Dynavector P75 Mk2 so you can use the enhanced mode for your current cart and upgrade later.

Here's my $.02...

I think the emphasis on your TT placement is misplaced. You took great pains to isolate it from both footfalls and directly radiated energy from the speakers. While some airborne energies may be trapped and resonating within the enclosure, there are other factors limiting your analog reproduction and in my estimation they are much greater.

You've acquired a truly high performance digital source. It gets the very best from the media it plays and is not susceptible to the distortions that are so difficult to reduce when playing vinyl. The Esoteric's sonic clarity is exposing the flaws of your analog equipment. This direct comparison has sensitized you to its distortions and non-linearities and now they bother you. (They don't bother many people, including the "my $500 rig will outplay any digital source" crowd.)

Some of the weaknesses in your analog front end were mentioned or alluded to by others, so apologies if I repeat anybody's advice or ideas.

1. The motor controller supplied by VPI with the Scout is notoriously inadequate. That's why they sell the SDS (as mentioned above). Without a good controller you have no hope of speed accuracy, and speed accuracy is job one for a TT.

2. The Scout is driven by a rubber band (in effect). No drive mechanism containing elastic torque couplings can maintain constant speed when faced with a variable load (ie, stylus drag). That is not an opinion, it's basic engineering. My platter weighs more than your entire TT. It has several times more rotational inertia than your platter. Yet if I switch to an elastic belt like yours my sonics go instantly downhill. Transients are dulled, dynamics are softened, bass is limp, mids and highs are smeared. All the tweaking in the world will not eliminate the flaws inherent in an elastic drive train.

3. Rubber(y) material in contact with a TT (especially the platter) is a sonic no-no. When an elastic material encounters vibrations (intra-platter resonances) it temporarily contracts (changes shape) to absorb the energy. Being elastic, however, it wants to return to its resting shape. When it does so it releases the stored energies back into the platter - shifted in time, frequency and amplitude. These vibrations reach the stylus through the record. Result: sonic mud.

4. Your tonearm, like any unstabilized unipivot, is incapable of fully performing a tonearm's primary job: holding the cartridge squarely over the center of the groove. It relies on the reaction to groovewall pressures to maintain azimuth stability. This puts undue pressure on the cartridge suspension. Result: reduced dynamics, slowed pace, a serious decrease in both low level detail and HF extension. Since the entire arm/cartridge responds to unequal sidewall pressures by making reactive microscopic azimuth changes, crosstalk is increased and always varying. Result: bloated images and poor L/R soundstaging.

I could go on but you get my drift: your present TT and arm have inherent weaknesses and your new digital rig has exposed them. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy them, but you shouldn't expect them to outplay a top class source. That just isn't going to happen - and it's all your fault for buying such a nice digital spinner! ;-)

My guess is you'll have to spend about $5-7K for a TT and arm that will reduce distortions and non-linearities enough to roughly match the Esoteric (note: none of the choices you listed addresses the problems I mentioned). You could spend a lot more to really beat the Esoteric if you choose. Whether you should is up to you of course.

Thanks for your thoughtful and well reasoned response. I think you are right on the mark. I feel that while the Scout may be a good table at it's price point it simply cannot compete with a top shelf digital player like the Esoteric, no matter how it is situated. I do think that the responses here suggest a real reluctance on the part of the audiophile community to recognize the gains that have been made in digital playback. It seems most people focused their comments on what must be wrong with my LP setup--otherwise, how could it possibly be bested by a CD player? Again, I've been drinking that Kool Aid for a long while myself. When I got my Naim CDX2 it was an eye opener. In some respects it surpassed my Scout in performance, though overall I'd rate them equally capable components. The Esoteric has moved things to a whole other level, to the point where I am not convinced that any upgrade to the Scout will allow it to compete. This is why I started this thread--to get some opinions on another analogue setup that will work in my situation and will provide performance at (or above) the level of my digital front end. Doug--you have indicated that none of the tables I mentioned will do this--do you have any others in mind that will? Once I upgrade the table I can look at changes to my preamp and phonostage that will allow me to take full advantage of my vinyl rig.
I for one do not care a bit whether or not you like your cdp better than your turntable. And I do think it's possible for digital to "outperform" analog, regardless of cost, if for no other reason than the fact that the judgment between the two media is subjective. I was only trying to comment on what might be subpar about your analog set-up, and I deliberately stuck to discussing things you could do that don't cost a fortune. (Meantime, I apologize for not reading the text of your post more carefully re the mounting of the Target shelf.) It's also easy to say that for thousands of dollars more your analog sound could be bettered. Anyway, it seems to me that you are the one who is being a bit pig-headed here; what have you got to lose by (i) moving the table outside of that cabinet enclosure, (ii) replacing the elastic belt with a thread per D Garretson, and (iii) trying a motor controller on the tt motor? (The last will cost money, but if you buy an SDS or Walker motor controller second-hand, you can likely recoup all your money on re-sale, should you find that it is not effective. I bought my Walker MC off A'gon many years ago with the notion that it was a crock worth trying, and now I cannot listen to vinyl without it.) It's highly likely that those 3 steps will make you quite happy.
You might want to try adding Stillpoints under your table. These seem to have a very strong following for providing amazing enhancement to turntable support.

Another idea would be to add a Sistrum support. I recently added one uner my Teres 255. My teres sits on top of an Adona granite slab that has a substrate underneath to better absorb resonance from the granite. Then I have the sistrum between that and another granite slab ontop of a wall mount shelf. I found the wall mount to be a significant step up from any traditonal floor mounted rack, especially because the house I'm in is on a suspended floor. I'd be surprised if your wall mounted shelf is the culprit.

Another suggestion echoing others is to get a new preamp/phono stage. The biggest thread on Audiogon is the Preamp Deal of the Century thread about the Supratek preamp. Getting a Syrah or Chenin from Supratek might really catapult your vinyl to the next level.
I had to chime in on this discussion beacause I have experienced your dilemma. I have a wonderful high resolution system with Wilson Audio Sophias, Audio Research Mono Blocks...etc. I started my analog journey with a basic scoutmaster. The analog source was so profoundly involving that even though I had a fine digital front end, I was listening to vinyl almost all the time. I couldn't believe the Scoutmaster was not resolving enough to provide more information than my digital front end.
I started on the upgrade "journey"......... first the SDS, then the JMW 9 Signature arm, then the center weight and ring clamp , then improved cartridges...and even though I loved the music I was experiencing from my analog front end, being a former classical musician, I knew there was more. I wasn't about to make a significant upgrade without a personal audition, so I started looking around. I was able to audition a wonderful Basis Debut with Vector arm, and the TW Acustic Raven AC and Raven One. The numbers to buy a statement table were intimidating, but I ultimately
acquired a TW Acustic Raven One with Graham Phantom and Dynavector XX2 Mk2.
The experience of listening to my recoeds was a revelation. This was the first time in my audiophile carreer (30yrs) that I actually heard instruments sound the way they did when I was performing. All of the audiophile goodies were there but that wasn't the story.
It was REAL MUSIC. Not perfect, but real. Doug's advice is spot on. Yours is not an issue of a cabinet or shelf or anything else. If the front end dosen't deliver the truth, no tweeks in the world can make it right.
I've been there, I've done it and I can tell you that a first class, high resolution, music making analog front end makes all the difference. There are many fine choices...the two I auditioned were fantastic, I'm sure the Gallibier and Teres are also wonderful. The music is there, it only takes an outstanding front end to sing it or play it for you. I listened to Allison Krause last night......late, dark room, silent was exquisite....truly moving. If you can swing one of these great tables, you'll be thrilled. The RavenOne was about $5000 for the table, and I'm sure others are way beyond. If you can do it, I promise you'll get what you seek. It's a true joy.

I see several good suggestions in posts above. What I would like to know is: What areas of your vinyl performance are you no longer satisfied with. Each of us have different priorities and those priorities can make a significant difference in the direction we go in terms of upgrades. I'm not asking so I can to offer advice on what you should purchase. I'm simply asking in order to better understand your situation in terms of the contrasting output from both sources.

If you don't mind sharing the details, I'd like to know more about the differences you are experiencing between source components.

Dougdeacon, I complete agree with your assessment on the Scout. For the
price it is an excellent table but the next step (as I mentioned already above)
bring huge improvements in analog playback.

Just a quick comment on one of your points as I think there is a way around
point 2:

2. The Scout is driven by a rubber band (in effect). No
drive mechanism containing elastic torque couplings can maintain constant
speed when faced with a variable load (ie, stylus drag). That is not an opinion,
it's basic engineering. My platter weighs more than your entire TT. It has
several times more rotational inertia than your platter. Yet if I switch to an
elastic belt like yours my sonics go instantly downhill. Transients are dulled,
dynamics are softened, bass is limp, mids and highs are smeared. All the
tweaking in the world will not eliminate the flaws inherent in an elastic drive

I generally agree with the statement about elastic belt drives, but I do need to
add that there are implementations that get around most of these problems
without resorting to sheer mass: The DPS table features a friction bearing so
that the motor continuously works against a large constant drag. This
simulates a much heavier platter and also makes it immune to the variations
in the neglible drag of the stylus. This is a very different situation from the
one where the stylus drag is dominating. A very well know tonearm
manufactures has mentioned the DPS 3 as one of the 5 best tables around for
a reason ;)

From my experience the DPS is the only table I listened to that was on par
with some of the high mass tables like Thom's Galibier tables without the
heavy and problematic mass loading. I would not be able to put a 150 lbs
large monster in my small place - the 50 lbs of the DPS are enough. A high
mass table like Teres or Galibier may in fact be problematic for Dodgealum
on his wallshelf as well.

Overall I agree though, to beat the Esoteric in all regards you need to resort
to different table than the Scout. As mentioned above, a friends Scout is very
good but now quite on par with the Esoteric in my experience. Aside from
Teres, Galibier, and DPS, I would also look the TW Akustik Raven One,
Loricraft Garrard, Amazon Model One, although I don't have as much
experience with these last three.

Good luck!

Thanks for taking my post as it was intended, and not as an idle trashing of the Scout. As you, Jdolgin and Restock all said, it's a great rig at its price point. But price points require compromises. Comparing a $2K component to an $8K one just isn't fair - unless the cheaper one wins of course. :-) I wouldn't put my Denon DVD-3910 up against your X-03SE (except for movies!)

Restock listed the tables that I would, along with some others. ;-)

An Amazon would fit your space but they're driven by a belt that's thinner and stretchier than yours. I'm not sure how much of an upgrade it would be, though you could easily put a better arm on it.

Garrards can be an effort to keep running properly if bought used, and $20K+ if ordered new. Proceed with your eyes open.

Teres is abandoning belt drive for rim (Verus) and direct (Certus) drive. The Certus tables are $14K+ and too big for your space. The Verus has some implementation peculiarities which cause polarized responses. Many (most?) people love it, especially rockers and those upgrading from lesser rigs. Some incredibly picky classical and acoustic jazz twits (like Paul and me) found it unlistenable. It depends on one's pitch sensitivity and whether one demands tonal, temporal and harmonic clarity. A Verus would certainly outplay a Scout by a large margin. Whether it would fit your budget, space and preferences is up to you.

No experience with the Raven One or DPS tables. Restock's description of DPS's approach to stylus drag was interesting. It's technically correct that constant, high drag is the mathematical equivalent of high rotational mass. Either one presents inertia, which reduces the amplitude and velocity of stylus drag decelerations. Properly implemented, it sounds like a nifty way to stuff *some* of the benefits of a very massive platter into a smaller package. Tricky to do well, but maybe they have. It's gotta be worth a look.

Galibier's entry level Serac table ($3250) would stomp all over a Scout. It addresses the issues I mentioned above almost as well as my $6K Teres. Excellent motor. Superb bearing. Same non-stretchy drive belt. My only advantage in speed stability/stylus drag resistance is a heavier platter. The main question for you is: would it fit. Check it out.

Finally, I agree with Lewm's most recent post (except for the "pig-headed" thing). Trying a non-elastic belt would cost you nothing and would be educational. A fellow A'goner, prompted by my insistent postings on this topic, DIY'd a mylar belt for his VPI Aries or TNT (I forget which). He's been stunned by the improvement, even though the VPI motor is not the ideal candidate for a linear drive belt. It would be worth your time to make this experiment. A used SDS or Walker controller would also be a low-risk upgrade, as he pointed out.

Happy hunting. Don't forget to enjoy the music during all the madness.

One table I forgot to mention in my previous post:

Frank Schroeder has designed a new table which has an interesting idea for using a tape drive. I think it will be marketed by Artemis. Soundwise it is little of an unknown although you know what to expect from Frank's products.
Sorry about use of the phrase "pig-headed". Perhaps "close-minded" would have sufficed and would have seemed less harsh. No offense intended to anyone.

Guys, do you really think that a light platter with a friction bearing is a perfect analogue of a very heavy platter with a low-friction bearing? It would seem to me that those two behave very differently when rotational force is reduced. The heavy platter with a low friction bearing will want to go on spinning "forever" (in the complete absence of bearing friction), while the light platter cum friction bearing will rapidly slow down. Therefore, in actual use, when the platter is subjected to the opposing forces of stylus drag vs torque applied by the drive belt, the two approaches would give different results. Both designs can work well; I just don't think they are alike.
Lewm, the analog of a friction bearing is not strictly correct. The effects are similar when considering the influence of stylus drag though - both act as a low-pass filter for vibrations and speed variations.

As for a freely spinning platter vs. a constant friction - the latter has actually some nice advantages - motors work more consistently against a constant force (just imagine yourself on a bike peddling downhill vs. peddling against a slightly well defined force. Downhill the change of load makes it difficult to keep speed constant). Of course as always, whether the design will be successful will really in the details of the implementation.

Also, a nice discussion of friction bearing vs. high mass platter by Frank Schroeder can be found here:

Discussion of Friction Bearing by Frank

Dodgealum, sorry if we take the thread somewhat off-topic, but I am hoping the discussion of low-mass and high mass designs may aid you in the decision to find the right turntable.
Thanks everyone for giving me some things to consider. I really appreciate the advice and will take a look at some of the turntables you all have mentioned. I think I'll begin there and then explore a preamp/phono preamp to replace the SP16. To respond to the question posed by Dre j, here is how I would describe the difference between my Scout and the Esoteric:

The Scout sounds muddled, slow, recessed, veiled and lacking resolution compared to the Esoteric. When comparing the same recording going from vinyl to CD there is a huge difference. The Esoteric is so much more revealing, involving and dynamic. The bass is much more weighty and the treble has way more air, speed and delicacy. About the only thing I can say about the Scout is that recordings that tend to be bright or edgy come across more pleasant and listenable than on the Esoteric, which really brings out the worst in a bad recording.

All in all I find myself gravitating to my CD collection (which is much smaller) and listening less to my LP's.

I agree that comparing $8K and $2K front ends is not really fair and that is why I feel the need to invest similarly in a new turntable. To bring it back to where I began this thread, given the potential of CD's and vinyl records, how much should I plan to spend to get equivalent sound from my records that I am getting from my Esoteric?

BTW, I am fine with the discussion veering off to the pros and cons of various turntable designs--very helpful indeed. Thanks for asking.
You could also consider the Clearaudio Performance table($2800) with the magnetic bearing. Change the cart to a decent MC, say the Dyna 17D3($895) or the XX2($1850) and round it off with the great sounding Aqvox Phono2(EUR949).

I also rate the Galibier option highly, with Thom packaging the Serac with some Dyna carts even: $4700 with the 20XL and $4900 with the 17D3. You should even ask if he packages the XX2.

I rank the Aqvox phono much higher than its price indicates, I think its a giant killer.

Either of these options (if setup optimally) will easily outperform the X03. Disclaimer: I have no financial/personal interest in any of the above products.
I've followed this thread for awhile and am still puzzled as to why you're hearing the dramatic difference that you are. If you're willing to spend about $10 and a couple of hours of time, I would at least try a different arrangement to be sure the problem is in your analog rig. First, move your coffee table (or some other suitable table) over near your cabinet. Buy a 1.5x20 inch bicycle tube and a piece of 3/4 inch plywood to fit your tt. Place the tube on the table and the plywood on that and inflate the tube SLIGHTLY - just enough to raise the plywood shelf a bit. Now you've got simple, but effective, pneumatic isolation. Then put the tt on that and get it perfectly leveled, and hook it up and play it. If the differences are still dramatic, you've only spent a few dollars and some time to determine that you need to upgrade or change - at least the cartridge. If they're no longer dramatic, you know you need to relocate the tt. A second idea is, are you sure the Esoteric player isn't coloring the sound in some way that you consider pleasing? Is it a tube unit?
the vpi scout is supposedly a well-designed turntable and more than a few professional reviewers seem to think it performs well above its price level. perhaps even throwing a blanket over the front of the cabinet to shield the turntable from air-borne vibrations would help to resolve this issue. a damaged stylus or a malfuntioning phono-stage would also be something to investigate. if everything is working as it should, the turntable should sound "different" than the cdp, and perhaps not quite as revealing, but it should still sound like music. the only thing i find with my aries turntable is that rock and roll alblums that i used to like sound tinny and poorly balanced, while a decent classical recording or a blue note sounds pretty darn good.
but since i upgraded to a very good digital front end, i can listen to either source, vinyl or cd. they sound different, but i get used to either one very quickly. now, if i get a $20k turntable i would certainly expect some extra information to pop out of the grooves, but with about 500 alblums and about 750 cd's, i'm kinda happy to leave well enough alone if you know what i mean. and heck, cd's have been getting awfully good in the last several years, with hdcd, sacd, dsd, 4d, 20bit, etc. then there are giant-killer cd players out there as well as turntables for less than $3k that get the job done. oh, and PS- i do not hear the belt on my turntable or motor noise or wow and flutter; the jmw arm tracks just fine thank you. i do have the sds-controller but i'm not aware of any dramatic improvements in the sound from adding it over the vpi-plc. AND PSS- the esoteric cdp's in other threads get trashed for sounding too analytical and even "harsh" when compared to competing cdp's- go figure...
French fries, I can confirm the substance of Doug Deacon's remarks after going back & forth on my VPI TNT between thread drive vs. stock rubber bands, with and without PLC and Mark Kelly's AC-1 two-phase speed controller. The rubber bands don't cause problems that I hear as obvious wow & flutter, but they do contribute to sugglishness, bass slurring, lack of focus, discontinuousness across the frequency range, and edgy treble. This is all improved after conversion to a drive belt made of less compliant material. A good speed controller improves things further by reducing warble in piano music and revealing rounder & more textured instrument body and more precise spatial cues. The Kelly controller is way ahead of the PLC in this regard. Getting the strobe to read spot on is an ancillary benefit of a speed controller.

As the Scout is a close cousin, I can only assume it will benefit from some of these changes. The more I tweak around with TT drive trains & platforms & siting, the more I believe that forum discussions (and some manufacturers' upgrade paths) tend to over-emphasize the role of platter and plinth weight & material in determining the gestalt of vinyl.

I do agree with you that after a certain point of refinement, the differences remaining between CDP & TT are more of kind than of degree.
French fries,

As Dgarretson noted, the problems caused by an elastic belt are hardly so obvious as wow and flutter. I haven't heard those from a table since the one I had as a twelve year old. ;-)

My verrrry lengthy description might have read like a description of horrible sonics. That wasn't my intent. But the musical benefits of linear torque delivery to the platter only need to be heard for a few seconds to be convincing. I have a friend with an Aries who DIY'd a better belt from mylar - he'll never go back. You should give it a try.


Thread drive is a nice improvement over rubber, but you could double that improvement with a wider belt that combines thread's non-elasticity with greater surface area - which reduces slippage as the belt goes 'round the motor capstan (a risk with thread). It requires a motor capstan and platter than can accommodate a wide belt of course, but having experimented with all the above and more we know it's worth it.
To further support the remarks of Dave and Doug, I owned a Notts Hyperspace and heard for myself in my system the large progressive improvements associated with going from elastic belt to thread and from no motor controller to a Walker PMC. Soundstage, separation of musical instruments and voices, depth, hall ambience, bass solidity, piano reproduction, etc, etc, all get way better. Then I bought a "Giant direct-coupled Lenco" which takes all those good qualities still further (used still with the Walker PMC). But that's why I've repeatedly urged you to at least try a motor controller and thread drive. (Apparently moving the tt out of that cabinet is not going to happen.)