Lost on next upgrade from SME 20/2 + IV.Vi arm ...

I am really struggling on what upgrade to do next. I have several thoughts. Budget is 15k or tops, prefer to keep it to 10k.

1)I could upgrade my BAT 51SE to a BAT REX.
(my thoughts, a good step up, but another box with heat pouring out, another power cord, and a bunch more tubes in a already all tube system)

2)upgrade my vinyl front end. Several thoughts here..

-Keep the SME 20/2, upgrade the arm to a Graham Phantom, Triplanar, or maybe DaVinci/Shroeder.
-Keep the SME 20/2 and SME IV.Vi, upgrade to the Purist anniversary tonearm cable from my current Venustas.
-Trade my VPI 16.5 cleaner in for a Loricraft.
-Trade the SME 20/2 for a TW Acustic Raven AC, keep the SME IV.Vi arm.
-Trade the SME 20/2 for a TW Acustic Raven AC, and get a new arm.
-Trade the SME 20/2 for another table?
-If I trade the table&arm, then what arm?

My system is posted. I'll appreciate all thoughts and comments. I've read about all the posts I can on the arm and table choices I've listed above. I've also emailed a few of you on my selections above.

Also, one choice is to chill out and just enjoy what I have. It's pretty killer as it is. If I want to spend the money still, give it to charity or church.

Thanks in advance!
Trade it all in and invest in a Walker,the last table you ever buy.It is on a planet of its own,if you are that serious about your vinyl.
Dear Jfrech: First I would like to ask why do you want to make an up-grade? what do you don't like about the quality sound reproduction through your analog chain?
do you want to up-grade/change only for change or do you have precise subjects about?

Now, IMHO there are two areas/stages that could help you to an up-grade:
different tonearm/cartridge combination and a better Phonolinepreamp, no I don't think that a TT change or cable change could give you a higher quality improvement over the other two areas that I name it.

You own a very good TT that compete with any thing out there, your Skala is very good performer too but you can change it or try it in a different tonearm where it could find a better match ( ask about to JC ) and a change in your BAT line/phono electronics that as good they are the quality that you are hearing ( degraded ) is the cable and connectors between both units: a good and better ( design/performer ) integral Phonolinepreamp could help you.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Get a pair of bigger speakers. Your current speakers are too small for your room.
Hi Jfrech, Have you tried varying the height of the 20's suspension between itself and the towers. The manual recommends 3mm with the 3mm spacer but I have had different results with anything between 3mm and 5mm. Try it by turning the suspension by half turns clockwise. This works because the bearings is suspended in a bath of silicon fluid under the deck. By raising the suspension up you are effectively reducing the damping and hence changing the sounds. Worth a try on takes a second.

Hi all,

Raul: I guess what I'm after is a little more soul and dynamics. I have all the micro dynamics, detail, imaging, musicalality if you will. My vinyl front end is just effortless. My cd player (esoteric dv50s) only does one thing better, it's plays with a soul. Music is more forward and jumps. It's a hard thing for me to describe. Other than that, I listen to my vinyl set up 99% of the time. Digital just doesn't do it for me...my BAT phono stage is pretty darn good, I don't know what else to go for except maybe a Aesthetix Io. Then I am back to 2 boxes and I don't have a lot of room on my rack.

Strapper211, I hear you on the Walker. I have 2 good friends with Walkers in Dallas. Didn't you used to have a Basis?

Jonathon: I'll try that on the suspension, I am a little higher than that the spacer allows, so if it's 3mm, I may be at 4-5 already. I do have the tonearm damping thing all the way out of the fluid. It helped liven it up.

I do have the BAT phono set on the defaults for cartridge loading and capicitance. I haven't played with that to much. I had my previous Helicon loaded down two steps, tamed the top a little with my then WP 6's. Maybe that's a suspect here as well.

Thanks for the comments so far !!
Hi Jfrech, From your system pics it appears that you still have the old power supply unit for your 20. I upgraded mine and was very happy with the result. Maybe that would give you what you want. The new power supply increases the torque of the motor giving a sound which is bigger and more powerful. Works well with Lyra because I was running a Helikon at the time therefore the Skala should be more than enough,

Dear John: +++++ " My system is posted. I'll appreciate all thoughts and comments. " +++++ and then:
+++++ " is a little more soul and dynamics " ++++++.

Looking to your very nice audio system IMHO you can/could have two ( different ) " weak " links ( nothing is perfect ): your separate line and phono stage and your amps.
John I'm not saying that the BAT electronics are not good ones because they are, no I'm trying to help you in some serious way:

your Wilson 8 impedance curve tell us that goes below 4 Ohms and near 2 Ohms from 150 Hz and below that and that its electrical impedance curve goes from 2 Ohms to 10 Ohms ( a lot of swing ), this means that those speakers needs an amplifier with very low output impedance ( I can say no more than 0.1 Ohms ) for can match the speakers own impedance and play together " efortless " and colorless with the dynamic that you are missing today. Your amps has at 4 Ohm taps around 1.4 Ohms: too high for those Wilson, this is a severe mistmatch.
IMHO you have at least two options: change the amps is one of them and other one could be to add a pair of subwoofers ( in true stereo fashion ) that not only can/could give you all its inherent advantages ( clean-up your bass and mid bass response, better image/soundstage, deeper and tight low bass, better high frequency response, etc, etc, ) but that can/could liberate your today amps for that frequency range where the Wilsons goes too low ( impedance )and where your amps are in more serious trouble.

Now, you state +++++ " I listen to my vinyl set up 99% of the time... " ++++++

this means to me that your first step should/could be to get the best quality Phonolinepreamp out there, it does not matters what you do elsewhere your system if the cartridge signal is degraded through the Phonolinepreamp ( stay aways from additional cables/connectors, these devices are additional veils to the cartridge signal! ) that is where that delicate/critical/exposed low level signal " suffer " a heavy/hard process where could loose its integrity and true due to distortions/inaccuracies/colorations/noises/etc on the Phonolinepreamp, so this analog audio link is of paramount importance to achieve your music/sound reproduction goals in your very nice system.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Yes,I had a basis Debut sig with a graham phantom and the Walker is in a league of its own even from that,I kid you not.
JRManders: I just took my suspension up...maybe at 5-6 mm now. It does open it up some, a little more energy, detail, depth - especially on top, but nothing grainy still effortless, subtle but noticable. I need to listen it this way for a bit, not sure I lost anything at first listen, seems like a step in the direction!
Dear John: +++++ " my BAT phono stage is pretty darn good, I don't know what else to go for except maybe a Aesthetix Io. " +++++

well as good it is there are other better alternatives for this critical analog link.

The dynamics that you are missing ( between other things ) has to do/see ( between other things ) with that the cartridge signal in your today analog chain pass through many different stages before the amplifiers ( too many ):

three gain stages in the phonostage, two stages at the output of the phonostage ( male and female connectors ), one stage through the cable/wire ( IC ), two more stages at the line input stage ( male and female connector ) and finally one gain stage inside the linestage unit ( btw, the Aestethix don't do better. ), this means NINE stages/veils/filters/"infection" sources that the cartridge signal has to run and where in each one of those nine stages/steps the cartridge signal suffer a degradation ( different degradation levels and of different kind. ).

Now, do you think ( everything the same ) that if the cartridge signal instead to pass for nine stages/filters/steps/veils pass only for 3 to 4 stages ( like in a Phonolinepreamp: integrated unit. ) can you have a better quality performance?, well IMHO with less stages we can conserve the cartridge signal with less ( very low/lower ) alterations and nearer to the recording ( more truer music ) quality reproduction where less signal alterations/degradations means: lower distortion, low coloration, lower noise, more accurate, higher dynamics, more soul, more music, more emotions, more feelings, more and more and more and lower.. of what any music lover is looking for.

John please think about, there is no black magic here only simple facts.

Regards and enjoy the music.
1: well, not that bad, this idea
2. No, try Audioquest Leopard with DBS 72V active Shield
3: Good for your ears
4: something new for the Eye satisfies most
5: see above
6: yes, give others the chance to get it cheap
7: DaVinci

good luck :)
Dear Jfrech: +++++ " I don't know what else to go for except maybe a Aesthetix Io.... " +++++

with that unit the cartridge signal has to pass at least for TEN stages/steps!!!! before amps.

Regards and enjoy the music.
John, how about just getting a different cartridge?
Dear Dan_ed: The Lyra Scala is a very good quality performance MC cartridge even better that what the people think.

IMHO and as I see it a different cartridge could give John a different sound but not necessary what he is looking for. You have to think that in his today system the Scala signal has to pass for too many steps ( at least 9 before amps ) where not only is loosing original recording information ( that he can't recovery never again ) but in each step it is adding additional " wrong/bad information " that does not comes in the original recording.
IMHO what he or any one that cares about music sound reproduction ( and that invest high dollars in audio items ) is to take care ( extremely care ) to preserve in the best way the original cartridge signal because if not then what we are hearing?, certainly " sound " that is very far from what is in the recording because of loosed information and additional non-recording one.

That fact will be the same it does not matters which cartridge he is using, the real subject it is not on the Scala ( that I know he like it, who don't. ) but IMHO in the excessive cartridge signal manipulation.

Dan try to take/get a picture/photography with 9 veils in front of the " object " and you obtain an almost totally " cloudly " image that you can't say what it is, now take the same picture/object with only 3 veils: easy to understand!!, well that's all about ( other than the amp/speakers John's matching subject ). Of course this is only my opinion and advise about, the important subject is the opinion of John.

Regards and enjoy the music.

I take it that you are not unhappy with the sound you are getting; you just want a little "more." Well, there is to me, good news and bad news. First, there is no obvious weak points to your system (good), but that means that there is no obvious means of "improving" it either (bad). The little more dynamics and soulfulness you want may not be easily achievable without a radical change to the whole system.

I personally think that the SME 20/2 and the SME arm are a terrific combination so it is hard to say any other combination would be an obvious upgrade.

However, I do have some suggestions on possible avenues to explore. I agree with Raul that looking into a new phonostage is a reasonable approach. That certainly minimizes the complications of having to make wholesale changes to other parts of your system. There is an incredible variety of available phono stages and the "best" for you is not necessarily the most expensive so do not think that you are limited to looking at something in a certain price range (like the Io) as the only logical "upgrade."

A more adventurous approach would be to consider another amplifier. The liveliness and soulfulness you are looking for might be provided by something like an OTL amp. Atmasphere comes to mind because your BAT preamp has balanced outputs. Good OTLs sound a whole lot more alive and exciting than most other forms of amplification (good SETs also do this, but are limited to use with very efficient speakers). I use a SET amplifier myself, but, my speakers are 99 db/watt efficient and I don't need really high volume level. With more "real world" applications, I like OTLs (provided you can stand the heat).
HI Raul,

I wasn't meaning to suggest there is anything wrong with the Lyra. I get the impression that John is just looking for a change in sound. As others have said his system is very good and I think that much of what he might replace would just change the sound, not necessarily make it better. So I was thinking that it might be the least costly solution if he was just to try a different cartridge.
if i were in you shoes, i'd upgrade the ps to SME's latest, and get a DV xv1-s.
Dear friends: It is very rare that an audio system 100K+ heavy dollars owner ask for advice and accept that it is not totally ( 100% ) happy with it and not only that but that post: +++++ "My system is posted. I'll appreciate all thoughts and comments " +++++

These facts speaks a lot of John, first than all his humility to ask and his knowledge that he can improve the quality sound reproduction and that he knows where!

I made some questions to him for to know what he wants ( what he thinks is missing ) and he posted: dynamics. So I read what is his audio system, I read many things that he posted about his system ( virtual system site ) ( that btw from here I assume that he like the Scala. Other fact that let me to assume that was that at the thread he don't mention anything about a cartridge change. ) and I read what are writing about his single audio item links in his system ( manufacturer website, professional reviews, what other owners said, etc, etc ), I made all this work for I can have the wider possible stage ( due that we are giving advise at " long distance " with out hear the system. ) and can/could give the best honest advise based on my experiences and know-how ( very similar for what a doctor/physician made with a person who has an illness, don't you think?. Well not exactly but in some ways similar. ).

I never like to give an " aspirine " for a muscular pain with out investigate first the why/where/how comes that muscular pain, many people in this and other forums are of the " aspirine " kind, I respect that but I don't agree with that approach because IMHO I think that between our own knowledge we are here trying to learn and trying to help other ones like us...

I know that it is not an easy task to say : John change your whole electronics ( 40-50K ) but IMHO ( at least that is the way I'm. ) the best way to help to another Agon's fellow is to tell him exactly and why we give our advise ( it does not matters which it is and it does not matters if that system is on the 100-500K price range ).

The John's word Dynamics told me that I have to look where in his system are loosing it and in my knowledge/experience ( and virtual investigation ) that dynamics could " suffer " through the speaker/amps interaction ( maybe room too. ) and ( like I already posted ) on the Phonolinepreamp front end links, I explain to him the whys of each approach and give him my advise.

I'm not saying that my advise is the right one no maybe it is not but what I'm saying is that I'm doing my best to help John, not with an aspirine and I respect all those " aspirine " guys.

I would like to hear from John because what he thinks is what really matters at the end he is who is living with that system or with the one up-graded.

Regards and enjoy the music.
"what I'm after is a little more soul and dynamics"

I recently had the opportunity to listen to a full Walker front end, TT/phono/stands/PLC/Validpoints, and it really struck me as an extremely dynamic and detailed system - able to jump at you with terrific dynamics. Cart used was the Air Tight PC1. Amps were the Karan pre/power monos, speakers Utopia Nova Be. Detail was amazing to say the least, and it wasn't lean at all for a full SS system.

My own system which I thought was dynamic, wasn't even close, so I got went to figure out what was happening and tweaked the footers on my preamp, at first trying out Nordost Pulsar Points Ti, which seemed to give me back the dynamics I was missing with the SolidTech Feet of Silence. I went one further and tried out the Walker Valid Points and this REALLY put a smile on my face. They remove micro vibrations which seem to rob the system of its resolution. The music became more immediate and much more dynamic - more "soul" if you like.

Like Jfrech, I too used an Esoteric front end, which is extremely good, lots of soul too, but it just isn't in the same league as my analog source.

What I would suggest is:
1) Try the Valid Points - these aren't an arm and a leg and are easily reversible if you don't like them.
2) If you really want the ultimate in dynamics, I would strongly suggest going for a high mass TT. I've heard SMEs (all of them), and as good as they are, they cannot produce the dynamics of say a Walker. To describe what I'm referring to, I mean like the hits of the tympani in an orchestra playing at FFF. This hits you with the initial transient and has deep bass that does not smear the rest of the music. There are plenty of high mass designs, the Galibier/RedPoint/Raven come to mind. For arm choices, I think you've already listed the best there are. Its more a case of matching with the cart/TT.
3) Get the Loricraft! This should have been on your list a looong time ago. I reckon this to be akin to a component upgrade.
4) If the above still doesn't cut it for you, then go for the Dyna XV1s or the AirTight. The former is a terrific soundstager with punchy bass and loads of detail, the later is in the speed king with lots of detail. Both have excellent dynamics.

Happy hunting...
I really appreciate all the comments and help here. Raul has written a lot and he may be right in the end. Also the comments on the Walker are spot on. I may be best just saving for the next real upgrade instead of trying to do a budgeted move now.

FYI: I do have the newer SME power supply, just a old pic and yes that was a nice upgrade. Transparency and some dynamics were gained. Some nice guy wanted the old one, I got lucky and swaped with him plus $700. Nice deal for me.

I do think the Skala is underated, It is likely one small lil notch down from the XV1s, Titan i, PC-1, although is likely a price performance winner.

Larryi, you really nailed what I was after. In your first sentence.

I spent some time at my dealer in Austin yesterday. It's not a easy choice at the moment. Although if I stick with the BAT equipment, moving to a REX seems like a clear path from the 51SE. My real issue with that is shelf space (i know, why care) heat (but I have heat pouring out already what's a little more), and retubing costs (but that's once every 3-4 years).

CMK, thanks for your comments! I should try the Validpoints. I do have Cerapucs undereverything, but footers do change things. Might be a good thread for me to start comparing them! I have had 3 Lyra's in a row, lydian b, helicon and now the Skala. The Skala is a keeper, maybe I just need to try something else. Maybe a 2nd arm and a Triplaner or Graham on the SME with a XV1s or PC 1. I wish it was easier to try this at home !

I hope all keep posting, I have enjoyed all the commments suggestions, and conversation. If I make a decision, I will post it as well.

A sincere THANK YOU to all so far !
Ok after much listening, thinking, planning, fretting various options (like heat, more tubes, more shelf space) I decided on the following:

1) upgraded Purist Venastus tone arm cable to Purist Proteus Provectus (umm wow what a diff)
2) upgrading Wilson WP 8's to Maxx 2's.

I stretched my budget a bit. The Maxx 2's will make a dramatic improvement. I can't wait ! I was really close on the TW Acustic Raven and/or the REX/Aesthetix. I am sure I made the best call here. The BAT 51SE/150SE are just a killer front end and improvements can be made, but dimishing returns kick in fast I think. I just had a hard time on the Raven, even with the killer feeback/reviews, just to much to switch out the SME.

I did hear the Nagra stack in my home. VPS, PLL, VPA. It's great equipment. The Nagra VPS is killer good. Transparent, dynamic, perfect balance of warmth/detail. Amazing for 6k. Easily a top contender for best phono stage.

Again, thanks to all for commenting, if anyone want's to hear Maxx 2's, stop by soon!
Dear Jfrech: Yes the Maxx 2 will give you between other nice things: better dynamic over the 8's, congratulations!

Regards and enjoy the music.