New VPI 3D Arm

At last I have the arm in place and set up - though I think the tweak adjustments are still far from done. I had in place a VPI 10.5i arm with a Benz LPS, on a Superscoutmaster/Rim Drive with Bearpaws in place of the original VPI mini feet. The rest of the system is an Ayre K1xe preamp with their phono board in place, an Ayre V1xe amp, and Vandersteen 5A speakers. I set the new 3D arm with a MINT protractor, and a Fozgometer. The arm was sent to me with a standard rear counterweight of 120 grams that included a Soundsmith Counterintuitive to ease the setup. How Nice I said to myself, however, Harry himself recommended a 200 gram counterweight because my cartridge was so heavy. The new weight was sent to me, without the Counterintuitive...when I inquired why not, it seems that the C/I wouldn't fit the larger, heavier counterweight that was needed for my cartridge. I go to set up the new arm. Let me tell you the setup is the clunkiest, most time consuming, most exasperating work, I have ever tried. I just gave up after many hours, and contacted VPI to vent. Harry told me that if I oiled the inside grommets of the rear counterweight, it would move much easier/smoother....and so it did, however, I would grade it as a D+...better than the F before, but not good at all. When moving the counterweight it still gripped the tonearm make any kind of precise movement a matter of luck. Harry told me he was working on (almost done - ready to market in about a month) a new counterweight system that would permit easy fine tuning with no problems. I suggest anyone who is about to get a 3D arm to insist that the new counterweight be included with your purchase. Harry promised me one of these, and I will report on these pages when I get it and how well it works. Anyway...probably most of you want to know how the new arm sounds. I must remind you that the arm is still new and really not tweaked to the nth degree. My first album told me immediately that this arm was completely different than the 10.5i (which I think is a great arm when set up correctly). The music from the speakers with this arm is completely relaxed....that hits you in face immediately. I'm not sure I can explain it further then "relaxed". When playing Paul Simon's new album with the 10.5i, I had to strain to hear the words to the tunes....which was odd to me since Paul's prowess as a poet is hard to criticize. With the 3D arm, the words and Paul's talent is completely exposed. Instruments are much more rounded and in their own space - in real instruments playing. Right now, I would describe the low end as a bit weak, however, the cables are not broken in yet, and back end of the arm just may be too high. After all of the aggravation and hours of setup, I'm not ready to adjust anything yet...just want to rediscover my vinyl. This is a work in process, and I will post again.
Those who read these pages are probably interested in getting that last degree of perfection out of their setup. In mounting my Benz, I took the suggestion of Fremer at the Analogue Planet and tried for a 92 degree SRA with the stylus set up as pictured in his article. This required the arm to be absurdly high in back, so I contacted VPI, Soundsmith, and others regarding the SRA issue. Peter from Soundsmith said that article is misleading because the way diamonds are cut can dramatically change the way they act...that is, the stylus may look leaning forward or back, but still be 92 degrees at the tip depending on the cut. Peter said that he has styli on his cartridges that are the same as my should raise the back of the arm to horizontal, then play with it up or down for your own perfection. Now....on to what the arm sounds like... With the arm lowered in the back to horizontal, the low end is fat, faithful, and satisfying. The mids as I said before are clear with each instrument in its own space...round and delicious. Massed vocals sound like massed vocals...not just a wall of sound. I should also mention that the platter on my VPI is the ceramic one that's used on the VPI direct drive.
Thanks for the initial 3D review, Stringreen.

Overall, would you say you prefer the 3D over the JMW 10.5i? or is it still too early to call?

p.s. I also have the ceramic platter with groove + rim drive.
As soon as the stylus hit the groove - even before the music started on the first album, I knew this arm was better. The arm does not seek to find the lead in just lands there with no jiggling. The 10.5 was quiet, but the 3D sounds almost CD-like. It is very fast, with an enormous soundstage with depth and width bigger than the 10.5. It tracks the most difficult passages with total ease....sss's are absolutely clean with no sh,sh, or spitting. Each instrument has its own space and posses a roundness ....but the most important for me characteristic is its total sense of real music. You have the option of Nordost or Discovery wire....Harry told me the Discovery wire is HIS choice, so I had mine wired with it, and I'm not at all disappointed. My arm is wired balanced (XLR connections) and is DEAD quiet.
VPI should offer a free upgrade program for their 3D arm for all early adopters. Since the arm’s launch, there has been both stainless steel and brass used for the side weights and counter weight and now I hear that a revised counter weight is in the offering. That would make 3 changes in as many months.

I am all for advancing the design, but you don’t use your paying customers as beta testers. I would like to try out the 3D arm, but I want to try out a finished product.

Thanks Stringreen for the review, but I will wait.
Harry says the cable needs about 2 months. I hear progression after 8 or so albums.
A half-backed product, wait at least a year before purchasing!

Stringreen, are you, just now, learning how to properly setup a VPI arm???
Waiting on my 3D equipped Aries 3.
Thanks for the insight.
Don...Why would you ask such a dumb question??
Because you said your VPI 10.5i has sss with sh,sh or spitting, indicating the arm is NOT setup properly.

That should not happen with the top Benz properly mounted on the 10.5i arm!

Your comparison is VOID, and it is you, that is dumb!
@ Don_c55, what about those XLR cables? Dumb or what? Why the insults?
Stringreen, do you know if the Discovery wire used in the 3D arm is the same Discovery wire used in the other VPI arms? When Harry said 2 months for wire break-in, did he give an hour estimate also? It looks like the azimuth ring on the 3D is fixed, did VPI mention the rationale?
Judy: I am so very impressed! The insight, the depth of understanding! Novels could be written around your prescience. You should work for the NSA.
I have no experience with this arm, but it surprises me when people pre-order a brand new product from any manufacturer, which is almost sure to have bugs of one type of another. You guys have guts. I like to wait until something has been out in the field for a year or two to see how it all shakes out in the real world. Good luck.
Thanks Steve. I'm impressed with your razor sharp wit.
It means so much to me.
Regarding the Discovery wire....I didn't ask Harry that question. The Nordost wire I had in the 10.5i was definitely more sensitive to the upper frequencies, and thus sounded "harder" overall. The most salient characteristic about the 3D arm is is sense of absolute ease as I said before. For those car lovers out there, its like comparing a very capable Honda Accord to a Porsche. There is no azimuth ring on the 3D....that is why the azimuth control was so difficult. You must turn the rear counterweight (heavier on the bottom) in such a way as to balance the arm on the head of the pin so that the satisfactory result can be obtained. There are 2 (rubber??) rings inside the rear counterweight that grip very strongly. To rotate the counterweight with precision is mainly luck. What I have said will not be true with the normally supplied rear counterweight which includes the Counterintuitive which would make that rear counterweight much more manageable. In any case, if you are using this arm (or any arm) you should use the most appropriate weight to get it as close as possible to the fulcrum. As I mentioned, Harry is nearly complete in presenting the new counterweight for the 3D which he promises would make setup easy. I am not using bias correction at all....when Harry sends me the new counterweight I will try the arm with bias compensation, but as for now...I'm not touching a thing. It sounds fabulous.

To my dumb friend Don....My 10.5 was set up with extreme care. The ss's and sh's on my 10.5i was not NEARLY as smooth or natural as on the would be delighted with its performance unless one would compare the ease that the 3D demonstrates.
Thanks Stringreen. Does your old 10.5 have the stainless steel arm tube along with the new all stainless steel bearing cap?

I haven't seen any numbers on the 3D arm, does it feel light to the touch or does it feel like a regular JMW in weight?

One last question, did your 3D come with brass or SS side weights and CW?
BRF....there was some discussion at VPI as to the validity of using brass side weights, however it did not improve the performance but did increase the cost of manufacture, therefore, the idea was dropped. I do not have brass (though brass would probably be nicer aesthetically. The arm without the counterweight feel lighter than the 10.5i, but not with the counterweight. It is wider and thicker than the 10.5 and gives the appearance of greater weight, but I think there is really little difference when set up. It feels less stable when moving it to or away from a record (I'm not really used to the different finger lift), but once you let it go and the cuing lowers it to the groove, it looks like its on rails. It never "Hunts" for the grove...just plops in and plays. My 10.5i was not the newest 10.5i - kind of an interim...Harry said that the sound was the same.
In any case, if you are using this arm (or any arm) you should use the most appropriate weight to get it as close as possible to the fulcrum.
Says who? Setting things up that way reduces effective mass. Using a lighter weight set farther from the fulcrum increases effective mass.

Neither approach is theoretically better or worse than the other. Which will be optimal depends on circumstances, namely, the specific behaviors of a particular arm and cartridge.
Doug....that's the reason you use heavier weights closer to the fulcrum. If the record is warped, a weight farther away from the pivot will tend to be "thrown" and affect the arm more than the weight at the fulcrum. The object is to disturb the stylus as little as possible
Chayro.... Harry has always stood by his customers and is always anxious to adjust, rectify any problem, etc.
Dear Stringreen: Agree with your answer to Dougdeacon, in the other side the counterweight is the one that affect/contribute the less on tonearm effective mass.

Regards and enjoy the music,
The weight located at or around the axis for vertical travel of the arm will keep the vertical effective mass and inertia low--good for tracking warps.

But, having that mass also well away from the arm to actually increase the effective mass in the horizontal direction of movement has its advocates. By increasing the horizontal mass, the arm will resist movement from the large displacement horizontal movement of the stylus in response to bass signals (deep bass is mostly recorded monophonically as horizontal modulation). In other words the arm resists moving side to side from deep bass modulation, so that most of that movement translates to lateral movement of the cantilever (i.e., more bass). This is the theory behind the Moerch Anisotropic arm. However, high effective mass in the horizontal plane of movement would cause problems with trying to play off-center records.

Other arms with low vertical mass but high horizontal mass include air bearing arms like the one on the Walker tables. It may be this design aspect, or something else, but I've heard great bass response from these types of arms.
Regarding the weight of the counterweight.....I also have the original 120 gm weight. I can set up the arm with that one and listen. That is a project for another time. Right now, the arm sounds great so I'll just listen and enjoy. (I just played Also Sprach Zarathustra - Reinger RCA, I have had for a very long time. I never heard so much air around the instruments. ...a total joy.
By the way....SME advises loading enough lead on their rear counterweight to bring it as close as possible to the fulcrum in setting up the SME V
Thanks for the updates. I enjoyed reading about your progress and I hope you enjoy the 3D arm.

I think I am going to place an order for a 3D arm as well. I am currently using the JMW 10.5 arm. I will start another thread with my thoughts on the tonearm when I get it installed.

If you prefer to optimize your setup for playing warped records, by all means do so.

OTOH, the effects explained by Larryi are audible in my sytem on all records, warped or unwarped (and the vast majority is unwarped).

Like many things in audio, this decision cuts both ways. Blanket statements that one choice or the other is always best are simplistic (rather like SME's alignment system!).
Dear Dougdeacon: +++++ " and the vast majority is unwarped ..." +++++

well, maybe for you/us that can't really see it but the very sensible cartridge/tonearm combo see it for sure tiny warps elsewhere.
We have to remember here that cartridge/combo have two very low values/measures that affect what we are talking about: tonearm very low bearing friction and cartridge low VTF. So, tiny tiny warps affect/distress the " applomb " to follow the grooves in " perfect " condition. This mechanical combo is a on-perfect one, we have to take care on extremes to help that cartridge/tonearm grooves riding.

+++++ " Like many things in audio, this decision cuts both ways " +++++

yes but we have to remember that due that the counterweight position is at very short distance distance from the toneafrm bearing its contribution to the effective mass is almost unexistent.

IMHO maybe what we could hear with counterweight distance changes could be only different kind of distortions. I prefer counterweight as nearest to the tonearm as is possible.

Only an opinion.

Regards and enjoy the music,
The SME alignment system (mechanism) may be simplistic. It is also very well engineered. And for setting overhang, it is extremely effective, accurate and easy to use.

I find the SME sled much easier to use than trying to slide a cartridge back and forth for proper overhang in a slotted headshell while trying to maintain constant zenith angle.
A D+ in ease of adjustability says it all!

I gave up on the "dropped" counterweight of the VPI 10.5, and all successive VPI arms. A royal PITA to fine tune, VTF, or azimuth independently, and no sonic improvement over the round counterweight of the original JMW 10 or 12!

THe original JMW 10 and 12 had index marks on the counterweight and azimuth ring, for easy, and very precise, independent, adjustments. Best arms VPI made!

The dropped counterweight very stupid idea!

What makes EPOXY an ideal tonearm material? Improved resonance over an internally damped aluminum or steel arm tube? LOL. I do not buy the hype!

Why remove the damping fluid? It makes a big difference.

Harry has a long history of "improvements" that are cheaper to manufacture with an increase in profit to VPI or BS non improvements. Examples are plastic or aluminum platters over TNT platters - Inverted teflon bearing over quieter sleeved thrust plate bearing. Air leak suspension over spring. Flywheels and rim drives that adds noise. Nordost wire over original Discovery wire. Poorly shielded tiny motors set in the plinth over stand alone motors in heavy aluminum cases.
Adding outriggers on the azimuth ring and hanging swinging weight anti-skate on the arms was more BS.

Harry has made no significant audible progress since the TNT line in the 90's.

Don...the 10.5 was a cinch compared to the 3D....but wait....There is a new rear counterweight assembly that will make it a breeze to set up VPI arms with great and repeatable precision. Don't even think about it Don...evidently VPI is not your cup of tea.
If the arm effective mass is changing, that alone could account for significant differences in sound. Arm tube material aside, the cartridge will obviously just work differently.

Not sure if / when I will pop for a 3D to replace my ancient JMW-12 arms, but it's good to know there is continued improvement available.
How come no updates on this thread? Just put one on last night, quite impressive.
Just installed a pair of these arms on my venerable Aries I for mono Kleos and an Atlas respectively. Initial observations: rock solid tracking; substantially increased soundstage and depth; smooth, liquid sound but very dynamic when present in the recording.
Okonrad....I'm using a Benz LPS, but am starting to itch for an Atlas. Any thoughts??
Dynamics and detail. That's where I hear a substantial difference between my Stereo Kleos and the Atlas. I absolutely love it. Was playing a six eye Kind of Blue using it the other night. Jaw dropping good. Is it worth the cost... I think so.
POS tonearm
Did you read Mikey's comments regarding this tonearm in part 2 of his review of the Direct Drive VPI? He loves it.
Mikey is not the end all.
But if you sheep like him, feel free to follow.
Don_c55 and Judyazblues, congratulations for seeing through the hype over nothing and recognizing reality.

Don, your thread on 9-19 sums it up.
I don't think Mikey is the end all be all when it comes to analog. That being said, I cannot think of any other single individual who has done more to help advance the interest and popularity of LP's and turntables and the rebound it's had over the past several years.

For that he deserves more credit than what some on this forum are giving him.
Stringreen ... my vinyl rig is centered on a VPI Classic plinth, with a Classic 3 tonearm/wand upgrade. The Lyra Kleos is my primary cartridge. IMO, it's a magical combination.

It's hard to imagine that vinyl can get much better. But I guess based on the super comments above about the VPI 3-D arm and Atlas combo ... it really can get that much better!!

If you have a hankering for the Lyra Atlas, I don't think you'll ever look back.
Biwynne...and then I heard that although the Atlas is fabulous, the Etna has a bit better midrange.... I would guess, that it is impossible to audition these cartridges, so I'll just have to guess. Still ruminating.
Stringreen, send a private e mail to Jonathan Carr. He has always been upfront about his carties. All I can say is that my modest Kleos is a great cartridge. I can't even imagine just how good the Atlas or Etna must be.
I'm running a Kleos SL on A Classic 3 with 3d arm. It is a magical combination.
I finally got to hear 3D arm on VPI DD today. It was in a system that I am not all that familiar with but heard the regular Classic 3 in the same system before. Listening to the same record, the difference of 5% per Matt's comment in the past was huge!.How much was from the arm and how much was from the table, I can't tell. I will hear this table in a much more familiar system next week. The background was so dead, dead quiet and the way vocal and instrument emerge from the black background was so uncanny, unlike no other source that I ever heard before. Some CD player may have similar dead quiet background but the instrument are never fleshed out like this. Classic 3 does not even come close in this respect. The system was one of the smaller Martin Logan speakers, stereo version of CJ ART (can't remember the model current), Audible Illusion preamp. The local dealer just set up the table this morning before I came in.
I have Kleos Mono and Stereo cartridges in addition to the Atlas. The Kleos is wonderful but the Atlas has much more detail and dynamic. The 3D arm is very smooth and resonant free and tracks better than the standard JMW arm.
I don't appreciate being called a "sheep" because I enjoy reading the opinion of a well respected audio enthusiast.
I imagine Judyazblues is what the kids call a "troll" on the interweb these days.
Sheep sheep sheep
Sitting listening to Sonny Rollins with the Kleos Mono mounted in a 3D arm installed on a very "upgraded" Aries I. I'm clearly a VPI junky. But ahhh this sounds so good ...... So slag away....I'm good.
Well I finally pulled the trigger and ordered a 10" 3D tonearm for my Super Scoutmaster Reference table with rim drive. I'm really looking forward to getting it!