Next Analog Steps: VPI Scout Users

I recently added a separate phonostage to my system (Whest PS.30) and have really enjoyed rediscovering my vinyl collection. Of course, now I'm thinking of where to go next. Playback rig is a Scout/JMW9/Dynavector 20XM (medium output version at 1mv).

I'm thinking of upgrading the cartridge but do not want to "over buy" for what is essentially a good quality entry level turntable. So,

1. What would be the upper limit you would spend on a cartridge for the Scout?

2. What cartridges would you recommend that mate well with this table/arm combination AND come in at the price limit you have established above? Output and loading is not an issue since the Whest has plenty of gain and flexibility. Please rank your suggestions and, if possible, tell me a little about the sound characteristics of each. My priorities: speed, dynamics, detail and tonal balance in that order.

Thanks for your suggestions!
I'll not conveniently rank what you should do in what order, but I can make suggestions that will take your Scout to a level you never dreamed it could reach. FYI, it is a Signature model, with a Dyavector XX2MKII cart, and Modded LP 5.3 Sim phono stage. The key issue is ridding arm and plinth of vibration. I have addressed this through the use of a sand box (Brightstar Audio BigRock 2), supported by four steel coil springs. I have replaced the VPI feet with Starsound Audio Point brass spikes that are threaded to screw directly where the original feet were. I also tapped out the holes on the bottom of the motor, and used smaller versions of the Starsound spikes there. The section of lid that supports the motor has been cut away to isolate it from the rest of the lid.

Also in use is Mapleshade Audio's Nanomount system to drain away vibration from the cartidge/arm into the plinth.
I am running the 300rpm motor, with a used PS Audio Power Plant 300, to control voltage to motor. My last upgrade is a TTW Solid copper mat.

This little table has, IMHO, turned into a bit of a giant killer. You can spend a lot more on a table, or a lot more on VPI options, but I would fairly confidently say it would be difficult to make a Scout of any stripe sound better than this one. Most of these ideas I learned from fellow 'Gon members, for which I am grateful, so I hope to help others as I have been helped. I love this table, and I'm not in the market for something different. Just need to get more vinyl.

Best of luck,
If your happy with Dynavector. I'll second the cartridge upgrade to the XX2 MKII. A big upgrade over your current cartridge and works well with your table and arm.
You dont have limitations in cartridges for that table. It can handle even the best cartridges. Money is another issue altogether. My friend uses a ZYX bloom and it sounds amazing on that TT. Quite inexpensive for what you get really. For compliance purposes, you would need to add weight to the cartridge. I'm not sure what the specs are on that arm, but the ZYX are light, and usually requires a weight. Most come with a weight to afix to the top.
Based on your priorities, I would suggest a Lyra cartridge.

Thanks Dan for your helpful suggestions. I've thought about upgrading my turntable but the models I've considered are quite a bit more expensive than the Scout (Hanss T-20/SME IV and Raven One/Graham) and I'm not sure I will be getting all that much bang for the buck going in that direction. I think I may get more sonic benefit by upgrading the cartridge and I can always shift the new cartridge to a new table and arm if I ever do have that kind of money to spend on a new table.

I wonder if there are other suggested cartridges that might work really well in the Scout that I have not considered? The Dynavector XX2MKII would seem a very good choice (thanks Tom and Dan) since it would appear that the Dyna's have a particular affinity for the JWM series arm on the VPI's. I also like the sound of my 20XM and more/better of the same would be just fine by me. Are there other cartridges that would mate equally well with my table and arm that you could suggest? Perhaps ones that favor dynamics, speed, detail and tonal accuracy more so than the XX2MKII? Musicmaker III? Soundsmith "The Voice"? Benz? Shelter?

Thanks for all the help.
I, too, upgraded from Dyna20xl to the XX2 and I'm deliriously happy--I can't make it so much as hiccup, and it maintains a "beginning of the Lp" big, round, spacious sound at the end of the Lp much better than the 20xl. High, clanking piano, cold flutes, horns, etc. maintain their roundness.

Given your stated preferences, I agree with Tfkaudio that the Lyra line is a possibility. I don't know about the specific compatibility of any of their cartridges with your tonearm, so this is based entirely on the nature of Lyra cartridges. I've owned the Lydian, Helikon and I now have a Titan. The whole line is characterized by clarity, speed and dynamics without being overly lean, sibilant or edgy. Lyra cartridges have a reputation for requiring arms that can handle the high amount of resonant energy transmitted by the cartridge. I've heard Lyra cartridges work well in an SME 309 arm, a Graham 1.5t arm (also a unipivot) and my Vector arm.

On the not quite as fast and dynamic front, but, still very lively and engaging, I would suggest the Transfiguration Phoenix. It is one of the better cartridges that is not extremely high priced. I heard that cartridge in a Naim Aro arm, which is another unipivot, so I think it should work for you. I have a Transfiguration Orpheus myself. That is a VERY fine cartridge, though a bit more expensive than the Phoenix.

One of the "fastest" and most dynamically exciting cartridges I've heard is the VdH Colibri. That is a very expensive cartridge with a reputation for being tempermental (some are good, some not so good, they have to be sent back for the manufacturer to retune, etc.).

The Decca London is a very high output moving magnet that is very dynamic and exciting. It has a reputation for being really hard to set up and match with the right arm, but, it sounded quite good to me.
If it is possible to hear a new cartridge I would go there. From what I have read of the JMW arms is that they are fairly compatible with a lot of really good pickups.ZYX comes to mind.I have heard a ZYX with a VPI Aries/JMW 12.6 and it was glorious. I have been told that some of the ZYX are very picky as to setup and clean records.
A Benz Glider or "L" would also be a good choice.
Also Dynavectors.

The main thing is how does it work for you and your system.
i would go for the Shelter 5000 or 7000 for that table. Its quite a good synergy