I've owned both the NG "MiniPro" and the VPI HW-17F and decided to stick with the VPI. The NG just isn't near as good as the 17F, in my opinion. Money well spent...
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I've never had the nitty gritty but I've used it on many occasions. I just sold my VPI 16.5 which I've had for years. Given the choice between the two I prefer the VPI. The reason I sold mine was to purchase the sota record cleaner. It is very similar to the VPI and has features to suggest it would fit between the 16.5 and the 17. It is quieter than the 16.5 if that is an issue which to some people it obviously will be. I've taken my 16.5 apart to a degree and found it to be a very simple machine. From what I've seen the Sota is better made with better parts. If you are convinced that only the two choices you listed are options than I say again go with the VPI. If you want to step up a bit without spending $1000 on the VPI HW-17 contact Sota for a local dealer. You won't be disappointed.
I must be the only Nitty Gritty owner here who's happy with mine. Bought it in l983 or thereabouts, have cleaned thousands of records with it, and it soldiers on. I like the fact that there's no platter to put stuff BACK on the record. When mine finally dies, I'm going to get a Record Doctor (made by Nitty Gritty) or a new NG. FWIW, Dave