Please help! - Buy VPI Classic or keep Technics 1200


I've got upgraditis and am thinking about treating myself to a new audio component for Christmas.  I currently have a Technics 1200 with a Denon 103R cartridge and a heavily modified Jolida JD9 phono stage.  Yes it sounds fantastic but I don't know what I am missing with a VPI Classic or similar table.  There isn't a place close to me where I can go for a demo.  

My question is for you experts - would there be a substantial sound improvement with a VPI Classic  or Classic 2 table if I were to invest the $4,000 in comparison to my Technics 1200?  Would it take the sound to a higher level?  (which is something that I am looking for).  I don't really care about aesthetics or bragging rights but what I do care about is performance and functionality.
audioman2015
Unfortunately for you, it is impossible for anyone to tell you what you might hear if you buy the VPI.  It all depends on your ears and your ability to discern and appreciate the differences.  You may well hear absolutely no difference or a night-and-day difference.  So what to do?  Either get in your car with your turntable and drive a few hours if necessary to find a place that can demo them for you - or just order the VPI from Music Direct or wherever and return it if you don't like it.  There will probably be a hefty restocking fee, but that's life.  
I have a Classic Signature and the Technics 1200.  The Technics is a great table for the $$$ but the Classic is quieter, more liquid, and has much better bass and punch.  You will hear the difference guaranteed. 
A friend has the 1200 fitted with an Audiomods series 5 tonearm and it sounds fantastic. Audiomods builds a special version just for the 1200 - just email Jeff for details
http://www.audiomods.co.uk/technicsarm.html

I also have the Audiomods Classic tonearm with the "frosted" finish and a "soundsmith’d" Denon DL103 on my TT and it sounds amazing!

What improved?
- details - tons of them + lots more timbre and venue details
- imaging - holographic and 3D
- dynamics, especially in the bass region, plucked strings and on percussion instruments
- clarity across the entire frequency range

Perhaps the Audiomods tonearm + soundsmith’d Denon would be a nice stocking stuffer? :-)

If you go for the Audiomods - get the one piece loom with Pure Harmony KLE Innovations RCA’s - it is worth every penny and brings out vast amounts of details

I won’t part with my TT now it has the Audiomods arm
http://image99.net/blog/files/category-turntable-mod0027s.html

HO, HO, HO.....
Look also at the Bryston BLP-1.  Sells for just under $3000 and is every bit the VPI Classic killer.
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Get a new phono stage and keep the table!
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I would suggest after many detailed but yet non-musical tables you go the Garrard 301-401 road. may be a bit more time to put one together but in the end you will have something that will last your lifetime. with tons of upgrades and plinth choices not to mention your Cart would work really nicely on a 12" arm. you could easily get one set up for your budget and have something to build on for years to come. I've done the Regas, Oracle Delphi MK1 then MK5 and ended up loving music again with the Garrard. best thing I ever did was on a whim and a friends recommendation  pick up a grease bearing 301 for $2000, Jelco 750L 12" arm new $800, and a plinth made localy $500 but there is a ton of plinths available on ebay ranging from a couple hundred up. go for it worse case you sell it all for what you have into it or more as the prices are going up.
ausioman2015-

there is no "better" to your question. Subjective, and the only answer is to buy the Classic and return it if YOU don't feel it is an upgrade. I have a Classic, that was the upgrade from listening to Rega tables. Personally, I don't hear the PRAT that Rega loyalist insist a Rega table has over the VPI Classic. All in the ears of the listener.

Just as some prefer a tube phono amp over a SS unit, you simply have to try it in your own system.

Also, going up the next level in MC could also give you what your looking for.

oh with well over 100,000  301's and 74,000 401 sold there is so much out there for them.
I don't have an answer for you but I can say that an Audiomods arm and modded Denon 103 is one sweet combination. I've run that combination on my highly modded Thorens TD 850.

Worse case if it isnt enough for you and you still have the upgrade bug is that you keep the arm and cartridge and put it on your next build.
++ Garrard x01, Lenco L75.
If your heart is set on a VIP, then I agree with gshepardbuster, go for the VIP, it will be an improvement. Or you can drive yourself crazy and look into other turntables and the Phono-Preamps that have been suggested, (that you didn't inquire about), the list will never end...

Thank you for all the helpful responses, it was a lot to consider.  I have decided not to purchase and keep using the Technics until I can verify the amount of improvement a new turntable will provide given the cost.  
If you go VPI consider this:
http://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649314923-vpi-classic-1-piano-black-plinth-jwm-105i-arm/
to limit your risk. You could keep the 1200, buy this, if you don't love the VPI, resell for same dollars and then go the KAB-Technics, Audiomods upgrade route. It will be easy to sell your stock 1200, but once you invest in the mods, it will be much tougher to recoup if you don't love it. That being said, they can sound great with major upgrades, but that route is not for everyone.
This suggestion suits you if you aren't really sure either way. Cheers,
Spencer
You never made clear: old SL1200 or new SL1200?  The new model may be another option for you, if you want to upgrade.  Although Technics made them to look the same and gave them the same name, the new SL1200 should sound noticeably superior to the old, based on a look under the hood, so to speak.  Better and different motor, better drive system, sturdier construction, better bearing, better tonearm.
It is the old SL1200.  
In that case, etc...
@audioman2015 technics stock tonearm and Denon 103R cartridge is a total missmatch. This tonearm was designed for MM cartridges of mid/high compliance and the effective mass of this arm is too low for a fairly low compliance DL103R cartridge. You need heavy tonearm like Thomas Schick "12 (which is not compatible with technics 1200) or at least Audiomods or Jelco that you can easily install on your technics to match your denon very well with the arm. I assume your 1200 is mk2? Anyway it’s a very strange choice of the cartridge for technics deck, i think you loose the most of 103R with lightweight tonearm like a stock technics.
I own a VPI Aries ll and two SL1200s, one of these was a sealed in box new one,  the other gently used but I replaced the tonearm with a NOS. Though I run a Lyra Delos on the VPI and several vintage MM carts with the Technics tables, I enjoy them all equally. There is "best" among them, only different presentations of enjoyable
music. I would keep the SL1200 and get a used VPI. But DO keep the Technics!!!
I should said there is no Best among them
One good thing about running a low compliance cartridge in a nominally low effective mass tonearm: It's a simple matter to add mass to the tonearm.  In the crudest solution, you could simply tape a penny or a nickel to the headshell, depending upon how much more mass is appropriate and assuming the bit about mismatch is correct.
I would never chande high torque Direct Drive turntable for a Belt Drive toy. 

But Technics 1200 with $100 stock arm deserve a better tonearm for MC cartridges.
Keep your turntable and buy more albums, or as "bigkidz" says, get a new phono stage.
Save your money while keeping your eye out for a Townshend Rock 7. They may come up for sale when their owners upgrade to Townshend's latest tt when it debuts. Blows away my Classic 3 SE Sig.

I just bought one. It is worth the wait!

Always buy more lps no matter what.
 @chakster is correct about the arm, but read up on KAB's tonerarm rewire and fluid damper if budget is low. 
If you like linear trackers the $1k Transfi arm sounds great on 1200s, I also really like the similarly priced Audiomods based on theory, but haven't had a chance to hear one, so take that for what it's worth(i.e. further investigation).

I am thrilled for @slaw , but bet there aren't many Rock 7s out there, let alone soon availalbe used. Cheers,
Spencer
I talked with Max Townshend two weeks ago. He said his new tt will be out in 6 months. This is why I thought anyone interested in the possibility of a Rock 7 coming up for sale, should be on the look-out then. Believe me, it's worth it!
@sbank for those who don't know: KAB site is down for a few years, it's impossible to open the site. I got those fluid dampers on my pair of upgraded 1210, but it only helps with high compliance cartridges. 

My SP10mk2 in a custom plinth gives me more flexibility with toneaems ("9 or "12 inch). I also have Technics SP20 and i love it. 
chakster
@sbank for those who don't know: KAB site is down for a few years,
The KAB site works fine for me.

sbank,

Just puttin' out there. Heck, I may steal another one for a second system. It's THAT good.
https://www.kabusa.com/  works fine! It runs frame sets, so you might have a browser setting issue, @chakster 

I'm running the same, SP10mk2, but was originally looking at buying a 1200 to mod. Ran into a great deal on a fully refurbished table and couldn't pass it up. 

Since OP already owns the 1200, it would be crazy to not get that upgrade path serious consideration. He should also read up on Mike New, an Aussie 1200 guru, and his bearing and platter upgrades for the 1200. Cheers,
Spencer
I don’t care, but the site does not work in my country for a long time, no matter which device (mobile or pc or mac) or which browser we use here (it doesn’t work for any of my local friends), i’m glad it’s fine for you in USA https://www.kabusa.com/ I just got the message that it's impossible to connect to the server. 

It was fine to dead with Kevin in the past by email, but to be honest his site was and probably still is the worst ever oldschool desing i have ever seen (it was designed like those web sites from the mid 90s when i bought my first computer) and remains the same till my last visit few years ago:) Then it just stop working and it seems like a server problem. Time to update the site. 

The classic 1 is  great value.   Just need to set it up correctly
i would keep the technics at all costs because it’ll be tough to find a cheap 1 in pristine shape which i would imagine yours is. and if you wanna buy a new 1, the cheapest model, the 1200gr which just debuted at ces, is gonna be around 2k usd list. i’m never selling my 1210m5g, regardless whether i upgrade or not...just for the simple fact that it’s out of production...
I have a VPI Prime with a SS Aida. I also have a Friend with the Classic One. 

Just bought a Craiglist 1200mk5 for a crazy low amount in todays Market. I have the 1200 outfitted with a low end MC Benz cart. Its the only spare cart I had on hand so we tapped a nickel to the head shell to get the needle to drop. 

Don't sell the 1200. Just Don't. I have not come to a full conclusion but I know it's closer than the price tags would indicate. If you really want to go that route keep the 1200 and buy a used VPI. Or do the KAB upgrades or totally upgrade the arm. 

but IMO it would be insane to sell the 1200 for the performance they provide even at a 600 used price tag. Oh and yes I use to scoff at them and think they sounded mechanical until I heard one with a decent cart in a nice system.
@darkstar1 Read the Techiepedia forum on theartofsound site. Lots of 1200 tweakers there with great experience at all budget levels. I learned plenty there regarding available bearings, feet, etc. with many firsthand comparisons posted by 1200 owners. Cheers,
Spencer 
 Spencer 

Will do. I was thinking I wanted to upgrade the arm but I don't really see the point is awesome stock. Talked to KAB yesterday and thinking about doing the re-wire, Fluid damper and power supply. 
i have to laugh at the absolutes that are posted on these pages.   The reality is that TableJockey's are my thoughts exactly...re: Rega as well.
Stringreen

yes there is no best agreed. He might like the VPI Classic better but I am sorry the performance of 1200 vs the cost is high. I use to really throw shade at the 1200. I have a Prime on the top shelf and the 1200 under it. I would be surprised if anyone that had both would not think that its a lot of performance for the money.
I want to laugh... stringreen.. are your thoughts (before or after) you realized your hearing deficiencies?
HUHHH?
I recently purchased the Technics SL1200 GAE and sold my VPI Scout as fast as I could. This is my last stop TT. If there were any weaknesses with the original 1200 those problems have been solved. So if you have 4K to spend the SL1200G is available.

The new 1200s seem to be the hot ticket these days. I just wished I could get past the horrible looks.

Similar to @lancelock but a step or two up both brands' offerings I recently switched from VPI TNT6HR to Technics SP10mk2. The improvement is not subtle.

I agree with @raymonda that the new 1200 doesn't look great for its price, and that is one of many reasons why I like the vintage route, with the flexibility to go many directions with plinth and overall looks. The better tonearms often sold with the SP10 is another reason. 

What makes me laugh is when certain posters chime in only to promote the brand they own, often have no experience with the alternatives being considered by the OP, and have nothing but disdain for those who prefer something difference than himself.  
Cheers,
Spencer

Spencer- I agree with your last point. I believe part of the reason is analog can be so darned satisfying, where as digital seems to be a merry-go-round for many. In general, I don't like to be a cheerleader for Well Tempered, even though I think it's quite good at it's price point. So I usually choose to be passive, because I haven't heard enough tables... Certainly not in my own setup. My plan is to hear a few more this year, but it will be in a different room/system.

Satisfying - Good point I have a SL1210 Mk5 and was talking to my tech and told him that I found my digital front end sounded better than my vinyl rig . His answer was it should be the other way around . I week later he had offered me a 12 " Alfred Borkland modified Ortofon AS212 tone arm . The SL1210 could not accommodate this long arm . Being a DD fan I purchased a SP10 MK2 table had a 16 x 24 plinth made to fit the arm . Yes it is a step upward in SQ and more satisfying then the digital sometimes . There are too many variables in both formats. Both can sound great and different . So I ask myself am I satisfied . Yes very much so. As being a audiophile that does not stop me from looking for more satisfaction .    

I have rare Technics SP20 if anyone need it, it looks exactly like SP10mk2, but in very nice original black finish and internal power supply. This model is rare and it was produced in 1976 like a budget version of SP10mk2. It has quartz lock etc, but plays only 33/45 (no 78s), this SP20 is way different from cheaper SP10 crap.

Technics Sp20 is a younger brother of Sp10mk2. So i think the black SP20 is something between SL1200/1210 mk5 and SP10mk2. I’m sure it was made ONLY for Japanese market back in the days and very little known for that reason. I like it, but i have two Luxman PD-444, so i can sell SP20 in perfect condition.

The SP20 is much better than SL1210mk2 (i have two of them) or Sl120mk3D or SL1200mk5, because you can use custom plinth and whatever tonearm you want anytime + it looks exactly like the ultimate Sp10mk2 (same size, but in black). Any plinth designed for SP10mk2 works well for SP20.

Picture of Technics SP20 with ultimate mega rare Technics EPA-100 mk2 (boron armtube) tonearm: http://cfile28.uf.tistory.com/image/27180245521EFB8423F8E3