Seeking turntable upgrade advice

My current table is a Scoutmaster with JMW9 sig tonearm and all the typical VPI upgrades; my cartridge is a Dynavector XV-1s.

I have been considering an SME table (and possibly a SME V arm) but I like the concept of adjusting VTA on the fly. Between that and wanting to use a Mint tractor (I understand SME arms complicate the measurements required to get a Mint), I decided to get a Tri-planar arm instead.

So, what’s a good table to go with a Tri-planar and XV-1s? Would an SME still be a good candidate? What about an Amazon Reference? Anything else?

Thanks in advance.
Not trying to be disrespectful when I say this, but wasnt it you that had all these issues setting up your turntable in the first place ? And now that you have it setup properly(?), you want to change it again ????
I have corresponded with you on your table many times. I have the SSM Ref and I still think VPIs offer a lot for the money but I too am on the upgrade path and have narrowed my choices to the Galibier Stelvio and the TW Acustic Raven AC-3. I also plan to get the Tri-Planar and possibly the XV1s. Either table would work well with that arm and cartridge. TW has recently released a new reference table (Black Night)which features arms boards that allow VTA to be adjusted on the fly. Although it's $40,000 price tag puts it out of the range I can justify, this armboard will be available for the downstream tables as well at some point. I'm not sure VTA on the fly is a feature I really need so I'm also very intrigued by the Galibier line.
I'll be auditioning both brands in the coming months and I guess I'd recommend looking into them if you haven't. I see-saw back and forth between the two depending on the day. Currently I'm leaning Galibier's way again but hopefully auditioning will clear this all up.
I hear you've also recently purchased a Doshi preamp which is another upgrade I'm looking at. I've also long been intrigued by the Allnic products(esp. now that Albert Porter is digging them compared to much more expensive pieces he's had).
So it seems we're moving in similar directions although you did choose the Sophias over the 5As. I, for one, will be interested in what you find. Keep us all posted.
Riley804: You're absolutely right. I had a ton of issues when I first got into analog. It wasn't just related to my TT though - my first cartridge was whacky as was my Rhea (which had to be repaired). For a long while I wasn't happy, but over time I've learned a fair amount and lately I've been enjoying analog a lot; I just feel I'm not getting the full benefit of my cartridge with the arm I have.

Sonofjim: I hear the 5As often as a friend of mine has a pair. I adore them to be honest - they just wouldn't work out for me in my room (I move my speakers between HT and 2 channel mode and the 5As aren't conducive to that. I am very happy with the Sophia's as a compromise. I recently switched to the latest line of Pass amps and am very happy with them (XA 100.5's).

I did try to purchase a Galibier but finally gave up (I think Thom is just too busy). I too am interested in TW, and while I have yet to locate a dealer for them, I have a hunch they may be out of my budget. I recently visited a friend who had an SME setup and it sounded wonderful. I didn't know analog could be that quiet.

In any case, I'm looking to find a good table that I get my hands on sometime soon (as opposed to 6 months from now).

Regarding the Doshi: it's an impressive unit, but not for me. Mine is now for sale.
Go with a Galibier, you won't regret it.
Yes, you'll have to wait, but it's worth every penny (and minute of wait!).
Any particular price range you want to stick around? The SME tables are great. If you want adjustable VTA, go with a Tri Planar or Graham on the SME.

We first met because your system was unable to reproduce full harmonics without distortion (as Riley804 obviously remembered). I assumed you wanted to reduce the distortions while retaining the harmonics. Sorry if I misunderstood.

As you said, we demonstrated during your visit that there are no serious harmonic distortions from your present vinyl rig. Nor are there any with Nick's preamp, as you know from hearing ours (best DSOTM you've ever heard, or so you said).

Your last email indicated you're still hearing the same distortions, and the harmonic capabilities of the Alaap have highlighted them if anything. Since the problem's not with your source components or preamp, it's presumably with amps, speakers or room. However, if a simpler, cleaned up sound is more appealing than working on those, then almost any SS preamp will provide it. If you want a really good one, Raul's Essential 3160 is the best I've heard (though in fairness there are many I haven't).

Regarding a new rig, the SME arms would be well aligned with the above strategy, because they're less transparent to harmonics than the TriPlanar, Graham Phantom or a Schroeder. A very damp arm like a IV or V should pass fewer harmonics to be distorted elsewhere in the system and provide a cleaner, more manageable sound.

As for VTA on-the-fly, if your system isn't geared to the full reproduction of harmonics it's doubtful you'll get much benefit. With any good cartridge (including your XV-1S), the main effect of varying VTA/SRA is to properly integrate the fundamental of a note with its harmonics. If a system reproduces fewer harmonics, altering VTA has less effect. Given the goals I summarized above, I wouldn't place on-the-fly VTA anywhere near the top of the list of needs in a tonearm.

As for turntables, the SME and Raven are both fine choices. Pretty hard to go wrong with either one. Buy whichever one you like the looks/price of and which is available in your time frame. SME table/arm synergy and the chance to work with a single dealer might tip the balance.

Hope it works out,

When we met, the problems with my analog rig (as I saw it) were:

- low frequency ringing
- slight lack of high frequencies

The ringing was heard by all, the lack of high frequencies wasn't, although I often heard the comment that my tonearm was holding things back.

I tried various things to get rid of the ringing (damping etc) and even asked VPI for advice. Their answer was to increase VTF to 2.5 or higher. This did help but wasn't a total solution.

Having dealt with other issues in my room (which is still not as lively sounding as I'd like) and improved the playback chain, I now want to change my tonearm so I can take full advantage of my cartridge. It's really as simple as that - except for the fact that my table is a VPI and restricted to VPI tonearms (please correct me if I'm wrong). I've purchased a Tri-planar arm and now I need to find a table that is a good match.

I'm not sure I understand everything you're saying about harmonics, but my take-away is that you're suggesting I get a less than detailed tonearm because my system or room can't handle harmonics.
I would also consider an Avid Acutus. I have a lower model and I couldn't be happier after upgrading from a Scout.
Hi Madfloyd,

I think your comments touch on a very important point regarding venturing into made to order audio components, and are worth exploring. In the interest of full disclosure, I need to clarify a comment you made which might be subject to misinterpretation:
I did try to purchase a Galibier but finally gave up (I think Thom is just too busy).

It would appear that after our single exchange, you have self selected yourself out of Galibier ownership (and sadly, out of a Doshi as well). In no way would I try to discourage you, but I think some background on the acquisition process is in order.

The first few conversations with potential clients have very little to do with Galibier models and options. There's too much groundwork to be covered about past experiences and future goals, and skipping over this would be a critical mistake. People like myself, Chris Brady, and Neck Doshi approach our customers as if they have arrived at the end of a long journey.

The fellow who has played the game with mainstream components and who approaches us has more often than not reached a crossroad. Most likely, he is fed up with hi-fi, but at the same time is ambivalent about giving it up. His experiences with mainstream gear (at any price) have not met his expectations. The crossroad he reaches is one of either checking out of hi-fi completely, or branching into the realm of the esoteric - for one last try.

In early contacts with potential clients, we share our collective experiences (aka mistake$), in an attempt to come to an understanding about whether we have a shared vision. Having reached this point, the only remaining question in your mind is whether I can achieve this vision.

This information gathering is a difficult process. I cannot merely ask you what gear you own and what you're contemplating and leave it at that - any more than a doctor can ask a patient if they eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily and expect an honest answer. It takes some careful probing to uncover the truth.

Fortunately, I have a very simple "filter" to help me arrive at the truth: waiting time. While 6 months is at the extreme (but yet very possible as a couple of my current customers will attest), it serves as a good benchmark for both setting of expectations as well as coming to an understanding that a made to order product of this level of precision requires time.

A willingness to wait (something I try my best to NOT exploit), is an expression of someone's entire approach - to both music as well as life. It tells me much about whether we share a common vision.

Examples of long waiting periods abound in other pursuits. Richard Sachs bicycles take on the order of 4 years (, and Walker custom guitars run on the order of 7 years ( Of course, a bit closer to home, there's the Schroeder tonearm.

Regarding your experiences with the Doshi, I have to defer to Doug, since the two of you have shared listening sessions. I need to make a few comments however.

In my experience, components in the Doshi class of gear are frequently blamed for problems elsewhere in the system - in a "shoot the messenger" sort of way. Since Nick designs as any broadcast engineer would, I'm confident that what you did not like had nothing to do with a component mismatch or interface problem.

I've commented in several threads about this, but I need to once more, state categorically, that tracking an XV-1s at 2.5 grams is putting a band aid on a problem, and likely, the high resolution of the Doshi was exposing this problem - this, in addition to others that you and Doug have been diagnosing.

While it's true that no single component can be all things to all people, at the same time, one needs to be very watchful about drawing an erroneous conclusion about a piece of gear. Ask me how I know ...

Good luck in your audio travels.

Thom @ Galibier
SME is a fine product I'm sure but, if you're considering them, the TW and Galibiers are not out of your budget at all. SMEs are expensive! Also, due to the lack of dealer network/advertising I feel you get much more value for the money you do spend on these brands. I think you owe it to yourself to audition them both(and as many others as you have an interest in)before you lay your money down. As for the wait, I don't think anything worth having usually comes quick. (Then again this is coming from someone who spent 12 years in training so he could work like a dog the rest of his life)YMMV!
Thom, if you're out there please remember to keep June 26th open. I'm riding Amtrak to Denver and then driving to Boulder. I look forward to seeing you and your table.
What erroneous conclusion have I arrived to with the Doshi other than it's not to my taste in my system? It's a highly regarded piece of equipment and I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it. Btw, the mismatch for me was not due to the phono stage, but rather the line stage. I spent a fair amount of time and money playing with isolation and tubes, trying it in other systems to get a good feel for its character and I think in my situation I'd be better served by something else. That's allowed, no?

This thread was simply about trying to find a TT match for my Dynavector XV-1s cartridge and Tri-planar arm, not the Doshi.

Thom: for the record, we spoke at least twice - both times you said you would follow up with me in the next few days and both times I never heard back from you. I'm not criticizing the way you operate, but having no idea when I could successfully place an order (let alone receive a unit) is not for me. It's now been a few months and I've given up. Our conversations were very enjoyable and I have no doubt the quality of your products is top notch.

SonofJim: You're are most correct - the SME's are expensive! I'm now considering a Teres 265. Any caveats with this choice? Phono is a Manley Steelhead and preamp is an unknown.
I'm not sure I understand everything you're saying about harmonics, but my take-away is that you're suggesting I get a less than detailed tonearm because my system or room can't handle harmonics.
Pretty much.

Until you address the cause(s) of those distorted harmonics, which arose months ago and which still exist AFAIK, buying a tonearm that will send even more harmonics into the signal path seems counterproductive.

I expect a TriPlanar will do exactly what the Alaap did – introduce more harmonics into your present system/room than it can handle.
What gives you impression I have distorted harmonics in my system, Doug? You haven't heard it... I'm confused.
Hi Madfloyd,

If I were to make a decision on the Doshi based on limited exposure to it, I too would find that it is not to my taste, or more correctly, that I heard shortcomings in the systems where I had the opportunity to audition it. My respect for the Doshi is by inference - from people whose opinions I trust - people with whom I've shared observations and listening tastes in the past. In this sense, it should be on everyone's short list.

There are elements to fine components which are obvious once you learn what to listen for. For example, phono stages like the Doshi, the Essential, the Atma-Sphere MP-1, and the Einstein (to name a few), have a remarkable immunity to input overload. Raul has mentioned this in various threads on this forum. Many times, what sounds like cartridge mistracking or distortion is in fact a phono stage input section whose slew rate is too slow - one which can't gracefully respond to transients, and rings (resonates) in response to them.

Of course, there are numerous dimensions to a sonic evaluation. I point the above one out because it's one that you can analyze in any system context. Tonality on the other hand is difficult to determine unless you are familiar with the system context.

My main point relates to a system building approach - to encourage you to pick the low hanging fruit and work from there. From this perspective, the Doshi would serve you well - in spite of the fact that you currently don't find it to your liking (and might never, for that matter). From the dialog in this thread, it appears as if both ends of your system are candidates for change front end, and apm/speaker.

Now, in the end, you still might not like the Doshi, but I think it will (paradoxically) help you make better decisions about the rest of your system. I still think that you are most likely shooting the messenger. Have you considered sending it back to Nick for an inspection?

Thom @ Galibier
What gives you impression I have distorted harmonics in my system, Doug? You haven't heard it... I'm confused.

In your own words (unless there's another Ian who has a VPI/XV-1S and just bought and sold an Alaap)...

From your email to me dated 3/27:
"I have not gotten rid of the 'ringing' in my TT, but I did call VPI and ask their opinion, expecting them to tell me I needed to upgrade my arm, but they insisted that my JMW 9 Sig was just fine and that the problem was VTF. They had me increase it to 2.5g (Dynavector XV-1s). It was a significant improvement. The ringing is still there, but much fainter."

As we heard with your TT/arm/cart in my system, your rig actually produces clean harmonics. The "ringing" comes from other components which can't handle those harmonics.

From your email to me dated 3/27:
"If I listen over 80db I get ear fatigue rather quickly; I think the extra harmonics are a little harsh sounding. I get tons of bloom and my impressions are that it's not as clean and imaging is not as good (it's as if the bloom causes images to overlap)."

No other Alaap owner has ever complained of that. Sounds like ringing in the system/room to me.

From your email to me dated 4/1 (regarding your Doshi):
"Distortion. While I absolutely adore the bloom and huge soundstage, I can't listen to this louder than 70 db without ear fatigue. If I play something at 80 db it drives people out of the room (it sounds like it's over 100db). It's lovely with jazz and folk at lower volumes, but it adds so much in the way of harmonics that anything recorded with harmonics gets noisy very fast."

OK, I see where you're coming from now. The only area where you're confused is:

"As we heard with your TT/arm/cart in my system, your rig actually produces clean harmonics. The "ringing" comes from other components which can't handle those harmonics."

The ringing was as clear in your system as it was in mine. Zero difference. Perhaps I'm using the wrong term - maybe I should use 'resonance'. Do you recall listening to Steely Dan and hearing the snare drum produce a resonating sound that sustained during silences on my TT but not yours? I could tap my TT base and the same (pitch) sound would occur. Some suggested adjusting the damping fluid, but others suggested that the tonearm was holding me back. In any case, it was clearly independant of room and other equipment.

In any case, I’m pretty happy with my harmonically challenged system. Having changed every component in the past 3 months (including cabling, power conditioning) it’s resolving to the point that I can finally hear differences in cables and electronics and am enjoying the life sized soundstage and detailed imaging. Recently I’ve had the pleasure of auditioning some of the best preamps available and discovering each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses and how important synergy is. Too fun, not to mention educational.

It will certainly be enlightening to find that when I change to a superior tonearm, instead of my analog source sounding as good or better than my digital, I’ll suddenly want to sell all my LPs. Oh well, live and learn. 
I'd forgotten (or maybe didn't notice) that difference between the Steely Dan playbacks. Proof again that it helps to do these auditions with familiar LP's. If we'd played one of our records it might have jumped out at me.

Given that, I understand your TT/arm upgrade plans. Galibier and Raven are both excellent choices and, as Sonofjim said, probably better value for money than SME. Sonically I don't think there's much difference between Dan's Gavia and my 320. A 265 is a step down however (we owned one before the 320). The bigger tables do provide stronger dynamics and a blacker background. If you have the cash...
Kuzma Reference. I have heard your exact set-up and I own "almost" the same set-up. Very nice combination. Maybe you can ask Tri Mai at Triplanar if he has an opinion.
Hi Ian,
In any case, I’m pretty happy with my harmonically challenged system. Having changed every component in the past 3 months (including cabling, power conditioning)
Wow! I don't know how you can reasonably make sense of what's going on. I surely couldn't assimilate this many system changes in such a short period.

I like your inquisitive approach, but if I were to give you one piece of advice, it would be to SLOW DOWN.

Thom @ Galibier
Look at TW RAVEN 1 or RAVEN AC1/2/3. I have a RAVEN AC1 it was much better than any turntable i have had i think its VERY MUSICAL wonderful imaging staging does everything WONDERFUL Sold by HIGHWATER SOUND A GREAT DEALER/AUDIOPHILE!
Thom: Good advice, just not as fun. :-)

Doug, out of curiosity, while the 265 may be step down from the Galibier, Reven, your 320 (and maybe SME?), would it still be a step up from my Scoutmaster considering it allows me to change the tonearm?

Teres doesn't offer the 320 anymore. The next model up from the 265 is the Certus (450) and I'm guessing it is out of my budget.
... while the 265 may be step down from the Galibier, Reven, your 320 (and maybe SME?), would it still be a step up from my Scoutmaster considering it allows me to change the tonearm?
Yes, I'd say so.

Being able to use a TriPlanar is a notable step up.

Resonance control will be better. We never had your "ringing" with our 265. The 320 provides even blacker backgrounds, but the 265's no slouch.

The motor is good, though not quite as quiet or as powerful through transients as our Reference II motor. (There were QC problems from the motor supplier on some Reference II's, one reason Chris doesn't sell 320's any longer.)

If you go with any Teres or Galibier belt drive, the belt we use is a huge improvement over the stock belt. Also, last week we found a $60 tweak to the battery power that makes a major improvement in both background noise and dynamics. Our system now sounds notably better than what you heard.

Speaking of cheap but effective tweaks, I agree with Thom. You're going so fast (fun though it may be) that you're missing chances to learn. Example: you sold the Alaap largely because its harmonic richness overpowered other components (apparently including the VPI). We both know that wasn't the Alaap's "fault", and when you get a non-ringy table you may miss it. You'll never know how good it would have sounded (unless you buy another one). I'm not suggesting you have to like the same preamp I do. I'm suggesting you have no real idea whether you'd have liked it or not. All you know is that it showed up minor flaws in a pretty good vinyl rig in a major way, and that it doesn't do so with other rigs.

Upgrade one thing at a time, and don't upgrade it again until you're sure its a WEAK link. Take time to learn what your components can (and can't) do.

Care to guess how many TT's, tonearms, preamps, amps, wire and speakers we've had in six years? Just two of each, roughly one major component upgrade every six months. There've been a zillion minor tweaks in between, many of which have provided improvements as big as any component change (like our new battery charger). But those tweaks would never have happened if we'd been swapping gear so fast we didn't have time to understand it.
Thanks for the reply, Doug.

The reason I was considering a 265 is because I know someone who is selling one used. However, I have followed up on Ebm's suggestion to contact Highwater Sound and I was extremely impressed with Jef. I'm thinking that seeking out a TW Acustic Raven One may be a better overall purchase.

(thanks, Ebm!)
Might I suggest a trip to NYC to audition the TW tables? I'm doing that in just a couple weeks. Jeff is very helpful with your needs. Don't write off a trip to Boulder to listen to the Galibiers( and Teres if you wish). I'm doing that as well. Judging from the components you've tried, I'd guess budget is not the problem for you that it is for most. You owe it to yourself(and the makers of these great tables)to be patient and hear them out. As an example, my timetable is 4th quarter 2009. In the end, you'll find what you like and get off the merry-go-round.
I might be close minded here, but I'm not convinced that you can compare tables when they're in completely different rooms and systems. How much of the character of what you're hearing is the table versus other components including cartridge etc. I wouldn't be able to process all that.

I really like hearing and getting to know a component in my own system.

I took the plunge and purchased a TW Acustic. I'm confident that I'll be getting a good table and I should be satisfied given it'll be a serious upgrade from what I'm currently listening to. The bonus is that I'll have it very soon and have great dealer support.
Madfloyd said, "Having changed every component in the past 3 months (including cabling, power conditioning) it’s resolving to the point that I can finally hear differences in cables and......."


"I might be close minded here, but I'm not convinced that you can compare tables when they're in completely different rooms and systems. How much of the character of what you're hearing is the table versus other components including cartridge etc. I wouldn't be able to process all that."

Isn't that what you just did at home?

My guess is that you could spend a million dollars on a turntable and you could not get it to sound good.

Good luck with the new table which one did you get. I know you will love turntable and HIGHWATER SOUND 5 STAR SERVICE AND ADVICE!! Again good luck be well .
Madfloyd, I ordered a Raven One from Jeff at Highwater Sound back in March. He's been very prompt with communication and anyone who has 28,000 LP's has my respect. Jeff was very helpful in making suggestions, and my Raven One will come with a 12 inch Ortofon arm and Dynavector 20X cartridge. At some point I will upgrade the arm and cartridge. The Turntable is shipping from the factory in Germany the first week in May, so probably I will have it the week after that, so the wait from ordering to when I will have it isnt bad at all. Like you I was weighing the pros and cons of Galibier, Well-Tempered,and others after having had a VPI. I guess for me, the final arbiter was what I've heard from owners,those in the forums, show coverage, and that I'm firmly in the musicality school rather than extraction of every last minute detail off the vinyl ( just my preference, nothing wrong with the detail or resolution crowd!). Good luck in your search! --Mrmitch
"My guess is that you could spend a million dollars on a turntable and you could not get it to sound good."

Not sure I understand you. It already sound very good and I am enjoying what I have. Now that I'm not being limited by other aspects of my system, I want to get something even better. What's wrong with that? Isn't that what we audiophiles do?

I've learned that just because something is reviewed well doesn't mean it's going to sound good in your room, with your equipment etc. I've also learned that changing more than 1 piece of equipment at a time is not the way to go. I don't see how listening to different turntables in different setups is going to tell me anything. The mere difference in loudspeakers will be enough to throw off any comparison. If you can get around that in your auditioning, then more power to you - I couldn't.

Ebm - I got a Raven One. I had already purchased a tonearm (Triplanar) which I'm very excited about.

Mrmitch: are you saying that the TW Acustic is known for being more musical than analytical?
Madfloyd, So far from what I've read from others opinions (and they are only opinions), yes. This is not to say the Raven doesn't reveal lots of detail, just that bringing out the musical qualities of a performance may be the Raven One's strong suit. To me, the timbre of an instrument or orchestral section is more important than whether or not you were able to hear the conductor pass wind during a particularly loud passage. --Mrmitch
Owning an AC-3 I would have to agree with EBM that the table is very musical - as close to being in the room as you can get. Add to that the timing and nuance that the table presents and it is an unbelievable listening experience. I believe you will not find the Raven lacking in timbre either as the attack, decay, and color are fantastic as well. Enjoy your new table for many, many years to come!