Should I consider a cartridge upgrade?


How "much" cartridge is too much?
Hi All,

I currently am very happy with my VPI Scoutmaster/JMW9/Soundsmith Paua/edensound Terracone footers/Edensound Terrastone platforms for TT and separate for motor/edensound brass damping weights for motor and plinth/Transparent Reference MM2 phono/Herron VTPH-2 analog setup.

I have another year or more before I need my Paua retipped.

I am wondering how much higher I can go with cartridge price/performance with this setup and still reap the benefits of the cartridge? I used a Zephyr Mk II before that, which I love; I did notice a significant improvement going to the Paua.

I know some will suggest just buying a different TT, but this was my late father's table, and I would like to stick with it.

By the way, the current setup sounds awesome, so I will be fine with retipping my Paua and sticking with it if that seems best.

Thanks for your thoughts!
Arsh

Main System:

VPI Scoutmaster, Soundsmith Paua, VPI SDS, Transparent Reference MM2 phono, Herron VTPH-2, Herron IC, Musical Fidelity NuVista CDP, Transparent Ultra MM and Transparent digital cable, Musical Fidelity NuVista 800, Transparent Reference MM2 SC, Wilson Audio Sasha, Transparent Powerbank 8 and Transparent power cords, Terracones and Terrastone platforms, Atacama Equinox rack.

arsh
Why mess with awesome? Awesome seems pretty great to me! 
Zavato, I hear you. I just can't help wondering if I could squeeze even a bit more awesomeness out of it...:)

..sure - a better cartridge, a 3D arm, and a Classic platter. ...maybe rim drive if you're really doing it....  nothing much better.
Thanks Stringreen. As I understand it, the 3D arm is not easily substituted for the JMW9 on a Scoutmaster. Various other knowledgeable people have warned me off the 3D, although I have read your favorable comments regarding it. I'm not sure I want to change the platter either, which brings me back to the cartridge.
I would do as mentioned- 3D arm,Classic platter,THEN call it a day.

Fine until you're ready to swing for the Avenger, or  better.

Thanks tablejockey. Are you suggesting not to bother with the cartridge?
Just a thought. Would Walker motor controller work better than VPI in this case? I read that, generally speaking, most people preferred Walker in varios set-ups. And maybe Steelpoints under the Wilsons if possible?
I have not heard your particular cart, but I'm certain it s consistent with the other upper end SS carts-very lifelike and convincing.
At least that's what I heard in a SS room with Mr. Ledermann playing my records at a show. 
If the rest of my system were up to snuff, along with having a few bucks to throw around, the Strain Gauge is just short of having a stringed quartet in the living room. 

Wouldnt even bother unless I were ready to REALLY move up the food chain $$$

Thanks for your suggestions guys. I don't know much about the Walker speed controller. I have read some good things about it though. The sound of the cartridge is indeed very lifelike and convincing. It is very musical. I have not thought much about the strain gauge, because one would have to buy the accompanying preamp. However, I have been seriously thinking about the Hyperion.

That is an awful lot of cartridge for that table, but hey, if you have the dough and the desire, why not? I wouldn't recommend putting a $7500 cartridge on a VPI Scout, but then I have been known to do other "crazy" things, like putting a $7500 power cord on a $3000 phono preamp.

This is a crazy hobby, I know of someone who uses $24K speaker cables on his $2K speakers. It's your money, spend it anyway you want!
Have fun, and enjoy the music!!

Cheers,
John
$7500 cord on $3000 phono is crazy, $24000 cables on $2000 speakers is far beyond that.
Thanks John. My turntable is a scoutmaster, with significant modifications primarily in terms of vibration isolation. I have aftermarket footers as well as an aftermarket platform for the turntable itself and a separate smaller one for the motor. I have damping weights on the motor and the plinth. In addition I have very good phono cables on it as well as an upgraded VPI record clamp. Finally I have the S DS speed controller. so, it's a little more than a standard scoutmaster. My purpose in making this inquiry was to get a sense for whether that indeed would be too much cartridge for my table. I appreciate your advice.
You have a very good cartridge.  Possible upgrades include: 

1) Change the JMW 9 arm for a JMW 10 3D.  VPI will sell you a mounting board that attaches to your old JMW 9 plinth holes and is drilled for the 3D arm.  Easy replacement/upgrade

2) Add a motor controller like the VPI SDS, Phoenix Eagle, or the Walker.  I have owned both the Walker and the SDS and their performance is almost identical

3) If you have an older acrylic platter, you can replace it with the VPI Classic platter - very nice improvement in sound

Anyone of the above upgrades will sound like you have a new cartridge and will give you a higher level of performance.  If you choose to do nothing, don't sweat it because you have a VERY nice front end set up.
If the point is to put together the most expensive system, then I would understand the use of $24000 cables.  But if the point is to put together the best sounding system, then why is even any ''price'' mentioned?   
Price doesn't equal or equate quality.  Synergy is what should be the main consideration here.  Not 'price'!
Regards,
Hi brf,

thanks a lot. I do have the SDS--sorry I didnt list that up front, just in my system list. I do think  it was a worthwhile upgrade.

I had though initially that I would go for the 3D arm when it came out. However, numerous people have steered me away from it (not simple to switch since they don't have a 9 inch one, tricky to set up, build quality issues, etc). I have also considered the platter, but I am concerned that I won't like the sound of a metal platter compared to my acrylic one.
Could you tell me more about your experience with the 3D arm please? Thanks!
A sign of audiophile maturity is knowing when to stop.  It's already awesome!  If you really want to "upgrade", junk everything (including phono state) and budget at least $25k.  It won't be state of the art, but it will be jaw-dropping awesome.
Thanks onhwy61,

i appreciate your comment. Over the years, I have been conservative as far as changing my system. It was static for 12 years before I started to refresh it about 2 years ago. I do not change or swap gear often. I see no reason to spend 25k. I am simply seeking to improve what I have without changing everything, and the cartridge seemed a logical item to consider.
Your JMW 9 is a 9 inch arm and VPI does not make a direct swap out 9 inch 3D arm, therefore, you can purchase a 10" 3D arm and VPI will provide you with a mounting plate that attached to your SS plinth to make sure that your new longer 3D tonearm is properly aligned with the correct spindle to pivot distance. 
Thanks brf.
Arsh...whoever told you bad things about the 3D arm just doesn't know what they're talking about.  All that I told you...3D arm, classic platter, etc. will take your turntable to the very height of performance. If you add the rim drive, it will nearly be the equal of the direct drive.  VPI has this upgrade path that makes the ownership of your table so valuable.
Thanks Stringreen. I guess I am wary of having to modify my table to fit that arm. I wish there were a 9" one that I could just drop in place. Are there photos or videos of what the substitution would look like? If I felt comfortable that it would be pretty easy for me to do, and would not be more difficult to set up the cartridge than my JMW9, I might do it. In your opinion, would that make more difference than a Hyperion, for instance?
Upgrade asap.
Cute, thanks Ebm.
To expand on my earlier comments.  I think you have a very nice analog setup that should perform very well.  Any significant upgrade will cost you significant dollars.  I actually think your cartridge is probably your strongest element followed by the phono preamp, tonearm and lastly the table.

My recommendation is to stay with what you have.  That said, Music Direct offers a VPI Classic Signature SE for $5,000.  Alternatively you could also purchase a record cleaning machine.

http://www.musicdirect.com/p-370603-vpi-classic-signature-se-turntable.aspx
Thanks for your further comments onhwy61. Your points are well taken. I forgot to note my record cleaning machine: Clearaudio Smart Matrix Professional.  I am indeed quite satisfied with what I have. I would almost certainly have just bought another table, but since this one was my dad's before he died, I would like to keep using it. Hence my desire to "max out" its performance. Perhaps that is folly.  I take it from your comments that in your opinion changing the cartridge or Tonearm will not yield a significant improvement? Thanks again.
If anyone has performed the procedure to replace a JMW9 arm with the 10.5 inch 3D arm, please let me know. I'd like to learn more about it, and it's very difficult  to get info from VPI, as I've called there numerous times. I have not found any instructions, videos, or descriptions online. Thanks.
I think it would be less expensive to see a psychologist for your cartridge issues.   No you don't need more cartridge you could have less cartridge and be fine.  Its the OCD taking control of you fight it!
Ha! Thanks bobvinyl. As luck would have it, my wife is a psychologist, and she already tells me I'm crazy on a regular basis. I have come to accept  my diagnosis. :)  in all seriousness, though, I know I don't have a problem with the set up. Just wondering how much better it can be, as so many of us with this affliction do.
I would say you have hit the point of diminishing returns.  I've gone that route and found my self more underwhelmed the more I spent.   Vinyl is always going to be limited its a fun hobby but really you are past the point of diminishing returns anything more and I think your wife needs to step in.

Thanks bobvinyl. I appreciate your opinion.  I had pretty much decided to stand pat for the time being, after reading the various responses and soliciting some expert opinions as well. I do think that when there is a significantly better Tonearm made that will fit my turntable, that may be a sensible way to go. I remain open to everyone's opinions, as that's educational in itself.
NOS Telefunken tubes and V-Caps for your Herron preamp will yield huge results.
Thanks noromance. Did you do that yourself, or did Keith do the mods? What have you noticed with the change?
Arsh, I don't have a Herron but I have been rolling tubes for many years and have rebuilt and updated a number of amps. As you gave not mentioned my aforementioned tweaks, I am recommending you give it a shot. Buy the best tubes NOS as you can and talk to Herron about a V-CAP or Jupiter Copper foils if you have a temp regulated room as the latter don't like heat. I believe these upgrades will be well worth it.
You will notice an increase in resolution, timbre, transparency, focus, dimensionality and speed.
Thanks for that info, noromance. Much appreciated.
Has your wife ever told you that you might be in fact in some way uncomfotable with your father's turntable?
It's terrible to have a wife psychologist, anyway. Could you ask her to change the profession, just for you?
Hi Inna,

sounds like you may have a psychologist wife also? It is certainly an educational experience. She has diagnosed obsessive behavior when it comes to my hi-fi!
Arsh...I have a 3D arm on my Superscoutmaster....its easily done.  Call VPI and arrange it.....a dramatic improvement
Stringreen, thanks. However, when I called VPI, they were not helpful. I think some technician relayed answers to my questions via a receptionist.  Apparently he could not be bothered to speak with me himself.  From those answers, I gathered that some modification of the turntable would be required. Did your Scoutmaster originally have a JMW9 arm, or a longer arm before you installed the 3D? I am anticipating the release of the Schroder Alto (demonstrated at some recent hi-fi shows), which Peter Lederman tells me is a surface mount and should fit on my turntable; it should mate well with his cartridges. That may be worth considering for my situation. Not sure why VPI has not made a 9 inch 3D arm.
Hi arsh,
Some women are psychologists by nature, so I hear interesting things too from time to time.
I used to use my father's equipment for a while as well, then stopped, put it in storage and got my own.
Hi Inna, I know what you mean!  As for the equipment, I have had my own equipment for a long time. The only piece of gear which I am using from my father's system is his old turntable.