Anybody listen to this yet? Please share your reaction.
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I ordered the rim drive kit from Music Direct during January and finally took delivery of the kit on Monday of this week. I installed the new drive mechanism in my VPI TNT-6 turntable on Monday evening, and I have done some fairly extensive listening since then. Here is a run down on the changes in performance I am hearing in the SET audio system where I am running my TNT-6 turntable (equipped with the Super Platter):
1. PRaT - The new drive mechanism delivers a sense of energy and flow to the music that is clearly superior to the belt-drive mechanism. By comparison, the belt drive sounds somewhat slow and sluggish. (For those of you wondering whether I used the SDS to calibrate the platter speed before making this observation, I did.)
2. Bass Performance - With the new drive mechanism, the performance of the turntable is significantly improved in the bass frequencies. The bass is faster and tighter. By comparison, the bass frequencies with the belt drive mechanism tend to sound ponderous with a certain resonance or overhang that tends to muddy up the works - particularly in a full-range audio system.
In addition to the performance improvements noted above, I believe that dynamics have also improved.
Overall, I think the new drive mechanism is a very worthwhile upgrade that does a nice job of addressing some of the inherent weaknesses I have come to understand about the VPI TNT turntable in the eight years I have owned it. (My first VPI turntable was the TNT Mk3.5, which over the years was gradually upgraded and replaced, piece by piece, as it evolved into what is now the latest production model version).
The $64 question with VPI rim drive is whether the rubber belts between motors and flywheel compromise speed stability. If you're in the mood to experiment, you might try carpet thread in these positions. On my TNT there were improvements in the direction that you note-- focus, speed, dynamics-- after replacing both long & short rubber belts with inelastic thread. Rim drive should be even better, but perhaps not with elastic belts remaining in the drive system.
Regarding the rim drive. I think it did wonders for my system. The solidity of the table is astonishing..kind of like the belt drive is a bit under water. The kit is easy to accomplish. If you decide on it,the arm will rock, jiggle, and scootch when you first use the rim drive. After 2 days, the rim drive seats, and everything quiets down. I was mortified at first, but then delighted.
The biggest improvement you can make to your system is to quit buying the latest gadgets that VPI makes (and they offer 100 new upgrades each month that makes the last 100 upgrades from last month obsolete)and buy yourself an outstanding reel to reel deck for under $1000.00. I own a VPI TNT MKIII (sitting on the VPI TNT stand of course)that I upgraded the motor with the 300 RPM motor, ET-2 arm driven by two pumps through a surge tank, Denon DL-103R cartridge run through a Counterpoint SA-2 and then into an upgraded SA-5.1(both line and phono stage by Mike Elliot). And yes, I have a VPI 16.5 cleaning machine too. I could bring my Revox A-77 deck to your house and make you feel stupid for spending crazy money on your LP playback system that will not sound as real and as live as the sound that snaps off of tape. Sorry, but it's the truth. And you can tell me that your LP playback system is way better than mine which I wouldn't believe until I heard it myself (and mine sounds DAMN good), but it won't change the fact that tape sounds better and we have all been led down the wrong road by chasing our LP playback tails like a possessed dog hunting for that last thing that will take us to nirvana. I feel sick that I am a johnny-come-lately to the world of tape and that I have wasted my entire adult life chasing improvements in LP playback when I could have been investing in great tapes and decks all these years. So, instead of spending $1000 for a rim job, I dare you to spend $500 on an A-77 in really good condition and buy yourself some used tapes on Ebay and prepare to be amazed. Don't get me wrong, my LP playback system sounds great and it blows the uninitiated away, but it doesn't sound as real as tape. I can just imagine what 15ips two track tapes made from masters would sound like. Now that is tail worth chasing. As good as LP playback can be, I have never once been fooled into thinking that live music is being played in my room. With 7 1/2ips 4 track tapes, I have been fooled into thinking that I have been transported to the room where the music was made and that I am there hearing it live. And here is one more thing to feed that part of your brain that always craves that latest gizmo that you hope will make a startling improvement in your LP playback, and that is all LPs are limited in their performance and fidelity to the master tape because they have to be comprised due to the physics. Mastering engineers have to choose which songs to give the greatest bandwidth to and place them as the first 2-3 cuts on each side. The closer you get to the label, the less room mastering engineers have to work with and they have to cut back on the bass and treble they encode in the grooves. You start off with 12" of real estate turning at 33 1/3 RPM and you end up with a much smaller diameter disc still turning at 33 1/3 RPM and you simply can't cut at the same levels as you could at the beginning of the disc. So, ever wonder why the best sounding cuts on your LPs are always the first couple on each side? Now you know. Tape doesn't have that problem. The last cut can sound just as amazing as the first cut. The engineers can really give you everything the master tape has to offer. RCA knew that back in 1958 when they started releasing 2 track 7 1/2ips tapes and they thought it would be the death-blow to LPs. They didn't count on women and lazy men not wanting to take the time to thread tape. If you are crazy enough to put up with LPs, you are crazy enough to put up with tape. The payoff is higher.
Mepearson - So what's your point? Besides threadcrapping, why spend so much screen space explaining the obvious? Nobody is going to argue that RTR doesn't usually sound better than lp, but here is a question: I have spent over 30 years purchasing records, by your estimation, how many of those titles are available on RTR? And besides ebay, where can I purchase these titles? I'd like to listen to more than 5 tapes if possible.
"threadcrapping"-I like that term. Well, I personally don't think most people know that RTR sounds better than LPs and that was my point. As for how many of your records from a 30 year collection are available on RTR, if you mean currently other than Ebay, the answer is 0. If you mean how many were available when the LPs first came out, probably many of them were. If you are willing to spend the money, you could have a RTR collection that numbered in the high hundreds if not thousands-never mind 5. Like I said, I wish I was hip to this many years ago so I would have amassed a big collection of RTR tapes instead of jumping down the LP rabbit hole where I hit all types of blind ends and got mugged while I was in there. And the LP rabbit hole has gotten deeper over the years and there are many more people waiting inside to mug you now and take all of your cash for some earth-shattering improvements that don't amount to a pimple on an elephant's ass compared to the difference between a really good table and a really good RTR.
Thanks Rsrex, I was just about to post that same issue. ...but also, the producer decides which tune is 1st, and last...not the audio engineer. I have made a few records, and have been to meetings to discuss that very same issue. It is not true that the best sounding tune is first...I have numerous lp's that fly in the face of that. whether Meperson's stereo is better sounding than mine makes no difference to me. I have many hundreds of LP's, and CD's that bring me pleasure. Some of them sound so real, I am fooled in thinking that I have been transported to the venue...some are poor sounding, but have great music on them, so I kind of imagine the music that's missing. Regarding VPI's constant search for perfection...I give them lots of credit and thanks. All of their upgrades that I have included in my VPI have improved it. I am glad they are on the constant search for perfection. In my hubris, I spoke to Harry about also getting rid of the 2 small belts that transfer power from the motors to the new flywheel. It seemed logical that if the big belt is eliminated, the elimination of all the belts would be even better. Harry said that its been tried and rejected. They continually get closer and I reap the benefits. Just today, I put on a Gordon Lightfoot album called "Summertime Dreams". This is the first time I played the album with my new rim drive. I have heard the album hundreds of times before, however, with the new drive, I can clearly understand Gordon's words. When his voice changes, I can completely understand that he is singing with himself..the same words, the same notes, the same inflections, both voices coming from between the speakers, but I can clearly hear 2 Gordon Lightfoots. I suspected this with the belt drive, but it is very clear with the rim drive.
I didn't mean to pick on VPI in particular, just the LP rabbit hole in general. And as far as Stringreen's statement that anything Harry has ever done has been an improvement over what came before it is flat wrong. I was told to get rid of the additional pulleys on my TNT table by VPI because all they did was add noise. So out they went and I capped over the holes with plugs from VPI. And isn't his "new" super platter a variation on the TNT MKV platter? Sure looks like it to me. Back to a metal composite sandwich vice the chunk of plastic that came on the TNT MKVI that was supposed to be better than the old metal composite sandwhich platters. And now rim drives are better than the belt drives that superceded rim drives. I wonder what old idea he will revive next to replace his past improvements over the old ideas? See my point? And I say this as someone who owns a VPI TNTIII and a VPI 16.5. I have also owned a JMW 9 and JMW 10. I sold them both to go back to an ET2 which IMO is a much better arm. As for your Gordon Lightfoot ephipany, when you say you hear "2 Gordon Lightfoots," do you mean his voice is doubletracked or that he has recorded two separate tracks that are spaced enough apart in time that it doesn't sound double tracked? Either way, I am surprised that it took the rim job to bring this out. I am going to buy a copy of that LP so I can hear it myself and hear what you are talking about.
RTR is a great playback system, EXCEPT there's never been an adequate selection of software. I got into RTR in the 1960s. Mail order wasn't what it is today, but it was tough finding the best recordings by the best artists on RTR. By comparison, today on SACD and DVD-A there's way better selection than there ever was on RTR.
LPs are also much easier to care for than RTR. It may seem like RTR is more trouble free until you get about ten-years into a collection in Florida, with high humidity reaking havoc. My LPs going back to the late 1950s still sound great (I always took care of them). Many of my RTRs are unsalvageable.
I've got a superior format to all in my system right now, 5.6HHz 1-bit DSD. Problem is, there's no software available, other than what I record myself.
Finally D2D beats R2R in my experience. Unfortunately there's the same problem, not enough software. At least you don't need a special machine.
Enjoy your rim drives.
Did Harry mention what led him to reject alternatives to the two remaining rubber belts? IME the only advantage of soft rubber belts is ease of set-up-- and ease of set-up and consistency of results is a big consideration when you're a large manufacturer. I'm still hoping that someone with VPI rim drive will try threads(which are tricky to tension correctly) and report to this forum. I would be surprised if you don't hear an improvement.