If that $700 includes the cost of the arm it is worth it. If it is in addition to the arm I would consider other options. A used JMW 10 can be had for somewhere south of $1000 and, in my opinion, is a superior arm. I've owned both the JMW and an upgraded Rega.
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No, it is NOT worth it.
If you are willing to go used, you can get a substantial upgrade that will easily outperform any modified RB300 by a huge margin. Narrod mentions the VPI, and you can also look at arms like a Bluenote, Morch, Hadcock etc.
Youll be hard pressed to spend $700 used and not get better ... even an older Ittok or Audiocraft (providing good condition) will knock your socks off compared to a modified RB300.
Note, your VPI will handle just about any arm, however you do not mention what cart you are using. You have to match the arm to the cart you want to use.
Yea Pauly, this has been my basic, gut level reaction. I know what the VPI MKIV is capable of, and it will go anywhere that my bank account would allow for. I have been on the scout for a VPI JMW-10, but I have some hesitation on that arm. They are available at reasonable prices on the used market. It seems that both the 10.5 & the 10.5i have made considerable improvements over the original 10... but of course there goes the $$. The Hadcocks have perked my interest, but don't know anything about them. Meanwhile... RB700? used SME or Graham? AQ PT-8 or PT-9? Linn Ekos or better? So, as you can see, I am rather swimming in it all. I do want VTA adjustment and anti-skate. So, far I have been using a rather entry level cartridge on my AQ PT-6... Grado Platinum Reference. I like the signature of the Grado sound and have been looking to upgrade to a Sonata or better. There are alot of good cartridges in the $300 price range and up, and up, but this is another can of worms. The audio universe is vast and mysterious Captain Kirk.
I disagree the RB300 isn't worth tweaking -- especially if you're using a Grado Platinum or Sonata. If you were moving to a cartridge that didn't match the arm, or you were moving up to a high res cart, then it would make sense to get a better arm, but the RB300 is perfect for a Sonata. I own this combo and it does very well together.
You can easily find an RB300 for $200 and substantially upgrade it for less than $350. You'll have a very nice arm for $550. I don't know how you came up with $700. Here's my list:
$23 Michell VTA sleeve from eBay Buy it now
$159 Michell Tecnoweight from Galen Carol
You have lots of options for rewiring:
$205 Incognito Kit
$139 Cardas Tone Arm Rewire Service using the same wire as in the Incognito.
Do it yourself using any wire you want. I wired mine for about $100 using Cardas 4x33, WBT ends and some parts from the hardware store (rubber hose, braided steel hose, and shrink wrap tubing).
buy a Michell Technoarm for $800 or so new here and you get all those features of a modded RB300 but it's way better...
Personally I would try to find a Clearaudio Satisfy arm with the ruby bearings.. mine kills my old RB300 with Technoweight and you can get it with a Rega mount. Sometimes these go up for sale on audiogon for a great deal! This is a very underrated arm in my opinion, as I had intented to buy a Graham Phantom and now I'm quite happy with my Satify arm that upgrade urge is gone... and I'm an upgrade junky....
07-02-08: TpsonicFully upgrading an RB250 or RB300 runs the cost up to $800-900, (which includes all the mods you mentioned, but sandblasts off the overdamping powder coat and puts slots in the tube to break up resonances), but you're still stuck with the OEM bearings, which I understand is the RB250-300's achilles heel.
The Origin Live Silver incorporates all the improvements on an arm with (they claim) much improved bearings and OL's own VTA adjustment collar at $1050.
At the $200 difference, I'd probably spring for the Silver.
Don't screw around; put a VPI arm on that TNT. They are designed and made for each other. Tell me anyone here can outthink and design Harry Weisfeld, cmon the guy has been making TTs his life's work. Why second guess the expert?
Go get a Rega P3 if this is the direction you want to go.
Aha I thought so.
Well the HW-19 predates the JMW by many years so I don't think they were "made for each other". I do agree that you need to know a whole lot more than most of us do to argue with Harry's choices. He knows his stuff and has a passion for driving incremental improvements in his products. I feel the JMW is significantly better than the Rega and don't get hung up on the "lack" of anti-skate. Harry's twisted wire works as it should. I NEVER heard innergroove distortion with his arm.
So far thanks to everyone that has contributed this thread. Yea, I agree with the majority of the comments. I am leaning (significantly) towards shelling out more money, and just going ahead and getting a tonearm that would be most appropriate for the table. I have had several conversations with some hi-fi outlets, and as well, have spoken with the folks at VPI extensively. Sheila, Harry and Mike are extremely friendly, supportive and patient in my personal experience. Barring something unexpected (like a Naim ARO or a Graham dropping out of the sky), I will probably go with a JMW-10 or better, i.e., 10.5 or 10.5i. The table deserves it, and so do my ears. This doesn't mean I am knocking the approach of upgrading entry level tonearms and turning them into something special. We all love the tweaks that work and the magic of stumbling onto the litte guys that out perfom the bigguns. PS. I am also starting to get over my anti-skate phobia.
Bside, if your budget will allow a used Graham or late model SME, I would defnitely recommend you go for one of them. Graham 2.2s have been selling at very reasonable prices lately.
I agree with Johnny that the RB's bearings are a problem. No counterweight, VTA adjuster or wiring is going to mask that - in fact, if anything you'll only be made more aware of the sloppy bearings if you modify an RB.
I'd like to get an objective, non-hostile, opinion of an RB300 with Tecnoweight, Incognito and VTA sleeve. Obviously some folks in this forum don't like the RB300. I understand it has weaknesses like the bearing, but all things considered, how does it compare to other arms in the $500-600 used range?
Maybe a better question is: What arms stand out in this price range?