Your call of course. The VPI would give you a little different flavor and you might prefer it.
SOTA is a great company and I went from a sapphire to a cosmos MKIV and I am done and super satisfied with my vinyl.
The sapphire was a great table and sometimes they come up used at really good price points.
I would think the Aries would be an upgrade to the Comet and depending on how long you have been spinning it might be fun to make a change and try it. I do not know how Comet's go on the used market but I would think the upgrade makes sense from a sale down the road perspective.
Why don't you just change the arm to a Rega 301 or older RB300? If the table is working then that would be the wise thing to do. I feel the Aries is a superior table to the Comet and offers better isolation, etc.
I would go with the upgrade. The table will easily be worth what you paid for it if you want to sell later. Or how about upgrading to a Sapphire now. I have and do own a number of Sotas and they are well worth the money at each level. My Cosmos IV is the best table I have ever owned or heard.
I had an VPI Aries that I recently got on trade. It sold fast. It is a "NICE" sounding turntable but I preferred my buddy's new Sota Comet to the VPI. More music seemed to be difference. The Sota just had more information. It was clearer smoother and had a much better tonal balance. Oddly enough we used a Sumiko Blackbird as our test cartridge on both tables. Keep in mind that there many differences and that the VPI given a different cartridge and could sound better than the Comet. For the test to be completely fair we would have to have the same tonearm on both tables just like we did with the cartridge.
I think you could do alot better for a little bit more money by moving on to something else. Please don't be insulted, but remember, the Comet is a "starter" table. You alredy bought it once and now you are thinking about throwing $800.00 back into it. Now, you may Love your Comet, but do you really know how much better and even magical sound you can obtain with something else? I would suggest a used Spacedeck, or Well Tempered Classic. They both are "real" tables that could relieve you from the upgrade bug in the future. But thats just me, if you are hot for VPI like everybody else here, then consider that too. I had a Sapphire for years and even after much tweaking and factory upgrades (Sota loves upgrades, hint, hint) it was easily bested by even my humble '70's AR with a homemade arm. I mean it was no comparison. Yes, this move will cost you more than $800.00, but you will be set for a long time unless you eventually decide to spend an insane amount of money on your analog set up.
Agree with Hifiharv, but I don't care for the sound of the SOTA and VPI tables. For a different sound, you could look at a used Linn LP12, Michell or Nottingham Analogue. I think even a Rega P5, which is now being closed out for 1,000 would be a big step up. And yes, I have owned a Comet, though it was many moons ago.
I would think you would be much better off staying in the Sota line. trade them your table for a better Sota...a refurbished Sapphire or Star... Good company
Those of you who are comparing a Sota Sapphire from the 80s to the present version are missing 25 years of improvements. there is no comparison. the current version is much better than the 80s version, however, the late 80s early 90s series III is no slouch. Much better than the black top early versions.
So far I have got a lot of good advice and opinions. I really have multiple options now. New tonearm or a complete rebuild and keep it for awhile, and trade up later. Then again I could just take my upgrade money and buy a better used table.
Please continue to offer any other ideas that I might want to explore, my goal is as always, the best bang for the buck. I would like to keep what I consider a pretty decent Blackbird and not have the added expense of a new cartridge.
I love Sota. Can you do the bearing/motor replacement yourself? I would not spend that much on a refurbish when you could probably buy a Sapphire or Jewel for that much money. The LMT2 arm and Blackbird are great and will save you money if you keep them.
For argument's sake: I prefer my Sota over the VPI & Mitchell that I sold off.
The Sota Comet was considered an insult to the Sota name by audiophile's who knew more than me.
TW ACUSTIC much better table.
I have owned too many turntables to mention and I keep going back to the Sota turntables because they are just right. I have had a few uber expensive turntables over the years. I have tried in my system the SME 10, 20, and 30 and all sounded good until I went back to Sota Nova. I tried three upper end VPI turntables, TW Acustic, Avid Actus SP One, Linn Sondek 12 Valhalla. Many other s not mentioned here and I just going back to a Sota Star Nova MK IV/III. Sota turntables let music be music. The Comet is a great sounding turntable and for $1300.00 you will not find a better table. There was a latest version of the Comet for sale here on Audiogon for less than half price. I currently own a Sota Cosmos MKIV with an SME IV.vi tonearm, Zyx 4D gold coils and a Zyx Artisan phono amp and I have the best turntables sound I have ever had. The best part is that my tables sound killer good, it has a great build quality and I can call Sota and they will most of the time answer the phone while providing great customer service. The only other turntables I like almost as much is the Origin Live.
Thanks again for all the help. I think at this point I am leaning to the SOTA Comet upgrade. My worst case is I can recover a big part of my investment when I do upgrade, and I will have a like new table and arm until then.
Thanks again for all the time and your input.
Upgrade/rebuild SOTA is a great company to work with. I am very happy with the rebuild they did for me.