Upgrade Tonearm for VPI Aries 3

I have an Aries 3 turntable with JMW 10.5i tonearm.
I bought it new 7-8 years back.

I would like to upgrade the tonearm any suggestions ?
I use a Dynavector XX-2 Cartridge and I'll spend up to $3500 new or used.

I like the sound with the 10.5i but will upgrading the tonearm improve the sound ?

As time goes on I listen to more vinyl , almost every night.
Would it be better to purchase a used turntable with tonearm for $6000 ?

Thanks any input appreciated.
I would choose the latter of the two options. 1) The VPI table and arm are optimal for one another and 2) if you have to do any surgery to mount another arm, you will devalue the rig. Option to replace table would be my choice if I were in your situation. I have an Aries 2 and would never consider changing what is one of the finest arms out there. You can use any high end MC cartridge on that arm so I don't know what you're aiming for. Perhaps share with us?
VPI engineering processes are team of skilled engineer who made powerful decision assistance with computer analysis. They developed and positioned each parts among each other in various reason and circumstances. Why destroy their original intend?
Advancement in parts and efficient engineering decisions are needed to survive competition in the market.
I have an Aries 2 Extend with 12.5 JMW and enjoying it. However, If you don't like the way VPI sound.
You be better off to purchase a turntable with the OEM tone arm that you want.
I've used both a Graham and Triplanar mounted on a vpi with excellent results.
I have and old HW19 MK4 with the original JMW Memorial 10 arm and DV XX2 MK2. And was unimpressed. The same thoughts as yours went through my mind. I used the Mint LP tractor, digital scale, loading, VTA, phono pre - you name it. In the end I tried a Nordost Frey2 tonearm cable and found some hidden magic in the rig. So I went to Frey2 for the line to main amp and then phono pre to line pre. Each step brought all aspects of the sound up to a new level and now I wouldn't dream of changing it. If my old rig can go to freaking awesome from disappointingly frustrating I'm sure yours can too. I mean, the magic's in there. Finding it is the thing. Just a note here - I have the old Frey to compare to and it's not in the same league as the 2 version, not even close.

I will upgrade my phone stage in a month .

My next upgrade will be the turntable, not sure.

I notice the azimuth has to be adjusted every week or two.
The sss's are noticeable but I can get it correct with weight or azimuth. It seems like the arm doesn't stay in it's settings.Everything is level and alignment is dead on, using mint protracter.

I'm using a Dynavector XX2 cartridge , it sounds nice but I am thinking of making a Lenco with a better tonearm.
I wanted to get a new tonearm and use it on the Lenco later.

Imaging is nice but I do notice sibilance from time to time but it could be the albums.

Thank you for the comments and overall I do like the Aries 3 turntable.
Abill....I've had many arms including the 10.5...know it well. You will hear an improvement with the 3D arm which is well suited for your table. I strongly
suggest you improve the feet of your table with Bearpaws...it will make an audible difference you will like.
Thank You Stringreen, I'll try them.

Did you notice you had to continually make adjustments with the 10.5i arm ?
Abill..If you do decide on a VPI arm, I strongly recommend the Discovery over the Nordost wires .....
RE"Did you notice you had to continually make adjustments with the 10.5i arm ?"


Check the counter weight hex bolt for tightness. It may be too loose, if so just tighten it up a bit. BTW, I have an Aries-3 also and two arm tubes, one with Discovery cable and the other with the Nordost.

What is your current phono stage? Perhaps the money would be best spent in the phono stage and skip the new arm.

I went from a Zesto Audio Andros to a Simaudio Evolution 610 lp and the difference was staggering. Also, I added a silver cable as well
Moondog + Macster,

I will upgrade my preamp and phono within a few months.
I am considering a Herron line stage and phono or Coincident RC line stage and Zesto phono.

Currently I have a Supratek Cortese preamp with phono.

Records sound nice but it seems like I notice sss a little exaggerated and it is usually azimuth off a little.
I also notice my weight varies which is ok but I adjust it and sometimes the azimuth is off a little and I adjust it .

Eventually I will replace the tonearm and maybe table .
I enjoy listening to records and I would like a more solid tonearm that doesn't require constant adjustments.

And the counter weight is snug.

Thanks for the comments.
You have a unipivot tonearm that changes azimuth and VTF. A loose counterweight could do that but yours is ok. Does your arm clear the lift when playing? Are the tonearm wires binding between the arm and the connection block? Is the anti-skate ok? Is the cartridge suspension damaged? Is the point on the unipivot damaged? Is your counterweight hitting anything?
I have a new Aries 3 with the 3D arm.
I like the table but I'm not a big fan of the arm.
I'm sure the engineering & manufacturing is top notch but the design of this uni-pivot arm is not for me.
I've owned gimbaled, uni-pivot, and linear tracking arms. This is - for me - the twitchiest arm I've ever owned. Even with the Soundsmith counterweight gizmo, this arm is very difficult to set.
The deal killer for me is that I have no confidence in the my settings. When trying to really "dial it in" it is too easy to lose the rough settings. Eventually I just quit trying when I think it is OK.
This is not where I want to be with a rig at this price point.
Anyone know if a Tri-planar or a Kuzma 4Point can be rigged to work on the Aries 3?

Thank you for the suggestions,
The cartridge is only 3 months old,the lift is clear but I never though of looking at the wires.

I'll check them.
Maxh....I couldn't agree with you less. It just sounds like you don't know how to set up the arm. The 3D is so stable when set correctly, that it feels like it's gimbaled...no shake, at all. The cartridge finds the record groove and is locked in place. Of course its your money - but you aren't going to get a better arm. ..just wondering if you have the wrong counterweight on it...
FWIW ... I own a tricked-out Classic 1/2 plinth with a Classic 3 tonearm/base. I agree with everything Stan (Stringreen) said about checking the arm. My VTA, VTF and azimuth are pretty stable. I check every couple of months when bored. No changes.

I also agree with the advice about making sure the hex on the VTF counterweight screw is tight ... but not overly so. I also assume you're using the S-S counterintuitive gizmo. That's a big help.

Let's go back to the wires. In the past, I noticed that VTF and azimuth would change when measured at different places on the record if the tonearm wire that tied into the juntion box was over-twisted. IMO, less is more. I use a one donut as a bias weight on the anti-skating mechanism and err on the side of just a mild twist in the tonearm wire. If the wire is over twisted , the torque will affect azimuth and VTF a little.

Also, make sure there's clearance if you're using the AS mechanism. You may have to loosen the little AS ring that hooks onto the tone arm and move it around a bit as needed to ensure clearance with the VTA tower. My VTF and azimuth jumped around a bit until I properly set the AS ring.

Last point. VPI reconfigured the heavy azimuth stabilizing counterweight ring that attaches to the bottom of the heavy bell housing. The newer azimuth ring has larger counterbalance ears. That helped me a lot.

Hope this helps. You're not alone out there. To quote Mike, VPI service rep, if properly set up, the VPI/JMW arm combo sings. I agree.

Good info , Thankyou , I'll check these this week.

I notice my weight changes as you noted, I never realized it is related to the wire. I thought is way do to not having a level platter, I bought a machinist level and the platter is dead level.

I don't use the anti skating but I will try it , I do get a little exaggerated sss but most of the time it's the azimuth.

I checked the zenith with my mint alignment gage and it's good.

Thanks again,

My XX2 has close to 200 hours on it now. I have found setting the VTF at 2.0 and the loading at 100 Ohms to be helpful. Sometimes on the same album the sibilance can be fine on some tracks and exaggerated on others, regardless of the tracks location on the disc. Most albums play just fine. I think mixing that hypes the top end is at fault and the XX2 doesn't gloss it over. The sibilance is equal and undistorted in both channels.


I think you hit the nail on the head.
I gave the wire one twist ccw and bam now everything is getting better !

I tweeked in the azimuth everything is getting better and the arm is more stable.
My weight is at 1.96 grams no sss.

Another thing I did was remove almost all of the damping oil in the cup.It made the arm more alive.

It's sooo nice to get back to some nice vinyl.
It will be a late night tonight .

I want to thank all for the comments and I'll post more info later this week.

Thank YOu.
Glad to hear Abill. The JMW arm can do a good job if it's set up properly. But to get to that point .... Anyway, goodluck and happy listening.
Be careful with the damping fluid. True, removing most of it will liven things up but, at least on my arm, it also affected the treble. Noticeably the sound of cymbals became harsh. I filled the cup until the arm just contacted the fluid and it was not enough. Half a drop more did the trick.

Abil...the secret word is Fozgometer...get one, use it and you'll never have to worry about azimuth again.

You are correct with the amount of damping fluid.
Eventually I will put a little more fluid in the arm.

But first I want to get everything as perfect as possible without the fluid.
I'm trying to find the happy medium settings where most records sound acceptable.

I understand. You may have guessed that I have recently, over the last year actually, added the XX2 and fought with the set-up of the arm to accommodate it. If you can improve the sound by getting the damping fluid correct then by all means do so first. It will help you determine the changes in sound that experimenting with VTA and VTF bring. Through trial and error and repetition I have learned and here is my advice:
Set the loading at 100 Ohms. I found setting it higher to liven things up but sacrifice the ease of audiophile quality for "wow" first impressions that soon become tiring.
Get the azimuth right.
Set the VTF. Some prefer 1.95, others 2.0 2.0 has more heft.
Re-Align the cart if necessary and recheck everything.
Experiment with raising and lowering the arm height. Reset the VTF when you do. It will change.
The correct range of height will be apparent when lowering the arm makes the bass sound slow and your foot stops tapping. Raising the arm picks up the beat and there will be a small range in that area where the magic happens. Raise it too far and the sound feels emotionally bleached (my test).
And lastly, get a good phono cable. I tried the VPI 2 cable with the Discovery wire and it sucked with a capital "S" compared to what I'm using now. As always YMMV.
Good luck. It all sounds easy until you try it for yourself. Sometimes it's what your listening for and sometimes it's what you "feel" that determines the correct setting.


I ordered a Herron line stage and phono stage today, I'll have it in a week can't wait.

Thank you for the set up guide, I really appreciate it.
Do you notice with your xx2 if you have too much VTF and the distortion comes back ?

It takes time to VFT VTA all dialed in but I'm getting there.
I have the Nordost wire in my 10.5i and I'm using the discovery cable.
What are you using ?



On the VTF - no the extra .05 on the VTF doesn't audibly affect the tracking on my set-up. Within the range of the cart, the consensus seems to be that more VTF actually makes the cart track better. In my experience, mistracking is better cured elsewhere in the set-up process.
My arm has the original factory wiring from the era it was manufactured. It's an original JMW Memorial 10. Nothing special?
Mu vinyl is played by a Dynavector XX2 MKII, VPI HW-19 MKIV with JMW arm, Stand alone motor, VPI digital speed control, Nordost Frey2 phono cable to an ARC PH-7 phono pre, Nordost Frey 2 to an ARF REF-3 pre, Nordost Frey 2 to an Ayre V-5xe, Acoustic Zen Satori Shotgun cables to Vandersteen 3A Sigs.
In MY system, the Nordost wire sounds too hifi....the Discovery sounds organic and true.