Upgrades for VPI HW -19 jr.???

I very recently purchased a VPI HW-jr here on Audiogon. All original with the PT-6 tonearm, no cartridge. I was wondering what upgrades are recommended and in what order. Price is a factor so I can only approach one upgrade at a time. What will offer the most significant improvements in sound and what cartridge goes well with this deck? I was thinking, new feet and tonearm cable first, any thoughts on this? I do not want to rebuild the table just improve on it. Thanks.
Hi Dreadhead, Welcome to the Jr family!As you may remember, I own a Jr since new ('96) and have the AQ PT-6, upgraded to AQ Emerald Silver Tonearm Cable, Benz Glider Hi-Output Cart, running into a McCormack Micro Phono Drive MC Pre-Amp, then off into my McIntosh Pre.I would say the most significant area to concentrate on would be the Cartridge, and Phono Pre-Amp. when I bought the Glider, there wasn't what seemed to be much available in this level of performance, and price. As you know, there's literal dozens to choose from now.Certainly, the AQ PT-6 is not going to be as good an arm as a Graham, JMW, SME, but since you're already drilled for the PT-6, perhaps best to stick with it, and leave this area alone. I think if one put a $2K Cartridge on a PT-6 versus a Graham, of course the Graham will make the cartridge sound better, but the PT-6 will get you most the way there.A older Mk-IV Platter, such as I have upgraded to with standard bearing, and bought here on AudioGon for $450 will make a substantial improvement in performance, and it's an easy 10 minute swap, with no modifications needing to be made.Better Clamps help a small amount, but certainly not like a heavier platter would. I did go with AudioPoints too from MusicDirect, and these added a nice touch, and an improvement. And a homemade Sand Base would also help I'm sure isolate the table better. The Better Clamp may offer better performance on the lighter 6lb Jr Platter versus a heavier Mk-III-MK-IV Platter. Just be careful not to clamp the living daylights out of the Jr Platter. It has a pressed in Spindle-Bearing.I have a heavy thick BDR Test Puck lying around here if interested.Going through upgrades like new tonearm wiring may be a very slight improvement, and might be more of a waste. I myself would rather put that money towards a better cartridge. Of course, proper Cartridge set-up of VTA, VTF, and a good Pre-Amp, and proper loading of the MC Stage will go far for extracting the best any given combination will offer.A PLC, or SDS would too no doubt offer some improvement, but the SDS's cost no doubt surpasses the cost of the Turntable itself. If the speed appears right on with the Jr, one could probably get just as much an improvement in sound by plugging the table into a decent power conditioner. Naturally, the lower the hum-background noise, the better the noisefloor, and the better the overall sound. Mark
About the differences of a Toneram Cable Upgrade, for my own personal set-up, I did notice a slight improvement in high frequency response, and high frequency clarity-definition with the Glider HO Cartridge when I switched from the factory stock AQ Cable that came with the Tonearm to the better, more expensive AQ Emerald Cable.

There are sure lots of fine tonearm cables, and this would be an area also where one will extract some improvement. Mark
The biggest improvement IMO would be better isolation (unless you already have a very good rack). In all regards they are pretty good TT's and a great bargain used - but stock, they are just wholly inadequate as far as low frequency feedback isolation. Even placing a piece of foam rubber under each foot would help matters substantially.
Agreed Opalchip, the Jr is susceptible to low frequency feedback. With a Sunfire Mk-IV True Sub in my own system, it wouldn't take much volume to get feedback.
I'm sure even at lower volumes, without adequate isolation, it would cause smearing, and make the cartridge's job a properly tracking a hard one.

My isolation problems were helped to a great degree with the AudioPoints, MK-IV Platter, and some tweaks to my rack, but I still have intentions at some near point in the future to make some sort of additional isolation base, along the lines of a Brightstar sand filled base.
Keep in mind that headphone listening (i.e. with dynamic Sennheiser HD600/HD650 or Stax electrostats) will help you enjoy the maximum detail retrieval and transparency that your jr. is capable of, since isolation isn't much of an issue when no bass is booming from a loudspeaker. To me, there's no greater audiophile value than listening to the jr through one of those headphone/earspeaker types plugged into a good used headphone amp/driver. Then you can at least see what the TT/arm/cart combo is capable of while you research better solutions for isolation.
Like Markd51, I bought a Hw-19jr/Audioquest PT-6/Glider combo new (c. 1998) and since it went several years without being used, and was used carefully when in use, I'm tempted to keep it and upgrade rather than ditch it.
Last night (on the eve of shipping my Lehman Blackcube phono preamp which I just sold on Agon) I listened to various recordings at my gf's place (where the analog rig has been in storage for the past 3 years) and I was blown away at how playback in many respects surpassed even the SACDs I've been used to lately. (recordings were, for those interested, Analogue Productions 180gm reissues of Charlie Byrd, Riverside Tenor Sessions of Monk, Police, some Beatles 1st pressing originals and MFSL, and even an original decca pressin of Isserstedt conducting Beethoven's Ninth).

One upgrade that made a noticeable difference in my rig was the Cardas Hexlink 5C phono cable (bought for $150 on clearance from Needledoctor years ago, and auctioned here rectently for $125). I sold it as the first step in scrapping my rig piece by piece in order to get the most $$$ in preparation for upgrading my digital rig. But you know what? Even with the replacement phono cable gone and the stock one in its place, this humble jr. rig really rocked! And this was without any measures taken to ensure horizontal levelling (no spirit level available at time), isolation, etc. My gf and I both were really floored at how transparent sounding some of my lps were, even those that had never been cleaned! I'm so thrilled (and confused, given the sacd direction I was headed in just a few days prior) at jr. performance that I'm utterly compelled at this point to return to the analog side of the force! having just sold my Linn Ikemi redbook player (again, in prep. for a digital upgrade or mod of my sony 9000es sacd/dvd player), I now have a few grand to spend and may start a new thread today asking for some upgrade options (in particular, whether to keep the glider cartridge and upgrade the tt and arm, or just upgrade the jr. platter and cartridge.). Listen to markd51!
Howdy Tedd, Which particular version of the Glider do you have? The dabate of Vinyl vs digital will always be a never ending heated debate. I myself do find analogue more inviting, luring you into the music better. Cymbals for example within my own particular system sound more realistic, with more air, and openess. With Digital, cymbals always sounded to me to have a more compressed-clamped sound to them.

Sad thing is with the Jr now, every option-upgrade that was ever manufactured for this Table is now no longer in stock at VPI. Yes, I believe one can upgrade the Jr Platter to either a Scout Platter ($300) and I believe the MK-IV Platter is also still available last I seen ($700) I would assume both do come with the Bearing-Bearing Well, and also would assume these later Platter versions incorporate the better Inverted Bearing? Perhaps someone else can chime in on this?

As far as the better Acrylic Plinth with Stainless Steel Bottom Sheet Laminate, seperate Armboards for the Jr, this I am unsure of, and I've gotten the impression, that no, they are no longer being made-in stock. The Sorbothane Pucks are said to be still available.

Pete Ringle does make a Tonearm VTAF, which will retrofit easily to most arms (Including the AQ PT-6) with the VPI Jr's Plinth, and make VTA adjustments on the fly a breeze.

The SAMA Motor might still be an option available, and although the stock motor is not bad, I'm sure a good improvement could be made with the more massive SAMA.

Available too, is the SDS Controller.

Of course, Platter Clamps are still available from VPI in a couple of versions, and of course my buddy DJ Casser at Black Diamond Racing still manufactures a massive One Piece Clamp for the Threaded VPI Spindles.

AudioPoints can still be gotten to replace the Rubber Feet, and there's still a good availability of aftermarket sources for Stands-Sand Filled Bases, Butcher Block Tables-etc.
So, Benz Glider HO MC cart. upgraded AudioQuest or of course a Cardas tonearm cable, and the 10-32 threaded Audiopoints, which by the way Music Direct does not show a photo of and a good one piece clamp. That should keep me busy for a while. Thanks guys.
Hi Dreadhead, Yes, I agree, I found out the same thing personally when surfing the MusicDirect Site, and saw no listing of the small 10-32 Audiopoints for the HW-19.

Living in Chicago basically all my life up until 3 years ago, I know Bess at MusicDirect personally, so I thought I'd give Bess a toll free call, and sure enough, they had them in stock, but be prepared for a nice sticker shock. The 4 AudioPoints came to $91.96, and the 4 brass coupling Discs another $27.96 Mark
Two comments and a question:
I don't know if they're still available, but I have my HW-19 mounted on the original "tiptoes", threaded 10/32, and much cheaper than some other cones.
Basically, I'd agree with the previous comments: I have a Jr. with RB300, Riggle VTAF, Denon 103R, and other mods to the tonearm. If your AQ tonearm can accommodate a dropped counterweight, this is a cheap and effective tweak.
My question: I have what I believe to be an older MK-4 platter, with a longer and thinner bearing spindle than the one fitted to my junior. Do any of you with experience with this table know about the earlier platters? Do you know if or how I could acquire and fit the correct bearing onto my table?
Hi Brusson, Hmm, What I personally found myself, was more, or less the exact opposite.

I believe my second hand Mk-IV upgraded Platter to be an older version as well, weighing in at axactly 18lbs.

While the Mk-IV Platter I had gotten had a much more sturdy, larger diameter Bearing, and Bearing Well, versus the original Jr Platter, I had noticed the Spindle itslef to be just a tad shorter than the Jr.
Both were 1/4"-20 threaded for Clamps. The Jr Bearing Well I had appeared to have a Brass Bushing at the top near the Bearing Well Flange, While my MK-IV Platter Bearing Well, has a Bushing made out of some sort of Black material, and I'm assuming it is Delrin, and not some type of Metal.

I'm almost positive that all Jr Platters had the bearing-spindle pressed into the Platter, while the Mk-IV Platter, such as I have, the Platter just sits on top of the Bearing-Bearing Flange, and it's massive weight keep eveything coupled up.

I notice on my MK-IV Platter itself, 3 Drilled Holes in its center, with three Metal Pins-Screws installed (The supposed 3-point support system I guess), which appear to be threaded into-through the Platter, and with Allen Head screw heads on the top-side of the Platter. Mine appear to be perfectly flush with the underside of the platter so I could not gain any spindle length by screwing in-adjusting the pins. No doubt probably not a good idea to monkey with anyway, as one would probably wind up with Platter Wobble.

I was under the premonition that later versions of the MK-IV Platters were 20lbs, and then also moved on to an Inverted Bearing? Which is yours? Mark
Hello Mark-
Well I've got a 9 pound platter, black with cork bottom, spindle press fitted, 1/4-20 threaded on top. It's 7/8" thick, the same size as my Junior's ceramic platter. Is it a Mk-3 platter? The spindle is about 2 3/4" long, less than 3/8 in diameter. If you or anyone knows where I can find (what I presume to be an older)and smaller sized bearing for it, please let me know.
Hi Brusson, My VPI MK-IV All Black Platter is not press fit to the Spindle, and yes, mine also has a cork ring on its underside, and this no doubt is to cover the Lead Ring that must be glued in to the underside of the Platter. When I say Spindle, I'm talking about what shows above the top of the Platter, and is threaded for the Clamp, and not the underside-Bearing End.

I am unsure exactly what you have there, and I'm certainly not an authority on VPI, and their history, and changes in the HW-19 product line.

I have see pics of Mk-III Platters that were a combination of Aluminum, and Black Acrylic, MK-III's that were all Black Acyrlic, and I believe all the Mk-IV Platters were all Black Acrylic, none being a combo of Aluminum/Acrylic.

This could be a very early version Mk-IV, or a Mk-III Platter you have? Only way to tell would be to give Mike a call at VPI. I'm sure he knows much more than I. Mark
Hi again

I don't have much time at all to write, but let me recommend to the rest of the hw-19 jr. club a new phono preamp (as an alternative to the excellent Black Cube). Today I borrowed from the deal the Jolida Model JD9 tube phono preamp. So far I've only listened to a few LPs, but at least for jazz and classic rock (listened to Grateful Dead) it's really super. It retails for around $500-600, but most dealers will do it for around $450. I have no intention of buying it, since I;m about to sell my jr., having just ordered a Scoutmaster through Audiogon, but my experience with this new preamp and my jr./PT-6/Glider (medium output) is making me seriously reconsider selling the Glider cartridge (was going to whole hog on a used Lyra Helikon).
It's pure magic!
footnote: I sold my Lehmann Black Cube recently for $250 because i was in a rush to have my sony 9000es dvd/sacd player modded, but one last evening with my jr. rig (which had been in storage at my gf's place) convinced me once and for all to do a 180 and stay analog. (The best SACDs are spectacular, don't get me wrong, but the software selection is decent for classical yet really a tease for anything else)
Hi Tedd,
The Jolida JD9 sounds like a nice unit, especially for the money, as i did a bit of searching here on A-Gon, and a bit online to see what all the bustle was about :-)

I myself wouldn't mind giving a unit such as this a try, but I'm fearing that it won't be a very compatible unit with my hi-output 1.9Mv Benz Glider, with internal impedance of 85 ohms?

I see some specs listed for the unit, but as far as deviating from these factory set adjustments to make it compatible with my Glider, I have no idea?

Do you remember what gain setting was used on the JD9, how do they adjust, and is there any mention of perhaps any alteration from the factory pre-set gain, and loading settings? Does the JD9 use a Wall Wart, or has its own internal power supply?

As Nasgarch recommended, he has stated that ideal loading for my Glider should be around 2.2K give or take.

If anyone else has the JD9, please feel free to jump in. thanks, BTW, I'm presently using a McCormack Micro Phono Drive.Mark
First off, let me say that since my last writing (<12 hrs) I have listened to no fewer than 12-14 LP sides. That makes for my longest vinyl listening session ever!
This tubed phono preamp combo with my table/arm/cart mentioned above sounded so good that I was compelled to play side after side - in a few cases the same one 3 times in a row (Jerry Garcia Band - The LP with Sugaree, Beatles Please Please Me [MFSL], original White Album, Rubber Soul, Revolver [both original rainbow label], and a few others. My conclusion, especially after finishing LP #2 of the white album, was that this phono preamp provides tremendous 'presence'. It is rich sounding, yet just lean enough (at least woth my glider) that fine articulation (i.e. of Weir's guitar licks and solos on side 1 of Garcia) was really good. The noise floor wasn't the lowest, but that could be due to most of my wires being a mess right now and other factors contributing to interference.

Now as for questions:
1) JD9 has its own power supply - no wall wart.
2) Adjustment of output and loading is done through a series of little dip switches accessed through a small window (usually covered with a very small stainless steel plate which you remove while power is off by screwing 2 small screws with ones fingers) on the unit's rear. The manual clearly indicates which combination is used for which scenario. There is one MM output setting and two MC settings (LO and High). Loading options are 100, 300, 1000, and 47Kohms plus it has 47 pfarad, 100 pfaradm 150, and 220 pfarads. These are all set through the dip switches. The Jolida 9D also has two sets of outputs on the rear - 'LOW - 200 Millivolt' and 'High - 1.8 volt'. The manual indicates that the former is use with 'preamplifier separates' and the latter is for 'output to integrated amps or line stage preamps'. I Used the 'Low' output and obtained satisfactory listening volume on my Bryston B60 integrated with the volume control below the halfway point. The only potential weakness of the Jolida I could glean so far - based purely on classic rock and a little jazz listening - was that macrodynamics weren't the best I;ve heard (micro- were great). This could easily be attributed to my medium output Glider's sonic character, the nature of tubes, and many other factors. After all, I'm only using the jr,'s stock platter and phono cable.
Should also mention that 95% of my listening (it was late night) was done with Sennheiser HD600/Cardas through the very good headphone stage of the Bryston B60 integrated. Cardas Cross were the interconnects between the Jolida and the integrated. I should mention that I've never auditioned any other phono preamp - let alone another tube preamp - save the Lehmann Black Cube.Hope this helps. The Jolida is on load until Saturday, so perhaps I'll drop a few more lines after I've done some classical listening. By that point it will be time to pack and ship the jr.! (Scoutmaster should be here by Thur or Fri of this week).