VPI Aries Questions

I have a chance to purchase a used Aries with the JMW 10.5" arm for around $3,000. Along with this is the SDS unit and 2 piece cover. I've also been talking with a VPI dealer who has suggested a purchase of the Aries 2 extended with a JMW 12 or 12.5. The cost to me new is about $4600. The $4600 is a bit rich for me, and the $3000 is affordable, but I don't want to make a mistake for the sake of saving money now that I'll regret later.

Any quidance you could provide me regarding all this would be most appreciated. Which arm provides the best sound, is the SDS a critical component, and does the original Aries still perform in the high end or quality range of turntables? Is the Aries 2 a significant improvement over the Aries to warrant the additional $? Unfortunately, I don't have the opportunity to listen to high end equipment in the area I live in, and your help is most appreciated.
You will likely receive many opinions that contradict mine.

I own the Aries Scout. No cover, no SDS. No problems, nor any need to tweak, adjust, and tweak some more. The dealer from whom I purchased contends the Scout gives a significant portion of the Aries' performance at a small portion of the price. I enjoy the musical reproduction.

You can buy a boatload of albums with the price difference.

In the world of turntables, it is important to remain cognizant of the concept of diminishing returns.

Just my opinion.
I have the new Black Knight Aries II with the 9 arm. I run it into my ultimate outlet on my PS Audio P-500. I believe the SDS unit cleans the power sort of the same way. The table is awesome but the two-piece cover is another story all together. It's a pain and a hassle. Do yourself some justice and reconsider the two piece cover.
I have used the SDS and it did provide alittle improvement in dynamics through a quieter soundstage, I THINK that is what I heard.

12.5 is easily an improvment on the other arms as it tracks more like the way it was cut and tracks with less tracking error.

Depending on where you situate your TT will determine the need for more TT. The less it is isolated the better the TT you will need to make up for the distrubance.

Good Luck finding the right mix
Like you say, lots of opinions. Mine is that the SDS is absolutely essential. No new cart has ever made such an improvement on my TNT/JMW 10.5 system, especially afer you replace the stock power cord. I'd go with your less expensive option. Good luck.
I have the Aries/10.0 and Shure V15 type VxMR and this combination is exceptionally satisfying. I use the AR HT 130 for the phono cable and this is a good match. The Cardas Neutral Reference is also good as is the VPI cable. The SDS is gravey. Get the table and ask the dealer if you can borrow the SDS and see if it makes a difference. Happy listening, Jallen
Jallen, excellent suggestions (maybe because I just started using the V15xMR on the 10.5 arm myself and agree wholeheartedly).
Dunno if you are watching the classifieds.... but there is a VPI TNT 5 HR...with 12.5 and an SDS... 3500$ not for sale by me...but looks like an awesome deal

btw i have an aries/10.5 i bought on this site for 2600$ a year ago.. perfect condition in the original packing... i thought it was brand new... love it with my original Koetsu Black