VPI Classic 3 Upgrades or Move On to Something New


I'm the 2nd owner of a VPI Classic 3, bought here on Audiogon in 2014.  Cartridge is Soundsmith VPI Zephyr.  Considering giving it some new life with a JMW 10-3D Unipivot Tonearm, Signature Feet, and ADS Speed Controller.  Total upgrade cost - $3,950.  

Or...should I go in a new direction and give another turntable a try?  I have no complaints about my current setup, but don't have a frame of reference for what I might be missing out on. 

Budget for a new turntable/cartridge combo is anywhere from $5,000-$10,000. Thoughts? 
Ag insider logo xs@2xjjgasp
one person’s experience for you as you collect info

i have a classic three with 10.5, metal and 3d arm (running at art 9, dyna xx2 and shelter 901) - 3d arm was noticeable upgrade, then went dual pivot... cool, but not a big sq difference

i still have the table, but since then i bought a well tempered labs amadeus as well as a oracle delphi 2 with origin live arm... both tables are more ’musical’ than the vpi which sounded cool and clinical in comparison... vpis bass a smidge better but up the range into mids and highs there was so much more ease and rhymthic drive to the music

the classic 3 sits there on the side rack, idle... looking cool, but that is about it
One of my tts is a VPI Classic 3 Sig SE.

First, the JMW arm is not a 3D arm. If your Classic 3 isn’t a Sig, you’ll need a HRX pulley for the ADS. Best sound then is with 3 belts.The VPIs, sadly have a long history of manufacturing issues, one being S2P distance being off. If other owners haven’t noticed this, I’ve tried to make them aware. The Sig feet will not be a significant upgrade over what you currently have. (A well thought out platform will serve you better for any tt you have/want). Having said that, I’m currently using Stillpoints SS Ultras. Still had to modify the motor cover plate on the underside for these feet to sit equally square. A good mat will be very beneficial. I use two MyMats. I found the dual pivot upgrade to be significant but since it was an afterthought, I’m not sure it will outperform more thoughtfully designed uni- pivot arms.

I have to say, with all of the thought into my VPI, it sounds very good now with my Sussurro MkII. It was a struggle to get there though.
The Achilles heel of the VPI Classic series is the motor noise transmitted directly to the plinth and picked up by the tonearm and cartridge, which is especially noticeable if running at 45 rpm with the HRX pulley, in which case the motor is spinning faster than when using the stepped pulley. At 33 rpm, it is only heard when putting my ear up to the speaker on a quiet or blank track. Admittedly, it’s somewhat faint, but I believe it contributes to the lack of ease which is ameliorated with a better isolated design. But the rigid mounting of motor, platter and tonearm, in combination with the heavy platter, does give very good speed stability, especially when hooked up to a motor controller or a PS Audio power regenerator. One thing that slightly lessened the motor noise on my Classic 4 was removing the rubber grommets between motor plate and plinth, then tightly screwing the plate to the platter, which better grounds the noise to the plinth. Before, the motor was freer to vibrate in place which was louder.
Never mind the table....

Is it plugged into the best phono stage you can afford? After that, up the food chain with a new SS cart. You will get endless opinion saying the VPI is this or that, but your ears tell you it's fine. 

Treat yourself to this .Submit your best offer, and see if a middle ground can be met.
https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lisa50ed-vpi-industries-hw-40-40th-anniversary-direct-drive-turnta...

Or this
https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lisa5a7g-vpi-avenger-reference-turntable-turntables
Thanks to all for your valuable feedback.  Much appreciated.
tablejockey's comment about a good phono stage is a good one

but certainly not exclusive of getting a better performing table
Currently swapping in and out two integrateds with built-in phono stages  - Vinny Rossi L2i SE w/L2 phono module and Linear Tube Audio Ultralinear w/ MM/MC phono stage.
jjgasp,

I own a Classic 2.7 (sic).  Basically a Classic 1/2 plinth, which I upgraded by swapping out the tonearm, base and motor.  My back-up cartridge is a SS Zephyr.  My regular cartridge is  Lyra Kleos. 

Your OP states that your cartridge is a SS Zephyr.  If 1st generation Zephyr, you can get more bang from your buck with a cartridge upgrade.  The Zephyr (1st generation) is an ok cartridge, but just ok. 

Agree with comments above re phono pre.       
I would give a call to Matt at VPI.  He is very easy to deal with and honest.  Ask him for assistance.  
If you decide to keep that table replace the arm with VPI's gimbal bearing arm. Your bass will improve quite a bit and it should do just about any cartridge justice.
bigkidz, ... do you know if Matt (or anybody) picks up the phone at VPI?  Years ago, before Harry retired, somebody (like Jack or Mike) would also pick up the phone.  Not sure what goes at VPI with Matt at the helm. 
I have a VPI Super Prime Scout with a Lyra Kleos. I have my eye on a Prime Signature with the gimbaled arm. Rather than upgrade the super prime to the gimballed arm for $4000 I would rather spend $6500 and get the P Sig with the arm and the nicer plinth. But I would definitely keep the Kleos
The phono stage is usually better (I guess there are always exceptions) if it is a dedicated box outside of an integrated amp, even within the same brand. I would recommend getting a good one. I have a Plinius integrated amp with a phono stage that can be set for MM or MC that I used for years with my van den Hul One Special cartridge (fairly high output MC - .75)  and when I took the plunge with a Sutherland Insight PS, it blew me away. I was never aware of how much of a difference a phono stage makes. I thought you either had a phono input that worked  or not. In combo with the cartridge it is second in importance only to the arm. I like gimbal arms - easier to set up and use.

Matt doesn't answer the phone at VPI, but they do answer the phone - you can ask for him and if he is busy, leave him a message and he'll call you back. He helped me out with my cartridge (they are now the US distributor for van den Hul cartridges) and was a pleasure to deal with. I am lucky though - I live only an hour from their shop so I got to meet him and I couldn't believe how nice and down to earth he is. Also, Harry comes in 2 days per week, so he is not retired. Didn't get to meet him.

That being said, if you are tired of tinkering, I am a Rega fan, mainly because of their value for the dollar for their arms (and overall cost effective philosophy). Their top of the line table, the P10, is $6700 and they'll throw in a great cartridge for $1000 (1/2 price). It's all preset and locked in and you can be done with it. I have their 2nd best, the P8, that I am extremely happy with - a guy at VPI even told me he thought it was cool when they were setting up my cartridge. Of course, you can go higher than Rega's best, there is no limit, but they are a substantial company that has perfected their products over decades and when you ever want to switch tables, their resale values are excellent.

Try the phono stage first - I think you'll be very surprised at the improvement for not a lot of cash.
Get a Sota Sapphire, put a Schroder CB on it and you will never think about buying another turntable. This will set you back just under $10K.
Once you get use to a properly designed suspended turntable you will never believe people could buy a fixed one regardless of weight. Suspended turntables are immune to foot falls, they will not feed back, and they are much quieter. Mechanically coupled environmental noise can not make it to the cartridge. On top of this you get a magnetic thrust system for the bearing, you can add a brilliant 3 phase motor and control system and you get the best customer service in the business. If you do get the urge to move up in the line, Sota will take your table back in trade for the new one. 
For your money spent to upgrade better got another table as mention above ,But 
with your cartridge now will not make a lot difference btw .
i do have classic 3 too with metal arm .just get better cartridge you will be happy 👌

I started with the Classic 1, then a Classic 2.5, and a big BAT Phono Pre running an SS Voice. I then upgraded to a Prime Signature and an SS Helios with the same VK-P6SE and since added the 10" Fat Boy, Tru-Lift, Avenger Reference Feet, ADS with HRX pulley and Periphery Ring Clamp.
With each upgrade I noticed an improvement, some subtle and others major. Adding the 10" FatBoy tonearm was the most audible upgrade with the Reference Feet next. The bass is robust and clear, mids and highs are balanced in tone and detail. I have achieved, from within my budget, the best I can do. And, I am very happy with it.
VPI as a company is a different story. I agree that it is often times very difficult to reach someone knowledgeable since Marc left. Now it's a crap shoot who you get and if they know anything. Jose acts like a gate keeper with strict orders not to let anyone in, in fact he wants to be the "be all" to people and his knowledge of the products and audio is very limited. He wouldn't let me talk to Matt so I sent Matt a Personal and Confidential letter. He responded through Mary, sending me the stuff Jose couldn't get his act together on. I won't go into the litany of screw-ups on getting the FatBoy and Reference feet.
Finally everything is settled and I am once again a happy camper enjoying the tunes.