VPI HW-19 Upgrade question SAMA or SDS?

OK, the upgrade bug has bitten again, and I know that ther are a number of folks here that have lots of experience with their HW-19.

I have a VPI HW-19 Mk III that I recently upgraded to a Mk IV with a TNT platter with an inverted bearing. Also, it has a sorbathane puck suspension rather than springs, and I've replaced the rubber feet with cone type spikes. The table dead level sitting on top of a 1-1/2"-inch thick maple top shelf of a very heavy flexi-rack. I'm using an ET-2 arm connected to my shop compressor with four stages of precision air-regulation with the final stage adjustable just before at the entering the ET-2. I just air-up the compressor's 30 gallon tank, then kill the compressor so that it won't start back up, and I can listen for hours (wife think that I've lost my mind every time that I do this, but that's another story). Also, I'm currently listening to an AT33PTG that I have come to really like. The phono section is a Threshold SL-10 upgraded with Black Gates throughout.

The Mk IV upgrade made a real difference from the Mk III. As I quickly found out, the Mk IV presents a fuller soundstage and better base than the Mk III platter/bearing. I view that upgrade as well worth the money, especially buying it used here on A'gon.

Here is my dilemma with funds being limited to purchase only one or the other at this time, but not both - at least for now.

What do you think would be the best upgrade for this HW-19? A new SAMA for $400, or a used SDS for $600 to $800? Used SAMAs never seem to come up for sale, but you can always find a used SDS on Audiogon. I think that there are at least three available for sale here as I write this.

Also, if someone thinks neither mentioned upgrade would be cost effective, and that money would be better spent with an upgrade elsewhere, please say so. I'm trying to keep my mind and ears open - for better sound!

Thank you!
The SDS. Much more significant upgrade than the SAMA.

My upgrade path is similar to yours. My HW-19 started life as a MKIII and was upgraded to a MKIV. I've kept the spring suspension. The next upgrade was the SDS and then finally the SAMA. The SAMA will further improve bass response, but to my ears, and in agreement with Narrod, the SDS made a more significant overall improvement. If with your current rig you've ever had the feeling that a piano recording was "slightly under water" that should (will) completely disappear with the speed stability of the SDS.

I recently tried the SDS on my Aries 3 and was impressed with the improvements; better bass, better detail, more dynamic and so on. Watch AudiogoN for a good used one.
I've run a similar gauntlet of upgrades with my own HW-19 as well, going from Jr to MK-IV Platter, using the SDS, Sutherland PhD Phono, Audiopoint Cone Feet.

Like you, I haven't gone the SAMA, but do have the SDS.
One thing you'll never achieve, not matter if you could somehow convert to Rim Drive, and that is correct speed.

Have you ever checked your speed with a Strobe? While AC line frequency is something that is usually very stable, there's no getting around errors with Pulley-Platter size, state of lubrication on Platter Bearings, condition of Belts, Stylus Drag, etc.

None of these things can be addressed even with the world's finest Line Conditioner.

As an example, you may in one instance need 60.10Hz to attain correct 33-1/3 speed. Relube your bearing, and you may now find 60.10hz is inadequate, and now need 60.20hz to keep a consistent 33-1/3.

The ramp down voltage feature of the SDS supposed to reduce motor noise-vibration. The calibration mode of the SDS also has an hour meter, and with this, you could keep track of hours of play with any given Cartridge.

Lastly, one can always do a "poor man's SAMA", setting Plinth on some type of support under the Plinth, ala "4 tomato cans" thus completly seperating-isolating the Plinth from HW-19 Base, and this will essentially produce the same results. Of course perhaps more finnicky to tweak-dial in, but it can be done.

I believe the SAMA to be bothing more, than the exact same 600rpm Hurst Motor, potted into a seperate Base. Hope this helps, Mark
I too vote for the SDS
Unless you have absolute pitch, spot on correct speed is not very important... close is fine. When we tune up before a concert, we have a strobe that provides an "A" in the warm=up room. (When orchestras tune up in front of the audience, its only for tradition) Depending on the conductor, that A can be 440, 442, 430, etc.
The SDS was, by a large margin, the most significant upgrade that I have made to my HW19 MK IV; including the upgrade to the MK IV "TNT" platter. By providing a much more consistent, and stable platter rotation, the SDS improves the areas of sound reproduction having to do with rhythm and pacing. As a result of this, image stability, soundstaging, and overall clarity are also improved.

As far as the importance of correct speed is concerned, I have to respectfully disagree with those that claim that it is not important. Additionally, correct tempo and correct pitch are two mutually exclusive issues; they should be, anyway. Yes, it is true that slowing or speeding up the playback speed also changes the pitch of the music. But that is an unfortunate byproduct of the mechanics of vinyl playback. In live performance, musicians and counductors treat them as two very seperate issues. A very small increase, or decrease, in the tempo of a piece of music can make all the difference between a very exciting performance, and a boring one. The players, or conductor, choose a particular tempo for any given piece of music because they feel that the chosen tempo will best convey the desired emotional effect. The pitch choice, higher or lower, can also be used to accentuate a desired emotional effect; although this can be much more subtle.

I also have to respectfully, and strongly, disagree with Stringreen's comment about orchestras tuning for the sake of tradition. I have been a professional orchestral musician for many years, and I assure you that professional orchestras take tuning very seriously, usually taking two "A's"; one for the winds, and one for the strings. It is true that orchestras, generally speaking, have been tuning to a higher A than in the past. The unfortunate effect of this is that the music tends to sound less full, brighter, and sometimes unnecessarily strident. The parallels to music played back mechanically are obvious.
How about the new "super-platter? Has anyone tried that? Also, I have a MK IV with springs, and have bought some sorbothane to replace the springs with.How thick should I cut the pieces? Any suggestions appreciated.
Frogman..I am a professional violinist and have played in many orchestras over the many years of my career. If you listen to classical music I know you have heard me play. I carefully tune in the warm-up room as do everyone I know, and very rarely have to retune when I get on stage. As we play the piece we constantly adjust our pitch so that it sounds in tune. The horns and reeds do it with their lips as they play, the strings do it by adjusting the fingers on the fingerboard. When I play my violin I am quite positive that the heat of the stage lights, and the very act of playing puts the strings slightly out of tune, so that I am constantly adjusting my finders so that it sounds good with my partner and the rest of the orchestra. The adjustments are slight, but very important to keep us together. We are taught as students to play the open strings only as passing tones and to take the open string note in a different position, so that the pitch can be adjusted. As a matter of fact, depending on the key, there are notes (leading tones, etc.) that are purposely played higher (out of tune) than would be in tune for effect. I maintain that pitch is a variable function of the performance. That being said, a turntable MUST have a constant rotation so that the pitch isn't changed within a shorter time segment...that is wow and flutter are no, no's. I live in a very nice house, drive very nice cars, and eat in very nice restaurants all from playing my violin. I am not saying that gross distortion of pitch is acceptable, but I for one cannot tell the difference in sound if the dots on the VPI stobe are slowing drifting clockwise or counterclockwise. I fully understand what you are saying and that pitch does have an emotional effect...that's why conductors choose if the tuning A should be 440, or 441.
I vote for the SDS, which I use on a VPI, and it was a big improvement. Now about Stringreen's comment on pitch. I have many pre-recorded reel to reel tapes. Two of my tape machines have pitch controls. But given VPI's approach I assume putting an SDS in the line for the R2R would approve the sound. So, the question: Is their a 'strobe' that would help me tune the R2R?
Buconero117... the SDS IS and improvement not because of the trick that you can change the pitch, but because the SDS provides a constant and reliable electric source for the motors. The sound IS improved with its addition because the turntable revolves at a constant speed with far less short term variation. ..and that is why belt drive turntables that use string instead of elastic belts and the reason that the Lenco and VPI rim drives et al is so far superior to its belt drive counterparts. Short term speed variations are very greatly reduced. On another note... VPI has a plastic stobe that I got with my tonearm...I presume you can purchase it through VPI and regular purveyors of such items. Go to Home Depot and get a fluorescent night light...mine is an Aperitac model 73068. The cost was about 4.99 on sale. Use an extension cord for convenience, look down at the correct band of the strobe turning on your table and adjust the SDS so that the dots seem to stand still. If the dots are moving clockwise, push the downward arrow on the SDS which slows down the table, and v/v,,,,, you're in business.
Sorry Buconero...I misread your question...I thought it was for a turntable.
Stringreen, I always welcome spirited discourse about the finer points of music making and playback. My comments are not intended to offend in any way. Having said that, I think I can prove my point to you:

It is true that if a turntable's speed accuracy is off by a very small amount, one may not necessarily be aware of a problem during playback, unless one has perfect pitch. My contention is that the performance may simply not be experienced as originally intended by the performers, because the music may now be just a bit under or over the intended tempo. Additionally, the pitch distortion (and it is just that) will void the emotional effect of the chosen pitch center. This, I hope we can agree, is a problem.
We agree that orchestras and/or their conductors choose the "A" that they tune to, and that this choice has an emotional effect. Here are some numbers that I think prove my point, as it relates to vinyl playback:

-A 3.3% deviation in rotational speed of a turntable's platter results in a change of one half step in pitch.

-The difference between "A" 440 and "A" 441 represents a mere .23% change in pitch.

-If you do the math you will see that a mere .13% deviation from perfect rotational speed results in the aforementioned .23% change in pitch. A not unlikely scenario with many turntables. Amazing, when you consider that the "broadcast standard" has been .3% speed accuracy.

We agree that the difference between "A" 440 and "A" 441 is significant. When you consider that the error is oftentimes much greater, you can see the importance of it all. I am sure that as a performer yourself, you have oftentimes experienced playing situations where the pitch center is off by an even smaller amount than the statistical difference between "A" 440 and "A" 441; where the difference is simply an almost subliminal feeling that the pitch center is just "leaning" one way or the other. In analog playback, a change in pitch also means a change in tempo (unlike with digital). However subtle that change may be, it will most certainly create a different emtional effect from what the performers intended. Again, as a performer, I am sure you and your colleagues have often remarked during a rehearsal or performance that the chosen tempo is the perfect tempo (or the wrong tempo) for a particular piece. That chosen tempo may be, in actuality, only a fraction of the difference between two adjacent markings on a metronome.

Clearly, vinyl playback can be enjoyed, and be quite good, in spite of small deviations from perfect platter speed. But is it more accurate, more enjoyable, and potentially more exciting when the speed is right? Without question. When you consider how much effort we put into getting other aspects of playback right, or as right as possible, why not do what we can to get the speed accuracy correct?
Siramazing, I recently bought a TNT MK5 (23 lb, acrylic, steel, lead) platter and bearing, and compared the platter only, to the original TNT platter (also known as the HW19 MK4). I say platter only because the wider diameter bearing is not usable on a HW19, and it is really intended for the TNT turntable that I am in the process of "assembling" from parts of various vintages that I have been buying from owners who have upgraded. Anyway, the MK5 platter is a definite improvemnet over the original 15lb all acrylic and lead platter, with better bass extension, and better overall clarity, if perhaps a little bit less warm. I can only surmise that using it with the correct bearing makes it even better. I mention this because in a conversation with Mike at VPI, he remarked that this platter is "as good as anything we make today". These platters show up for sale occasionally for a lot less money than the superplatter.

As far as the sorbothane goes: Listen first! Don't assume that the sorbothane is going to be better. I have switched back and forth between springs, tiptoes, and sorbothane suspension, over the many years that I have owned my HW19. All depending on which tonearm I had on the table, and wether the table was on the rack, or the wall shelf. Overall, I would say my favorite has been sorbothane pucks with short tiptoes on top. Cut the sorbothane as thick as will allow the top plate/armboard to be just below the top edge of the plinth.
Thank you, thank you, thank you all for the great information.

I've sure learned a lot from this thread.
Frogman... My point was that short term speed deviations can be/are very distracting/annoying, and that long term speed difference aren't important. Going back to the original posts that said things like lubrication, dynamic contrast friction, etc. are critical... no. I agree that if the table doesn't spin at the exact speed it is distortion, and naturally our goal is to eliminate/mollify distortions, yet, it is not necessary to constantly adjust the speed for acceptable/pleasurable vinyl reproduction. Regas typically run fast, and yet, they are valued and praised with justification.
A wee bit off topic here, but I have a factory built MKIV. Over the years the springs have compressed and finding it difficult to replace them. VPI no longer has replacements or the sorbothene replacements. I know can insert neoprene tubing into the center of the springs to correct. But would like to get other ideas on a remedy. Anyone have suggestions?
Ferarri, Some have said the Foam Noodle Toys that you can get from a swimming pool store work, but I do know the stock MK-IV, with metal sub-chassis, and Platter are a lot of weight to support.

Some have used Carbon Fiber Pucks from somebody like Back Diamond Racing, other options might be having somebody machine you four Delrin Pucks, and compliment-supplement them with thinner sorbothane sheeting from someplace like McMaster-Carr? I am unsure if McMaster-Carr sells the correct diameter sorbothane rods, which could then be cut to proper height?

Ya gotta figure, if VPI could get this material, perhaps so can you from somewhere? Mark
You can do them both for just the price of the SDS. Make your own DIY SAMA with the existing motor. It is the same motor as found inside a SAMA. Both upgrades are essential IMO.
Ferrari, if you have never tried going the no-spring, low-compliance suspension route, you really owe it to yourself to try it. Results will vary depending on where the table is situated and the tonearm used. Try tall tiptoes facing up, with a thin rubber disc, like the rubber disc that goes over the spindle, and under the record clamp, underneath the cones. Having said that, I have a set of unused springs that I bought from VPI years ago, when I first bought the MK IV upgrade platter. These are the stiffer springs needed for the heavier plattrer. I tried a variety of different suspensions and found that I liked the aforementioned short tiptoes facing up, on top of sorbothane pucks. I use a ET2 air-bearing arm that likes a more rigid less compliant suspension. If you are interested in the springs, how about a trade for that Brubeck/Desmond Stardust LP that you have on sale?

Best regards.
Frogman - yep we can do that deal e mail me.
I have a HMW19 jr with the sorbothane pucks. I have been experimenting with the suspension (of which there is very little)by putting hardened steel cam follower shims from my old Suzuki 750 on top of the sorbothane.The shims are VERY hard and seems to give the jr. slightly faster attack while still allowing the suspension to work. A very easy and free tweek. I would think that 50cent pieces would work as well, but that would cost $2.00,,,lol.
I plan on building a DIY SAMA. Anyone else done this? I would think it would be a fairly easy project. I think the main obstacle is giving the motor assy. sufficient mass to not move around on the base (in this case a very big and thick butcher block).
I was considering using a large PVC pipe with a threaded cap on the bottom for height adjustment with a big chunk of lead inside or perhaps lead shot.

comments and suggestions welcomed.

I have a TNT that I have taken along the upgrade path. I have found the SDS to be preferred prior to upgrading the SAMA.
For my use with my HW 19 MK IV I have found that the SDS offers more flexability than the SAMA. I took the SDS out of the system for awhile and found that the overall sonic presentation was not at a level with the SDS in the system. The SDS makes a decided improvement in overall sonic signature and will remain in the system. The only reason to use the SDS with the HW 19 series is to remove the motor from the chassis and eliminate vibration from the motor to the chassis. The SDS approach is different in that it reduces to a vanishing point the motor vibration from 115 Volts down to 72 Volts. Plus it adds the abilty to switch from 33 to 45 rpm, without manually changing drive belt from one groove to another. While somewhat pricey the SDS is a very highly recommended component, that will enhance the playback of any VPI turntable. If analog is your bag, then this is a must have.
Thanks Ferrari. Right now the SDS is out of the question unless I can build one.
btw which SDS? I assume the newer version is nicer, but will you get the same results for the older and much cheaper version.Recession think has taken hold of my brain and my wallet.
However, this has led me down a DIY road that has been more enjoyable than any of the purchases I have made in the past.

Analog is definitely my bag.

I am using the current SDS unit. Years ago I used the first generation SDS with great results, not quite as good as todays current offering, but well worth the search.
Get an SDS, then you can switch over to a string drive (silk thread) and further improve the PRAT and musicality of the system.
I would not bother with the older motor control units. I used the original with a HW19 for a while, and thought that it caused more problems than it solved. The current SDS is the way to go.
Correct me if I am wrong, but the SDS controls speed by regulating the power being fed to the motor,thereby not only controlling the speed but preventing voltage fluxuation causing speed differential.
Assuming that this is correct,don't both the new and older version accomplish this? One has a digital readout(newer should be cheaper but isn't) the other is analog (older version).
Frogman, how did it cause a problem?

If what I think is correct,this thing is nothing more than a voltage regulator.Sounds like a DIY project.

After all VPI wants close to $1000.00 for the new version.Out of my recession league.

thanks guys

For what it's worth, I use the Carbon Fiber Isolators (two different types of sorbothane sandwhiched in with two layers of carbon fiber. I got tired of the springs a long time ago. The height of these isolators is just about right ( of coarse you have to raise up the SAMA which I do right now with the Maplshade rubber/cork laminations. I am pleased with this setup over the springs. I also recently got an SDS and I was smiling all the way through my 12 hour listening session last Sat. I'm going to try some of the silk string. I recently bought a new "black" belt before I got the SDS, and it was a noticable improvement in PRAT over the original belt. As far as isolating the TT, I use a custom MANA Acoustics Reference wall shelf and have replaced the glass for BDR the source shelves. My wall unit is isolated from the wall w/ 1+1/4" strips of Dynamat placed at 45degree angles then (2) 1x12 oak board screwed to the wall and the wall shelf is attached to that. The wall is stiffened and I have a lot of isolation too.It all worked out very well. The Mana and the BDRs are expensive but well worth it and they were made for each other, a excellent match. A lot of money but this is my one and only source and I'm HAPPY.
I got the "black" belt recently and I experienced the same thing concerning "PRAT".

I have been curious about the silk thread.Is there any problem with the motor pulley shape with a thread? Does it give it more PRAT?
The only thing to worry about with the thread is the size of the knot. With a thick string it could cause a small thump. Just use a basic over around and through (not a square knot or a bloodknot) with the thinner string.

My pully is V shaped. If you have the flat one it will be OK too, as long as the level of the pulley and platter are OK so it doesn't travel.

Now I haven't heard string directly against the rim drive but I've been told that it has the PRAT of a rim drive without the rumble of a rim drive. I believe it based on what i hear.
What kind of thread do you use? Silk? About how long does it need to be? I need to try this.

To answer Emorrisiv's question above, the SDS not only controls the AC voltage to the turntable's motor, allowing full voltage for startup then changes to a reduced predetermined running voltage once the platter has stabilized, it regenerates and precisely controls the AC waveform and frequency. The AC frequency is what controls the speed of the turntable's motor, not the voltage. The output frequency on the SDS is user adjustable in increments of 0.01 Hz, and for this reason, you can set the speed dead-on.

I did in-fact buy a SDS from a seller here on Audiogon, and found it to be a significant improvement over no SDS.

Also, the SDS is obviously not a simple circuit device, it is essentially a full-blown special-purpose single-channel amplifier. IMHO, to do a DIY SDS project, not only will you need to be sharp in circuit design, I'm quite certain that you will need to devote a fair amount of time and effort to the project in order to be successful. Probably the most cost effective solution is just to purchase a used SDS, that is, unless you are looking for a challenging project.

Thanks again for everyone’s input!