VPI JMW9 Tonearm setup questions

I just bought a VPI Aries Scout via mailorder, and am in the process of assembling it. I have some familiarity with setting up and adjusting cartridges and tonearms, BUT, I must admit that I am not familiar with unipivot tonearms.

I have no local dealer that has any VPI turntable set up, so I have not actually seen a JMW tonearm setup. I purchased the Scout based on the very positive comments here on Audiogon and elsewhere.

So, my question is really a basic one. The JMW9 Manual at page 4 states simply to "Place the arm tube assembly on the lower bearing." When I do that, the entire arm is balancing on the sharp pivot point of the lower bearing, but it is otherwise not secure in any respect.

Because the manual has no drawings or pictures showing what parts are to go where, I've been scratching my head wondering if I am missing a part of the bearing assembly that might slide over the sharp pivot point and takes up the space inside the cavity of the upper bearing housing. In fact, the nomenclature of "bearing housing" implies that this cavity is supposed to "house" a bearing, and there is nothing in there except the sharp pivot point.

Am I missing something here? Or is the tonearm supposed to float and wobble around touching absolutely nothing except the pivot point.

I hope this makes sense. Thanks for any guidance you can offer.

Yes, it is supposed to "float and wobble". It is designed to be in perfect balance when properly seated. If this is your first unipivot (as it was for me), this can be rather disconcerting when you first set it up. But as soon as the glorious sound filled my room, my doubts melted away. Congrats on the purchase of a great TT!
Your statement, "balancing on the sharp pivot point of the lower bearing, but it is otherwise not secure in any respect", is quite accurate. That is the way unipivots operate.
Yes, it floats, on the point and the bearing oil you should place in the cup. Contact VPI via phone or e-mail for more specific answers. I've found them to be very responsive. Although I do agree with you that their instruction manuals do not appear to be written for beginners. They do make some assumptions about your turntable knowledge, which a well written manual wouldn't.

Thanks all for the responses. I just wanted to make sure that this is the way the tonearm is supposed to sit before starting in on the cartridge adjustments.

Just a point of clarification. The JMW 9 is not oil damped.
There is no oil damping on the JMW9 arm. Are you referring to the main platter bearing? Scouts I've seen (including my own)have come from the factory not requiring any user applied bearing oil.
ANOTHER remedial question:

The manual also indicated that tonearm height (VTA) can be adjusted with the "knurled knob" beneath the pivot. However, when I turn the know, it does not appear to do anything except move the knob itself up and down the threaded shaft.

The manual is not very helpful for a relative "newbie" like me. So what am I supposed to do with this knob, other than twirl it up and down the threaded shaft (no obscene comments please). Keep in mind this is the JMW9 -- I understand the 10 and 12 are somewhat different in the VTA adjustment mechanism.

I apologize for these elementary questions, and appreciate any and all help with this new (to me) tonearm design.

First you have to set the knurled knob at the lowest position in the shaft. Use the supplied wrench (bigger one) to loosen the "set-screws" in the base of the arm. You can locate 2 holes where these screws are, one directly to the back of the arm assembly and the other one 90 degrees from that on the right side if you are facing the table. Once you loosen these set screws, if you move the knurled knobs, you will notice that the height of the threaded shaft changes. This is the VTA adjustement for the Scout. Start by making sure that the LP in the platter is parallel to the arm. Use the arm tube to parallel and not the headshell. Also, make sure that the headshell of the cartridge is parallel to the LP surface. Using the supplied "tractor" you can easily align the cartridge bth horizontally and vertically. After all these settings, you'll have your "starting point". All adjustments, especially the VTA" can be fine tune by ear. Hope this helps.
There should also be a small set screw that needs to be lossened. The whole assembly can be adjusted up or down, depending on the knob's position. Loosen the knob, pull the assembly up, retighten the knob. do this in small increments.
Okay. I am making progress here....got the tonearm and cartridge basically set up. I was running through the paces of the Hi Fi News Test LP, and ran into a brick wall when dealing with (you guessed it!) anti-skate. I realize this is a somewhat "controversial" issue with HW/VPI/JMWs.

I can get the cartridge to handle Track 6 (300hz +12db). But then I get a buzz from the right channel on Track 7 (300hz +14 db) and the arm just loses tracking on Track 8 (+16db). I did not even try Track 9 (+18db).

The results described above were achieved using the twist of the wire method suggested by VPI, with two full counterclockwise twists to increase anti-skate. I am reluctant to twist it any further, as I do not want to cause any damage to the wires.

Is this normal anti-skating performance for a JMW arm, or is there some method I should try, or is something else out of whack.

Thanks to all who have helped so far. Keep the info coming (please).

Slipknot1, that's my mistake then. I assumed (I know, I know), since my JMW 10.5 arm has damping oil in the cup which houses the point, I assumed the JMW 9 arm was a similar design, only shorter. Sorry if this caused any confusion.


Let there be music!

I decided to quit fiddling with trying to adjust the anti-skating by the Hi Fi News LP, and just took HW's word from the JMW9 Manual that when the tonearm swings toward the edge of the LP when in a neutral balance, that's plenty of anti-skating.

Then I decided to listen to some LPs instead of test tones.

Oh Boy! Whether or not the anti-skating is correct, the music coming from this TT is quite nice....you know all the cliches....each instrument wrapped in its own blanket of air and occupying its own unique space, clean clear sound without tinny brightness (and the DV20X cartridge isn't even broken in yet), details coming out of blackness --brushstrokes on the cymbals, wider and deeper soundstage, etc. etc. etc.

In short, I am very pleased with this upgrade...I'll probably be able to live with if for a few months before upgrading again ;-)

Thanks again to all who offered advice and info. This forum is a great resource.
VPI's set up instructions for this arm are woefully inadequate. I went through the same thicket as Coffee. Another inadequacy is that no where on VPI's website or in their instruction manuals do they mention the old style counterweight and its azimuth adjustment.
Just found your post, and I congratulate you on doing an adequate job of set up for the first time. If music sounds that good at this early stage, you must have done something right! Having had my Scout (now a Signature model), for about four years now, I have found many ways to make it perform in a way that would surprise Harry W, I believe. The Scout is a great basic platform, and can really sing with a few modifications (not necessarily the ones sold at high prices by VPI, either). I believe we live within driving distance of each other, if I remember correctly. Maybe we can get together sometime.

Congrats again, regards,
Dan (Whidbey Island)