VPI redesigning experiment

In my audiophile career I went through all the incarnations of the VPI TT, up to TNT 5. In my pursuit for the absolute sound I discovered Mapleshade's Pierre Sprey who convinced me that maple wood is far superior sounding material than any of the high-tech materials used on TT's. This was also the theory of SHUN-MOOK who designed the highly musical "Bella Voce" speaker. Based on this I designed a 4" thick turntable plinth from solid maple, and a separate one for the tonearm. Pierre is looking into making a maple housing for the SAMA. I am getting the new VPI's HR-X, platter-bearing assembly with their record hold down ring to fit in to the maple plinth, and the JMW 12.5 tonearm in to a separate 4" thick maple plinth. Both plinths will stand on cones on maple bases of the same dimensions. I have high hopes for a natural,unfatiguing, sweet, but not euphonic sound, devoid of harshness. I will let you know of the results. I hope I do not run into uncalculated nightmares or component changing to compensate for differences in sound. Let me know if you are interested.
I think you are on the right track. Teres has also done alot with different wood bases. They have tried maple and also about a dozen different exotic hardwoods. So far, their experiments have shown Cocobolo to be best in their particular turntable.

It is an interesting experiment you are doing, and I like to see people working creatively toward better sound.

Good luck in your efforts.
I have also had exceptional results with maple,however in my case under the turntable. I placed a 3" thick 40 pound maple butcherblock under my Linn LP12 and the results were astounding. I expected that there would be an improvement in the bass,which there was. But much more significant was the tremendous improvement in the highs and mids. All in all much smoother,more solid, better imaging and better tracking.I do remember years ago getting a similar result using a Cotter base which was a very heavy high tech composite of some sort but it's a little hard to compare.I don't know what the mechanism of the effect is(damping airborn energy or damping energy which is generated in the turntable). I was surprised that there was so much of an effect given that the Linn is a floating sub-chassis and would expect even more improvement with a solid suspension.
This is an interesting thread!

In the guitar world (my other bad habit), maple is considered to be bright sounding. Mahogany has a more mellow, midrangy sound. Some guitars (notably the legendary Gibson Les Paul series) use mahogany with a thin maple cap to get the best of both worlds.

I have no idea if this applies to turntables - keep us posted.
The Shun Mook fellows make their amp stands from a combination of maple and ebony. The m-pingo discs are made from ebony, and the record weigh/clamp is also ebony. They definitely like maple, but normally in combination with ebony.

The experiment certainly sounds interesting. You certainly pick up a tough competition to go against the VPI HRX, probably one of the best turntables there is.
Thank you for the very informed responses, I am answering in the order I received them.
Twl, I have described the Teres to Pierre, He has experimented with lead in wood bases and acrylic and his take is that it "deadens the sound" maybe the Teres designer has struck a fine balance between the aliveness of the cocobo and the blantness of lead. Thank you for your good wishes.
Loudspeaker7, The butcherblock under the Linn is fine. Finer yet would be a solid piece of Canadian maple, which is better sounding than the American, for some unknown reason. Every material has its own vibration and therefore it sounds different than others, as a rule, high-tech materials sound just that! Maybe at first, the sound appears to be more exciting but upon repeated auditions it will reveal it's character. This however depends upon the taste of the individual that hears it. Some prefer Hi-Fi, as opposed to natural sound.
Ghostrider, I think that mahogany should give the same sonic quality to components as it does to guitars.
Jaica, I know about "The Mookies". I have 1"x 3" square ebony Pucks in place of the suspension,under my TT's plinth. They are very musical but sound harder than maple. My sound changed from opulent, laid back and forgiving, to fast, solid and detailed with more definition, clicks and pops though became more pronounced. One fact seems to be true in every case, that if a sound system is very good, every material placed under it will invariably change its sound, and that the sound will resemble the character of what this material is made from, ie, metal sounds hard, rubber sounds bloated, cloth sounds muffled, and on it goes.
Thank you all
Tphalieros. I would be very interested to hear how your experiment turns out. I have a HW19 mkIV and and am in the process of waiting for HR-X bearings/Platter/clamping systme to be availble as well. I am new to Audiogon and have been noticing there is a lot of talk about Teres. I am now strongly considering purchasing their lead filled platter and bearing to put on my plinth, since the cost is about the same with the HR-X parts. The only problem is that the hole for the bearing is too small on my plinth for the teres bearing and would have to ream out .25". Also the armboard would be a problem because the platter is 3" thick. I would have to make a custom armboard. I do have a SAMA and SDS so compatibility between my motor and teres platter should be ok. Since so much modification maybe necessary for my plinth I was considering making an entirely new plinth out of another material. Someone told me corion was good. Others have told me Maple was good also. After reading your post I think I would choose maple, so let me know if your assumptions were correct. Also I have had other individuals mention Twl in their postings. They seem to be infering that this person had very good knowledge about analogue in general so I decided to brouse the postings and indeed that seems to be so. TWL, if you don't mind could you comment on my question I posted a few days ago titled: Help Please: What Cartridge?. It would be greatly appreciated. Your comments regarding this posting would be appreciated as well.
Ted Thanks for your thread. I get those Mapleshade booklets in the mail and wondered about the qualities of maple (Canadian Maple)that is.

I will be looking forward to you findings.
Talentkeeper, I would avoid materials such as corian for a plinth. I would also go for the HR-X assembly. I believe Pierre Sprey(Mapleshade), about lead dulling the sound, don't forget that the Teres base is made from cocobolo which is used to make castaniettes. It's lively sound works in synergy with the acrylic-lead combo of the platter.
Tphalieros, thanks for that valuable info. Looks like I could have made a serious mistake. I will now definitely go for the HR-X assembly. Give us a report once you've tested out the Maple plinth. Thanks.

I have my VPI Scout on a 3" thick slab of Canadian maple and the Mapleshade Isoblock footers under it. The footers are on a 3/4" custom cut granite shelf which replaced the original shelf on the rack.

My observations so far are that the maple really tightens up the bass, provides greater extension and drive. The laid back quality of the maple works in concert with the granite, which alone is rather lively and forward sounding. The granite has provided a heavy stable platform for the rest of the setup. 30lbs of granite, 20 lbs of maple, 30lbs of turntable, give or take..
Slipknot1. Could you elaborate on the 'footers'? What are they? I have gotten rid of my springs on my vpi hw19 kmIV and am contemplating either sorbathane pucks or wood cones such as perhaps maple.
Slipknot, sounds like you've got something going there. I have used the Isoblocks under my acrylic plinth and find them excellent. they have the added benefit of holding slippery surfaces such as acrylic or polished maple, in place securely, something that is a must, for TT's with SAMA or separate armboards (like I plan to make)
For the benefit of those who have not heard about Isoblock footers, they are layers of cork and corrugated rubber in a sqare shape that eliminate vibration transference between components.
Ted has a description in his above post. To elaborate a bit: they are alternating layers of cork and ribbed rubber. each rubber layer is laid so that the ribs are are in alternating directions. They work very well under maple slabs and do a great job. The maple/Isoblock combination works very well on non-suspension tables, like my Scout.
From what I see it will take about 10-14 days to receive my VPI platter-bearing combo and then start working on the maple bases.
Patience guys!
Well, I received my VPI HR-X clear- acrylic platter and reverse bearing(ball on top). The bottom part of the bearing shaft that goes into the plinth has a nut and a washer to lock it in place by screwing it to the bottom of the plinth. That nut and washer can be found in any hardware store, I hope that in the future VPI will upscale the quality of the nut and washer, it is certainly not up to par with the asking price. Harry is a VERY nice guy and he accomodates plenty, one big drawback that causes problems to him as well as his customers is the lack of adequate instructions. I regret my complaining to him about the brightness of the JMW tonearm whereas the culprit was not the arm itself but the fact that its female bearing cup was not touching the silicon dumping liquid. I learned of this one year later from the Audiogon forum and when I made the adjustment the brightness was gone.
Now I have to do the difficult stuff, to custom fit the platter assembly and the tonearm to their dedicated 4" thick maple boards. I have noticed that the 2" boards are a lot cleaner, with less cracks and putty repairs than the 4". I guess that the selection of a thicker slab of wood gets more difficult as the thickness increases. Also, the 2" boards came in one solid piece, whereas the 4" were made of 2 pieces of maple glued together, so from an audiophile's standpoint, the 2" maple boards would sound purer and look better.
I will continue with my progress as it advances.
My first impressions of the new Turntable: Big, sprawling sound, silent backround,(Not void,CD like, but pregnant with the "sound" of silence), Lush dynamics, deep explossive base, I am rediscovering my record collection. The best thing is that I get all the above without even having set up the TT properly. I have yet a long way to go, tweeking and refining, since there is no precedent to this design I'll have to try everything with a trial and error approach. Unfortunately I cannot quantify the improvement of the maple boards alone, since I also got the new VPI platter-bearing assembly, but the new clear platter sounds better than the older black acrylic, filled with lead, combination. Once again Pierre Sprey is proven right! Lead is not a good sounding material and I can verify it from my experience. I also placed a lead weight on top of the tonearm's plinth and even though the sound became firmer, it lost bloom and naturalness. So far I only used the dedicated platter and tonearm plinths without their sub-bases, I just placed them on top of the cork-rubber Isoblock footers that Mapleshade makes, I find them neutral and musical without imparting their own sound to the overall presentation, they also have the advantage of holding the maple boards secure without sliding, a very important point to watch when you have a stand alone tonearm which has to have a precise relationship placement to the platter.
I am looking forward to add the maple base boards under the maple plinths. I also want to replace the bearing shaft's holding nut with a brass one, Pierre told me that brass sounds more musical than any other metal and I believe him, the man knows his stuff, if we had more men like him in the American stereo industry, we would probably not be in decline now, people would not feel bored with their systems because their brain told them that what they hear is unatural.

I shall return!
OK I finally placed the sub-boards under the platter and tonearm plinths, each standing on Isoblock feet ( the cork and rubber combination). If I had 3 words to characterize my sound they would be: 1) Unfatiguing. 2) Relaxed. 3) Natural. The dynamics are all there but you only hear them when they are called for, I had to increase the volume because the backround noise floor got in to vanishing point, until the first crescendo kicked in, WOW!
I am still tweeking.
Stay tuned.
By the way TT looks great, Big, but handsome. I hope I can post photo's.
One correction: Pierre told me that the maple used is Virginia grown, the reason given it sounds better than the Canadian!
Ted, congratulations on your adventure. I would like to suggest using the Sistrum Audiopoints under the plinth instead of the cork/rubber feet. They are made of brass, and very well designed. I have them under the wood base of my Teres, and am very happy with the result. They use a special brass alloy that is designed to transfer the vibration to ground, and are very effective at doing this. I think this is in keeping with your design ideas and also Pierre's. I believe you will like the effect it has on your TT. Dynamics will be even better with these Audiopoints compared to the absorptive composition of the cork/rubber feet.
Dear TWL
This is what Pierre also suggested to me, to use his tripple brass points. I am hesitant only because I used them in the past and gave my TT some unwanted hint of brightness, a subtle sense of ringing, To be fair when I used them the TT's plinth was acrylic sitting on sqare pucks of ebony. Ebony is hard in sound, although very musical. I'll probably use the brass again to see what results I get with maple this time.
This week I played with the mounting of the tonearm and instead of having it sit flat on the maple armboard (where it is fastened with 3 solid brass scrues which sound better than conventional steel ones), I placed a 1/8" diameter brass rod near both ends and then scrued it down sitting on the rod pieces. What a difference! Piano sounds true to life, the whole presentation tighten up and cleared even more than before, overall, it became more dynamic with more life to it. Thus I verified one more of Pierre's point that contrary to what is thought, when we mount tonearms or bearing assemblies and the like, the fewer points of contact between 2 surfaces, the better the sound will be, as the transference of vibrations lessens considerably.