VPI Rim Drive vs. belt drive sound files

Greetings All,

About two weeks ago I installed the VPI Rim Drive on my HRX turntable. Having gone through the same frustration of getting the speed stable discussed in other threads, I ---> THINK <--- I finally have it fairly well tweaked. The difference in sound appears to be a much more focused sound stage at the expense (?) of a change in tonal balance. Specifically, the mid tomes of piano keys seems to be a bit more harsh and there appears to be a bit more extension in the very bottom octave.

As I use my turntable purely as a front end for archival capture and mastering, I have digital files of the same tracks, though the identical signal path with both the belt drive and the rim drive. If anyone has the patience to download these large AIFF format files, the link below will give you access to a few of them. I’d be very interested in getting feedback from all on both sonic differences between them as well as any suggestions to improve the Rim drive set up based on listening. If you’d like to check them out please go to:


user: dean
password: marvin
go into the “VPI RIM DRIVE TEST” folder

Thanks for this thread. It's very interesting. I can tell you that I hear a clarity with the rim drive that the belt drive can't deliver. This clarity is that the piano tones have a definite beginning and ending on the rim file, that the belt file seems to flow one note into another. Because the rim drive can deliver the individual notes in their own envelope, a distinctive increase in dynamics is afforded the listener. Yes, the bass is better with the rim drive, but the aspect of the drive that gets to me is this ability for micro dynamic shading that is much more like live music. ..this is a very interesting post, and I thank Dean for this ear opening experience.
Great Idea to upload the files. Next time maybe try 96 or 192K.

I'll have to hook up a DAC to take a listen to these files, as I too am interested in seeing what rim type drive could to do my table.
Cool post. Would you mind detailing the entire playback and transfer chain (cartridge, cables, phonostage, etc.)? Also, was any editing (pop and click removal, EQ, etc.) done to these tracks?

I'm with Emailists... I'd be all over 24/96 files if you were to put them up!

My wife too can pick out the rim drive version. I think the easiest one is the piano
Hi Gents,

Very glad you like this thread. Thanks for the description Stringreen – interesting that you like the piano tones and are not finding them harsh.

As for the signal path, in addition to the HRX with Super Platter and Rim Drive, I’m using:

Shelter 9000 cartridge
NBS Omega Extreme 2 cable
Pass Xono Preamp
Apogee Electronics Rosetta 200 analog-to-digital converter
Apogee Electronics Mac Pro based Symphony system with Ben master clock
BIAS Peak PRO 6 software
Exact Power EP15A and EDPS power conditioning

Regarding using 96K or 192K sampling rates ----sigh. We (or at least I) live in a 44.1Khz world. Therefore my goal in capturing is to optimize for 44.1 KHZ. I’ve done MANY experiments digitizing at higher sampling rates and then down sampling to 44.1 KHz. My findings are that if, and only if, the final product from my turntable (not true for live recording) is to be 44.1 KHz than the best results are obtained by sampling at 44.1Khz / 24 bit and using the Apogee hardware bit mapping to convert the files into 44.1 KHz / 16 bit files when recording. YMMV :-)

I do NOT apply any noise reduction software or EQ. I’ve tried a bunch of these and, in summary; they are not remotely worth the trade off in sound quality. I will, however, occasionally paint out a big glitch in the waveform by hand.

I listened to Epuipoise. Rim Drive wins by a wide margin. Individual notes occupy their own space in a way that the other version just doesn't accomplish.

I'm actually struggling with this upgrade myself, at the moment. I'm trying to get the same speed stability that I had with the belts, but it's not there yet.


The record I've been playing while going through this whole excersise is "Appalachian Spring" on RCA Living Stereo, Boston Symphony w/Aaron Copland conducting. This piece will drive you mad if speed stability isn't there, especially at the beginning and end of the piece. But I'll tell you something... Every note just jumps out of the speaker like never before. It's pretty awesome. In spite of the speed issue, I think I've listened to the record about 6 times this week, and the speed problem is taking a second place to the sheer immediacy of the performance in my listening space.
I'm gonna keep working on the speed stability battle, but the rim drive has already won the war.


I have the same Copeland recording. Keep the turntable going...it will get better and better as the belt around the rim drive seats...or maybe it just wears evenly...anyway, it does become ever better.
of course this is VPI table thread. I wouldn't go so far as to make it a rim drive vs belt vs dd thread.
Dean, thanks for the excellent information. I have several thousand vinyl discs and am preparing to archive as much of it as I have patience for...

I definitely prefer the sound of the rim drive...even through an older iMac DAC and IEM's I can hear that the chord overtones are much more present on the rim-drive file. wow.

Have you considered the Morg MR-1000 reviewed in TAS 180? It makes files in DSD, and then you can down-sample to whatever format you want. But, as you say, in a 44.1 world, it may be preferable to sample at something lower.

I am curious about your experiences in arriving at your preferred sample rate, as the Apogee Duet is the other A/D that I am considering. Could you comment further on this? Or should I start another thread?
Thought I would point out there is a new dac in town (berkeley) and it's won many hearts over. It's in the absolute sound issue this month Jan. 2009.
JMHO, I believe if anyone is going to archive vinyl into digital that a serious look is needed at the higher reslutions. I have the alesis cd recorder, and the higher format of 96k sounds much better than the redbook format of 44k.
This is a fantastic thread! I listen to quite a bit of solo piano, and that is the main reason that I went from a fully decked out Linn LP12 back to a Dual 1229. I did change the tonearm on the Dual to my favorite a Grace 747. You described the piano as 'harsh'. Actually, if you play piano you would recognize it as 'real' sounding with the rim drive setup. To me, it is pure with definite beginning and decay. Once you get used to this, nothing else will satisfy you. This is the reason those who can't afford your set up reach for old Duals, Thorens, and Garrards! Rim/idler drive is so dynamic it is addicting.
I finally gave up on waiting for the rim drive for the Scoutmaster. Picked up the Teres Verus rim drive. Difference was immediate and the same as described for the VPI drive. It is more resolving, better defined bass, more pinpoint imaging, etc.
Thanks Dean for posting the files. They convinced me that the Rim Drive was worth looking into.
I hear people complaining that they are still trying to get speed stability with the VPI rim drive. Is there a similar issue with the teres solution?

Do these rim drives have stable pitch/speed, or do they still require and SDS or something similar to make sure they are speed stable?

Dean-what a great thread. I wish more people would record their comparisons not only for the individual doing the evaluating, but for others as well.
I recorded the same 10 or so tracks with my current table and also with another table I was considering buying. I used the same cartridge for both tests. It was somewhat difficult to tell the difference right away, but when I went back and played the tracks back with my Tascam, it became clear that my table was superior.
I wonder has anybody done a similar test, but with other tables? This would seem to be the only way to compare tables.
I'm not having any speed issues with the Teres. The drive leans against the platter so the contact with the platter is different by design. It's basically 2 small footers on the outside of the motor with none inside towards the platter, forcing gravity against the platter. I can't say whether that's better than the VPI system but it seems like it would be less finicky than the fixed motor position of the VPI.
It does need a speed controller which is included. It doesn't have as fine of adjustments as the SDS, and is a little trickier to set up, but seems solid once done.
Appearance wise, looks and fits well in the motor cutout of the Scoutmaster. Only slight problem is the short motor is the only one that will work for the Scoutmaster if you plan to use the outer ring. I have mine resting on a small piece of plywood on top of the Gingko to raise the height. Was planning to maybe use small maple board but sounds fine as is. I'll experiment later, but I don't expect it to matter much.
I was having speed stability issues with my VPI. The problem was that the belt on the circumference of the rim needed to seat itself properly after being installed. Once seated, stability got better, but was still not perfect due to the fact that the diameter of the belt itself was not identical at all points and did not have enough "give". VPI has since changed the feet on the dual motor assembly to rubber feet, and came out with a new belt that has more give. Once you've made those upgrades, your speed stability should be excellent.

A couple of notes:

I believe VPI will supply the new feet and belt free of charge to customers with the rim drive.

I also believe the SDS is nearly mandatory for rim drive users, since the speed setting on my SDS is WELL below 60hz. (Like 59.40) If dead-on 33 1/3 can be accomplished without the SDS and WITH the rim drive, great. But I really can't see how.


A couple of suggestions for those of you with belt drives but interested in getting more PRAT out of them.

If you look closely at the belt where it comes off the spindle before going back to the platter you will notice that it wobbles quite a bit. You can feel it easily with a finger lightly touching the belt. Try placing something heavy and smooth up against it to reduce this "rumble" and vibration. I bet you will hear a smoothing out and a more stable musical presentation.

Another suggestion is try using string instead of the rubber belt. You MUST have a speed controller to do this though because the width of the belt ve the width of the string will cause substantial speed differences in the platter. Use a string that does not stretch, like Rayon. This proved to be a substantial improvement over the VPI rubber belt, even with the stabilizing buffer on it.

I would love to see how much better the rim drive is over a string drive. I'm sure it would be a closer contest overall.

Happy New Year,
"I would love to see how much better the rim drive is over a string drive. I'm sure it would be a closer contest overall."

Or possibly worse than string, in view of the fact that VPI's implementation of rim drive retains several soft rubber belts.