VPI SSM lacking bite

Btw - phono stage is a ARC PH7 and pre is a Ref3, tonearm and i/c is LFD Silver Ref.

Just wondered if anyone has experience of an SSM / Phantom / Orpheus set-up before I go for it?

Sorry, in posting this thread I seem to have lost the beginning part....

I have recently bought a VPI SSM with 9 Sig arm, which replaced a ageing but tweaked Roksan Xerxes and Artimez, fitted with a Clearaudio Gold Insider. Just at the point of switching decks, the Insider went down, so I bought a new Transfiguration Orpheus. I now have about 90 hours on the cart, so it should be sufficiently run-in, but the sound doesn't have the responsive snap and punch of the Xerxes / Artimez / Insider set up (although other areas are better).

My immediate reaction is to look at switching the arm, and I think that the Graham Phantom mk 2 seems to be a logical move. Has anyone tried the SSM / Phantom / Orpheus set-up?

I should add that I bought the heavier weight for the VPI, which helped, and I also bought the mini-feet. I'll be getting the Super Platter and the Rim Drive - probably in that order.

Set up took ages and was done exactly with a digital gauge.

I am currently using a Scoutmaster with standard arm and Denon 103. I have a Aries Extended I just got in and am using the circular record weight and HRX center weight from it on the Scoutmaster. The sound is better than I expected the Aries to sound. I have 2 REL subs and the bass is amazing, there is a M&K direct cut called Flamenco Fever of a dancer with accompaniment and the bass transients have to be heard. I spent a long time, since November I think, getting the table to sound like this. I previously had a TNT mark one and a Basis Ovation with SME IV arms and they never sounded anywhere as fast or had the bass that the Scoutmaster does. First a disclaimer, I am a VPI and Star Sound dealer but I am not trying to sell you anything, just recounting what worked for me. The first thing is that the new VPIs are a lot more critical of the support they are on then the old ones were, but on the right platform they sound better. One thing that really made a difference was replacing the VPI feet with the Star Sound brass cones, really tightened up the bass and made it faster. My Aries came with the large feet but I am going to replace them also. I had the Scoutmaster sitting on top of a TNT stand on a 3" maple block resting on Star Sound cones [larger ones] pointed upward. It sounded very good but when I moved it and the block to a turntable shelf on the Star Sound rack I have and used the same cones point downward the sound really took off. The sound is in there, you have a better table, arm , and I assume a better cartridge than I do so don't change too quickly. I really recommend the feet, they are the 1.5 in 1/4th 20 thread. You don't say what it is sitting on but I would experiment with that if you aren't getting the bass and speed you want. Hay, I have been setting up tables since 1962 and this one only took me 5 months to get right. Stan

Thanks for your response - the support that I'm using is a Clearlight RDC rack, which is sitting on Finite Elemente Cerabase's (rather than the RDC cones that ship with the rack). The Roksan was sitting directly on Cerabases, so perhaps I should try a set of these rather than the TNT mini-feet? All of my hifi components sit on an isolated island in the flooring, which has concrete beneath it, with the speakers etc. outside of this - so the components are free from foot fall and bass energy.

I should also mention another factor that's changed between decks, which is r the mains. I previously had PS Audio 600 in the system, but that also went phut just before the SSM came in - with that and the Insider, I couldn't believe my luck. The distributor in the UK couldn't have been less helpful - he was only interested is selling me a Powerplant Premier, and shipping a 50 kilo box back from the UK to US for repair would be prohibitively expensive. So, as a firm believer in regenerated mains, I'll probably buy an ISOL-8 unit, which is probably better anyway.

When I first put the PS into the system about 6 years it certainly added good definition - so I'm sure that this is playing a part, but I can't help but think that the VPI 9" Sig arm has lower performance to the Artemiz and therefore the the main culprit.

Lastly, I should add that I'm not using the antiskate device, which is so heavy-handed it won't even allow tracking of some records, and I'm also not using any damping fluid (which is the last thing that I need... ).

>>I can't help but think that the VPI 9" Sig arm has lower performance to the Artemiz and therefore the the main culprit.<<

You got it.

The JMW-9 quite simply is an ordinary tonearm, Valhalla wire notwithstanding.

You took a step down.
Yeah, your AC stuff could definitely impact the sound. It sounds like you are on the right track. After you get a handle on AC and the footer issues, spend plenty of time dialing in VTA. It really matters a bunch, and affects exactly your concerns. Cheers,

Is it easy to put a phantom on a scoutmaster?
Lack of bite and softened transients are part of the problem with my SSM setup, I'm still in the process of figuring out the problem. I've worked on isolation and modding phono pre to this point, still not where I want it.

Others claim these problems are not inherent to VPI, I've not come to any conclusions on this. I think an arm upgrade would be very revealing, go for the Graham and let us know your results.
Thanks for the feedback - I'm sure that the Graham will be the right step, so that'll be next, together with the ISOL-8 regenerator. I'll report when it's in and set up.

In the meantime - if anyone has run / is running a SSM with Phantom & Orpheus set-up, then I'd love to hear an opinion.

Lastly, has anyone tried a set of Finite Elemente Cerabases under an SSM?

By the way - the PH7 and VM220s all have EAT valves fitted - they don't make them for the Ref 3 at the moment. These added weight, body, dynamics, extension and clarity and were a good, if expensive, move for me.
I forgot to mention, I do have Cerabases I use elsewhere in system. IME, this is not the best way to go in aleviating the problems you have. Cerrabases tend to soften the sound just a bit compared to spikes and/or Aurios. I would go back to trying stock VPI spikes and/or trying brass spikes. Stanwal has previously mentioned having good luck with the Star Sound spikes, I plan on trying.

Thanks - I have the stock SSM metal spikes around so I'll give those a go, but I'm surprised re what you say on the Cerabases as I always had them down as tightening things up, especially under my speaker stands (PMC IB2s).
I agree they tighten thing up vs. other more compliant isolation schemes, I'm just saying relative to metal spikes and other ball bearing supports I've tried.

I also have trouble comprehending any sort of suspension/compliant device under mass loaded tts. You want to drain any minute vibrations away from tt. any compliant device introduces sympathetic movement back into tt, these asynchronous movements should smear/soften the sound (I hear this). I understand these sorts of devices decoupling from external vibrations, but they seem counterintuitive for draining internal vibrations. Still waiting to hear a good explanation for using these devices on mass loaded tts.
Dear Sonickicks: Do you still have the Roksan rig?, it could be interesting that you try it with the Orpheus and see what happen.

Btw, Insider-Orpheus two different performers, the Orpheus has no the " force " of the Insider.

Regards and enjoy the music.

Thanks - the Roksan set-up was sold when the SSM came in, otherwise I'd certainly try it - or at least try mounting the Artemiz on the SSM.

Re the Insider - yes, I was always very happy with the cart, but heard mixed reviews of the Goldfinger, although the mk2 is supposed to be much better. Only thing is a new one is about UK£7,500 - so twice the price of the Orpheus. I looked at the Lyra, but thought that the Transfiguratioin would be more of a set-up and forget option, so opted for that as I didn't want to be tweaking VTA on a per-disc basis.
Sns, the explanation is simple. There are HF vibrations that move bidirectionally between TT and earth. A properly designed compliant suspension can be particularly effective in transforming HF vibration into benign LF mechanical energy. The complication is that compliance in the suspension must not allow fluctuations in horizontal geometry of the drive train-- easier said than done with a TT that like VPI has a detached motor.
Dave, is LF mechanical energy truly benign, slower oscillations should impact sonics as well, I prefer to drain off all energy maximally. The fluctuations between motor and tt are just another complication. I suspect it might be best to spike motor as well, haven't tried yet.

My take is that VPIs should be best situated with large mass spikes coupled to massive vibration sinks maximally decoupled from external vibrations, ie. wall mounted or cement slab decoupled from rest of flooring.

I will soon be building a huge sandbox (planning on over 300 lbs sand), changing out stock spikes for Star Sound large mass brass spikes, figure out some means to spike motor, all mounted on my de-coupled wall shelf. This should test my theories, based on previous exploration in this direction I expect much better performance.
Sns, conservation of energy principle says you can't get rid of energy, but rather can only change its form. Someone posted that if sand was enough, why can we still feel the pounding of surf through the beach? Throw a soft spring mattress down on the beach, and you will no longer feel the ocean.
Dave, I agree that a soft spring mattress on the beach decouples you from the surf, but this is more analogous to using something compliant underneath the the sandbox. Essentially you are de-coupling from external energy (the surf). Any vibrations within your body (assuming bodies vibrate :-) are still being reintroduced into your body from the compliant mattress.
My experience with TT is closer to your analogy of beach on mattress. I have an unsuspended VPI TNT on top of a heavy sandbox on top of large soft springs. It was the only way that I could definitively stop a knuckle rap to the rack below from traveling to the stylus. With this addition there was an obvious improvement in treble focus and smoothness. Now what is happening? Based on my arrangement of system, room, and rack, my speculation is that the springs absorb energy from inside TT as much as they isolate from earth-- perhaps even more so. Others have confirmed this speculation by testing the same system on a wall rack to further remove from earth and floor effects. The effect of long wavelength spring action is benign: I can force the soft springs into a gentle cycle of diminishing modulations without disturbing the arm or audibly effecting the stylus in motion. This forced low frequency long wavelength action is absorbing huge amounts of physical energy relative to what is generated from within the closed system of a TT and its motor. Why then should it not work just as well and remain stable when handling the much tinier vibrations generated by TT?

All sprung suspensions are not equal. Foot-steps across the room sets my lightly sprung Oracle TT on fire. But the massed-loaded combination of a 50lb unsprung VPI on a 100 lb. sandbox on top of springs behaves entirely differently.

A bigger sandbox is certainly better than a smaller one. But to complete the experiment, why not try even more decoupling?
I've been thinking about your spring arrangement for some time, I'm willing to give it a try. Should be good experiment with my wall shelf and huge sandbox. The only issue is determining which springs to try, I will have somewhere around 300+ lbs to support.

While I can understand the negligible effect of the springs on the movement of arm and stylus, not reintroducing vibration into tt, and greater de-coupling from external forces. I'm still not sure that internal tt vibrations can travel down springs into the stable surface below that, seems to me vibrations would get caught up in springs, both external and internal generated energy would be fighting each other in spring. I would think those vibrations would have greater drainage through the very sharp spikes I'm currently using.

I suppose the greatest isolation I could muster would be wall shelf supports made from a more aborptive material than my present steel supports. This would both serve to better absorb energy from tt, sandbox vibration sinks, sandbox, maple platform, and de-couple from external energy.
"I'm still not sure that internal tt vibrations can travel down springs into the stable surface below that, seems to me vibrations would get caught up in springs, both external and internal generated energy would be fighting each other in spring."

Physics suggests that the instantaneous vibrational forces applied at opposing ends of the spring(or any other coupling interface such as points, cones, or balls) act as oppositional force vectors. The difference between these force vectors from above and below represents the instantaneous force acting on the spring. This net force has a single direction and quantity at each instant. The question is, can the spring resolve this force into synchronous motion? If a vibration creeps all the way through the spring and is conducted between the interfacing layers, then the spring is "ringing" instead of performing its useful mechanical function of dissipating the vibration into mechanical energy. One way to address this ringing is to coat the spring windings in damping material such as sorbethane or an elastomer dip.
As usual your arguments make sense, I will try the springs. Now, any suggestions about what springs I should order for aprox. 300 lbs divided by 4 springs, ie. aprox. 75lbs per spring?
The springs I use are McMaster-Carr P/N 96485K125. They are 1-15/16”D x 4”L and use .148” diameter wire ground flat at the ends. They compress 23.7lbs/inch, up to a total deflection of 2.88”. So a 50lb load compresses each spring about half way down and leaves .88” of unused travel before the spring binds. I use six of them to support 200 lbs. This elevates the load 2.5" and provides a soft low-frequency bounce of around 2-3 cycles per second. For damping the central windings are wrapped in cut sorbethane also from McMaster-Carr. If you take this approach, get one of the stronger grades of sorbethane, as the thin stuff tends to split and unravel.
A very effective turntable mounting platform can be made from multiple sheets of MDF. I have 3 3/4" sheets with Blutak between them at each corner fastened together with brass screws under my Aries. The platform rests on Audio Points on top of a TNT platform and works well. Noel at Skylan Stands suggested this to me.