Who here has upgraded their turntable platter bearing with a ceramic ball? What were your impressions of the upgrade? Worth it, not worth it?  I have a VPI non-inverted unit. It appears there is a gentleman in New Jersey that performs the upgrade. 
At least on my high end bicycle, ceramic bearings in the hubs are the final word zero rolling resistance(at least it feels that way!)

I would think the same lesser resistance results in lower noise?
Thanks for the responses. What type of turntable did you perform the upgrade upon ebm? Was it a diy project?
wturkey, I doubt it will make a big difference. It might effect noise levels but for better or worse? Depends entirely on the quality of the bearings and the type of cup or thrust plate being used. If your turntable is quiet and running well I would leave it alone. If the ceramic bearing is inexpensive then you have not much to lose trying it. It would be interesting to test rumble levels before and after the switch.

I had the thrust plate and ball on my TNT V bearing replaced a few years ago by a fellow at the Asylum called tubesforever and trading as Applied Fidelity.  Unfortunately he passed soon after.

The thrust plate was replaced with a sapphire crystal and the ball with a ceramic one.  He also supplied a very high viscosity lubricant that made the tt take a VERY long time to settle down when reassembled.  The result, though, was fantastic.  

Don't know if this helps, but that's what I found.

BTW, in case others want to do this who is that guy in NJ?
In the 17 years I have run the Miller Carbon Teres turntable I have run stainless steel ball bearing on teflon coated brass thrust plate (original), stainless on delrin, silicon carbide on tungsten carbide, stainless on brass with delrin insert, brass on brass with delrin insert, and probably some other variations I’m forgetting. It is something to think about, when some giving advice have tried none while another has tried more than he can remember.

Bearings are actually kind of a complicated subject. It would seem the hardest smallest contact area will be the lowest friction quietest and best solution, but this is not the case. A tiny point of contact means high pressure means no lubrication even submerged in oil. Vibrations travel up and down the spindle. So the bearing material influences the sound more than just by contributing noise or silence.

Bottom line, you can only judge by listening. I would either just get the bearing and try it (paying some guy to do this, why? DIY!) or search around for listener impressions.

By that I mean only those who have heard this particular ceramic bearing on your exact table.

FYI the settling in described above is exactly as expected, the high pressure causes wear that stops once enough is worn to lubricate, and then it is settled in, wear slows to a crawl, and it sounds better. 

The design of the bearing should have input on your intended changes. Is the ball the wear point being the softer or a thrust plate meant to wear and wear at a reduced pace not an excellerated one. Something the designer thought of before the owner ignores it.
Why not just replace the ball with one of the same material but tighter tolerances....and better lubrication. Everytime you remove the ball to either replace it or reinstall the same one you introduce a new point of contact. 
So ,  just what are you so sure you are hearing....
Thanks melm. The TNT would appear to be an apples to apples comparison as I believe the bearings are quite similar. Wondering if the sapphire thrust plate is a sapphire watch face? Thanks m.c. I was hoping you would weigh in. Are you selling one of your turntables? There is one listed with the m.c. handle in the description. The gentleman in n.j. That is upgrading the bearings has an ad on that auction site. He also has a web page under vas but it does not list the bearing mods. 
That gentleman in N.J. has the same address as VPI! It must be VPI that does the bearing upgrade!
I replaced the stock ball bearing for a ceramic (Si3N4/Silicon Nitride) on my HW-19 MkIV using the stock thrust plate years ago. Made a significant difference by being more open/transparent, tighter bass. Just as important with that was the type of oil used and the amount. I ended up using 4 drops of Motul dbl ester/5w40/4T. This was after trying several types of oil/grease.
He is referring to Steve at VAS, he also does business through ebay  as VAS, he retips, rebuilds and builds cartridges as well as the bearing replacements. I have used him a few times and am very satisfied with his work. Enjoy the music
Thank you slaw for sharing the your real world experiment as well as the results. It seems a no-brainer for the cost/benefits received. 
I did a number of transactions with Steve some years ago when I was running VPI, reputable business.
Slaw, thank you for the link. Shall have to research the oil as well. Right now full synthetic 10-30 Mobil is what’s being used in this one. 
I tried Mobile, can't remember the weight and/or if it was synthetic now. The Motul, is designed for racing engines. I bought mine at a local cycle shop.
I've tried three different bearing materials in my TT. Started with stainless steel then went to "Alumina Ceramic" & finally to "Silicon-Nitride Ceramic". Although the sound quality increased going from SS to "Alumina Ceramic", it increased much more (similar to Slaw's description) going to "Silicon-Nitride Ceramic". I've added a link to the bearing I'm currently using below.

Thank you for the contribution boxer12. On what brand of turntable was this upgrade performed? 
"That gentleman in N.J. has the same address as VPI! It must be VPI that does the bearing upgrade! "
Yea, it's Steve at VAS Audio. He is in the same building as VPI, right next door.
About an hour from me, handy to have so close as he is a top notch cartridge man.

Indeed a very handy person, for a turntable manufacturer, to have located in such close proximity!
I would like to have the ball bearing replaced on my VPI. What was the problem with Steve Leunge? Can you elaborate?
20+ CONFIRMATION BIAS responses!!!

Anyone have any measurements?
  • lower rumble
  • less wow / flutter
  • better speed consistency
Anyone hear the same thing just by removing the ball and replacing in a different orientation?

Anyone do any analysis over time?

Re: the job done on my TNT, the sapphire crystal may very well have been a watch crystal. I didn’t know very much about this stuff then and I placed my trust in the guy who did it. He had some very favorable reviews and certainly knew what he was doing.

When I say that the lubricant he supplied was very thick and made the TT take a very long time to settle into the bearing, I mean a VERY long time. It was a while back, but I believe it took well over an hour.

Finally, it was clear that my thrust plate was worn. That was more easily seen even than wear on the ball. If you just replace the ball you haven’t really done the whole job. Not to mention the possibility of better materials.

For those with newer VPI inverted bearings, know that the older ones (which I think are better because the ball and plate are in an oil bath) are far more easily worked on as the bearing thrust plate can simply be unscrewed from the rest of the bearing. In fact, now that I know better what is actually done, I think it’s a pretty easy DIY job to replace ball and plate. I wonder what the NJ guy would charge.
I replaced the steel ball for a silicon carbide ball. Steel thrust plate, steel axel with brass sleeves. On a Logic DM101. Wasn’t a huge difference. But subtle for the better. Changed lubricant at the same time, can’t remember the brand, from someone in the UK who modded Rega’s. So the lube contributed perhaps as well. The ball was sold as a good grade (of evenness, I guess). I am sort of convinced that the quality of its roundness/evenness contributes the most.
Kind regards.
Interesting thought. Let us know what the results are after doing it yourself.


Did it in the 70's when Oracle updated the bearing assembly.

Oracle was replaced by Goldmund in early 80's.

Goldmund disposed of in 1987.

Now only play the silver disc. Not an endorsement, just a preference.
If your ball and thrust plate are not showing any wear, I would leave well enough alone.  If your ball or thrust plate are showing wear, I would change BOTH the ball and the thrust plate.  It is a relatively easy DIY job.

On a VPI, you'll need a pencil torch to carefully heat the ball near the ball/shaft-assembly interface (best to remove the shaft-assembly from the TT).  After about a minute, once the glue holding the ball in the shaft-assembly breaks down, the ball will simply fall out.  You may need to tap the shaft-assembly for it to fall out.  Replace with a ceramic ball type or your choice (grade 3 or 5, though grade 5 is very hard to find given its tighter specs).  They are not too expensive.

If your thrust plate can be screwed out, great.  If not (like the one in the Classic platter on my VPI Prime), you can just put the new sapphire thrust plate (actually called a sapphire watch crystal or sapphire window) on top of the old thrust plate.  Will have the adjust the arm height accordingly, of course.  The sapphire crystal/window should be a few mm less than the diameter of the old thrust plate for ease of servicing if needed.  The sapphire crystal/window are not too expensive unless you get one spec-ed to a higher lambda "flatness".  Also, some may just use synthetic grease to get the sapphire window to "stick" to the old thrust plate for easier maintenance.  I tried that on my VPI Prime, but using a very very small dab of super glue to bond the new thrust plate to the old one provided better W&F measurements on AnalogMagik and Fieckert Adjust+.  Even with super glue, you should be able to remove the sapphire thrust plate if needed in the future.  Main thing is to not get the super glue on anything when you install the thrust plate deep in the platter.

Whether you will get lower rumble will depend on how worn your old ball/thrust plate was, though it is measurable.  At the very least, the platter will take a lot longer to spin down than before (presumably due to lower friction).  I have noticed that the Phoenix Engineering Eagle/RR and SOTA Condor/RR need less voltage to maintain the VPI Prime at 33/45/78 RPM.

Whether it sounds better will depend on your ceramic bearing type and your ears.
Thanks for the input edwyun. The Roadrunner requiring less power to spin the same platter speaks volumes. 
FWIW, the consensus over in the Garrard idler world is that ceramic balls wear stainless steel spindles. I use a titanium ball with a third party bearing. 
  PJ1 and Bel Ray motorcycle fork oil in SAE 5 weight are excellent choices as they are extremely low viscosity and work well with tight clearances.  I use this in my Platine Verdier turntable and it does not require lengthy warm up times due to the ultra low viscosity.
Ceramic ball bearings are available from McMaster Carr on line for very low cost.   
In a similar mode..I replaced the standard Rega subplatter on my RP6 with the Groovetracer precision subplatter....Big improvement...On any TT, if the platter turns as friction free as possible and the tonearm is as friction free as possible in both horizontal and vertical movement, you can get the max data off the LP....Analogue playback is a VERY highly refined mechanical process....As Art Dudley would point out, vinyl playback is the only type of domestic audio that does not need electricity to "read" the data off the LP....Of course, your speakers or headphones couldn't reproduce it without electricity/amplification but the data can be picked up off the "software" without plugging it in....consider that and the importance of getting the main bearing and tonearm to work as friction free as possible and you are on the way to understanding how to help optimize vinyl playback.
I upgraded my TT ball bearings, not with ceramics, but with Mobile 1:  Amazing lack of rotating resistance. You ceramic ball users should try it.
   Have not tried the Bering mod yet . However I run ceramic bearings on my bicycle, especially enjoy the crank bearings. I run Full Synthetic Motul in my stage III Buell with NicaSill cylinders,   partial synthetic Motul in my Roadking . Many of the V-8 powered race cars that display oil sponsors run Red Line 5wt. Also exotic metal coatings and Cerakote on my semi and full auto firearms is a huge plus. There has been for years a huge following of molly coated bullets for bench rest shooting . Sorry the be off topic but there’s a huge crossover as mentioned above . But since I can’t leave stuff alone , I’m going to dismantle my TT . Woops I just slipped off my chair , bye bye. 👋 
PJ1 and Bel Ray motorcycle fork oil in SAE 5 weight are excellent choices as they are extremely low viscosity and work well with tight clearances.  PJ1 also offers SAE 2.5 weight which will provide less friction and less stress on the motor.  Some turntables use the friction as an eddy brake for speed control so test them both out to see which works best for your application.  A pint of fork oil is fairly inexpensive ($10.29 at Amazon)..