Brand new VPI Prime 21 or used Clearaudio Innovation compact

Newbie to vinyl here but want to buy last or near last turntable first. Which would you experts prefer if you were in my shoes: brand new unit or used higher original priced unit?  My first cartridge would be in the 700 to 1000.00 range to test out.  Will upgrade to pricier ones in future. Look fwd to ur responses.

Will be running this through:
Audio Research PH7
Audio Research Ref 5SE
Pass Labs XA200 monoblocks

Both of these companies are very different, and both have had various issues/complaints with some of their tonearm designs. VPI seems to finally be going towards gimbal arms (Prime 21 has a gimbal), which I think is good, and seems to be getting good feedback. I kept away from VPI Scoutmaster/Classic as a beginner because I hated the wobble of their undamped (back then) unipivots. Honestly their new gimbals look really nice, and I think they will do better with a wider range of cartridges where the unipivot can struggle (e.g. Koetsu stone bodies).

What is the arm on the Innovation? If it’s that awful magnetic-bearing Clarify, then pass. You must have a concrete slab floor for that arm to work OK. The semi-magnetic Magnify is a lot better, but you’ll still need to be aware of isolation. The linear tracking TT-5 can be (so I hear) be a bear to setup. The Satisfy is perhaps too lowly for a table of this level. You would be better off with a Tracer or Universal. But a Graham Phantom (Musical Surroundings used to bundle these with Innovations) would be fantastic! The Graham is a perfect match to Innovation; the only problem was getting consistent supply & service from Graham.

Get a listen to one or both if at all possible. If you can only hear one, but you love it -- well, get it and don’t worry about the other! Several years ago I heard a Innovation Compact with Magnify and Ortofon Cadenza Red. The Cadenza is a little below this table’s level, but it all impressed me enough that I bought my own Innovation. It sounded wonderful.

One more though to consider -- another area where these companies are polar opposites is the product evolution. I can’t count how many new arms & tables VPI has released (and discontinued) in the last 10 years. It’s hard to call their process an evolution; more akin to throwing everything on the wall to see what sticks - then rinse, repeat. The Clearaudio Innovation line has been the SAME for 10 years now, with minor additions and refinements worked in over time (no Mk # versions, though).

Final thought: if you are a newbie and looking at turntables of THIS excellent level of quality, then I applaud you! You're doing it right. I think I'm a lifelong vinyl junkie because I went for a great table to start with (SOTA Star) and loved it from the 1st groove, rather than trudging though the budget-tiers first. Don't listen to anyone who tells you to try a Pro-Ject first ;) 
At that price point I'd also add the Feikert Volare to your list. Purchased with the equipped Origin Live Silver tonearm you will have funds remaining for a very nice cartridge with enough output for the PH 7. I've heard the Volare with this arm and it was impressive--well designed, built and handsome. 
Will agree uni pivot designs are odd. I have a vpi classic 3. It’s awesome. If you like tinkering, a high end tt is great. The on the fly vta is genius. You have a nice system. Have fun on your analog journey. 
This is a timely thread as I just decided to leave my LP-12 after a long love affair and move over to a Clearaudio Innovation Wood/Universal 9 Arm/Kiseki Purple Heart, although the cartridge I heard the table with was the Stradavari.  I've auditioned a lot of rigs and this is the first time I played my system and did not like it anymore!

 I have a similar system, ARC Ref 5se, Ref Phono 2se and Ref 110 amp. My table is a ClearAudio Innovation compact wood with Universal Arm and Benz Zebra Wood cart. I love the Innovation compact. It is not fiddly like some tables and the Universal is a great arm. The platter floats on a magnetic bearing that helps isolate it from vibration.

I bought my table used as a newbie and have never felt the urge to upgrade. Though I have thought about adding a second arm. I did have a Fosgate Signature phono preamp when I started and later upgraded to the Ref Phono 2se. The Ref 5se and Ref Phono 2se is a killer combo.

The Innovation is a total eye catcher and real conversation starter at my home, for sure. Some girls I’ve had over really dig it and genuinely want to know more unprompted (it's good to avoid being the comic-book guy and bludgeoning them with unsolicited hobby minutiae). Then you can tell them about the "bullet proof" panzerholz wood, the magnetic bearing, etc. There’s a lot more to glaze their eyes over with than "uh, I guess the plinth is MDF wrapped in vinyl" ;)
I have had both VPI and Clearaudio tables. Presently have a VPI Classic Signature with 10" 3D arm. Absolutely NO problem with unipivot arm, especially if you add a dual pivot assembly. Great turntable and has many upgrades for arm, speed control, multiple belt drive, etc.
Thank you all for your comments. Mulveling, girls dig the Innovation??? Say no more! I went with the Innovation with Magnify tonearm. I am contemplating the Soundsmith zephyr mk3 and will visit a local dealer on Friday.  Im keeping my options open though so any comments appreciated. I have a wide variety of taste in music range from classical piano, violin, Norah Jones, Pink Floyd, Gypsy kings to country music. 

Lostbear: ill probably upgrade to ARC Ref Ph 3 down the road. We will see how much deeper i fall into this!

 The Innovation originally had a round belt, but I believe a few years ago ClearAudio changed to a flat belt. My Innovation Compact has the round belt. I asked my dealer if it was worth changing to the flat belt but he really didn't have an opinion. Do you have the flat belt and if so, do you think it is worth the effort. As I understand it, you have to replace the pulley as well as the belt.
Congrats!! I hope you love it :)

I had the round belt on my Innovation Wood, and flat on my Innovation Master. So I didn’t get to do a direct comparison. The flat belt looks better (especially on a black delrin platter) and seems to grip better so the pulley system seems less "chatty" especially on startup. But I doubt that little bit noise could’ve made its way back through the stylus.

Yes, they pulley has to be replaced as well, and I forget the exact number but as I recall Clearaudio charges quite a hefty amount for the small piece of plastic! It’s enough that you should consider an S-Booster linear power supply, or maybe and isolation feet/platform (e.g. Syposium Segue), to have a better chance at making a meaningful difference for the same money. These tables need both good isolation and a solid rack under them for bet performance.

SIDE RANT: Audiogon’s- at-mentions have literally NEVER worked for me, grrr!!!

  mulveling, Thanks! Both of these look interesting. If I had one complaint about the clearAudio tables it would be the power supply. At this price point I have always felt they should have a higher quality power supply. I quickly browsed the S-Booster website.Do you know the model that would fit the Innovation Compact?

 I have my table sitting on top of a VPI turntable stand filled with sand and sitting on spikes. On top of that is a huge 3 inch thick maple cutting board sitting on  stainless steel cones. The maple cutting board overhangs the stand about a half inch on each side. The stand is very solid, especially with the weight of the sand and cutting board. My dealer has recommended that I use Stillpoints under the table points but I have not tried them yet. 
Upscale Audio sells a special 24V version with the correct plug for Clearaudio tables (including Innovation series), though unfortunately at a healthy +$100 upcharge. That's where I got mine. I think I lost my original wall-wart already; that thing was a joke on such an expensive table. 
I have VPI Prime 21, their tonearm design is a joke,  it won’t allow to take heavier cartridge such as Benz LPS, there is no suitable counterweight or VPI does not recommend to change heavier counterweight, it is simple a joke in design and engineering 
Hey all Mat from VPI here!

@ikev20 it will take heavier, we are in the process of making them.  But it sounds like you had some miscommunication with someone on my team or potentially with the seller.  Just means I need to hop on them with some more training :) Totally get your frustration/post if thinking that you can't actually get another weight. 

That being said, for the OP, of course I'm bias and would want you to purchase the VPI :p ... but my post is more about the caution of buying used.  Whatever the brand (and I say this about used VPI tables as well) make sure the pictures and functionality of the the used table are on par with your expectation.

We have had moments where someone tried to save by getting used and they end up spending more in getting replacement parts.  This just came up because this morning my team talked to a customer who got a used Scoutmaster and besides missing the belt, being out of alignment, and oh yeah... THE WHOLE FREAKEN MOTOR!  Of course that is on the buyer for missing that kind of important detail, but still who is expecting to deal with that nonsense when getting their table to start spinning.

Anyway, to the OP which ever table you go with make sure it is the one you want, and will be happy with and can be supported and ideally work out of the box.  Good luck in your decisions process and happy listening!

Hi Mat,
thanks for clarifying and getting back to me, I am very unsatisfied with the support I have received so far without any suggestions or direction.

I purchased a brand new VPI Prime 21 Turntable around 3 months ago and contacted VPI customer support with legit question and basic need in Turntable setup

My original question as below:

”Dear VPI,I have VPI Prime 21 and Benz Micro LP-S cartridge which is 16.4g
I contacted VPI distributor in Autralia to buy new counter weight and got 200g as per advice, but they are too heavy. Can u advise suitable counter weight for benz lp-2 which is 16.4g?Thanks,Kevin”

below is response,
“You do not need a drop counterweight on Gimbal tonearms. We would suggest not having one as if you put too much weight on the bearings it could break the arm.”

“The counterweights are sold as add ons to Unipivot arms. They aren’t suggested for Gimbal arms because they can put too much weight on the bearings, causing them to break.

So I am really lost and assumed VPI Prime 21 has limited design without any warning on cartridge weight support anywhere, I am sure Benz Micro LPS is quite common and popular cartridge
@ikev20, VPI has its own forum.  VPI staff use to answer posts but rarely visit their own forum anymore, however, there are quite a few very knowledgeable members who can help.  A few members know more about VPI tables than the VPI staff who are constantly turning over. 

Put your current weight in the middle of the adjusting range, then add washers until its balanced, then add the weight of the washers and the current counter weight's weight together and you have the weight needed for your cart. you'll have some flexibility in variances because you measured in the middle of the travel range so getting one close should be close enough. 

My thinking is a turntable manufacturer cannot know about every cart on the market. so do the leg work your self and get what you need. 

I just ordered a Prime 21 as well and have a very light cart (Early VDH) I'm hoping will work if not I'll be buying one that matches the compliance of the arm.