What's the limit for cart upgrade/VPI Scout?

Been looking at archived threads, and don't see this particular question, so here goes- what's the limit of how good a cartridge you can put on the VPI Scout? Currently using a Lyra Dorian, which sounds great, but I can't help wondering what would happen if say, a Titan i or other high-end cart were to be used? Anyone tried it? Silly question, I know, but is one better off investing in more in the way of a table, or in a cartridge? Sorry, had to ask. Thanks, Dan
Ag insider logo xs@2xislandmandan
Hi Dan

Dan, this is not a response to your inquiry, however, I have a VPI Scout and I am toying with the idea of upgrading to a new cartridge. I have a list of three cartridges that I am truly interested in and the Lyra Dorian, is one of those. My question to you is: what are your thoughts an this cartridge in the VPI Scout? Pros or cons I would be interested in hearing what you have to say.

I currently have a Grado 'Sonota' installed, and while it does the job, with no major quirks, I previously had a ClearAudio that I really liked a lot, so I have never been really satisfied with the Grado.

Thank you in advance for any input that you can shed on this topic.


Arnold E. Watkins
This topic has been discussed (in general) many times. As a rule, the optimal upgrade order for a vinyl playback chain is: table and phono stage first, tonearm second, cartridge a more distant third. Doing things in this order will typically give you the most bang for your buck.

You'd certainly hear an improvement (or at least a difference!) if you mounted a Titan i or other megabuck cartridge on your Scout, but you wouldn't hear all it's capable of. This probably wouldn't be the most productive use of your audio budget.

The Scout benefits mightily from improvements that address motor noise and speed stability issues. Don't take my word for it, ask Harry Weisfeld. It's why VPI offers significant upgrades for these areas. (SAMA, outboard controllers, etc.) The sonic benefits of these and similar devices is agreed on by every user who's tried them.

In short, I'd put my money toward a better performing table and a more resolving tonearm before buying a $4K+ cartridge. I'm not familiar with your phono stage, but I'd also want to be sure it's up to snuff before moving into high dollar cartridges.
Thanks, Doug for your kind reply. You told me essentially what I expected to hear. I am getting really good performance out of this set-up now, by the way, after placing a Brightstar Audio BigRock under the table, and spring suspension under that, as recommended by DGarretson in a previous thread. Very effective at de-coupling the table-platform from the rest of the world. I guess that's what prompted my question. Thanks again, Dan
Hello, Arnold. I'm not a very good person to ask much of in the way of vinyl, as I just got back into this side of the playback chain after leaving it behind 18 years ago, in the hopes that digital had all the answers. It turns out that analogue is much better now than I remember it. I think the Dorian works well in the Scout, in spite of it being lower in mass than is strictly recommended by VPI. It is fast, highly detailed, and very dynamic. It takes some time , however, to get it dialed in for VTA and azimuth. After you get it, though, you'll see that your efforts are very much worth the effort. I don't know if you read my reply to Doug Deacon's post, but I recently put my table on a Brightstar Audio BigRock platform, put spring suspension under that. It made such a difference in how good this set-up sounds that it prompted my question about how good a cartridge you could use before you run out of table. I hope this helps, I need much more advice than I can give, but good luck, and enjoy. Dan
Dan: Like Doug, I would also suggest putting your hard-earned money elsewhere than the cartridge.

At the recent High-End show in Munich, one of the very best-sounding analog systems was in the Taurus room, with Magnepan speakers, Rowland electronics, Raven One table, Schroeder Reference SQ arm, and Dorian cartridge. Of course, it was a major help that the cartridge and arm were set up by Frank Schroeder; who can extract better sound from an analog setup than practically anyone else I know.

In your case, I'd suggest first putting in more work on the turntable, tonearm and phono stage, and if someone local has a widespread reputation as being an outstanding analog setup technician, see if you can hire him to work over and refine your setup.

My experience is that in many cases, time and effort spent on setting up the analog system optimally (or hiring someone who can do a really good job) is worth fully as much as a component upgrade(s).

regards and hth, jonathan carr
I will agree with all of the above for sure. But, I will also say this...If you look one step up from the Dorian at the Argo i, you will upgrade your rig considerably without doing anything else, and for not a huge investment more. The Argo i is simlpy much better than the Dorian IMO.
Arnold: You may want to consider the Dynavector 20XM. In my discussions with the folks at VPI this is their "no brainer" for the Scout. I had a 20XH for a while and then switched to the medium output version and heard greater speed and detail. Not a huge difference but worthwhile in my estimation.
Now that your platform has improved vibration control, I suspect your biggest & most cost-effective upgrade will be to improve speed stability. Like you I'm currently without a speed controller(my despised TNT PLC Speed Controller finally gave up the ghost.) Though I could go for an SDS, I'm leaning away from it. Having become convinced of the superiority of thread drive over rubber belts on my TNT, for a bit more money than the SDS I'm inclined to abandon belt drive altogether, and replace the entire VPI engine with the forthcoming Teres rim-drive motor & controller. This could be applied to the Scout as well.
Kudo's for a most upfront response from Jcarr (not that I'm surprised).

Some might have remained silent. Others might have made some effort toward encouraging a sale of their top model. Instead he voluntarily stepped in to say, in effect, "Not yet, you'll get more from improving your rig and setup first."

Ethical post of the month nomination.
Wow, I really hit paydirt on this thread! Thanks Jonathan, and Doug, and Kehut, and dodgealum, and Dave, for your contributions to my continuing education in things vinyl. I have been thinking about getting a speed controller, but the two most recommended, the SDS and Walker, are more than I can spring for at the moment. Anyone know of a lower cost alternative to the above controllers? Thanks again, Dan
I forgot to address the tt set-up issue, I don't know of anyone in my area that's reputed to be a set-up guru. I live on Whidbey Island, about 100 miles N.W. of Seattle. If there is somebody out there in this area, I would like to hear about it. I do feel pretty confident about my set-up, having listened intently while making very small adjustments until things just popped into focus, and there was a big difference when that occurred. But, little things seem to make a big difference, so I would be willing to have it checked out. Thanks all, Dan
I'm getting a Gingko Cloud 11 today, drop me an e-mail if you're in Seattle and want to check it out. I'm curious what you think about your PS Audio GCPH. I'm using the MM phono pre-amp in my MAC-6900, I wonder if the GCPH would be my next upgrade.

Thanks, Jeff
Hi Jeff, sent email to you already, but I realized I didn't address the GCPH issue. I think they are a real bargain-I got mine here on A'gon for 600 bucks, in brand new condidition. It sounds extemely good, depending on recording, even besting my digital gear, which has been highly modified to perform at a completely different level, so in my mind, I find that impressive. I'm thinking of having it upgraded (like the rest of my gear) by David Schulte. Hope that helps, enjoy, Dan
Hey Dan, beerdraft here. You have been helpful in my problems so wanted to mention something here. Before I knew something was going to be wrong with my table I had emailed sumiko on possible upgrades for my xperience,thikning cartridge and cables was the obvious answer and nothing else. As someone reccomended above they said not to spend money on that but to get the project speed box se2 which has a high current outboard power supply. They told me not just the speed control but the better power supply than what comes with the table would make a huge quality change. Obviously not familiar with the vpi scout and if this would apply to it as well.
I believe the Project speed box is 16V, which precludes use on a 120V VPI motor. I recently installed Mark Kelly's battery powered Synchrotron AC-1 Drive Controller with a VPI 300RPM motor. It's a killer solution that may equal or surpass an SDS at about half the cost. However it's available only as a kit requiring fairly advanced DIY skills.
My experience is that the cartridge makes the most significant upgrade in sound. I had a Grado Sonata which was brown in color with fuzzy sound, had respectable width, but not much depth. When I changed to a Benz it was a revelation.
Dave, I looked up your thread about the Synchrotron AC-1 controller on Audioasylum, but I didn't see any links or info about a website or contact info for Mark Kelly. Is there somewhere we can look for more info about the AC-1?
The JMW-9, like all VPI tonearms, is limited in its' ability to track high end cartridges. Invest in a better table/arm or simply use an inexpensive Sumiko or Dynavector with the JMW-9.

Owners of Zyx Universe, Transfiguration Orpheus, Dyanvector XV-1S, etc. are not using VPI tonearms.

An excellent tonearm and average cartridge will outperform an average tonearm and excellent cartridge in every case.

Not opinion, simply a demonstrated fact.
Photon, Mark doesn't have a website yet, but you will find contact info under the AA For Sale section, or you can email a request for AC-1 theory & build documents to mark@quidditytech.com.
Haven't paid any attention to this thread, didn't know there was any recent postings. Beerdraft, did you get your tracking problems resolved? As far as speed control, it's on the back burner for the moment. As to how much cartridge the Scout/JMW9 Memorial arm can handle, I have answered that question myself. Since my last post, I aquired here on A'gon a very low-hour Dynavector XX2MKII cart. With some diligent dialing-in, I am in love with what I am hearing now. I believe I can happily live for a while without any more messing about, until I can afford a better table. Thanks to input from many of you, especially you, Dgarrettson, I have found out just how good the stock Scout really is, and that's not too shabby. I decided to find out why Harry Weisfield prefers Dynavector cartridges, and getting the XX2MKII at a good price, and I believe it is just now breaking in, it's a great combination. If I had had this set-up 18 years ago, I would have never gotten out of vinyl listening. Thanks again, all,