My TT may be replaced - what do you think?

Let me start by saying my beloved AR ES-1 is currently the oldest piece of gear in my system; I bought it in 1985. It can hardly be mistaken for the original at this point. The only original pieces left are the plinth and power switch. It has given me great music in the years since I finished modding it, but it’s time has come. I want to have one last gasp at finding a “last” TT solution, and the AR has some limitations. I can’t swap carts (I have a number of mono recordings and my phono stage and preamp do not do mono), I don’t want to try and find an arm that will let me do that and hope it sounds good on this table, the motor hums with the VPI PLC I use for speed control (and my days of swapping caps are over - been there), and for as great as it sounds I know I won’t be able to keep this as my “final” turntable. With the resurgence in vinyl there are a number of tables in a price range I can consider, that sound fantastic every time I’ve heard them. VPIs are some of those.

I have the chance to get either a new VPI Prime or a used (but in EX condition) Classic 3 for about the same price. This Classic 3 (like the Prime) has the 3D arm, and also has the SDS (the Prime does not). It seems like a no brainer choice, but is there any reason why I should second guess and think the Prime might be a better choice?

I’m going to VPI on Friday to listen to both - or maybe not (I just found out I may not get a chance to hear the Prime), but I won’t be able to hear either one with my preferred carts (LOMC Benz Woods). I think they use Ortofons over there.

Tony22, that is a pretty tough choice! I would lean towards the Classic 3 as long as you can confirm no issues with it. Motor noise and damage to the unipivot bearing are the prime things to look for. The Prime is a great table for the money and there may be more options for upgrading, e.g., single motor/flywheel, but the Classic 3 is a damn fine table. I’ve thought about changing to a Classic, mainly because of the small footprint. My Aries Extended with single motor/flywheel needs a platform at least 28" wide, which is a stretch for most single width equipment racks. Are you getting the table direct from VPI or just going to VPI to listen? I’m assuming you know about the VPI forum, almost as active as this one and very helpful.

Well, the Classic 3 is from Harry’s Workshop - I’m going to his house to hear it!happy-132_gifIt’s one that he’s rebuilt and verified himself. Soon after I posted I discovered he may or may not have a Prime there; the option I have for the Prime ironically is one I can pick up from a local dealer. So I probably won’t be able to hear both at the same time, unless I show up and Harry does have a Prime on hand.

I honestly like the looks of the Prime more, but I’m looking at this as being more than likely the last TT I’m going to buy, so it makes things tough. Much of the feeling I’ve found for the Classic is that it may be a bit more neutral/honest/clean/lean… depending on how you want to interpret what’s written, over the Prime. The Prime sounds like it’s less “neutral” and more “something with a little character”. OTOH Harry and I think Mat both feel the Classic 3 with the 3D is better than the Prime.

On the third hand tmi_gif, the 3D arm has mixed opinions when it comes to LOMC Benz carts. I own two of these.pulling-hair_gifOne fellow felt his Wood Benz sounded great with the 3D, another felt his Benz carts (I’m not sure he had any Woods) were closed in and undynamic on the 3D. Other tables in the general price range I’ve considered run anywhere from a Clearaudio Performance to something like an RP8 to a Project to a Sota.

Tony22, sounds like an even harder decision. I looked at the VPI cartridge recommendations and they have not used a Benz, hence not recommended, yet. If possible, can you see if you take one of your Benz cartridges and have Harry mount it for you to get your reaction and his?

I asked him about this before I went over, but he said that he had a number of arms and carts ready to go… so I guess he was saying he’d rather I didn’t.

Doesn’t matter now, I guess, as I came home with the Classic 3. 1_gifFirst off Harry was a wonderful and kind host, letting me come over to hear his tables. He has 3 or 4 separate systems in his house, all set up with every VPI TT under the sun - except a Prime. Apparently he hosted a NY enthusiast group last weekend and one of the guys bought the Prime right off the shelf it was sitting on. Didn’t matter. I discovered right quick with the flipping of arms and carts on the Classic 3 that it can be made to sound pretty much like anything you want. I spent 3 hours listening, and having a great time chatting with Harry. The great thing about being a Harry’s Workshop customer is that he himself is the person you deal with. I got a good feeling about that. He said I could try any arm wand I want if I discover I don’t care for the way my Benz carts sound on the 3D arm. Can’t ask for better than that. The table played beautifully, looks great, and came with the HR-X clamp, the SDS, and the periphery ring. How could I turn down a deal like that?

I got one of my Benzes roughed in but not completely aligned. It got dark and I couldn’t complete that kind of critical eyeball work. Need bright daylight for that. Can’t wait to hear it.

Excellent choice Grasshopper! I read your post on the VPI forum before I saw this one, very nice! Harry, Mat and the rest of the VPI crew seem to have our best interests in mind just like the folks at PS Audio do. They make a good combination, highly recommended!