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Vienna

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Oct 14, 2018
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#1
Having spent a year with my Avenger Reference it took me about 10 months to address the issues that are inherent and they are coming with this turntable. I thought that it would be a good idea to start a thread which can help other Avenger Reference Owners to deal with these issues as VPI’s current management is not in a position to assist or solve them.

Before I will start, I have to mention that the Avenger and HRX are the some of the few turntables that the user can literally dismantle in pieces and have access to every component, a fact that had made my life a bit easier. Anyone who will address the following issues will achieve a superb sound.

The Avenger problematic parts that cannot be modified or improved are the Fatboy Tonearms ( they can only partly be corrected) and the speed controller (ADS). Especially for the later the external casing is the only valuable part as Bill Carlin once correctly noticed.

The Fatboy wands are made with a plastic material by using 3D printers. The main problems identified with them are:

  1. The wand is inserted into the stainless steel tube socket of the unipivot or gimbal device, by leaving some gaps around. The azimuth is being adjusted by releasing two side screws, which are retaining the wand into this socket. Every time that the user will try to adjust the azimuth:
A. The P2S will change, as by turning the wand by hand the tube is free to move in and out too. Even by pushing the wand against the socket to avoid horizontal movement the rough finishing of the wand’s end will alter the P2S distance thus the whole geometry.

B. The plastic wand material is negatively affected by the cartridge and azimuth screws which are creating deep permanent dents and scoring even with the slightest torque, which make impossible any consequent precise cartridge or azimuth adjustment.

C. The wand is never aligned with the vertical and horizontal plane with the unipivot or gimbal devices and it is impossible to be corrected.

D. With fatboys it’s impossible to see repeatable settings results because of A,B and C above.

E. The VTA’s towers of both the unipivot and gimbal are so loosely made with such free play that they are subject to excessive vibration and resonance. This can be minimized if the user will fit a screw at the bottom of the Tonearm pivot and stabilize it.

F. the bearings of the gimbal are very sensitive and the effort/torque which is needed to overcome the wands initial stiction, in order to adjust the azimuth is such that the bearings will suffer. The initial stiction is then gone and the wand is becomes loosely fitted in the socket aggravating all the above.

G. Because of the 3D printing process the user will find that the cartridge’s top doesn’t make a precise contact with the Tonearm’s head-shell thus some gaps are in place. the user must be very careful on tightening the cartridge screws as these gaps are affecting the azimuth.

The speed controller (ADS) is coming with the following inherent issues:

A. The internal transformer is very noisy and can be heard buzzing. I have checked four new units and all of them have the same problem.

B. The ADS is only able to provide a stable speed at the beginning of each listening session. As it gets warmer the speed become very unstable.

C. The adjusting knobs provide absolutely zero precision during adjustments


In my case the ADS and speed issues were dealt with the installation of Phoenix Engineering Eagle and Roadrunner. At the same time both VPI Tonearms were sold and a Kuzma 4P was installed.

I can’t stress enough the sound improvement that these two changes have introduced to the system.

The rest of the issues that are coming with the Avenger, but can be successfully corrected by every user, are the following and will be described with many details in later posts. To be noted that besides the great sound improvement each of them will provide, they can be verified in actual measurements (speed, wow, vibration and noise measurements) terms:

  1. The platters’ shaft is not precisely vertically fit into the bearing oil bath (at least with my unit) thus it was seen, during the first installation, that the platter’s top was not parallel with the plinth. Fortunately the oil bearing bath and the shaft can be removed and precise adjustment can be made with the need to refabricate the bushing. This is causing among others increased noise and vibrations.
  2. The rim drive mass is inadequate thus the slightest touch with the magnetic drive is causing a slight rim drive opposite tilt thus the rotation is not any more smooth and balanced.
  3. The main bearing and thrust present a premature wear with couple of months. I had SKF to investigate the issue and among others have reported “ ... Linear damage appears circumferentially on the bearing surface....damage due to accumulated small seizures caused by rotation under improper lubrication or severe operating conditions...”
  4. The rim drive’s belts and the touching (to the platter) o ring are not calibrated (the surface has ridges and hollows thus the recommended light touch is causing speed variations
  5. The rim drive’s adjustable flywheel system Is completely loose and it’s inverted bearing assembly is vibrating and is producing not only deflections but also increased noise into the system. The problem is getting worst at the time that somebody will use the fitted adjustment screw to adjust the rim drive. The extruding bronze arm vibrates and is audible.
  6. although the Avenger has an oil bearing bath, VPI is not providing oil but some grease (for logistics reasons). The grease is displaced by the shaft rotation thus the bearing runs dry on the peek thrust.

After many efforts all the above were successfully addressed and had managed to achieve an unbelievable sound.
In later posts I will give many details of every modification. Each of them will provide the Avenger Reference users with enormous sound improvement.

During this long process I have tested many materials (CVD diamond, titanium, sapphire, Si3N4 ceramics, nitronic etc) and my observations will be given too.

Although VPI had consistently failed to assist (unfortunately their AfterSales support -at least for non US consumers ; and quality control is non-existent. Mat is accusing Fedex and Facebook for them... really I have written messages.; and Harry has advised that he is now retired) with the discovered issues, which were within their warranty obligations, I have enjoyed this trip and made me to love more this turntable. I truly believe that if these issues will be addressed this turntable is delivering an exquisite dynamic three dimensional sound, with detail, presence, body and weight.

Somebody may ask the reason I went through all this inconvenience and expenses, I saw it as a way to relax and escape through my busy days.

although I am waiting for my new turntable (Brinkmann Balance to be delivered) I have decided to keep the Avenger too.
 
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Vienna

VIP/Donor
Oct 14, 2018
404
284
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#2
After only six months of use of my Avenger Reference from new (an average of 1.5 hours listening per day), I was noticing:
  1. Gradually I had to increase and re-adjust the speed , as if the motors were gradually slowing down with the time
  2. I had noticed increased measured vibrations through AM software
  3. I had noticed that the wow measurements were remaining low (0.06 at 33.33 and 0.03 at 45 rpm) only during the first hour of operation and later would reach high levels (0.40)
  4. I had noticed that in order to have 33.33 rpm after an hour of listening the speed should be set at 30 rpm at the beginning of the listening. The speed would increase gradually itself to reach the 33.33 rpm within an hour.
At the meantime I was reading the Si3N4 and sapphire thrust thread at VPI forums, with great interest looking to understand what kind of improvements such a modification would introduce, besides the obvious longevity of the bearing and thrust pad.

sometime later, while listening one of my favorite albums, I noticed that I had lost something from the experience I used to have. I had the speed and VTF checked but these were not the problem

I had both platters removed and had discovered the bearing heavily scored and the Peek with a deep dimple at the contact point with the bearing. I had also seen that instead of oil there was only grease in the oil bath, which was in fact displaced by the bearing’s rotation away from the contact point.

Due to the nature of my business, I am working closely with the Greek branch of one of the major bearings manufacturers in the world. I got in contact with the manager who asked me to take the bearing at their premises for a close inspection. They also asked me to take them the whole turntable in order to carry out grease analysis for identifying metal or other particles. Unfortunately I had the grease completely removed and replaced it with Mobil synthetic oil.

Their report among other had a magnified photo of the damage as well the verdict which among others stated “ ... Linear damage appears circumferentially on the bearing surface....damage due to accumulated small seizures caused by rotation under improper lubrication or severe operating conditions...”

Obviously the lack of oil and the use of grease (of inadequate quantity) had caused this premature bearing wear. During the platter’s rotation the bearing gradually displaced the grease until little or no lubrication film had remained thus the premature wear. Reporting this to VPI, Harry seemed surprised from the oil absence while Mat responded that he would investigate the issue. Later I found out that all the oil bath VPI turntables are being shipped with grease instead of oil.

I had contacted VPI to get a new Peek thrust but it took Mat two months to send a new and when it was sent it was a wrong part. since I would get involved with the thrust’s and bearing’s replacement anyway, I had decided to test the Si3N4 with the sapphire window; and as I wanted to take the modification a bit further, I had ordered CVD diamond windows too.

I read the Si3N4 VPI thread over and over again in every detail in order to avoid misunderstandings or any detail.

The parts I have ordered were:

- Si3N4, Grade 3 , bearing balls 3/8” (this is the correct size for the Avenger)

- Sapphire windows of various sizes of 1mm of thickness ultra precise <10 arc seconds (I later saw that 15.0 mm of diameter or smaller are better)

- Optical grade CVD Diamond windows of various sizes of 0.8mm of thickness, this is very expensive material, just a piece of 15mm of 0.4mm thickness it comes at 950 euro. (Were purchased from http://www.diamond-materials.com/.

The first parts which were delivered, were the sapphire windows (3 pieces of different diameters: 15.8 mm, 15.00 mm, 12.8 mm, 12.5mm and 12.00 mm) as well as 6 meters of Peek bar.

The procedure:

I had the platters removed and dried the oil at the oil bath.

To remove the thrust plug was an easy task. I installed some blocks under the three feet to get clearance under the turntable , without removing the outrigger arm boards.

The plug was very tightly screwed but removed without dramas.

At this point, one should be careful as the threads of the plug are very fine and can be easily ruined. I also saw that they were full of metal debris (probably from the manufacturing plant) thus a good clean was deemed necessary.

The factory Peek is 10mm in height, 15.8 mm of diameter at the bottom and 15.6 at the top.

I noticed that the factory peek thrust was free to rotate in the plug and I didn’t like the idea. I had taken the thrust at a friend’s workshop who besides that lathe has a CNC too.

We had put the factory peek on the lathe to check the parallelism of the top and bottom peek’s sides by using micro dial indicator. We saw that the bottom and top were far from parallel a fact impose imbalance on the bearing rotation.

As I wanted a press fit at the plug and consequently a very stable thrust, we made the peek thrust drawing in autocad with slightly increased diameter at the bottom, i.e. at 16.0 mm. The total height was decreased to 9.00 mm to compensate for the sapphire and diamond thickness one version and the other version with total height of 10mm (in case that I wouldn’t like the modification) was made.

The CNC got busy and shortly about 80 new peek thrust pads were fabricated.

The new peek needs high pressure to be inserted into the stainless steel screw plug and the fit was so tight that it was felt as a rock solid unit, which is impossible to rotate or remove without drilling it.

Back at home to remove the SS bearing was an easy task. Having seen the difficulty of some to remove it, I decided to avoid heat and use dremel. I cut the sides of the old bearing to create two flat surfaces and by using plier the bearing removed in a second.

The new Si3N4 (3/8”) and sapphire glass of (diameter) 15.8 mm were glued and the shaft and Peek thrust (of 9mm of height) respectively.

On mounting first the peek plug I saw that the 15.8 mm of sapphire was too large for my Avenger thus the plug could not be totally screwed into the threaded oil bath fitting.

I had to break the sapphire and drill the Peek in order to press-fit a new one and a smaller sapphire glass of 15.00 mm. This made the trick and the peek plug was smoothly installed.

I filled up the oil bath with 1 ml of Mobil One oil (5w30) and the turntable was put in operation.

From measurements side, the wow, vibration and speed stability stability were improved in a very high degree.

Listening to the system I saw that the acoustic signature of the turntable was not changed at all. However I could feel that the music has now more drive, i am experiencing more resolution and tighter sound in all frequencies. The micro dynamics and articulation are more pronounced. Every single Instrument In Big bands’ music is better defined. Even the strings’ plucking are felt with definition and detail.

The differences are not subtle at all and I dare to say that it’s a new experience. It’s that effective as much as getting a new Tonearm.

Having compared a new Peek thrust and the Sapphire glass, back to back, I definitely choose the sapphire and is a modification I am certainly suggesting.

With the softer peek thrust, the music lost the clarity, definition and resolution. the soundstage is bit loose and presented a bit back. Around the human voices and instruments there is a sort of blurred images that you can realize unless you hear the harder thrust.

I have tried the CVD diamond windows to test against the sapphire thrust too. CVD diamonds are laboratory grown diamonds produced by a controlled process, as contrasted with natural diamond created by geological processes or imitation diamond made of non-diamond material that appears similar to diamond. CVD diamonds as well as HPHT diamonds have properties such as hardness, thermal conductivity and electron mobility that are superior to those of most naturally formed diamonds.

However the CVD diamond thrust experiment was failed as this material is very hard but too brittle and had collapsed under the platters weight.

I had also ordered a piece Tungsten Carbide thrust plate of 2mm machined on top of stainless steel bottom and a piece of the same with bronze bottom at the same dimensions and shape with the original peek thrust.

This material gave a machine like sound which I didn’t like at all. It seems, for me, that the combination of a hard material (like sapphire) placed on top of a softer (like Peek) provides some kind of dampening.

to be continued....
 

Gregadd

WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
7,154
240
280
Metro DC
#3
I am not so aure Mobill One is the ultimate lubricant for your tt bearing. Its' claim to fame is npt breaking dpwn under heat.. I don't know what the best is. I'll look around.
Teflon based?
 
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Vienna

VIP/Donor
Oct 14, 2018
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#4
I am not so aurr Mobill one is the ultimate lubricant for yout tt bearing. Its' claim to fame is npt breaking dpwn under heat.. I don't know what the best is. I'll look around.
Teflon based?
I would be really grateful for your input on this
thank you
 

ashandger

Well-Known Member
Jun 15, 2013
190
20
248
#5
Vienna, many thanks for sharing your experiences with VPI. I have removed them from my shortlist for a new turntable as I am also outside US! Please do share your experiences with your new Brinkmann Balance whenever you receive it. Thanks
 

Gregadd

WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
7,154
240
280
Metro DC
#6
If you have one the first rule is,"THOU SHALT NOT VIOLATE THY WARRANTY!"
Contact VPI for your options.
Personally I used the oil VPI supplied. (Back when I owned vpi).

Grease v oil. Intuitively it would seem oil has l ower viscosityy than grease. Therefore t offers less resistance. OTOH grease lasts longer and gives greater protecction.
I checked the internet and there are some reasonably priced teflon oils available. I have not tried them.
BTW- do not google generic lubricants. You might get some disturbing results. Lol.
 
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Vienna

VIP/Donor
Oct 14, 2018
404
284
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#7
Contacting VPI and get a solution is a difficult task.
also grease in an oil bath bearing system has detrimental effects on the bearing and thrust. There is a long thread at the VPI forum for this and till today only DIY solutions are being used for this.

just to get an idea for the today VPI condition, have a look at the new HW40 Direct Drive anniversary turntable manual. It’s written that in order to avoid the belts noise at the beginning of the platter spin, the user may use some baby powder on the platter belts ....of the direct drive!!!!!
 
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ack

VIP/Donor & WBF Founding Member
May 6, 2010
6,148
666
610
Boston, MA
#8
Thanks for writing all this. Incidentally I had criticized the plastic arms here years ago - before the fatboy - and was corrected that I had never heard these arms. True... and why would I want to
 

Gregadd

WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
7,154
240
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Metro DC
#9
As far as grease v oil I have no experience with grease.
It has been some time since I contacted VPI with a problem. When I did they answered promptly. They walled me through a cure for the problem. Icourse things do change.
 

Gregadd

WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
7,154
240
280
Metro DC
#10
As far as grease v oil I have no experience with grease.
It has been some time since I contacted VPI with a problem. When I did they answered promptly. They walled me through a cure for the problem. Icourse things do change.
 
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Vienna

VIP/Donor
Oct 14, 2018
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#11
As far as grease v oil I have no experience with grease.
It has been some time since I contacted VPI with a problem. When I did they answered promptly. They walled me through a cure for the problem. Icourse things do change.
If i wasnt respecting the level of this forum, I would publish print screens with Mat’s excuses and his empty promises, for VPI’s poor practices in order to maximize the profit margin and current poor AfterSales support.
i think that you are referring to Harry’s times. things have changed since then
 

Gregadd

WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
7,154
240
280
Metro DC
#12
I would not own rim drive or sapphire bearing.
 
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Vienna

VIP/Donor
Oct 14, 2018
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#13
Continuing with my Avenger findings :

From the beginning with my new, at that time, Avenger Reference, it was obvious that I couldn’t achieve the low wow/flutter specified values by VPI as well as the smooth operation of the RIM drive. I had spent literally endless hours trying to adjust the correct distance, the kiss of rim drive to the platter etc..

by addressing this issue to the existing VPI older users, we found out that the new generation Rim drive and, alike all the VPI latest products, is of inferior design and quality comparing to the HRX previous generation RIM drive (perhaps for reducing the production costs). the discovered issues are:

1. The new Rim drive and fly wheel Is of much lower mass a fact that dramatically affects its performance and stability. The previous model was built like a tank and was very heavy. the solution here was the addition four kilos of mass to accomplish a stable Rim Drive Unit.

2. The new model’s distance adjuster of The fly wheel, is of a very poor design and you will find that it vibrates a lot. I had to secure it permanently to the ‘zero’ position to become stable too.

3. I had to replace the o’rings with EPDM. it was very difficult to find EPDM calibrated belts and had to have Trelleborg of Germany to fabricate for me new calibrated belts at very tight tolerances. Of course the minimum quantity was about 600 belts.

4. I had to replace the flywheel’s bearing and peek with sapphire and Si3N4 grade 3 bearing.

5. I had to re-allign the pulleys to eliminate the motors noise.

6. I have used Mclube One Drop bearing conditioner around The shafts and bushings. This made wonders and eliminated the noise during operation.

7. I had to deal with the inherent speed stability problems of ADS. On this aspect I was very lucky to get Phoenix Engineering Eagle and Roadrunner. I had seen almost all the available turntable speed controllers but they are coming with many negatives. The ADS besides the speed stability issue is emitting noise through its vibrating transformer (probably again for reducing the production costs SDS was replaced by this ADS junk)

All the above had contributed to have now a very stable RIM drive. In my opinion a correctly designed and functioning rim drive is way better than any belt driven turntable in terms of sound stage size, dynamics, detailing, bass etc.

photos/videos:

The inverted adjusting bearing part of the rim drive found with very gross tolerances and was vibrating producing noise as well.this can be verified by fingers too. The solution is to secure permanently the moveable inverted bearing part at the inner position and then adjust the distance with the platters by moving the whole unit. This is only applicable to the latest generation. The former HRX generation is Not suffering from these issues.

1.jpeg

I have made a video showing the vibrating inverted rim drive :


These are the typical deep markings that are made on the VPI plastic Tonearms. The screws were tightened by applying torque of 0.60 inch lbs
it’s obvious that if I would have to replace the cartridge with another, the washers would be very difficult to be adjusted with this heavy scoring

2.jpeg



This is the gap between the headshell and the cartridge top i had found at my VPI Tonearms. I had discovered it accidentally as it was impossible to maintain the azimuth settings after screws tightening

3.jpeg


And this is the gap between the wand and securing socket:

7.png

This is a Magnified photo of the bearing scoring after only six months of use.


4.jpeg


these are the Si3N4 Grade 3 bearings I have purchased in order to replace the original worn bearing


5.jpeg


to be continued....
 

vpi

New Member
Feb 13, 2020
1
0
1
#14
I don't want to get into an argument, and it is the OP's choice to make his decision on turntables and mods. However, both myself and the founder were accessible via email and messanger and I would speak in DM on facebook with the OP at all hours of the day and night. We were unaware of the mods so we could not make the correct diagnosis. We try to be accessible and work with all customers. But again not looking to get into an argument. The Avenger is a sandbox product made for mods and a product that has a 4 year positive track record on the international scene.

I will leave it at that and I hope the OP enjoys the modifications and his musical experience with both the Brinkman and the Avenger.
 

Vienna

VIP/Donor
Oct 14, 2018
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#15
as Someone can see at the above photos, videos and of the material which is yet to come, these modifications had to be made to correct the discovered issues of a 25,000 euro turntable. I can happily publish here the unanswered messages to VPI as well as the reminders I had to send to the VPI admins, not to mention the founder’s message that he is now retired, on my messages to find out what was going on with VPI.
I can also publish here the excuses from VPI (MW) for failing to respond to my messages and complaints.

to be continued ....
 

Vienna

VIP/Donor
Oct 14, 2018
404
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#17
believe me Brian, I am not the kind of man that would take my issues in public. After all, in the past as you may recall, I had argued strongly with you on my effort to defend VPI, But Mat had crossed my red lines by insulting my mentality many times. As you saw above despite the material I have posted and will post he still speaks about sandboxes (which cost 25,000 euro) instead of finding a way to correct this mess which is directly associated with the VPI quality control and aftersales support. For example for the gap between the tonearm’s headshell and cartridge’s top (and the azimuth issues that was creating) he had written me that I shouldn’t worry at all and within some weeks the 3D material would fill this gap by its own!!! this was always VPI attitude towards my issues when they were deciding to respond to my endless messages.
 
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Lagonda

VIP/Donor
Feb 4, 2014
1,407
1,250
525
Denmark
#19
Be careful. The mods banned me before for posting about quality issues with a product I owned.
Always check advertising banner before criticizing ;)
 

Vienna

VIP/Donor
Oct 14, 2018
404
284
145
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#20
I have seen in many VPI turntables, that a leveled platter doesn’t ensure a leveled plinth.
I have experienced this with my Prime Signature and currently with my Avenger reference. Having examined the issue closer I found out that the peek thust's sides were not parallel and that the oil bath well was not precisely screwed vertically under the plinth.
The Peek can be corrected by using a lathe as shown at the photos below while the oil bath assembly by adjusting the securing screws. Both together will provide a very low noise and vibration operation which will be translated into a better sound.

Measurements to verify the Peek thrust sides parallelism:

lathe2.jpg

Correcting the Peek thrust:

lat1.jpg

Peek thrust corrected:

finished.jpg

Peek thrust completed with sapphire window:

sapphire.jpg
 
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