VPI HW-19 with Graham 1.5 arm Question/Suggestions

Greetings everyone, 

I have a very handsome, black oak, late model VPI HW-19 Mark IV with a black Delrin Aries platter.  The tonearm is a Graham 1.5 Basic tonearm sporting a Benz Micro MC Gold cartridge with elliptical stylus.  The tonearm cable is Audio Art IC-3 Classic phono cable DIN to RCA.

The sound is good but rather lightweight, neutral and nimble but polite, one might say meek with tight but lean bass.  It is not strident or shrill, or analytical, or bright.  Most of the turntable and phono upgrades I read about suggest that they will make the sound have more clarity, be more precise, more accurate, tighter, and lower the noise floor.  These qualities are not necessarily what I want. 

I would like the sound signature to be warmer, fuller, richer, more colorful, or more romantic.  

I am considering many options, including new phono cable, new footers, a platter mat (presently records sit directly on the Delrin platter), a different record weight-stabilizer (presently using a VPI Delrin screw-down clamp), a new shelf, and of course a different cartridge.

I welcome any suggestions from anyone on how to warm up or enrich the sound quality.


Table setup is more than competent.

Phonostage quality is paramount to make any setup sound its best.

Max your budget and forget turntable trinkets/ doo dads.

+1@ tablejockey

What are the other components in your system? BTW, try lowering the VTA and see if that warms up the sound!

I use to have the same table, with a Graham 1.5t tonearm.  That is a nice sounding setup, and one that I would not suspect is the source of a not so warm and rich sound.  I like the idea of trying "free" fixes first, like lowering VTA or changing the cartridge loading (increasing the value of the loading resistor).  It might help to know other things about your setup--other components, how the sound current compares to your digital sources, etc. 

Try a thin platter mat. Home made from leather or cork as an experiment. Also try it without the clamps and stuff.

I like all these suggestions, especially the easy and inexpensive ones. Thanks!

My preamp is a Jeff Rowland Consonance with onboard phono module. It has dip switches inside to change the cartridge loading. I could play with those.
VTA is easily adjusted (on the fly) with the Graham 1.5. I could play with that.

My amp is a Cary CAD-280SA V12.

I was considering a ProJect Cork-It mat. It is only 1.5 mm thick. I could easily try it without the VPI clamp.


What about footers?

Presently the table has four cones underneath.

I was considering the IsoAcoustics Gaia III footers.  
Has anyone tried these under a turntable?

Do you know how they might change the sound?

Throw away that mc cartridge and get a Stanton 881S with original Stereohedron stylus.

It is very hard to predict what a set of compliant footers will do, particularly when the table itself has a suspension.  Now you have two sets of devices with their own resonant frequencies and behavior.  I doubt that footers will be a big help for the tonal characteristics you are describing.   If the table/arm are contributing to the sound you are describing (sounds like too much damping is what you might be hearing), then perhaps a different platter mat that provides less damping will help.  You can do that for free by removing the rubber ring around the spindle of the VPI which is part of the reflex clamping system; with the ring removed, a record will lie flat on the platter and you can then dispense with using the clamp.  With the record less well coupled to the platter, it will ring a little bit more (vibrations imparted into the record by the stylus playing the groove will not be as well damped) and this might change the sound in your favor.

It has been a long while since I had your arm, so I don't quite remember if the instructions talk about changing the amount of silicone damping fluid in the uni-pivot housing; you should check if that is another way to tune the sound to your liking.  

The far more costly alternative involves getting a new cartridge.  There are models that sound warmer than others by a considerable degree.  For example, most Grado cartridges are one the warmer side, with a prominent upper bass/lower midrange and slightly boomy (less tight) bass.  I find Grado's too be too murky sounding for my taste, but, taste vary.  Many of the Ortofon models below their very top models are also on the warmer side (except the "Black" models of each line that use a Shibata stylus) and are not as murky as the Grado's.  The real champions of the warmer sound are Koetsu's, but, most of their cartridges are quite expensive.  Koetsu's are rich, warm and relaxed sounding while still sounding clear and dynamic--this is a very hard mix to achieve.  

" Jeff Rowland Consonance with onboard phono module.

Likely can be outdone with an outboard unit.

Simply trying a different cart may be the solution.

Your setup doesn't need add-ons to sound acceptable.


Your bass is light because of the tonearm. You need a new one with proper two axis bearings. Great arms include the SME V, Kuzma 4 Points, Schroder CB, Tri Planar, Reed 2G and others. The more recent Grahams have magnetic stabilization but IMHO are prohibitively expensive for what you get. The above listed arms are a far better value. I am not familiar with your cartridge. If after changing arms you still are not happy I would exchange the cartridge for one with a more modern stylus profile. 


I have heard the arms you mention, and I have heard setups using these arms that did indeed sound very good.  But, I would not make the generalization that a two-axis arm is superior in regards to bass reproduction (implying that uni-pivots are inherently inferior in this regard).  As you noted, Graham makes a stabilized uni-pivot and so does Basis, and I think both are pretty good arms.  If I had to pick a pivoting arm that had the biggest bottom end (and a very warm sound), it would be the Moerch Anisotropic arm, which is a uni-pivot arm with a low vertical effective mass but a very high horizontal effective mass that is specifically designed to be good at bass reproduction.


The standard loading options on the Rowland are not optimal for this cartridge - ranging from 10-185 ohms or 47k.

The Benz has an internal impedance of 40 ohms - although 47k should be ok you might want to try 400-1000 ohms for this cartridge. I know the Benz range well.

You can do this with the Rowland - turn off all the loading switches and insert resistors in the internal loading socket internally next to the dip switches designed for this purpose - check your manual.

The Benz and Rowland I could see how one could describe them as polite - but not lacking in bottom end - I have heard both components. - for a few dollars buy some 400, 800 and 1000 ohm loading resistors then reassess.


Thanks for all these suggestions and recommendations. 

I am keeping a lengthy list, and will start with the simplest, easiest, and cheapest.


Any others?  (Keep 'em coming.)

Just two points from here:

Your physical set up seems good enough.  Others may advise about the quality of the phono pre you're using.  It could be that a change here will do the job. You can probably try some with a return privilege.

I do not agree about fooling with VTA/SRA.  VTA is not a tone control.  There is one correct setting for the max information off of a disk.  I suggest you look elsewhere for tonal balance.

@larryi , both Graham and Basis realized the error of their ways. Graham created an opposing magnet system as a secondary bearing and Basis added a second bearing to stabilize its arm. They are no longer unipivots. They are bipivots. 

I hate to be so...abrupt, but the Moerch arm is a bad joke from a tonearm design perspective. Get yourself one of the arms above and you will never look back. 


I set vta by ear, and to some extent there are tonal changes.  But, overall, I do agree that one should not make large vta changes for that purpose.  On a nine inch arm, I change the pivot height no more than 1mm or so from the arm being parallel to the record surface; this represents a fraction of a degree in vta/sra change.


I set vta by ear, and to some extent there are tonal changes.  But, overall, I do agree that one should not make large vta changes for that purpose.  On a nine inch arm, I change the pivot height no more than 1mm or so from the arm being parallel to the record surface; this represents a fraction of a degree in vta/sra change.

I lived with an HW19 MK4 for years and “lightweight” is the last word I would use to describe its inherent sound. It is a robust sounding table and one that some would call TOO warm sounding. I also used the Graham on a TNT 6 and there was no deficiency in amount of bass. So, I would look elsewhere for the reason for the thin sound that you are hearing. I do like dover’s advice re loading.

Having said all that, you don’t mention what speakers you are using. You provide an incomplete picture for anyone or give truly useful advice. If you were to state, “I bought a HW19 MK4 and I lost the great bass and warmth that my system had previously”, then, OK, something might be up with your tt setup. However, if your speakers are bass deficient then no turntable or cartridge setup will make up for the deficiency. What speakers are you using and is the turntable/arm a recent addition to your system?



Sent from my iPhonswssssse

Very similar to my early setup. I used an AT OC9/II ML with a Herron VTPH 1-mc and was very satisfied.

The performance of the table was improved by swapping out the springs for AudioQuest Sorbothane pucks. The AQ pucks I used don’t seem to be available, but there are Sorbothane pucks that ARE available through ebay.. I think the stiffer the pucks, the better.


My speakers are a pair of Martin Logan CLSI with a ML Depth subwoofer.

Nothing is new, except a move to a new house and a newly constructed listening room. I don't believe that anything has been lost;  to me, this is the sound it has always had. (I am recently retired with more time to enjoy my system, and time to try to get things "right."  That said and with the new listening room, I am focusing more on LPs.  I also recently bought a Project VC-S2 record cleaning machine.)

Yes, I have heard of changing out the springs for sorbothane pucks.  That will go on the list.


You state:

”The sound is good but rather lightweight, neutral and nimble but polite, one might say meek with tight but lean bass. ” Exactly what I heard the times that I heard the original CLS.

For whatever it may be worth, from the Stereophile mag review of the CLS:

-“The bass was a little lightweight, there being a lack of upper bass”.

-“there was then a hole before the relatively sparse low bass came in.”

-“the bass being definitely a little sluggish compared with the treble”,

-“Another aspect of the CLS sound bothered me more in the long term: a lack of dynamic range in the lower mids and upper bass”.

If you are planning on keeping the CLS (it does have a beautiful transparency), my suggestion is to look for a VPI SDS motor controller. Bass will be improved to a degree that no mat, clamp or VTA adjustment will approach, and most importantly dynamics will be greatly improved. Music will be less polite with much more sense of groove.

Good luck.

Btw, I have no personal experience with the newer ADS motor controller, but it has not received as much positive commentary as the SDS which I like very much. There are other brands that are well regarded that work with the HW. Lastly, when did you last check, clean out and replace the oil in the HW’s bearing well? You may be surprised at the improvement in the areas that you are not happy with.

I agree there will be tonal changes when you change SRA. However there is a correct VTA/SRA and the tone accompanying it should be accepted. It may or may not be the setting with arm exactly parallel to the disk, probably not. As I wrote, it should not be used as a tone control if you want the max information off a disk.  Your choice, of course.

The OP can see that recommendations and "whats wrong" are all over the place.

I've heard countless uber setups with every form of "correct" setup. Just about any decent brand/technology will sound "good."

One thing for certain is it's the sum of everything-excluding additional add on footers, mats, etc. IMO.

Trying a different cart with the existing setup makes more sense. My VPI is leagues LESS than the OP's, and there certainly isn't any shortage of performance on both ends of the spectrum.

A $500-700 Audio Technica OC9 or whatever can dramatically change the game. After that, it's what I mentioned earlier-use the best available phono stage to maximize its potential.

Source recording makes a HUGE difference in performance.

I use ML Theos, many steps below the OP's CLS. No shortage of convincing music. Subjective, of course like the rest of audiophoolery.  

@hoodjem, you have a pretty decent setup. Before you buy anything, you may want to pick up a NAB broadcast test disc and measure the voltage output from your preamp. In doing so you'll get a pretty good idea what the response is of your whole playback system. Once you have data on what the output voltages are at the test frequencies coming out of your preamp, you can determine if they are low or high then determine what needs to be done to improve them. 

Many great suggestions for improving the sound here.

Many thanks to everyone!

(So far, my list has 17 ideas or tactics on it.) 

I went from Sorbo Pucks to Herbie's Tall Tenderfeet. I used their extra firm model, a lot of weight with the inner Plinth on my HW-19.  They also make a standard model. I felt greater detail came, and better neutrality versus the Sorbo Pucks.

This though won't becessarily address a bass light issue though.  And likely an SDS won't either.  The SDS will address any speed issues, and perhaps lower noise floor of the motor a bit is all.


I'd say such is the Cartridge, and all that comes after it.   And such might take some sleeping on, and further exploration, with the theme of finding-locating your weakest links.

Thanks for all the suggestions from everyone.

I've got a lot of great recommendations and ideas about how to rectify the lightweight, meek, too polite sound of my turntable setup.


Take care and thanks again! 

Frogman nailed it. What is the crossover frequency between woofers and CLS? What amplifiers drive them? Thx.

I respectfully have to disagree (sort of) with markd51’s assessment of the benefits of using an SDS, or similar, motor controller.  While it may be true that a tt motor controller may not increase the quantity of bass it will certainly increase the quality of the bass response.  

The benefits of “addressing speed issues” in turntables go far beyond the correction of obvious pitch instability. Think of this the same way we think about harmonic distortion.  Gross harmonic distortion is obvious and is perceived as such.  In the case of speed instability (distortion) we hear the dreaded waver (gross) in the decay of notes particularly piano, for instance.  However, reduction of speed instability to levels below this point is hugely beneficial.  In my experience, the benefits are increases in the pitch definition of bass instruments which results in obvious gains in their musical impact resulting in gains in the overall drive (groove factor) of the music. Improved pitch stability at these fine levels also results in improved overall clarity and imaging.  Why wouldn’t it?  Pitch waver, as usually perceived, is obvious.  At very low levels it is not perceived as such, but as a blurring of overall definition and clarity.  In the realm of dynamics this blurring results in a reduction in the musical excitement of a performance which is one of the OP’s complaints about the sound he is hearing.

May seem self serving you say “welcome back”, Miller ……but, welcome back.