Rim Drive Impressions

Rim Drive Impressions

Postby Vear » Sun Apr 18, 2021 3:22 pm

I've been curious about these rare birds for a while and I was lucky enough to find one locally from a member of this forum thanks to the classified section. I thought I'd post my impressions:

First off, I will say that the Single Motor Rim Drive is deceiving in pictures. This thing is a beast, the flywheel alone (pictured below) weighs just under 10lbs and the complete RD motor weighs over 21lbs! These appear to be much more substantial than the current rim drive flywheel being sold by VPI. Below is a bottom-view picture of the flywheel, you can see it's completely solid.


These drives are not for the impatient or non-tweakers. They require very careful positioning to get right. The RD and table must be perfectly level to each other, the O-ring on the rim itself that makes contact with the platter must be set perfectly with no twists and the amount of pressure placed against the platter (as well as where on the platter it makes contact) must be precise if you want to achieve the lowest possible W/F.
The contact area is basically less than two fingertips lightly touching each other, maybe 1/8". The RD barely touches the platter when set properly. I spent a few weeks experimenting with the set-up process and various rim o-rings. The RD motor assembly is on a custom made brass sled that rests on an acrylic base which was part of the sale. I can move the RD closer or further away from the platter by turning the knob on the back end of the sled in either direction. This makes fine tuning adjustments a breeze.

Up until now I was getting away without an a/c controller while using the standard belt drive motor. After warm-up I would check the speed with my KAB Speedstrobe and move the SAMA closer or further away accordingly if I had to fine-tune the speed.
This was no longer an option with the RD, a controller is definitely required. I really didn't want a large controller unit and was tired of checking/adjusting with the speedstrobe. I went with a Phoenix Eagle & RR because it checked a lot of boxes for me. These are great products and they work perfectly with the RD.

Wow, wow, wow...this is the one that blew me away. Never in a million years did I expect such an improvement over the belt drive. I'm still shocked when I listen. I spent a lot of time in the set-up process, but even so I was sure that I was going to hear more noise with the rim drive but the opposite was true, the noise floor dropped dramatically. This thing is virtually like spinning an unobstructed platter with your finger and letting it go... amazing.

I even did a few listening tests on closed back monitor headphones with the volume at what would be max listening levels in an attempt to detect noise. There was no way I was keeping this thing if it was noisier than the belt set-up:
  • First I disengaged the rim drive from the platter and placed the stylus on a stationary record and listened while turning the motor on/off to see if I could detect any noise. No change was detected so that massive motor housing and flywheel do a great job of dissipating all motor vibrations.
  • Now I wanted to test to see if I could detect any physical rim drive noise while it was making contact with and spinning the platter. So again with monitor headphones I listened to the dead tracks on my test record, then disengaged the rim from the platter on the fly and then shut the motor off. No change in noise was detectable with the stylus riding in the groove of the still spinning platter.
  • Next I listened to various records I'm familiar with and paid close attention to the lead-in and silent space between tracks and the Rim Drive was much quieter than the belt drive.
*These tests and all listening were done using a cartridge with a 0.17mV output so you know that the tiny magnet would've picked up the slightest vibration.

As to how the music actually sounds, it's also not what I expected. For some reason I was expecting the difference (if any) to be more slam for lack of a better word but what I heard was an incredible increased openness to the sound. I already loved the sound of the Scoutmaster with the regular belt drive, it's not warm and thick (which I don't like) but clear and almost analytical yet tape-like if that makes sense. The Rim Drive just takes everything to another level. Musical notes are crisp, clear, taut and sparkle in the open space of a black background.

I can see why the Rim Drive is reserved for VPI's TOTL Reference decks.

The only drawback is that my Gingko tabletop cover no longer fits and so far it looks like I'm going to keep the Rim Drive.



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Re: Rim Drive Impressions

Postby Broadway90 » Sun Apr 18, 2021 4:18 pm

Your rig looks beautiful!
Glad the rim drive lived up to {and exceeded} your expectations.
Grado Epoch/Gimbal Fatboy/TNT HR 5 with rim drive, aluminum platter, no suspension/VAS Citation One/Sophia Electric 91-01-300B/Omega SAM
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Re: Rim Drive Impressions

Postby Brf » Sun Apr 18, 2021 5:25 pm

Nice write up. As a long time rim drive user, I agree with everything you wrote. It’s nice when an “upgrade” exceeds expectations. Enjoy
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Re: Rim Drive Impressions

Postby Stringreen » Sun Apr 18, 2021 11:17 pm

Im using a Superscoutmaster/rim drive 2 motors. Classic platter/3d arm/2nd pivot. Looking at your table may I suggest you get 2 dimes to put under the center weight....on top of the record .....heads facing the spindle, but not touching. If you like an "open" soundstage, you should like this.
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