As a final thought here, maybe I could clarify my own experience & position.
I bought an Aries when they first came out, about fifteen years ago or thereabout. A low serial number like 000100 or so. In the early days I was convinced of the great sound, and it was--- once you got the platform sorted out and finetuned the specifics, there was a wide-open tone and a great big sonic picture emerging out of the really pitch-black quiet background.
As persuasive and profound as those sonic events could be, there was something not-quite-right with the music
. Endless belt, revised-vpi-motor, shelf, motor-separated-split-shelf, slate-shelf, isolation, footer, rack-then-wallshelf substitutions came nearer the mark. Vpi announced that it was an 'upgrade' to remove the compliant rubber bushings from the footer compartments, -- and, it was
. A verifiable slurring was removed from the timing aspects of the table by changing to no-compliance bolts of stainless steel. But it wasn't there in the way that this kind of Graham/Benz/highend table was supposed to be there.
During this time secondary tables came and went, direct-drive technics and luxmans, and a belted rega as well. Eventually, luckily, I got involved with legendary Garrard 3o1s and concluded that the fault wasn't entirely the Aries but the Drivebelt, generic. Everything I had done with the Aries had increased the uncanny Tnt-family ability to unearth ripe vivid sonic flourishes from the vinyl groove, but hadn't really done much to keep them in Time. Return to stock, worse Time. Different combinations of treatments, Time still lacking. The overiding devilry here was that the big and vivid aspects of the sound were so strong that each shift in treatment, each new fantastic Lp reissue or find--- tempted you to disregard Time, for as long as you were being seduced. And eventually each new seduction ended in a recognition that speed stability and timing were more important, dealbreakers, really, for adequate Lp replay.
That's what leads me to counsel an owner at the start of a Vpi Beltdrive Adventure as I did ::
Once the motor & spindle bearings are run in, and the various compliant parts either soften and/or dry out a little, even with belt-changes it's my contention that it will begin to sound like any beltdrive, and you'll be wondering about that add-on of a thousand-dollar Sds. And wondering whether comparison to direct-drive was premature. Because the tightly constructed recipe of little-motors driving rubber-bands driving heavy-steel on big bearings--- gets slacker and slacker with time.
And by that I mean years. The sound of the table right out of the shop will still be tight and seductive; it takes Time to acclimate to the sound, Time to let the machine run in and settle, Time to begin to hear whether speed stability will hold out or wobble away as it tends to do.