VPI Classic

A lot of turntable for the asking price, here’s an impressive package from a classic American manufacturer

The VPI is a lot of turntable for the money, it’s easily the biggest and heaviest in this group and if that weren’t enough, it has the longest tonearm in the JMW10.5i. The latter is an elaborate unipivot design, with balance weights around the pivot point that can be rotated so that the stylus sits upright in the groove. VTA variations are accommodated with a substantial stainless wheel on the arm base. This makes it very easy to finely adjust the arm height, so much so that you can do it ‘on the fl y’ as the record plays.

The 10.5 part of the name refers to arm length in inches, a factor that reduces tracking error as the cartridge follows a shallower arc, but which reduces the potential for rigidity in the arm tube. The arm wiring is terminated in a connection block, with RCA phono sockets so you will need interconnects to hook it up to your phono stage.

The Classic turntable has a substantial 50mm-thick, solid aluminium platter that sits on an inverted bearing and is driven by an AC synchronous motor that’s rigidly fixed to the plinth. The plinth itself is made of a laminated MDF block, with a steel plate on top and solid wood edging. It comes from the mass damping school of design that sits at the opposite end of the spectrum to the suspended subchassis. All there is in terms of isolation are compliant mountings between plinth and the large feet that sit in each corner.

Sound quality

All that mass certainly gives the VPI a powerful, even substantial sound. It shook the fl oor with the dub track and probably the sofa, too, and if you like your bass “deep and slow” as one panellist did, then it could be for you.

The rest of the listeners, however, found that this sense of power is undermined by a lack of dynamics that results in a less-than-gripping sound. The VPI is not without its strong points, the piano piece delivered the tension of the live atmosphere in which it was recorded to a greater degree than usual and while the timing was described as “measured”, it was also considered to be closer to CD than most, which suggests that it might be, “as stable as the master tape” as VPI puts it.

Whether making a turntable sound like CD is what the average vinyl lover wants is, of course, another matter, but speed stability is one area where turntables often struggle, so this is a good thing.

This is also a smooth and relaxed turntable, a factor most likely enhanced by the extra inch-and-a-half of armtube. It’s a quality that some value more highly than others, but undoubtedly benefi ts classical music. We had one listener indicate that leading edges were well-defi ned, but he also a felt that there was a lack of vitality to the sound.

While this is undoubtedly a very assured turntable, it lacks the pace and energy of its competitors in this group. It sounds extremely stable, which is good, but fails to expose the energy in the music as well as the best at this price.

LIKE: Assured, controlled and calm sound suggests low distortion
DISLIKE: Lacks the vitality that makes vinyl the music format of choice
WE SAY: An impressive turntable with a rather nice tonearm that lacks get up and go

• 10.5-inch unipivot tonearm
• 8kg aluminium platter
• AC synchronous motor
• Finishes: black oak or walnut
Analogue Seduction
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