There’s been a lot of buzz about the VPI Nomad since it was announced last year, and it made a big splash at Axpona and Munich, so I was pretty psyched to give it a shot at Newport.
If you aren’t familiar with the product, it’s a very handy solution for the beginning vinyl aficionado. For $995, you get a turntable with a built-in phono preamp and headphone amp, a gimbaled-bearing tonearm, and an Ortofon Red cartridge. Everything comes from the factory already set up.
The reason I found this product so exciting is that the most common question I get from my friends about audio is some variation on “What do I need to get into vinyl?” When I start talking phono preamps, set-up, cartridges, etc., people get a bit wide-eyed and say, “Why can’t I just buy one thing that works?” Most folks in my peer group still remember when you could go to Radio Shack and buy an all-in-one tape deck and record player that came with its own speakers, and since that’s what most of our parents had, it seems ridiculous to a lot of folks that it isn’t that simple. The Nomad has the potential to make things that simple again, but with a much better turntable than your average Realistic special. With a set of headphones or powered speakers, this is completely plug-and-play. Add an amp, and the world is your oyster.
It took a surprising amount of searching to locate a Nomad at Newport, but I finally hunted one down in the Brooks Berdan Auralic/Spendor room.
There was a bit of further hunting once I spotted it, because no one could seem to figure out where the adaptor for the headphones (Audeze LCD3) had run off to, but finally — success! I was able to plug myself in and see what the fuss is about. I would have preferred to try it out with different headphones, to be honest, something that my little brother might not find laughably expensive, but hey, beggars, choosers, yadda yadda.
The tonearm felt very stable and smooth, with no tendency toward bobbing around in my hand, which is great for nervous newcomers. The speed seemed equally stable, and the sound on the Ella Fitzgerald record was quite, quite pleasant. I would love the opportunity to spend more time with this ‘table, but at first blush I think it’s safe to say that a vinyl neophyte who’s got the budget to go beyond Crosley is going to be very satisfied with this piece of machinery.