I’ve been enjoying a VPI Scoutmaster turntable for over eight years. It is solid, it sounds wonderful, and it mates well with my Lyra Argo cartridge. I really owe Michael Fremer a big “Thank You” as he really originally recommended it (Stereophile, Vol.32 No.2, February 2009). It sounds great and I really don’t have a good reason to upgrade. Ha! Who am I kidding … I could use an SDS speed controller, or maybe the metal platter. That would be nice. Then again, I could put on the new 3D tonearm ….
The point is, the Scoutmaster sounded so good, I really got into enjoying vinyl! But as good as it is, I want to take the sound to a whole new level. And for me, that is where the new VPI Prime comes in. It is a relative bargain among fancy tables: beautiful 10.5″ 3D-printed arm, solid belt-drive motor and platter, new isolating feet design, and a high quality bearing. It looks more modern than the Scoutmaster, almost futuristic.
But how do I judge a turntable I don’t own?
I snuck out of my assigned Atrium territory on Saturday to visit my friend Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio, one of my favorite speaker designers. He always has a great sounding room at RMAF. What would Jeff conjure up this weekend?
As it turned out, the analog source in Jeff’s system was the VPI Prime. Hallelujah!
Jeff paired the Prime with the hot DSA phono stage and over-performing Bel Canto electronics driving his Perspective speakers. Top of the line Cardas Clear cabling was used throughout. Jeff started a demo by playing digitized “needle drops” of superb LPs and it sounded wonderful. But things really got cooking when he switched to playing LPs on the Prime.
The reference qualities of this table were immediately obvious. It was highly dynamic, super quiet in playback, full of great pace, tons of resolution but musical, sound staging like crazy, with “f*** yeah” levels of slam. What a room! We heard a sublime Speakers Corner LP of Gerry Mulligan and Ben Webster. And for giggles, Jeff played an old M&K direct disc of Flamenco Forever! Cheesy and wrong on so many levels … but what percussion!
The Prime was awesome. That was clear. But I think the real star here was the Joseph Audio Perspective speaker. The finish on these things is beautiful. But what range and transparency! Jeff’s speakers always have a beautiful midrange, but the bass was tight and powerful; it was among the best I have heard. ‘Coherence’ is the word that comes to mind, all with dynamics to die for. This could be your final speaker. [Ed: This could be my final speaker.]
Thanks for another top room Mr. Joseph. And for some “Perspective” on the VPI Prime, most likely my next turntable.