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RMAF 2015: Three-armed VPi monster wreaks havoc in both mono and stereo

All I could think of was the Kraken.

The Kraken of yore

The Kraken of yore

I had rowed my dory down the 11th floor hall to the far end and tied up outside room 1130. When I hopped out and walked in, there it was.

The Kraken.

The longer I looked at, and photographed the new VPi Avenger Magnetic Drive turntable outfitted with twin 12.7″ Classic 4 tonearms and a JMW 12″ 3D-printed arm added for good measure (Approx. $30,000 USD with three JMW 3D arms), the more I thought of the mythical sea creature, and Liam Neeson’s  voice yelling “Release the Kraken…” in the Clash of The Titans remake.

VPi Avenger Magnetic Drive turntable

VPi Avenger Magnetic Drive Kraken (turntable)

David Skolnick of Dynamic Sounds Associates had the beast doing his bidding and I must say, the new Avenger – like the Kraken – is a monster to be reckoned with.

Kitted-out with the Miyajima Laboratories Madake ($5,995 USD) and Zero Mono ($1,995 USD) cartridges along with an Ortofon Cadenza Black ($2,729 USD) MC cartridge, Sckolnik was going back and forth between the arms almost simultaneously as he routed the signal from the carts through the Dynamic Sounds Associates (DSA) Phono II ($13,500 USD) MM/MC phono stage.

Dynamic Sounds Associates Phono II Linestage Pre I

Dynamic Sounds Associates Pre I linestage preamplifier (top, $16,500 USD) and Phono II

The demonstration was impressive as Sckolnik quickly and easily switched the Phono II’s inputs and the room was taken from stereo to mono and back again, the sonic attributes of each cart and mode instantly recognizable. From the DSA website on the Phono II:

The ultimate experience in phono pre-amplification

  • Connect up to three different tonearms/cartridge combinations
  • Simple switching from Moving Coil to Moving Magnet cartridges
  • Stepwise Gain control: 40-50-60-66 db
  • Over 120 options to optimize Moving Coil loading impedance
  • Over 20 options to optimize Moving Magnet capacitance
  • Standby, Mute and Run options
  • Stereo/Mono; Polarity; Low Pass filter options
  • Unique ability to accurately set and correct cartridge azimuth alignment

All these functions appear on the front panel of the Phono II

The rear panel continues the unprecedented versatility of the Phono II. All three inputs and outputs can be operated through single ended (RCA connectors) or balanced (XLR) operation. AC can be accessed through the supplied shielded cable or by the user’s choice. The Phono II also allows for the user to customize parameters to accommodate cartridges with unusual loading requirements.

If you’re at all familiar with VPi, you know the higher you go up the chain, the more of everything the decks and arms are capable of giving you. They do bass and slam, are very good at pitch and minimizing wow and flutter, and their tonearms (like the decks themselves) are incredibly well built and make setting up even the most finicky cartridges pretty damn straightforward. I recently watched a friend with decades in the hi-fi industry set up an Audio Note UK Io1 Gold on a VPi Classic 3 with the JMW tonearm, and I can tell you – after seeing it firsthand – the attention to detail and the level of common-sense thought in engineering that goes into those tonearms is impressive.

Vpi JMW 3D tonearm

Vpi JMW 3D tonearm

Joseph Audio was ably handling loudspeaker duties with a pair of Pearl 3 floorstanders ($31,500 USD) easily handling the large suite, producing a vivid, clear and deep sound stage with plenty of bottom end and air up top.

Backgrounds on everything I heard were very black indeed, aided in no doubt by the Bybee Stealth Power Purifier ($6,000 USD) and the generous sprinkling of Luminous Audio power cords and interconnects.

I’m a sucker for mono carts playing mono LPs, but my personal budget still hasn’t allowed for a ‘table with multiple arms or even a tonearm with the ability to mount multiple cartridges (coming soon I hope), so seeing the DSA Phono II and the VPi Avenger manhandle three world-class carts with ease was an eye-opening experience. Especially just how easy it was to do. Not that I’d recommend having three carts playing simultaneously on any LP you care about with any regularity, but for the sake of demonstrating just what the gear is capable of doing, it was a lesson not lost me.

I’m geting back into my little boat now and rowing like crazy… the Kraken is out there.

You’ve been warned.

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About Rafe Arnott (325 Articles)

Editor and Creative Director for Part-Time Audiophile & The Occasional Magazine.

2 Comments on RMAF 2015: Three-armed VPi monster wreaks havoc in both mono and stereo

  1. David’s last name is spelled Skolnick. His Beatles Mono LP demo is a must hear and should not be missed. This demo blows up the myth of some inherent advantage of stereo over mono.

    • Rafe Arnott // October 20, 2015 at 4:26 PM //

      Thanks James, I fixed the typo in David’s name. And I completely agree with you regarding pretty much any mono LP demo. Cheers!

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