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Video: Mat Weisfeld of VPI launches new Prime turntable in walnut

Helping to run one of the most well known, and revered turntable companies in the world is no easy task. Just ask Mat Weisfeld, president of VPI Industries who I caught up with in Denver at RMAF to discuss the company, his turntable designs, upcoming model changes, and his inspiration for the design of the new Prime, now available with a walnut finished MDF/steel sandwich plinth. The Prime Signature – a hot-rodded version of the Prime – should see its retail debut in the new year, so look for more coverage at PTA then. Weisfeld sat down to chat with Part-time Audiophile in between setting up more than a dozen (two dozen?) VPI turntables in one day alone at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, a sign of his commitment to the family’s brand  – started by his mother Sheila, and his father Harry 35 years ago – and his work ethic.

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Prime (numbers) set-up at RMAF.

While Weisfeld was never classically trained as an electronic, audio or mechanical engineer, he knows VPI from the ground up. So when he wanted to update the current lineup of turntables in production with a more modern, muscular look, he took inspiration from previous VPI designs. His ‘best parts of the past’ approach helped produce what I consider a thoroughly modern-looking, and cutting-edge ‘table design. But most importantly – with my limited amount of time hearing it backed with Parasound amplification, and KEF transducers – the sound it produces has real low-end grunt, outstanding pitch control, and a real sense of power for the music to flow from.

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VPi Prime in Walnut. High-end sound without the price: $4,000 USD.

“The Prime really is a perfect storm of everything we’ve learned from VPI, and everything we’ve accomplished. Also, there’s the consistency of having a product that will remain unchanged for an extended period of time,” said Weisfeld, who added that the Prime’s $4,000 USD price point was achieved by streamlining manufacturing processes. “Instead of making 10 platters at a time, we’re making a thousand platters at a time.” Consistent high quality, and tight tolerances have been a VPI hallmark. Major improvements in manufacturing processes means the same high quality parts VPI is known for are available in greater numbers than ever before. I’m assuming this is a good thing for consumers who don’t want to wait to get their sweaty little hands on a new Prime. I know some companies have long wait times from the time an order is placed until said hi-fi component shows up on one’s doorstep (a five-month wait or more is not uncommon for high-end gear).

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The fresh smell of Walnut. Look for even fresher smells at CES where the Prime Signature debuts.

With this burgeoning foray into serious turntable design, Weisfeld is showing a penchant for creating high-end gear that not only has a drool-worthy visual factor in spades, he is also delivering on serious sonic goods. A feat not to be taken for granted in a company with this level of historic (and earned) pedigree. By utilizing some of the most outstanding features of 35 years of VPI engineering Weisfeld has delivered a mature ‘table with the Prime: This is not an adolescent foray. The whole ‘table just makes perfect sense, and I for one look forward to seeing, and most importantly, hearing his other new designs as they come to light in the months to come.

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KEF Blade IIs delivering the good vibrations of the VPI Prime at RMAF.

–Rafe Arnott

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6 Comments on Video: Mat Weisfeld of VPI launches new Prime turntable in walnut

  1. Interesting comments, SS. I am just wrapping up my first year with my Prime, and while I do find its look appealing, I could really care less. If looks is what you care most about, there are plenty of pretty tables to choose from. A nice, round Project in red, for example. But I’m mainly interested in how the turntable sounds, and Mat Weisfeld has hit a home run here. Had he made the edges square would have made no difference to me. What he has done is taken the idea of the Scout, which is that you can make a very cost effective plinth out of MDF and steel, leaving enough in the budget to put on a tone arm that sells for $3000, and is competitive with some that cost many times that.

    I’m glad you are enjoying vinyl, and I encourage you to listen to some higher end models to see what you are missing. The Prime is not just in a different league, its from a different world. Like your Teac, its considered a real bargain, compared to its competition, even if the competitors are prettier.

    • Hi Johnnie!

      I can honestly state that I have listened to music played through some very expensive turntables (some nice to look at and some not so nice) at both shows and shoppes and I cannot hear any difference between them. I think that if I have to strain to hear a difference, that’s not a difference but an annoyance.

      I no longer want to listen in a critical manner. I just want to listen to the music. Now, if something were so bad as to be obvious I would avoid it no matter how nice looking it was. Kinda sorta like what my Great Aunts do with me. They say they love me but we don’t interact all that much and that is our (not just their) choice. 😉

      A month to so back I received a very nice email from the gentleman that runs Pro-Ject and his kindness along with that of another Audio editor coupled with my perception of how a record player should look will result in the likely purchase of a Pro-Ject RecordMaster in the walnut finish but only as funds permit. I have a son still in college!

      Thank you for your thoughtful and welcome insight. I appreciate it very much.

      SS

  2. Is it an actual walnut wood plinth, or a vinyl “wrap” around MDF?

    • Rafe Arnott // December 24, 2016 at 3:21 PM //

      Jason, from the VPI website:
      “…vinyl wrapped MDF chassis is bonded with an 11 gauge steel plate to provide the ultimate resonance control and rejects feedback.”
      I’ve amended the text in the piece to reflect this.
      Thanks for clarification.

  3. Given the looks of their Reference players, I suppose it is safe to say that some of their heritage is founded in (turntable) heresy.

    I much prefer the look of the Classic, Scout and the Player to the appearance of both the Prime and Prime signature. Their Reference players are too much of what I consider a weird look. That others think different is why they sell them.

    Given that I recently bought my first ever totally manual turntable and that it is a rather pedestrian (to those that claim to know better!) Teac TN-300, one could make the argument that I am an Audio Philistine. Allow me to make that a certainty – I also have a Crosley. And *GASP*…I like ’em both. In its own sweet way, the Crosley is funner than the Teac. Damn straight. Fun it is!

    I think that the Prime in Walnut is kinda-sorta (a “Leave It To Beaver” homage!) pretty in the same way Ben Franklin said, “All cats are gray in the dark.” And no, that is not damning this fine ‘table with faint praise. Because if you think about it, in the dark you see (and hear) with your heart.

    SS

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