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.

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.

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).

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.

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