VPI Industries, Wilson Audio, Qobuz, and hope for humanity

With COVID-19, we are living in unprecedented times. We will (hopefully) return to (a new) normal in the coming months, but how businesses respond to today will define their legacy for years to come. Speaking personally, it gives us hope when we see companies putting their employees and others first, and also leveraging their resources to support their local community in times of need. Two industry stalwarts, VPI Industries and Wilson Audio have taken this to heart, and our hope is that their efforts inspire others to do whatever they can.

From Turntables to supporting local healthcare

VPI Cleaning Fluid to Hand Sanitizer

VPI Industries was able to keep their manufacturing facility in New Jersey open during the COVID lock-down since they were considered an “essential service”. Mat Weisfeld, President of VPI Industries, wanted to use this opportunity to do work that was “essential” to help his local community.

It started as an idle comment. Weisfeld was cruising his Facebook feed and discovered someone suggesting they use their VPI recording cleaning fluid as a replacement for hand sanitizer. Funny, but as he thought about it, he thought, “If they could make cleaning fluid, why couldn’t they make sanitizer?”

He worked with their on-site chemist to find out what was involved. They discovered they had recently received a shipment of 1000 containers (for their cleaning fluid), and it turned out that Jane Weisfeld had already stockpiled isopropyl alcohol at their facility.

After experimenting, they produced their first batch of 20 bottles. Weisfeld posted to Facebook that they were available, and in minutes a local hospital had reached out to him. Minutes later he was on the phone — they were anxious to get access to any supply of hand sanitizer that they could.

Weisfeld met a team of nurses in the parking lot of his local community hospital to deliver the goods.  I can only imagine the scene. “Hey, it’s Mat; I’m in the blue van, meet me at the back door, I’ll be standing at least 6 feet back.”

At this point things got real for Weisfeld; this was a growing need in his community, and one VPI could help meet.

VPI to date has produced 400+ bottles and is delivering them as quickly as possible to health care facilities on the front line. For free. The next phase is to scale up. Mat has been working with local suppliers (Costco, Walmart, and CVS) to help supply him with the materials he needs.

He is getting low on aloe, a key ingredient, so his team is learning to make it themselves at the VPI facility. They needed isopropyl alcohol, so he looked for community distilleries. Skunktown Distillery came to mind.  The local owners were also interested in making sanitizer but didn’t have the bottles or some of the other pieces required. But the combined forces of Skunktown + VPI opened the opportunity to scale their production.  VPI now supports the distillery with bottles they need, and Skunktown provided Mat with 8 gallons of isopropyl alcohol the he needed. This is teamwork at it’s finest.

Turntable Manuals and Belts to Face Masks

Sanitizer wasn’t enough. As he engaged with local health professionals, they made it clear they were desperate for face masks and shields.

Mat and Jane had an idea. They had 5,000 turntable manuals at their warehouse all with a thick plastic clover. Their team and their families banded together with scissors to remove the plastic covers.

Next, they realized that they had both foam and a large supply of elastic belts for their turntable platters. The combination of the three came together in what would be the first VPI Face Mask.

They sent he prototype along with some sanitizer and got rave reviews.  The VPI team has built 100 masks so far and have an order for 500 more.

All of this work is being provided at no cost.

Fatboy Arms to Ventilator Parts

Who doesn’t love a 3D printers tonearm with kick-ass resonance numbers? Remember the VPI Fatboy, that we originally revealed at The High End show a couple years ago? VPI’s partner company has been running its 3D printers non-stop to produce them. Now, VPI is instead using all these hours on those 3D printers to print necessary parts to allow other companies to quickly build ventilators.

Loudspeakers to world-class medical masks

Wilson Audio continues to be open for business. High-risk employees have been sent home, but many staff continue to build those wonderful loudspeakers that we have come to love.

From my past factory visit, it reminded me how safe their facility is. Almost everyone in manufacturing is wearing a manufacturing respirator and the employees are spread apart through the process.

But Daryl Wilson, President of Wilson Audio wanted to find ways to help the local community during a period where he was able to continue to operate.

“As we looked for ways to help bless the lives of others during these times of uncertainty and concern, I saw this tweet and knew we could assist”

Daryl was referring to this tweet from the local Provo Police.

The local Provo Police were calling on all 3D printer owners to help produce protective masks.  They provided a blueprint of the design but didn’t have access to much-needed printers.

And they were off to the races. The two industrial 3D printers have been cranking out these design non-stop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The material being used is actually high-quality carbon fiber. A material that Wilson has been experimenting with for future products.

I think we can easily say, these are probably the most premium re-usable masks created — they will be light and strong from the carbon fiber.  There is a square part that prints on the front, which allows a friction-fit of a piece of cloth or filter material to be inserted, allowing the mask to be re-usable.

As Wilson Audio is located in Provo, Utah, the masks will be used to help the local Provo Fire Department, Provo Police Department, as well as the nearby Springville Police Department. Springville is a community near the factory where many Wilson Audio employees live.

Wilson Audio recently also purchased a manufacturer and has brought in-house the ability to manufacture high-quality capacitors. This capability is also now being re-vectored to produce capacitors to support various equipment used to support this pandemic.  Daryl explained:

“Reliable Capacitors have a wide variety of customers, including the health industry and government”.

Qobuz waives commissions on downloads

Even the streaming services are trying to give back during this time of crisis. Starting on April 1st, Qobuz will provide a two week period of commission free downloads on the Qobuz store.

Dubbed “Gimme Shelter,” Qobuz USA Managing Director Dan Mackta said of the program, “With hats off to Bandcamp for leading the way with its day of commissions-free sales, during a two-week period, Qobuz will waive its percentage from all download sales as a way to support musicians and the music community.”

All of this brings a smile to face and restores my faith that we will get through this and that there are positive efforts and energy in the world around us.

I’m inspired to do more, and I hope you are too.  In the meantime, spin your favorite LP, stream your favorite track. It’s the medicine we need to come out on the other side.

1 Comment

  1. As a physician and an audiophile, let me express my admiration and gratitude for what these fine companies are doing to help keep us safe. May your generosity be repaid many times over!

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