As the platter turns…a visit to VPI Industries



On a cool Saturday just this side of Spring, several New York area audio clubs were treated to a tour of the expanded VPI Industries in Cliffwood, NJ, hosted by Harry and Mathew Weisfeld, as well as Steven Leung, owner of Valve Audio Systems (VAS). As soon as I walked in the door, I was met by a fleet of the company’s turntables and supporting flotilla of VAS electronics sitting single file along a long wall. For any vinyl and tube junkie this was like being in heaven.



After the assemblage had their fill of the fine food and drinks, Harry and Mathew Weisfeld introduced two new products to the company lineup. The first, and still in prototype form, is the new top-of-the-line turntable called the Vanquish. This new turntable is a major departure from their existing lineup, as it is a direct drive table, that’s right as in not belt drive. The direct drive motor is military grade (supposedly used in the Trident submarine) and therefore, absolutely silent with perfect speed and non-cogging rotation. Harry Weisfeld had borrowed a sample motor before deciding on purchasing it, and in his own words, “after two grooves, it sounded like a master tape.” Even at a wholesale price, the motor is very expensive.

The second new product is a composite unipivot tonearm, designed and manufactured using a $350,000 3D object modeling machine. Comparing VPI’s existing arms with the new composite tonearm, Weisfeld said, “everything sounds good, and then we put the new arm in and the focus becomes pinpoint, because nothing is resonating.” The arm is produced by a laser printer drawing lines using epoxy and is layered by spreading the initial layers, and drawing the lines over and over again until the plastic arm is fully formed. At the pivot point the arm is round and at the head it is triangular, thus preventing any resonances from traveling down the tube. The result is a very stiff but light weight arm. This is a labor intensive process and each arm takes approximately 27 hours to make.

Although not as earth moving as the aforementioned two new products, Weisfeld also announced the Scout 1.1 is getting an aluminum platter. In the near future, the Traveler arm will be modified and will replace the JMW-9T arm on the Scout because some customers do not like the unipivot arm. The modified Traveler arm has a sapphire gimbaled bearing assembly.
 

This was not just an ordinary audio meeting. Harry Weisfeld acted like a ringmaster conducting a multi-ring circus extravaganza. Attendees were able to meander from room to room as their fancy struck. In one room, Peter Ledermann of Soundsmith was giving a seminar on his highly regarded phonograph cartridges and afterwards played some LPs. Peter brought an entire system (except of course, a VPI turntable) of Soundsmith electronics and speakers to demonstrate. The system with the VPI turntable sounded excellent. I think the majority of attendees agreed, as many of them had their eyes closed while listening but I didn’t detect any snoring so I gather they were enjoying what they heard.

In the main listening room, attendees were treated to a Classic 4 turntable, Aries 3 turntable and the new Vanquish (temporary housed in a Classic plinth) McIntosh amp, Harmon Kardon Citation One vintage preamp and vintage JBL loudspeakers (with a Vandersteen as a middle channel). Harry Weisfeld and staff compared both the Vanquish and the new plastic arm with the Aries and Classic tables to interested listeners. In my opinion, both new items offer a significant improvement in sound quality over their existing products. In an open area, a Traveler turntable and Martin Logan were featured playing Ricky Lee Jones while I was there, and which got my toes tapping. In one of the back rooms, a blues band was satisfying those who wanted to groove to live music. Yeah baby, live music! In yet still another room there were static displays of a vast array of vintage amplifiers, reel-to-reel tape recorders, turntables, etc. It was like an audio museum with lots of my favorite equipment from back in the day.

Judging by a multitude of questions and happy, smiling faces, I would guess everyone had a great time!

I want to thank Harry and Mathew Wesifeld, Steven Leung, Peter Ledermann and the entire staff at VPI Industries for hosting such a fun and enjoyable meeting.

I would also like to thank Daniel Bernauer and Shek Mark for providing photos.

Until next time, I wish you happy listening!