And the Classic isn’t just about scale and power. Play something delicate like Janis Ian and the musical coherence and intimacy are underpinned by the easy musical flow, the levels of low-level instrumental resolution and detail. The stark, almost etched transparency that comes with a plastic platter is not part of the Classic’s sound, but listen into the music and you’ll soon realise that the detail’s in there – it just isn’t spot lit.
Its mastery of time and space, its almost boundless dynamic range and energy, its sure-footed confidence set it apart from almost all other decks at this price. Almost, because there’s also the SRM Arezzo Reference out there (and reviewed in the last issue), a deck which shares more than a little of the VPI’s attitude and musical virtues. There are clear differences between these two decks – but between them they conspire to set a completely new benchmark as far as musical performance at this price level goes.
Apart from anything else, aesthetics alone are going to split potential customers. The large footprint and retro-chic of the VPI will attract the nostalgia vote, but the compact elegance, shiny surfaces and supplied lid of the SRM will definitely appeal to the modernists out there. And in some ways, the differences in sound mirror the differences in appearance. Where the Arezzo, even with the new, heavier flywheel is all about deft agility and even-handedness, the Classic is much more about power and scale, its dynamic range being far broader and sheer presence more physical in nature. In that respect it is definitely and obviously a VPI, but the sense of unstoppable drive and energy that characterizes both these ‘tables makes it a whole new enchilada compared to its predecessors at this price level.
The other big difference between these two record players is the upgrade path available for the Classic, but given the space I’ve expended already that is going to have to wait for another day. But what really binds these two ‘tables together, places them apart from and above the crowd, is their uninhibited sense of musical flow and momentum. This isn’t breakneck speed and it’s in no way out of control. It’s about the sheer power and drive inherent in the music – be it sumptuous and all encompassing, or poised and latent. Yes, the VPI is warmer and richer, fuller and more explosive as compared to the SRM’s leaner, cleaner approach, but they both bring this same compelling quality to the music they deliver.
Not so long ago, a musician friend of mine heard the Classic compared to what is one of the finest and most expensive decks in existence. Yes there were differences, but they were more presentational than musical and they weren’t major. “How much is the difference in cost?” he said, “HOW MUCH?” For lo, a true audio bargain is a rare and wonderful thing – and I think I’m still struggling to come to terms with this one.
VPI Classic Turntable
Type: Belt drive record player
Speeds: 33 and 45, manually shifted
Electronic Supply: Optional SDS
Platter: Aluminium/Stainless Steel
Platter Weight: 8.2kg
Clamp: Record weight or optional peripheral clamp
Finishes: Black or Walnut
Dimensions (WxHxD): 527 x 250 x 400mm
Tonearm: JMW 10.5 Classic
Type: Medium mass with interchangeable arm-tops
VTA Adjustment: Optional vernier type
Tel. (44)(0)1733 344768
VPI Industries Inc.