Nevertheless, I didn’t feel that the Scout was lacking in this regard. For example, I thought that the Scout might falter on a big orchestral piece. But it didn’t. I was deeply moved by its rendering of the wonderful recording of Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony in Brahms Piano Concert No. 2, played by the Russian pianist Emil Gilels. In the Andante, the Scout beautifully evoked the initial interplay between clarinet and cellos before the piano makes its understated and dignified entrance. Would the HR-X have presented this even more vividly and powerfully? Absolutely. But the Scout drew me into the music so much that I never thought about what might be missing.
If all you’re hearing is mechanical reproduction, you’re on the fastest road to audiophile frustration, unless you can achieve that sense of emotional connection to the music. For me that moment came most poignantly listening to the youthful Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s performance of the “Grecian Gods” on a mono Angel blue label. The song, which exemplifies the 19th-century German infatuation with ancient Greece, is one of Schubert’s most moving. At its conclusion, Dieskau mourns, “Lovely world, where are you?” and then, in triple pianissimo haltingly murmurs, “Where are you?” I was mesmerized by the Scout’s ability to capture this haunting passage by maintaining Dieskau’s incredibly subtle dynamics.
How much of this was due to the exemplary Dynavector XV1-S cartridge? Oh, probably a lot. I continue to think that it’s one of the best cartridges available. Still, to my mind, there is no doubt that the Scout is a frighteningly good performer. In boxing lingo, it fights way above its weight class.
The Scout will not satisfy everyone, but then that’s why VPI has a whole upgrade path. Just going from the acrylic to the new 35-pound “super platter” on the HR-X, for example, endowed it with a weight and power and a sense of black backgrounds that it had not previously possessed. What the Scout does show, however, is that, yes, more costly innovations are indeed filtering down to budget ’tables. The result is that audiophiles have more options than ever before. And without a doubt, the Scout is a fabulous one. TAS