Review: VPI Industries HW-19 mkIV Turntable

Category: Analog

The MKIV version of the VPI HW 19 series was the crowning achievement in this series. Borrowing heavily from their TNT series elevated the MKIV to lofty heights not thought possible in the HW 19 series.

For improved bass, imaging, focus, detail, and lower noise, the answer is the Mk IV. The HW-19 Mk.IV turntable includes the same wood base, precision AC-Synchronous motor/pulley/belt drive assembly, and stainless steel-acrylic subchassis as the Mk. III.

All this makes a great sounding turntable, but the Mk.IV goes further to become a Super Table. The Mk.IV borrows three critical parts from the state of the art TNT turntable: the platter, the bearing, and the suspension.

The Mk.IV features the 1.5" thick, 20 pound, four layer, lead impregnated, precision machined, acrylic TNT platter. This platter has four times the inertia of the Mk.III platter and reduces noise, increases focus in the bass, and throws a soundstage far beyond the boundaries of your loudspeakers.

This high inertia platter is mated to the noise reducing bearing of the TNT. By mounting the platter on a three-point suspension,and mechanically grounding it to the spindle, no random motion is allowed to enter the rotating system. The spindle itself is machined from stainless steel with sintered bronze bushings as the lateral wearing surface. The vertical thrust plate is virtually indestructible 92 Rockwell Tungsten Carbide.

The platter and bearing assembly work as a unified team. They lower noise, increase low level detail, and provide a degree of focus that was previously only available with turntables costing a minimum of twice as much.

All of this would be irrelevant if the turntable suspension was not up to the task. In the Mk.IV, we borrowed the suspension springs from the TNT and floated the entire assembly at 2.5 Hertz. The Mk.IV is very resistant to all forms of acoustic feedback and environmental noise.

How good is the Mk.IV? The Mk.IV was ranked "Analog Source of the Year" by Stereophile magazine.. "A big thumbs up to Harry Weisfeld and his Mk.IV"... The Mk.IV's rewards greatly exceed its cost... congratulations..."

Music Used For Evaluation:

Bob James - Hands Down (Columbia FC 38067)
Hiroshima - Self Titled - (Arista MFSL1-525)
John Coltrane - Blue Train - (Blue Note BST 81577)
Wes Montgomery - Bumpin' - (Verve V6-8625)
Rickie Lee Jones - Self Titled - (Warner BSK 3296)
Wynton Marsalis - Live Blues Alley - (Columbia PC2-40675)
Eric Gale - Forecast - (KUDU Records KU 11)(CTI Records)
Kenny Burrell & Grover Washington Jr - (Blue Note BT 85106)
Earl Klugh - Finger Painting - (Blue Note MFSL 1-025)
Larry Carlton - Friends - (Warner 23834-1)
Sadao Watanabe - Autumn Blow - (Inner City IC 6064)
Doobie Brothers - Minute by Minute - (Warner BSK 3193)
Santana - Zebop - (Columbia FC37158)
Pat Metheny Group - American Garage - (ECM 1-1155)
Frederick Fennel - Cleveland Symphonic Winds - (Telarc 5038)
Paul Desmond/Jim Hall - Complete Recordings - Mosaic(MR6-120)
Time Out - Dave Brubeck Quartet (Columbia CS 8192)
Paul Desmond - Self Titled (Artist House AH - 2)
Ahmad Jamal - But Not For Me - Argo LPS 628
Bill Evans - At The Montreux Jazz Festival - Verve V6-8762
Bill Evans - At Montreux II - CTI 6004
Sunken Cathedral - American Gramophone - AG 361
No Bass Hit - Concord Jazz Label - CJ-97
Oscar Peterson - Night Train - Verve V-6 8538
Gerry Mulligan Reunion Chet Baket - Pacific Jazz ST 90061

This MKIV is fitted with the Audioquest PT7 tonearm with Audioquest Emerald phono DIN to RCA jacks. Installed a Benz Micro Gold MC phono cartridge, through a Coda 01p preamplifier. This one came with the optional Black Piano finish base, which was a $300.00 option,if I remember correctly.

My last VPI was the HW 19 MKII table, it was fitted with the Technics EPA 100 tonearm with Denon DL 110 phono cartridge.

Between the two versions the MKIV is the clear cut winner by a far margin. While the MKII was very good the MKIV with its TNT parts pushes the sonics to a level the MKII could not compete with. With that being said I really like the MKII and would most likely have it today, if not a major move forced my hand to sell it at the time. But here it is some 3 years later and I have returned to the fold so to speak and this time with a MKIV. Have been most fortunate that providence has come into play here.

While the MKIV is not eye candy as compared to many other turntables and including those within the current VPI line up. With that being said, it is a wonderful example of industrial art and design at its finest execution. One look at the MKIV clearly gives one the impression, this is a serious turntable, capable of extraordinary performance levels.

If by chance one is looking for reference caliber turntable, the VPI HW19 MKIV more than fits that requirement. Equip with the arm of your choice and a fine phono cartridge you will experience the analog medium as few will get the chance to hear. In the prewoned market these usually sell for about $1,200.00 and at that price it may come with a tonearm, if so that just adds to bargain. Try to find one that has the original box and internal packing pieces. This is a heavy table at about 50 pounds, so packing and shipping is a high priority, so it arrives alive. Also due to its weight will need a rock solid resting place. VPI makes a turntable stand and is highly recommended for this table.

One will have to dig very deeply into their resources to find a turntable of this caliber to exceed the the lofty performance standards of the HW 19 MKIV. Plus VPI remains in business today and help and advice of any of their products is a phone call away and yes they do answer the phone. One of the great U.S. based and built audio components that has stood the test of time and continues to deliver the promise of high end analog playback.

Plus one can add the stand alone motor assembly aka SAMA as well as the SDS. The SDS allows for the adjustment of both the voltage and frequency fed to the turntable motor. Instead of merely filtering the power line, the SDS first changes it into pure DC voltage and then digitally regenerates its own clean signal. This approach is superior to that used in many of the other power line conditioners on the market.

After 50 years in this hobby/business I can easily recommend the VPI HW19 MKIV turntable, for those needing a turntable of impeccable quality and build. It just doesn't get much better than this.

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Great review! I own a MKIV with SAMA, SDS, 2M Black and a SME V.  I love my table and I want no other.  

Still good to know that 10 years later this is still a revelant table and cuts the mustard against the new kids on the block. 

Well done! 
The key is owning equipment that you like and can live with for a long time.  My current turntable is in that category.
Very Good report.

Why now?

I could go on & on with you but...why?

Why now?

If anyone believes this TT can compete in any musical/substantial way with any insight in their thoughts about a TT design, now..., at this point in time, ..should see a shrink. ASAP!
If anyone is interested, now, in this outdated design, I have several parts for sale.
In case anyone noticed, the post and review goes back to 2008. 

If it's outdated, it's only because this table is largely unavailable, even used, don't come up much. 

But what would be interesting, WOULD be to compare it to what is available now. 

I'd be very interested, but I have no But I sure did love my hw-19 back when I did. 
I've had a VPI HW-19 MKIII w/ SAMA, Walker motor controller, sorbothane pucks, more or less since the mid 80s. A couple of years ago added a Phoenix Engineering Roadrunner & Eagle PS and updated the bearing to an Applied Fidelity GENIII ceramic and sapphire one plus swapped out the belt to a black one.  All the upgrades made for a very nice table and better than stock.
In late 2017, I purchased a TW Acustic Raven Anniversary w/ 3 motor assembly.

Comparison: The VPI was noticeably noisier.  The TW had a continuousness and flow that was much more natural. Maybe too, a little better tonal color. The VPI was a little more dynamic.  Really preferred the TW. However, for the money, with the upgrades, especially the bearing, the VPI  was and still is a very nice TT someone could love. 

Had the MKIV heavy platter and the big stainless steel TNT MKV bearing, but never  got around to upgrading the TT with them.  
I have a HW-19 mk iv. with a jelco sa 250
it is a pretty good TT for the price, I can fix anything that goes wrong, it sounds pretty quiet to me.  and for less than 1K
Just stumbled across this thread as I've been contemplating whether I should upgrade the tonearm on my VPI HW-19 mkiv (currently using an Origin Live modded rb300) to something like an Audiomods Series Five (at ~$1100 or so usd), or sell the hw-19 mkiv and put that $ into something that would be a significant sonic improvement.

Question is, for $2500 or so, what decks out there would be a big step up? 

I guess the Classic is one obvious answer, but I've heard from many longtime mkiv owners that the Classic doesn't significantly improve upon the mkiv. Further, they often say one would need to move into the $3000 neighborhood to get a *big* improvement over the mkiv. 

I'd selfishly love to hear of others who have experiences similar to barrysandy's. I'd expect the TW Raven to better the mkiv significantly given the cost difference between the two (mkiv's realistically sell for ~$1100-$1500).

But can I do significantly better than a hw-19 mkiv with Audiomods (or similar) tonearm for $2500-$3000 all-in (including tonearm)? This is my conundrum.