Review: VPI Industries Scout Signature Turntable

Category: Analog

I don't know if this can rightly be considered a review, but considering the number of Scout turntables sold worldwide, I thought this might be of interest to some of the many owners of this budget 'table.

I enjoy classical, symphonies, concertos, and chamber music, rock, blues and jazz. I have a large open room, and I require my system to provide very large dynamic swings, as well as play piano sonatas elegantly. Tall order, but it's being done handsomely for me, thanks in large part to the generosity of the sharing members of Audiogon.

Over the course of my recent return to vinyl spinning, (the last three years or so), I thought anything to get me back to black would probably do. I should have known better. I just wanted to be able to find some reasonable sounding bargain bin records to cheaply expand the availability of music available to me.

My budget was not large, so I wound up with a new table made in the Balkan States, a cartridge that sounded like crap, and feeling disappointed with vinyl all over again. Not to be dissuaded, I went about upgrading my analog system. I purchased a new VPI Scout, which seemed like a masterpiece of engineering and manufacturing after the first 'table. Still not happy, I bought a Signature arm for the Scout, which made a nice difference, but still something was missing. I decided I couldn't afford VPI's upgrade path, so I sought affordable alternatives. This is where some fine members of Audiogon came in and got me started on my analog education, since that's where success in analog lies, not in how much you spend.

First was a suggestion by D. Garrettson, (thanks, Dave!) to isolate the table from my wall-mount Target stand with a sand box. I happened to have two on hand, Brightstar Audio BigRock 2's, so I slipped one under my Scout. Dave also recommended using four steel coil springs under the BigRock, to further isolate things. Now, we were getting somewhere. Somewhere along the line, I read about Mapeshade Audio's NanoMount System, and decided to try it.

I'd spent a lot more on tweaks that didn't really help, so at $95, I thought, it won't break the bank. Wow, what an eye opener! This little system does what they claim, it drains vibration and resonance away from the stylus into the arm, and down into the plinth. Yes! It made sense. I then got to thinking I need to complete the job the NanoMounts started, so I began looking for affordable spikes to replace the stock VPI feet.

I found Starsound Audio Points, the price was right, and ordered 2" long brass spikes 3/4" x 1/4 20 threads, which screwed right into the bottom of the table. I also ordered some 3/4" spikes with 8-32 threads, and drilled and tapped out the holes on the motor, and put those spikes in, to replace the soft VPI feet on the motor. (I have to come clean here, when finishing up the spikes on the motor, I managed to drop the motor on the cement floor, so I got a 300rpm unit to replace it.)

This was the Eureka Moment! The extraordinary clarity, quiet grooves, clean bass, etc., etc., reminded me more of the mega-buck systems I'd listened to at dealers and shows than I ever thought possible. And now I'm very glad I didn't buy a $1200 platter, and other pricey factory upgrades. Not to downplay Harry's upgrade program, I just couldn't afford it.

I have found you don't have to throw money (at least not piles of it), at getting the most out of the humble Scout, as long as the major issures are addressed, you will wind up with an outstanding LP playing system that can be very satisfying.

I need to clarify a few points here, these tweaks only helped because of getting the arm-cartridge set-up parameters right with the use of the superb MintLP arc tractor. No amount of money or system tweaking can make a system sound right without set-up being optimized. I admonish you to make this your first priority.

Also, by the time I installed this last tweak, I had a very decent analog front end that only got much better with the use of the spikes on the 'table and motor. This cost effective vibration elimination system is no small upgrade, though. It has taken an already very good sounding front end to one that is amazingly good considering how much actual dollars have been spent on it. The sandbox can be readily built at home for very little money, the springs are cheap, and the Audio Points are a stone-cold-bargain.

I don't spend time concerned on how I can improve my vinyl rig any longer, I spin vinyl. The sound is commenurate with the hoopla I heard that lured me back into vinyl after eighteen years away from it, and I'm so glad I did. If records had sounded this good many years ago, I wouldn't have had to return to it.

As far as speed control is concerned, I bought a used PS Audio 300 Power Plant to control the voltage supplied to the table. This has turned out to be a satisfactory way (at least to me) of stabilizing the platter speed. More money saved. My Sim LP 5.3 was bought on the 'Gon, my sweet XX2MKII cart also, at a whale of a discount, and only had ten hours on it. I had to break it in, so I feel confident about the seller's claim. The point being, a great sounding vinyl set up can be had, if you are willing to go the used route, and don't be afraid to experiment.

I hope this may help at least a couple or so people, I really enjoy my vinyl now, so may you be able to do so as well.


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