Seeking Opinions on Clearaudio and VPI Turntables

Just want to ask opinions on these two tables in the $2,000 to $3000 range the sonic differences assuming the both tables use the same cart.

For VPI, its either the Scout or the Aries 3 vs the Clearaudio Champion Level 1 or Level 2 (stretch).

Arm would be the JMW vs the Unify or Emotion arm.

Based on my short research, vpi character is dark vs the more lively detailed sounding clearaudio.

Anyhow, some comments from users would be highly appreciated.
I would describe the sound of the VPI turntables as tending toward the warm and full, but not "dark" or lacking in detail. I say this based on many years of owning a VPI TT, and having heard almost everything in their line except the TNT-HR.

The ClearAudio TT's that I have heard do tend a bit toward the more lively, but I don't think it is necessarily more detailed than the VPI.

It may be stretching the analogy, but if VPI's were amplifiers, I think they'd be tube units rather than solid state. Another way to compare their sound is comparable to where you sit in a concert hall: seats further away from the stage gives you a warmer, more integrated sound (the VPI), whereas sitting closer to the front tends to yield a more detailed (and perhaps analytical) sound. Ultimately, the only way to decide which TT best suits your needs is to audition both of them in your home system.

Both of these turntable lines are of sufficiently high quality that the choice of tonearm and cartridge will have at least as much influence on the sound quality, and maybe more, than the turntable itself.

It would be helpful to know more about the rest of the equipment in your system, since those components will also affect the perceived sound quality of the TT.
Hello, I will not attempt to add to the audio knowledge on this forum, as I have very little compared to many here. But from a practical point, I like to be able to pickup a phone and talk to the guys who build and design stuff. I have a VPI HW-19, and it is nice to talk to some of the main people who design and troubleshoot the product, which I have done several times. Clearaudio, you have to deal with the Distributor, whom I have seen mixed reactions on getting much help from them. I suppose you could call or email Germany(I believe). My point being practical(this is probably a stupid point, as what is practical in audio) is VPI builds a quality product, obviously Audiophile accepted, right in New Jersey, and you can pickup the phone or email and talk to the owner and main design guys for help, and they are very nice about it, and helpful.
Oddly, I have a Clearaudio cartridge on my VPI, that I eneded up with in a odd way. But none of what I wrote above is meant to indicate anything wrong with the Clearaudio TT.
Here's the biased viewpoint from a VPI TNT6-HR owner, who has numerous friends with VPI tables ranging from HW-19s to ScoutMasters.
I agree w/most of Sdcampbell's remarks. To my ear, the VPIs are solid as rock, with a black background, weighty presentation, with good detail, but perhaps a tad more emphasis on mid-bass than reality. To use another analogy, more of an "American sound" vs. "European sound".
I've heard the Champion Level 2 at a dealer with Audio Research electronics and Martin Logan speakers. None of these pieces are close to being favorites of mine, and the sound was bright & thin to my ears. When I heard the top of the line Clearaudio table at CES, there was tons of detail, but balance of the system was also a touch on the polite side. More emphasis on highs vs bottom end and midrange. Many in the room loved the sound, which was dynamic and threw a very wide soundstage, two areas in which both brands seem to excel.
Best thing to me about VPI is the proven upgrade path. Lots of value preservation IMHO. The people at VPI are indeed accesible if you have any questions. Harry is often on audioasylum's vinyl board under moniker, "HW". Cheers,
To be specific, anyone here have heard of the Aries 3 or the scoutmasters ? for $3000-$4000 for arm and table, which of the vpi series presents a good bang for buck value?

thanks for inputs.
dont count a SOTA out in that range you can get an amazing table.
Can someone help me. I can't decide on the following decks- Pro-Ject Xpression MK11; Goldring GR-2, Rega P3 and the Clearaudio Emotion. I'm not happy with the Sumiko Oyster cart. that comes with the Pro-Ject. With the P3 and the Emotion I would need to select a cart. Lastly, what do you think of the Marantz TT-15S1 that Clearaudio makes for Marantz? Is it essentialy the Emotion with the fancier Virtuoso Wood cart? Emotion=$1k; Marantz 15S1=$1.8K

Many thanks.
Common dealership opinion seems to favor VPI

I've had some conversations with the SoCal dealers who seem to be the big vinyl guys (Brooks Berdan in Monrovia and Audio Revelation in Carlsbad). Both carry VPI and Clearaudio. Both recommend VPI tables enthusiastically (especially Berdan), but both seem to limit Clearaudio endorsement to the cartridges. I've never gotten a specific reason from either, but have heard reservations expressed -by others - about the Clearaudio bearing design, which (I'm told) puts the contact point at the top of the bearing shaft near the platter. FWIW

I'd add that Acoustic Image -a dealer in the San Fernando Valley with its own vinyl following - does like the Clearaudio tables, while LA Audio in LA and Optimal Enchantment in Santa Monica focus on neither brand.
Thanks for your input. I live in Florida and I can't find a dealer here who sells either the VPI or Clearaudio lines. Should I buy a unit strictly from pictures/specifications, etc., on the Internet or what?

Where in Florida are you? Brian at St. Cecilia Sound Gallery (Clearwater) carries VPI. He should be able to help you.
I purchased a clearaudio based on the recommendations of a dealer whose knowledge and recommendations I couldn't trust more. He carries both VPI and Clearaudio and prefers clearaudio, which also has an upgrade path. I have not heard the VPI in a direct comparison but I am very satisfied with the sonics, fit, finish, and quality of the clearaudio. Also FWIW, there is another clearaudio arm between the unify and emotion, the satisfy.
Thanks so much. Have you heard anything about the new Marantz TT-151 table made by Clearaudio? It sells for $1.6K-$1.8K depending on the dealer. Clearaudio uses an $800 cartridge on the unit, which I'm told (I haven't seen the deck here in Fla.) that it is essentially the Emotion model with different feet. Any additional thoughts? I started with the Rega P3 and now I have jumped somewhat in price with the Emotion, etc.

Thanks again.

I got the Champion with Satisfy arm and Benz Glider cartridge. I think I would rather get a clearaudio rather than the marantz, seems cleaner. Clearaudio has some good package deals that include table, arm, cart, and acrylic cover.
I'm holding onto the Emotion @$1K as a first choice but someone has suggested I also consider the Thorens 295 MKlV at $999 with AT-98E cart. Any thoughts?


I just bought an emotion, and i think it is a great sounding table, i was amazed how good it sounded right out of the box, with the aurum classic, you won't be disapointed if you go with the clearaudio.
Can anyone suggest which one of the above systems will work best to enhance the sound quality coming from two small speakers in my 52" Pioneer Elite TV? Picture quality on the Pioneer is fine, but the sound quality of human dialogue in ads or dramas, etc., is muddled and very, very unclear.

Len Bloom