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I am writing this up in the hope that I can help members interested in the new VPI Prime TT. I recently lucked out and picked a mint used condition Prime on another audio website (good luck!). I then quickly searched the web for feedback on the table (maybe should have been other way around). To my surprise there is only one professional review which is favorable and I think another in a British magazine which I have not been able to get a copy. Even the VPI forum is kind of short on SQ reviews (mostly complaining about logistics, wait times and stuff associated with early runs of a product). Other user forums have post describing moves from a Rega RP1 with a $150 dollar kart to a new Prime with $1000 kart with shockingly amazing results. Well that is a huge upgrade and it should be amazing in comparison but this does not really give insight on how the Prime alone performs.
Being the poor working sap that I am a $1000 + cart is out of the question for at least a year or maybe a couple of months or I guess next month (This sickness is real). That being said this offered me the opportunity to gauge the true performance of the Prime. I upgraded from an older scout table with a Dynavector 10x5. So for my comparison I simply threw my prime into the exact same system with the exact same kart. Obvious only changing the variable of the TT. This enabled me to accurately gauge what the table was capable or not capable.
For Context System as Follows:
Speakers: System Audio Mantras 10 – Exposure speaker cable
VPI Prime #88 with Dynavector 10x15 -
Table upgrades: Pangea Power cord/mouse pad under motor
Musical Surroundings Nova Phenomena I
Exposure 17 preamp
Exposure 18 Monos
AudioQuest Black Mamba II through the whole chain
Thoughts: Well the table alone is able to vastly improve the sound quality. As good as the scout is I don’t see any hint of diminishing returns. It is easily two times better than the scout. Just about every aspect has improved, you name it resolution, imaging, soundstage, depth, smoothness, musicality so on and so forth. It has really impressed me. The system is dead quite in-between songs and quiet passages. The only noise comes from scratched or dirty vinyl. When I play a well-kept record it is absolutely silent. I can turn my volume all the way up and noise starts at about 85% of total volume on the pot. The stand out thing I notice is how musically engaging the Prime manages to be. My cart produces a much more engaging and refined sound with the prime. There is no fatigue at all. I ran into this with the scout at higher volumes. This leads me to accept and support the argument you are better off with a better table with a weaker kart than visa versa. This table really brings up the performance of the 10x5. Sounds like a much better product now (not that it ever was not).
invited my audiophile friend over whose system has an Ayre pre and Amp. His pre is older but was a cost no object piece that has an outboard power supply (thinking the Ayre k1xe, very well thought of pre). He has used a Sutherland PHD and now an Ayre phono stage. He had Sonus Faber Venere 2.5 and just upgraded to the Sonus Faber Olympias. His analog source is a Classic 1 outfitted with a Dynavector 20x2H (plus some upgrades). I have not gotten to hear his system since the addition of the Ayre phono stage and Olympias which has been a huge upgrade for him. His phono stage, amplification, table and room treatments (I have none) have always been a cut above my system. Plus with the advent of a different Ayre phono (which he greatly prefers to the sutherland) and a huge upgrade in speakers put him well beyond my current rig. Hopefully his prospective adds a little more information for Gon members.
We listened to several records in our short listening session. We started out with ¿Which Side Are You On? By Ani DiFranco. I threw this on because it is an incredible recording (warning album is full of liberal ideology). I didn’t really prep him as to how good of a recording it was. Next we Listened to a Fela album called Teacher don’t teach me nonsense. We finished off with another Fela album called Ransome-Kuti & Africa which my audiophile friend graciously gifted to me. Friends with class, can’t beat that.
His reactions were extremely positive. He stated it could very well be better than a classic 3 without the 3d arm IHO. A claim in fact made by VPI. He was shocked how incredible the Ani DiFranco album sounded. He was so blown away by it he was a little upset given his upgrades. Of course after listening to the other records he was familiar with in his own system it was apparent that it happens to be an amazing recording and not just the Prime vaulting SQ into the stratosphere. In his opinion its about one of the best recordings he has ever heard and I would have to agree it is top 5% percent for sure. Even on the records he had heard in his system he was still impressed (if less so) by the performance. He thought the imaging of horns on the Fela Albums were better placed with the prime than the classic 1. I didn’t prod him for a full length review but when I told him I was going to put our listening session impressions on Audiogon his text was “I was very very very impressed”.
If you are in the market for a new table I would put this on the audition list. The tables does not only seem to be a good value on paper but in real life. My friend and I are both impressed. I know for a fact the table alone squeezed a whole lot more performance out of my kart and system as a whole. Even though I like the Scout and after fiddling with it for a year I had it sounding really good it does not hold a candle to the Prime. If the Prime was not a vast improvement I would have sold it on. In fact my scout is still on the self below the prime. In addition I never had that search is done feeling with the Scout. I can honestly say I could be happy with the Prime for years to come and you know what it feels really good.
Great review and thanks for starting a thread on this. I've had mine for six months. In the modern era I've owned two Pro-Jects, a VPI Classic, and then the Prime. Despite employing every tool known to man (short of an oscilloscope), I could never get my Classic to sound right to my ears. I played aroud with alignment using a Mint Protactor, azimuth using a Fosgometer, VTF using multiple digital scales, every anti-skate option and setting, levelling using expensive levels, you get the idea. Too laid back, not enough boogie/propulsiveness. I could get it to sound great with Jazz and female vocals, but not rock or the like. I won't go into all the details of my system, but it is all good stuff, almost all tubed and Benz Glider S LO MC cartridges.
In my system, the Prime was a game changer. I got everything I was previously missing-oomph, slam, imaging, soundstage, hair-raising moments, fun. Part of my solution may have been that at the same time I bought the Prime, I bought my first Soundsmith cartridge, a Zephyr. I have a Benz Glider mounted on a VPI 9T on a restored Thorens TD124 and it sounds great, so I think most of my love for the Prime is attributable to the Prime itself and not just the Zephyr. I am about to add a second 3D arm with a SS MIMC mounted. Can't wait to see what it adds to the mix.
VPI made things a lot easier on the customer with a thumbscrew/knurled knob at the counterweight and the VTA tower makes life easier too. Reaching around the back with tiny inset holes and tiny allen wrenches with the Classic was a royal PITA. Definitely grab a SS Counter-Intuitive., Worth every penny! I am still not in love with the unipivot because it seems to make anything involving horziontal plane changes (azimuth and seemingly/absurdly anti-skate) a bit unsettling. I have also never felt very comfortable with HW's "don't sweat it" approach to set-up; antiquated Shure VTF gauge, aluminum swizzle stick across the headshell method to set azimuth, using a ruler or index card to set VTA/SRA, anti-skate is optional because "I don't believe in it", etc. There is a lot to be said for the common sense approach that it is absurd to sweat over details when much of vinyl reproduction is a compromise but such is a half-truth IMHO.
So what makes the Prime such a great table? Well, in my view the reduced mass plinth speeds up the PRAT (sorry, I realize that's oxymoronic) the outboard motor bleeds vibrations away from the tonearm, the new feet are a big improvement over the mini-HRX feet, and the 3D arm is a HUGE advance in and of itself. I can't envision a bigger bang for the buck table than the Prime. Mine has no visible run-off error in the platter and the fit and finish is flawless. I know I have a table that will last the rest of my life and VPI has always had great customer service if you don't mind just a little patience and perseverence.
I know many people really question the use of tube buffers. I can understand that train of thought for sure. I have English amps so I buy into the simply is more concept.
That being said I used my ears with the Scout system. I compared it with and without the itube buffer but in the end kept it in the chain. I have not yet taken it out of the prime chain but will do so and provide feedback when I get some time. (note itube was in both systems)
The professional reviews of the ifi Micro itube are dead on in my system. It really does not change the tonal balance. It does not add a huge amount of bloom. It does not sound "tubby". What it does is add very slight richness. It also creates a little bit bigger soundstage and adds a little more smoothness to the system. In summary affects are very subtle but positive IMO.
My friend with Ayre stuff had Parasound before and employed the itube. When he switched to the Ayre he removed it from between the pre and power amp. The Ayre didn't like it, plus he wanted to run balance as Ayres sounds best this way (no balanced on itube). It may be that the Ayre stuff is just to resolving to have the itube add something and not diminish performance. The reviews do mention that at a certain level of components the itube might impede performance. They threw out a price range but I can't remember. The Ayre probably crosses that thresh hold.
I have to say I love the way you adjust things on this table. Seriously easier than the scout. Two or three ways to adjust azimuth if you use the Counter intuitive. Its super easy to adjust things I love it. I have a ways to go to figure out the anti-skating. I don't have it setup right now.
Yes I agree this table is super musical. Really engaging in lots of styles of music. Some people on the VPI forums say the table without SDS or other speed controls runs a tad fast. Maybe this ticked up speed adds to musicality like Regas??? I am just thinking out loud. I don't have a speed controller so I can't currently test this theory yet.
I don't have any issue with the use of tube buffers. Of course the traditional use of a buffer, be it tube or solid state, is as an impedance matching device, hence the name.
Obviously, in the all Exposure system you don't have an impedance mismatch and are using the tube buffer as a sound enhancement device. I have no issue with that as we use cables, room treatment, phono cartridges and many other things as tone controls. And I did not ask for a justification of its use, nor did I call into question your use of the device.
I simply asked because, although I own a tube buffer, I don't use it and my electronics are otherwise similar to yours so I was simply trying to get a better understanding of how your observations might translate to my system. Clearly, that is not to be; enjoy your rig and thanks again for an excellent review.
Viridian I will take it out and see what the results are. I am interested too. Sorry if I seemed to take offense at your question. It didn't bother me in the least bit. I will post my impressions.
I am glad you got something out of it. I wanted to do something that could be taken seriously not just I bought something new and its the greatest thread.
I finally had some time to listen to the Prime and my system without the ifi itube buffer between my pre and mono blocks. I listened over the course of two weekends.
The short story. I will be taking the tube buffer out of the chain. The overall sound stage is slightly bigger with the tube stage. One of the draw backs is you lose some imaging ability the Prime is cable of. In addition I can hear that the itube is now introducing some haze in my music. Most notable on complex passages the backgrounds are less black and the music is less sorted out with itube.
SO while the itube adds a richness in comes at a price of image precision, more noise and handling of complex passages. Now my system is a little leaner but more realistic with better punch and dynamics. Depth is also improved.
Hope that helps, it sure helped me to know that the buffer had to go. Had my friend came over and he agreed. Same findings in his system.