I've been wondering about this too. Incredible that Fremer hasn't done anything on it.
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My guess is this is the result of specific decisions by the managers of VPI.
First, there aren't too many HR-Xs around to make it easy to send one out to review. The first production run consisted of twenty-five units, all spoken for early on. The second run was another twenty-five, and there was no problem selling them out either. VPI is well regarded and is able to sell out HR-Xs through its dealers' recommendations and word of mouth.
Second, VPI has been concentrating as a business on higher volume, lower price-point offerings, like the Scout. As a company, VPI would be better off sending out a high volume product for review versus the HR-X.
Third, I am not sure how comfortable VPI might be with a magazine review of its top table. Fremer at Stereophile was critical of the original JMW arm, and there is no reason to expose themselves to the uncertainty of a fickle reviewer if the HR-X is already selling out its production anyhow. Notably, VPI does not buy any magazine advertising, while its competition spends substantial sums (just check out Transrotor in Stereophile). While this is not supposed to make any difference, certainly there is no residual goodwill.
Amateur listeners seem to agree it's a good table. Especially with the ring clamp, it seems to show excellent detail with a tonally balanced presentation from a very quiet background. Yes, I have one, but my experience is not useful to most because I have a custom HR-X with a Graham 2.2 mounted on it. (I have already ordered a Graham Phantom, which I am told will fit in the same cut out.)
fremer was also lukewarm on the aries, which is a stunning looking and sounding player. the jmw arm is solid and easy to use, and has very accurate cueing. i placed some support discs under the cone-feet for stability- you can get them anywhere.
the motor must weigh 12 lbs. i had a thorens for years, but the vpi was a pretty big leap in performance. fremer likes what no one carries- unless you live in n.y. i guess. then,
he'll spend a week setting up and tweaking some exotic $20,000 tt, then tell everyone how great it is. all that just to play a 5.99 used record.
I was familiar with and liked the Graham arm from my preceding turntable, and it has been my impression that it is a better arm than the JMW in its several iterations. Without having had the JMW, this was just a guess on my part, derived from reading reviews and talking to people.
I respected the engineering thought and sophistication of the Graham arm, as well as the HR-X. I thought they would be a good match. One thing that has always held me up on the JMW arm is the application of antiskating force through the torque on the signal leads. I suppose it works fine, but it never struck me as a solution that a thorough engineer would come up with. (I know, that's harsh.) It made me less comfortable with the design of the rest of the arm. Just my personal bias -- but hey it's my money.
I'm used to picking arms separately from tables, just like picking a phono preamp is a separate decision from picking the line preamp (for me).
At first, I thought I would also ask for a spring suspension instead of the HR-X's airbags. After some thought and talking with my dealer about the advantages of airbags versus springs, I gave it up and went with the stock airbags. Accordingly, the only custom part of my HR-X is the arm and its mount. VPI was kind enough to fabricate a mount to fit the Graham arm, which obviously wouldn't work with the bigger, stock JMW arm. By the way, I don't have the VPI dustcover, but I have a very nice one made by Vinh Vu of Gingko Audio (what a great guy). It all sounds great. Sorry for rambling.
I wonder why anyone would care what pseudo-intellectual gas bags in Stereophile or other magazines would recommend. Aside from being unemployed DJs, I'm not aware of any credentials that they have in terms of turntable or electronic design. Just my personal opinion. Audiophiles should listen for themselves and not depend upon fickle, "professional" reviewers. I would trust the opinion of one of the Audiogon regulars over a magazine reviewer almost every time.
So much said here!! Boy I'm starting to wonder what response I would get if the question was asked...."comparing three tables...the VPI HR-X ..... the Basis 2500 (with or without vacuum) ..the SME 20.....which one is best?"
I assume all are very good. However, which one is the a better match/mate for the arm? For instance, the VPI makes the table and the arm, so does SME, and so does the Basis (however the Graham arm is made by someone else). Is it better to go with the same company for table/arm? I have always felt that the VPI/SME/Basis are great tables.....however, I have also felt the Graham ( made by Bob Graham and NOT Bill Conti) is a better arm then the VPI and the SME (I can't explain why). Is it best to go with the better table.....then chooses the arm (no matter the manufacturer)? Or stay with the same company for table and arm?
For me, the two operative ideas are "design philosophy" and "best of breed."
I think that at the higher end of the spectrum most equipment will sound good. If I just avoid the obvious incompatible matches, I should be aurally happy with the result. Beyond that, I have always been attracted to the design philosophy behind a product. For example, the Well Tempered Turntable and Arm were tremendously exciting for me to read about. Bill Firebaugh came up with innovative, elegant engineering solutions for his table and arm that really appealed to me conceptually. (I never bought one, however.)
It is relatively hard to compare two arms. For direct comparisons, I would need the same cartridge, table, electronics, speakers, and room. It's hard enough just to find a dealer that carries both brands that I would want to compare. I have a similar issue with tables. The best view that I have been able to get is when I upgrade to a new system, and I can compare the new one's sound against my memory of the old one. Of course, it's always better.
To compare three high end turntables or arms, I wind up studying the engineering design concepts and trying to glean insights from reading reviews or talking with others who have spent time with them. At the showroom, they all sound great.
When I buy a high end arm at high end prices like the Graham, I feel like I'm buying a piece of form-follows-function engineering art. Not only do I expect it to sound good, but I need to appreciate its engineering aesthetics.
I also like to think I can pick and choose the components I like the best, for a "best of breed," at least "best" as determined by my own preferences. I happen to like the HR-X and the Graham arm -- why shouldn't I have both?
VPI and others are working to convert the separates market into a systems market, bundling arms and tables, arms and cartridges, and some even bundling all three. This has business advantages in that the same manufacturer captures a higher proportion of a playback system purchase. Perhaps more importantly, we know the set up will be compatible, and the manufacturer will make sure that potential synergies are realized.
For me, it becomes a little bit of an ego/freedom-of-choice thing, that I can pick a satisfying combo from an open field. In line with this, I have several systems but only one has a receiver (MD 208) versus separate amp and tuner. So, in the end, do I have my own opinion? or, should I just default and defer to the manufacturer's desire for higher market share and revenues?
Hi Raul...I guess it is a little bit of both? A questions and then maybe a decision? I have a good table (VPI Aries) although I believe there are better tables out there. I have a good arm (VPI 10.5) althought I believe there are better arms out there. And so I ponder...the what if's...and hope I decide on the right answer...
Dear Rick: I already " see " your audio system, very nice. If you really want to have a better quality sound from your analog front end then you will change your tonearm/cartridge combo ( not your TT. The Aries is a very good performer. ). Cartridges?: Benz Micro LP, Dynavector
XV-1, VandenHul Colibri, Lyra Titan, Koetsu RSP.
Tonearms?: Audiocraft AC 3300/4400, SME IV, Moerch, Vector ( this one I never have in hand but I read from some owners that have it and all they say is an exellent tonearm ).
Regards and enjoy the music.
HP did a very short but very positive piece on the HR-X late last year and liked it a lot better than his Clearaudio and I think it was on his personal recommendations. Trouble is TAS have recommendation lists every mnth so hard to keep up.
VPI have not given Fremer (I don't think he has asked for one either) an HR-X as his musical tastes are more lean, mean and leading edge sound. I think Brian Damrocker might have one and might be doing a review at some stage in the future.
Bottom line was when I spoke to VPI, they indicated that the HR-X was selling very well without sending out review samples to all and sundry. All that does is put pressure on VPI to raise the price as they virtually have to write thoses costs off.
HP specifically asked for one, as did Roy gregory so VPI then supplied.