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Friday, April 19, 2013

NY Audio Show 2013: VPI Industries and Joseph Audio

VPI Industries set the world of high-end audio ablaze last week with the release of the world's first tonearm made by a 3D printer and while that has been a huge story for the New Jersey-based turntable manufacturer, this weekend's 2013 New York Audio Show was its official coming out party. VPI and Joseph Audio put on quite the party in their 10th floor suite and we're not talking about the birthday cake.

VPI began thinking about the concept last year, but it wasn't until they found the right design firm in Pennsylvania, that the project began in earnest. The synthetic 10-inch tonearm is one piece; from the head shell through the counterstub. The arm is extremely rigid and while it is lighter than many metal tonearms, it still has some heft to it.

VPI plans on offering the 3D printed arm on its upcoming Classic Direct turntable; the first direct drive turntable that they have ever offered, but it will be available in the near future on their other tables and in different sizes; 9-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inches.

We were invited for a preview of the new table/arm at the VPI factory and what was most surprising about the new arm was how it levelled the playing field with more affordable phono cartridges such as the $220 Grado Gold. Very few peope are going to put a $220 phono cartridge on a $20,000 turntable, but the experience proved that spending slightly more on a better table might be smarter than dropping $2,000-$3,000 or more on a cartridge; a better table will extract greater performance from a cheaper cartridge.

The development costs associated with the arm were extremely high, and it took the printer more than 30 hours to make a single unit, so don't expect to pick one of these up for under $3,000. The Classic Direct table/3D printed tonearm combination is going to cost $20,000 when it starts shipping in the next month or so, so the market is quite limited. The arm will be available for other tables this summer.

VPI CEO, Harry Weisfeld, is a huge fan of VAS tube amplification and using a center channel loudspeaker in his set-up; which adds a surprising amount of both bass and depth to the presentation. VPI loves the synergy of its tables and the VAS gear with Joseph Audio loudspeakers, so listeners got to sample the new table through a pair of their Pearl 2 loudspeakers.

We love Mel Torme as much as the next guy; perhaps not as much as Stereophile's Michael Fremer who made us listen to Mel's rendition of "New York State of Mind" four times in a row before we had to retire to the second VPI room where we discussed the current state of the headphone business with Grado Labs' John Chen.

While not as exciting as the world's first 3D printed tonearm, VPI's entry-level Traveler turntable ($1,300) is selling out faster than the company can make them and that has to be good news for the industry because the customers for this table are the 25-35 year-old crowd buying their first turntables.

View the original article here

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