Thanks to a happy twist of fate, I am now the owner of a new VPI Player (the successor to the VPI Nomad). Some initial thoughts:
- First off, the stock felt(?) mat actually isn't bad. I decided to finally try the leather mat that I'd made years ago out of black deerskin, and it just sucked all of the life out of the music, so the stock mat went straight back on. I have not yet tried bareback (ie: vinyl directly on the bare metal platter), nor the Achromat 1200 that I have in limbo, as I haven't felt particularly thrilled with the idea of adjusting VTA (it seems like a hassle with this arm, and I don't have a good way to set SRA correctly), and the only clamp that I have is my Michell clamp, which likely would not work correctly with either option. I'm sure that I'll try each eventually to satisfy my curiosity. Whether or not to invest in the HRX weight is still an issue bouncing around in my mind.
- So far the only record that the Player (or more accurately the 2m Red) couldn't track was my pristine and well-cleaned copy of R.E.M. - Document. Very strange there. Did I clean it so well that it got to slippery? Are the grooves just too small for the caveman tool design of the 2m Red stylus?
- I have thus far only used the Player in stand-alone mode, separate from a receiver, and not even for a full hour yet. I have noticed audible hum when using the built-in headphone amp and an external battery powered headphone amp via the line output of the Player. My hopes with this setup was that I wouldn't need it hooked up to anything else, so I'm a little concerned about how to eliminate the hum. I'm not sure if it's from a ground loop or if it's noise from the motor bleeding into the system. The stylus does not need to be in the groove for this to be audible.
- I have not yet tried bypassing the internal amps. There are no directions for it publicly available, apart from suggesting taking it to your local dealer to have them do it. Supposedly a 5-minute job. I hope to try it eventually to see how it works as just a regular turntable.
- As with any turntable, platform definitely makes a difference. Glass is BAD. The photo above was more because the finish of my unit blends in with my mostly black furniture.
- I love the look and feel of this thing. My Michell TecnoDec, and especially my Audiomods Classic tonearm, have always felt like they needed to be handled very gently. The Player, meanwhile, just feels like a tank. It's actually not that much heavier than the TecnoDec, but it feels more solid. The aluminum platter helps with that, to be sure. I am hoping to see if bathing the belt in talcum powder will reduce the start-up belt chirp, but I haven't gotten around to doing that yet.
- The built-in headphone amp doesn't have a huge amount of range. With my Denon/Fostex headphones, comfortable listening volume is about 75%+ volume. Any higher and it starts to distort. My lowly Koss Porta Pro, with much lower impedance, plays comfortably at about 50% (12 o'clock).
More impressions to come as I get more time to tinker, if anyone here is interested.