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The VPI Player, impressions and ponderings

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The VPI Player, impressions and ponderings

Postby packgrog » 14 Dec 2016 15:23

Cross-posting from elsewhere, since I think this may be of some value here...

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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).
I've been debating either a cartridge or stylus upgrade. As stated above, the Red can't track my R.E.M., so I'd like to upgrade to SOMETHING. I never really was that fond of the Ortofon house sound, but apart from the harsh highs, I haven't minded the Red on this system. Good punch, good drum/bass/guitar sound (cart still needs breaking in though), but vocals are just harsh. I've been very curious to try the AT150Sa, but I fear that like most Audio Technica carts, it may need some impossible custom loading to tame the bright highs. I'd love to go back to a Denon DL-110, but I fear that the headphone amp wouldn't have enough gain. So the 2m line seems like the best choice, given that the internal phono was pretty much tailor made for it, with perfect capacitance and resistance load matching. Given that I've hated every sample that I've heard for the Bronze, that leaves me wondering whether to be kind to my wallet and get the Blue stylus, or go all in on the Black full cartridge swap (the generator for the Black/Bronze being better than the one used for the Blue/Red). Before I bother with any of that, though, I need to get rid of that hum.

More impressions to come as I get more time to tinker, if anyone here is interested.
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Re: The VPI Player, impressions and ponderings

Postby packgrog » 28 Dec 2016 01:11

Update on the hum: The RCA ports need to be connected to something to eliminate most of it. I plugged in a cheap Rat Shack RCA to mini, and the hum dropped considerably. There's still more to address, but I have to connect the ground lug to something other than my fingertip to address that. With my finger touching the ground lug, the sound quality is surprisingly good, and the "edge" all but goes away. I'm all the more anxious to try out a 2m Blue after this, given how much an improvement is said to be had over the Red.
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Re: The VPI Player, impressions and ponderings

Postby packgrog » 11 Jan 2017 18:16

Last update on the hum issue: A large part of it was my fault, and due to dimmable LED lights on old-fashioned dimmer switches. Switching off these switches killed off the remaining buzz. There *IS* still a hum from the motor or possibly a transformer in the deck, but that is the price paid for having the motor and/or preamp integrated into the plinth, and doesn't actually interfere with the sound quality. Based on what I've read, Ortofon 2m cartridges (or MM carts in general) are just more susceptible to hum issues than many other cartridges.
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