Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

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Arvin C
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Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

Post by Arvin C » 04 Jul 2017 05:34

Hello all!

I'm a new poster here, but have been "lurking" for a while as I was researching my latest turn table purchase. I realize that I'm in the "audiophile" minority regarding my preference for direct-drive, however, I have long been a fan of direct-drive turntables, preferring them because of their accuracy, durability, simplicity and "punchy" dynamics. I have been "tableless" for over 2 decades now, my last table being the venerable Technics 1200 MK2 that I parted with as I became increasingly committed to CD's and digital files. As the saying goes, "If only I knew then what I know now..."

So, about two months ago, after deciding my vinyl collection needed a new table to play on, I began my search. I was thinking about taking the plunge on Technics' latest 1200G-series tables, but I couldn't get comfortable playing in the $3K-$5K range dealers were asking for. So, I decided on Pioneer's PLX-1000 as it had recently received a "Recommended" rating from Stereophile, which is quite an achievement for any piece of audio gear. The reviews on the PLX-1000 were mostly favorable and it was set-up at my local Guitar Center, ready for an audition. I was all set...until I found the following video on YouTube during my research:

https://youtu.be/JJXXKLQP43I

Thanks, Lymbo90, for all the great VL12 videos!

The Denon VL12 Prime...it sounded fuller without being muddy, had more speed, more punch. It was like it turned everything up a notch or three above the Pioneer. It had more features as well, though, to be fair, many of these are really meant for the Club/Broadcasting DJ professionals. But, what really sealed the deal, was the fact that here was a new, from the ground-up design by Denon themselves...not another Hanpin clone like so many other direct-drives out there.

So I ordered a VL12 from Amazon last Thursday and it arrived today. The turntable was delivered TRIPLE BOXED...a shipping box from Amazon containing the double-boxed VL-12. Here's the Denon outer box:

38687


...and here's the inner box:

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Inside, you're greeted with this pretty cool message sheet:

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Lift the sheet up, and you see the goods, all securely packaged:

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Don't throw away the packing foam; the accessories are packed there!

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Attention to detail is everywhere. Nice message from Denon to the DJ's of the world:

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You get a pretty beefy power cable, a gold-plated RCA and grounding cable, 45 RPM adaptor, Denon DJ-branded headshell, tonearm counterweight and scale, additional counterweight, LED-target lamps in chrome and black and a Denon DJ-branded felt record mat. All that's missing is a cartridge...

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Platter details, including full rubber coating on the back-side & finger-friendly notches instead of the industry standard dots...

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On the left side, you get Low/High Torque selector, RGB-lighting color knob and RGB-lighting intensity selector:

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On the right side, gold-plated RCA jacks, ground and power:

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Tonearm mounted with Shure M97xE cartridge:

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Much better tonearm assembly than Hanpin clones...

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All set-up and ready to play...

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What it looks like when the room lights are off:

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Other things I used for this installation: cork & rubber isolator pads to isolate the butcher block platform from the rack surface, Vibrapod isolators to isolate the turntable from the platform...

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Top Chop 1.5" maple butcher-block as my turntable platform:

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Initial impressions: the sound is really, really good...something I truly wasn't expecting! I thought it would take a while to get it sounding "good", but right off the bat, I'm a toe-tapping, finger-snapping, happy listening somebody right now! And isn't that what it's all about?

As I've been listening for the past 5 hours, I can't Help but think that Denon has a real winner here in the VL12 Prime, no matter who the target user may be. Could the VL12 be viewed as Denon's successor to their legendary DP-6xL series turntables? Definitely maybe. At the very least, the VL12 strikes me as a great option for that vinyl-listener looking for a new, modern direct-drive table that is above the usual suspects in the crowded $800-$1200 range. Bravo, Denon!!

Thanks for reading...

Arvin C

Lymbo90
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Re: Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

Post by Lymbo90 » 12 Jul 2017 21:29

Great pics Arvin!

I've had many turntables and this is not hyperbole but the VL12 Prime is the best sounding turntable I've ever had in my system. And, I've had turntables that cost MUCH more than my VL12. Like Arvin, I was totally taken by surprise. Denon should really consider making a few changes and introduce this turntable to the audiophile market. Basically all they would need to do is take the Denon DJ block lettering off and move the RCA's and AC to the rear of deck.

I nearly didn't give this turntable a chance. Thank goodness I found a retailer that had a 45-day customer satisfaction warranty that made it a no brainer.

This is the best audio purchase I've made since getting my Parasound Halo Integrated Amp!

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Re: Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

Post by Vinylfreak86 » 27 Jul 2017 22:26

I am also a fan of direct-drive turntables. I was thinking when someone would post something about this new Denon. I think it is great turntable, but I prefer the design of PLX-1000, because it looks more classic. I myself use Reloop RP-2000 at the moment, because there is no money for better direct-drive model. :)

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Re: Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

Post by lorr0210 » 08 Aug 2017 15:30

I've had the VL 12 for a month now. It replaced a DP-47 and I'm very happy with the sound at this point - running a Ortofon 2m Bronze PNP, so had to add the addition screw-in counter weight. I also have the 2m Red, which for the price is pretty close to the Bronze - but my ears only.

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Re: Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

Post by fscl » 17 Aug 2017 19:18

Arvin,

Nice pictures and write-up. Just wondering, what is Country Of Origin....... :-k :-k :-k

Once again, not politics but in the interest of globalization and supply chains. These are posts from another Denon VL12 Prime topic.

TIA and CONGRATS ! =D> =D> =D>

Fred and love my Denon DP-33F w/ Signet
fscl wrote:Lyb90, have you spied a COO...... :-k :-k :-k

"Designed in Japan Assembled in China"...... :?:

Fred
fscl wrote:I'm apolitical, no talking politics here....... [-X otherwise it's curtains...... #-o [-o<

Will you save me SF ? :wink: :lol: :lol:

Nickelback Savin' Me utoob here.

Sorry, but someone had to play some NB....... :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Looking at it from a global supply chain / logistics standpoint........ :wink: Last time I checked, that's bidness....... :wink: and Quality........ :-k :-k :-k

R.I.P. Robert Pirsig........ :(

Fred 2 Fred

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Re: Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

Post by rwhing » 26 Feb 2018 01:28

For everyone who has purchased a Denon DJ VL12 Prime, are you still pleased with your purchase? Can you also recommend any upgrades like mats, interconnects, etc.? Looks like Lymbo90 has decided to rescind his recommendation for this turntable due to a “wobble” problem and a whirring noise on a previous unit.

I noticed that Zu Audio sells them and recommends them highly for use with their modified Denon DL-103 and DL-103R moving coil cartridges.

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Re: Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

Post by Arvin C » 26 Feb 2018 03:56

rwhing wrote:For everyone who has purchased a Denon DJ VL12 Prime, are you still pleased with your purchase? Can you also recommend any upgrades like mats, interconnects, etc.? Looks like Lymbo90 has decided to rescind his recommendation for this turntable due to a “wobble” problem and a whirring noise on a previous unit.

I noticed that Zu Audio sells them and recommends them highly for use with their modified Denon DL-103 and DL-103R moving coil cartridges.
Hello rwhing!

I've owned my VL12 now since this past June. I can honestly say that it has been trouble-free & has been a great performer ever since I've set it up. In fact, my entire system has really evolved since November...but the VL12 (and my Denon 2900 DVD/SCAD/CD player) has remained. Now, the Vl12 is mated to Audio Research's PH-3 tube phono pre-amp, a LS-7 tubed line-stage & D240 Mk II amplifier. Speakers are now full-range Thiel CS3.5's with Electronic Bass Equalizer. Even with the component upgrades to my system, I haven't once felt that the VL12 was not up to snuff.

I've upgraded the stock power cable to Pangea's AC-14. The stock phono cable is pretty basic, so I went with Audioquest's Golden Gate RCA interconnects & their GroundGoody grounding cable. I started off with Shure's M97xE MM cartridge (a wonderful performer...very neutral, revealing & energetic sounding) & added Denon's awesome DL-103 MK.II MC cartridge mounted to a second VL12 headshell. The 103 is noticeably more lush in the mids, with more detail & air up top than the Shure. However, while I would never say that the 103 sounds laid-back, its warmth doesn't match the ability of the Shure to simply rock out & slam down low. Happily, switching between the two is as simple as swapping out headshells & adjusting the tracking force.

I have tried out other turntables in effort to "see" what else is out there. However, I can't get past three things, all of which have to do with the advantages of Direct Drive designs like the VL12:

1) I am very sensitive to pitch & you can't deny DD's advantage in speed stability & accuracy

2) Since I listen mostly to rock, classic jazz & latin/bossa nova, the punchy & speedy dynamics of DD really suit the music I listen to most

3) Finally, DD 'tables like the VL12 are simply easier to use & maintain

Now, having said all this, there are 2 huge elephants in the room: the Technics SL-1200G & GR turntables. I've spent a lot of time auditioning these 'tables. They are quieter than the VL12, their tonearms much more solid & fluid, their fit & finish beyond reproach. Take what I said about the punch, speed & accuracy of the VL12 & the new 1200's double it (at least!) easily. They are absolutely silent in operation & have as silent a noise floor as I've ever heard. IMHO, they are worth double the VL12's price (for the 1200GR) & almost 5 times as much (for the 1200G). If you have the funds & are comfortable paying it, I'd get either of the Technics. I still get the itch to buy a 1200GR every other week. As far as a "vintage" SL-1200 MK2 or MK5? The VL12 is better than those older models...even one that's in mint & not-modded condition. Which most definitely are not...

However, back to your original question: I am...still...absolutely delighted with my VL12. Aside from the new Technics & ultra-high end models from Brinkman, VPI & Monoco, there simply aren't many audiophile-grade DD 'tables on the market. As I know it, the VL12 is the best performing & sounding DD table for under a grand. If Zu Audio does manage to make the upgrades they plan for the VL12, especially the tonearm mounting bracket, hopefully they could do for the V12 what KAB did for the original SL-1200 MK2's: turn what was seen as a DJ's 'table into one that any audiophile would be able to appreciate. As it stands right now, the VL12 sounds awfully good!

Hope I've helped...

Arvin

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Re: Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

Post by rwhing » 26 Feb 2018 05:09

Arvin,

Thank you for sharing your experience and impressions of the current Technics SL-1200 turntables. I would hope that the Technics tables sound better than the Denon as they are significantly more expensive and appear to be better constructed.

I have an ARC PH5 phono stage and an ARC LS7 line stage that I absolutely love. I have a DIY Class D amp constructed with a Texas Instruments TPA-3255EVM amplifier module and a 350 watt Mean Well regulated switching power supply driving a pair of KEF LS50 monitors. My other amp is a vintage McIntosh MC240 that I recapped last year. My current turntable is a vintage Kenwood/Trio PC-400U belt/idler wheel drive turntable that is essentially a clone of a Thorens TD-124. I rewired the stock Jelco SA-100 tonearm with Cardas tonearm wire, fabricated new Delrin thrust bearing plates, and cleaned and lubricated the bearing with Honda Motorsport Molybdenum grease. The table is nice and sounds good, but I want something more modern and easier to work with. I feel like I’m constantly tightening tonearm set screws and adjusting VTF.

Arvin C
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Re: Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

Post by Arvin C » 26 Feb 2018 13:39

rwhing wrote:...but I want something more modern and easier to work with. I feel like I’m constantly tightening tonearm set screws and adjusting VTF.
I hear you, rwhing. I remembered auditioning a very well-reviewed 'table, with it's belts, pulleys, unipivot 'arm, speed controller, etc...there definitely was a lot going on.

I think DD desings get a lot of their critcism from the fact that their ease-of-use is miscontrued as "basic/cheap". How I see it is that DD 'tables make it easy to listen to my records. And that's what really matters in the end...

Good luck...looks like you're an ARC fan like I am!

Arvin

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Re: Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

Post by Lymbo90 » 27 Feb 2018 00:46

I must have got in on a bad run from Zzounds.com I've tried 3 and had to send them all back. The first one had a loose and wobbly tonearm base. The second one had a bad platter wobble and the third one had a slight platter wobble and the motor went completely out before I had even had it for a week.

I may try again in a few months because I know several people who have had 0 issues.

Right now I'm sticking with my PLX-1000 for my DD and a Clearaudio Concept.

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Re: Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

Post by rwhing » 27 Feb 2018 01:30

Hi Lymbo90,

Actually, it was your YouTube channel that piqued my interest in this turntable. If I decide to purchase a Denon VL12 Prime, I’ll probably go through a local Guitar Center, so if the unit is defective, I can return it it easily. What’s interesting is that I can hear the differences between the Denon and Pioneer PLX-1000 in your videos, and like you, I preferred the detail and liveliness of the Denon over the Pioneer.

Arvin brought up the new Technics SL-1200GR, and I might consider saving up the additional money to get the Technics. My heart leans toward the Denon since my first direct drive turntable was a Denon DP-2500A that my parents bought me brand new for my high school graduation present many years ago. I loved that turntable and made the mistake of selling it years later to buy speakers I don’t even own any more. I know Denon isn’t the same Nippon Columbia it was in the 70’s and 80’s, but the brand brings back good memories.

In your update to the Denon VL12 Prime, you seemed to reluctantly rescind your recommendation of the turntable since you felt that the sound was really good aside from the product quality.

Arvin C
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Re: Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

Post by Arvin C » 27 Feb 2018 01:40

Hello all!

Wanted to share an email I just received from Sean over at Zu Audio:
Hi Arvin,

Great to meet you, we too dig the VL12!

There are going to be tonearm plates available, they are in the works, arms in the mix include Rega and Jelco. There are some other interesting options but I’ll have to see how those play out.

As for the platter not eh VL12, it’s already pretty dead, we aren’t spending much time making it better, messing with felts and cork of course, and depending on arm and armband interface those materials will be different I’m sure. Footers too, we’re pretty happy with the stock but once the armbands and arms are sorted out I’m sure there is some performance gains to be had for home audio or studio use with feet.

RCAs. The VL12 grounds both the right and left channels’ signal grounds to ground. That was confusing. So, yeah, we have a cable that we make up specific for a stock deck: MissionPhono-VL12. It will be added to the website in the coming weeks, just need to do some photos and accounting. Price will be essentially the same as the MissionPhono though as there isn’t any real difference in cost. While we can do the same with the Event we think people are better to spend that cash elsewhere, or saving it for a new tonearm and armboard.

For AC Power. There is a new one there as well, it makes little difference unless you are battling a noisy EM environment.

What length of each do you need? We can send them out for your review, with a return request about four months or so from when you got the cable. If at that time you would like to keep the cables we can send you a quote and you can decide.

Happy to Help further. Cool you dig it too!

Best

Sean
Zu Audio





On Feb 25, 2018, at 6:51 PM, Arvin wrote:

Hello people from Zu!

I am a very, very happy owner of a Denon VL12 Prime turntable. In fact, I currently have the only written review on Amazon regarding this wonderful piece of audio gear.

I’m very, VERY, interested in the upgrades you have planned for this turntable, especially in terms of mounting different tonearms to it. For, while I really enjoy my VL12, I can’t Help but wonder what if…what if it had a better tonearm than the one from the factory…what if there was a way to make the platform quieter…what if there was a better platter or mat…what if you guys could do for the V12 what KAB did for SL-1200 MK2’s? How close could we get to the current SL-1200GR?

I’m currently using a Pangea AC-14 power cable and AudioQuest’s Golden Gate RCA interconnects with their GroundGoody grounding cable. How much more performance can I expect by going with one of your cables sets? Those WBT connectors…oh, sexy!

Anyway…thanks for letting me ramble. And please keep me up to date on any plans you have for this great turntable. More people should know about it, but I think they can’t get past it’s “Pro/DJ” marketing slant. Maybe, with your upgrades, the audiophiles will finally take notice & listen!!

Keep up the great work…

Arvin Castro
Very interesting, no? :wink:

Arvin

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Re: Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

Post by rwhing » 27 Feb 2018 01:56

I would say so, although one thing I like about the stock tonearm is the ability to “dial in” the vertical tracking angle with the collar on the tonearm base. I would think a nice plinth would improve the sound of the base unit, but that might be more involved and costly than its worth. I should just take the plunge on the VL12 Prime.

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Re: Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

Post by Arvin C » 27 Feb 2018 02:21

rwhing wrote:...I should just take the plunge on the VL12 Prime.
You really can't go wrong in buying the VL12, rwhing. While it's not cheap, it's certainly not the $1600+ price that the 1200GR goes for (no one discounts the new 1200-series 'tables, unless you get a demo/used unit).

To me, the big thing I take away from Sean's email is the potential to replace the tonearm on the VL12. Even on the new 1200's, many reviewers point to the Technics tonearm as the weak-link in the G-series' set-up. With $500-$600 worth of carbon fiber tonearm, the VL12 combo could still be cheaper than the cost of a 1200GR, but now with better dynamics, detail & accuracy (although NOTHING will Help it get as quiet as the G-series...that Technics coreless motor & hand-built construction is the real deal).

I can imagine Zu Audio offering a "package" deal with the mounting bracket, different types of tonearms & one of their hot-rod DL103 cartridges...now that would make for an awesome deck!

Arvin

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Re: Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

Post by Arvin C » 27 Feb 2018 02:48

Just doing some research...Jelco SA-750E 10" tonearm:
48172517.jpg
Website I saw this on had it priced for $709 CDN, so quite reasonable for an 'arm with a better pivot design, better bearings & upgraded construction & materials.

If the mounting plate Zu makes just attaches to the existing mounting disc of the VL12, then the vertical adjustment function should remain unchanged. The Jelco mounting design looks to be almost a direct replacement for the 'arm in the VL12 (and the one in the 1200's for that matter).

Can't wait to see what Sean & his team come up with...

Arvin
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