Denon VL12 Prime Unboxing, Set-Up & Initial Impressions

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

Post by rwhing » 03 Mar 2018 14:43

I traveled to San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico for business this past week and had a chance to audition the Technics SL-1200GR at Alma HiFi. I have to say that I was very impressed with the build quality and sound quality of the turntable fitted with an Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge. We listened to a few tracks with this turntable connected to all Technics system, and the soundstage was expansive with great separation and detail. Arvin, you are correct in that this is a very quiet turntable and the sound was so clear and detailed. This turntable is $909 more than the Denon VL12 Prime, which I hope to audition next week.

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

Post by Arvin C » 04 Mar 2018 00:54

rwhing wrote:...Arvin, you are correct in that this is a very quiet turntable and the sound was so clear and detailed. This turntable is $909 more than the Denon VL12 Prime, which I hope to audition next week.
I'm glad you got a chance to audition the 1200GR, rwhing. I had the same impressions as you did when I auditioned the new 1200-series 'tables: musicality that is filled with rhythm & impact, perfect pace & pitch, dead-silent operation with almost complete rejection of outside noise.

At the time I bought the VL12, the 1200GR didn't exist, only the much pricier GAE & G models. So, I went with the VL12 simply because I couldn't get comfortable with paying $5K/$6K for a turntable. For me, the VL12 shares much (but not all) of the GR's musicality, with the GR throwing out a bigger soundstage with more separation. I think the GR's better tonearm assembly is at play here. Both are obviously dead-accurate speed-wise. But, again, it's the Technic's super solid build quality & silence that the VL12, and all but a very few other 'tables, cannot match.

I think you will find the two very similar in terms of how they sound, but when you really get critical, that GR will be better. It will be interesting to hear how much (or little) you think once you get a chance to audition the VL12...

Cheers!

Arvin

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

Post by rwhing » 06 Mar 2018 01:35

Well I checked with the Guitar Center in the area who has the Denon DJ VL12 Prime in stock and they won’t put out this “expensive” turntable on the floor for display. I guess they’ve seen their share of people going through their store and abusing equipment—I know I have.

Anyway, I reached out to Zu Audio about any package deal they might offer with the Denon DJ VL12 Prime with one of their modified Denon DL103 or DL103R MC cartridges. Their cartridges have received very good reviews and they offer a 60-day trial period with the turntable. I’ll see what they come back with.

On a side note, I recently won a bid for a Zu Audio Mission 3.5 mm mini stereo connector-to-RCA cable to connect an Echo Dot 2nd Generation to my stereo for background listening, and I have to say I was impressed with the improvements it made when streaming good source material through the Echo Dot. I also have a couple AC power cables from Zu Audio that have worked very well for me.

That said, I wonder if I would still come out ahead with the Technics SL-1200GR.

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

Post by rwhing » 09 Mar 2018 20:13

Well I just pulled the trigger on purchasing a Denon DJ VL12 Prime from the local Guitar Center. Guitar Center is offering a $100 off coupon on some Denon DJ products including the turntable, so I figured why not spend $799. This special is only good for a couple more days.

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

Post by Arvin C » 09 Mar 2018 20:42

rwhing wrote:Well I just pulled the trigger on purchasing a Denon DJ VL12 Prime from the local Guitar Center. Guitar Center is offering a $100 off coupon on some Denon DJ products including the turntable, so I figured why not spend $799. This special is only good for a couple more days.
That's a really good deal, Rich! Hopefully, you will enjoy the VL12 as much as I have.

Please let us know your impressions once you get it set-up & settled in. Don't forget to give it a good cartridge...it's a good enough 'table that can take advantage of better cartridge types & designs.

Enjoy the music!

Arvin

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

Post by rwhing » 09 Mar 2018 21:01

Will do Arvin. My wonderful wife is picking up the turntable when she leaves work soon since the Guitar Center is around the corner from where she works.

I am mounting a re-tipped Talisman Alchemist IIB high output moving coil cartridge on the Denon. It sounds smooth and lively on my Kenwood/Trio PC-400U belt-idler wheel drive turntable.

I decided to try the Denon since I could purchase it locally here in the Twin Cities, and because Zu Audio is likely to develop the arm mounting plate to provide some flexibility in upgrading tonearms. I might purchase one of the Zu Audio Denon DL-103 LOMC cartridges in the near future as well.

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

Post by rwhing » 10 Mar 2018 02:56

Denon DJ VL12 Prime 1.jpg
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Well I have the Denon VL12 Prime set up in my system, and I have to say that this is a very, very nice turntable. Following the printed instructions in the User Guide and using my analog set-up tools:
  • Digital Vertical Tracking Force gauge
  • Baerwald overhang scale with mirrored surface
  • Bubble level
  • Blank LP surface (no grooves) for adjusting anti-skate force and Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA)
It took me about 40 minutes to get everything set up properly. Having a detachable headshell makes this process in setting the stylus overhang so much easier. Additonally, the very effective vibration-isolating feet make leveling the turntable a breeze.
Denon DJ VL12 Prime 2.jpg
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This is a weighty, solidly constructed turntable. The plinth is a brushed metal finish with multiple Torx head screws contributing to a very confident feel. I could knock on the plinth and get a dead thud. The platter spins very quietly and smoothly, and the tonearm bearings feel very smooth with absolutely no play.

One thing I did notice was that I had to set the anti-skate force dial to approximately 5.75g while my vertical tracking force for my Talisman Alchemist IIB HOMC cartridge was set to 1.85g. This is where using a test record really helps with properly set anti-skate force.

I also need to make some adjustment to the cue height. The cueing mechanism is damped so it will lower the tonearm gently into the lead-in groove, although I usually to do this manually.

The supplied target light--either the "cold" white LED or the "warm" light amber LED--is a distraction to me, so I left it off. There are enough backlit buttons on this turntable for my tastes.

So how does it sound? I first played Diana Krall's "Turn Up the Quiet" and all I heard was the music against a quiet background. From what I recall from my audition of the Technics SL-1200GR at Alma Music, the Denon sounded just as quiet and solid as the Technics deck. In comparison to my vintage Kenwood-Trio, it definitely has a lower noise floor and I could actually turn the stepped attenuator on my Audio Research LS7 tube line stage down a notch without sacrificing clarity. Diana Krall's vocals were more lifelike, and the intimate soundstage of this album really came through setting a romantic mood. Even with the cheap stock phono cables, the tone was more balanced with improved frequency extension and the low level detail came through more clearly. The bass extension with better bass note definition stood out to me.

Next I played Kenny Burrell's "Bluesy Burrell" and the Pat Metheny Group's "Falcon and the Snowman" soundtrack. Wow, the soundstage is so large and three dimensional and the timbral detail is very nice. My wife commented that the music was more dynamic and the imaging on the opening choral track on "Falcon and the Snowman" transported us to the spacious venue where it was recorded.

Playing the 50th anniversary remaster of The Beatles' "Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was a real treat. This turntable has timing and rhythm down in spades. The drums in "A Day in the Life" have never sounded better. The separation of performers is very impressive allowing me to really hear into the mix. This was really cool. The piano strikes at the end were haunting.

Lastly, I put the soundtrack for "La La Land" on, and the percussive impact of the orchestral blasts on "Another Day of Sun" were quite palpable. The soundstage does not collapse into garbled mush on complex passages, but everything holds its place in space. I wasn't a big fan of the movie, but Justin Hurwitz's compositions and the musical performances were stellar. The large scale of the soundtrack really came through and I heard things I never knew were there.
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One thing I really need is a dust cover for this machine. The missing dustcover really demonstrates this turntable's DJ pedigree. I'm either going to purchase the Zu Audio Mission phono interconnect cable set, or roll my own using Duelund DCA20GA oil-impregnated cotton-insulated Tinned Copper cables. For a record mat, I use a two layer system consisting of a Polyolefin closed cell foam sheet for the bottom layer and a colorful deerhide top layer that I purchased from Marc Morin. This combination not only eliminates static, but allows the life of the music to come through.

With what I'm hearing, the Talisman Alchemist IIB moving coil cartridge and the Denon DJ VL12 Prime are a great match. I am really glad I took a chance on this turntable, and I can hardly wait to spin more vinyl on this machine. Thanks Arvin and Jeff (Lymbo) for pointing me to this analog gem.

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

Post by Arvin C » 19 Mar 2018 03:24

Nice pics, Rich! I'm glad that you are enjoying your VL12...it really is a very fine 'table. I am especially looking forward to what Sean at Zu comes out with as upgrades.

As far as a dust cover goes, you can check out Decksaver's DS-PC-VL12ST150 polycarbonate cover. It's custom made for the VL12 and offers excellent protection, albeit with a very tight fit. You can find it on Amazon. I have one...even drilled a custom cut-out in mine to accommodate the removable cueing lamp.

Again, thanks for sharing your pics and experiences...and I hope you enjoy your VL12 as much as I have!

Arvin

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

Post by rwhing » 20 Mar 2018 01:40

I ended up purchasing an Audio Technica dust cover made for the Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB (PN 705-DJ3500O-1329) from Full Compass for $30.57 and free shipping. I just place it on top of the Denon when I am not using it. It looks like it was made jsut for this turntable.

I just installed a Zu Audio Mission Phono interconnect cable that I recently won on an eBay auction. This cable made a huge improvement in the sound quality. The soundstage expanded in all three dimensions with a more three dimensional image, the frequency extension improved at both extremes and the tone is richer and more organic. The detail with this turntable is really impressive.
Denon DJ VL12 Prime 5.jpg
Zu Mission Phono Cable Installed on VL12
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I also just won a Zu Audio Mission MkI power cable. It may be overkill, but I do live in an townhome with a lot of RFI and this turntable has switching power supply to boot. I may need to replace the stock Wattgate IEC connector with a Schurter right angle IEC connector to properly fit it onto the turntable.

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

Post by akimmet » 03 May 2018 04:06

I assumed the new VL12 was going to be yet another Hanpin SL-1200 lookalike. It appears I was completely mistaken. I am very impressed by what it looks like you get for the price.

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

Post by rwhing » 12 May 2018 21:44

I really like this turntable, and I hope that Zu Audio goes through with developing an arm mounting bracket like what they developed for the original Technics SL-1200.

https://www.zuaudio.com/low-voltage/201 ... table.html

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

Post by zoup-man » 08 Jul 2018 02:22

I owned a VL12 for about three weeks and whlle I really liked it, the absence of a lid/dust cover made ne return it. I am not a dj and I needed a unit for home use. I bought a decksaver lid but it was not to my liking so I returned the unit as I don’t want to deal with dust long-term. I am having a remorse though because the turntable was great and I kind of ‘miss’ it. I might buy again.

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

Post by Les_Creative_Edge » 22 Oct 2018 10:01

I've owned a Denon DJ VL12 Prime for over a half year now. My feelings on it have grown stronger for it as I get use to it. So let me make a few points.

First of all it's not light weight about 28 lbs and its well dampened cast aluminum platter is about 5 lbs. The plinth is very manly, industrial looking and tough. Large feet do a credible job at isolation. The motor on mine is DEAD SILENT and spins exactly at 33.3 and 45rpm, as verified by the strobe and platter pattern but also backed by my rpm phone app that shows STEADY 33.3 and 45 rpm. A powerful quartz lock motor does that and gets up to speed almost instantly, less that one second and just as quick speed changes. The variable pitch control is fun but more usable for a DJ not for home use but it's fun to mess with it. The VL12 has up to+/- 50% so one can make records sound like Alivn and the chipmunks fast or demonically sloooooowwww. :-)

The tonearm is straightforward S shape with the on the fly arm height adjustment. Mine works well no real play in the bearings. If one zero balances it one can make it float away with a only minor blow of air, so the bearings are up to the task. I was able to align my Denon DL-110 cartridge no problem using Barewald in my case. The only gripe I had and have with the arm was the silicone damping of the cuing set up was weak, the arm dropped too fast. I bought a syringe of silicone off Ebay a MEGA LIFETIME SUPPLY and a dab of it in the internals of the cuing set up solve the issue. My VL12 tonearm drops beautifully slow and steady now. As to the gripe of the arm by design is the cuing lever is cheapy feeling. It works fine but ain't no Technics SL-1200MKII or any Rega cue lever in fluid motion of design. But meh it's ok.

Now the turntable plays back vinyl LP's with my DL-110 beautifully. The sound and detail/texture, of my LP's is great to my ears and system. It has great pace, solidity of sound and groove noise is well controlled and quiet. Fidelity of this big direct drive turntable is a'ok given its price point. I've really grown to enjoy its playback and general usability.

Two final issues/things.

1: The anti-skate works but the dial numbers do not match the need. My DL-110 like 1.8grams of VTF. so normally one would dial anti-skate to a same 1.8. Using an anti-skate band on a test LP I found 1.8 was too ineffective. In fact I had to set the anti-skate dial to between 4 and 5. Doing so made anti skate work 100% perfect. So if you have a VL12 you may want to test your anti-skate.

2: An issue some VL12 owners have noted was platter wobble. Upon set up my VL12 displayed apparent platter wobble, minor but noticeable to the eye. I was bothered but since my VL12 has no speed issue nor any motor or bearing noise, I just lived with it. My platter appears to wobble oh maybe between 1/32 -1/16th inch or less than 1mm.

I decided to study my platter rotation and saw the spindle does not wobble, is not twisted nor bent. The spindle aka: motor turns 100% true. I then observed my platter under good light with the mat off. The platter does not wobble at least not observable to close viewing. I DID NOTICE WHAT WAS MY APPARENT WOBBLE! The VL12 has a chrome outside ring that has the strobe pattern on it. This looks to be machine fitted or pressed into the cast aluminum platter. Mine has an eccentricity and this is what causes the outside of the platter ring to appear to wobble. For an $1100+ Cdn turntable it should not be but alas it is at least I know its only a general cosmetic eccentricity. Again I don't like it but it's less than 1/16th inch in eccentricity and has ZERO effect on speed and sound.

As for a dust cover I bought a smoke tinted RELOOP cover for Reloop 7000/9000 turntables. It fits perfectly on my VL12 and the smoked effect is very classy to my eyes. It's about $75.00Cdn. with taxes and shipping and has hinges but I just sit mine on top of the plinth and remove it for playback.

The styling is not for everyone but of you like BIG, BEEFY, INDUSTRIAL, LOOKING TURNTABLES the VL12Prime may be one to look at. The LED platter ring light is all for show but it's fun and the colours can be changed to suit one's mood or be turned off too.

If you want a big direct drive drive turntable brand new at $900.00 US well the VL12 Prime is a good choice. Yes, a new Technics SL-1200GR would be a better choice but at $2500US I am not in its market today. My VL12 has grown on me it was not total love at first sight due to my points made above, but it's a nice playing well built overall, easy to live with unit and I will likely keep mine for a number of years until I have the cash to splurge on a SL-1200GR.

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

Post by Les_Creative_Edge » 13 Nov 2018 18:14

Some photos of my Denon DJ VL12 Turntable with Denon DL-110 phono cartridge.

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

Post by rwhing » 14 Nov 2018 12:55

Glad you are enjoying your VL12 Prime turntable. I am very pleased with how well my vinyl plays back on my unit. I have not experienced the wobble you described in your earlier posts. I am saving up for a better cartridge like the Hana SL. I think this turntable deserves a better cartridge than the high output Talisman Alchemist IIB MC I have on it now, although I have to say that this combination sounds good. A Hana SL will take this turntable to another level.