In an effort to keep the lines of communication going last week we started a weekly "Monday Newsletter". To expand upon that we are going to post that same newsletter as a blog as well to make sure everyone stays connected. We understand not everyone uses social media so directly through our site/forum is also here to get the job done. Speaking of our forum, we have being going through some massive overhaul to upgrade/update our forum platform but want to make sure we do it without losing any existing content.
Anyway, wishing everyone another Happy Monday and updates on all things VPI! This past weekend I had a chance to celebrate my 18th birthday (again?) with the VPI team and would like to thank everyone who sent positive birthday wishes. The best present will be when we can all meet together again for some in person listening!
Speaking of in person listening, we are excited to announce we have gotten two of the listening rooms back up and running at VPI House with hopes of having more virtual Events/Listening Sessions. Our ultimate goal is to have limited and safe in person events in the near future.
We have also been working hard to catalog and make the Sid Mark's Record Collection available. We will showcase some of the open albums via Facebook Live on our page. Its exciting to see people have already been able to purchase and put these fantastic records to good musical use! All proceeds are going to Sid's family.
Sid Mark's Collection
Due to some personal conflicts it looks like we will not being having an Episode of "Chat with Mat & Harry" tomorrow. Instead I might take the opportunity for a technical turntable Live Stream, but that is to be determined and will be posted right on our Facebook page.
If you missed last week's episode we have posted it on our youtube Channel. If you think Harry and I are a but sluggish in that episode its because we just finished moving multiple racks filled with records!
Chat with Mat & Harry Ep. 2
We also want to remind everyone that supply prices in all industries have drastically increased and seem to continue on the track. We are going to hold our prices until the first of June but not all companies are waiting on price increases. If you are thinking about that new amp or speaker for your system you might want to think about it sooner than later before there is a 10-20% increase across all types of products.
Thanks again to everyone for being part of the VPI Family and we will talk to you all soon!
Distinctive Stereo LLC
No, this is not about the weight so many of us have gained during the COVID pandemic. Rather, it is about the newest addition to my audio system, the VPI “Fatboy” tonearm.
I first encountered a Fatboy when Merrill Wettasinghe and I shared a room at the 2017 AXPONA. Our friend and colleague Mat Weisfeld, President of VPI, provided us with a belt-drive Avenger turntable with a new, prototype arm. The arm had a wider diameter than the standard arm, and was 3-D printed. Not yet having an official designation, Mat affectionately called it the Fatboy, likely not realizing the name would stick. Our room received rave reviews, so all was good.
At the time of the show, I owned a turntable from a different manufacturer (now no longer in business). A year or so after the show I decided it was time to upgrade my turntable; there was no doubt in my mind that it would be a VPI. I was undecided as to which model to get but after discussions with Mat, I decided to go with the top of the Avenger line, the Avenger Reference. The Avenger Reference has a rim drive, and a magnetic platter. I have long been a fan of rim drive ‘tables, because generally speaking (there are of course exceptions), rim drives – along with idler wheel drives and direct drives – excel in dynamics. The downside of such designs has been increased vibration transmitted to the platter. VPI addresses this by using very high quality motors, but also by the optional magnetic platter. More specifically, there are two platters, both of which contain magnets. The magnets are on top of the drive platter, and on the bottom of the driven platter (upon which the record sits). The lower platter (i.e., the drive platter) rotates the upper platter (i.e., the driven platter) by attraction between the magnets. Because there is no direct contact between the two platters, any vibration in the lower platter is not transmitted to the upper platter.
At the time I got my ‘table, the Fatboy tonearms were out of stock, so VPI founder Harry Weisfeld brought a JWM arm, with a promise to upgrade my ‘table to the Fat Boy soon as they became available. Between work, shows, events, new babies (Mat’s, not mine), we never got around to swapping arms. Not until earlier this week that is, when Harry came by to drop off the Fat Boy (along with some new footers).
Since the time since I first heard the Fatboy prototype, it has undergone a number of changes. First, it now has a full length thin wall copper tube inside for shielding, rigidity, and grounding. Second, the paint job is done by drying the 3D arm tube, sanding the digital stairstep off, sealing the outside to prevent moisture, then finishing with black lacquer paint in 3 coats with sanding between coats. To put the third change in perspective, I’ll begin with an anecdote. Some time after AXPONA, Harry and Mat visited me to hear my system. Harry brought a thumb drive with him (as mentioned in my previous article “I Know What I Hear,” Harry very much enjoys digital music).Harry explained that it contained two files of the same song, and wanted to know what – if anything – I heard different between them. He provided no details as to how the tracks actually differed. After listening for a few minutes, I told him that one track sounded somewhat “airier,” while the other sound a bit more “solid.” Mat - who also did not know the origin of the tracks - concurred with my assessment. Harry then explained the two tracks were recorded identically, the sole difference being that one was made with the VPI Fatboy gimbal arm, the other with the VPI unipivot version (both of course, with the same cartridge). As you likely guessed - and in keeping with “conventional wisdom” – the airier sound was the unipivot, the more grounded one the gimbal. Though both were excellent, the gimbal was more to my liking, and I let Harry know that would be my choice. (As an aside, and as discussed in my previous article, it is fascinating that such subtle distinctions are audible).
Now back to the third change. Harry was aware that – again, as is generally true - the unipivot arm did not track quite as well as the gimbal, though he of course liked other aspects of the design (as he does the gimbal - that’s why VPI offers both models).Never one to rest on his laurels, and possessing of an incredibly creative mind, he came up with an idea that would, he believed, minimize the downside of the unipivot design, while preserving its good points. Specifically, he added to the side an additional pivot that slides along a stainless steel plate, which is polished to mirror-like smoothness. It bears just enough weight to increase the stability of the main pivot, but not so much as to decrease its “responsiveness.” VPI refers to this design - quite logically - as dual-pivot. It reminds me of a motorcycle with a sidecar – more agile than a 4-wheel car, but with less propensity to tip over than a traditional motorcycle. After hearing the dual-pivot at the home of my friend and colleague Isaac Rivera of Living Acoustics, I decided to get it, rather than the gimbal.
Based on all the listening I had done to the Fatboy at shows, at the VPI House, and at Living Acoustics, I fully expected it to be a significant step up (pun unintended…) from the previous arm, but I tempered my excitement until I could hear it in my own system. Having now done so, it is clear that the Fatboy is everything I had hoped it would be, and the dual-pivot arm does indeed bring the best of unipivot and gimbal designs. (My associated equipment is as follows: Ortofon A95 cartridge (now discontinued), Merrill Audio Jens phonostage, Merrill Audio Christine Reference preamplifier, Merrill Audio Element 116 monoblock amplifiers, and Genesis Maestro loudspeakers.) The most notable difference as compared to my previous VPI arm is in the bass, which is rock-solid. Double basses, and the lower registers of the piano, have proper weight and body, yet the entire presentation has an openness and spaciousness that are hallmarks of the VPI unipivot arms. The combination of the dual-pivot Fatboy, and rim drive and magnetic platter of the Avenger Reference, provides incredible musical flow, a low noise floor with excellent musical detail, proper decay (a trait that I find missing in many systems), and image stability that is frequency-independent.
Though I am late to the game, I can now add my voice to those singing the praises of the VPI Fatboy 3-D printed tonearm. As good as VPI’s other arms are, the Fatboy is a major advance, and I enthusiastically recommend it to anyone looking to upgrade their vinyl playback system.
My next planned upgrade is a VPI direct-drive ‘table, which I hope will happen within the coming year. Stay tuned.
Last but not least, I want to express my sincerest thanks to Harry for doing the initial setup, and to Isaac who came out to NJ to give it the whole nine yards treatment (including the use of a USB microscope). I am deeply indebted to both of them.
We would like to thank everyone for all the positive wishes and messages about Shirley and her passing. Due to COVID-19 the memorial will be virtual.
We will be having a virtual memorial via Zoom this
Sunday February 21 at 11 AM EST.
During that time we will share pictures, video, and words about Shirley and her life while offering the opportunity for others to share as well.
Meeting link: https://zoom.us/j/6966848872
On February 13th Shirley peacefully passed and we shared the following message:
It is with great sadness we share the passing of the VPI Grandma Shirley Greene. She was 93 years young and lived life to the fullest! For the first 30 years her and her daughter Sheila ran the VPI Office and was well know for her work in the industry. Shirley always supported the family, the company, and loved talking with customers on the phone. She lived dancing, playing games, write poetry and going to shows. Shirley will be missed by everyone and all will remember her positive and loving attitude to everyone... as well as her brutal honesty. Shirley peacefully passed this morning and was sharp and quick witted until the end. Thanks to everyone who was part of her life.
There is no need to send anything or make donations, just sending positive thoughts or stories is more than enough. Thanks to everyone who was part of Shirley's life!
For those who missed it, last year in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we took to action and began making PPE supplies for our Front Line Heroes! Initially it was because VPI was identified as being an "Essential Company" while music does have a strong impact on someone's life we wanted to do something that actually did give back to those who need. It stared with hand sanitizer when someone made a joke about us using our cleaning machine fluid for sanitizer in one of the forums. It led to us researching and setting up a whole workspace for creating FDA approved sanitizer.
The progression led to us finding other items like Face Shields, Intubation Boxes, and many other items. We are proud that TD Bank took notice to our efforts and filmed a video about what our team was able to accomplish. Thanks TD Bank for taking the time to learn more about what we worked towards accomplishing during these difficult times!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.