During my time with the VP4 Silver I had three excellent cartridges on hand. First and foremost was my trusted Air Tight PC-3, my partner in vinyl crimes for already many years. Next came the Phasemation PP-500 I reviewed for HighFidelity.pl, finally a Hana Umami Blue which I reviewed for yet another magazine. None of them are amongst the most expensive absolutely best pickups to market but all offer high-end performance and excellent value. Even very demanding music lovers could live happily with any of them. I know I could; and still do with the Air Tight though would truly enjoy any of the other two. I had a chance to get to know both before this test which made them quite useful. The turntable was my usual wingman, a JSikora Standard Max with two arms from Janusz Sikora, the KV12 and KV12 Max. The latter hosted the Air Tight, the former either the Phasemation or Hana. Both arms feature gold-plated copper wiring from Soyaton. The VP4 Silver connected to a Circle Labs P300 preamplifier with Bastanis Imperial interconnects and KBL Sound Zodiac XLR interchangeably with Next Level Tech Flame XLR forwarding signal to a Circle Labs M200 power amp. Speakers were GrandiNote MACH4 with Soyaton Benchmark speaker cables. My two phono stages haven't changed for years and are the excellent ESE Lab Niburu V5.0 and GrandiNote Celio Mk IV, both solid state.
After 3½ years it's not easy to remember the sound of any one component in detail even if it left a very good impression as the first LampizatOr phono stage did. So I re-read my own review. I had to also factor on changes in my system since to make it even harder to (cough) compare the two LampizatOr phono stages. Yet one of the first things to mind were more sparks in this sound which seemed even more open, pure and airy in the upper end than I remembered the original. In its review I wrote that in terms of general sonics it was more like my GrandiNote than Nibiru so had a richer more saturated sound. This time the VP4 Silver shifted to some degree towards the ESE Lab Nibiru to land more or less in the middle between my two decks on general sonic character.
What definitely hadn't changed was the presentation's coherence and the smooth natural flow of music. If anything it got even better. The ‘gain' in the treble range which I would attribute to the ‘silver' element of the design didn't upset the overall balance since the lower end seemed equally developed. The midrange had tube magic aka velveteen richness. The center of gravity had perhaps shifted up a notch but without an A/B comparison I can't be sure. It did though sound as natural and accurate as many top phono stages I tested. What changed most, I believe, was the crisper even slightly more aggressive-where-needed treble that added those highly appreciated sparks. Due to that trumpets for example seemed even more accurate, live-like, aggressive hence natural. Yet Billie Holiday's Body and Sound from a recent GN Records limited edition managed both a sharp crisp trumpet and beautifully rich, smooth, deep, textured and emotionally engaging vocals to show that the treble improvement had no negative impact on the excellent tube midrange. It just made it more exciting and real.
The next album also on GN Records, Ensemble Operarmonica's Carillon, beautifully showcased the VP4 Silver's ability to reproduce recorded ambiance, here that of a large church with lengthy reverb. This was key in building a huge space with incredible depth that felt as if I really sat in a large church. The church organ proved fully capable of powerful even thunderous bass. Flute and soprano complemented the presentation to constantly remind me of how good and rich the midrange was. The abundance of tiny detail and excellent microdynamics clearly delivered even the tiniest tonal shifts. I continued my acoustic adventure with the famous Keith Jarret Köln Concert. Though I own two solid-state phono stages, this particular album always sounds best with top tube phono stages like LampizatOr's VP4 Silver. Whenever someone asks me what's so special about tubes, I suggest albums like this. The timbre and depth of the piano, the silky-smooth flow of the music are just naturally there. The musician's murmuring, foot taps, the palpability of the ambiance and audience all combine into an incredibly smooth yet powerfully immersive, brilliant and unforgettable performance. At least they did with the LampizatOr as they had earlier with Kondo, Audio Tekne, Brinkmann or a hybrid Tenor Audio. Such a session becomes so much more than just listening to recorded music. It becomes a deep personal encounter that could be topped only by participating in the actual event. Until they develop a time machine that's impossible of course so an album will have to do. The VP4 Silver did the trick and I sat there mesmerized listening to the whole album – actually several times over the course of my time with the LampizatOr.
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