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Aside from these items, VPI’s Scout relies on a proven recipe. The plinth consists of a 3cm thick MDF slab to which attaches a steel plate from the bottom to lower resonance. Four cone footers decouple via foam interface and require a perfectly level shelf or setup surface since a just 2mm loosening of the footers along their shanks removes contact with the foam patch. The steel axle is embedded in the plinth and meets a Teflon-mirrored bearing in the 3.5cm thick acrylic platter. Hence this is an inverted bearing, a quite common geometry nowadays whose proponents claim significantly lower chatter over ‘normal’ bearings.

One Scout highlight is clearly the arm which, with VPI, simply had to be a unipivot design. Its advantage over four-point suspensions is reduced friction. With a wickedly pointy bearing shaft meeting a polished counter race, where could be the rub? But there’s no light without shadow. A unipivot can go sideways to tip. The art thus resides in the construction of the affair which must lower its center of gravity to increase stability. VPI tone arms always added lateral counter weights which increased circumferential mass and reduced tipsiness.

Besides constructional finesse—and hopefully benign effects—VPI’s JMW9 is plain practical. This includes the aforementioned small counter nut to fine-tune tracking force, a good thing. The ring with the lateral outriggers turns precisely against resistance to lock in correct azimuth. Small but important, the race sports an exact apex bore to eliminate any wonder where its precise center might be. I loved the little nut for lead pencils in the head shell. And unlike with my SME 12-incher, the VTA set screw isn’t blocked by another stupid screw. You can get to it directly just as it should be. And naturally, there’s a groove in the tone arm shaft to prevent the arm from turning during VTA adjustments – which I’ve encountered elsewhere. To get at anti skating via tensioning the tone arm wiring is an original notion but one I shunned. But the fact that the complete arm can be lifted off its base and—perfectly pre-dialed of course—switched out in seconds for another arm is a daytime wet dream for anyone who compares cartridges as can be the case with reviewers. With a swap wand available for €700, I can’t for the death of me figure what prevented me from ordering one. I must have been out to lunch (and I can't even remember what I ate)....

On its own, each of the above itemized points might appear minor but after a good dozen setups I can state with conviction that it all adds up to extreme user friendliness. This arm is easily adjusted with neither fuss—big counter weight excepted—nor nerve-wrecking obstacles. That’s what endears me to these Yanks. They think about the actual user. And fit ‘n’ finish are top drawer. Why the retainer ring doesn’t perfectly straddle the arm wand is my only open question.