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This review first appeared in the June 2010 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of the VPI Classic in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of or VPI. - Ed.

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Sources: Analog – deck - Acoustic Solid MPX; tone arms - Phonotools Vivid-Two, SME M2 12-inch; carts - Denon DL-103, Ortofon MC Rondo Bronce, Zu Audio DL-103; phono pre - SAC Gamma Sym; digital - audiolab 8000CD, HIFIAkademie cdPlayer
Amplification: Pre - Octave HP300; power - Electrocompaniet AW180; integrated - Denon PMA-2010AE, Lua 4040 C
Loudspeakers: Ascendo System F, Thiel SCS4
Various cables, racks and sundry accessories
Review component retail: €3.200

The launch of a special anniversary celebration product isn’t that uncommon. The arrival of a sizeable crate from German VPI importer H.E.A.R. GmbH emblazoned 30th Anniversary Classic Turntable thus didn’t cause undue surprise. The model was introduced last year to celebrate the US firm’s birthday. Even if a bit belated, cheers then from Teutonia. More unusual were the contents, at least to those familiar with the usual offerings of VPI which never before included a plinth-integrated motor. Why this change? Perhaps calling a deck ‘Classic’ entailed also looking like a classic? My admiring eyes recognized clear associations with the 1980s to feel nostalgic.

VPI Industries boss Harry Weisfeld of course had more technical reasons. While he readily admitted that separating a spinning platter from its drive motor pays dividends in vibration reduction over integrated solutions, he claimed that it’s not always categorically about absolute resonance suppression but the challenge of an ensemble’s composite harmonious resonance effects on musicality – to wit, the focus of the VPI Classic. Surprise surprise.

Before we get detailed, let’s check on the crate’s contents. Everything needed to get us analog fiends going is included save for a pickup. This means plinth, platter and arm as well as all the assembly tools, setup level, tone arm scale and two kinds of lubricant – grease for the platter bearing, oil for the optional arm damper. It’s definitely a complete package and, for a change, even had a praiseworthy owner’s manual with intelligible comprehensive instructions in German plus illustrations.

Checking out the VPI Classic more closely—finish options are black-stained Oak and Walnut as per the opening photos—the first item to catch the eye will be the arm. It’s the Special Edition version of VPI’s 10.5 incher distinguished by proprietary rather NordOst wiring, a simplified VTA mechanism and a lower price. Purchased separately, the JMW 10.5 I SE arm demands €1.850 to make the all-in-one VPI Classic hardly a skipper on ingredients. 60% of the combo’s sticker is invested in the arm in fact. That’s an unusually high percentage. We previously noticed it with the VPI Scout already.

As are all VPI wands, the JMW 10.5 is a uni pivot. A perpendicular steel needle supports a receiver race on the top and movements in all directions originate from this single point. Unlike that of the 9-inch Scout arm, the steel point of the 10.5 sports an oil reservoir collar to create additional arm damping. I’ll cover its sonic effects later. There are clear similarities to the Scout arm. To increase stability, the center of gravity is lowered beneath the contact point, thus the lateral discs and eccentrically bored counter weight. Today’s arm also exits its wiring on top and terminates it with a small Lemo plug for the mating box; and accepts replacement arm tubes (at €1.200/ea.) to make cartridge swaps a 30-second interlude. Certain dealers are said to have acquired a small inventory of VPI tubes for just that purpose.