The revitalized growth in sales of vinyl LPs, and record players, over the past few years has been greeted with immense support by those who truly care about their music. The likes of high-res digital music downloads and vinyl may not kill off the MP3 format, yet there is no doubt that with each passing day more and more music lovers are realizing the vinyl LP delivers a far more enjoyable experience. My wife Heather and her 13 year young daughter Cailyn both love music. Imagine, if you will, having two 'normal' people visit the home of a music lover filled with wonderful hi-fi gear. Now take it a step further as one of them is my wife, and the other her daughter, who are both avid music enthusiasts. My wife Heather has attended industry events and noticed a wide variety of turntables and vinyl LPs for sale during high-end audio shows. For her, it was curious to see so many people within the industry praising this decades old technology over the more modern MP3. Since Heather may have grown up listening to her parent's vinyl and thus has some preconceived notions such as pops, tics and 'vinyl noise,' her daughter has no personal experience and thus just goes by what others have said about 'vinyl noise'. As a 13 year old, she is a fresh new 'slate' ready to hear the difference with an open mind and no person experience with certain preconceived notions.
Heather's daughter, Cailyn, is your typical teenager. She is constantly glued to her iTouch and Android phone, plus all she has really known are streaming online music and of course purchased MP3 files from Apple iTunes. With the resurgence of LPs finding their way into stores worldwide, and it being cool (once again) to play vinyl, she was very curious in the advantages of vinyl over her lifelong diet of lossy compressed MP3 and streaming music. As a side note, I recall years ago reading a Unites States Navy research paper concerning human hearing. The military wanted to find who had the best hearing, as they wanted to have the very best people operate submarine SONAR (SOund Navigation And Ranging). The research paper conclusion stated that 13 year old females had the best overall hearing ability. With both Heather, and 13 year old Cailyn, asking all the right questions concerning why vinyl LPs have maintained such a great following, I felt it would be great to have them check out the latest offering from VPI Industries. Can't find that original SONAR study online, yet here is another one for those who are technically minded and enjoy reading research papers.
Over the years VPI produced many models of turntables and tonearms at affordable pricing. "With the introduction of the TNT Turntable came the reality of Harry's promise to produce a state-of-the-art turntable at something less than a state-of-the-staggering price" say their website. Harry's son Jonathan had worked at his parents' factory and was helping his dad design a new tonearm. Sadly, Jonathan was killed in a horrific car accident at the age of 17 and thus the model became the JMW Memorial Tonearm.
As time moved forward, Harry's son Mathew (Mat) grew up with an eye on his family's expanding company yet he became a high school teacher and, like father, enjoyed the study of mechanical engineering. Mat's focus pertained not just to the turntables his family created, it also reached into robotics. As the next generation of family within VPI and a Holmdel High School teacher who completed his Master's Degree in Education in August of 2009, Mat was also an adjunct Professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey. Father Harry wisely realized his son's talents and brought him into the company to continue their efforts. Mat's experience with the younger generation taught him well and in the family tradition has helped create a reasonably priced turntable, yet with some uniquely modern features. Mat also took a leading role at modernizing VPI's website and the overall company in general.
Enter The VPI
Nomad 10" tonearm uses a stainless steel rod through the bearing to provide
both stability and durability for the listener. A gimbaled/yoke bearing ensures
smooth operation for many years. Since the VPI Nomad is made for newfound vinyl
LP enthusiasts, VPI makes it easy to setup too. Counterweight location and
cartridge alignment is precisely measured at the factory and sent to the users
with only the weight needing to be attached to the tonearm. The tonearm come
pre-mounted with the Ortofon 2M Red MM cartridge, yet that can easily be changed
as it wears out. You can also upgrade to any number of other high quality
cartridges too. Setup is extremely easy and takes only a few minutes. Using my
high-precision weight scale, VPI sent the unit with a tracking force of 1.8
grams and cartridge alignment was spot on perfect. Of course the counterweight
can easily be adjusted and mounting a new cartridge is the usual affair. Yet
right out of the box it is extremely easy to setup and you're good to go.
platter is driven by a rubber belt via a smooth operating 24 VAC synchronous AC
motor. This combination to drive the platter provides quiet, stable operation
and you can move the rubber belt to one of two positions on the motor assembly
depending on if you desire 33.3 or 45 rpm platter rotational speed. With modern
technology, VPI has ensured the platter has extremely low wow and flutter of
0.06% and 0.04% respectively. At no time during our review did we have any
problems with the VPI Nomad as everything worked flawlessly.
the review we tested the VPI Nomad turntable's RCA output hooked directly to an
appropriate setup that included a Marantz SR7008 receiver and again with our
Sonos homewide wireless music distribution system. This played through our main
stereo with modified 6' high Dunlavy reference speakers. Heather and I used
Sennheiser HD600, her 13 year old daughter Cailyn loves her inexpensive Skull
Candy headphones and so we kept those as her
daily reference (plus of course the main speakers). As for myself, the HD600
headphones were joined by my set of custom made JH Audio JH13 Pro and Ultimate
Ears 18 Pro in-ear monitors, which were fed by the VPI Nomad's headphone output.
Hones In On VPI's Nomad Turntable
forward 30 years and I have found an amazing man who has a love for high-end
audio and everything that goes along with it," says Heather. "I have been
privileged enough to attend several high fidelity audio shows and still have
much to learn what this industry is all about. Have met some wonderful people
along the way. This includes the young man, with a sparkling personality, Mat
Weisfeld of VPI Industries. Mat is the new President of this family run
business, which makes their products here within the USA. VPI manufactures
high-end turntables at a price that ranges from real world, to some reaching
tens of thousands of dollars. The newest VPI turntable that caught my eye, the
$995 Nomad, gave my amazing husband a brilliant (terrifying for me) idea; I
should write a review from the average listeners (non- audiophile) perspective."
continues by saying, "The day the VPI Nomad turntable arrived I ended up having
to ban Steven from the living room; he could not keep his fingers off it even
though he claimed he didn't want to help (such a sweetie). The directions were
straightforward and easy to follow. I set up the VPI Nomad in no time; Steven
just had to help get the proper cords in the proper place. Initially, for good
sound quality, the turntable system did need the run time that the user manual
suggested in order for it to "break in". Listening to the Nomad has a
ceremonious feel to it versus listening to my playlist of music on the
smartphone or Sonos system. To me, listening to music on the Nomad is a relaxing
Saturday afternoon activity, something special not an everyday event."
13 year old daughter also enjoyed the Nomad and she says, "In my opinion the VPI
Nomad turntable sounds pretty good. I always thought that record players made
weird sounds when they played. I was surprised how clear it sounded! There were
no glitchy sounds that I would have thought there would be there. I have an
Apple iTouch and Samsung SIII, yet think that the turntable sounds much clearer
than the Apple iTouch. I can hear every instrument perfectly and listened to it
with my Skull Candy headphones and with Steven's reference modified Dunlavy
speakers; with the speakers sounding better than the Skull Candy headphones.
Overall, whether I was listening with speakers or headphones, both sounded
really great! The vocals within music sound more complete than the same songs on
my Apple-sourced iTunes file on the iTouch. With my iTouch, the voices in the
music just do not sound complete. With the turntable I hear more intricate
sounds I've never heard listening
to the same song on the iTouch."
goes on to say that "the VPI Nomad is compact and coordinates with most any
interior decoration (wives should not have a problem with esthetics). I like
listening and moving around the house so having it hooked up to my hubbies big
speakers was great, however when I put on Steven's Sennheiser HD600 headphones I
was blown away. Nothing could get my attention as I was in another world; happy
girl. The difference in my opinion was night and day. Compared to my
MP3 music, the quality was so much better,
yet lacking the digital file's convenience. There were quite a few factors that
improved the quality of the sound. These factors included cleaning the record
(even a brand new one!) with the Spin-Clean
vinyl record washer made a huge difference (see
Spin-Clean review here), as well as the quality of the record itself. I had no idea what a huge difference the quality of the vinyl itself makes. It was
not easy to find new music on vinyl in my small town area, yet online stores
offer a wide variety and shipping is usually free too! The cost of new vinyl LPs
is higher than MP3 files on iTunes, yet we did find some good used vinyl at a
local record store.
with the VPI Nomad was extremely good between the speakers, with hints of some
expansiveness into the room and to the sides of the speakers. Image depth was
impressive given the price of the Nomad. Time and again I began to wonder just
where the laws of diminishing returns are, and here is where VPI does offer
turntable setups that will provide higher performance, yet at a higher price
point. What I found truly impressive is how smooth and musical the VPI Nomad
sounded through the HD600, JH Audio JH13 Pro and Ultimate Ears 18 Pro custom
in-ear monitors. Experienced users know the HD600 are not an easy headphone to
drive, as they need high power output to achieve their very best and no normal
portable mainstream player such as a smartphone or iPod can achieve a good
volume level of output to drive them. The VPI Nomad had no trouble driving the
Sennheisers to full output and the sound was indeed captivating, smooth, and
immensely musical in nature. With the IEMs, there was an abundance of headphone
output to reach near ear-bleeding volume levels. When using my custom made IEMs,
they brought forth higher resolution and accuracy than the HD600. What I found
quite interesting is how immensely enjoyable
the music was though the HD600. It delivered a sound that was buttery smooth,
clean and colossally enjoyable. It also helped to tame certain lackluster vinyl
records with augmented highs such as my vintage pressing of Missing Persons 33.3
rpm mini-LP [DLP-1500].
on to the new release of Justin Timberlake's The
20/20 Experience [88765-47850-1] double LP was, for me, the real
challenge as the album was recorded in high definition within the studio and I
have the high-res digital files here for comparison. As great as the high-rez
digital file is, the analog LP had more depth and subtle dynamics over the
digital counterpart. In some way the digital file sounded better via the $2500 Astell&Kern
AK240 portable media player, yet I would not say one was overall a
better experience than its vinyl counterpart. Both provided an extremely
enjoyable experience, with perhaps the nod to the digital file for the last bit
of resolution, definition and soundscape. Then again the AK240 is an extremely
edge-of-the-art dual mono high-end $2500 portable media player whereas the $995
VPI Nomad can be upgraded with a new, higher performance cartridge and that can
be a game changer against the over twice as expensive Astell&Kern AK240!
also enjoyed two superb pressing from Impex Records that included Earth, Wind
& Fire's That's The Way Of The Word
[IMP6015] and The Jazz Messengers Hard Bop
[IMP6016]. While this might sound a bit cliché', there is no doubt that vinyl
has a great groove and boogie factor that can be lacking in digital playback.
Perhaps one of the endearing qualities of vinyl LPs are in how they handle tempo
and beat. It makes sense why many leading DJs still use a pair of turntables for
their club events. When you listen to MP3 files on the typical iPod and the
like, they almost never have the human feeling of what we drummers call 'in
the pocket'. What I mean by that is when music, especially funk, is played back
on most MP3 players you never get the feeling of the tempo moving you in such a
way as to nearly force you to tap
your toe or, dare we say, dance to it. In fact there are certain vinyl record
players can lack this type of tempo/phrasing too! The British sum it up as pace,
rhythm and timing (PRaT). There is no doubt vinyl LP is King in this regard over
digitized music until you get to some seriously expensive digital playback gear
and true high resolution music
files. Vinyl playback seems to be inherently better at handling groove and
microdynamics that sound organic and human.
Records takes great care at remastering and engineering their 180 gram LP
releases and it shows nicely here on the VPI Nomad. Once the needle was in the
opening outer groove, neither myself or Heather and Cailyn ever heard a pop, tic
or other noise. What many people do not realize is that they are paying full
price for MP3 files to merely license the
ability to play their lossy compressed MP3 music, which is usually
sourced from a low-end CD versus today's high-resolution music. Notice I said licensed,
as you do not own your MP3 files technically, as you can not
sell them on eBay or other sites. Remastered and new vinyl releases are usually
sourced from the recording studio analog master tapes or far higher than CD
resolution files from the recording studio. With vinyl, you get a better source
for the music, beautiful cover art, plus of course you own the LP and thus can sell or trade it legally all
around the world. MP3 = wasted money per se
whereas vinyl = investment.
album we purchased for this review was Queen's News
Of The World, which has such popular tunes as "We Will Rock You" and "We
Are The Champions". With so much going on within the mix, the Nomad easily
unraveled all the voices and instruments as they flowed forth through the
speakers and into the room. Like Cailyn said, there is simply more there to
enjoy within the music that gets lost via MP3. Those of you who have heard your
fave tunes only on MP3 will be in for an immensely enjoyable experience. The
combination of remastered music and modern vinyl playback utterly
and completely trounces your iTunes files on the iPod! Taking my wife
Heather vinyl shopping, she chose to get Kid Rock's Born
Free on double LP for under $10. Having met him personally and seeing
at Woodstock 1999, I realized he has more talent than some of his
recordings may let on to. Perhaps it was the radio or low-end MP3, yet on the
album the music was far more involving than I recall. Sure it may not be my
first choice in music, yet on the other hand this vinyl LP gives the musical
artist a better chance at having their talents shine through.
did pick up some used vinyl, and here is where the newcomer will need to tread very
carefully. The first problem with used vinyl is that many albums were not made
to anything near today's modern standards. Add in the fact that used vinyl is,
well, used, and thus it can be dirty and there could be unseen damage within the
grooves too. So even if you find a really good or collectable high quality older
pressing, you need to take certain steps to ensure top-flight playback. While
Heather did mention this, I feel it needs to be stated again that you need to
clean vinyl. This is true with new pressings as well! While the CD is made in 'clean rooms', vinyl LPs are more often than not manufactured in less than
lab-grade clean rooms to put it kindly. The process of pressing a vinyl record
can leave some debris within the grooves no matter if it is a garage sale find or
brand new pressing. This is where the Spin-Clean record cleaner comes into play.
For less than $100 you can get a complete record cleaning system that is
effective and easy to use. If you're new to vinyl, or even if you have a nice
collection that has never been cleaned, you should get a Spin-Clean unit immediately
and use it on your entire collection!
A VPI Nomad In
With the VPI Nomad being extremely easy to setup and use, there is no excuse to join the pack of music lovers who know vinyl is the way to go. Everything about the Nomad is high quality for such an entry-level price and my wife Heather had it setup in a matter of a few minutes. Your only real concern is what albums you want to buy. You can easily use the Nomad with your Sonos system and send your music homewide into every room... or plug in your headphone for a more intimate listening experience. Made within the USA, quality is assured as VPI has decades of experience delivering high-end turntables for the money. For only $995, the Nomad is not only an MP3 killer, it will open up a new realm of music for you to discover, or perhaps rediscover what you've been missing with lossy compressed MP3. All those great songs you felt you knew become a new experience filled with sounds you may have not heard before. All that effort from the original musician to recording and mastering engineering comes through.
you've been wondering what all the 'hype' about vinyl is from your friends,
you'll quickly learn for yourself that the hype is for real. If you are on a
budget, or perhaps fear the immense technical know-how and tools to get a
turntable setup correctly, there is no doubt the VPI Nomad is a top-shelf
choice. Headphone lovers will rejoice as the VPI Nomad is a simple plug-n-play
affair and the same can be said for the ease of connecting it to your home
receiver or Sonos system. Imagine the house party you could have while spinning
vinyl... or those quiet moments when you want to put on your headphones and let
the world melt around you as your enveloped in mesmerizing musical bliss. When
was the last time that you were deeply enthralled with music collection? Heather
says, "If you're at home and want to enjoy your music on vinyl LP, the Nomad is
the way to go." For only $995 I know of no better choice. Here is your chance to
discover, or perhaps rediscover, all the music you love. Cailyn is at the age
for those with the best hearing and she says, "With the turntable I hear more
intricate sounds I've never heard
listening to the same song on the Apple iTouch." It is time for you to discover
what we high-end types have known for decades. If you want to be true to your
music, you should consider getting a turntable. The VPI Nomad is great for those
on a budget and want the utmost in usability to fulfill your musical desires...
plus vinyl is cool in a way your friends can admire, and enjoy, too!
As always, in the end what really matters is that you...
Here is the Bloomberg TV interview with Mat Weisfeld of VPI.
Below is Enjoy the Music.TV's interview with Mat Weisfeld of VPI during AXPONA 2014 showing us all how easy it is to unbox and setup the VPI Nomad turntable.
If you can't see the above video, click here.
Spin-Clean Record Washer