On October 21, 2018, I travelled to Matawan, New Jersey, to attend the grand opening of VPI House, a showroom built by VPI Industries, which manufactures turntables and related analog products. According to Mat Weisfeld, VPI’s president and the son of its founder and owner, Harry Weisfeld, the showroom was built for customers, dealers, and (luckily) reviewers to listen to music in a comfortable, home-like setting. The event also marked the introduction of VPI’s HW-40 direct-drive turntable ($15,000 USD), the “HW” and “40” portions of which celebrate Harry Weisfeld and his 40 years in the audio business.
Mat and Harry Weisfeld
Boasting five gorgeously appointed listening rooms, each of which contains audio gear aimed at hitting a progressively higher price point, the largest showroom easily accommodated the many press members and a handful of non-VPI manufacturer representatives that were in attendance. The latter group included Bill Potette (Audio-Technica), Walter Schofield (Krell Industries), Steve Greene (Nordost), and Jon Zimmer (Transparent Audio).
Prior to the HW-40’s big reveal, Mat Weisfeld escorted press members through the first four of the rooms. In each, he explained how its system’s components were synergistically assembled to provide the best possible sound at its price point. Also, a number of the manufacturer reps gave presentations concerning their company’s products.
Of course, each of the rooms contained at least one VPI turntable, typically paired with one of the company’s phono preamps. Associated gear included cartridges from Audio-Technica, Lyra, and Ortofon; electronics from Krell Industries, Simaudio, and Rogers High Fidelity; speakers from Genesis Technologies, KEF, Shinola, Totem Acoustic, and Wilson Audio; cables and power cords from Nordost and Transparent Audio; and room treatments from Stillpoints Aperture supplemented by numerous DIY bass traps.
The system in the lifestyle room, whose cost totaled a few thousand dollars, consisted of a Shinola Runwell turntable, Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge, and Shinola active speakers. (Shinola partnered with VPI on the Runwell’s design.) On the other side of the spectrum was the main presentation room, which contained six figures’ worth of VPI turntables and phono preamps, Simaudio Moon separates, KEF Blade speakers, and Nordost cables and power cords.
After almost a half day of music and presentations, everyone gathered in the main presentation room for the HW-40’s unveiling. When Mat Weisfeld and Mike Bettinger, VPI’s director of electrical engineering, finally removed the turntable’s black covering cloth, I was taken aback by its visual elegance and sex appeal. This is undoubtedly due, in part, to the fact that every part on the turntable is mounted with screws that set into blind, tapped holes, thus creating a very clean and sleek look. Also, all of the HW-40’s power supply and control circuitry are internally placed. There are no external motors or power supplies.
However, I was even more taken aback by the HW-40’s $15,000 price, which is much less than what one would expect for a high-end VPI turntable that includes a newly redesigned, 3D-printed Fatboy tonearm. The company was able to cut costs without sacrificing performance by, among other things, purchasing 400 motor assemblies up front.
In action, the HW-40 provided a huge sonic wallop, which will undoubtedly not only give the competition something to think about, but also likely even compete with some of VPI’s more expensive turntable models.
As both Harry and Mat Weisfeld explained, the HW-40 benefits from VPI’s 40 years of experience designing and manufacturing direct-drive turntables. Retaining the company’s classic direct-drive motor design, this new model is said to contain updated motion control and circuitry hardware and software, as well as improved vibration-management technology. Extremely heavy (its official weight has not yet been logged), its chassis top, front, and back consist of .75"-thick 6061 aluminum. Flanking the chassis sides are limited-edition gloss wood panels. Inside is a very thick MDF dampening panel.
The HW-40’s motor assembly is milled from a solid billet of 6061 aluminum. Its coils are constructed of a solid copper square cross section wire embedded in a composite structure. This is said to allow for a high-precision, easy-to-drive, quiet, and efficient motor with high torque, excellent cooling, and near-optimal interaction of the electromagnetic conductors within the magnetic rotor circuit.
To ensure rotational accuracy, the motor’s ironless coil assembly does not use magnetic materials and is designed with an overlapping V-shaped construction, which is said to eliminate cogging that can occur in direct-drive turntables. The assembly uses a five-point mounting scheme to minimize vibration. Further, the HW-40’s motor-speed feedback system utilizes a ring encoder, among other advanced software and drive circuitry, to provide 2500 pulses per revolution.
The HW-40’s new Fatboy tonearm features a triangular-to-circular vibration-controling design and high-precision ABEC 9 ball bearings for ultra-low friction. The arm has an adjustable counterweight on a threaded shaft for fast and accurate adjustment of the arm’s vertical tracking angle.
The HW-40 also features a removable 6061 aluminum platter and dust cover for easy shipping. Its three top-mounted buttons, which illuminate in blue, can be used to select start and to choose between 33 1/3-rpm and 45-rpm speeds.
Currently, VPI plans on a limited run of 400 units. Given the recent vinyl resurgence, they are not expected to last long.