Moving beyond the original Prime design, Paul Rigby reviews the sturdy Prime Signature turntable from VPI
The two initial impressions I had of the Prime Signature, did not reflect in any way. I opened the box. Well, I say box because my first of two immediate impressions were not the only Signature arrives in two boxes but that VPI has decided to put the aluminum platter in one of them, on its own. It’s a lot of things to do because I think VPI is using old original ‘Prime’ boxes during shipping and because the platter is now thicker than their earlier Prime counterparts, the platter won ‘ t fit in the one box anymore.
Apart from that, I noticed the weight. Boy is this a heavy turntable. Tipping the scales at 36.75kg, the Prime Signature is a mass-based design and no mistake.
Looking at the sturdy base – that looks like a workbench than a turntable chassis – I noticed the aluminum plate that ran through the center or two layers of vinyl-wrapped MDF. There was the weight, then, right there. The plate helps damping, as you might expect as far as the shiny chrome covers on the top of the chassis.
I was also impressed ?) that combines aluminum and steel – perfect for damping and reducing vibration.
The JMW-10-3DR arm is 3D printed in design. Called 3DS, this unipivot includes high quality Nordost Reference wiring.
The 300 RPM, 24 pole, AC synchronous motor is installed in a separate aluminum and steel machined assembly while the inverted bearing features a hardened stainless steel shaft, 60 Rockwell chrome hardened ball, spinning in a phosphor bronze bushing and sitting on a PEEK thrust disc. Changing the speed is done by a pulley groove to the next. Some people will have an issue with this. You know the sort of thing. “I have not got a speed changer on it yet?” But I’m ready to run with the designers on this one. If it was a budget thing then that’s fine with me. I’d rather have a lower price or more budget spent on sonically superior parts. If it’s a noise reduction, yep that too, I’m an anti-noise kinda guy.
I’m going to do it a favor here by inserting a video, created by VPI on installing the Prime – not the Prime Signature – the Prime. There are minor installation differences between the two so that they are pretty obvious. Saying that, the two turntables are similar to this video to remain useful. Hence, why I’m including it here.
You’ll see it in the video but I want to emphasize a couple of points. Firstly, when you place the heavy platter on the bearing – DO IT GENTLY. Do not rush this bit. While holding the platter, move one hand so that the tip of one finger can wiggle around underneath the platter to locate the beneath the platter. Now I might have ET-length fingers, that’s true, but give it a go, even if your hands are small. You do not want to crash down on the bearing, causing damage.
Also, note the distance from the chassis itself. This is important when trying to fix the correct speed and belt tension. The video says around a ¼ “or around 6.5mm. I used the RPM app on my iPhone to help here. A decent, general guide to help locate the correct speed (you can download it from the App Store, there are Android alternatives out there I know). I’m not pretending that this app retains its scientific accuracy to 27 decimal places but its a good general guide.
In terms of the rest and confusion), I love the azimuth set-up (with the dinky metal bar … well, you’ll see this bit on the video) and I love the anti-skate options both or both, I love the ‘high’ position of the arm’s RCA / earth sockets (no more faffing around in the dark underneath a chassis trying to find the darned things) I love the easy to use tracking force weight Clearaudio) and I love the easy to use VTA control (big, easy to use, solid and almost Duplo in its friendliness).
Hell, while installing this turntable I was so full of love for the VPI, I almost turned into a hippy.
I took the test by adding an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze cartridge and played the high tempo She’s Got Claws from Gary Numan’s Dance 2LP reissue.
There’s so much to say I’ll try and be a letter. Firstly, this is such a confidant turntable. I mean, it fairly struts around your listening room. It can do this, it can do that … it pouts and postures. This is confidence through security, though. It handles the full suite of frequencies with a stylish sweep and a complete self-assurance. It is a good thing, there is never a hint of the chaotic, you will never hear confusion or a directionless mess here, not a moment of midrange smearing, never a suggestion of bass bloom.
This discipline was not imposed on the detriment of entertainment, though. The VPI is toned to a peak of fitness and it can stretch dynamics with a single bound, swing from fragile cymbal tap to cymbal tap and land with a firm bass impact, all without a wobble. The VPI Prime Signature is the Errol Flynn or turntables.
On this track, bass transients impressed me. That is, they started without warning, they hit in a wholly organic manner then, afraid, they were gone again. As I say, bass does this without sounding plastic or manufactured. The natural element is retained so that you need within the lower frequencies. You never feel fobbed off with the synthetic or the soul-less.
What impressed me about the midrange was the careful use of space. Space around the soundstage is a good thing because it allows room to maneuver, allowing for the full personality of the instrument in action. The Prime Signature gives you this never-too-much, that is why you never get confused or confused – that’s the end of the issue. You get enough room and enough micro-reverb to enhance the naturalistic stance of that instrument and then we’re off to the next bit. That pace is important, the music never feels stodgy, it never sits there admiring its navel.
The only part of this package that I did dislike was VPI’s stabilizer. It does not help, it smudged bass and dragged the dynamics. Retire this to paper weight status and grab a HRS ADL stabilizer instead. This is a better job of reducing the noise directly over the bearing, opening up the soundstage further, adding both focus and clarity to the […]
I then confirmed the sound quality tests with Dusty, Dusty in Memphis Just a Little Lovin. I was wholly enamored in how to do the Prime Signature and Dusty’s vocal had a smooth sense of lusty erotica, providing enough textural nuance that provided dozens or micro-details during her delivery.
Percussion here was open and airy with delicious cymbal splashes while bass provided a secure foundation over the entire track. Also, this reissue (via 4 Men With Beards) is not the best in the world as it’s a tad strident. The VPI did a good job in separating the frequencies, offering more insight and detail about the midband which made the slight brightness more bearable, reducing listening fatigue.
There are several models of tank that would feel slightly uneasy standing next to the VPI Prime Signature, such is the sturdy build quality on show here. Despite the multi-part nature of the installation for this turntable, it’s a pretty straight-forward sequence that offers much that’s friendly but it’s that quality that’s the gold star element in the Signature Prime’s armory. Solid as a rock, oozing detail but blended with clarity. All I can advise, in my simple, innocent, yet hopeful way to buy this deck or if an angled entreatment is more attractive, buy this deck or if you are suffering from hearing difficulties BUY THIS DECK! Got that?
VPI PRIME SIGNATURE TURNTABLE
Price: £ 6,000
GOOD: build, installation, overall design, disciplined soundstage, midrange insight, bass implementation