The company is still family owned and run by Harry’s son Mat (President of VPI) forty years later. Go to any high-end audio show, and you will undoubtedly find Mat Weisfeld setting up his turntables for other manufacturers to showcase their electronics. He’s one of the absolute nicest guys in the industry that you will meet, and he’s always willing to help.
Why do so many other manufacturers rely on VPI to demo their gear? It’s simple…VPI Industries makes some of the absolute best turntables on the market, and they are designed and manufactured right here in the United States (Cliffwood, New Jersey to be exact).
Speaking of audio shows, I ran into Mat about a year and a half ago at the AXPONA show in Chicago, and he was showing off his brand new Rosewood version of the VPI Prime Signature turntable that is on review here. He literally finished assembling this new turntable the night before in his hotel room, and had it up and running in the (amazing sounding) Skogrand Cables room. Based on what I saw and heard, I told Mat that I had to have one of these for review.
I’m very glad that I ran into Mat in Chicago, as my demo time with the VPI Prime Signature turntable has completely opened my appreciation for (great) vinyl playback!
VPI Prime Signature Turntable
- Beautiful, Rosewood finish. Also available in black.
- 3D Printed JMW-10 Tonearm.
- Wired with Nordost Reference Wire.
- Easy Cartridge Alignment.
- 66lbs of American-Made analog goodness!
Before I get into the specifics about the VPI Prime Signature turntable, I wanted to provide our readers some more insight to the company and to this turntable in particular by offering up some Q&A that I did with Mat Weisfeld.
Vinyl Wrapped MDF, Aluminum, and Stainless Steel
Platter Type & Size:
12” Aluminum Platter, 20lbs.
Motor Pulley Accuracy:
Wow and Flutter:
82 dB Down
19 ½” x 13 ¾”
21 3/8” x 15 ¾” x 11”
$6,000 ($6,800 in Rosewood) not including cartridge
VPI Industries, Prime Signature, Turntable, Turntable Reviews 2019
Q: Where does the Prime Signature sit in the entire VPI lineup?
A: “The Prime Signature sits at the top of the "Performance/Prime" Line at 6,000 USD (6,800 in Rosewood). The Performance line is meant to all be turntables that offer high-end products that punch well above their price point.”
Q: What type of customer was the intended audience?
A: “The music lover who wants to embrace the next level of high performance listening without totally breaking the bank. For a lot of customers, the Prime Signature is their "last" high-end turntable. The package already comes with most of the upgrades someone would be looking for in a high performance turntable. Also there are still some options for the Prime Signature owner to push their experience even further if they get the upgrade itch.”
Q: How did the rosewood finish come about?
A: “This was initially from a previous turntable model, the Classic 3. It was supposed to be a limited "Anniversary" finish but was so popular it became part of the standard line. When we brought the Prime Signature to market it only made sense to offer it as a finish option.”
Q: Tell me about the design concept and any engineering challenges that were faced for the Prime Signature
A: “Initially it was based off of the Prime turntable which was my first solo design turntable. It was created without any help from VPI founder Harry to show the industry they are in good hands even with Harry’s retirement. After the Prime came to market it brought a lot of peace of mind to Harry but it also led to him challenging the design. "You made a cute table, now make your Signature". What was exciting was the Prime Signature was the first table my dad and I worked together on. It utilizes the cutting edge of our 3D printing technology in our JMW tonearm. We upgraded the wire to Nordost Reference wire to give the sound-stage more detail without any added brightness. The chassis is layers and heavier for resonance cancellation, and we offer it in the piano gloss or Rosewood.”
Q: What is the biggest difference(s) between the Prime, and the Prime Signature?
A: “The concept of the designs are the same but the biggest difference is the types of material used. There is the swapping out most of the Delrin components such as the corner posts and arm board for stainless steel for more rigidity. The chassis, while it holds the same design shape is built of a sandwich noise cancelling process of an MDF, machined aluminum, and MDF combination locked together with silicon. The feet are also upgraded to Signature feet that have improved isolation. The tonearm has a step up visually with the speckled gloss finish but the sonic upgrade comes from the upgraded Nordost Reference internal wire. Topped off with a machined stainless steel motor housing which is twice the weight of the Prime motor housing and cancels out all vibration from the motor.”
Q: What’s the best advice you can give to a new owner of the Prime Signature?
A: “Use it! Use your table, the Prime Signature is a fantastic center piece to look at but it was made to be a high-performance product that you will be passing onto your children. Also, save the packaging in case you ever move and want to safely take it with you!”
The VPI Industries Prime Signature turntable is a tasteful combination of aluminum, stainless steel, and 3D-printed technology. With a 12” aluminum platter (20lbs), a JMW-10-3DR tonearm, and a total weight of 66lbs, this solid and stable Prime Signature turntable represents their highest offering in the Production Series of tables, and is available either in black, or in the optional Rosewood as shown here.
My review unit came with an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze MC cartridge that sells for about $2,300, which Mat said would be a popular combination for a turntable at this price point. This unit came as sold, but it also has some optional upgrades available to it in the form of a peripheral ring clamp, reference feet, or their new Fatboy tonearm.
For the review period of the VPI Industries Prime Signature turntable, my system changed up a bit as I was also trying out other gear throughout the chain. It’s great to have the ability to test out different combinations because I then have a better idea of which item is influencing the system overall. With this not only does it allow me to really hear the Prime Signature, but it also lets me know if it’s playback characteristics are being influenced either positively or negatively by another piece of equipment or cabling.
If you don’t have much experience with turntable setup, you don’t need to be afraid of purchasing the VPI Prime Signature turntable. They have done a fantastic job of engineering, construction, and providing some great written documentation and videos that will help you get them up and running like a pro. There’s a lot of moving parts to a good turntable, and one wrong move can make a great turntable sound bad. Included in the (well-packaged) box are instructions, an alignment jig, stylus force gauge, and everything you need to properly set up your Prime Signature. My advice is to follow the instructions closely, then keep all of the instructions and alignment gear for future use. I had to move all of my equipment during the review period to have new carpeting installed, and had to go through the setup process all over again just to ensure nothing had moved or became out of balance.
The other components that were used during this evaluation period were as follows:
- Amplifiers: Pass Labs X350.8, McIntosh MC312 (review coming), Line Magnetic LM 845 Premium integrated amp, PS Audio Stellar S300
- Pre-amplifier: PS Audio BHK Signature Preamp
- Phono pre-amplifiers: Pass Labs XP-17, Sutherland Engineering 20/20
- Speakers: GoldenEar Technology Triton Reference, DeVore Fidelity Super Nine (review coming)
- Subwoofers: SVS SB-16 Ultra (x2)
- Cables: Mostly Tributaries Series 8
- Rack: Massif Audio Designs custom rack
- Power Conditioning: Audioquest Niagara 1000
- Acoustical room treatments: Vicoustics
Before I get into details, let me first talk a little bit about my listening habits, and what I like. Why? Because if I fail to describe that, I could potentially lead you, my reader, down a path that may not fall in line with your listening habits. When reading any review, you need to remember that this is what I personally like, what my room sounds like, and what gear I have paired together. Your results may vary!
I have said this in other articles, but I want to say it again. I like a big and bold presentation to music. Whether you’re going to a rock concert, or a small club featuring live blues, you get hit in the face (and gut) with guitars and drums. It’s not an intimate or quiet event. You feel the music and you’re involved in the performance. Bands typically don’t play “soft”, neither does my listening room. I listen for enjoyment, and to experience dynamics, clarity, and detail. And when I talk in terms of clarity and detail, it’s not trying to figure out what model of saxophone is being played, or whether the quiet triangle in the track is placed 3 inches too far to the left in the soundstage. I’m not saying that one form of listening is right and another wrong. It’s all personal preference. So please keep that in mind while reading through my review(s) to ensure that you’re keeping it in context.
First let me start off by saying that the VPI Industries Prime Signature is an absolutely stellar turntable, and what I would call “reference-level” piece of equipment. I know that stating this so early in the article takes away from the anticipation, but I just had to get it out there. Anybody who has been over to my house for a listen has been stunned by what great vinyl playback is capable of. Granted, you need a good recording, a good pressing, and great gear to go along with it, but with all things being equal, the Prime Signature is capable of taking you to vinyl / analog nirvana.
When you get a really good LP, the Prime Signature is there to show you just how good it is. But with that, it will also show you every flaw that a recording / pressing may have. Don’t expect a great piece of equipment like this to cover up flaws…it exposes them!
I threw a wide variety of music at the VPI Prime Signature, and as long as the recording and pressing was good, it simply left me wanting to listen more. I’ll admit that I do have a tendency to stick with music that I really know and like, and don’t venture outside of that “comfort zone” much, however that’s a plus as a reviewer since I get to know the music quite well.
One album in particular that I’ve spoken about in previous reviews is Toy by Yello. The Swiss electronic duo of Boris Blank and Dieter Meier have been making great music for decades, and this, their thirteenth studio album, is the best of all of them in my opinion. They also did their only live performance around this album back in 2016 at Berlin’s Kraftwerk, which is something I regularly use for evaluation when playing the Blu-ray concert in 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos mode (crazy-good!).
Being electronic, you know that dynamics are at center stage, and Toy does not disappoint here. But the album is more than huge dynamic swings, which the Prime Signature pulls out with ease. It’s also about the size and depth of the soundstage, and pinpoint imaging. When playing Toy on the Prime Signature, you can follow all of the sounds from front to back, side to side, and at time even beyond the size of the room. In the song Magma, it can come across as sound effects bouncing across the soundstage in a flat plane. But through the VPI Prime Signature played on the DeVore Fidelity Super Nines, you can easily tell when the sound is coming from 1.5 feet behind the left speaker, then 2 feet in front of, and to the right of the right speaker and so on. The placement of sounds and voices is breathtaking when done right, and the Prime Signature does just that. If this album isn’t on your playlist, then you’re missing out on something very special.
Another album that I really like, and think that it is one of the absolute best progressive rock albums of all times, is Supertramp’s Crime of the Century (COTC). Released in the fall of 1974, COTC was just their third studio album, and arguably their best. Songs like Dreamer and Bloody Well Right” were radio hits, but when you listen to tracks such as School, Asylum, Rudy, and Crime of the Century, you can easily see why this album was so successful.
With an album like this, there’s really only one way to get the most out of it, and that’s turning the volume to 11. The dynamics and clarity in this album, when played on the right gear, is nothing short of breathtaking. A good friend of mine here in Gahanna, Ohio likes to play this one at his home system that consists of massive Sound Lab electrostatic speakers that are driven by 2kw each. He’s lucky enough to have one of the rare UHQ pressings of this album, and the dynamics on that system are enough to rip your face right off. On my system with the VPI Prime Signature, it’s extracting about as much detail and dynamics out of the recording that it can. I used to have a ProJect 6Perspex turntable with Sumiko Blackbird cartridge that I loved to play this album on, but once I got the VPI Prime Signature in the house, I quickly realized all of the dynamics, detail, and musicality that I was actually missing.
The final album played through the Prime Signature that I want to focus on is Nils Lofgren Acoustic Live. Yes, this is a very popular album for demo, particularly in Keith Don’t Go. I’ve even read (multiple times) in other audio publications where they give the demo room a bad grade and call them out just for playing this because of its popularity. Really?
I was walking the halls of the inaugural Florida Audio Expo in Tampa a few weeks ago, and heard this song coming from one of the rooms (can’t remember which), and I went in specifically to hear Keith Don’t Go because I know it so well. It’s hard to judge a system based off of some obscure classical music track that 3 people have ever heard. Anyways…back to the review.
The acoustic guitar playing and recording on this album is some of the absolute best you will find anywhere. And the way it was recorded, you can hear details in every finger movement as Nils plays, particularly on my two favorite songs Keith Don’t Go and Some Must Dream. On the Prime Signature, it would flesh out these details in spades, and created such lifelike highs without coming across as harsh or shrill as I’ve heard it at times. And even with this being a live recording, the Prime Signature kept the background as quiet as can be…not just on this album, but about everything I played on it. Much of the time, I would look up at the table spinning, and find that it’s hard to believe that much detail and clarity with such a quiet background is coming from vinyl. Well done, Mat and the VPI team!
The VPI INDUSTRIES PRIME SIGNATURE TURNTABLE is one of those rare pieces of audio equipment that doesn’t leave you wondering if there is more available.
- Amazing dynamics
- Very easy to setup
- Beautiful work of art
- Made in U.S.A.
- Great packaging
- Stylish dust cover availability
Sure, as a reviewer I’d love to hook up one of their Reference turntables for comparison to the Prime Signature (ahem…hint, hint, Mat!), but as a consumer, I can’t imagine wanting or needing more unless I got into a system that was more expensive than a house.
So if you haven’t figured it out by now, I am extremely fond of the VPI Prime Signature turntable. It’s built like a proverbial tank, it’s stunningly beautiful to look at, and it plays music in such a way to make you play all of your favorite music like it’s the very first time.
To end this review, let me go back to a listening session that I had a few weeks ago. I wasn’t reviewing equipment that day, but rather just listening for pleasure. I was spinning the Toy album by Yello, and at the end of the album I leaned back, smiled, and thought to myself that I just experienced the best listening session I have ever had on my own system.
Yes. The Prime Signature turntable from VPI Industries is that good…