Monday, August 18, 2014

Ripple Hardware Review - VPI Nomad


Spending an afternoon in the listening room of Nashville based Prestige Audio is always a pleasure I look forward to immensely. Alex, the owner, is a kind, patient soul and has no problem spending hours listening to my eclectic tastes in heavy, classic music. Prestige Audio is a distributor for many audiophile manufacturers including Totem Acoustic, Hegel, KEF, Rogue Audio, Pro-Ject, VPI Industries and Paradigm and Alex was gracious enough to let me have a few hours to give VPI’s latest turntable, the Nomad, a thorough testing.

VPI Industries is an American turntable manufacturer located in New Jersey that has built a solid reputation among vinyl lovers by providing reasonably priced, technically superb products for nearly forty years. Their old school commitment to quality has been paramount to their success, and I was very excited to finally enjoy one of their tables in person.

The test set-up we used was an audiophile’s dream, powered by a Herculean Hegel amplifier and Totem Acoustic towers that hover right around the five digit dollar mark. Add a few thousand more for interconnects, speaker cabling, line conditioning and a pre-amp, and we were able to fairly isolate the performance of the Nomad.

VPI bills the Nomad as the “first all in one high-end entry level turntable” for good reason. It skilfully incorporates an internal phonostage and quality  headphone amplifier into a sleek, but durable package that is exceedingly simple to set up and have your wax spinning before finishing off your first adult beverage.

The durability and overall simplicity  is also evident in the gimbaled/yoke bearing tonearm sporting classic stainless steel and aluminum, capped by the widely popular Ortofon 2M red cartridge and throughout the rugged, black casing. The package also comes standard with a machined mdf platter and fabric slip mat.

My go-to vinyl for testing is the 200 gram 2002 pressing of Norah Jones Come Away With Me from Classic Records. Frankly, it sounds good on just about any turntable, but it really provides an opportunity to let the hardware breathe and exploit the nuances that good vinyl can provide.

The Nomad performed admirably, in fact, it performed exactly at the mark a high-end entry level turntable should. It was able to produce a vivid dynamic range and broad, warm tone throughout the album both through the Totem towers, as well as, with headphones. While it was certainly no match for it’s big brother, the Traveler, in range or tone, I just have to wonder how much of that can be attributed to the use of a higher quality cartridge on the Traveler.

For me, one of the largest benefits to entry level hi-fi, is the ability to upgrade, and I think any Nomad owner could easily and affordably enhance the sound by upgrading the cartridge and mat down the road, getting much closer to the performance of the pricier tables.

After a couple hours of play time on the Nomad, it was evident that the convenience of the all in one, complemented by the increased durability and quality of sound make it a serious contender for just about any vinyl lover’s consideration. Clocking in at just under the $1000 mark, and sporting a long history of American craftsmanship from VPI certainly doesn’t hurt either.

If you are after audiophile performance and exceptional value in a simple, well-crafted turntable with built in headphone utility, then this might be your new ride. Stellar product indeed.

All photo credits Jim Ribeiro
Special thanks to Prestige Audio Nashville and VPI Industries

Records used in testing:
Norah Jones Come Away With Me Classic Records 2002
Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here Columbia 1975
The Jimi Hendrix Experience Are You Experienced Reprise Records 1967
Spelljammer Vol 2 STB Records 2013
Shooting Guns Brotherhood of the Ram (diehard version) Easyrider Records 2013

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