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This review first appeared in the August 2009 issue of hifi & stereo magazine You can also read this review of the VPI Scout in its original German version. We translated it through a syndication arrangement with our German colleagues. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of or Krell. - Ed.

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: Analog – deck - Acoustic Solid MPX; tone arm - Phonotools Vivid-Two, SME M2 12-inch; pickup - Denon DL-103, Ortofon MC Rondo Bronce, Shelter 201, Zu Audio DL-103, The Cartridge  Music Maker III; digital - CD-Player -  audiolab 8000CD, HiFiAkademie cdPlayer; Computer & Co: Logitech Squeezebox, Readynas Duo NAS-Serve, HP Notebook; D/A converter - Benchmark DAC1 USB
Amplification: Phono - Aqvox 2 CI MKII; preamp - Octave HP 300 MK2; power amp - Electrocompaniet AW 180, SAC il piccolo; integrated - LUA 4040 C, Myryad MXI 2080
Speakers: ASI Tango R, DeVore Fidelity Nines, Zu Essence
Cables: Various
Stands and supports: Creactiv, Taoc, Liedtke Metalldesign Stand, Shale Audio Base
Review Component Retail: €2,200

Situated in the wider NYC area, VPI Industries has plied the analogue trade for more than a few days. Besides turntables and tone arms, they also make record cleaning machines and began it all some 30 years ago. The subject of today’s review is VPI’s Scout in its most current incarnation. At €2,200, it is their most affordable deck. It includes their JMW 9 arm which has some regard the proposition in reverse – buy the arm, get a free table.

This surprise inversion has traction in the fact that by itself, the 9-inch arm commands €1,200, i.e. 55% of the table’s combined total. Compared to equivalent competitors who charge from 15-30% for their arms, that’s unusually high. The Scout package does not include a cartridge but you do get a record clamp, setup level and various tools.

Even though the black licorice spinner had pulled duty for weeks already, I still remained ambivalent about its cosmetics. The inherent simplicity appealed but what about those gaudy silver corners? The cool filigree of the arm was tasty, the protruding cable on the rear somewhat freaky but cool because of it yet the black junction box a major mar on the otherwise fine plinth. The nomenclature was nicely rendered again. In toto, this neither spelled Italian or Scandinavian design schools. Nor was it German heavy metal whose occasionally outright brutishness the VPI Scout trumped with, dare I say it, near British understatement.

Tech and handling: The latest Scout introduces three novelties – tone arm shape, tracking force adjustment and motor controller. Up until a year ago, the arm was straight and its diameter at the head shell identical to the diameter at the bearing. Two tubes were fitted one inside the other and damped. The present tube is single and conical to measure 10.5mm across at the head shell, 12.5mm in the rear. This is said to better suppress standing waves and resonances and the internal damping too was revisited. The counter weight hangs quite low to move the center of gravity downward and it is fixed with a small grub screw.  

So far so good but fussy too. Those keen on squaring tracking force down into the 0.1g circle—that would be me at times—will start to sweat as insufficient care with tightening this set screw will ruin the adjustment. The VPI arm adds to that an eccentric bore on the weight which can end up hanging somewhat askew. With a unipivot, this would cause azimuth error. Hence VPI came upon the very simple but effective idea to thread the end of the arm and fit to it a 3g nut. Turn it toward the pickup and tracking force increases – or vice versa. The adjustment window spans about ±0.2g so your prior aim should have been steady and overhang and azimuth been already locked in. The final tweak can be concluded with the small counter nut to simplify the affair. But what about final? Is any arm setup ever final? Say you change VTA—and perhaps you do this routinely—to automatically skew/screw up the tracking force. The tiny counter weight can rectify the situation. This circumvents upsetting the happy apple cart with the big weight. It’s a practical solution for all analog twiddlers.

The new motor controller—if such you wants to call it—is a 24-pole AC synchro affair from supplier Hurst and couples quite directly to the AC line frequency. Previously the black steel box ran a capacitor between power inlet and motor, now there are two caps (VPI also claims tighter selection tolerances) and a resistor for a basic but quite common solution. The intended effect is a lowering of the rotational inertia of the motor to minimize a constant source of tiny accelerations and breaking during final speed gathering. But no fear, the desired RMPs are reached in seconds, the platter isn’t that heavy. Those keen on more avantgarde speed controllers from the same maker can reach for the €1,450 SDS module but that would be a quite invasive upgrade surgery.