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For ancillaries, I primarily listened to the Ortofon Rondo and Denon DL-103 MC. Phono stage duties fell to the symmetrical SAC Gamma and the on-board unit inside Octave’s HP-300 preamp. To my ears, the best combo was double-O by way of Ortofon/Octave. Why? The Rondo pickup is plain superior to the 103 while SAC’s phono pre made for a like-meets-like encounter with the Classic to have me favor the more substantial bass foundation of the Octave. Since that’s merely personal, let’s detail out the base recipe of the VPI Classic.

Core ingredients are dynamics and soundstaging. While the smaller Scout already impressed there, the Classic upped the ante, albeit a bit differently. Another key ingredient is the general tonal balance of course. That didn’t much attract attention. Think water in soup. It's mandatory but salt and the floating bits are far more interesting. To get right down to it, the VPI Classic was fundamentally neutral. The treble was neither shiny nor cloudy, the low bass neither shy nor bloated. The midrange had substance but ascended transparently into the highs - all mostly neutral. That said, the upper bass/lower mid transition was more on the sporty/wiry and lean-ish side whilst the lowest octave was wonderfully robust and articulate to differ from the smaller Scout whose more potent upper bass mated to a lighter foundation. In toto, the less juicy though ‘fast’ upper bass of the Classic was the only small deviation from neutrality in the tonal balance domain.

The Classic was always direct, dry and immediate. Moving to the VPI from my Acoustic Solid MPX, I suspected a slight upward tampering with the speed control. The VPI’s exact PRaT, the rise times of transients and their sudden stops generated a very lively 'no fat' presentation that didn’t linger but appeared explosive and fit. In the bass, the degree of definition, speed and grip were arguably class leading for this price range. It really was marvelous just what the Classic could recover on data in the sub range – perfectly suitable for the critical audiophile listener.

In the bottom end, the smaller VPI Scout didn’t measure up on quantity or quality. To save €1.200, you would have to embrace less bass. But it’s not that simple. This 'small advantage' of the Classic goes beyond tonal balance with two agreeable side effects. Macrodynamically, the Classic had the greater reach. When out of nothing a bass drum kicked in hard, it really showed up without blur, dryness, nice decay and physical profundity to deliver the whole show. Even when the bass range wasn’t immediate focus, the Classic maintained greater dynamic charge. Orchestral tutti didn't merely scale in loudness, the entire stage was grander and more all-inclusive. On such matters, the Classic was hot.

Likewise for soundstaging. The panorama was cast deep and very broad with a constant impression of the stage as sizable venue even when the music paused. Owners of monitor speakers who’ve experimented with subwoofers will know this illusion of dimensional scale. Naturally, the Classic is no sub and I won’t claim that all this was just due to the low bass. Regardless, the Classic planted a grand venue into my room which wasn't merely a function of how individual sounds interacted. The venue seemed there a priori, then simply filled up with sounds (if the recording allowed). It’s a further reason why the Classic’s small advantage over the Scout was hard to deny.

Added to the ambient factor and occasionally gargantuan stage dimensions was high transparency. The stage was ‘translucent’ rather than crammed and precisely sorted. Staging freaks will get their full thrills. But there was still more play - tuning with silicon oil in the tone arm trough. In my experience, this entailed a kind of tradeoff. On the plus side, oil damping improved depth layering by a tad and particularly the far stage corners were better illuminated. Those corners weren’t bad before but arguably not entirely cloudless.

On the minus side, from the upper mids on up there was less sheen and air. Overdoing the oil fill, things could get downright muffled and greasy and microdynamics too took a hit. This really was a matter of individual drops – a perfect playground for us high-end kiddies.

A fringe benefit of the subjectively negative effects was that depending on album and cartridge, this feature approached tone control functionality. Lotsa oil and Denon’s DL-103 was a mess but if an MC is somewhat fresh on top, a drop or two could be well worth the effort. Ditto for different vinyl if you need recreational therapy. Cueing up the white vinyl of Feist [The Reminder], the Classic very honestly portrayed its elevated presence region. The voice didn’t turn outright peaky but lack of enhanced counter balance in the mid bass simply meant that this album went on my nerves.

So I reached for the oil and voilà, things did mellow a bit, not truly warm and cuddly—that’d be a lie with this record—but certain hairy passages became rather more passable. While The Reminder is no poster child for space, the background rattle on “I Feel it All” did float more freely and defined with some oil in the tank. So far so good - until I happened upon a fulsome fat mastering balance on Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s The Letting Go. This did not call for a presence region damper, quite the contrary. What it called for was blood – er, oil letting.

The point is made. If you get embroiled in massaging the space/treble/microdynamic balance, you could find yourself oil dispenser in hand more often than desirable. It’s probably more advisable to tune things once for the system and cartridge with a neutral recording and then forget about  the oil – until the next system makeover comes around. A finely adjustable small oil pump would make for an arm upgrade I’d be interested in.

Conclusion. With its Classic, VPI Industries offers what is essentially a tonally neutral deck with a wiry direct character of high dynamic reflexes and superb soundstaging. Listeners favoring a warm, relaxed or even cozy take won’t buy into it but those into a lively involving presentation with a well-sorted broad stage won’t have many alternatives at this price. On those aspects, VPI’s Classic is arguably quite the benchmark.

Sonic core traits:

  • The Classic is tonally balanced and extendedly full-range. Only the upper bass/lower mid band is leaner rather than fulsome.
  • Bass quality—tempo, articulation, pitch definition—is first rate down into the infra sonics.
  • The VPI casts a shockingly large yet transparent soundstage. Sounds are precisely rendered and embodied. In matters of audible space, the Classic is exemplary.
  • This deck is highly dynamic and rhythmic and even large voltage shifts are parlayed instantaneously.
  • The oil damping feature allows for sonic fine tuning.


  • Trim: Black plinth, natural aluminium for arm and platter
  • Concept: High mass, integral motor, uni pivot arm
  • Speeds: 33.3/45RMP require belt change
  • Dimensions and weight: 24 x 53 x 40cm (HxWxD) / 22.5kg
  • Other: Optional oil damping for arm, comprehensive accessory catalogue

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