What has four feet, one arm, and a snappy clear acrylic hat? Why it’s the all new VPI HW-40 Anniversary Turntable from VPI of course. The HW-40 is beautiful in its streamlined clean aesthetic, and a breeze to operate. A few years ago, I had the great pleasure to sell and setup the superb (yet twice as expensive) Stereophile Class A+ rated VPI Classic Direct Drive table.
The Classic DD was a paradigm of smoothness. That smoothness, coupled with an eerily quiet background and large scale dynamics, stunned me with what a direct drive table could actually achieve. Add spot on speed accuracy and you have a winning formula by any measure. The HW-40 is an almost identical sonic replica, yet for half the dough at $15,000. I didn’t have the privilege of having the Van Den Hul Stradivarius Crimson MC cartridge while auditioning the original Classic DD, but coupled with the HW-40 the level of performance is simply staggering. Surface noise is practically non-existent, and the explosive dynamics will knock you out of your chair! The hallmark evenness of tone intrinsic to the Van Den Hul is just that much more apparent here.
If you are sick of the formulaic dreck that passes for entertainment these days, Yola’s “Walk Through Fire” is highly recommended. The new Dan Auerbach production of Yola is surely the springboard for this exciting young British talent. The track “Faraway Look” is a throwback era piece that showcases Yola’s power and wonderful vocal character. The HW-40 allows the music to breathe in every direction. Spatial cues formerly masked are clearly evident, as notes decay into the mix in an exceedingly natural manner. Dan Auerbach’s talents seem to know no boundaries!
One of my “go to” tracks for pace and space is Mark Knopfler’s “Don’t Crash The Ambulance” from 2004’s Shangri-La LP. This piece was resplendent in all regards through the VPI and immediately made my ears smile. The deep bass was properly full and rounded with superb definition. The sound field was stellar in its spacial content. Brilliant! Next up on this dead silent running VPI was Son Volt’s “Cherokee St. from the “Notes Of Blue” album. Jay Farrar wanted to explore the open guitar tunings of delta blues greats Skip James and Mississippi Fred McDowell. This piece is played on Farrar’s Gretsch in open D minor Bertonia tuning on an old Webster Chicago tube amp. The unique and infectious flow of the swampy guitar made it very difficult to keep from stomping my feet in time. This is always a good indicator of proper pace. In fact, the rhythmic sense of timing is a strong positive element that continued to make its presence known regardless of musical style.
The HW-40 Anniversary comes with the highly lauded 3D gimballed 12” Fatboy tonearm featuring Nordost reference wiring. Mounting and calibrating the cartridge was effortless. The new counterweight assembly is a significant improvement over the older style. This iteration also comes with a substantially beefier “VTA on the fly” tower.
VPI was able to reduce costs substantially on the new motor while simultaneously making improvements in torque and other areas. The housing for the stator assembly is machined from a solid billet of T-6061 aluminum. Rotation is encoded @ 2500 counts per revolution which delivers a non-cogging direct drive design. The platter itself is a whopping 25 lbs. while the entire assembly comes in at 70 lbs. The plinth is a composite sandwich of MDF and damped aluminum. A great deal of research was performed on mitigating any prevailing vibrations from both within the internal assembly and external air borne modes. The HW-40’s sides are adorned with beautiful wooden panels. An appropriately thick dust cover is included. This technical work of art is limited to 400 pieces. Congrats VPI on 40 years of analog bliss!