April 12, 2013

Since last year, VPI Industries, a US manufacturer of high-end turntables, tonearms and accessories, has started development of its first direct drive turntable. For its new statement piece, VPI decided to develop a synthetic tonearm for their flagship turntable using 3D printing.

Most tonearms use metals like steel, aluminum and titanium for keeping the design rigid and light, but VPI uses an epoxy-plastic instead and claims the results are even better, and the shape of the tonearm shaft is said to produce further rigidity. In collabaration with a design firm in Pennsylvania the company 3D printed the tonearm in one piece, from its head shell to its counterweight stub, with no joint in between.

IanWhite from Digital Trends was invited for a private listening session at VPI where the 3D printed tonearm was installed on the company's new Classic Direct turntable with a $220 Grado Gold phono cartridge. He writes:

For comparison purposes, VPI CEO, Harry Weisfeld, played the same five records on a VPI Classic 3 turntable using one of its standard metal tonearms paired with an $8,000 cartridge from German manufacturer, Clearaudio. A monster three-channel amplifier from McIntosh and a pair of 40 year-old JBL loudspeakers large enough to house a small family rounded out the test system.


The 3D printed tonearm with the $220 cartridge punched out some of the German's teeth before ultimately losing on points, but it made us think long and hard about spending more on a phono cartridge if that much performance can be dragged out of something as entry-level as the Grado Gold.

It took more than 24 hours to print this synthetic tonearm, and the $20,000 asking price could limit the sales of this world's first the turntable and 3D printed tonearm combination. But "the tonearm/table combination certainly made a huge impact on the overall sound quality," writes IanWhite, "the impact of the 3D printed tonearm was profound."

VPI Industries will launch their new flagship turntable with 3D printed tonearm this weekend at the New York Audio Show.




Posted in 3D Printers



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