Benchmark Product: VPI Avenger Turntable and JMW 3D12 Tonearm

The other tonearm that finds itself in regular use aboard the Avenger is ViV Labs’ iconoclastic Rigid Float RF-7Cf. Not quite as relentlessly pell-mell as the aluminium tubed versions of this zero-offset design, the added poise and linearity of the carbon-fibre tube brings a sense of organisation, shape and purpose to the musical proceedings. Also possessing an interchangeable headshell, I tend to stick to ViV’s NelsonHold cartridge mount, its elongated, front-mounted finger lift extending the arm to something approaching aesthetic normality. Cartridge of choice is Ortofon’s SPU Royal N and this works beautifully with the CH Precision P1’s current inputs. Together, this record player has an incisive, rhythmically coherent presentation, full of drive and purposeful musical intent. If you want to understand what makes the combination so special, just reach for a piano recording and it will all make sense. The dynamic control, note-weight and the shape and pacing of phrases take on a clarity, immediacy and sense of direction that once you recognise it, you find in all musical genres. Full of tension, motion and angular dynamic and expressive shifts, it’s the perfect, challenging foil to the relaxed body and presence of the Timestep.

Along with the pivoting, open-plan armboards that enable the mounting of almost any arm (well, any arm I’ve come across) the JMW’s versatility and almost instant interchangability makes the Avenger an invaluable part of the reviewing armoury, a one-size-fits-anything record player that will accommodate all-comers with consummate ease. The fact that it also sounds so consistently enjoyable is of course, a huge bonus. For once, there’s no need to suffer for our art. Simplicity itself to set up and use, the big VPI can be relied on to deliver great sound with utter consistency. It’s a quality that is as rare as it is valuable in the constantly shifting world of review components, where all too often reliability (sonic and mechanical!) seems to come at a premium. It’s one that’s even more valuable in the context of music lovers with limited time to enjoy their systems.

An infectiously musical performer straight out of the box, the Avenger lends itself to further upgrades or modifications with the passing of the years, ensuring a long and consistent working life. My very first VPI ‘table was an HW-19 III that is still in use and still delivering great results in a seriously demanding system. It is not only still going strong, it has been periodically upgraded over the years, the latest external power supply being the most recent addition. The fact that the power supply introduced for the Avenger interfaces seamlessly with a model that’s almost 40-years young should give both potential customers and competing manufacturers serious pause for thought. With many vinyl lovers looking to buy their “last turntable”, VPI is offering you the chance to stuff down a monster slice of gateau while still having some left over for later. It’s been a long, long time since I was without a VPI turntable in the house. The arrival of the musically impressive Avenger ensures that won’t be changing anytime soon. At a time when the first generation of US high-end audio companies are in transition, changing ownership or generations, it is reassuring to see and hear the Avenger building so impressively on the company’s deeply planted roots.