VPI HW-40 Anniversary Direct Drive Turntable

Joseph Parvey Blog

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!

If you don't know this album, come get a copy from us!

Mark Knopfler – Shangri-La

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!

 

Eggleston Works Kiva Speaker

Joseph Parvey Blog

Sometimes you can tell a lot about a company by how well they are packaged

Upon receiving Egglestonworks all new Kiva floorstanding speakers, the House Of Stereo staff were all impressed with the substantial wood shipping crates.  The icing on the cake however, resided within.  Subsequent removal of the top revealed a sculpted beauty in “Porsche Blue” paint.  The cabinets were affixed to a “rolling sled” with a ramp to execute an amazingly elegant removal of the speaker.  Nicely done Eggleston!

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The Kivas weigh in @ 130 lbs. and are 48” high, 22” deep, and 10.5” wide without stands.  The enclosures are extremely inert due to multiple layers of MDF and HDF with aluminum plates and baffle bracing.  The Kiva is a three way, five driver system with a medium efficiency rating of 88 dB.  Frequency response is a very wide 29 hz. -24khz.   The tweeter is a fabric soft dome from SEAS.  The two 6 ½” midrange drivers are loaded into a quasi transmission line to strongly reduce reflected energy, while also adding a slight degree of rear firing “ambient” information.  The two 7 ½” woofers, like the midrange drivers, are sourced from BA Acoustics Satoris series.  The Kivas are built at the Egglestonworks facility in Memphis, Tn.

From the opening notes of Richard Thompson’s latest LP, “13 Rivers”, I knew the Kivas were something special.  The tribal drums and cleverly delivered vocal and guitar were powerful and immediately drew me in.  They are one of the most “listenable” speakers I have auditioned in recent memory.  For a somewhat sizeable structure, the Kivas provided a very convincing “disappearing act”, while getting out of the way and allowing a very natural presentation.  While very dynamic and capable at high levels, the startling aspect of how terrific they sounded at mere conversation levels is worth noting.  They lean a tad to the warm side tonally, but with a very uncolored, natural demeanor.  They are eminently pleasing and offer the proverbial “I can’t wait to listen to what’s next” from your music collection.

 


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Richard Thompson 13 Rivers

Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady’s Hot Tuna excursion “Hesitation Blues” was swinging sweetly. Casady’s percussive “woody” attack matching Jorma’s intricate finger style guitar note for note without any blurring or transient smear.  As the audience clapped during the slowed tempo change, a vivid acoustic as characterized by a true live performance clearly emerged.  Turning now to the beautiful cello work of Maria Kleigel, on the Telefunken LP Virtuose Kammermusik, her vigorously and beautifully bowed cello was appropriately rich, resonant, and satisfyingly real.  Another very impressive performance on the Kivas was the David Grisman Quintet ’80 LP.  On the track, Mugavero, the very tip end of the pick was shockingly clear and resolute on Dave’s mando.  The natural “plunky” wooden quality was there in spades.


Summing up, regardless of the music’s size and scope, the Eggleston Kivas were more than up to the task.  In many important ways they are comparable to speakers costing 2-3 times their $15,000. pair price.  Every music enthusiast should make it a point to experience these beauties!

 

- Bill Gibson


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Quad Artera Solus Integrated Amp

Joseph Parvey Blog

Quad is an interesting company. In the Hi-Fi world, it is easy to get distracted with the shiny and new, so it is great to find a venerable brand like Quad has been steadily working (while our attention was elsewhere)  on creating amazing audiophile level components for one of today’s most important market segments: the newcomers. Ask any Brit, and Quad never went away. They have been listening through Quad gear all along, and passing their gear down the generations as they upgrade. We decided to bring Quad back to Jacksonville after seeing and hearing some great demonstrations at audio shows, and seeing the attention to detail that Quad puts into their S and Z series speakers. Likewise, after seeing what Quad was able to do with the $999 Vena II amp – Bluetooth connectivity, DSD DAC, Phono Stage and great sound, we decided to take a look at what they could do with their next step: the Artera Solus integrated at $2000. Out of the box, our first thought was, “This is just $2000?” Like our Quad Z3 speakers, the Solus looks and feels (and weighs) like a much more expensive component.
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Van Den Hul – Crimson XGW Stradivarius Cartridge

Joseph Parvey Blog

Van Den Hul – Crimson XGW Stradivarius  Moving Coil Cartridge

The recent arrival of the Van Den Hul Stradivarius Crimson Phono cartridge came as quite a pleasant surprise. You have to understand that I have auditioned scores of cartridges over the years. Most of them are quite good to varying degrees.

 There have been essentially three times in my fervent audio career that I have been gobsmacked by an exemplary cartridge.  As a budding audio nerd in my early twenties I was stunned by the transparent clarity and focus of the Decca London series of cartridges.  Although they had other issues, they were peerless in terms of speed, snap, and focus, and simply exciting to listen to.  In my early thirties the timbral beauty and seductive nature of the Koetsu range of cartridges ruled the day.  They were the most “musical” cartridge I had ever heard.  The mid bass was a bit “over ripe” for my taste, but overall an amazing sound.
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