VPI’s Cliffwood and Player: So what’s going on here?
8th July 2017
The new Cliffwood turntable joins the Player and threatens to create a budget range from VPI. Gulp
With the recent announcement of the release of the Cliffwood turntable – retailing for a reasonable $900 – VPI now seems to have two turntable designs on its hands which could be viewed as budget (well, ‘budget’ in the VPI universe, at any rate) because the company’s VPI Player retails for, well I’ve seen the price range from $1,199-$1,500. Nevertheless, the two decks sit within the same ballpark price point. Kinda.
So then, two budget turntables? Why two? What’s going on?
Remember the VPI Nomad? You can read the review of that design HERE which features an interview with VPI Industries President Mat Weisfeld.
At that time, I sensed a slight unease from Weisfeld, with the Nomad. A sense that the Nomad design was not all VPI wanted it to be.
In addition to the slightly protracted development, there was too much talk about possible future tweaks and changes. There were too many audiophile grimaces from Weisfeld, in fact .
Then the Nomad disappeared.
Now? There is no Nomad Mk.II, as I expected. Instead, we have two completely separate designs.
Some might ask the question. Why? Well, let’s take a closer look at the two. Both are belt driven, two speed designs. Both offer a MDF plinth of 1.25” thick. Both cover their plinths in vinyl. The footprint and overall size are exactly the same, the weight for both is the same, while the platter for both decks is made from aluminium. Even the bearing is the same on both.
The arm is the same length and offers exactly the same specifications except for one point. The armtube is different. The Player provides a stainless steel tube while the Cliffwood’s tube is made from aluminium. Then there’s the cartridge options. The Player provides an Ortofon Red while the Cliffwood offers a Grado Green. Individual prices are similar for both cartridges, though.
The major differences stem from the Player’s built-in ‘toys’. That is, the Player provides a headphone amplifier and built-in phono amplifier.
The Player also allows you to connect to an external amp (The Nomad didn’t allow you to do that which, I think, Weisfeld felt uncomfortable with).
So, apart from the armtube and similar-ish cartridge, the turntables target two different customer types through their add-ons. Hence, Cliffwood is, in broad terms, a stripped down Player.
For UK users, the Player should be the first design to enter the country. There’s no definite date for that but I expect UK entry to be pretty soon. The Cliffwood has yet to reach that stage but I personally see a space for both turntables within the same market and I see both designs living in the same budget space quite happily, depending on your requirements, your set-up and your budget.
I thought that the Nomad was a good attempt at a budget design from VPI but I also thought that it was a flawed concept and implmentation. I have yet to get my hands on either the Player or Cliffwood but I have a feeling that both will will be far more successful.
To learn more, click www.vpiindustries.com