Stereophile's Products of 2013 Joint Analog Components of the Year
Spiral Groove SG1.1 turntable with Centroid tonearm ($31,000; reviewed by Michael Fremer, November 2012, Vol.35 No.11)
VPI Industries Traveler turntable and tonearm ($1399; reviewed by Stephen Mejias, November 2012, Vol.35 No.11 Review)
Another tiethis time between two components separated by almost 3000 miles and nearly $30,000. Yow! The flagship Spiral Groove SG1.1 was designed by Allen Perkins in Berkeley, California. The entry-level VPI Traveler was designed by father-son duo Harry and Mat Weisfeld, in Cliffwood, New Jersey. While the former aims to be the last turntable you'll ever want or need, the latter is meant to introduce a wider, younger audience to true high-fidelity sound. With 16 total votes apiece, these two outstanding 'tables distinguished themselves from a worthy bunch of contenders.
Released at the New York Audio & AV Show in April 2012, VPI's Traveler is a tribute to Sheila Weisfeld, matriarch of the Weisfeld family, who passed away in December 2011. Mat Weisfeld came up with the concept and physical design; Harry Weisfeld brought it to life. I had the pleasure of reviewing the Traveler. It uses an AC synchronous motor built directly into a rigid, compact chassis of Delrin and aluminum; a machined aluminum platter damped with a stainless-steel disc; a high-quality bearing assembly capable of driving a 20-lb platter; and a dedicated, 10"-long, spring-loaded tonearm with a double-gimbal bearing for movement in the horizontal and vertical planes. I was bowled over by the sound, which was uncommonly smooth, coherent, and dynamicto this day, the best I've heard from any turntable at home. I wish everyone could enjoy this level of sound; now, thanks to VPI, more people can.
I've heard Spiral Groove's SG1.1 only at shows and in shops, but I have no doubt that it's worth every cent. In fact, even at $31,000, it seems a bargain. Built to almost impossibly precise specifications and with an intense attention to detail, the 75-lb SG1.1 is a dense, split-plinth design with an onboard AC synchronous motor belt-driving a 22-lb platter of graphite, vinyl, and phenolic. While the SG1.1's clever tonearm-mounting system simplifies the installation of almost any arm, Spiral Groove's complementary Centroid tonearm is designed for optimal system stability. Michael Fremer: "The engineering brilliance, machining excellence, build quality, remarkable compactness, ease of setup and use, and engaging sound make the SG1.1 turntable and Centroid tonearm landmark products."
Runners-up: (in alphabetical order)
AMG Viella 12 turntable with 12J2 tonearm ($16,500; reviewed by Michael Fremer, August 2013, Vol.36 No.8)
Ortofon MC Anna phono cartridge ($8499; reviewed by Michael Fremer, May 2013, Vol.36 No.5)
Simaudio Moon Evolution 810LP phono preamplifier ($12,000; reviewed by Michael Fremer, December 2012, Vol.35 No.12)
Sutherland Engineering Insight phono preamplifier ($1400; reviewed by Michael Fremer, August 2013, Vol.36 No.8)
TechDAS Air Force One turntable ($79,500; reviewed by Michael Fremer, April 2013, Vol.36 No.4)
Zesto Audio Andros PS1 phono preamplifier ($4300; reviewed by Michael Fremer, March 2013, Vol.36 No.3)