VPI Industries Traveler turntable

On May 21, 2008, five months after purchasing my very first turntable (a Rega Research P3-24), I decided that my obsession with LPs had grown to the extent that I could no longer function without a good record-cleaning machine. I'd done some research and found that the device best suited to my life and wallet was VPI's time-honored HW-16.5. I was certain, anxious, determined. But that morning, when I gave VPI a call, the line was busy. When I called again in the afternoon, the line was busy. When I called again in the evening, the line was busy.

When someone finally answered my call, I was surprised—partly because I'd grown so accustomed to hearing that busy signal, but mostly because the person on the other end of the line sounded so familiar. She was kind, candid, and her tone almost immediately took on the warm, concerned, slightly overbearing touch of a mom—my favorite kind of person. This was Sheila Weisfeld—cofounder, with her husband, Harry, of VPI Industries. We talked and talked. After a while, I wondered if Sheila was more interested in sharing stories about her sons than in selling me a record-cleaning machine.

Turned out that her first, Jonathan, had been killed in a car accident 13 years earlier. Jonathan and I would have been about the same age; like me, he'd wanted to be a musician. After Jonathan's death, VPI shut its doors for a month. Sheila dedicated herself to promoting safety-awareness programs and to helping her younger son, Mathew, find his way through the family's loss. Harry holed up in the basement for two years, perfecting a design that he and Jonathan had started together: a tonearm that, in honor of Jonathan, would be named the JMW Memorial. In our January 1997 issue, Michael Fremer called the tonearm "a triumph of industrial design" with a sound that was "intoxicating, almost magical."

Loss had inspired beauty.

Sheila, I figured, had taken a liking to me. (I'm great with moms.) But before we said goodbye, she expressed her displeasure with my choice of turntable. She was gentle, diplomatic, and unambiguous. "Perhaps you'd like me to loan you a turntable? Your call!"

My call? I was reminded of my own mom, always offering more of my favorite meal: I was too full to accept, but couldn't bear insulting her. I explained to Sheila, as tactfully as I could, that while I'd always been fascinated by and attracted to VPI's turntables, they were out of my price range. Plus, I had no idea how to set up a turntable. The Rega made setup relatively easy, but a 'table like VPI's entry-level Scout ($1800, with JMW-9T tonearm) was too intimidating.

"Can I take you up on the offer in a few months? By this fall, I might be able to give a VPI the attention it deserves."

"Whatever makes you happy."

Whatever makes me happy? I could almost see her smile.

When my conversation with Sheila was over, I immediately missed her. After speaking with her for just a few minutes, I felt I'd known her all my life. This was Sheila's effect on people. It's no surprise that her line was so often busy.

Days passed, spring turned to fall, one winter blurred into another, and I never again called Sheila. I figured we'd renew our discussion in person, at a Consumer Electronics Show or some other event.

In June 2011, when Sheila Weisfeld was diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer, the doctors told her she had three months to live. She responded by going on long trips to Australia and to Texas; travel made her happy. Having surpassed the doctors' expectations, Sheila next planned to attend the January 2012 CES, where she would say goodbye to friends and colleagues and accept Stereophile's award for Analog Source Component of 2011, for VPI's Classic 3 turntable. She didn't make it. On December 16, 2011, Sheila Weisfeld passed away. I never got to meet her.

At CES, I handed our award to Mathew Weisfeld, who mentioned that he'd be taking on more responsibility at VPI. In April, at the New York Audio & AV Show, Mathew handed me a business card, explained that he was leaving his teaching job to work full-time with his dad, and introduced VPI's newest turntable, the Traveler. Dedicated to Sheila Weisfeld and meant to appeal to a younger generation of music lovers, the Traveler was designed for easy setup, would be available in a range of fun colors, and would cost $1299 without phono cartridge—almost exactly the price of my Rega P3-24 without phono cartridge.

The VPI Traveler
On the flight home from the 2012 CES, 27-year-old Mathew Weisfeld reached into the pocket on the seat back in front of him, pulled out a paper bag, and sketched a design for an attractive, user-friendly turntable that even his friends could afford. The 'table's size and shape would be very important. It would have to be sleek, small enough to fit on a standard equipment rack, and at least somewhat portable.

With a footprint of about 16.5" wide by 12" deep, the Traveler easily fit on the top shelf of my Polycrystal equipment rack, and left room for my VPI Crosscheck turntable level and Hunt EDA record-cleaning brush. Mathew Weisfeld boasts that he carried an early-production sample of the Traveler to the recent Newport Beach Show in his luggage. But at a hefty 24 lbs and standing about 5" tall, the Traveler is significantly heavier and bulkier than my Rega. While I wouldn't think twice about schlepping the Rega over to Uncle Omar's house for a listening session, I doubt I'd be able to tuck the Traveler under one arm and go.

The Traveler's chassis is made of 3/16"-thick aluminum and ½"-thick Delrin, the latter a commercial name for polyoxymethylene (POM), a thermoplastic attractive for its high rigidity, low friction, and outstanding dimensional stability. Harry Weisfeld explained that, in the Traveler, this combination of aluminum and Delrin creates a very quiet, self-damping structure while allowing all parts of the turntable to be perfectly aligned for smooth, controlled operation. The 'table's aluminum top plate extends just beyond the Delrin foundation, and comes standard in a range of colors that includes red, white, blue, and silver. (Other options may be available in the future; photos on VPI's website show Travelers in pink and gold.) My sample came in VPI's standard black finish and exhibited some cosmetic imperfections on the chassis' underside—due perhaps to being hauled around in luggage, or to the usual strains of shipping. The instruction manual recommends using the Panel Magic or Stainless Steel Magic cleaning products to eliminate any odd markings from the Traveler's surface.

The Traveler's machined aluminum platter is damped with a stainless-steel disc and has an integral cloth mat. As in the VPI Classic, the Traveler's motor is built into the chassis. While it might seem counterintuitive to place a vibration-inducing motor in direct contact with a vibration-sensitive chassis, VPI believes that a properly integrated motor provides steadier and more efficient speed control. Unlike my Rega and many low-cost turntables driven by DC motors, the Traveler's AC synchronous motor runs on the stable 60Hz line frequency, and is said to be immune to voltage variances. I asked Harry Weisfeld to explain.

"An AC motor knows where it is. A DC motor knows where it was."

I asked Harry Weisfeld to explain.

"An AC synchronous motor reads the line frequency coming from the wall, which, in the US, will always be 60Hz. The motor's rotational speed (600rpm, in the case of the Traveler) is set by the line frequency. You can vary the voltage from 70 to 140V, and the speed will still be 600rpm. If you slow the platter down with your finger, the motor will fight you to get back to the correct speed of 600rpm—it's a known, fixed item."

Using a record brush on a spinning LP, I noticed that the Traveler paid little attention to the downward pressure exerted on its platter, but continued to run smoothly, unperturbed. This is not at all the case with my Rega, which can be slowed to a near stop with the slightest touch. According to Weisfeld, AC motors are more sensitive to music's timing and, therefore, sound more dynamic and compelling.

And DC motors?

"A DC motor is very quiet, very easy to integrate into a turntable, passes CE and UL regulations with no problem, and is cost-effective. But what speed does it run at? [A DC motor] needs a feedback loop to maintain speed accuracy, and that causes a time delay when the [rotational] speed is changed by groove velocity."

The Traveler's main platter bearing comprises a high-tolerance Thomson shaft, a chrome-hardened steel ball, and a thrust plate of polyetheretherketone (PEEK), an extremely durable thermoplastic with outstanding creep resistance—perfect for high-stress applications. Hinting at a potential upgrade, Weisfeld claims that the Traveler's motor and bearing assembly can easily handle the Classic 3's substantial 20-lb platter.

VPI Industries, Inc.
77 Cliffwood Avenue #3B
Cliffwood, NJ 07721-1087
(732) 583-6895

Vogelhaus's picture

Now that's how you write a product review! Well done, thanks for the article! I was very interested in this table when rumors were going around about a new turntable from VPI. 

Et Quelle's picture

But, can an owner remove those hideous feet; put stillpoints or anything? A retailer at the T.H.E. Show Las vegas told me that you can. More importantly, he told me that price has little weight on electronic quality. Which most of us kinda know?

baumer's picture

Stephen, this is the best thing I've ever read of yours, and, in fact I think it's the best thing I've read from Stereophile. Well done.

philipjohnwright's picture

The Kid is the future. Thank you Stephen, lovely article; life first, hi-fi second, as it should be.

MrGneiss's picture

LPs make me happy too.. :-) Great article!!

itsratso's picture

i am going to start saving for this TT. not just because it seems like a good table, but moreso for the story you told. these are the sort of people that deserve the business.

Regadude's picture

Great review Stephen. I really enjoyed reading it!

I have a question about the setup of your Rega P3-24. Did you put a 2mm spacer between the arm and the plinth, to raise the arm? I know from experience, that the Dynavector 10X5 will sound much better with the arm raised 2mm on a P3-24. If the arm is not raised, the VTA will not be correct. 

If you can, try it. You'll probably find that your P3-24 - Dynavector combo has a lot more to offer!

Stephen Mejias's picture

Thank you, everyone.

Regadude, thank you for all your kind comments. Yes, I did use Rega's 2mm spacer with the Dynavector cartridge. I write about that experience in "The Entry Level," also in the November issue. We'll post that column to the website soon, too.

Regadude's picture

Thanks for the information Stephen. I look forward to reading November's "The entry level".

Like yourself, my turntable is a P3-24. If you wish to significantly improve its performance, you could try out a Groovetracer reference subplatter and/or a Michell Technoweight.

I have both. The GT subplatter will widen the soundstage, add detail and make the music "more there". The Technoweight will significantly improve the bass. You will get more bass, and it will be better defined. If you plan on keeping your P3-24, these 2 upgrades really elevate the performance of the table. 

Stephen Mejias's picture

I look forward to reading November's "The entry level".

That column has now been archived here. I hope you enjoy it.

mrplankton2u's picture

The specifications give a rumble figure of  at least - 80db and wow/flutter rating of .2%.

Yes, it was quite touching to find out that you've formed a special relationship with the manufacturer:

"Sheila, I figured, had taken a liking to me. (I'm great with moms.)"


-but is it too much to ask that you actually test the product that is being "reviewed" to verify that what the manufacturer is saying about it is actually true in the case of the test sample?



You folks have been drinking your own Kool Aid for so long, you have completely lost touch with what you're supposed to be doing. Just say'in...


: )

JohnnyR's picture

"Michael Fremer called the tonearm "a triumph of industrial design" with a sound that was "intoxicating, almost magical.""

Were there any tests done to show us the "sound" of that tonearm? I mean  if a tonearm is going to resonate and add it's own signal to the recording being played then isn't that NOT what we want as a listener? I'm so glad I gave up on turntables and vinyl years ago in favor of an accurate digital playback medium. A lot less costly PLUS it plays back how it was meant to sound. Dinosaur Sterophile strikes again.


mrplankton2u's picture

I guess there were no tests conducted in the "review" of this turntable. But at least we have this gem of an observation to make up for it -


"While the LP's normal surface noise was as audible as ever, that noise was noticeably distinct from the music, as if the Traveler were somehow brushing it aside to the edges of my listening room,"


And in conclusion, this turntable "brushes aside" normal LP surface noise to the edges of listening rooms better than most other turntables...(eyeroll) 

Perhaps Steven can get to work on a glossary of hi fi snob terms/phrases to assist new readers and those who are just not "in the know" with expressions like "brushing aside normal noise to the edges of the listening room" - that is if Stereophile truly wishes to clue its readers in on what the hell its reviewers are talking about... But then, that may just be the point - they really don't want the reader to know what the hell they're talking about or perhaps most likely - they don't know what the hell they are talking about.

Vogelhaus's picture

@mrplankton2u How about you go listen to one, form an opinion not based off a written article, and tell us all about it. It's a magazine man, they're doing their best to describe their experience with music, components and venues that you can't HEAR. [Edit of flame by JA]

mrplankton2u's picture

The whole point of a proper equipment review is not simply to present pure subjective opinion but to put forth some data or facts that support the purely subjective opinion. Your suggestion that I need to go listen to a component to verfiy the claims for myself defeats the entire purpose of a magazine that's supposed to present a "convincing" argument one way or another about the component's quality, value, and degree to which it has achieved its objectives. The above "review" contains absolutely no data or physically reproducible evidence that would back up or tend to back up the claims of the "reviewer". 

Moreover,  a good portion of the "review" write up was devoted to describing the "reviewer's" personal relationship and/or impression of the individuals that produce the product being "reviewed". That clearly calls into question the "reviewer's" ability to objectively and impartially  "review" the product in question. The dividing line between "reviewer" and manufacturer has been completely obliterated.

Additionally, the hostility with which you responded to me does nothing to bolster your opinion or perspective. If anything, it detracts from it as your response contains more animosity than useful, actionable information or credible argument.

smittyman's picture

Well, Stereophile is based on subjective reviews; the reviewer listens and describes what he or she hears.  The 'objectivist' magazines died out quite a few years ago; they didn't do much more than test the equipment to make sure it met or exceeded the manufacturers' claims.  Since the equipment pretty well always matched its specs, the results of their 'reviews' were pretty much a foregone conclusion.  Hard to see any added value there which may explain why they aren't around anymore.


Which makes me wonder, if you don't like subjective reviews, why read Stereophile?  And if you're looking for test results, why not just read the spec sheet?

mrplankton2u's picture

Questioning my motives for reading the magazine or electronic version is again, attacking the person - not focusing on the questions raised. So in that context, some of your response is of no use to the discussion. 

And now back to the heart of the matter. I've been consistently raising questions as to why Stereophile employs a signficant number of measurements with some equipment reviews but a complete lack measurements with others. In my view, there is absolutely no legitimate basis for going completely subjective or completely objective. The value of Stereophile's contribution comes when it combines the two. That happens with loudspeakers and to a lesser extent with electronics. But the other products that have  exclusively subjective reviews noting "vast" differences from one product to the next - that have no associated measurements - stand as a clear challenge to the credibility of Stereophile's otherwise "balanced" approach of combining subjective with objective information. If cables, suspenders/footers, power conditioners, DACs, and other similar products are determined to have significant audible differences - those differences should be measurable in some way. There should be some effort expended to explain how the audible difference is produced. When there's a complete absence of effort to explain the origins of these purely subjective differences, that's when credibility breaks down. With speaker reviews, there has been a consistent trend to at least attempt to explain a correlation between what is heard and what is measured. That brings value. And when an attempt is made to explain how construction details/design impacts measured and sensed performance - more value is added  

If anything, I've been consistent in the pages of comments regarding how important some of us feel the balance between subjective and objective is in terms of establishing and maintaining credibility. It's not simply a matter of re enforcing specifications. If a turntable has very low levels of rumble or background noise with a given cartridge combination - what is so difficult about posting a graphical reprentation of noise with frequency when the table is rotating and the tone arm is in its rest position? That is so simple and would take virtually no effort. When a reviewer says the component is absolutely dead quiet when producing soft music passages - you have something concrete and reproducible to back that subjective impression up. This is not rocket science folks. A discrepancy clearly does exist between how Stereophile approaches reviewing different product classes. And this does more to re enforce doubts about Stereophile's credibility than anything else. It cannot be explained away by saying some products can be measured while others can't. Turntables/cartridges for example can be measured extensively but they aren't. There is simply no legitimate explanation for this unless you consider "we're lazy" a legitimate excuse.

smittyman's picture

OK, so I didn't mean my question as an attack - at least not entirely.  Of course what you choose to read is your business.  I just don't understand why someone reads a magazine or other publication whose editoral practices or policies are different than their own beliefs, then complains about those differences.  I don't go to a vegan restaurant and complain they don't serve steak.  You say you are trying to suggest how the content could be inproved and I will take you at your word.  In any case, you are correct that this part of our discussion is off topic.

Where I don't agree with you is the assertion that audbile differences should be measurable in some way.  The old school subjectivist magazines measured everything that was measurable at the time and didn't find anything significant to say; if things measured the same they must sound the same was their position.  But a lot of people thought they heard differences.  So then we get into a vicious cycle; the measurements don't so any difference so anyone who hears differences must be crazy, a snake-oil salesman, etc. on one side; I hear differences in spite of the measurements, therefore measurements mean nothing, so why measure, on the other. (I know you are suggesting that a balanced approach is better and I agree; I'm just stating the extreme positions here.)

There are a couple of other options.  It is entirely possible that there are measurable factors that could substantiate the differences people hear between similar pieces of equipment, but we don't know what they are yet; we might be measuring the wrong things.  It is also possible that the instruments that we use to measure this equipment are not an exact pardigm for how we hear - that microphones and voltmeters do not respond to sound in the same way the human ear does.  Not trying to sound philosophical here, just suggesting two reasons why measurements may not work, or not work as well, on all types of components.  And it certainly suggests that maybe we should be looking for new things and/or new ways to measure.

Having said that, your point that there is an inconsistancy in what Stereophile measures is a valid one.  If they are trying to strike a balance between the two extremes then perhaps they should expand the range of what they measure.

John Atkinson's picture

smittyman wrote:
Your point that there is an inconsistency in what Stereophile measures is a valid one.  If they are trying to strike a balance between the two extremes then perhaps they should expand the range of what they measure.

I agree that it is a valid criticism. The problem is one of resources. The scarcest resource we have as Stereophile is my time. I already work a >60 hour week and, other than a day off here and there, have not had a vacation for several years. For us to accompany our reviews of turntables, tonearms, and cartridges with full sets of measurements represents a major increase in my workload and that just isn't possible. Not an excuse but a reason.

A few years back, we tried a system whereby Michael Fremer would measure the LP playback components he was reviewing and I would do the analysis, but that didn't work out.

And my thanks to you and mrplankton2u for arguing without flaming.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

mrplankton2u's picture

Valid points but might I suggest you start training reviewers to take on some of your workload. There is obviously some talent and knowledge there. Mikey has demonstrated that he is more than capable of delving into a huge array of intracies in turntable setup. Does John Atkinson have to test/measure everything directly? Why can't he work with other reviewer/writers to establish measuring protocols - supply the needed equipment (which these days, in many cases is pretty modest) - and let them take on a more comprehensive role?

smittyman's picture

I am Canadian and we are required by law to be polite.laugh

GeorgeHolland's picture

We will await a real test of something other than speakers but won't hold our breaths.

John Atkinson's picture

GeorgeHolland wrote:
We will await a real test of something other than speakers but won't hold our breaths.

I don't understand your statement. Not only do I measure speakers, but also preamplifiers, phono preamplifiers, integrated amplifier, power amplifiers, CD and other disc players, D/A processors, A/D processors, computer soundcards, music streamers, etc. I have stopped measuring headphones, leaving that to my colleague Tyll Hertsens at InnerFidelity.com, who has a Kemar mannikin.

BTW, I saw you complaining about having some of your posts deleted. I warned everyone last week that I will now delete posts that, in my opinion - not yours, please note - are nothing more than flames.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

GeorgeHolland's picture

But you don't test cables or power cords or tweeks because?  Oh yes the "no time" reason. it couldn't possibly be because you know they do nothing but would offend some one if you showed the world that.

I see that JVS stated on a post from the RMAF that you have in your possesion  a BSG Technologies QOL Signal Completion Stage and will review it. Does this mean a full fledged measurment test?  If not then please give your reasons for not doing so. The "no time" reason will not be good enough I'm afraid.

Yes I can see how you tend to stamp out any postings that bring up the topic of greed or the inability of your readrs to be interested in anything other than the staus quo.

John Atkinson's picture

GeorgeHolland wrote:
I see that JVS stated on a post from the RMAF that you have in your possesion  a BSG Technologies QOL Signal Completion Stage and will review it. Does this mean a full fledged measurment test?

Of course.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

John Atkinson's picture

The BSG Signal Completion Stage has an easily audible effect on the signal and its measured performance suggests why. It's hardly snake oil, as GeorgeHolland appears to be implying.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

JohnnyR's picture

............sorry but labeling your failure or EXCUSE as a reason just doesn't cut it. So you are saying nobody but you can operate any measuring equipment or aren't smart enough to be trained? Your so called 60 hour work week includes plenty of time to browse and respond to not only Stereophile's forums but other audio forums also. No time to do anything else he says. So busy. EXCUSES. *YAWN* typical Atkinson response. Too busy, can't be helped. Can't leave out testing of a speaker instead and test a cable or magic bowl. Don't know how. Can't be done.........EXCUSES.

John Atkinson's picture

JohnnyR wrote:
sorry but labeling your failure or EXCUSE as a reason just doesn't cut it.

It is neither a failure or an excuse. It is the _reason_ we can't expand our measurement regime. I love my job but I am maxed out. And please note that measuring audio components requires a combination of skill, education, knowledge, and experience that is relatively rare. I was fortunate to have been mentored by Martin Colloms and the late John Crabbe, but I already had a technical education and had designed my own audio equipment and my own test equipment when I implemented the test regime at Stereophile.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

JohnnyR's picture

I suppose all those people on DIYaudio and Parts Express and other forums must be geniuses then because they do a VERY good job of measuring. If you haven't gotten it written down in a step by step method after all this time, then you are doing it wrong. You could easily train someone in a day how measure using a computer and simple add ons. YOU designed the test equipment that Stereophile uses?  I highly doubt it's being used today. Just fess up that you don't want or don't DARE test cables or magic bowls and stop saying you don't have time. You could have tested 10 cables in the time it took to reply to just MY posts on here Mr Excuse.

John Atkinson's picture

JohnnyR wrote:
I suppose all those people on DIYaudio and Parts Express and other forums must be geniuses then because they do a VERY good job of measuring.

Both those forums are frequented by some of the best audio engineers around, who have decades of experience in designing and testing audio equipment. There are also posters to both forums who demonstrate how easy it is to mis-use test gear.

JohnnyR wrote:
You could easily train someone in a day how measure using a computer and simple add ons.

You illustrate the fact that everything appears simple to those who lack understanding of what is involved.

JohnnyR wrote:
YOU designed the test equipment that Stereophile uses?

I didn't say that. In the early 1980s, I designed some pieces of test gear that I used at that time  - for example, a spl meter of mine was published as a DIY article in a 1981 issue of HiFi News - and in doing so gained an education in measuring.

JohnnyR wrote:
I highly doubt it's being used today.

It isn't but I didn't say that it is.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile


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