VPI TNT V-HR turntable & JMW 12.5 tonearm
Harry Weisfeld, the man behind VPI, is also a tinkerer, of which the evolution of his TNT turntable provides ample evidence (footnote 1). There's been a flywheel here, an air suspension there, a new, more solid mounting method for the bearing—each step an improvement in performance and user-friendliness.
The TNT V-HR
The latest step in the TNT V turntable's evolution is the TNT V-HR. The "HR" stands for "Hot Rod" and reflects a number of small and not-so-small changes to the basic TNT V. The most obvious of these are the omission of the three-pulley subchassis and the lack of a removable tonearm board. The subchassis was dropped because, with the V-HR's new Rulon bearing (now included in the standard TNT V as well), its load balancing was no longer required. And, according to Weisfeld, the three pulleys "added noise, in the form of a subtle graying of the sound."
The armboard was deleted to increase rigidity, which is further improved by attaching the arm with a single, large-diameter nut that screws directly onto the arm pillar.
The final change in the HR, which will be retrofitted to the basic V version as well, is the use of a removable power cord for the motor. All of the other mods that resulted in the TNT V—the new platter and flywheel, the air suspension, the single-nut mounting of the bearing cup—are included in the HR as well.
The TNT lineup now includes several models. The bottom rung is the $2600 TNT Junior, which is suspended by Sorbothane bushings encased in the corner towers, uses a 1.5"-thick clear acrylic platter and lower-grade bearing, and omits the flywheel. Next is the $4000 TNT 3.5, which maintains the Junior's bearing assembly but replaces the Sorbothane bushings with springs, uses the 23-lb multilayer TNT platter, and adds the three-pulley subchassis.
The TNT V, which goes for $5800, switches to air suspension, adds the flywheel and single-nut-mounted Rulon bearing assembly, and, as of this writing, will no longer include the three-pulley subchassis. The TNT V-HR costs a bit more ($8000) but is actually the better value, because its price includes the JMW 12.5 tonearm—the other TNTs come sans arm. The SDS motor/speed controller, back in production as of this writing, adds $800 to the price of any TNT (the V and V-HR models are priced with SDS), or is available for $1000 separately.
JMW Memorial 12.5 tonearm
The JMW 12" Memorial tonearm has been tweaked as well, resulting in a number of small changes and the "12.5" appellation (the ".5" denotes an upgrade, not an increase in length). As noted above, the arm is now mounted using a single, large-diameter nut that screws directly onto the armtube, resulting in a much more rigid coupling to the armboard or plinth. Rigidity is also improved with the addition of a second contact point: a small pillar near the armrest. Once VTA is set, the pillar is screwed down until it firmly contacts the armboard or plinth, and is then locked in place.
A weight has been added to either side of the azimuth adjustment collar, to move more mass to below the bearing's pivot point. Similarly, a new counterweight design is used to further lower the arm's center of mass. Inside the armtube, the damping has been improved with the addition of a third layer of elastomer near the bearing end of the tube. And in one of those obvious-once-you-see-it touches, a small V groove is machined into the top of the headshell. Why? So the user can easily set a small tube (supplied) atop the headshell to more easily gauge headshell tilt while setting azimuth. Neat!
The retail price of the new arm is $2800—the same as the previous version. The older unit, the JMW Memorial 12", will remain in the lineup at a reduced price of $1800. On the drawing board, according to Weisfeld, is a no-frills version of the arm that will delete all of the adjustability, the interconnect box, etc., but will maintain the unit's basic quality and retail for $800-$900.