VPI Cliffwood Review

VPI started with Harry and Shiela Wiesfeld in 1983, though really before that, 1983 is when they started selling products. The first item available from VPI was a record cleaner, then not long after Harry started designing and building turntables. Mat, their second son is currently the president of the company. While Harry is retired, he still takes part in helping Mat with research and development. Shiela passed away in 2011 after battling cancer, though her memory will live on at VPI forever. VPI is headquartered in Cliffwood New Jersey hence the VPI Cliffwood table that we are reviewing. The VPI Cliffwood is the companies entry level table, though entry level for VPI is not the same as some others. It is a sturdy well designed but simple turntable perfect for a beginning audiophile.

VPI Cliffwood tonearm

Unboxing and Set Up

The VPI Cliffwood is as simple as they come in terms of setup. Once you get it out of the amazing well packaged box it is 99% ready to go. You just need to place the belt and its off to the races. One thing to note, if you order it online and it is cold where you are you will need to let it warm up. I live in Ohio and it gets quite cold here. The platter was very tight when I first opened it up, due to the lubricant and metals being so cold. As soon as it warmed up the platter spun very smooth and freely, though not so freely that it had play in the bushing.

VPI Cliffwood

The Cliffwood

At a MSRP of $1000 dollars U.S. it may not seem like an entry level table and I would argue in the grand scheme it is not an entry level table, though in the world of VPI, it is the tip of the iceberg. One of the contributions to all of VPI turntable costs is that they are made in America, entirely. Even the Cliffwood is fully made in Cliffwood New Jersey. Most entry level tables will source parts from over seas to reduce cost, and ultimately there is nothing wrong with that. Less expensive tables have a place in the market and help people get into this hobby. There are benefits to making everything in house though, beyond economics, it means that every part is designed together and will work together. When you source parts you have to work with the other manufacturers specs, then find a way to get that to do what you need from it. The parts of the Cliffwood are more than their MSRP would suggest. The milled aluminum platter and machined tone arm look more at home on something much more costly. When compared to other tables in a similar price point you will not find these components. Most sub 1000 dollar tables have a stamped metal or plastic platter. Many lower cost tables also suffer in the tone arm department. If you have a budget of 1000 dollars and want new, this may be the best option out there.

Pros and Cons

The table is excellent as stated, though not perfect. There a some cons, and these may or may not matter to you. Personally the only one I was had any issue with is the lack of height adjustment. It is not a huge deal but you may be limited on some cart options due to this, granted you should be able to use most of the popular ones out there such as offerings from Grado and Ortofon. The rest of the cons do not affect my thoughts on the table so much as they are things to be aware of if you buy one. I personally do not use Anti Skate, nor am I terribly worried about a dust cover. However make sure the Preamp you have or plan to use has a phono input or you will need to purchase a standalone unit. Most preamps come with this, again it is more of something to be aware of as you may have more costs to add this to your setup.

Pros

  • Heavy plinth and platter
  • Milled platter
  • Belt drive
  • Quality tone arm
  • Clean Aesthetic
  • easy to use two speed pulley system
  • Upgradable with factory parts.

Cons

  • No phono on board
  • Does not include cables
  • Does not include cover
  • No tone arm height adjustment
  • No anti-skate adjustment
VPI Cliffwood playing lover

Specs:

Chassis Composition:

Platter Type & Size:

Tonearm Included:

Cartridge Included:

Motor RPM:

Motor Pulley Accuracy:

Average RMS Distortion

Footprint:

Overall Size:

Total Weight:

Vinyl Wrapped MDF

11.5″ Aluminum, 7 lbs

Cliffwood Tonearm 

AT-VM95E

600 RPM

+/- .0005″

.36%

16″ x 11″

19″ x 14″ x 6″

17.6 lbs

VPI Cliffwood playing Lover

VPI Cliffwood Sound

As I have noticed with most good tables is that they have a lack of sound. As in they do not add or take away from the source, I.E. your records. Granted no turntable, no matter how good can be completely silent in terms of this. The Cliffwood however does a wonderful job of delivering your music to the preamp while getting in the way as little as it can. The Machined aluminum tone arm paired with the AT95e green cart (Grado Green is also available) create a very neutral tone. I have noticed some carbon arms can add a touch of warmth to the sounds. Tracking from start to finish is excellent as is the sound stage. For the review we used an unopened copy of Taylor Swifts Lover album. I like to use brand new vinyl for reviews to remove as many variables as I can. Lover is an album I am extremely familiar with so it was a perfect test. The channel separation is wonderful. It sounded as clean and clear as a high res digital source. The stage was fairly wide as well as deep. The detail was also quite excellent. After Taylor Swift I went to my trusty Tchaikovsky Swan Lake album. The Cliffwood did not let me down at all. Every little note is heard, and with your eyes closed you can almost picture the actual orchestra in your room, picking out in space where each musician is sitting. As we mentioned this is by VPI’s definition an Entry level table, but by most peoples standards that may the understatement of the decade. It performs better than some companies top models. My reference table is currently an Audio Technica LP7 which is the top of the line for them, VPI enters the game at this playing level.

VPI Cliffwood tonearm

VPI Cliffwood Final Thoughts

The VPI Cliffwood is not for everyone, nothing is to be fair. So who is it for? If you are serious about vinyl but need something that is practical and priced well, it is a great option. I would not recommend it to most for their first step into vinyl, while priced nicely it is not cheap. You don’t want to spend a grand just to find out you really don’t like vinyl as much as you thought you did. If you are just getting into audio pick up a Pro-Ject or U-Turn. Those of us who have been listening to vinyl for some time and want to finally get something better than the market entry level tables it is perfect. You can grow with the table adding a JMW tone arm direct from VPI or their Analog Drive System. It may also not be for the person that is above this level either. I think if you have a total system budget of around 4-5 thousand and you want a turntable to be part of that, this should be on your list to check out.

Test Equipment:

  • Marantz SR7009 Preamp
  • Nakamichi PA5 Stasis Power Amp
  • Audioquest interconnect for amps
  • VPI Industries Cliffwood with AT95e Cart
  • GearIt Speaker cables
  • Martin Logan LX16 SPeakers
  • OEM Power Cables

Disclaimer

VPI Industries provided Hifi Chicken with the Cliffwood to use for review. VPI did not pay for the review. The Cliffwood is being loaned temporarily to Hifi Chicken, and will be returned to the factory.

As always, we try to be as fair and objective as we can with each review and will continue to provide you with the best information possible. We do not accept payment for reviews from any company. Please always try out new audio equipment in your local audio shop to be sure they are right for you.

If you are in Ohio Sound and Vision is a VPI Dealer.
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