If a small-footprint turntable that screams ‘fun’, ‘quirky’ and ‘different’ is high on the agenda, then you might need to go vertical. Paul Rigby reviews the Pro-Ject VT-E.
Additional equipment Ortofon OM 5E Cartridge
If you were in a board meeting at Turntables Inc and were eager for promotion, the very last idea you would put forward as a new design for the future Autumn campaign is a turntable that stands on its end. The notion that gravity is pulling on either the arm or, more importantly, on the record itself as it swings up against this natural force, is a mighty problem.
Most turntable designers have to tackle a million and one issues on a day-to-day basis when the turntable is laying nice and flat on a sturdy shelf, never mind teetering on its edge!
We saw a rash of vertical turntables in the early 80s from the likes of Mitsubishi, Technics and Sharp, so is this another short-lived fad? Not according to Pro-Ject, who have released a vertical turntable of their own that’s basically a Pro-Ject Elemental audiophile turntable on its side, fitted with an aluminium tonearm plus £50 worth of Ortofon OM 5E moving magnet cartridge.
In terms of installation, there’s little to actually do except attach a rear foot ‘stand’ with two screws, IKEA-fashion, the belt and the power supply, then place the thing on a shelf or fit it to a wall with the supplied mountings and away you go.
To the beginner, it’s amazing that everything doesn’t fall to the floor in a heap. Pro-Ject have been clever, though, adding a spring to the tonearm that applies the correct downforce to keep the stylus tracking the grooves. More than that, a clamp secures the record to the fibreboard platter. The gold-plated RCA cables (to attach to the phono connectors of your amp or separate phono amplifier) are located on the rear.
But does it sound any good? Well, it’s not going to compete with another turntable reviewed in this issue, the Elipson Omega 100. But, frankly, to compare the VT-E with any regular design is like comparing chalk with cheese. Still, we’ve heard vertical turntables before and this one stands out from the crowd – basically, because the general presentation is focused admirably, with a precision in the upper midrange that gives jazz music both pace and life. In a more rocking environment, it provides strummed guitars with enough infusion of air to impart the notion of power and character, while bass retains an admirable impact.
Horses for courses
In short, the VT-E should not be looked at in the same way as you’d consider a standard deck and, because of this, it’s a difficult product to rate. Focusing purely on its sonic qualities, when compared directly to some of the top-dollar audiophile designs on the market, it doesn’t fare as well.
However, the VT-E isn’t designed to be audiophile and it’s unfair to compare it to an audiophile design. The VT-E is a lifestyle deck.
It’s targetted at that market and should never leave it. As such, it’s head and shoulders above every other lifestyle design on the market – and therefore deserves a high score. More than that, the VT-E actually makes other lifestyle turntables out there seem nothing more than toys: at least in sonic terms, if not in pure build quality.
Might I remind you, the heart and soul of the VT-E derives from one of the most respected budget ‘audiophile’ designs on the market? Hence, the VT-E emerges, fully formed, from a good place, in hi-fi terms.
If you need a ‘fun’ turntable, but really can’t afford the space that a standard turntable design demands, then look seriously at the VT-E. The design will make you smile and, in relative terms, so will the sound quality.