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The System

Recently upgraded to this from a Sumiko Blackbird MC HI.  Wow!  Simply Wow!

This cartridge insists on almost perfect setup.  Tracking force, alignment, azimuth, etc.   Do it twice to make sure things are perfect.  Hell, do it three times.  You'll be rewarded.

Channel separation is rated at +35dB.  That's a crazy number!  It results in stereo sound-stage imaging that is simply sublime.  Admittedly, I'm a sucker for this.  I LOVE recordings that take full advantage of both stereo placement and dynamics.  The Kleos does both in spades!

I had my previous cartridge, the Sumiko Blackbird, super dialed in.  So much so in fact that I really felt like there wasn't anything more to get from it.  It sounded crazy great and dug out new detail from songs with which I was intimately familiar.  It's a wonderful cartridge for the money.   But after upgrading some components (Pro-Ject Tube Box II => E.A.R. 834 P => Manley Chinook) I began to wonder just how good sound could be.  Pro-ject to E.A.R. was NOT a subtle change.  It was amazing!  E.A.R. to Chinook less so, although it improved detail noticeably.  I came to the conclusion that if more benefit was to be had, it was time to upgrade my cartridge.

I agonized over this for months.  And ultimately came down to 4 possibilities:  1) EAT Jo No. 5, 2) AMG Teatro  3) Kiseki Purpleheart 4) Lyra Kleos

Finally it was a close race between the Purlpeheart and the Kleos, but the engineering part of my brain decided Kleos, mostly based on it's channel separation specs.  Did I mention I LOVE stereo imaging.

Setup was fairly easy, although I tweaked and and re-tweaked for the better part of a weekend.  I'm at 265 Ohm's loading and 1.74 gram tracking force.  I've messed around quite a bit with the loading but keep gravitating back to 265 Ohm's as sounding best on my system.

So how does it sound?  Well, more detail.  This thing is revealing to say the least.  Mostly good (detail I've not experienced before) but a bit bad as well (any sort of surface noise or dirt on the LP is equally revealed).  A quality tone-arm cable is a MUST and it needs to be uber-shielded.  I was running the same AudioQuest Colombia interconnects from the TT to the preamp, and experienced a bit of low level / volume hum which initially freaked me out.  I put in a pair of Synergistic Research Core 2.0 tone-arm cables and am floored.

Everything is tight, right, and out of sight now.  Love this cartridge.

 

 

I added this purpose made interconnect (mine has the RCA connectors at both ends) between my tonearm and phono-pre several weeks after switching to the Lyra Kleos.  Low-output, moving coil cartridges are very sensitive instruments that are highly sensitive to hum, noise, and various forms of interference.  I felt like I was hearing some of this via the Columbia cables I had been using between the Blackbird and Phono-pre.  I got a good deal on these and swapped them in.  INSTANTANEOUS improvement!  A very low level hum, immediately disappeared and all frequencies became more cohesive. 

Being somewhat cynical, by nature, I'm not sure I can say this is necessarily a result of Synergistic Research's "Quantum Tunneling Post Production Process" these cables claim to receive by which "1 million volts are passed through finished cable providing a “canal” that allows electrons to pass more freely through conductor material and connections"...

But they are hand made with very good components, are exceptionally well shielded, and I approve of how they are independently grounded.  Bottom line is they noticeably improved the sound in my system, which was already sounding pretty darn good.  If some of that improvement is occurring on a 'Quantum' level, then fine.

This was a jump up from my Pro-ject 9.1 SMB.  The Pro-ject was awesome, but the VPI is in a whole different universe of Awesome.  Super quiet.  Super adjustable (almost too much so coming to it from my Pro-ject).  Takes a bit longer to get a cartridge dialed in, but when you do, you're rewarded.  The counter-weight system is a bit dumb, in my opinion, but once you get acquainted with it, you're off to the races.  I don't anticipate ever owning another turntable, seriously.

Although I've thought that before!  After upgrading various components over the years, I couldn't possibly imagine things being any better with my system and that I was done.... Never the less, I started to get it in my mind that there may in fact be some some more 'audio gold' to dig out of my listening experience. After a year of research looking at many different turntable / tonearm options I became convinced that the VPI Prime Signature represented the best value and performance to money ratio. I then spent 6 months trolling around looking for a lightly used or dealer demo to purchase to no avail. It would seem that when people buy one of these things, they don't get rid of them! I now understand why.

The build quality, precision, and performance of this turntable is simply remarkable; flawless. I also think it's important to point out that the next step up the VPI ladder is their Avenger at approx. $4K more but aside from the Avenger's ability to host multiple tone-arms, the Prime Signature and the Avenger are fairly equivalent. So much so, in fact, that VPI abandoned the idea of offering parts to allow for a second tone-arm to be mounted on the Prime Signature. Why would they do that? It seems pretty obvious that they reasoned (and correctly in my opinion) that if you could add another tone arm to their Prime Signature, no one would ever buy an Avenger!

I've been delighted with this thing. It replaces a Pro-ject 9.1 RPM in my system (which sounded very good and has served me well) and is truly a major improvement across the board. The difference was not subtle. I'm particularly pleased with the VTA on-the-fly capability. I didn't realize how much of a difference being able to make subtle adjustments can impact the playback sound of certain LPs due to thickness of vinyl (standard, 180gr, 200gr, etc.) or to help moderate or enhance the sound of certain recordings themselves.

Are there some things I don't like? Well, yes kind of, but 'don't like' might be too strong. There are a few minor quibbles. The biggest one is how VPI designs their tone-arm counterweights. I found setting and adjusting balance and tracking-force to not be as easy as with some other counterweight systems. There are no dials to calibrate this. You physically move the counter weight back-and-forth and side-to-side. There was some learning curve for me to be able to make very small adjustments, without upsetting things. i.e. I might be within .02 grams of where I wanted to be on tracking force, and until I developed a technique to make that sort of small adjustment, it was very easy for me to overshoot. I can do it now pretty easily, but it took some practice. I'm very surprised there isn't some third-party VPI counter weight out there that would allow for very easy and accurate adjustments to be made. Aside from SoundSmith's 'Counter Intuitive' (which I recommend by the way) there doesn't seem to be.

The other minor quibble is the tendency for there to be an audible 'pop' to be heard through my system when turning off the VPI platter motor. At first this freaked me out pretty good, but then learned it was completely normal and replacing a capacitor in the motor housing to a different value takes care of this. I haven't done that yet, and instead have just gotten into the habit of muting my preamp when changing sides or records, which honestly is something one should probably be doing anyway.

So in conclusion: The VPI Prime Signature is easily a reference quality turntable. It is now MY reference turntable, and honestly, I really am done at this point. This is the turntable I will have for the rest of my life. It's the last stop for me...

And when I'm dead and moldering in the grave, I will have spent my days listening to some the most satisfying sound possible. It will then be up to my kids to fight with each other over who's going to end up with this thing! Because it's built like a Panzer tank and will out live even them.

Still getting used to this guy.  This replaces my E.A.R. 834P, which was pretty good.  Immediately, with my previous cartridge (Sumiko Blackbird MC HI) the sound-staged stretched by 3 feet in either direction.  Detail, definition, EVERYTHING was mo' better.  The tubes in this are NOS Phillips, and they sound great, but I'll probably roll some Amperex or Telefunkens in for shits and giggles.

I've had this thing opened up to make some adjustments, and the build quality is what one would expect for the price.  Very good.

Sounds great.

This replaces my Audio Mirror T-61, which for my money is maybe the best sounding pre-amp made (or formerly made... I don't think Vlad makes them anymore).  But anyway, this thing is super dope.  Noise?  What noise?  Quiet, accurate, super duper overkill for my purposes, in that I only use it for my turntable.  But if I ever get a wild-hare and decide to hook up my iPod, I can I suppose...

What can I say about these?  Some crazy guy makes then by hand out on the Left Coast somewhere and they're good... Really good.  Built like Panzer tanks and sound amazing.  I've re-tubed mine with stupid NOS tubes and they just sing.  Current offerings are a bargain, quality pre-owned ones are a no-brainer!

Got these right after I replaced all my interconnects with AudioQuest Columbia's.  These were clearance priced, so I thought WTF.  I'm not sure I really heard any crazy, dramatic difference, but having them in the signal chain appeals to my OCD.

These are not 'Rock The House Party' speakers.  These are critical listening playback devices.  They are HIGHLY directional.  So much so, in fact, that in my listening space there is about a hula-hoop sized sweet spot in which your ears need to be.  If you move right or left of that sweet spot, the stereo sound-stage shifts noticeably.  If you move your head up or down from a sitting position, the frequency response changes.  No shit.  It's weird.  When I first got these I found myself feeling slightly nauseous during a listening session.  I think it was due to the perception of my eyes and ears conflicting;  Ears were saying there was a sound source emanating from directly in front of me (typically vocal panned center).  Eyes were saying there was no speaker in that location.

Holographic, 3D sound.  It's hard to put into words.

I have shitty power coming into my room.  If you care to hook up some equipment and test it, MOST people have shitty power.  It's noisy and inconsistent.  Maybe you're getting 115v, maybe you're getting 125v.  Depending on the day, it might be somewhere in between and whatever you're getting it's loaded with electrical noise.  This unit treats the power coming in from your wall socket and cleans it up.  It also makes sure that any power being required from any of your components gets it.  If there is a particular, high-energy passage being played back that causes your amp to need a bit more juice, this thing makes it happen.  This is really, really good.

Now for the not so good... It also utilizes what Synergistic Research calls 'UEF Tuning Circuits', one on the unit and one on a port integrated into the power cord.  These are supposed to influence the sound from any components hooked into the Power Cell main unit.  I've not accepted the Kool-aid on that.  I've changed these for myself and for others, and NO ONE has perceived a difference.

On the same note, the included FEQ PowerCell Equializer is a stand alone box that plugs into the PowerCell UEF and can be turned on or off.  It is supposed to lower your system's noise floor by re-clocking the PowerCell "with a rich low frequency harmonic that overrides noise and hash found in common 60 cycle AC".   Hmmm....  This sounds awesome, but my experience indicates system sound is unaffected completely by turning the FEQ on or off.  I've read reviews where the listener has had a transformative experience turning this thing on.  I have yet to experience this.  I leave it on, mainly on faith and because it's there.  It doesn't seem to be hurting anything, but I can't hear that it's helping anything either.

 At the end of the day, this unit HAS improved overall sound in my system.  It constantly puts out 123-124 volts of VERY clean power.  Sound is affected by this, and the result is what I would describe as tighter and more defined, especially in bass spectrum.

Would I pay close to 10K for this?  No.  But I picked this up for almost nothing, I think because Synergistic Research has moved on to the PowerCell 12 UEF SE.  Interestingly this new version doesn't seem to bother with the tuning bullets or FEQ as mentioned above.  Hmmm...

I'm not taking the whole 72v Diaeletric Bias System to the bank (seems a bit fishy to me), but I can say the cables themselves are very nice.  They improved detail across the board.  I could never bring myself to pay what they wanted for these originally (read Cheapskate here!), but when AudioQuest redid their product lineup, the Columbia cables were suddenly available for about 50% of what they were originally retailing.  I got one pair, and was so impressed bought enough for the entire system.

Drop Me a Line

If you like something you see here, have additional insight, or are just bored and lonely listening to great recordings but not able to share it with anyone, drop me a line.  There are far too few people out there who get into this stuff to such a disturbing degree.  We need to keep in touch!