Of VPI's seven-strong range of turntables, the Scout is the New Jersey-based manufacturer's most affordable offering: with a price of under £1,600, it must be the least expensive US made turntable on the market.
But, what it lacks in price, the Scout makes up for in size, being easily the widest turntable in the group, although it just about fits on a standard width equipment support.
Furnished with a solid plinth design with a separate freestanding motor block, the Scout's only means of keeping stand-bound resonance at bay are Sorbothane mountings above each of the conical feet. The latter are tipped with a ball, rather than a spike, that will be a lot kinder to supporting surfaces.
The plinth is composed of MDF atop a steel plate, while the platter is a 34mm slab of acrylic that sits on an inverted bearing with a Teflon thrust pad and a case-hardened shaft.
The motor sits in a steel box that accepts a kettle lead, but cleverly hides this junction underneath the turntable. What you do see is a switch sticking out that turns it on and off. Drive is via a round section peripheral belt and speed change is a matter of flipping the belt onto the lower pulley for 45rpm.
The JMW9 tonearm is a unipivot design that's beautifully finished but a pain to set-up, thanks to the wobbly nature of the genre. It has a sharp tip that acts as the bearing point and a rather ineffectual arm clamp that does little to hold it in place.
One unusual aspect is that the arm wire, which plugs into the terminal block at the rear, acts as the sole means of anti-skating. No interconnects are supplied with the turntable, so we used some of The Chord Company's Chameleon leads for the review. While relatively affordable at £90, these leads are of significantly better quality than found on the other arms in this test.
The Scout is clearly a capable turntable. It might be initially disconcerting wielding its wobbly unipivot arm, but the results make for good listening. One listener even wondered if it might be the Rock 7.
In practice, it's not quite as revealing as that design, but it delivers the fluidity that is the quintessence of vinyl. It doesn't have the greatest imaging skills, but it can deliver impressive tonal shading in the context of an energetic and lively overall sound.
Some listeners found it a little too forward, mentioning that ambience was lost or overshadowed by the more forthright instruments in a mix – the guitars on Joni Mitchell's Overture-Cotton Avenue having too much attack, for example.
Stereo imaging, although lacking precision, is not short on scale and while timing does not appear to be a strongpoint, it is easily on a par with most of the competition. In fact, one listener considered it to be fast and together, but the overall consensus was more considered. The treble is a little smoothed off, but the bass is well-defined and it has a degree of composure that suggests highly engaging long-term listening.
The Scout does most things better than average and its good quality finish and build combine with this to make for an attractive package. The unipivot JMW9 is easily the most impressively built tonearm in this group and, for those who like using alternative cartridges, it offers the easiest means to swap the things over if you buy a second arm wand.
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