April 11, 2013
The future is now. VPI Industries, best known as a producer of high quality turntables and accessories have unveiled the first ever 3D printed tonearm for a turntable.
A one-piece structure from head to counterweight, the 10-inch synthetic tonearm is the first ever to be created with the innovative 3D printing technique. Rigid and light, the epoxy-plastic accessory is the first in what VPI hopes will be a series of customisable products of different lengths.
Now this may sound cool, but not altogether that special. 3D printing is beginning to become a reality and a tonearm is hardly the most complex structure the process has been tested on (at SXSW this year, a 3D printed vinyl record was unveiled, with mixed results). However, having been invited to a private listening session, Digital Trends have reported that the difference in sound is simply incredible.
Here’s the test: They attached a 3D printed tonearm to VPI’s new direct drive turntable (about to be unveiled itself) with a $220 Grado Gold phono cartridge. To compare, a VPI Classic 3 turntable was rigged up using one of its standard metal tonearms with an $8,000 cartridge from German manufacturer Clearaudio, and played the same 5 records through both. The result: “profound”.
If 3D printing is to succeed then it needs to be more than a gimmick, and one sure fire way of getting audiophiles on board is surely to increase the sound quality. Currently valued at $20,000 the tonearm might still be out of commercial reach, but it is a significant step in bringing vinyl manufacturing into the 21st century.