Initial Impressions of the New Denon DJ VL12 Prime Turntable

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Lymbo, May 25, 2017.

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  1. Got my new Pro-Ject The Classic today. No hum, better sound all the around. Harder and dangerous by far to change the cartridge and align & tweek the arm than either the VL12 or the PLX. I'm happy after sending the PLXs (which I mourned) VL12 (which I didn't at all mourn) back. If you want a more in-depth journal go to: Pioneer's new PLX-1000 Turntable
     
  2. Ben Adams

    Ben Adams Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ, USA
    OK, it's been months. Anyone else have any input on this deck?
     
  3. rhing

    rhing Forum Resident

    I stumbled upon this turntable while browsing the Zu Audio website. They really admire this turntable to the point of developing upgrades/mods in the future. I’ve also checked out Lymbo’s YouTube videos, which really highlights the sound quality of this turntable against other audiophile turntables — thanks Lymbo!

    I had been hunting down a Denon DP-2500A like the unit my parents bought me years ago for my high school graduation present. Dummy me, I sold it years later to buy a pair of speakers I no longer own. Understandably, Denon is not the same Nippon Columbia it was when they made legendary direct drive turntables, but this Denon turntable has grabbed my attention as I really like direct drive and idler wheel drive turntables for their lively presentations.

    My current table is a vintage Kenwood/Trio PC-400U belt-idler wheel drive turntable that is basically a clone of the Thorens TD-124. I rebuilt this machine with Cardas tonearm wire, a new DIY Cardas phono cable with 5-pin connector, new Delrin thrust bearing plates and lubed it with some Honda Motorsport Molybdenum grease. The weak link in this playback system is the original Jelco SA-100 tonearm. The vertical plane bearings have a slight play in them, and even though the arm tracks well and I don’t hear inner groove distortion or other artifacts, I wonder what a better tone arm would get me. Since the Kenwood’s Jelco arm cueing mechanism is integrated with the chassis/plinth, I don’t want to replace it.

    I’m intrigued with the Pioneer PLX-1000 and Denon DJ VL12 Prime as a cost-effective alternative for everyday use. Used Denon DP-2000/DP-2500 turntables are available for $550 to $900, but I wonder if this new Denon might be a better choice. I can always save up for a Technics SL-1200GR, but they are pricey.
     
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  4. rhing

    rhing Forum Resident

    Well I decided to purchase the Denon DJ VL12 Prime yesterday. Guitar Center was running a special $100 off sale for any purchases of $499 or more, and the local store had had them in stock for immediate pick-up. It was partly an impulsive buy as I was planning to save up some more funds to purchase a Technics SL-1200GR, which I recently auditioned at Alma Music in San Diego. The Technics SL-1200GR is a very fine turntable and incredibly quiet. I think any of the new Technics DD drive turntables are solidly constructed machines.

    Back to the Denon, I was intrigued with Zu Audio promoting the VL12 Prime as a high end turntable, and I read some posts here and in other forums from audiophiles who were very impressed with this deck, so I figured what do I have to lose, especially with an additional $100 discount. Once I carefully unboxed it and assembled the pieces, it took about 40 minutes to set-up the turntable with my Talisman Alchemist IIB high output moving coil cartridge. This HOMC was last sold by Sumiko. A friend gave it to me, and after many hours, I had it re-tipped and reconditioned by Phono Cartridge Repair and Retipping in Bellevue, WA (Phono Cartridge Repair ) who offer excellent service, a reasonable price and turnaround. I used my Sleeve City Baerwald protractor and digital tracking force gauge to set overhang and vertical tracking force, and a test album for the anti-skate force. For 1.85g VTF, I had to set the anti-skate dial to 5.75g to keep the arm balanced. For now, I am using the stock cables, but plan to upgrade these soon, especially the phono interconnects. I didn't install the target lighting and I don't use the RGB LED light ring that encompasses the platter--I'm trying to keep this DJ turntable as quiet-looking as possible.

    I am very impressed with the weight, solid construction and operation of this deck. This table is deceptively heavy and made to withstand rigorous handling. The mechanical feedback-isolating feet really work as advertised, and the tonearm moves smoothly with absolutely no play in the bearings. This is a well-made turntable, and it appears that the quality control on my unit was outstanding. Following the User Guide to set up this deck was easy to follow. Using a 2-layer mat consisting of a closed cell foamed Polyolefin sheet on the bottom layer and a mustard-colored deer hide mat from Marc Morin as a top layer, I didn't have to make much of an adjustment for vertical tracking angle (VTA), and using the rotating collar on the tonearm mounting bracket with locking lever was easy.

    When I started playing albums, my wife commented that she never heard my system sound better. The music really came alive as I played disk after disk. The soundstage is deep and broad with very good imaging. The tone and timbre sounds rich and as good as anything I've heard from high end belt drive turntables like the Linn Sondek LP12/Linn Ittok II combination I've owned. What I love about direct drive and idler wheel drive turntables is the keen sense of pace, rhythm and timing (PRAT). This table with the Quartz-locked speed control has this down in spades. What really has impressed me the most is how quiet this turntable is. Based on what I recall from my audition of the Technics SL-1200GR last week, the Denon is just as silent as the Technics deck. This turntable has an incredible dynamic range allowing me to hear low-level details like recording venue acoustics, string plucks, musicians breathing, etc. I often find myself just enjoying the music rather than analyzing the sound--this tuntable does a fantastic job of connecting me to the performance.

    I bought this turntable on a whim figuring I could return it and get my money back if I didn't like it, but I'm going to keep this and forego the Technics SL-1200GR
     
  5. Leathalwing46

    Leathalwing46 New Member

    Location:
    Markham
    I am new to this Forum and would like to seek some advice/opinion on upgrading my TT. I'm currently using a Dual 505 belt drive and would like to try a direct drive.

    I've seen some Youtube vids and was impressed with the sound of the Denon VL12 prime. I'm also thinking of the option of buying a used Technics SL-1200 which goes for around 800 bucks CDN for a decent one. And putting the price difference on servicing and upgrading the RCA cables if needed.

    So my question now is, should i get the Denon VL12 prime which is 1,150 CDN or should i go with a used SL1200? I'm planning of putting a Nagaoka MP-110 cartridge. I main goal is to improve the sound of what I currently have.

    Thanks.
     
  6. Leathalwing46

    Leathalwing46 New Member

    Location:
    Markham
    Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
     
  7. rhing

    rhing Forum Resident

    Leathalwing46,

    If you have a local pro audio shop that carries the Denon DJ VL12 Prime and offers a 30-day or longer money-back return policy, you really can't go wrong in giving this turntable a try. Some online sellers also offer money-back return policies as well, but shipping a return could be inconvenient in case you don;t like it. That is one of the advantages of buying new equipment.

    If you can purchase a Technics SL-1200 new or in very good condition, I don't think you can go wrong with that either. They're built like tanks and there are plenty of great upgrades and mods from the likes of KAB USA.

    For my situation and budget, I am pleased with my purchase. I just replaced the cheap stock phono cable with a Zu Audio Mission Phono cable I acquired through an eBay auction. The improvement was night and day with an even quieter background. The soundstage has expanded in all three directions with a more holographic image. The frequency response has improved at both ends and I'm spinning disc after disc. The tone is richer and moe organic. Transparency is the best description for the Zu Audio Mission Phono cable--it's just letting more music come through my system.
     
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  8. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I will not make any generalized statements, to avoid looking/sounding an intolerant evil negative troll/fool, but will put this in a form of question instead. Has anyone noticed and/or asked themselves the question as to why all these budget Technics 1200 clones look relatively the same - like something produced by Hanpin? If indeed so, what difference does the brand make? I've seen the same-looking tables branded as AT, Pioneer, Music Hall, Fluance, and now - Denon. It kind of reminds me of a Chinese take-out restaurant, where they have a dozen various soups on the menu, but when you look closely, the combination of solids may very with different soups, but the liquid is pretty much always ladled out of the same pot...
     
  9. matteos

    matteos Stereotype

    Location:
    US
    I'd love to see how it stacks up against some of the 80's Flying saucer Denon Direct Drives. They put out some truly awesome tables back then.
     
  10. matteos

    matteos Stereotype

    Location:
    US
    I don't think the Denon is made by Hanpin. At least their 100th anniversary edition TT they put out a few years back certainly wasn't. I don't see why they'd need to rely on an inferior Hanpin product, they've got better designs in house from decades ago.
     
  11. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I absolutely hope that it's not a Hanpin, but rather one of their own. However, if absolutely looks like a clone of the Technics 1200, down to the smallest details, and that makes me wonder, as most, if not all of them are made by Hanpin - a fact. It looks nothing like their 80's designs, and I own one - a DP-60L.
     
  12. rhing

    rhing Forum Resident

    Hi Benzion,
    The Denon DJ VL12 Prime was designed by Denon themselves and is manufactured by Yahorng Electronic in Taiwan according to a DJ website. I believe the main reason why many DJ-type turntables so closely resemble each other is that the ever-popular Technics SL-1200 series, originally designed for home audio use, became a de facto standard for many professional DJs. Since DJs grew so familiar with the layout and functions of the Technics SL-1200 series turntables, any manufacturer wishing to successfully cater to DJs with a turntable product has to mimic the Technics SL-1200 layout and basic functions. I can't speak for any of the Hanpin DJ turntables, but Herb Reichert of Stereophile wrote a poitive review for the Pioneer DJ PLX-1000:

    Gramophone Dreams #3
    Gramophone Dreams #3 Follow-Up

    By the way, I owned one of those flying saucer vintage Denon DP-2500 Quartz-locked, direct drive turntables in college and after. It was a fantastic turntable and played records just as good as the Technics SL-1200's that my friends owned. My parents bought it for me brand for a high school graduation present using their hard-earned income from their Chinese take-out restaurant. Unlike your stereotypical description of Chinese take-out restaurants, my parents used quality ingredients and served a diverse menu that made them successful.
     
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  13. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I'm glad it's something different this time. As to Chinese restaurants - I eat there quite often, so - it was not an attack, but an observation only.

    Cheers.
     
  14. rhing

    rhing Forum Resident

  15. Davey

    Davey NP: Califone ~ Echo Mine (2020)

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    Yea, I think Hanpin and Yahorng are the two biggies now. Yahorng is the OEM for Denon, Fluance, TEAC, Akai, and probably some others.
     
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  16. Leathalwing46

    Leathalwing46 New Member

    Location:
    Markham
    Thank you rhing for your help. I appreciate it.
     
  17. rhing

    rhing Forum Resident

    You’re welcome. All I can say is if you are really interested in the Denon DJ VL12 Prime, they are accessible for trying it out. I don’t see a lot of used units or open box specials for these turntables up for sale, so take that for what it is.
     
  18. Daniel Fontanez

    Daniel Fontanez New Member

    Location:
    Seoul
    I see you really like the Denon, so much so that you are not going to get the SL-1200GR, which I was planning on getting eventually, but this is an intriguing much lower priced option. (been searching on this one, the Pioneer and the Reloop 7000 so I'm really confused now! lol) Do you notice any of the hum the Mark mentioned in his comments above? I plan on using my AT-440MLb cartridge for now with the idea of moving to a MC at some point. This is strictly to be a home deck with no DJ requirements. Will go phono level into my Prism Audio interface (which has RIAA filters on their instrument inputs) and out to powered studio monitors. I listen in my home studio setup so it's near-field listening. Thanks in advance for any info.
     
  19. rhing

    rhing Forum Resident

    Hi Daniel,

    I hear no hum whatsoever or anything else for that matter when I have the turntable powered on. Now of course, there is a bit of surface noise depending on the quality and cleanliness of the vinyl I’m spinning, but definitely no hum or rumble or even noise like pink noise or white noise.

    I’ve upgraded the stock phono cable and power cable to the Zu Audio Mission Phono and Mission MkI power cables purchased through Zu_promos eBay auctions. To use the Mission MkI power cable, I had to replace the stock Wattgate IEC connector with a Schurter 4784.0100 right angle IEC connector that cleanly fits underneath the plinth top. With the Mission Phono, the background became blacker and the music opened up further with greater clarity and timbre. I can’t say if the Mission MkI power cable has made a difference, but it certainly hasn’t degraded anything.

    I don’t want to deter anyone from purchasing a Technics SL-1200G/GR turntable. They are fine turntables and they are probably the last turntable anyone could want. They are the “Real McCoy.” By the way, here is an interesting New York Times article on Matsushita’s position on marketing the new production Technics SL-1200 turntables to audiophiles rather than DJ’s.

    A Turntable Reborn Turns Its Back on Its Hip-Hop Legacy

    Maybe it was the all Technics system that I auditioned with the SL-1200GR or maybe I’m not an Ortofon 2M Blue fan—I’m not sure. It was very impressive, but I don’t feel like I’ve given up anything with the Denon DJ VL12 Prime with my system.

    To my ears, I really enjoy the Denon DJ’s dynamic range, PRaT, coherency and ability to effortlessly track my vinyl collection. With everything properly set-up, the Denon gives me what I want, and that is to spin record after record and enjoy the show. I am hopeful that Zu Audio does come out with an arm mounting bracket for a future tone arm upgrade. As good as the stock tonearm is, a better tone arm and cartridge will provide further refinement.

    I looked into the story behind Denon DJ further. Denon DJ is a brand under the inMusic company based in Cumberland, Rhode Island who acquired quite a few pro audio equipment brands like Denon Professional, Marantz Professional, Akai Professional, Alesis, Numark and other brands. They have engineering offices in Rhode Island, Nevada, and Washington and they use contract manufacturers (OEMs) like Yahorng Electronic in Taiwan to manufacture their turntable products; hence, the striking resemblance between the Denon DJ VL12 Prime and Numark NTX-1000 direct drive DJ turntables. The Denon DJ VL12 Prime represents a higher end design with better motor isolation, better feedback isolation and damping and a higher torque motor. So basically, this is not the same Denon that manufactured the legendary DP-series direct drive turntables in the 70’s.

    Rich
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2018
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  20. Daniel Fontanez

    Daniel Fontanez New Member

    Location:
    Seoul
    Wow. Nice write up, thanks Rich! I'm almost set to order one. BTW, off topic, I have a very large collection of vinyl of the MPLS genius who left us way too soon. I pretty much have all of his music on vinyl including all of 12 inch singles and B sides...plus all of the Time and other associated Twin Cities artists...Lived up there for a few years myself (Richfield and Eagan). I also listen to classic rock and various metal bands....I have a wide musical taste...
     
  21. rhing

    rhing Forum Resident

    Hi Daniel,

    With your Prism audio interface, does the phono signal fed through the RIAA filters remain in the analog domain, or does it go through ADC? It sounds like a possible solution for transcribing vinyl record collections. What powered speakers do you have?

    Prince is hugely missed here in the Twin Cities. Many of the local record stores like the Electric Fetus have sections in their stores carved out for Prince vinyl and CDs. Apparently, he used to go through many of the local record stores and shop for music. There are a lot of great local music artists in the Twin Cities and a lot of music lovers here to support them.
     
  22. Daniel Fontanez

    Daniel Fontanez New Member

    Location:
    Seoul
    I honestly am not sure on the Prism but I did find this comment about their orpheus model. All of their interfaces will very likely be the same (amazing world class converters too) " The RIAA processing in the Orpheus is done via a digital filter, so the results will be far more accurate than an analog hardware phono-stage. But of course the idea of digitizing analog for playback purposes does not sit well analog purists." I have the Atlas, which I got on sale last black Friday, but have had the smaller Lyra 2 in the past which also features the same converters and filters. I think I read somewhere that someone was using one of these for exactly what you mentioned. My monitors are Adam A7X and I also have a pair of KRK VTX 4s. No sub at the moment but the Adams give me enough for my levels. Eventually will ad a sub though.

    Gonna order the Denon this week! Excited...
     
  23. Daniel Fontanez

    Daniel Fontanez New Member

    Location:
    Seoul
    Rich et al,

    OK, after all this discussion/research, I've gone around and around and think I'm just gonna bite the bullet and grab an SL-1200GR. It's about $800 more but I know if I don't get one I'm gonna be kicking myself. I saw one in person in Japan and REALLY wanted to grab it then and should have. I really appreciate the info on this Denon though and hope that the experiences help others out that are in the market for one.
     
  24. rhing

    rhing Forum Resident

    Glad to help. You really can’t go wrong with either turntable. Enjoy.
     
  25. rhing

    rhing Forum Resident

    Hi Daniel, have you purchased the Technics SL-1200GR yet? Curious how you like it. I am traveling to Japan in a couple weeks, and I hope to visit a shop where I can check out some high end Japanese audio gear. I am also interested in checking out some Japanese record stores.
     
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