The new Shinola Runwell turntable will be manufactured in the US and is a partnership between VPI and Shinola. Hifi Pig talks to Mat Weisfeld of VIP.
Hifi Pig:The new Runwell turntable comes from a partnership with Shinola in Detroit and VPI Industries, tell Hifi Pig readers about how this hook up came about.
Mat Weisfeld: This started roughly two years ago shortly after the release of the Prime I was approached by two representatives of Shinola. Initially I thought they were full of it because the thought of a “watch company” getting involved seemed nuts. We had a nice quick meeting and I figured that was the end of it. Minor emails exchanged back and forth and then a month later they came back and said “we’re the guys!” They appreciated our dedication, determination, and family story and felt we had a shared love of music and quality work. Both myself and my dad Harry were still not convinced since there have been a lot of companies jumping on the vinyl bandwagon, some with very little long term thought or responsibility to their customers. Shinola wanted to create more American jobs while created music with like-minded partners. We visited their factory in Detroit and were blown away by their quality and work ethic. Also when they said, “we have over 100 people working for us” they REALLY had over 100 workers in Detroit who were now employed thanks to them. This began a long process of both the Shinola and VPI team working together to make a table that had the looks and design process of a Shinola product while having the engineering and quality of a VPI table.
Hifi Pig: Both companies are proudly American with a fierce ethic of American born and raised. Do you feel in producing this project you are sending a clear message to other companies who are perhaps taking production out of the States?
Mat Weisfeld: I sure hope so! It is extremely difficult to make a product in America but at the same time worth it! The goal is to create more American jobs and re-establish to pride in great American engineering and craftsmanship. Before VPI I was a teacher and used to take pride in that moment when a student learned something they never knew before, or was inspired to do great things. That same level of inspiration can be found in the production and pride of creating something that will be in someone’s home and have a long lasting impact on their lives. It is very difficult to produce something in America but it is not impossible and should be embraced.
Hifi Pig: We know that the technical specifics are not to be released as yet, but tell readers what you can about the design and the philosophy behind the new turntable?
Mat Weisfeld: The ultimate goal was the achieve an easy to use high-end table that would reach a different audience. The original design base was the VPI Nomad (later the Player). Essentially the Runwell had the usability of a Player, the muscle and firm sound of a VPI Classic, and the industrial design and interface of a Shinola product. There were a lot of shared philosophies while creating this table. Dedication, authenticity, and passion/love. Both companies are dedicated to created quality products and we spent a lot of time getting this right. The original prototype was spinning almost a year and a half ago, but then we all took the extra time to make sure every curve, angle, dimension, and sonic signature was crafted perfectly to be our flagship model in our Shinola/VPI partnership. The tonearm is a gimballed yoke arm that is not intimidating and easy to use, it is modelled after the Player/Scout Jr. arm and is essentially bulletproof. The aluminium top plate was a major step up and not originally expected to be used, which is a piece you could usually expect to see on a more higher-end table. Having both an aluminium top-plate and wood skirt, besides being stylish, also takes dampening and isolation into consideration. The motor is mounted in such a way that there is no motor vibration through the table and almost acts like a table with a stand alone motor. In-addition, the majority of all components of the table are made in America. The heavy duty metal work is actually all machined in New Jersey at our machine shop.
Hifi Pig: Facebook and social media are all a twitter (excuse the pun) about the Runwell, what do you feel its impact will be on the market?
Mat Weisfeld: This is the key part to this partnership. Since getting involved with VPI I have been struggling to help fight to break down the barrier between the audiophile community and the “rest of the world”. Shinola is part of that world and that audience that has never heard of a VPI or any other well-known brand in the audiophile community. Shinola is not a company of audiophiles, they are music lovers. They reach a different audience and tell the story of high-end audio on a larger scale than anyone has ever been able to do before. Recently we had the launch party for the Runwell and this party had almost everyone you wouldn’t expect to see at a standard American audiophile show. With Shinola expanding the scope of the high-end customer it iwll have a snowball effect for every manufacturer as the customer base grows and become more excited about our industry.
Hifi Pig: What is the end price of the Runwell going to be and when will it be officially launched to the public and when is the release date?
Nothing is solid at the moment but the starting price will be $2,500 and it will begin shipping November 30th. Shinola had the goal of making a table more in line with the price of the Player, which is still something in mind, but there is nothing definitive in either price or models yet at this time. Regardless, Shinola has been a fantastic partner and one that we plan to work with for many years to come. The synergy is perfect because it gives VPI the chance to focus in on the performance and core of a VPI table, while giving us the outlet to help provide more jobs for American workers and create designs that cater more towards the entry level/lifestyle music appreciator.
Thanks for talking to Hifi Pig, Mat.