Vertical record turntables are not a new concept. Vertical turntables have existed in various forms for over 30 years, perhaps the most famous models being the Technics SL-7, SL-10 and SL-15 series for which Technics offered an optional stand allowing them to play a record vertically. Models from Amstrad, Sony and Sharp also found their way onto the market. Many of the models offered featured a linear tracking tonearm which tracked the record in a straight line, and with downward force applied by a spring allowing them to track a record even when positioned vertically.
Thanks to the resurgence of vinyl, vertical turntables are making a comeback. The first modern-day model was introduced by Gramovox, and is an all-in-1 design with a built-in amplifier and speakers utilising a moving magnet cartridge (the Audio Technica AT95E) and a hi-fi phono preamplifier. It was successfully crowdfunded via Kickstarter, and is now sold worldwide via the Gramovox website.
Pro-Ject’s VT-E is the latest vertical turntable on the market and the latest addition to the Austrian firm’s extensive turntable line. It’s based on their entry level Elemental turntable, and uses the same 8.6” aluminium tonearm with the tracking force and anti-skate preset for the included Ortofon OM5E cartridge. The tonearm has been modified with a spring mechanism which allows the tonearm to track a vertical record whilst maintaining the correct level of vertical tracking force. The arm terminates in a high-quality permanently attached connection cable with gold-plated phono plugs and a separate ground connection for your amplifier or phono stage.
The rest of the deck consists of a triangular plinth, rear support leg and platter made from an acoustically neutral MDF board finished in either matt black, matt red or matt white. A synchronous motor is responsible for spinning the platter on its stainless steel main bearing, with a belt gripping the motor pulley and spinning the platter via its outer edge. Speed change between 33.3 and 45RPM is achieved by moving the pulley between the small and large diameter sections of the motor pulley, and the motor is powered by an external DC power supply.
At the time of writing, the VT-E is only available in a right-handed configuration, and requires that either your amplifier contain a phono preamplifier or that you use an external phono stage. A left-handed version will soon be made available, as will a version with a gloss plinth and a built-in phono stage and bluetooth transmitter. The right and left-handed versions differ only in the orientation of the arm, which points downwards on the right-handed version and upwards on the left-handed version for ease of cueing.
The VT-E comes packaged in a sturdy box, with large foam inserts supporting the delicate contents. Included are the turntable itself, the power supply, the rear support, some wall mounting hardware and a bag of fixing bolts. . An instruction manual is also included as are the turntable belt, a dampening pad for use when mounting the turntable on a wall and an adapter for playing singles with large centre holes.
Not wishing to drill into the walls, I setup the VT-E to be positioned atop my hi-fi rack using the included rear support. Setup was straight forward and involved removing the platter and inserting 2 bolts through the holes beneath which would then hold the rear support in place with two washers in-between. It’s worth noting that while the VT-E includes an allen key for adjusting the preset vertical tracking force, it does not include the necessary philips screwdriver required to put it together. With the deck assembled, the platter could be installed into the bearing housing and the belt placed around the motor pulley and the circumference of the platter.
With the belt installed and the deck positioned, the cable tie holding the arm was removed, as was the stylus guard covering the OM5E cartridge. The final step involved connecting the turntable to the amplifier’s phono stage, as well as connecting its power supply which is supplied with a range of country-specific adapters. My first record was then placed on the platter and clamped into place, and the arm lowered to the record surface using the damped arm lifter.
Sound wise, the VT-E displays a warm, relaxed character. Noise levels are surprisingly low, with very little rumble audible from the main bearing and none of the audible motor noise that I observed with the Elemental on which the VT-E is based. While like any turntable at this price the VT-E does suffer from some inner groove distortion on louder tracks, particularly in the centre of the disc, the distortion is minimal and the VT-E tracks superbly even on records that have seen better days.
The VT-E’s speed is largely consistent, though it did run a little slow when spinning a 7” single at 45RPM. I imagine this has to do with the 12” disks increasing the inertia of the platter, but nevertheless it wasn’t significant enough to be an issue unless you’re particularly sensitive to such things. In reality any belt drive vertical turntable will struggle to maintain speed as spinning a record vertically at a consistent speed really requires a high torque direct drive motor that is mechanically coupled to the platter. To that end, the VT-E performs admirably on the speed stability front.
In summary, the VT-E is another Excellent product and a welcome addition to Pro-Ject’s lineup, and one that is quite unique in today’s market. Not only is it just plain cool to look at and display, not to mention a great conversation piece, it remains a functional turntable that holds up well against the competition, sounding as good as anything else at this price. A fantastic effort from Pro-Ject and one which I wholeheartedly applaud. Highly recommended.