No Filter—Jerome Sabbagh & Greg Tuohey

No Filter—Jerome Sabbagh & Greg Tuohey

Last month, I received a very pleasant email from Parisian-born, Manhattan-based tenor sax player Jerome Sabbagh asking if Audiophilia would be interested reviewing his latest release on vinyl. If it’s jazz, blues or classical vinyl, I’m usually a hard yes. No Filter is a collaborative project with guitarist Greg Tuohey (songs are original and about 50/50 on the record between Sabbagh and Tuohey) with bassist Joe Martin and Kush Abadey on drums.

I received the album promptly and scheduled it for some late night listening and a full review session the following day. The album had me at late night. And while this wonderful record was playing, I checked out the back cover. I discovered some serious vinyl and analog shenanigans going on. The LP was recorded live to 1/2 inch, two track analog tape at 30” per second and was mastered and cut by no less than the master himself, Bernie Grundman. The quality shows in the artwork, the gentle and tactile recording quality and the mastery of the performances from all four players (no edits or overdubs on the album).

VPI Industries HW-40 Direct Drive Turntable

VPI Industries HW-40 Direct Drive Turntable

In October 2018, I was invited by Mat Weisfeld (President, VPI) to attend a party at the VPI Industries Listening House to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the company. The main event was the debut of a new and remarkable item that is the basis of this review: the VPI Industries 40th Anniversary Turntable, HW-40, named after VPI founder Harry Weisfeld (HW), who attended the event and even swapped out various high-end cartridges on the fly throughout.

Although from a distance the HW-40 ($15,000 incl. arm) appears to be a $30,000 VPI Classic Direct Drive Turntable (to be discontinued), closer inspection reveals an extraordinary revision chock full of newer technology including an updated and upgraded version of their Direct Drive Motor that now incorporates motion control software, an internal linear power supply, a JMW-12-Fatboy Gimbal tonearm (not pivot), a whopping removable 25 pound platter, a high-grade removable acrylic dust cover and exceptional new footing/isolation that defies belief in the ability to ward off resonance and vibration: You can pound your fist on the shelf top where the table is sitting and playing music and the needle does not dance; the sound is not disturbed. This is accomplished by a mix of reinforced composite absorption pads and the construction of the chassis. And to top it off, it comes with both a Stainless Steel Outer Periphery Ring (to flatten the record onto the platter, eliminating edge warps and more completely coupling the record to the platter), and a ‘Signature’ stainless steel clamp. Only 400 units are to be manufactured for sale, so this anniversary version is a Limited Edition—for now.