Timeless, Unforgettable, Enduring

We recently posted all of our coverage of two classic turntables: The Rega P3 and the Sota Sapphire. And when I say "classic," I don't mean old. I mean timeless, unforgettable, enduring. Take a look at our Hot 100 list of all-time most important products, and you'll see that the British Rega ranks at number 30, while the all-American Sota stands proud at number 54. Our reviews of these turntables date back to 1984, and provide information that is still very much useful and interesting today.

I've mentioned that I love the Rega P3, and I plan to buy the updated P3-24. I was therefore happy to learn that Sam Tellig is also a fan. He does, however, mention that the Rega suffers from some pitch instability. I've read about this in other reviews, too. I haven't heard it myself, however. Either it's no longer an issue, or I'm not sensitive to it yet. We shall see, I suppose.

Interestingly, Sam also mentions that "the motor turns off with a dreadful pop, so you better mute your preamp or turn your system off first." While I wouldn't go so far as to call it "dreadful," I have noticed a pop upon switching off the Rega. Consequently, I have gotten into the habit of muting the Exposure 2010S integrated amplifier every time I complete a listening session. No big deal. Other downsides for Sam, such as the hingeless dustcover and poor isolation from vibrations and resonances, have not been problems for me. Since the P3's introduction, Rega has taken several steps to eliminate motor vibrations and increase overall rigidity. I am reaping the benefits.

While I do love the simple, user-friendly Rega, I am more than intrigued by the Sota and its gorgeous wood-veneered top panel and plinth, and its unusual (to me) vacuum record-clamping system. Wild! Wouldn't it be fun to play with one of these for awhile?

Lucky me, I will get the opportunity. Turns out that my dear friend Eden happens to own a Sapphire. It was a surprise to us both. At first, all she knew was that this big, wooden thing was supposed to play records, but all it was really doing was taking up space on her shelf. It was given to her by her mother who, for some time, worked as a sales rep for Home Theater. While Eden grew up around the high end audio scene and is a voracious music lover, she has never gotten into hi-fi. The poor Sapphire has not been played in years. That, however, will soon change.

It was Eden's idea. She mentioned it while we enjoyed small plates of lobster tacos and something else (she told me to pretend it was chicken). We were at the bar near the lobby of the grand Waldorf. Our Shirley Wallbangers were still half-full.

So, she said, what if you help me bring the turntable back to life?

A brilliant idea, I replied.

We might have toasted to it. Clink!

Eden admitted to not knowing much about the turntable. She wasn't at first certain whether it had a tonearm or cartridge or power cord. She did, however, mention that the thing was wicked heavy. Eden only uses the word "wicked" for special occasions, so I knew she was serious.

I have since contacted Sota's Donna Bodinet, who has agreed to help me identify Eden's specific turntable and will assist with any parts it may need. And, coincidentally, we have since posted several years of magazine coverage, including thoughts from some dude named Steven Watkinson, some other dude named Anthony Cordsman, and even the great Gordon Holt himself. And I have since discovered that the Sota Sapphire was born in 1981, just like Sonic Youth and MTV and Mad Max 2—and just like my dear friend Eden—which makes the whole thing seem even more perfect, now, doesn't it?

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michaelavorgna's picture

The Rega P3 has an "off" switch?

Graeme Hancock's picture

According to the manufacturers instructions that came with my amps, the order for turning things off is power amps then pre amps then sources.Voila ! No pops.

BTM's picture

Stephan,I have a Rega P25, which is no longer available (new) and it never "pops" when I turn it off. Maybe it was Sam popping open a bottle or something....(joking)

Ariel Bitran's picture

My P1 definitely pops.

Tom's picture

Rediscovered audio-treasures are great, aren't they? I'm sure Eden and yourselves will enjoy the Sapphire when it's up and runing.-Yup, Planar's and P's can 'pop' at switchoff but if you're a bit handy, you can dampen those with a VDR (Voltage Dependant Resistor). N.B.;: if you're not sure what to do, you'd better have it installed by a skilled electro-technician (VDR's can be mounted in a mains-plug, a distributer-block or even a mains outlet but are more effective in close proximity to the switch).In any case, muting the amp before switching off is always a smart move.

tom collins's picture

this sounds like fun. i have always been curious about the sota's as well. did you know that "house" in the tv series has a nice stack of equipment in his office and it is topped by a sota turntable. (useless trivia, i know) your audience will be eagerly awaiting word of your adventures in sotaland.

Christian's picture

That Sota is a beauty. Does bringing the turntable back to life mean a new cartridge is necessary? Swapping out the cartridge is something that seems intimidating to me. It would be interesting to see how you fare first. Seems strange about the Rega "popping" I know that I would forget to mute the amp every time. I recently had one of those great album finds. That's the Way I Feel Now: A Tribute to Thelonious Monk. Still in the celo wrapper..cheap! I remember this album precisely as "THEE" album that got me into jazz. I borrowed it from the library back in high school. It was never pressed on CD, so I never had a copy of my own. Now I do. I haven't put it on yet...I am savoring the moment before needle settles into the groove. Totally amazing, I love this new/old vinyl thing. That, and I haven't been able to stop listening to my other find Dylan's Nashville Skyline...that track (Girl from the North Country) with Johnny Cash...unbelievable.

JIm Tavegia's picture

I would be surprised if it took more than a new belt to get the Sota up and playing fairly nicely. Hopefully someone will NOT have removed the arm and cart from the table. I guess you will know soon. Turntable envy is hard to get over.

Pradeep's picture

I just listened to a SOTA Sapphire, before buying my Rega P3-24...it is an awsome table..have fun.My Rega pops too while I turn it off...I usually reduce the volume before I turn it off..

chrismercurio's picture

Try a Technics SL-1200. They don't pop and are a joy to listen to and use.

Fred von Lohmann's picture

Funny thing, my Rega P25 was a gift from my brother-in-law, who also found he just wasn't using it. Didn't take much to dust it off and get it running. And no pop when I turn it off. :-)

Stephen Mejias's picture

Maybe we should all take Mr. Lavorgna's advice and never turn our record players off. Seems to make the most sense. did you know that "house" in the tv series has a nice stack of equipment in his office and it is topped by a sota turntable.That was one of the first things I mentioned to Eden, Tom. I don't think she was as impressed as we are!Does bringing the turntable back to life mean a new cartridge is necessary?Well, according to Eden, the tonearm doesn't have a cartridge at all. We shall see.Congrats on finding the Monk album, Christian. And, yes, Nashville Skyline is wonderful. Might be my favorite Dylan album. I found my copy for a buck!

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