Kuzma Stabi turntable & Stogi tonearm Kuzma's "S" upgrades

Michael Fremer auditioned Kuzma's "S" upgrades in July 1999 (Vol.22 No.7):

The Kuzma Stabi S turntable originally caught my eye at the 1998 Heathrow Hi-Fi Show. My experience with the Simon Yorke Designs Series 7 turntable has convinced me of the potential of a plinthless 'table, and the Stabi S confirms it. The platter-bearing assembly is sunk into a heavy, solid brass tube that also holds the arm. A smaller, stabilizing hunk of solid brass tubing with O-ringed training wheels (just being colorful; these wheels don't turn) is affixed at a 90° angle. A nicely machined aluminum subplatter is attached to a substantial one-piece bearing spindle that's larger in diameter than one usually sees in a 'table at this price point, and fits into a nonmetallic sleeve.

The oversized aluminum platter weighs almost 8 lbs. It's damped with a rubber insert on the underside and an integral rubber/textile mat on top. Rotational power is applied via a flat, precision-ground belt and standalone motor housed in brass and fitted with a crowned plastic pulley. (A larger crowned pulley fits over it for 45rpm.) The 'table's compactness is enhanced by the placement of its motor, which is mostly under the platter. A cutout on the platter bottom accommodates the pulley shaft.

The Kuzma Stabi S is solid, stable, brawny, runs at precisely 331/3 and 45 as it's supposed to, and just plain looks like it means business. And it costs only $1200. One beef: the spindle is too tall to take a closed-top record clamp like the SME. Kuzma's literature lists an optional clamp, but none was supplied with the review sample.

The final version of the Stogi S arm wasn't ready when the 'table arrived, so I got hold of a Rega RB600, which uses the same-size mounting hole as the Kuzma arm. The Rega arm's threaded mounting shaft fits into a hole drilled into yet another chunk of cylindrical brass, and is fixed via a pair of large set-screws. I had to be careful about how much pressure I applied to the set-screws; I didn't want to flatten the arm's mounting threads.

The final arm assembly fits snugly into a hole approximately 2" in diameter drilled out of the main brass tube, and is itself fixed via a large set-screw on the side of the main structure. Yes, this means you now have a Rega arm that does VTA—but not in the sense that you can vary it once you've set overhang, because the hole in the brass insert is not drilled concentrically.

When you loosen the set-screw to change the arm's height, the arm holder is free to rotate as well. In other words, you get one shot at VTA; if you decide to change it after setting overhang, you're going to have to reset overhang—not the best part of the design. A lineup marker on the arm shaft and main tube would allow you to change VTA while returning to the original overhang setting, so I guess you could always scribe one yourself. Carefully. Also, with the Rega arm, the cable coming through the bottom didn't clear the shelf, so I had to raise the 'table an inch or so. I used A.R.T. Q dampers, which designer Franc Kuzma said would work, though he cautioned me against gummy-type supports like Sorbothane.

I set up the Rega arm with both the Grado Statement and the Clavis D.C. cartridges, and what I heard floored me. This is a great 'table! It has gravity and weight—and this with AC sourced directly from the wall. The main tube's mass and makeup ensure rigidity, but I was concerned about bearing noise and vibrations reaching the arm. I put a stethoscope on the arm end of the main brass tube and, with the platter spinning, was greeted by dead silence—not surprising, given what music was sounding like.

The Rega/Stabi S combo offered a level of background "blackness" you usually hear only with far more expensive 'tables. Bass extension and solidity were really impressive, as were the very low levels of midbass overhang and creeping bloat. The Stabi S gets down! This is a 'table that's in control of the music.

Large-scale dynamics were surefooted, and while not quite as well developed as you'd get with the very best, the top of the dynamic scale exhibited plenty of "punch" and never threatened to let go. What impressed me most about the Stabi S was its low tonal coloration, top to bottom. With the Rega arm, the 'table does give up a bit of bottom-end extension and warm afterglow, and is slightly dry in the mids and on top—common with nonsuspended 'tables—but the sonic picture it draws is big and extremely well balanced, if slightly forward of neutral and not particularly warm or lush.

The balance does favor the front of the stage, with somewhat less clarity toward the back corners, but this is in comparison to the Yorke fitted with the Graham 2.0 on a Vibraplane, so please keep these comments in perspective! After all, the Graham costs substantially more than the Stabi S and Rega combined. In fact, the Vibraplane costs more than twice as much.

Stogi S tonearm
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Immedia's Allen Perkins will be sincerely flattered when he sees the unipivot Stogi S. While the final iteration looks somewhat less like the Immedia RPM 2 arm than did the original I saw last year, it still lifts a number of very original Immedia concepts, like the damping cup/platform and central bearing post. But while the two tonearms are superficially similar, there are big differences. For instance, the Immedia's bearing post is sunk into the armboard, thus mechanically grounding the arm. That's not the case with the Stogi S. But what do you expect from a $700 arm when you're comparing it to one that costs almost $3000?

When you set up the Immedia, you place the bearing height at record level, so it doesn't change as you change VTA—an important feature unique to the Immedia. The Stogi S itself doesn't allow for VTA adjustment, though on the Stabi S you can set arm height by adjusting the arm-mount cylinder. The arm gets the basics correct, placing the brass counterweights below the pivot point for added stability. Azimuth is set by rotating one or both of the two counterweights around their shaft. Effective arm length is only 229mm (the Rega's, for example, is 239mm). Longer means less theoretical tracking error, which is why some audiophiles go for 12" arms. But longer also means greater effective mass, less rigidity, and more tracking error when you don't set up correctly. So put that in your armpipe and smoke it.

As on the Immedia arm, the Stogi S's arm wire (Cardas) makes one continuous pass from cartridge clips to RCA plugs, which is good, but the main armtube, though internally damped, is quite "live." Tap it and it just about fibrillates.

The arm doesn't sound bright or uncontrolled, probably because, as with the Immedia, the bottom of the bearing housing is a wide, flat surface that comes into contact with a pool of damping fluid, which you can inject to taste. The Kuzma uses thick silicone, the Immedia synthetic motor oil. Antiskating is via a conventional pulley/shaft/weight mechanism. There is no fingerlift.

I tried the Grado Statement and Clavis D.C. cartridges with the Stogi S, and found the arm (effective mass: 11gm) to be very good tracker with both. Damping fluid is a must, as the arm's stability greatly depends on some fluid contacting the surface of the bearing housing. The Stogi S didn't quite match the Rega's bottom-end extension, but it was somewhat richer in the midband, which benefited the 'table's overall sound. I also felt the Stogi's top-end extension and sparkle were slightly diminished compared to the Rega's (though that can be varied with the amount of silicone applied), but focus, weight, and image stability were outstanding. The combination of Kuzma arm and 'table with the ultra-detailed Clavis D.C. was something quite special. The Grado/Rega/Stabi S combo was also in the pocket.

As with any suspensionless turntable, the results will depend on what supports it. Kuzma offers an optional MDF slab, but you're going to need some kind of isolation platform or stand to get the most from the Stabi S.

It's unfortunate that a reviewer can't have every product at his disposal when writing a review like this. I don't have the Basis 1400 on hand, which at $1400 would be a likely competitor, but given how it's built and sounds, the Kuzma Stabi S would seem to be the 'table to beat at the $1200 price point.

Add a Rega 250 or 300 and you're really sailing for under $1500. Use a Rega 600 or Kuzma's Stogi S and you're still under $2k. The Stabi/Stogi S combo at $1900 is an astonishingly good value. Listen to them set up on a good stand and you'll think you're hearing something that costs at least twice as much.—Michael Fremer

Kuzma Audio Komponente
Elite Audio Video Distribution
PO Box 93896
Los Angeles, CA 90093-0896
(323) 466-9694

ken mac's picture

That is my turntable. Some 15 years and running....great...

spacehound's picture

Its only fault is that it wasn't made in a small garden shed using only a hammer and a hacksaw by someone your friends have never heard of, so it lacks 'HiFi' cred :):)

johnnythunder's picture

non-artisanal components from the 70s and 80s. Personally, I'm in the market for a new TT and the Technics is on my must audition list. I can't seem to find a bad review out there.

volvic's picture

I would go for the new Technics 1200G, as I have said numerous times on these pages, I have heard it and can't stop thinking about it. Sadly (well not really) I bought an SME10 and after searching long and heard also found an LVIII MK2 Ittok for my Linn so for now my shopping has come to a halt. I do have the older 1200 and will put an SMEIV on it but if I were you I would run and get that Technics - I was very impressed. Not that the Stogi is bad either, fantastic table as well, but that Technics....

spacehound's picture

Which was before CDs appeared, I nearly bought a Stogi.

But all these 'skeleton' turntables, lacking both a base and a dust cover are totally impractical in the real world, which has dust, dogs, flies dead and alive, and curious cats in it.

Sure you can make or buy a cover that covers the entire thing but then you are looking at a 'lash up' all day.

volvic's picture

Dust goes everywhere, I have an SME10 without cover and yes it attracts dust but so too does my Technics 1200 and LP12 both with dustcovers. In Manhattan dust is everywhere. Just buy a ginko cover for these skeleton plinth tables and you're all set.

Richard Thorens's picture

The plinth design reminds me of Soul lines "Elgar DCX" http://www.soulines.com/elgar-dcx @spacehound, I just got these custom vibration isolation feet for my son's technics 1210, and they worked great, https://mnpctech.com/turntable-feet-replacement-isolation/

JacksonCambage's picture

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