Analog Upgrade itch

Hello ! I would like to upgrade my turntable / tonearm / phono preamp 

currently I am using Kuzma Stabi S / Stabi S VTA 12” tonearm / Gold Note PH10 phono amp. 
Gryphon Antelion EVO + Pandora pre , Magico A5 speaker. 

My music preference : 50% classical / 30% pop / 20% modern Jazz 

I like my current cartridge: Etsuro Urushi Cobalt so I am going to keep it. I would like to upgrade my Turntable (possible Linn LP12 or Kuzma Ref2 or any suggestions ) with Kuzma 4 point tonearm (or recommendation in the $ range?). My biggest uncertain is phono amp : I’d like to have warmer sound (tube preferred ) with ideally 2 inputs (Manley Steelhead or EMT126 are recommended by my local dealer but not sure if they are worth the money ) .  I know matching (cartridge / arm / phono stage) is more important in analog system so I’d like everyone’s comments / experience that matches my system. Musicality / warmth is what I’m after rather than microscopic details. Thanks in advance



Impressive system. You are going to receive lots of differing opinions on suggestions for your needs. Let your ears and market research help you in your decision making process.

My personal recommendation and experiences for a phono amp which describes the “musicality and warmth” is the Aesthetix Io Phono amp. It is to me, a means to an end for achieving musical satisfaction. It is a tubed based unit with tube voltage rectifying power supplies. The factory tubes are great right out of the box, although many have also used other tubes to achieve different levels of sound quality. The Io can also be configured for two inputs, remote, volume controls, and dual power supplies. It can get pricey with all of these options. I had tested and used Einstein and ASR before settling on the Aesthetix Io. Good luck.

Nice looking system.

From your description, I get the feeling we have similar tastes. You can see my systems. I would keep your cartridge as you said.

I have a Linn LP12 which I bought a couple years ago at the Akurate, mid-level with a Koetsu Rosewood Signature cartridge. I have since upgraded the sub chassis and tone arm for what I consider well worth upgrades, significant sonic improvements. The Linn is small, beautiful and sounds outstanding.


One class of upgrades I consider the most significant over the last 40 years has been phonostages. They have always produced what I consider outsized sonic improvements. I found until my last upgrade my phono stage was always holding back my TT. I started with a Class A $200 Phonostage in about 1980… which I can’t even begin to tell you how terrible it sounded. I quickly upgraded a couple times until at last bought a new Audio Research PH2. From then on I never left Audio Research. PH2SE, PH3, PH3SE, PH8, and now REF3. I recommend PH8 or better for your system. ARC preamps and Phonostages… really sets them apart.


My combination is wonderfully musical with good midrange bloom, great sound staging and highly detailed. But the key words are natural and musical… the tone arm upgrade to the Ekos-se brought up the detail significantly with loosing any of the musicality. 

@eddiechanghk are you looking for two inputs for a specific scenario or to be future proof'? Just curious...

I would also consider a good and modern direct drive table, such as from Brinkmann, STST*, Gran Prix etc

For phono it could be you use a SUT for each cart and then a single input. This is eg how EMIA does it. I have been loving the RADA Precious* btw


* sales relationship disclosure :)



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I have a ref 2 + 4point + car 50

All I can say is good choice, either the ref or R will be good tables and sound excellent. 

@rsf507 thanks for the info , does the soft suspended base on Ref2 give a more “musical “ sonics over the Stabi R ? What I like about Kuzma in general is their liveliness and openness but I am also tempted by Linn’s “ vintage analog” sonics but hesitate about the spring re-calibration that seems needed every periodically on a Linn table. 

@ghdprentice Audio Research is on my list just I cannot  get a demo to connect with a Gryphon amp ( different dealer) , so to me blind purchase a phono amp seems too risky…  how does it compare to Manley Steelhead , sonically ? 

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I just upgraded my vinyl front end:

JRTransrotor Rodino FMD

SME V arm

Airtight PC-1 Supreme

Allnic H-3000

i am floored by the sound. 

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I believe the sound of the Audio Research will be much more natural and musical with outstanding mid-range bloom, without loosing detail… something the Steelhead is known for. Personally I would unquestionably buy a ARC Phonostage unheard… but, of course, that is because I have heard so many.


In my view the upgrade to Kuzma R or Ref II with 4point should be significant.

The 4point is pretty much unbeatable in my view for the money. I have installed 4points vs other arms such as Moerch, Helius and a few others - it is a step up in transparency and very neutral.

The overall sound of the Kuzmas/4point I would describe as self effacing - neither lean nor bloated - nicely balanced. One thing I really like is that the Kuzmas designed to be easy to set up which makes dialling them in easy.

For phono stage I would suggest investigating the cost of adding the Gryphon Legato Legacy phono boards to your existing Pandora. The Pandora is state of the art so why not take advantage of that architecture ( dual mono power supplies etc ) and just get the phono boards installed. ( You also save the cost of interconnects phono to pre ).



@dover thank you for the valuable input , for TT my finalists are

Kuzma Ref 2 : like its suspended base which is more “musical” than Stabi R ? I have a belief that suspended TT designs gives a smoother, analog sonics 

Linn LP12 : isn’t it the icon to own at least once, in the passage of every vinyl audiophile ?  Closest thing I ever owned was a Systemdek back in the 70s and I have been out of vinyl for the last 30 years … still miss the “old “ analog sound and I hope I can reproduce that with modern equipments. 

kuzma Stabi R : it can accommodate 2-3 arms which maybe my next step , so is the reason I want to have a phono amp with 2-3 inputs.  

never thought about the Legato phono card , which I appreciate your heads up ! But aside from that do you have any recommendation for a separate tube phono that may fit my system and the “warmth” sonics I am after ? 

anyone tried Allnics ? 



Depends on your budget. How much do you want to spend ?

The Allnics tend to be on the lush side. Manley is very good - and very flexible.

I would suggest you do the TT upgrade first and then do the phono later.

This gives you the opportunity to reassess  your phono requirements once you have the new front end dialled in.

Keep the Stabi S and add external power supply.

Add a Kuzma 4 point 9. This will be significant step-up.

Add a phono amp which suits you best. I use a Doshi EVO 3.0 phono amp with the above combination.

All the best.


ARC Ref 3 offers balanced output which I prefer over single ended. Manley Steelhead only has single ended outputs. In my experience, balanced connection lowers the noise floor which makes a difference when dealing with analog.

I would choose the Stabi R/4 point 9 as well.  Place the table on the appropriate sized and weighted HRS platform and you will be impressed.  

@dover my budget is US$15k-20k for the TT+tonearm+phono amp, can be a little  more flexible if “necessary” lol. If I trade up to Kuzma TT/ arm I can get a pretty good deal with my local dealer.  Not sure if my Etsuro Cobalt will match Linn LP12 better than Kuzma 4point ? 

@rdk777 thanks and good point : one of the thing I found with my current Gold NotePH10 is the “hum” or high noise floor.  Currently I am using XLR connect to my Pandora pre. I was thinking changing to RCA to give a better analog sonics 

Maybe a built in Legato phono card can help this issue ?

seems like many experts here recommend Kuzma over Linn LP12 , anyone can share your experience how the two differ sonically ? Thanks 


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@eddiechanghk I would never buy a Linn turntable - it's outdated.  It may have been a great table when it came out, but it's no match for a Kuzma. The 4P (11) tonearm is one of the better arms on the market - that by itself should make the Kuzma table/arm combo a better choice.  



You live in the Pacific Northwest? I will happily let you come over and listen to my Linn LP12 and see if you think that is true. I’ll happily listen to your Kuzma. 


Both the 4point9 at 13g effective mass and4point11 at 18g effective mass will be fine for the Etsuro. Personally since you already have enjoyed the fantastic VTA on the Stogi S get the 4point11 if you can.

Going from the Stabi to either the R/4point or Reference 2/4point I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how much improvement you get over the existing set up.

I think the Reference 2 is better than the R for the reasons you have suggested - the Kuzma M is where the new DC motor hits its straps ( it has a bigger motor/bearing and platter than the R ).

If you need to squeeze the budget I would say go for the Ref 2/4point9.


@rdk777 i live in Hong Kong lol which is 12 hours plane away from US …. Thanks for the offer I will take a rain check lol

@dover thanks for the suggestion. I think I will go for the 11” whichever TT I choose at the end. I am still very curious to Linn vs Kuzma , not about which is better but how differently they sound to suit my taste. 

OP, That is the right question, difference in sound… not better. I like Hong Kong. Where do you live? Must be challenging listening in an apartment. 

@ghdprentice i have a man cave that allows me have my private hifi settings (listening area 16ft x 25ft) 


@karl_desch i am now using an IsoAcoustics platform  , if I upgrade to Stabi R or Ref2 do you think I still need a platform ? My rack is TAOC ASR3

It's new turntable time!! 

The Ref 2 and the 4 point are your best choice. The LP 12 is a tinker toy in comparison. My favorite Kuzma is the M.

Mechanical switches and pots are the death of electronics. The fewer the better. If you have to have tubes Audio Research is where you go. The Ref 3SE or the PH 9 are handsome well though out units. 


@eddiechanghk.  The Isoacoustics platform is a great start. Get a new table/arm and see how you like it.


@mijostyn What do you think are the primary advantges of the Stabi M over the R?  Mass?

I have a Ref 2, with a 313 VTA. For those who don't know, the 313 is Franc's Gimbaled offering. I am playing it in to a Shindo VR pre/phono. I'm happily running a My Sonic Hyper in to a Dave Slagle copper wound step up. This is my understanding from speaking with my dealer, reading....I'm not going to claim all this to be bible, so don't print it and bound it in leather. The 313 plays to macro over micro detail, and has a pleasant big sound with great drive. The 4 point 11 would offer more micro detail, and would veer more toward neutral. The 4 point 9 may in fact be more neutral still. I think the above Stabi R vs Stabi Ref descriptions are on point. Are you on a suspended floor? If so, maybe the R and a tubed phono. 

@karl_desch , The Stabi M is isolated and has a great dust cover. The R is not isolated and you would have to have a dust cover made for it. The M is for the serious music lover. The R is for someone who wants to mount a dozen arms to his turntable and marvel at the complexity. Frank Kuzma is a different sort of fellow. He want to please all comers so he makes one of everything even if he knows they won't work as well as his best work. 

Oh, I forgot that serious music lovers need dust covers and only one tonearm.  My bad! 😁  

Don't like tables that have dedicated attached dust covers, they tend to vibrate and ring IMHO. I'd go with a Stabi R on some sort of vibration table like Minus K or Vibraplane, I believe it would sound superior to a Stabi M just sitting on a solid rack. 

Honestly, @rsf507, that is what I am trying to figure out as I use a vibraplane/symposium platform under my current table. I imagine the motor and controller are more isolated and better controlled in the Stabi M and the overall mass of the table might favor the M. I'm not worried about the cover causing vibrations as I think that was addressed in the design of the M. 

Unfortunately, the M is much more expensive than the R.  

I’ll add my views only because I’ve owned several of the products being discussed here, although not the latest models:

Re Kuzma, I had the original Reference table (not the 2) with a Triplanar. It is a very nice table and easy to set up and self-isolates. I also still have a Kuzma XL (original 2 AC motor) and Airline arm, which I’ve owned since 2006-7. The difference between the two in sonics is significant, tilting in favor of the bigger, high mass table and linear arm (which is not under discussion here) but isolating the XL can be challenging unless you are on a concrete floor. Given that I’m in an old (restored, but still) wooden house, on the second floor, I had to use a Minus K (the big bench top one) which is more than adequate to deal w/ footfall issues.

Of course, there is no dust cover for the XL-it would be enormous in size. I use a "dead" record to cover the platter when not in use and routinely clean the HRS plinth and metal parts.

I had a Steelhead from new, many moons ago, and sold it on to someone here who appreciated it. Extremely well constructed, hugely flexible, I I did roll various high end NOS tubes (much easier and cheaper to get back then). Could never get the right sound through the MC input(s), used the MM input wide open 47k.

I eventually installed an Allnic H-3000 (now superseded). Once the Allnic broke in, it had more spatial information in the pinpoint placement of images not just front to back and laterally but in height. Very full dimensioned, though some would say "burnished"-- whatever weaknesses it has complement my SET/horn based system. The Steelhead always had a different character that reminded me that I was listening to hi-fi, though I added a line stage preamp, rather than running it directly into the amps. This may not be as much of an issue where one isn’t using extremely sensitive speakers- viz. 104db at 1 meter.

I also have here a Kuzma 4 Pt. 9" which I like very much-- I originally got it to install on the XL, along with the Airline, but given how the Minus K works, it was very very hard to achieve correct balance with two arm pods. It is now installed in my vintage system, on a restored Technics SP-10 (which I have also owned since 1973)

I also owned a lot of ARC electronics starting with a Dual 75a and SP 3-a-1 that I bought new in 1975 and that company was terrific, both in terms of support, parts and overall reliability. (I still have the Dual 75a, which will be 50 years old soon!). I did have several of their tube amps, as well as their SP-10 preamp, which was their high water mark for the "old" ARC tube gear.

My experience with the current products is limited- heard them in dealer showrooms and at shows over the years and they seemed to be a fairly cost-effective alternative to the "uber" electronics now in favor in the high end. I don’t particularly like the 6h30 tube, which I use in another piece of electronics because I found that the only one with the mojo was the old DR Reflektor, now almost unobtanium- the other two- the EH and the Sovtek, didn’t have the same sound quality in my particular circuit/system.

Good hunting. You are dealing with pretty reputable products that have proven track records in the market. You should try to listen to them, but knowing how difficult it is to audition turntables, that may be impossible. Franc is a good guy and his distributors are typically good (The guy here in the States, Scot Markwell, is a very knowledgeable and a straight shooter).

A customer just pointed this tread out to me. Yes I'm a Kuzma dealer so please judge these remarks knowing this. I owned the XL 2 motor (AC motor) table with a 4Point arm for many years sitting on a Vibraplane. (Yes I'm also the world-wide distributor of the VP). Over the last 9 months I have sold 5 Stabi R tables so I directly compared the R to the XL. Yes the bass was bigger and better on the XL but when listening to the R everything was more focused and had even better PACE. I contributed this to the DC motor of the R. I did contemplate upgrading the XL to the XL-DC but instead thought I'd either do the Stabi M or get myself the Stabi R. Talking with Scot Markwell he said why spend more $$$ for an M when I use a Vibraplane, the M  and R are so similar other than the M having it's own isolation which I didn't require. (Yes agree Scot is a straight shooter).  So I sold my XL and now use the R still with the 4Point arm. (Have a MSL cartridge on the 4Point) Shortly will get a 2nd wing for the R and maybe even try Kuzma's new SAFIR arm. 



Thank you for identifying yourself and your comments. Because of your forthrightness I give your opinion credibility. Thank you.

@whart thank you for sharing your experience, the Steelhead and Allnic are both on my finalists list. If I go for Kuzma R / 4point 11 with my Etsuro Cobalt which phono will you choose ? Does any of these 2 give a significant “difference” to my Gold Note. I know it’s a hard to guess question lol. Or rather, which will give me a more “tube” sound ? 

@sksos thanks for the explanation : now rise me to another question : I now use a IsoAcoustics DELOS solid oak platform , how do these platform differ from each other ? 


@eddiechanghk - I can't meaningfully comment without being there- you know, room, other components, how the room is set up (I'm claiming no guru status here). I've found that just changing a power supply tube can tilt the balance of a system. In my system (and with that qualification), the Allnic sounded better than the Steelhead (especially once you roll the rectifier) and for 4 Pt. experience, mine is limited to the 9" arm. I'm a big fan of Franc's; you can call him and talk to him. Allnic- how big a deal is it where you live? I had to fix a bad solder joint and tube socket after 7 or so years, but did it locally. Didn't cost much. The tubes are still available from Mr. Park, but they aren't rare audio tubes. 

I don't know what ARC represents there- you should be able to hear both. 

I purchased an Allnic H-3000 because of @whart and I couldn't be happier. I went from a Chinook to the Allnic H-6500 and while nice, wasn't everything I was looking for. With the H-3000 this could very well be my last Phono. My only complaint is the Allnic gear tends to tank very heavily in value so I bought used. Their gear is fantastic, but doesn't seem to hold value, especially outside of their phonos which is a bummer. 

@j-wall thanks for the info. Can you tell me more about the sonic difference between Manley vs Allnic ? Did you try the Steelhead ? 

@sksos Thanks for your insight.  As a Vibraplane user and someone interested in mounting two tonearms (FR-64S for Koetsu and Kuzma 4 point 9 for everything else), it sounds like not much would be gained by going for a Stabi M over a Stabi R.

@eddiechanghk when you asked "I now use a IsoAcoustics DELOS solid oak platform , how do these platform differ from each other ?" I'm assuming you are asking vs a Vibraplane? Completetly different, the VP isolates down to 2.5 cycles in BOTH the vertical & horizonal planes. The VP was iniitally designed for electron microscopes. 

@karl_desch correct you would gain nothing from the Stabi M vs R if using your Vibraplane.  :-) 

@eddiechanghk so I thought about the Steelhead but I couldn't get over the look. A little bit too much going on for my taste and aesthetics are as important to sonics to me. I've heard the Steelhead is a good phono, but is a great phono was the rectifier is upgraded and then competes with the H-3000. Rectifier rolling in the Allnic is also a great upgrade potential but I'm on the cheaper end of RCA rectifier rolling but I'm happy. The Chinook I had was fun and helped me understand what tubes in a phono can provide. But the Allnic added even more realism and depth. For me it was like seeing a picture of fog vs walking through the fog and feeling the experience. The Allnic h-6500 added a little bit more vs the Chinook, but the H-3000 is the end all be all for me....unless a Ypsilon shows up used.  

This hobby will have you chasing your ass forever.

Something about the hole in our soul that will keep us searching.

Modern Jazz? C’mon, there’s nothing like the Classic’s. It’s all been done already, and the great stuff is on wax. 

The Steelhead is compromised by its own very mediocre output coupling capacitors.  And if you use it as a full function preamplifier, then the signal has to traverse two of those same mediocre capacitors.  Upgrade the capacitors, then you've got something.

Any turntable that is not internally suspended (aka "isolated") can be isolated by placing it on an isolation device, at extra cost, of course.  On the other hand, it is not wise to place a suspended turntable on an isolation device without understanding what you're doing in great detail.  The two different suspensions may interact with each other, badly. Since devices like the Minus K or Vibraplane are generally superior to any built-in type of suspension commonly found in commercially available turntables (with the exception of the Dohmann Helix, which uses Minus K), I prefer external isolation devices.

@lewm @sksos thanks for the explanation on the isolation platform !

I think I will decide on Stabi R , now the question is : does 4point 11 is worth the cost difference over 4 point 9” ? 

@j-wall  seems like Allnic fits my taste more than Steelhead (more bloom and warmth) since H3000 is discontinued (and very expensive for my budget), does anyone compared its successor H7000 vs H5500 ? How far sonically they differ ?


 Thanks everyone , cheers

I recently decided between a 4 point and a 4 point 9.  I am very happy with my choice.  The VTA tower on the 4 point is well made but seldom used.  In general, VTA is set it an forget it based on the specific cartridge you are using. You can still set VTA on the 9 it just isnt as nicely designed.  The 11' arm on the 4 point has a higher mass and this may be advantageous.  Others argue that the 9" is a better design with negligible differences in groove distortion. I can say definitively, that the 4 P 9 is the best performing arm I've ever used. Thom Mackris at Galibier design can help you with your choice and give you a fair price.




@lewm @sksos 

I did some research about isolation bench and here is a new manufacturer from Germany , seems to have some very positive reviews when compare to other similar products .. and at a fraction of the cost. Have you heard of ?

Seismion Reactio 


No never heard of them. What's their price point? The VP currently sells for $2995 for either the passive or active version (Compressor excluded) Although shipping is expensive and especially to HK where it would be almost 1/2 the price of the unit! 

(Dealer disclosure)