Reference System TT - Dr. Feickert Analogue or Sota

Putting together a reference system.
Recent equipment purchase: 
Linear Audio Zotl 40 power amp
Don Sach's pream & phono pre
Spatial Audio Lab X5 (open baffle speakers)

Seeking input for a turntable/tonearm/cart upgrade to complete the sysytem. Narrowed TT choices to Dr. Feickert Analogue (Woodpecker or Blackbird) or Sota Nova VI? Tonearm being considered: Kuzma Stabi S12, Thomas Shick, Wand Master. Cart: Kiseki Purle Heart NS SB, Koetsu Rosewood, less expensive choices - Soundsmith Zephyr MIMC Star ES, Sumiko Starling, dependent on TT/tonearm choice. I currently have and have had for a number of years, a VPI Scout & Benz Micro L2 cart & an ASUSA Tube Phono-Pre (it is kit). 

Listening preference 70-80's R&B, jazz (traditional & contemporary), soft rock infrequent but listen to most music genries at some point. 
Hopefully, there'll be those familiar with the noted TT's, tonearms and carts to provide input. Finding audio dealers in my area to audition the equipment choices I'm considering is a big challenge, if not impossible. This is my first steps from mid-fi into high-end equipment. Respect the discussions of fellow audio lovers. Your input, insights and experiences input is greatly appreciated.

Still Bill              
At its modest price Thomas Schick "12 is the most stylish tonearm for a low compliance cartridges. 
Origin Live Voyager turntable, Renown arm, Soundsmith Strain Gauge 1.   

Get one of the power supply upgrades for the SG1.  

With the SG1 you can sell your current phono stage making this easily the way to go both in terms of performance and value. You can go with the Sovereign/Enterprise (what I have) to save money and still be among the very best. But talking with Mark Baker about it he said that while the Voyager costs a lot the leap in performance is so great he feels it is an even bigger value. Which made me salivate, and even more so now that I have lived with the Sovereign a while, this is a fabulous rig! But they are beyond me. If you want reference though, this is it: Voyager, Renown, SG1.
My apologies, I failed to indicate my budget for TT, tonearm and cart is $20,000 - $25,000 max. millercarbon's sugestion for the Voyager TT appears to be an excellant suggestion if I had an unlimited budget. That's not the case. 
Thanks for the input. 
In that case then Origin Live Sovereign turntable, Enterprise arm, and Soundsmith SG1. I have the Sovereign/Enterprise. Mine with Koetsu Black Goldline and Herron VTPH2A. If you had been here for Chuxpona, seen the way a room full of audiophiles were leaning forward intently listening for like two solid hours, of way way WAY more music than talking, you would know why.    

With your budget you could easily have this rig. With the SG1 you eliminate the need for a phono stage, getting in effect a SOTA phono stage thrown in with the cart. Which you also order an extra user-replaceable stylus or two, another big advantage with SG.   

Do a search, you will find the SG1 compared with top flight carts costing much more. All those carts in order to compete with SG1 require a $10k and up phono stage, and not exactly cheap interconnect and power cord. Reference quality, value price.   

I would highly recommend searching around and reading all you can find about these, both Origin Live and the Strain Gauge. Then I would call and talk with Mark Baker. This is what I did before ordering my Sovereign. Always do this as my final step, talk to the owner/designer. Mark almost had me switching my order to a Resolution with Agile arm. Because he was saying the Resolution comes very close to Sovereign for a lot less.  

“In fact, this arm-table combination is one of the finest performers I’ve heard at any price… But regardless of price, this is one of the truly special products I’ve reviewed in the past eighteen years.” Michael Fremer, Editor 

Strong words. Listening to my Sovereign last night I can understand where they come from.
Brinkman Bardo, Triplaner, Lyra Kleos on an HRS base. I have that and a SOTA. 

No need to brag, reviews like at Munich and the solid dealer and user base speak volumes. I think SOTA is 5-6 months out….but come to think of it, last visitor to hear the SOTA bought one a few days later….

I have heard the Dr. F at some length, also an excellent choice.

enjoy your journey, you are in rarified air w gear you are cinsidering…
Cart: Kiseki Purle Heart NS SB, Koetsu Rosewood, less expensive choices - Soundsmith Zephyr MIMC Star ES, Sumiko Starling, dependent on TT/tonearm choice. I currently have and have had for a number of years, a VPI Scout & Benz Micro L2 cart & an ASUSA Tube Phono-Pre (it is kit).

If you are considering Thomas Schick tonearm do yourself a favor and look for a low compliance Miyajima cartridges like Kansui or Madake. Here is a US distributor. You will find some amazing reviews. I got two and this MC cartridge is something special for a high mass tonearm. If you have funds for a NOS Fidelity-Research FR-66fx (about $5k) it will be much better than Schick. You can also look for IKEDA IT-407 tonearms if you want new ones.
I have the Blackbird it will show the advantages of the best tonearm and cartridge you can out on it. I have the Thales Simplicity II and it higher cost than the table highly recommended

Dear @wah8dy : Well this is my overall choice for you:  this is not an up-grade for the 10 or 12 TT models but something really near to SME top TTs as the 30/20 and comes with its top rated SME magnesium build tonearm.

Here a review:

My cartridge alternative comes by Ortofon:

look on those two pictures where the cartridge is mounted in an SME tonearm that was choosed by Ortofon to shows the Verissimo at its site.

You can't go wrong with.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
I have a brand new Sota Cosmos and owned a Sapphire for 40 years. 
I have seen Feickert tables but never played with or listened to one. They were never turntables I personally would consider. No suspension, no vacuum, no dust cover. Three strikes. 

The Sota is not a glitzy turntable. The plinth is nice in wood but plain in comparison to other tables its price range. The corners are usually said to be dove tails. They are not. They are finger joints which are easier to make and assemble. Areas that did not affect the turntable's performance are done in a straight forward, simple and inexpensive way. But, where it counts it has it in spades. The new tonearm board is a work of art, weights a ton and broke a 1" drill bit drilling the hole for the Schroder CB. The board was fortunately unharmed. The drive is dead silent and deadly accurate. The dust cover is another work of art, vastly superior to the old one. The vacuum system is also dead silent and it works great. It has only failed to seal two records both of which were so badly warped they were sent back for replacements. Vacuum will not remove abrupt warps. It will flatten a record that is not perfectly flat and it will dampen the entire record perfectly making the record function as if it were as thick as the platter. Record weight does not matter anymore. The sub chassis which you can only see with the platter removed is another work of CNC art.

Mounted is a Schroder CB arm which fits the Sota perfectly and is a wonderful arm. Very pleased with it. The cartridge is a Soundsmith Voice which is a high output Sussurro. I have been impressed with it also but it is still young and I need to listen more. It certainly tracks very well. It is set up Lofgren B. The other arm that I really like on Sotas is the Kuzma 4 Point 9. I prefer the Schroder but it is $1300 more expensive. he Schroder fits better because the tonearm cable exits under the tonearm board not over. 

This combination is so silent I have looked on several occasions to make sure the lift is down. It is as stable as a turntable can get. There is very little that bothers it. You can turn the volume up and tap hard anywhere on the plinth or dust cover and you will hear nothing. I use a conductive sweep arm. On the old table I did not have vacuum or it's special mat. If I dropped the sweep arm on the record while playing you could here a soft thump. On this table you here absolutely nothing. No matter what I put on the record the speed returns to 33.333 +- 0.002 rpm You can change the speed (pitch) in 0.1 rpm increments if you want. 

The performance of the Nova is going to be very similar especially if you get vacuum and the Eclipse package. The big difference is the material the sub chassis is made of. The Cosmos is 1" thick aircraft aluminum and the Nova is a composite with an aluminum bracket under the tonearm board. 

The company is great to deal with. I have talked to both owners, Donna and Christan on many occasions. The day the table arrived Christan called to make sure I was ok with it. You will hear this from many others.

Because of it's suspension and vacuum clamping system the Sotas are in a whole different league the the Feickerts and many other similar turntable making the Sota's some of the very best values in high performance turntable. Other turntables of similar performance are the Basis tables, the SME table and Mark Dohmann's Helix turntables, all considerably more expensive than the Sota and not near as nice to use. All these other turntables are suspended (isolated) but, their sub chassis are exposed. You can not put your hand down on them without getting everything bouncing. The Sota's sub chassis is covered, floating inside the plinth. You can put your hand down on it to cue the record. You do not have to be so careful around it. The dust cover is attached to the plinth's cover. You can raise and lower it without bothering the tonearm. You can turn the volume up and bang on it and you hear nothing. The other turntables do not even have dust covers although Mark Dohmann related in an email that he is working on one for the Helix that will probably be hinged from the power base.

The only negative comment  I have so far is that I personally think the finish on the wood could be better without adding much to the cost. I will be refinishing mine shortly to match the system's cabinet.

Pictures of the table are on my system page. Please feel free to ask any questions.
I would select the Dr Feickert over the SOTA. I have heard both and the SOTA is not as dynamic sounding.

In your price range an alternative suggestion is the AMG Viella 12, A great table with a great tonearm.
@mijostyn- well said and I share your experience.  I bought a Sapphire 3 in 1992 and used it up until last year.  I now have a Star V vacuum with the Series VI motor but Donna is building me a Nova VI vacuum which should be ready by December.  I am trading in my Star.  It started as a discussion for a new belt and springs which lead to how about the magnetic bearing and what about the Eclipse/Condor package and suddenly I'm getting a new turntable!  Their trade up program is not bad at all.  My first exposure to Sota was in 1988.  I was impressed with their design and engineering.  I finally got one myself.  I kind of wished I had upgraded to vacuum many years back but I was happy with the Sapphire.  Until the record is perfectly coupled to the platter, there is not much to talk about.  Adding rings and weights to a record seems like a good idea?
As an owner of a Sota Nova VI with mag lev bearing and Eclipse controller/tachometer package, I would recommend it. Most of the observations made by @mijostyn describing his Cosmos are spot on. The long-proven reliable vacuum system and rock solid suspension were meaningful differentiators at the price point. Series VI improvements like the beefy aluminum bracing in the subchasis were worth the wait vs. Series V. 

Due to budget, I've been using an Audiomods V arm with micrometer and continuous run of silver wiring. Kuzma 4point9 is my wishlist arm on this table. SME V is a popular proven combo favored by Sota, When they were still in production, Sota also recommended the Jelco 850 series for more modest budgets. Agree with @chakster that if you want a Schick arm it must be paired with a low compliance cartridge. Not that it won't work with a Sota or Feickert, but those setups are far more commonly mated with better vintage tables(e.g. Garrard 301,401).

I've heard both Feickert models mentioned at dealers. The Blackbird is nice, but almost double the price of the Nova VI (So is the SME15 that was suggested by Raul). 

My experience in dealing with Donna at Sota was always "above and beyond". You can trust the people at Sota. In these days of supply chain chaos, any dealings with bespoke and boutique companies require trustworthy, candid relationships more than ever. Should you ever need a new custom cut armboard, replacement part or want to consider a future upgrade, Sota will be responsive and treat you like family. They won't just look to take your money like some others. I would recommend searching forums for user service issues on any brands considered. I considered a tonearm from one of the companies mentioned in one the replies above, but eliminated it after reading of frequent QA issues from owners. Cheers,

Tony, it just increases wear on normal bearings. You are going to love the vacuum and guess what! It will remove some warps! Last night I discovered that the second copy of Lorrena McKennitt's 20th Anniversary Book of Secrets was just as warped as the first copy which I returned. 
The vacuum starts automatically when you start the turntable. It pumps like crazy until the record is sucked down then goes into it's low pressure mode. If the record does not seal the pump goes back into standby mode after 20 seconds or so. What I did was lift the lip of the mat up against the high section of the record on startup. I let it go after about 1/6th of a revolution. It sucked the record right down to dead flat! The pump actually starts up a split second before the record starts spinning. This probably will not work with really abrupt warps but it will work with about 90% of the warped records. It all depends on the lip making a complete seal. the turntable will easily rack this record. The problem is that the warp was bad enough to be audible which totally destroys the fantasy of being at the concert. I'm not going to send this one back because more than likely then entire run is warped and I can play this one. 
@jperry, if the Sota was not as dynamic sounding there was a problem with the tonearm and/or cartridge and their matching. Due to three items the Nova and Cosmos are going to out perform any unsuspended table that resides in the same room as the speakers. The suspension, vacuum and an isolated dust cover. If this were F1 the Sota would be outlawed just like Nikki Lauda's fan car. 

Tony, what cartridge and arm do you plan on using? 
I have the Star V vacuum right now with a Series VI motor.  I plan to carry over my SME309 Tonearm to the Nova.  I am using the Soundsmith Zephyr ES cartridge.  It sounds great and tracks like it is on rails.  I have one or two records that have enough warp to not quite seal on the lip of the platter; but I just gently press the outer edge with my fingertips and the vacuum grabs them just fine.  So true story:  Summer of 1977 I was in college and working in Indianapolis.  I would stay over at my cousins apartment sometimes there.  One night we went to a record store and I picked up the new Eric Clapton Slowhand album.  Then we went to another of our cousins' place and the two of them proceeded to get drunk.  So my cousin gave me the keys and let me drive him home.  On the way home I asked my cousin, "You aren't sitting on my record are you?"  "No man," he said.  He did.  It was warped.  I left that record under one of my speakers all of that winter in college, but it remained warped.  So when I got the Star vacuum, of course that is one of the first records I had to try on it.  It pulled that record down flat.  Finally, after all these years I could play this record without having to watch my tonearm bob up and down.  
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Jim Hall invented the idea to use a fan to produce low pressure under the car, i.e., enhanced downforce, in the late 60s, when Nikki Lauda was probably still racing go-karts.  The idea was so successful, the cars were soon bounced out of the sport in that racing class; I think it was CanAm or IMSA, the class that then was dominated by the Porsche 917 and Mark Donohue from 71 to 73-ish.

My own testimony may or may not apply, but I also experienced the SOTA Star Sapphire III with vacuum as a bit lacking in dynamics, particularly when the vacuum was engaged.  (As I recall, it was switchable on the SS III.)  Rightly or wrongly, I attributed that particular quality to the felt mat + pulling the LP against it with vacuum.  This is just the kind of unfounded judgement we audiophiles make all the time, so take it with a grain of grated Parmesan.  I think I had the Triplanar mounted on the SS III.  I have since had it mounted on two other turntables, and I can not ascribe the perceived lack of dynamics to the TP.  Sure, could have been the cartridge.

Dear @jperry : I’m with you about " the SOTA is not as dynamic sounding." "

I was an owner too and I had mounted the ET LT tonearm where in those times this combo was something as the " fashion " and in those times I owned very good cartridges.

Yes SOTA TTs are good but for me SME are way superior TT with and engineering design second to none and with a build quality levels that could be missed in even top $$$$ TTs.
We have to remember that SME was only an small company part of manufacturer group that works in the automotive and aero space industry. SME was almost a side line for that group.

I listened several times the SME 20 and 30 but no money to buy it.

The model 15A is a real deal for any one interested in TTs where ( between other things ) its suspension ( take it from the 20/30 models. ) and its new designed controller makes the 15A just a " keeper ".

I seen your LP mounted in the SME 10 so you have experience with. Probably you need to listen the 15A in a know environment to you.

@mijostyn , "" Record weight does not matter anymore. ""

Are you kidding. did you tested with the vacuum and the record weigth atop?

Not that it won’t work with a Sota or Feickert, but those setups are far more commonly mated with better vintage tables(e.g. Garrard 301,401).

Schick ("12 inch) was in my system and I would recommend it as a very cost effective solution, it’s a pure beauty! As far as I know a "9 inch version with anti-skating is available now. Schick is nice for any turntable (if you can mount it), I’ve been using it on SP-10mkII. It's often seen on EMT. My tonearm was OK for mid compliance MM, but I bought it primarily for SPU. 
@rauliruegas, you bet I did. The Reflex weight came with the turntable. I thought it was a PITA to use and decided to see if I really needed it. After several hours of listening to well known material and ABing the situation the answer is definitely not except for one problem. Without the mass of the weight on the platter the suspension's resonance frequency was not low enough and it was starting to interact with the tonearm's resonance frequency which laterally is lower than I usually go. The Soundsmith voice cartridge vertical resonance is higher than it's lateral resonance. In order to get the vertical down under 12 Hz I had to lower the lateral to 7  Hz. Just lifting the dust cover would make the tonearm skip. Put the weight on and things were much better. So, I attacked the problem 2 ways. The new Cosmos chassis is a 1" thick aluminum plate just like the SME 30/2. To lighten it a bit the Chassis has 3/4" deep 3/4" holes drilled in strategic places. I filled most of them with lead shot. Next I made a new record weight out of cocobolo and ebony that just slips on and off. It is not as heavy as the original but the lead shot takes care of that problem. You can see the weight being made on my system page. The Cosmos has evolved quite a bit. It has a magnetic thrust bearing, a very accurate drive, the new aluminum sub chassis, a very advanced tonearm board, a new platter that is machined from billet instead of cast and a great mat the durometer of record vinyl. Does the new record weight make the table sound better? Not that I can tell but it looks sharp and it is not  PITA. The Reflex clamp is a great clamp but on a suspended turntable it is a bit difficult to use.

The Soundsmith Voice in the Schroder arm are as dynamic as any combination I have heard. 

@jperry, turntables are not transducers. They just spin, adding noise and distortion. If they are good tables they add very little of anything. They sound like nothing. If they sound like anything then they are poorly made in some respect. Turntables are not dynamic. They do not make music. The cartridge/tonearm should be the only device reproducing music.
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Dear @mijostyn : Well the Reflex clamp comes with  or at least is used along the SOTA TTs.  Now, a Reflex clamp does not works with the vacuum it's that does not operates with but what works is a record weigth ( that was I posted " record weigth " and not Reflex clamp. ) that is what I used with the after market AT vacuum tool in other TTs.

Btw, obviously that the TT is not a transducer but obviously, like it or not, puts its own " color " to the transducer through its  not avoided resonances/developed micro vibrations: we can't totally isolate the TT from the arm/transducer combo. Is part of the analog imperfect world.

My experience with the Sota Reflex clamp differs from @mijostyn's and also extends to us on a Technics SP10mk2. When I owned the SP10, I was lucky to try about a dozen clamps and weights borrowed from a number of friends in my local audio club. I tried HRS, Stillpoints, Michelle, Funk and many others. Over a course of a month or two I concluded the Reflex the best match with my non-suspended SP10 in use with my copper/aluminum custom platter(from TVT of Vietnam). The Michelle was the best of the very low cost options. For the Nova 6, it came with Reflex clamp, and I haven't had any opportunity to A/B vs. others, but I find it easy to use and effective. 

@rauliruegas, hey buddy! Regarding the "lack of dynamics" comment, what vintage/series Sota and model were you referring to? I ask only because I find the current models better sounding in that regard than the once very popular Series III & IV. I attribute this to the aluminum bracing, the new mat material and perhaps to the improved speed accuracy provided by the "Condor"(Phoenix engineered) controller. 
...and while I agree w/ your SME adoration, for this OP, it's double his budget, unless you care to pay half his cost. Cheers,
Spencer - Agree, the Reflex clamp is excellent. My frankensapphire has the new mat, some subchassis damping improvement but the old armboard and an intermediary motor ( not eclipse ). It’s a disc by disc decision on using the clamp….i suspect very few test cuttings were evaluated on a vacuum hold down TT, hence they were voiced with an excitable disc to platter interface aka fake air / high end, wolly mid bass, etc…..
So a true reference is difficult….
Dear @sbank  : Nice to meet you again. Now, the OP budget goes up to 25K and the SME 15 new comes by 15.5K and the remaining money will cover the cartridge. So the OP can pull the triger inside his budget.

Look here at reatil price

and exist other buy options for him as these ones:


Thanks to all for your invaluable insightful input. Millercarbon, took you advice and researched Origin Live turntables. I’m now considering in the mix. Why did you choose Sovereign over Mark Baker’s suggestion of the Resolution? What is gained sonically? I’m considering Resolution, upgrade to multi platter bringing it close to Sovereign level performance. Match with Enterprise arm and Purple Heart or Blackline cart. I found a dealer in PA to audition Origin Live. Interested on take Resolution vs Sovereign.
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Jperry. MC indicated he had a OL Sovereign/Enterprise with a Black Goldline cart. Hopefully MC will weigh-in at some part. Cheers.
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How pathetic are some of these comments.  It is very clear as to WHO on this thread is actually experienced and knowledgable about the intricacies of turntable subject matter, compared to those "wanna be experts" who merely tout the brand(s) they most  likely already own.  To you inconsequential loud mouths, please disappear and do not highjack the discussion with uninformed nonsense that merely bolsters your feeble egos.   

jym, Why did it take you 16 months to notice this thread and then get so pissed off? Also, not sure who pissed you off, the pro-SOTA guys or the somewhat less pro-SOTA guys. Next time you are gonna get so furious, be more specific.  Two of the responders, Chakster and Millercarbon, are long gone from this forum. so your vitriol is wasted on them at least.

@lewm , Not on me though. I obviously have no idea what I am talking about and I have a big mouth. I also love pissing people off particularly LP12 junkies.



I obviously have no idea what I am talking about and I have a big mouth. I also love pissing people off ...

When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” (Maya Angelou)