SOTA STAR Sapphire Turntable Care and Feeding


I'm seriously interested in a used SOTA STAR Sapphire Series III Turntable with Vacuum, Electronic Flywheel and SME Series IV Tonearm, that is close to me and a very reasonable price.  It would be a big step up from my current Pro-Ject X2B, but I want to make sure it is not too technical for my dinosaur brain before I pull the trigger.  How difficult it is to get set up?  Once it is set up, do you need to constantly fuss over it or just the occasional check?  I have an upgraded Joliida JD-9 phono pre-amp.  Would this pre-amp be sufficient for the SOTA  or would I need to upgrade that to do justice to the SOTA?  Any other quirks of this turntable that I should be aware of?  Thanks in advance for your advice.

 

John Cotner

New Ulm, MN

jrcotner

Since I missed my chance for a local SOTA Star Sapphire turntable, I’m obsessing about getting one. And spousal approval has not been withdrawn yet so I need to act expeditiously. I’ve noticed some are vacuum and others non-vacuum. How much improvement is the vacuum over the non-vacuum turntable? Is the vacuum unit more of a hassle than it’s worth?

Star (sometimes called "Star Sapphire") is the older vacuum model. Most or all of them should have vacuum, but their original patters have the older style (short, stiff) rubber lips which I DOUBT will make a good enough vacuum seal today. I really think you’d either want a new platter installed by SOTA, or cut the old lip off and use without vacuum clamping. If you do the latter, the Star model still has the big advantage of a 4-point suspension versus old plain Sapphire models (3-point). Also the old Stars usually have a more premium full-wood chassis with some really gorgeous exotic woods (my favorites: Koa, Macassar Ebony, Rosewood). I don’t understand why anyone ever ordered these tables in hideous yellow oak or boring black ash.

Nova is the newer Star. Some of these had the option to forgo vacuum. But the ones that do, should have the newer style platter (good). If you find a good deal on this, go for it.

Even without vacuum, the Star (or Nova) is a fantastic table. I enjoyed the hell out of my Star III, with vacuum bypassed, until I had it rebuilt to Nova V a few years ago. In hindsight, for the money spent, I would’ve just kept it as a III - or maybe just have SOTA install a new vacuum platter. You can do more a-la-cart upgrades, or even a full rebuild (keeping just the chassis), but this will run up the costs VERY quickly.

Thanks for the info.  Good to know you have the option of getting an elderly vacuum model and able to get the vacuum refurbished in the future.

Considering the exchange of material used for the TT's Structure would be a move that can prove extremely beneficial.

To exchange the Aluminium Base for a Phenolic Resin Impregnated Densified Wood, will have the potential to catapult this TT forward as a design. 

There are Big Name Manufacturers already adopting this material over Metals. 

 

Sota sells restored turntables. The advantage buying there or from a reputable dealer is it is going to be in top condition.. no surprises.

I got my first Sota, a Sapphire in 1992.  I used it for 25 years and maintained it myself periodically lubricating the platter bearing.  Interestingly, the type of grease used in the platter bearing affects the sound.  I also found the belt needs replacing every couple of years regardless of the amount of use.  The other thing is the suspension springs and damping need replacing after a time.  I found that when my  Sapphire got to be around 12 years old the sub-chassis had some torsional movement that affected the highs mostly.  I confirmed this by chocking the sub-chassis to the base.  What that means is the sub-chassis was rotating (not visibly) like a pendulum causing a very slight variation, like a warble in platter speed.  So the suspension needs some maintenance periodically as well.

Currently using a Nova VI with the Eclipse motor and RoadRunner speed control and the magnetic bearing.  This magnetic bearing is the biggest upgrade to the Sota that I have experienced.  The turntable is very quiet.  The vacuum system is the way to go.  It couples the record perfectly to the platter as well as addressing any warp issues.  I have one heavy vinyl record with a bit of a warp that requires me to hold the edges down so that the vacuum can grab hold.  It grabs all of my other records just fine.  

Here's a story:  I was with my cousin one summer evening in 1977.  We were shopping at a record store and I bought Eric Clapton's Slowhand Album.  We stopped at another cousin's place for a visit.  They both got wasted so I got to drive my cousin's new Mercury Cougar back to his place.  He didn't realize he was sitting on my new record.  It warped.  Bad.  I remember placing it under one of my speakers in college all that winter trying to press the warp out.  I had limited success.  Well, I can play that record on my Sota and the vacuum system pulls it down flat.  Sounds great and I always think of that night when I play it.  Now, I'm not saying that vacuum system was made for warped records, but it doesn't hurt.