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


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.

I’ve owned this table for over 35 years and while I agree it has been maintenance free during that time I’ve never been particularly impressed with the vacuum feature.  Think about it:  do you really expect the amount of vacuum created by the pump will take out even small warps inherent in a disc?  A hold down clamp is much more effective in that regard, imo, although even with that the amount of pressure would dissipate the further you get away from the spindle.

I've been thinking along the same lines.  More cost, equipment and fuss for a benefit I may likely not hear.  Pretty cool idea, though. 

Vacuum can be pretty powerful.  I found a review that says the Sota Star pulls 5 inHg vacuum or 2.45 psi initially and then drops to 3 inHg while playing.  This is a low enough vacuum to avoid damage to the record.  That's a fairly light vacuum.  (One atmosphere is 14.7 psi).  The record surface area minus the spindle hole is 113 sqin.  That means a 2.45 psi vacuum will generate 277 lbs of force.  That is not inconsequential.  And like I said, it pulls my Eric Clapton disc down flat.  I use the Sota Clamp with my vacuum platter.  Belt and suspenders maybe...