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 STAR Sapphire Series II owner for about 3 years now. If the turntable is already in excellent working order and been well maintained, the only setup you should need to do is properly setting the transit screws and platter for transporting it to its new home. Hopefully it comes with its original box for proper packing too. Its not technical, but requires patience for carefully following each of the steps in their proper order, so as not to damage the bearing

Assuming the pump is in good working order, motor is working well or been replaced, the sapphire bearing is intact, the springs don’t need replacing, this table is pretty much a "set it and forget it" unit. Just the occasional cleaning of dust, replace the belt every 3-5 year, change the vacuum filter every couple years.

Because the vacuum hold down system requires a clamp, which hopefully comes with the this table, you’ll need to make sure you’re not constantly stretching out the springs with each side you play. Sota users have a few different methods: adjusting the feet to act as stoppers, placing an object under the chassis or just using their hand underneath when applying the pressure of the clamp. Otherwise the springs shouldn’t be an issue and should never need adjusting.

As far as the Joliida JD-9, I’d be more concerned about matching your current (or future) cartridge the preamp.


Taking a look at what appears to be the unit you’re describing, you’ll have a fantastic upgrade.

You should have "next level" listening experience just with the cart included.

All things in perspective-it will out perform/equal anything near the expense. Also worthy of going next level phonostage in the future. In the mean time, your existing Jolida is fine.

I’d grab it if I were looking for a new rig for low cost.




Thanks for the info.  It comes with a Grado XTZ cartridge and a clamp.  Does the pump run during the entire play time?  How loud is it?  I have spousal approval, but don't want to leap before I know what I'm getting into.

The on/off button starts and stops both the pump and platter rotating. There’s a slightly perceptible hum sound from the pump when you first engage, but after achieving suction (about 5 seconds) the pump automatically goes into a reduced/maintenance mode and pretty much disappears even with no music playing.

If you’re the type who likes to flip over your record while the platter is still spinning, you can’t do that with the Sota Star. You need to turn off the table, flip the record and then turn back on - to start the suction process again.

With that table, tonearm, cart, phono combo you should be all set for now. Once you live with that setup and decide if you want to upgrade your cart, then you can go down the road of figuring out if you want to upgrade phono or not.

That’s great that you have spouses pre-approval. The Sota is a lot bigger/heavier in person.


I owned a Sapphire for 40 years and currently run a Cosmos Vacuum.

Put the turntable on a stable surface and level it by adjusting the three threaded feet. Adjust the tonearm and check alignment. Plug it into your Jolida which will do fine and enjoy. 

I would definitely replace the belt. You must order the belt from SOTA. Do not use generic replacements.

You might also have your serial number in hand and request a list of upgrades available for your unit. There have been many improvements over the years. For sure you should consider a new magnetic bearing and platter. 

If records have trouble sealing you will need to send your platter back and have a new mat put on. Records that are warped or dished and won't seal sometimes can be made to seal by starting up the table with the two finger nails pushing the lip of the record down at 180 degrees for three revolutions. records that are dished will seal on one side but not the other. 

If the pump makes enough noise that you can hear it from a distance of 10 feet it will need to be replaced with a new unit. The new ones are much quieter. 

Enjoy your table. The suspended SOTAs are the best value in a high performance turntable on the market then and today. There are very few turntables that can surpass it. 

I just had a great experience with SOTA.   My Escape motor was noisy and Christan had me send it in.  They sent me a brand new motor under warranty within a week.  Exceptional service !

The listing for your next setup looks like an owner saying goodbye LP playback.

My guess listing isn't getting much traction, which is the reason for that drop in price. You're getting "better" than ALOT of new gear under $10K+?

The Grado is a budget model from the 90's/early 2000s? When you're ready, a $1500+ LOMC/ & $3K+(find something used 1/2) will be another leap in SQ. 

 Hit the buy now button and worry about the little details once it's in your room.

The final outcome will remind you it was worth it.


Tablejockey, if you’re referring to the Grado XTZ as a budget model from the 90s, you’re very wrong. In the 80s that was Grado’s best cartridge, and it retailed for near to $1K. More importantly, it was superb in SQ, and I’d rate it ahead of most MCs I’ve heard in the $2K to $5K price range. (But that’s only my opinion of course.) Of course, we don’t know the condition of the sample the OP might buy. Replacement stylus assemblies are available, IIRC.

yep….plus i see you live close enough to deliver it to SOTA for any needed significant service / upgrades….

Thanks for the continued input.  Since my stereo is in a small room, how far can the vacuum unit be from the turntable?  Space is a premium and if I can put the workings on another room it would save me some space.


Yeah, my reference is off! 

I'm thinking todays cost of things. $1K or so sadly, is "entry" into hearing what the fuss is all about with high performance LOMC.

Regardless, OP will have a SMOKIN setup compared to his current rig.

I bought a new Star III about 1989.  The only thing I've done to it is add a different platter mat.  Haven't done any of the maintenance suggested above.  The motor is as described above--I have it about 8 ft. away from my listening position and its noise is inaudible from there while a record is playing.

I basically agree that it's pretty much a set-it-and-forget unit.  I live in earthquake country, so I check that it's still level after a big earthquake.

It's so nice having a turntable that flattens warped records.

I still own my first table - a SOTA Star III in gorgeous Koa wood. Bought on consignment from original owner, circa 2007.

The platter of that era used a short, stiff rubber platter lip to create the vacuum seal. It’s not nearly as effective as the current version lips. My original platter never made a proper seal, even though the vacuum unit & hose worked fine. I had to cut it off, because records wouldn’t lay flat. So check to see if it’s actually sealing. Sending to SOTA just for new vacuum platter might not be a bad idea.

My III’s original bearing and spring suspension still worked great. I later (circa 2018) had the whole table rebuilt by SOTA into a Nova V (keeping just the Koa chassis), at significant expense. The new platter sealed properly and was a great improvement - but the new bearing, suspension, and sub chassis didn’t effect any meaning improvement IMO. In fact, the new suspension was a pain in the ass to adjust and re-adjust for a while. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have done the V rebuild - just the new platter. Maybe to a VI or VII. The newer Series VI and VII use much better materials quality than V, and could be worth it - but at even greater expense.

For the money, just a vacuum platter replacement on your III might be the most effective move.

And yes to a new belt!

As for the Jolida JD9 - I don't trust a cheap phono stage with such wild specifications. What is up with that gain!!

Turns out timing really is everything.  While I've been getting more info on the turntable, it has been sold.  At least now I'm properly informed if another one becomes available.

Too bad.

That was a great price for what it is.

Sometimes you just have to hit the buy now button, THEN

think of an alibi when the S.O. finds out.


There's always a sunset on these things.  Not to mention a good dose of Christmas spirit while putting up the tree.


There is a neoprene tube that connects the vacuum pump to the turntable. That can be as long as you want. I am not sure what they did with the older Stars. The new units have the power supply in the pump and there is an umbilical cord that runs to the control unit. I suspect you have at least 10 feet. I put the pump right below the turntable on the floor behind a stack of records and you can not here it at all. 

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?

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.

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...

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.

Yes, this is basically my experience as well. Significant edge warps on 180g vinyl are harder for the vacuum to "suck down" versus a heavy ring clamp (VPI and Clearaudio's both work very well here). However, for most records, the vacuum does a nice job sucking down small air pockets (over the middle of a record) that can remain even with ring clamping.

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I owned a Star Sapphire III as my only TT for 10 years or so.  I found the vacuum clamping to be generally effective for edge warps.  What bugged me is whether I could hear an effect on SQ that I found to be not so copacetic, although very subtle.  But you know how "we" audiophiles are about stuff like that. I own a peripheral ring clamp but would never dare to use it for fear of damaging the cartridge.  I do use a record weight or clamp on the spindle, but I cannot kid myself that it does much to eliminate warps.  Anyway, it's amazing how much of a warp can be "played" without an obvious audible problem, is my experience since selling the SS III.

I got on the phone with SOTA to talk about refurbished turntables.  Had a few nice conversations with Christan and we talked about my stereo upgrade plan, the room and my listening habits and tastes.  Turns out they have one rosewood Sapphire III ready to get refurbished.  We talked about my budget and Christan gave me some options, so I pulled the trigger.  It's going to get Series IV electronics, Rega 330 tonearm and a Hana cartridge, which will keep it in my budget.  It should be ready in January.  I enjoyed working with Christan and am excited to get a SOTA turntable after 30+ years of pining for one.

" It should be ready in January"

Great way to start the New Year. Enjoy it!

When the bug bites, you can always find a really nice used arm(when you're ready to try a "better" cart) in the listings.


I got on the phone with SOTA to talk about refurbished turntables.  Had a few nice conversations with Christan and we talked about my stereo upgrade plan, the room and my listening habits and tastes.  Turns out they have one rosewood Sapphire III ready to get refurbished.  We talked about my budget and Christan gave me some options, so I pulled the trigger.  It's going to get Series IV electronics, Rega 330 tonearm and a Hana cartridge, which will keep it in my budget.  It should be ready in January.  I enjoyed working with Christan and am excited to get a SOTA turntable after 30+ years of pining for one.

Good deal! Awesome that you get a 3 chassis with that exotic wood - they used some really beautiful woods back then. On the flip side - SOTA's tech, engineering, and materials quality for inside the chassis took a HUGE leap forward when Christan came onboard a few years back. They were somewhat stagnant for a long time before that. You're in good hands!

Congratulations! I am sure you will be very happy. Getting a used table from who knows who is a great way to end up with anything from poor performance to outstanding… with little way of knowing for sure. 

Congrats on your purchase! I am getting ready to pick up my new Nova VII from Christian in a week and am excited as well. Enjoy yours in the new year.

I own d a SOTA Star with an SME V for years. Get it. Excellent user friendly combo

Any upgrades to the turntable will be far in the future.  I still have to upgrade my amp and speakers.


The difference in sound quality comes from better pitch stability. I find pitch variation ruins the "I am there" effect. It reminds me I am listening to a reproduction. 


Good buy! Make sure you get a spare belt. They wear out a variable intervals. What you see is worsening Wow and Flutter. Get a speed ap that shows wow and flutter on your phone. Check the table when you get it and again every 6 months. When it goes over 0.1% clean the rim of the platter and the pulley with brake cleaning fluid and replace the belt. I always keep a spare handy. DO NOT use powder on the belt. Powder causes the belt to slip more during startup and shutdown which accelerates belt wear. It also makes a mess out of the turntable. IMHO you are better off with a high output cartridge than the lower Hannas. You might ask Christan for a Nagaoka MP500 or a Goldring 1042. These cartridges have high performance styluses and cantilevers that the Hannas below the Red do not have. They are also more dynamic and thus better for rock and jazz. Both cartridges are a fabulous value. The Soundsmith Voice is a fabulous cartridge, better than many 5-6K moving coil cartridges! But, it is also much more expensive than the MP500 and 1042 @ 3K. 

Thanks for the tip on belt care.  I don't have a smart phone, so the app is out.  Would electronic contact cleaner be a better choice than brake parts cleaner for the platter rim?  Brake cleaner stuff is pretty pernicious stuff, and electric contact cleaner evaporates very quickly.  This turntable/arm/cartridge combo is the absolute most amount of money I can spend, but I'll keep your suggestions under advisement in case I find a sack of money during my daily stroll.

@mijostyn Curious about your comment on the Hana cartridges. I thought that the Red and the Blue have the same stylus and cantilever. Just wondering what the differences are that you mentioned. I know it is a bit off topic here, but I just ordered a Blue and was curious. Thanks.

The Hana Blue is slowly becoming by those with a broad experience, the suggested Cart' to replace another well known Cart' Brands Upper End Models.

The cost of the Blue and the outcome of comparisons, makes the Blue as an option a viable consideration. 

It is also becoming a Cart' seen used on very expensive Vinyl Set Up's at Audio Shows, further reinforcement for the models capability. 

The Blue is an attractive option for a Cart' and I am confident will be very much enjoyed. 


You are entirely correct and I apologize. The Blue has the same cantilever and stylus as the Red. 


CRC brake cleaning fluid and Electronics cleaner are virtually the same stuff! You can use either. Both are excellent at removing oils. Without a smart phone or any way to know how much you use your turntable I would certainly replace the belt every three years or sooner.

The MP 500 and 1042 are in the same price range as the lower Hanas.

To check TT Speed it is best done with a Standalone Strobe. 

The Standalone Strobe will show speed fluctuation. 

I am with first hand experience where the Standalone Strobe can also detect eccentric rotation as well.

The inbuilt Strobes on TT's will  in general not be as informative as the Standalone option. 

@mijostyn Thanks for confirming on the Hanas. I appreciate your depth of knowledge in this area and it was one of the things that led me to the SOTA path in the first place.

@pindac Thanks for your words about the Hana as well!

The Hana will serve you well on the sota and VERY competent for $ Rega arm. The Blue and Red didn’t just happen by luck…. they build on extensive knowledge, scale and quality control acquired lower in the line…


The generators of cartridges, with few exceptions, are very simple devices and very old tech. The performance of cartridges assuming similar construction quality, is due primarily to the stylus shape and cantilever. The Hana Blue is a $2000 cartridge. The Goldring 1042 is a $600 cartridge with a high performance stylus and boron cantilever. The Nagaoka MP 500 is a $900 cartridge also with a high performance cantilever and stylus. These cartridges are better values because high output cartridges have a very different market which will not spend mega bucks on a cartridge. The profit margins are not as high. They also are much less demanding of phono stages resulting in better signal to noise ratios and a more dynamic presentation. 

As @lewm has discovered. The MP 500 is a first class cartridge in many respects. I think it is a shame when financial constraints are at play that cartridges like the MP 500 are not considered.  

First - Nothing against either of the MM carts you and Lew have recommended - hopefully Christian at SOTA sells them and sets up for the customer vs. the Hana which he recommended AFTER it sounds like a detailed conversation about tastes, upgrade path , etc… I’ve probably sold, setup and optimized 100 or so SOTA tables / Arms / Cartridge over the years…. in your quasi accurate assessment of cartridge design / execution / test and quality control you left out the VERY important alignment of the diamond on the cantilever into your “ commodity “ motor. Hana changed the pricing premium applied to the mystical MC by pricing it for volume. Oh and they sound excellent…i’ve owned them ( on SOTA, Denon, Basis, and Brinkmann TT …

Best to the OP