You still have a good table. I would sell the Grace and get an MC that would be better with the 801, Raul may have other views. The 801 has VTA adjustment during play if I remember mine correctly, which is very handy and not that common. I would have it serviced if it needed it, you would have to spend a considerable amount of money to improve on it, just what needs repair? A new belt and lube would be a good idea but tables tend to have long lives. I would avoid shipping it if possible. If I kept the Grace I would get a lighter headshell for the arm, the 801's is very good but somewhat heavy for the Grace.
Sell off what you have and get the Marantz. Upgrades are in general, a poor value. New gives you the current tech, warranties etc. Often the Marantz can be had for about $1100. So a sell off would yield about a net cost of about $300. Not to take away from SOTA, they make excellent products. Hold on to the SOTA clamp. It is one of the best.
If you have a good tech in the area, you can get it cleaned, lubed, belt and totally adjusted for a lot less than 1500. A new cartridge will run you anywhere from 100 to 1000 depending on you tastes. A Goldring 1012 or 1042 work great with the table. I recently put a clearaudio aurum on mine and it is a little better. However, the added weight is a problem.
The Sapphire will keep up with anything made today. I feel that proper set up is more important than anything else.
Keep your SOTA-once the factory refurb. it will be good as new. Put money into other components, cables, new vinyl or a record cleaning machine.
Refurbish the SOTA. I had a Star Sapphire that SOTA converted to a Nova Series V and for the money they charged I would have had to spend twice as much IMO to get something else that was comparable.
Dear Larseand: I concur with Stanwal about the SOTA ( keep it, like others agree too. ) and on the GST-801 tonearm: very good too ( keep it. ).
I don't know where Stanwal read Grace for a cartridge but anyway you can make it better in that analog rig with this top quality performer:
Regards and enjoy the music,
Thanks for your advice folks. I like the idea keeping the OL' SOTA! More advice needed... How far should I go with the repair and updates? SOTA advises me that this table can be brought up to a current production Saphire (5th generation?) Is this advisable or should I repair and maintain my table as it was produced in 1983? Also, the repair I have mentioned involves the wooden frame seperating from the platform; it has let go and the platform is sagging... Raul, thanks for the MP 50 link!
If it is within your budget go up to the Series V.
I think Stanwal saw "Ruby" and assumed it was a grace when in fact it is a Dynavetor LOMC with a Ruby cantilever, I had one 20 odd years ago.
That was it, my eyes are not what they were. Don't tell Dynavector, they might cut me off as a dealer.
Ditch it! there are far far better tables out there...there are many things from the 80's that were very popular that no longer hold water, that table being one of them. Sorry to sound harsh, but it's how I hear it...you have a nice arm and cartridge, however :)
I would keep it and upgrade it. If you could add the vacuum system to it, all the better.
If you upgrade it, Kirk at Sota will update the suspension, and lots of other updates that will make the table sound better than it ever has.
The Sota tables provide excellent sound for their price points.
Larseand, I owned a SOTA back in the '80s and always found it to be a very good and consistent performer. Then a few years ago a friend wanted to sell his Sapphire so I bought it with the intention of setting up a dedicated mono system (I have hundreds of mono LPs). His came with a Premier FT-3 arm.
Upon audition after getting it home I was disappointed in the sound, it seemed to lack focus. So, being a hands-on hobbyist I took the plinth apart, cleaned everything, filled all the screw holes (many would not retain the screws well), then put it all together again. Checking with the good folks at SOTA I found the test for the suspension springs was the inner platform should hang evenly and no more than about 1/8" below the oak frame. Fortunately my springs were good (if bad they can be re-tempered for much less than new ones) and the ability to tighten up all the fittings eliminated the lack of focus with the sound. Also my belt was still good so my only cost was the time spent to "refurbish" my table.
Whether you want to do-it-yourself like I did or rely on Kirk at SOTA to refresh yours, I cannot imagine you would likely get similar performance without spending more.
If its in your budget have Kirk bring it up to new spec. What has been said about 80's technology is silly. It was ahead of its time with a jeweled bearing, pendulum suspension, excellent motor etc. Not much out there can beat it refurbed without spending lots more money.
Thanks for your input everyone. I'm going to send my old friend back to Chicago for an update.
I still enjoy my old Saphire star sounds great since 1984.
I have the Star and while most would wax enthusiastically about its sonic merits, I would, if given the chance financially, replace it with a suspensionless table. Quite frankly, I never really found the vacuum to be an asset and more of a pain in the rear than anything.
My Sota's have always been dead silent with the vacuum accessory. I've owned three over the years. One was reconditioned at Sota and it performed terrifically when I sold it. I always use the Sota clamp. Love my current NOVA. For my tastes SOTA tables outperform units costing quite a lot more.
I still have a 1986 star and it still works well. Back spring is just within spec and front springs fine. I suppose you just remove the plinth bolts on bottom ( after removing bearing pressure) and the plinth falls out to gain entry to springs. Would be interested in the procedure to re temper the springs. I guess just heat it with a torch and stick it in water. Back then I had the suspension system die after 1 year and the Sota company replaced the table for free. Great support to a southeast dealer who sold a lot of tables. Back then the dealer would replace the jewel bearing for $5. That's what he said. Today SOTA charges a lot for anything.