Worth having my SOTA Sapphire refurbished?

I own a vintage 1986, SOTA Sapphire turntable, fitted with a Linn Basik tone arm, with some sort of old, Audioquest cartridge (it has a red housing). After a lengthy remodel, I am finally getting ready to unpack my stereo system once again and get it set up. I have miles and miles of beloved vinyl. :-) My listening room is on the small side. I value transparency and imaging over sheer volume.

Associated equipment includes a PS Audio Elite Plus integrated amplifier (I think it has 70 W per channel). I recently sold my old Vandersteen 2C speakers here on Audiogon (for space reasons in the new house) and am looking to replace them with Regas or Paradigms, probably monitors (but that a whole other question)!

Anyway, the SOTA probably needs some inspecting and tuning. I think that the motor and bearing are okay, but I'm guessing that the suspension springs need adjusting or replacing; I think they're a little stretched out.

SOTA has an inspection and tune-up/repair service. Have any of you ever used it? I'd have to ship the table off to them, and, apparently, pay for return shipping as well (I do have the original box) and the table weighs around 50 pounds in the box.

By the time I do all of this and buy a new cartridge, to boot, I'm looking at quite a chunk of change. Do you think I'm better off selling the SOTA and putting the money toward, say, a new Rega P2? Please, no flames; I've been out of the active high-end scene for many years, so I have no idea how those tables compare.

Anyway, all advice appreciated.
by all means, keep the sota
I think getting your SOTA tuned up and back to snuff is a great place to start. Ditto with keeping the PS Audio integrated. PS Audio was particularly good with phono stages, and a lot of mid-'80s phono gear was really good, Amber and VSP Labs being a couple other good examples.

I was going to suggest a pair of Sequerra Metronomes (plus a little powered sub) from Acoustic Sounds to replace your Vandersteens, but it looks like they're not selling those anymore.
My take...Keep the Sota...its better than the less expensive Regas (which are very good). I can't believe you don't like the Vandersteen sound....
06-02-08: Stringreen
... I can't believe you don't like the Vandersteen sound....
I got the impression that he liked the Vandersteen sound, but no longer had the space for them. That's why I recommended the Sequerra Metronomes for that time-aligned design, but it seems that they're now not to be found. :-(
Oh, gosh, I ADORED those Vandersteens! Spacious, ample, precise bass response, gorgeous mid-range... I hated to part with them. But Johnnyb53 is correct. Since our remodel, my listening room is a lot smaller, and the "spousal acceptance factor" just wasn't there, especially since my listening room will double as a guest room. Visually, the Vandersteens just took over the room. So I'm looking for something in a smallish tower or monitors on stands. Hence I'm considering the Regas or something from Paradigm. I need to keep the speaker purchase under $750 the pair or so.

So, so far the consensus seems to be "tune up the SOTA," eh?

By the way, speaker recommendations welcomed, as well. ;-)
Dump the Linn Basik arm. I hate that arm. Get a Rega. Good value.
I and a friend have had various Sota stuff upgraded many times over twenty years.The service is superb,and very reasonably priced for what one gets...which is basically a state of the art product!

good luck
I had my Star Sapphire upgraded to a Nova Series V. For the price I paid for the upgrade I would have had to spend at least double on a new table to come close to the sonics of the refurbished SOTA. Kirk and Donna are great to deal with and if you enjoy the SOTA sound stick with it.
Rebbi, comments on two subjects for you.

First, your SOTA. I'll cast another vote to keep it. There are a couple of tests you can perform so that Kirk and Donna can advise you. For your bearing, remove the belt and spin the platter by hand. Put your ear directly over the spindle and listen for any sound (an inexpensive stethoscope from a medical supply house can be a great audio test tool, in this case applying to the top of the plinth). If it is quiet, note how long the platter spins after your manual start. If your table is noisy, does not spin smoothly, or does not slow down gradually, it is likely you have a bearing problem and will need to send it in.

Concerning your springs, the sprung plinth within the frame should hang the same distance below the frame on all four sides. I believe this distance should be either 1/8 or 1/4 inch. Kirk can verify this. If your springs are bad (stretched), you have a couple of options. A few years ago I bought a used SOTA Sapphire which seemed to be slightly loose so I disassembled the whole thing, filled the screw holes, and reassembled. If you feel mechanically inclined enough to do this, you could remove your springs. Then you can either buy new springs from SOTA or have your springs re-tempered (there is a how-to post on this on either A'gon or Vinyl Asylum). If you're not up to disassembly/reassembly, SOTA can perform any restorations necessary.

Second, addressing your speakers in your new, smaller room. Since you liked the sound of your Vandersteens, you might consider buying Vandersteen VSM (surround) speakers to hang on the wall. Because they are bass limited, adding one or two Vandy subwoofers can provide a more balanced, full range sound. This could achieve three features: 1) retaining the Vandy characteristic sound with speakers designed to perform from the wall, 2) good WAF because they are on the wall rather than placed out in the room (where most small monitors perform best) and they are available in white or can be painted to better blend in visually, and 3) because they would be out of the way, your room can more easily double as a guest room without needing to move anything before and after your guests.

Good luck.
Well, don't count the Sequerra Metronome 7.7 Mk6 out just yet! It's true that Acoustic Sounds no longer carries them, and when they did, the $1500/pr price put them out of your budget. But now, according to this Web page these little time-aligned speakers are available factory direct for $850/pair. And note the 3/03/08 date stamp at the bottom of this web page, so I guess this is current information.

Call or email and see what happens.
I had exactly what you ask about done recently. As mentioned, they do a great job and brought mine up to SeriesV (i think). I also went with an Origin arm and couldn't be happier. The rest of the system is mega-bucks and I find the Sota holds its own with anything even remotely close in price and is even more than I had hoped for in the new vinyl age. Enjoy.
>>very reasonably priced for what one gets...which is basically a state of the art product!<<

That's partially correct. All of their tables are reasonably priced and high value for that matter. Far better than VPI for the money.

However, "state of the art" is really a stretch and a bit of hyperbole.

Or unawareness.
Or its opinion Bill......just like your offering was an opinion............WHAM:)!
Yes,maybe the type of "unawareness" that certain "way long in the tooth" folks have,when "old age" and crankyness affects good spirits!

Keep up the good work for "whatever remaining time is left"!
Give Kirk or Donna a call (608-538-3500). You may be able to trade your Saphire for a refurbished or even a new TT at a very reasonable cost.
I have owned several Sota models in the last 20 years. My first one was a Star circa 1985. Ended up trading it in for a Nova. Well engineered and sound incredible. Recently traded the Nova for a Cosmos IV in Cocobolo finish. Stunning!!!!
Arm is SME V but awaiting for Graham Phantom to arrive.
All the best
Thanks very much to all of you for your wonderful help! I spoke with Donna today and got an RMA number. I"ll be shipping the Sapphire off to them tomorrow. Their lead time on evaluations is running 4-5 weeks at this point. Then they'll call me and let me know what their recommendations and my options are. She was extremely nice, by the way, and was very pleased when I told her about the excellent feedback about her, Kirk and the SOTA tables that I received on Audiogon.

Again, thanks to all of you!
I must admit to having just received the "latest" Sota Cosmos last thursday.I have owned various versions of the tables for over twenty years.If one breaks down what is important to vinyl replay,the Sota offerings are amazingly good!At real world prices.

This latest Cosmos series IV,is SO far superior to my previous Cosmos III(which I had NO criticisms of,btw),that it is simply a joy to just "look at"!The attention to fit and finish is fabulous,and the "silence" of the unit in operation far exceeds any previous Sotas I've had.
My surprise came when I tested it out,and found the vacuum pump ran so quiet,it was likened to the silence of my CD player!Here is one example of effective vacuum seal,that can have the pump placed right up to your ear,with NO noise!Amazing!!

I now await a new arm,but have NO doubts the new Cosmos will allow superb LP replay.

Good luck.
audiofeil - what in the world is wrong... Did Harry Weisfield run off with your wife??? You find any opportunity to kick VPI. I have been around high end audio for many years. I have listened to most of the high priced components, and let me tell you, my VPI plays music. The VPI arm I have betters my SME V easily. Your deep biased opinions against VPI are getting tiresome. I for one appreciate the information that's bantered around on these posts. Most people are polite and realize that all of this stuff is just opinion. It would be nice if everyone is a civilized.
Stingreen,though I find my Sota Cosmos a pleasure,many of my friends have VPI products.Truthfully they are superb,"as you state".

I believe many hobbyists(nobody in particular)liken up to stuff that they,and friends have.From there,the "other" related products take a "little hit",from time to time.Usually with "tongue in cheek"....This happens in my group of audio pals,but it is always in good spirits.Yet,they do give credit to good sound,which is becomming more and more common with so many different equipment combos,these days!

To me,if it sounds good,I like it...period!

The fact that you can call Sota and speak with the owners - Donna will likely answer the phone - is part of the beauty of owning a Sota. They stand by their product. Try to get the owner of technics on the phone. Really, try it.

Plus they really do make a kick-@$s turntable.
Again, thanks to all of your for your help with this decision. The Sapphire shipped off today... thank goodness the UPS Store had a dolly... I nearly got a hernia getting it into the store! ;-)

Now that that part's done, I'm wondering what y'all would recommend as far as a tonearm upgrade from the LInn basik that won't break the bank?
SMEs are a classic combination with SOTA tables. For a real deal on the used
market, the various Sumiko Premiers (MMT, FT-3, FT-4) or their siblings from
Audioquest can offer a very high performance per dollar and are another
popular choice with SOTAs.

But I would suggest that you be more concerned about the match with your
preferred cartridge. I believe that synergy is more important than between arm
and table. Read some of the posts by Raul about performance matching of
cartridges with tonearms for more on this.
Definitely the right move (imho)to keep the Sota.
As far as arms go if you can find a Zeta in good condition at a fair price that's what I'd reccommend.
I had one on a Sota many years ago and it was a killer combination.
I often wish I'd kept that arm.
hi,ive just put the sumiko the arm on mine, its a awesome,combination.

Did you get your table back? If so, what do you think?


Believe it or not, I still haven't gotten it back, but I know it's ready to ship. SOTA offered to order and install a new cartridge for me (which I really need) and I said okay. So as soon as they receive the cart and install it and balance the arm for me, I should have it "real soon now..."
My table finally arrived today. I'll let you all know how it looks and sounds when I've had a chance to unpack it and set it up.
You'll probably be too busy enjoying it to get back to us. We'll understand though.

Nah, I'll get back. But first I'll have to finish building my phono stage... a Bottlehead Seduction kit. I'm about 2/3 of the way through it. :-)
I'm in the same boat with a 20 year Star, with a trade in I will buy a new Nova or take my Tax returns and go for the COSMO, I will be set for life! Recently purchased the Sumiko Pearwood ll for my upgrade!

First of all, do you have the owners manual? If so those turntables are very robust. I doubt it if it needs servicing other than minor adjustments which with a little patience you could do yourself. I know I use to own one. They are not easy to ship. You have to make sure the spindal is not setting on the sapphire bearing and as you mentioned they are very heavy
Any updates on this thread. I recently purchased a Sapphire for...$175. I think really ancient. Serial number in the bottom of the TT not in the back and blue platter mat.=)


Yes, I got my Sapphire refurbished by SOTA back in '08. Everything was fine. The only real hassle I had was that UPS broke the original dust cover in shipment to the factory, so I had to spring for a new one. (And yes, I filed a claim with UPS, but because I packed the gear myself they wouldn't cover it.)
The table has performed flawlessly since then! I have still periodically toyed with the idea of upgrading my arm but with money being rather tight I've stuck with my old Linn Basik.
By the way, they did install a new Ortofon 2M Blue at SOTA since the Audioquest cart on the arm was ancient.
So my experience was a good one, over all, other than the long time it took to get the table back. But the owners were great to deal with.
Nice to find this thread.I am currently in the same boat. 86/87 Sota star sapphire, one owner, Zeta tone arm, monster alpha 2 high freq MC cart. Not a big turntable user so have little to no knowlege as far as setting up, tone arm set up, etc..., but the price was right so here I am.

I hooked it up, reading everything thing I can on the unit for months and I'm stuck. Table has a slight wobble (it reads level,both platter and body). I have minimzed that through set up as best I can, but i can still see it. I am getting static out of the right channel. I inverted the RCA jacks, and the static goes to the left.It seems the static hits on the up wave of the wobble. The Vaccume also does not work. I'm also not sure how to set up the arm properly and wonder if that is the/part of the problem? They zeta "manual" tells you what to do, but I dont know antis skate from tracking force to counter wegith, etc...

I really just want a plug and play unit. I was thinking of selling the tone arm and cart, getting what I can for the table and buying rega, clear audio or pro ject with the cash I get from selling the arm, cart and TT, but everything I read says don't, the tables are great, etc...

I also have the original box. I was thinking about taking it to a local shop, but the guys are pretty unfamiliar with SOTA. They have heard of it of course, but meh, not sure I'd want them workin on it. My other option is sending it to SOTA, but time, packing and money does not seem worth it. Its not like I have great equipment to start (Moscode 300 amp, parasound p3 pre, parasound phono amp over some B&W 603s3). I also got a pair of acoustat model 1s with the TT as well. Driving me crazy to see guys with $100 turntables enjoying there tunes,while here I sit with what appears to be a pretty good set up, unable to enjoy the records that came wiht it,as well as all I have bought. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
I would normally not recommend it, but at your level of knowledge, it probably would indeed be better for you to buy a new tt with a built-on tonearm. But no matter what tt and tonearm you use, you are going to have to understand the different terms associated with analog, e.g., vertical tracking force (VTF), vertical tracking angle (VTA), azimuth, "skating force" and the use of anti-skate devices, etc. The concepts are really simple and logical, if you've had even high school level geometry. You can probably find a tutorial on Youtube to explain it all and remove the veil of ignorance.

Finally, another reason to suggest you move on to a "plug and play" set-up is that the SOTA in "as is" condition, even with no functional defects (and it sounds like your tt may have a seriously compromised bearing to begin with), is no great shakes (my opinion, but I did own a SOTA Star Sappire Series III for many years as my only tt). SOTA the company can revive your unit and upgrade it to ameliorate all the perceived issues, but the cost may equal or exceed that of a new budget level tt with tonearm. That said, if you were to give them carte blanche to do the max upgrades, you would indeed then have a fine modern tt. But do you want or need something that good? It's your call.
Get a TW table used big upgrade had SOTA got TW big upgrade,your move!!
You are caught between a rock and a hard place, Easy. Unlike Lewm, I love the Sapphire I bought new in 1984 and wouldn't consider anything else. However, he is correct regarding the bearing, and it sounds like your arm may also be toast. Moreover, the base value of the table, arm and cartridge mean that if you choose to refurbish, you really should go all the way. That will be at least two or three grand if you have to replace the bearing, upgrade the platter, repair the suspension, refurbish / replace the vacuum pump, rewire the tonearm and service the cart.

A Pro-Ject or Rega will get you 85% to 90% of what the Sota can deliver for half the refurbishment cost, and may be a better match to your listening style to boot. The problem is you will still have a high-end rig that will be difficult to sell and you wouldn't get much money for in its present condition.

Good luck and happy listening!
thanks for all the advice. I don't think the issue is with the tone arm, but what do I know. The thing looks brand new, I know he never moved the thing one set up, cared for his gear greatly and knew what he was doing. I really think its the table along with user error from moving it (I of course moved it per SOTA directions, locking down the transfer bolts, etc...)

I think I'm going to take it to a local shop and have it looked at, get the arm and the cart checked out and if they are up to snuff sell them and move on to an new table.

I cheked out a bunch of youtubes last nigh and understand and am starting to grasp "vertical tracking force (VTF), vertical tracking angle (VTA), azimuth, "skating force" and the use of anti-skate devices". I printed the Zeta protractor from VE and that came out fine when I checked last night after I posted.

Either way, I'm too far down the road to turn back now.
That tt has a sapphire/ruby thrust plate under the bearing. Hence the name "Sapphire". Fracture of the thrust plate is a known issue, and when they are moved there is a danger of that, altho it sounds like you did all the right things. However, if your platter appears to have wobble while rotating, when viewed on edge, that sounds like some sort of bearing problem, which is why I suggested it. Like Effischer says, repairs could get expensive. Plus, SOTA later corrected what I view is the major design flaw of the Sapphire. The motor was mounted to the unsprung part of the chassis, while the platter and bearing of course are sprung. Thus when the suspension is activated, the belt gets stretched, causing speed aberrations. Sota fixed that in all their latest products and can do it for the Sapphire too, for money.