[ Home | Staff & Contacts | HiFi Playground | Listening tests | DIY & Tweakings | Music & Books ]

Kuzma Stabi S turntable + Kuzma Stogi S Tonearm

[Italian version]

Product: Stogi S arm + Stabi S turntable
Manufacturer: Kuzma - Slovenia
Cost approx.: 1700 Euro
Reviewer: Geoff Husband
Reviewed: February, 2002

Authors Note

In order to understand this review it is essential that you visit the 'methodology' page that outlines how the test was done.

[Kuzma Stabi]


The Kuzma Stogi arm and Stabi S turntable are "spoilers" in this series of high-end turntable reviews. Why? Because the turntable is about 25% of the cost of the reference and as a combination you could buy 3 1/2 of them for the cost of my own Michell Orbe - SME IV. The question I wanted answered was "do you get what you pay for"? The Kuzma also has the facility to change armboards in under 5 minutes so making the first proper arm comparison possible.


The Turntable - Making a mega bucks turntable is so much easier than a mid price one, you don't have to fret over what you can leave out in order to reduce costs. For the manufacturer of a mid-price table, which has highish-end ambitions the cost cutting has to be very careful.

Look at most turntables and straight away you can spot two of the most expensive parts of their construction - the plinth and the lid. Junk these and in theory you've saved a big slice and not effected sound quality. In fact junking an often resonant box and lid can have beneficial effects, so for those in dust free environments it's no contest.
The next item that can be junked with a big saving is a suspended subchassis (or other isolating structures) and all the springs and washers and rubber etc that go with it. This is more serious. There are those who support the 'solid' plinth design over the suspended on sonic grounds alone, but ditching that big level of isolation makes the result inevitably more susceptible to outside vibrations and more sensitive to what it's put on.

So having dispensed with all that you end up with a Stabi S :-)

And it's an interesting design. The plinth/chassis is made of a 50 mm diameter brass rod formed into a 'T', the long arm of which supports the brass armboard. Picking it up was a shock, I'd expected it to be hollow but it appears to be beautifully machined from solid and is much heavier than you'd expect making up much of the turntables 14 kg mass. 'O' rings near the ends of each arm of the 'T' offer support and stop the thing sliding around but offer precious little in the way of isolation.

The main bearing is conventional single point (rather than inverted) and is supported by a resin/textile collar at the top. This is a lot cheaper than going the "massive brass shaft and inverted bearing" of the Orbe but showed little drag and no free play.

The Synchronous AC motor is free standing and is placed at the opposite end of the 'T' from the arm. No fancy power supply here and speed is changed by lifting the platter and pushing a larger diameter spindle on the motor. [Stabi Motor]

As for the platter there's no fashionable and expensive acrylic platter, just a 4 kg metal one which is coated in some crinkly black paint and sits on top of the turned aluminium sub-platter. The platter rings like a good 'un but is helped a little by a felt like mat permenently bonded to it's surface and a rubber ring inderneath.

It's all obvious where costs have been cut, but what's there is very well made, and beautifully finished.

The arm is the interesting bit. It's very unconventional. To look at it's well finished in similar black paint to the platter but with polished brass counterweights. The headshell is an unusual circular design but looks stiff and is seamlessly attached to the fat armtube - all in aluminium.
Certainly it looks more expensive than it is and shames Rega. The arm cable is continuous from cartridge tags to phonos, a practice I am totally for. I find it hard to believe that any expensive fat cable can make up for the eight soldered joints and four pressure contacts any kind of removable cable requires. As the cable is a decent one (Cardas) with good plugs Kuzma have taken full advantage of the "one-piece" design.

Beyond that look closer and the arm starts to look very original. It's a unipivot, but the point is on the arm and the cup on the base (a la ARO - which it resembles) which is rare. Stability is provided by a very low centre of gravity, this has advantages in making the arm easy to cue and resisting twisting during play but will mean tracking force increases as the arm rides over warps.

Many unipivots apply some damping to further stabilise and damp resonances but the Kuzma takes this to extreme. The fat "skirt" around the bass of the arm bearing housing sits in a bath of thick silicone "gloop".
The result is that all movements are very damped, making the arm very stable for a unipivot, but also potentially causing a problem as when the stylus rides over warps the thick gloop will resist the movement. This coupled with the aforementioned low centre of gravity combine to give the cartridge a harder time than a conventional arm. People looking for a unipivot to take a V15 might be better off elsewhere.

Anti-skate is a variation on the thread and weight and looks properly done, VTA adjustment is conventional Allen bolt and wiggle, though this is on the turntable/arm mount so any arm (e.g. Regas) can have VTA adjusted...

Technical tests

First the turntable. It shows some cyclical wow but otherwise no rumble or flutter. [Kuzma Stogi]

The arm was different. I expected some odd results having seen the design and was not disappointed. Trying for a vertical resonance with any cartridge was a waste of time. My test record has a range of 15-6hz in the vertical plane and the very heavy damping just sat on any of the shakes.
This is not necessarily a good thing as it shows the combination of heavy damping and low centre of gravity limiting any arm movement. This means that there may be a cartridge resonance higher up the scale in the audible band and it certainly manifested itself as a poor warp riding performance. On warps the stylus was forced up and then down in the cartridge body as it tried to move the arm, a similar effect to an arm having too high an effective mass for a given cartridge. If records were flat it wouldn't matter...

Moving to horizontal resonance I got another odd result. On my test record there is a stable 300hz tone played whilst the low frequency modulation is inaudible. Normally the 300hz tone wavers when the cartridge hits it's resonance and you can actually see the arm moving. On the horizontal test the primary resonance was at 9hz which is just perfect, however at all the other frequencies ie 25 - 6 hz the resonance was clearly audible as the tone "fluttered". This was repeated with the Music Maker and XX-2 and I've not had a result like it before. The fear is that really low notes recorded on disc will modulate others - strange.

Having had a go at the arm design let I make it clear that I'm no arm designer and of the firm opinion that if something works I don't care how many 'rules' it breaks on the way...

So now on to

Stage One

The two Music Makers were bolted up, set at 1.48 grams and placed on identical Clearlight Platforms. The two GramAmp2's warmed up and battle commenced.

First surprise was the weight and solidity the Kuzma brought to the Music Maker. In this respect it more than matched the Orbe which gave its usual open and dynamic performance with this cartridge.
The SME also betrayed that hint of "dirtyness" I'd noted earlier but it's only very slight. The Kuzma was commendably smooth along with its power. What it lacked was the sense of air and space the Orbe gave. The soundstage was more of lump between the speakers though far from merely "left-right" and with some depth.

Overall the Orbe had a lead but the warmth and power of the Kuzma was appealing with most material even at the expense of more hi-fi attributes.

Stage Two

So swapping about began and something became immediately apparent. Bolting up either of the Dynavectors onto the Orbe brought a major tonal shift from light, detailed and airy to powerful and massive with superb shaping of instruments and depth of tone. The soundstage was solid and realistic.
The Kuzma sounded just like it did with the Music Maker. OK there was a small change but not much, the overall effect with both cartridges was as if the table was trying to give the power and glory of a high-end table regardless of cartridge. This manipulation was not all bad, and certainly it would suite any system inclined to harshness but compared to the best it did sound "slugged".

So I pulled out the Hadcock 242 and screwed it onto the Kuzma in place of its own arm. This is more expensive than Kuzma's own arm but not hideously so. The result confirmed my suspicions that the "character" of the table was primarily down to the arm. With the Hadcock the Music Maker regained its open, detailed and clean character (it prefers the Hadcock to the SME), in this configuration the Kuzma gave the Orbe SME a hard time, trading a little weight for a sweeter more open sound. Certainly the difference between cartridges on Orbe or Kuzma was greatest with the Hadcock.

Putting the XX-2on the Hadcock brought the expected tonal shift to a 'Dynavector sound', that classic warmth, power and naturalness. But here again the Orbe gave more space and tonal variety. For example on 'Blue Rondo a la Turk' the strikes on the cymbal vary throughout the song. The Orbe/SME/4 gave each it's shape and size, with the Kuzma/Hadcock the detail was there but not the realism that makes you believe a big sheet of brass is being tapped. When Madonna sings "Let the choir sing" ("Like a Prayer") the backing is smaller and nearer to her than the spread behind that the Orbe offers.

Timing was reasonably close to the Orbe which shows how speed stability isn't the 'be all and end all' of timing. Though it tried hard and it's weight could fool you at times the Orbe pulled a clear lead out in bass depth and more importantly precision. On Simply Red's "Sad Old Red" the bass guitar had more of the feel of a string to it than the more muddy note of the Kuzma.

Stage Three

This was meant to be a test of the Kuzma system, so although I preferred the Hadcock most of the time I spent the next week listening to the Kuzma as delivered. In the end I settled on using it with the Music Maker as it seemed to work as well as the XX-2. Throughout the period I had fun with it, it produced enjoyable music and certainly matched the similarly priced CD player I had here at the same time, being bigger and more real at the expense of some fine detail. In the end there's no denying that I did miss what the Orbe did.

And so to the marks...




Beauty tt/arm


Well made but plain and simple

Fit and Finish tt/arm


The turntable is hard to fault the arm good

Engineering tt/arm


Well made but much simpler in both cases

Compatibility tt/arm


The turntable will take most 9" arms. The arm may cause problems with high compliance cartridges

Speed Stability


some cyclical wow



reasonable though not as rythmic as the Orbe



tries hard

Stage Width


Good for the price but ultimately limited

Stage Depth



Bass Depth



Bass control/speed


a little woolly in comparison

Detail retrieval


Midrange clarity


Treble extension


Treble Quality


Ever so slightly 'slugged'

Overall colouration


definite character, especially the arm



could fool you in a midpriced system

'Miss you' factor


I could live with it in a second system quite happily


No, sadly the Kuzma isn't a giant killer. What it is, is a very well put together and easy to use front end. You don't need to fiddle about with suspensions and alignment, the whole package just slots together and works. In a mid-priced system it also produces a full and powerful performance that could kid you that there was something much more expensive doing vinyl duties.
In fact I suspect that with the sort of cartridge the arm is likely to be partnered with, sub e200 for example, that the Stogi will still provide that 'big' sound and so make much more sense.
But put into a highly revealing system like that used for the test and the limitations show. Compared to the reference it failed to produce a big solid acoustic, imaging was more restricted and dynamics limited. To expect otherwise is unfair, it's easy to forget how much less the Kuzma is than the reference table - to put it into some kind of perspective you could buy the Kuzma pairing plus 200+ new records (or 1000+ second hand), or put together a complete quality mid range system for the price of the Orbe/SME.

The Arm is a real "fail safe", never letting a cartridge get out of hand, never edgy, but at the same time robbing music of leading edges and 'danger'. What is interesting is that with a more revealing arm the turntable itself gets a lot closer and I have to say that my suspicions about the relative importance of table and arm were confirmed in this case at least.

Manufacturer's comment

First I'd like to thank Geoff for spotting a good value component when he sees it... I hope the following will help clear up some minor points.

This combination was designed in the context to make the best turntable & tonearm combination possible for the money and using best possible cartridges especially best MC which requires medium mass tonearms and damping, but there were no corners cut on parts which affect the performance.

Inverted bearings do not mean automatically better performance, our shaft is polished with utmost precision and at the end polished by hand with daimond paste and peer wood.

The "Metal" platter is made from pressed aluminium plate and then machined, anodised and painted, the final cost being comparable with an acrylic platter which does not need any finishing. But we chose this expensive process because we believe is superior to acrylic.

The mat is not felt but specially selected textile and rubber compound. Tapping the platter shows only high frequency damping but not damping lower down.
Suspended turntables are not automatically less sensitive on acoustic feedback and floor vibrations. If you use suspension its resonance can easily be in the region of floor or supporting stand resonances which makes matters much worse. On the other hand our solid 'bar' construction is less sensitive to any vibration than the usual flat plate subchassis. Try to use both types of turntables in houses with a wooden floor. The best would be the non-suspended Stabi S. With most turntables with suspension and without damping , the cartridge will skip the groove when walking, let alone dancing to music.
Imagine a ride with a car without damping just on springs- damping in one or another form is needed. The function of damping is to lower the energy of resonance, but at the same time resonance is broader. That why you got such "odd" tests with the test record. Some cartridges demand less silicone damping then others. Overdamping can certainly kill the sound.

In principle is better to have more low energy resonances spread than one bigger one. Certainly such combination will modulate music less than one very strong resonance which as you know shakes even the headshell and cartridge and that does modulate the music.

Regarding "methodology" of review I also have a comment. If you judge all turntables against your reference turntable & tonearm it is fine. But maybe readers can not use this information because, if a turntable is in a higher price range then the reference unit is valid. But if tested turntable is below reference it's not much use. Potential buyers will not have a chance to hear your reference unit , because they are not buying in this price range. Therefore descriptions of cheaper tables than the reference would not tell them actual differences in quality.
So, I believe you should have two units for reference, one in lower price range which will give readers more information about quality of turntables in this price range.
If someone is buying VW Polo and he reads how bad car is against better AUDI or BWM then this information is useless to this buyer and takes away pleasure of buying Polo.
Franc Kuzma

Geoff's comment

Just a quick point, I did consider the Stugi S overdamped - it certainly sounded it. The instructions said to "fill to the line" and that's what I did as would most users. However I agree that in future any Stugi S owner should certainly experiment with this.
Steve Davey is planning a "second look" at the table and I will encourage him to experiment... As for a second reference - great idea, all I need is another 20 hours per review and space for another turntable (and a different wife...).


After reading this test I hope it is evident that without the following companies this series of reviews would have been impossible - thanks from me to them:-)

Michell engineering - http://www.Michell-Engineering.co.uk

'The Cartridge Man' - http://www.thecartridgeman.com

Graham Slee - http://www.audiocontrol.co.uk

Clearlight - http://www.clearlight-audio.de

AudioNote UK - http://www.audionote.co.uk

Dynavector Japan - http://www.dynavector.co.jp

Systems used

  • Vinyl: Michell Orbe SME IV/Dynavector XV-1, XX-2, Music Maker (x2)

  • Phono stages: GramAmp2 (x2), Trichord Dino.

  • Preamp: Audion Premier2

  • Power amp: Audion ETPP EL34 Monoblocks. Loth-x ANT 300b SE Integrated.

  • Cables: FFRC and Sonic Link speaker cables. DIY silver interconnects. Audionote silver interconnects.

  • Speakers: IPLS3mtl's, Loth-x Polaris.

    Test records used... - Killers

© Copyright 2002 Geoff Husband - http://www.tnt-audio.com

[ Home | Staff & Contacts | HiFi Playground | Listening tests | DIY & Tweakings | Music & Books ]