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Sota Millennia - turntable

"Black Magic"

[Italian version]

Product: SOTA Millennia turntable
Manufacturer: SOTA - USA
Cost, approx: €/$ 7360
Reviewer: Geoff Husband - TNT France
Reviewed: January 2004

[Sota Millennia]Author's Note

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


SOTA have been making turntables for quite a while now and have an enviable reputation for both build quality and back-up. Companies willing to buy back and refurbish LP spinners many years old are few and far between and it's something I personally find very heartening. The company's reputation has been made on some conventional looking, wood-plinth designs, albeit with some interesting twists such as the use of vacuum platters. TNT-Audio reviewed the SOTA Star turntable a couple of years ago.

The Millennia on the other hand is an entirely different kettle of fish. Imagine going to your local Rolls-Royce dealer and seeing a Ferrari with the Spirit-of-Ecstasy on the hood - well with the Millennia SOTA have done a similar thing. Here we have a space-age, drop-dead-gorgeous concoction of gloss black naughtiness - if it sound as good as it looks they're on to a winner...

Being a turntable maker only I had to find an arm and I managed to cadge the latest Tri-planar arm to grace the beast, certainly a good match as far as market positioning was concerned, it also added to the look, though a gloss black SME5 might have been even better. A full review of the Triplanar will follow, but for the moment let's concentrate on the star of the show.


I won't go on about it - beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all, but the Millennia joins the Loth-x Aida and Bluenote Bellagio as turntables that make the Orbe look ordinary, no easy task. Just look at the pic.

The turntable itself sports a unique chassis. Made of milled aluminium it's the size of a tea tray and is formed from a one-inch thick, solid aluminium slab. It's honeycombed with blind holes and close inspection reveals a rubber-like 'button' at the bottom of each shaft - obviously there for damping duties. For those cynics (like me) who view a lot of the more outlandish designs as mere froth designed to fool the punter into believing in some 'wonder theory', the presence of these rubber buttons is significant. You really need to look very, very carefully to find them so they're not there to impress - they must have a function. And given that they are an integral part of that chassis I'm inclined to believe that the chassis too has been carefully thought out. Thus I began to gain at least some faith in the design of the turntable - it's not a 'me-too' design. To add to this the finish is flawless.

The chassis carries a substantial inverted bearing topped by a zirconium ball - this lubed by a drop of oil. The platter is a 7 kg mix of alloy and lead and of course sports the SOTA vacuum system designed to suck the disc down onto the platter. Atop this is the SOTA reflex clamp - the best-built, and most effective design I have come across. Loth-x Aida owners, amongst others, would be well advised to give it a look. It clamps the spindle so tightly that it can be used as a handle to lower the platter onto the bearing, though I handled it by it's edges - other SOTA turntables don't have enough clearance to do this easily.

Moving on we see that unlike other SOTA designs the chassis is not four-point suspended on springs (most manufacturers use three), but rather supported by four towers which each contain a polymer damper. This is a much more rigid system than a traditional suspended-subchassis, there being no bounce. These towers are adjustable, but are factory set and shouldn't need touching. The result is that the turntable simply slots together in a matter of minutes and stays in tune - forever... Though in effect it's a four-point suspended turntable, this stiff coupling of subchassis with support means we can regard the Millennia having some of the characteristics of a well-isolated solid-plinth design rather than a true suspended-subchassis design. The Audiomeca and Roksan turntables already tested follow similar philosophies. Though in theory isolation from outside vibrations will be less, so will the problems associated with suspended designs such as the motor causing the chassis to rotate when under load. It's just another way of juggling the compromises involved :-) The polished armboard is another mix of acrylic, lead and alloy. At 22gs the turntable is a high-mass affair and looks it.

[Sota pulley]Next to the turntable sits the off-board motor housing, a piano-black plastic housing. The two buttons on the top being on/off and speed. The motor is a 'stepping' type as used in computer controlled applications, and runs from an AC sine-wave generated by the power supply. The motor spindle is hidden under a removable cover, which also hides the only bodge on the entire deck. The plastic (it looks like a bit of old circuit board - see pic) plate that supports the motor looks like it's been cut out by a five year old using a blunt chisel. It's out of sight so out-of-mind, but on what is such a perfectly constructed turntable it grated like horse with a wooden leg.

Another large black box contains the quartz-synthesised, motor power supply and the pump for the vacuum platter. A long rubber tube is supplied along with the power cable so the relatively noisy pump can be sited well away, but to be honest it's not noisy enough to annoy.

So what's the procedure for playing a record? OK - put the record on the cloth-covered platter. Drop the reflex clamp on and press down on the lever. Hit the button on the power supply and the platter spins up to speed in a few seconds and simultaneously the pump clamps the disc down. This all happens in the time it takes to swing the arm over and cue it - the stiff 'suspension' making cueing very easy.

[watch the lip!]Now another moan... The platter has a strip of rubber around its edge to act as an airtight seal. It overhangs the edge of the record by nearly a cm. Why? The problem is that if you cue a record badly the stylus can slip off the edge of the record. We've all done this, some discs aren't round, some have a steep slope on the edge - there are lots of excuses. Normally the result is that the stylus just drops off the edge of the record and sits suspended in mid-air until you have another go. Not with the SOTA. Screw up here and the stylus drops onto a rapidly moving rubber sheet - yikes! If you're lucky the cantilever will survive, but if it doesn't then that little slip will cost you a four-figure sum if you are using a cartridge worthy of the table. If the turntable were mine I'd spend a while carefully trimming the excess rubber sheet away - surely a mm proud would do - and then relax a little (The manufacturer strongly disagrees and this will of course invalidate any warranty). As it was I was VERY careful when dropping $5000 worth of Dynavector DRT-1s into the groove...

Sound Quality

The SOTA was a very difficult turntable to test. As you know the point of the tests was to pit each turntable against a fixed reference on exactly the same shelf and on the same turntable support. Each driving - simultaneously - identical phono stages so a true difference can be easily noted during switch A/B comparisons using identical records - obviously only under those specific conditions, but it's the best anyone can do. The SOTA blew all that, because it's just too big to go on my shelf next to the Orbe. It took a lot of moving about but in the end I made up a special tt shelf (MDF damped with sorbothane) and put the turntable on a windowsill. That then left it a long way from the preamp. Rather than drive a long interconnect I chose to use my Graham Slee Gold phono stage and 'Elevator' step-up which could be 'daisy chained' to the preamp with normal length cables. The phono/step up is very good (it's a very easy recommendation) and certainly suited the tt. In fact the position was probably considerably better than the shelf the Orbe has to sit on as the windowsill is formed from our 3 foot thick granite walls and so will transmit nothing to the tt. Plus the tt/arm/cartridge and phono stages were as far away as it's possible to be from all the 'dirty' power supplies, cd players. power amps etc.

Anyway the point is that as a true back-to-back the test isn't remotely as valid as with the other tt's - but it just couldn't be helped. It means that though a lot of comparison work was done with the Orbe and the latest LP12 combo I have here, it will ultimately be a much more conventional review (i.e. no better than anyone elses :-)

Anyway to give you some idea of my findings...

I've said in other reviews that some turntables seduce over a period, others offer a presentation different enough to the Orbe to jump out at you. The Millennia sort of falls between the two :-) It was a really good match in the system offering a similar overall balance to the Orbe, but what it does well, it does SO well that that character shines through. It's very clean and open, very well balanced, making the Orbe sound a little 'thick'. Then there's the superb soundstaging, especially depth. But most of all is a feeling that the tt cossetts every single note, polishes it, extracts every nuance and then presents it on a silver platter [sic] to the listener. Tonally it's is superb, it lacks a little of the warmth of the Orbe (not necessarily a criticism) and it's clean punchy bass is from the top drawer. Inevitably all that space and 'air' makes it a little polite compared to the more weighty Orbe.

Now I know that that's rather a quick summary for a turntable that was here for a month and probably played 150 records but I put it that way because each of those attributes is directly and inexorably linked to all the others. Take away some of that clean punchy bass and the ambience of a recording and thus its soundstage vanishes. The lack of obvious resonances gives the dark background needed for that transparent midrange - gives the 'space' for each note to exist. This clarity means that low level signals are never lost, those little acoustic clues that make the spread of a choir gain a texture, a 'grain' if you will of individuals mixing to produce a whole, rather than a blur.

The zero overhang right across the range, a product of that chassis design perhaps, means the music stops and starts on a sixpence giving tremendous attack where appropriate. This definition extends from top to bottom - I listened to Cream 'live' playing 'Crossroads' and I've never found Jack Bruce's bassline so easy to follow. Spinning The White Stripe's 'Seven Nation Army' gave all the edge and grit you could ask for from Jack White's guitar. Yet there was enough soul for you to hear the smiles on 'It's True That We Love One Another'.

N.B. If you don't own this album ('Elephant') just go out and buy it with your left over Christmas money - if you do you'll thank me...

In a way the SOTA betrays it's origins as a turntable from the US of A. It's even handedness right though the range is just made for expensive full-range speakers and the big rooms that they need. Here the combination of Loth-x Polaris and REL Stentor sub ran seamlessly from 15 to 20,000 Hz and nowhere did the SOTA make you think anything was being added to what was on the disc. This is a stunning performance and in this respect the best of all the turntables I've had here. The bass goes sooooo deep but doesn't add warmth - those big speakers/rooms will love it, if you have a small room and bookshelf speakers a warmer sounding turntable like the Orbe will probably be more pleasing. Ditto soundstaging is a long established US priority well covered by the SOTA. Priorities, priorities...

And here I'm going to go a bit 'flat-earth' as the Millennia's one Achilles heel is that most treasured by Linnies - there is certain lack of pace. Though I heard every note Jack Bruce played on 'Crossroads' (and there are a hell of a lot) it just didn't time as well as I'd like - there was a feeling that Jack was holding the music back - dragging his feet. Other bass driven tracks suffered in the same way, even (especially?) simple one's like 'Rickie's all Star Joint' where the jazz timing is everything. In giving each note it's own space it feels like the gaps somehow are exaggerated - the timing suffers. This isn't just a SOTA problem. In my experience the more a turntable concentrates on the details and texture and space, the less likely that the whole thing hangs together, it's almost as if the music is being dissected and investigated rather than just played, this characteristic being shared by the Tri-planar. I've even wondered whether this is an inevitable psycho-acoustic glitch where the brain, given informational overload, simply loses the plot when it comes to timing. I know this all sounds like a very good argument for low-fi, but getting the timing right doesn't come cheap either. It also may well be that different people will be effected in different ways, but then the human-factor is an inevitable component of the high-end. This weakness, or choice of priorities if you like, is only shown up by a small proportion of discs. 95% of rock and 80% of jazz play as well as you could possibly wish, and certainly most classical music survives unscathed, the priorities of the turntable matching such music well. That it does everything else so well makes such a weakness forgivable.

And so to the marks...






Is this love?

Fit and Finish


near perfect

Engineering tt


Hard to decide whether it's complex or simple and elegant :-)



Will take any arm.

Speed Stability


excellent, adjustment available.





very good but the Orbe's bass weight pulls it ahead fractionally.

Stage Width


Very impressive

Stage Depth



Bass Depth


Bass control/speed


Detail retrieval


Midrange clarity


Treble extension


Treble Quality


Overall colouration


Quite superb



Swaps space for drive

'Miss you' factor


Donations to my turntable fund start here...


Gorgeous. Gorgeous to look at, gorgeous to listen to - beautifully built and with nothing to go out of tune. Sound quality is superb and in terms of sound staging and tonal accuracy it leads the pack. The Tri-planar also concentrates on the same things and I'm starting to wonder if the turntable might be better served, and perhaps time better, with the more 'front row' presentation of one of the big SME's, the Roksan Artemiz or indeed a Hadcock, in which case it could be the turntable of my dreams :-) But as tested and setting aside my reservations about timing I still find it a tough turntable to criticise.


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

Lehmann Germany - http://www.lehmannaudio.de

Systems used

© Copyright 2004 Geoff Husband - www.tnt-audio.com

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