Kuzma Stabi S
The Stabi S is Kuzma’s least expensive turntable, but you wouldn’t know it to listen to the thing. Blessed with deep background silences, the Stabi S makes a great complement to the Stogi S tonearm. Not a good choice for rooms where footfalls will be a problem (because it is unsuspended), it is otherwise a fine mid-priced ’table.
SOTA Sapphire Series V Turntable
The Series V upgrade of this 30-year-old classic boasts improvements in parts, engineering, machining, fit and finish, and performance—all retrofittable to earlier versions. Its timeproven, four‑point hanging suspension is still the ultimate in isolating the arm/pickup. For PS, the Sapphire is the least expensive turntable that suggests what “super”-turntables are all about, sacrificing only a bit of resolution and control by comparison. Recommended without serious qualification.
Clearaudio Performance SEP
$2800 (with Verify tonearm)
The Performance’s precision ceramic/magnetic bearing allows its platter to float on a cushion of air, contributing to this turntable system’s startling transparency, openness, and clarity, very good native speed stability, and low noise floor. Its improved Verify arm is equally at home with highperformance moving coils or modest moving magnets. As with most mass-loaded designs, a rigid stand is required.
Well Tempered Amadeus
This latest version of William Firebaugh’s inventive turntable and arm design has ultra-quiet background, superbly non-resonant, neutral sound, complete speed stability, surprising bass extension, easy setup and operation, and compatibility with a wide range of cartridges. Add-on isolation devices may be needed. Overall, the high end at a budget price.
$2999 ($3,599 with Sumiko Blackbird & Connect-it Tonearm Cable)
The RM-10.1 improves upon the fine performance of the RM-9.1 by adding a longer arm, a more massive plinth and platter, an isolation base, and magnetic repulsion. These enhancements produce blacker backgrounds, more solidity in the bass, and a cleaner window on the soundstage.
Linn Sondek LP12
$3200 (turntable only)
The original high-end turntable, Linn’s LP12 conveys the rhythm and pace that are the very foundations of music, and it gets better with age—owners of any vintage LP12 can upgrade to the current model.
Basis Audio 1400 Signature
Clean, lively, and nimble, the Basis 1400 lacks the authority, deep black backgrounds, and projection of size and scale of the really great turntables. But this combination doesn’t leave you hankering for something else.
Nottingham Analogue Studio-Space 294
$3999 with Ace-Space 294 arm
Nottingham’s beautiful Space 294 belt-drive turntable offers very good speed stability and nearly noise-free operation. Driven by an ultra-low-torque motor, the 294’s massive platter must be push-started by hand (you’ll get used to it). Completing the picture is the 12-inch, unipivot, Ace-Space 294 carbon-fiber tonearm. The system strikes a fine balance between resolution and musicality.
Acoustic Signature Challenger II
$4500 in silver; special order $4950
The German-made Acoustic Signature Challenger II is a beautifully built, excellentsounding turntable that vies for “best-of ” status in the mid-price category. It shares the same special bearing as the company’s top-line Ascona, and the 50mm-thick, 20-pound aluminum platter is machined—as are all tooled parts—in-house on a 20x precision CNC device. The Challenger is very low in mechanical noise, has excellent detail and dynamic range, and can accept up to two tonearms. Setup is a snap. Value is high.