- Category: Turntable Reviews
- Written by Jim Clements
- Published on 24 April 2012
The SOTA Nova Turntable In Use
Right from the start, the SOTA Nova table proved to be a high end performance juggernaut. The design and execution of this product is nothing short of masterful. It is one of those products that would make most vinyl aficionados fall in love as they spun their records until the wee hours of the morning. At least I know that's what happened with me. As I mentioned earlier, this table is the model of competence. Rock-solid speed control with a wide palette of sonic colors from the lowest lows to the sweetest sounding highs you may ever hear from your records.
I'll start with Junior Wells "It's My Life, Baby". This was the first solo album for Junior on Vanguard coming right after the release of his greatest commercial and critical success "Hoodoo Voodoo Man". Some songs on this album were recorded live in a blues club and some are studio recordings. The idea was that the listener could get the feel for Junior's live acts. The sound quality of the studio recordings is clearly better. This album features Buddy Guy on guitar.
With the SOTA Nova, my Blackbird cartridge tracked this record better than ever. The vocals were cleaner on leading edges and the bass was perfectly integrated into the whole. The soundstaging is stellar as well. Take "Stormy Monday" for example. Buddy's guitar was outside the left speaker while the drums were spilling out on the right. Speaking of the drums, the cymbals and snare were uncannily real throughout this entire record.
Side 2 sounded even better with cleaner sibilants and Junior's harmonica had greater realism even if the SOTA revealed a little more surface noise than lesser tables on this 1966 pressing. There was top tier bass extension on the "Early in the Morning" live track and "I Got a Stomach Ache" never sounded better with all the artificial reverb and staccato precision of a the veteran ensemble.
The next record I used for evaluation was the Phil Woods Quintet "Song for Sisyphus". I consider this Direct to Disc recording from 1977 to be a hidden gem in my collection. It is very dynamic and tactile sounding with lean, nimble bass. "Change Partners" is an Irving Berlin composition and is a great closing tune on Side 1. On the SOTA Nova, it had a very nice groove with excellent image specificity. The soundstage was again rock-solid and breathtakingly expansive.
The best improvisation on this record may be "Monking Business" and the quiet passages rose above the surface noise like never before. On "When My Dreams Come True", Mike Miello's piano was totally free of turntable-induced distortions even though the recording has always painted his instrument in a little too amber-hued light.
The RCA pressing of "Handel, The Six Organ Concertos, Opus 7" features Carl Weinrich on organ with the Arthur Fiedler Sinfonietta. It was recorded in 1968 at the General Theological Seminary in New York. The organ was the Holtkamp organ that was built in 1958. Although this record is labeled "Dynagroove", it was produced after RCA phased out the Dynamic Stylus Correlator, but appears to retain the Dynamic Spectrum Equalization. Despite the inclusion of this additional equalization, the record sounds quite decent even though some of the crescendos take on a slightly wooden character. In any event, I love the compositions and the performances are first rate. Arthur Fiedler desperately wanted to be recognized as a serious talent and I think he made a strong case for that on this album.
With the SOTA Nova, there was much less interchannel crosstalk than I'm used to hearing on this record. There was imperceptible wow & flutter and improved low bass as well. The SOTA Nova really is like the Rock of Gibraltar.
The General Theological Seminary's untreated 19th Century cathedral is very reverberant with the organ's bass pipes up front. Over the Nova, the organ notes floated in space above the speakers, very high in the room with natural reverberation and decay. I am not personally familiar with this particular organ, but I listen to live pipe organ music regularly and the Nova's spacing of the organ notes was amazingly real. The Concerto No. 4 in D Minor Adagio had the cello and bassoon sounding harmonically correct. The Allegro showed a believable scale for the orchestra.
On the Concerto 5 in G Minor the full orchestra was brought forth with a rich tone and fine dynamic shadings. The organ's bass lines rattled my fillings on the Andante! Thin vinyl like this benefitted the most with Nova's platter, mat, clamp and vacuum system.
My Morning Jacket "Circuital" is a 2-disc, 180 gram album mastered at 45 RPM by ATO Records. Good thing they invented RIAA equalization. If not, a record with the deep bass like this might rip the stylus from your cartridge. This modern recording has low surface noise and clean transients. Dynamically, it is merely above average. Still, I'm surprised this record didn't feedback when I cranked it . . . just another example of the SOTA Nova's excellent isolation properties.
"Wonderful (The Way I Feel)" and "Outta My System" are excellent songs with a wide array of acoustic instruments and vocals. The Sota painted a very wide stage again. "Black Metal" had a nice and gritty vocal chorus. The open soundstage filled my room better than ever. I loved this tune over the Nova. The synth groove on "First Light" was well balanced and tuneful. The isolation and stability of the Nova revealed an alarming degree of nuance on the album's slower songs.
I closed out my critical listening with Cat Stevens "Tea for the Tillerman". I bet I've listened to this album a thousand times but with the SOTA Nova I heard the best bass extension and dynamics I have ever heard on this album. Yet it retained all the finesse on songs like "Sad Lisa". The whole of Cat Steven's vocal reproduction was super clean throughout. This was a revelatory experience for me. I mean, I never dreamed this album could sound this good at least not until I heard it for myself thanks to the SOTA Nova!