Help with SOTA Sapphire

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by hanfrac, May 28, 2020.

  1. hanfrac

    hanfrac Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Menlo Park, CA
    I have a Series III Sapphire and am having problems with varying speed. First, the 33 speed control pot is very sensitive and does not behave the way you would expect it to - slow down slightly if turned left, speed up if turned right. Moving it slightly can lead to massive slow down, but moving it hard to the left can sometimes left to it speeding back up again.

    Second, the speed gets out of adjustment fairly easily. It can be in between listening sessions or it can even be affected by running a discwasher brush over an album aggressively enough to where it slows the platter slightly.

    I'm not sure if cleaning that pot is a DIY endeavor. Or if the pot may need replacement. I've reached out to SOTA in the past, but sending them the table seems like it will be a $1000+ affair. If anyone is familiar with these and has any experience to share, I thank you in advance.
     
    PhxJohn likes this.
  2. vinylsolution

    vinylsolution Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denver, CO, USA
    I have a Series I that I had them upgrade to V a few years ago, and I continued to have speed issues.
    They sent me a new speed chip, then ultimately I had to send the control board back to them, they are always pretty non-specific about what they do / did.

    It still drifts a bit for the first 20 minutes or so, and occasionally it takes a hard dip for a second which drives me nuts.
    I do find if I play albums daily (exercise?) it seems to be much more steady, but skip a day or two and it seems to be more problematic.

    I have a digital hall-sensor tach on mine so I can see realtime what is happening.

    I'd love to hook up my Phoenix Engineering Eagle/RR to it, but they are incompatible, and I am hesitant to throw another grand into it for their Eclipse series upgrade.

    I even wrote to Bill Carlin direct to see if he could help me use my existing boxes with my Series V, but it seems it would be a huge undertaking. It is really disappointing because I love the table, have an ET-2 arm on it, but loathe the idea of putting another $1,000 to have it spin at pitch.

    I tend to use my Avid table with the Eagle/RR more lately.

    All that tale of woe to say, I doubt it is your pots nor a DIY endeavor.
     
  3. hanfrac

    hanfrac Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Menlo Park, CA
    Thanks. After a week of pondering my options and getting some other input, I reached the following conclusions:
    - it's too risky for me to get the motor board out and attempt the recap on my own. And it's unclear whether that will solve it
    - my speed issues are not as bad as the ones you describe. I can easily live with mine for a while
    - so I will do that and keep an eye out for an upgraded or newer SOTA to come available preowned and solve my problem that way. Once I purchase, I'll sell mine on for what it's worth and avoid plowing money into this table. If SOTA offered a motor replacement that wasn't $700-900, I might go for it, but if I send them the turntable, I'm relatively confident that the recommendation coming back will be to invest $1500 in motor, springs, and other stuff.

    The fact that you spent money with SOTA service and didn't end up totally happy is not confidence-inspiring. Thanks for your help.
     
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  4. vinylsolution

    vinylsolution Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denver, CO, USA
    My biggest gripe is the Series V motor and power supply upgrade are basically sunk cost so soon.

    I did do the suspension, platter, and arm board upgrades, am overall happy with it.
    But the fact that a year later a new motor / Eclipse package became available and my $800 S5 motor was then a paper weight bugs me.

    If they'd credit me even half the $800 S5 motor credit, I'd consider the $1075 Total Eclipse, but as it stands she offered me $100 credit.
    :(
     
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  5. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    These can benefit from reworking the power supply boards. The same is true with the Linn Valhalla units. There are caps and resistors that likely need changing, ... in addition to that pot. Sometimes less really is more.
    -Bill
     
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  6. hanfrac

    hanfrac Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Menlo Park, CA
    Interesting - so your hypothesis is that taking out the platter (which I think I can do) and going after the caps and resistors could do the trick? As said earlier, my problem is more of an annoyance than anything else. Every week or two, I need to recalibrate the speed and the pot does not behave nicely. But I can get speed right.

    @vinylsolution After the money you spent on your table, I feel for you. After what you spent to have your table made to "like new," I might have expected a little more flexibility from SOTA on your motor. Have they offered to replace your Series V motor with another Series V motor to address the issue? Or given that they took your board in, are they saying "it's something about your house or your electricity, because we've confirmed that the motor and board are A ok?"
     
  7. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    That's my experience, but you need some very good tools and skills. The pots are also likely at fault, and the board itself can be fragile. And, if it still doesn't behave right, you have entered into a "who shot John" situation with the Mfr. You've been warned. It's best to have it done by someone who has the proper tools and skills. It's very unlikely that a motor would become demonically possessed.
    -Bill
     
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  8. vinylsolution

    vinylsolution Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denver, CO, USA
    Yes, they claim it is within spec when they test(ed) it.

    But I have pretty good ears and my tach (see pic), so I know when it drifts.

    Again, if I am playing it daily, it is way more stable, but in the summer especially, I am not doing that.
    This is what I had done:

    $405 – Series V Springs replacement
    $60 – Add locking plate and glue bearing shaft
    $175 - Modify sub-chassis to current, includes damping, bracing and bolt through system
    $755 – New Series V motor upgrade. Includes new belt.
    Total = $1,395

    [​IMG]
     
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  9. hanfrac

    hanfrac Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Menlo Park, CA
    Hence, my original gameplan. Find a better, more refreshed SOTA (or decide to switch brands, which I'm less inclined to do) and sell this one for what the market will pay me and accept that cost. I am not particularly skillful and would be unhappy if I ruined things.

    I have been thinking about a higher-end used Rega or a new Technics, but I'm being warned that the SOTA is a good amount ahead of those options. With my floors, I prefer foot fall resistance and the SOTA has that in spades. And I do like using the SOTA and the sound that comes out of it (with my SME3009 and Shure V15iv). Looking at hifishark things that have sold, good SOTAs do come along now and then for less than what SOTA charges for their refurbs, so I'm hoping I get an option like that if I'm patient.
     
    PhxJohn likes this.
  10. HiFi Guy

    HiFi Guy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    A better option: buy another brand. If you aren’t happy and someone else has a turntable that drifts for 20 minutes even after it’s been serviced, that’s not exactly a reason to buy another in my book.

    And I’m a former Star Series III owner. It was the most expensive table I’ve ever owned. Also had issues with mine. It pretty much collected dust for years.

    Since I bought another table and sold the SOTA, I pretty much listen to vinyl 100% of the time. It’s easy to buy a far better table for the same money or less.
     
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  11. BrentB

    BrentB Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwestern US
    If you want speed stability find another brand. The Technics you mentioned below will blow SOTA out of the water in that regard. Also service with SOTA as someone else mentioned has always ranged from "less than desireable" to "piss poor" in my expereinces. I have tried to love both of my Comet models for 20 years and just could not. The more money and time I spend trying to get them better did little if anything. I replaced SOTA with a Technics 1200 and never looked back.
     
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  12. Clay B

    Clay B Forum Resident

    Hanfrac

    I own a Sota Star Sapphire from the 80’s although it’s been quite awhile since I used it regularly. It is a superb turntable and, as you note, totally immune to footfalls. I can see why you like it. The present Sota owners essentially saved Sota from the dustbin. Its a small outfit and I can understand and sympathize with their issues and costs. Ultimately, it’s your evaluation and decision. I also have a Technics 1200 GAE among others and my Sota is excellent but not ahead of the others. It’s different. If you change direction, GAE(now G) is bulletproof and well worth your consideration. It will probably outlast you. Higher end Regas are excellent as well.
     
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  13. hanfrac

    hanfrac Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Menlo Park, CA
    I don't know if I'd jump to the G vs. the GR or the 1500C if I went that route, but it's certainly an option. I have an old SL1400 that I've been playing around with. It's not a fair comparison, as the SOTA has a better tonearm and cartridge than the Technics, but between them, I much prefer the SOTA to the Technics. But I really am impressed with how fuss-free and easy-to-use the SL1400 is.

    Given my foot fall issues, my instinct is to hope for a later SOTA and have the option of moving my SME3009 into it if it doesn't come with a superior tonearm.
     
  14. hanfrac

    hanfrac Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Menlo Park, CA
    What did you end up with and are you happy?
     
  15. HiFi Guy

    HiFi Guy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    I bought Pioneer PLX-1000. Liked it a lot. Then a Rega P3- not so much. Finally a MoFi Ultradeck, which I’ve had for a little over 2 1/2 years. I’ve been really really happy with it. It’s gotten more far more use than the SOTA did on 10 years.
     
  16. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    With what did you replace the SOTA ?
     
  17. hanfrac

    hanfrac Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Menlo Park, CA
    I didn’t replace it. The speed issue of slowly drifting off speed is easily dealt with. I did a “stuck at home” project and listened to all of my new vinyl (new, sealed, bought since 2015 - 117 pieces of vinyl). Used the Sapphire and my SL1500 (vintage one, not the newer model).

    They are both enjoyable, but it became obvious that the SOTA sounded much better. I know that because i didn’t have the same cartridge on each, it’s not a fair comparison. But it reminded me that the SOTA is special and works well enough.

    I’m keeping my eye out for an upgraded SOTA for reasonable $ - hope to get lucky and get one with a better motor.
     
    PhxJohn likes this.
  18. HiFi Guy

    HiFi Guy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    Pioneer PLX-1000 Nice for the price and not fussy.

    then

    Rega P3. My second and last Rega. Hated it.

    Finally and currently for nearly 3 years:

    MoFi Ultradeck which I love.
     
    PhxJohn likes this.
  19. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    Thank you for the reply. I have never heard a SOTA. There are no SOTA dealers in AZ. I guess if I should buy one, it will be directly through SOTA and Donna. There are not many magazine reviews for SOTA turntables. I do have a 1992 Recommended Components issue of stereophile. I think the SOTA Jewel was rated Class D borderline C. The Sapphire was rated Class C. The Cosmos....Class B. The NOVA VI is the one that appeals to me at the moment.
     
  20. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    What did you hate about the Rega and love about the MoFi Ultradeck ? Comparisons are very interesting and useful.
     
  21. HiFi Guy

    HiFi Guy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    The Rega ran fast.

    I like everything better on the MoFi. Correct speed, fully adjustable arm (azimuth and VTA) and I prefer the Delryn platter, which is used bare instead of the glass/felt mat on the Rega. That mat is awful- it attracts/holds dust and if there’s any static on the record, it sticks to the record. Even the power switch feels higher quality on the MoFi.
     
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  22. 4-2-7

    4-2-7 Forum Resident

    Location:
    SF Peninsula
    Of course it didn't sound as good, SOTA is hard to beat at any price point.

    Anyway I'm local to you and you can give me a call if you want. I have quite a few Star Sapphires, and local guys come to me for help all the time. I don't know if I missed it but didn't see anyone mention a belt change. The first thing to speed issues on this table, or any belt table is the belt, even if you bought a new one. The new belts are very thin and can give issues when they walk around on the motor pully. The pully is not flat it has a hump, a wide belt gets con-caved to stay on that hump. A thin belt will ride the hump and roll off the hump to a smaller diameter area and change the speed. The old wide belts will use the hump as a self centering as it's to wide to remain in the smaller diameter areas of the pully.

    The bad thing is, this thin belt is all thats offered today from SOTA. They say it's not an issue if your springs are good and adjusted right.

    Your pitch control pots can be dirty, since they don't get used much they get dirty with carbon. I would start with just operating them through their full movement many times as they can self clean, this polishes the metal cleaning off the carbon.

    Take the motor cover off the table and leave it off for testing awhile. Look and see where the belt is riding the motor pully, can you see it walking? Does it end up centering on the pully when up to speed? If after awhile you hear a pitch change go look at the table and where the belt is riding the pully.

    From what you have described it sounds like a belt issue to me, we have also been having big temperature changes around here. So a rubber belt can act different if your house is 90 degrees opposed to 65.
     
  23. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    Are you able to put into words how the SOTA is different ? I am not good at all at describing what I hear but I do understand what other people state.
     
  24. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    What did you dislike about your SOTA Comets ? I am asking a number of questions ion this thread. There are no SOTA dealers in AZ. So my first chance to hear a SOTA would be when and if I purchase one.
     
  25. 4-2-7

    4-2-7 Forum Resident

    Location:
    SF Peninsula
    I was just going to link you to my thread on Audiokarma but it looks like you found it.
    @hanfrac lots of info here for you also
    The Official SOTA Turntable Thread
     
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