Kuzma Stabi S Turntable & Omega Speakers By
Analog rules, right? I mean, gather up all your expensive CD players, cut lil
iPods and cellphones that play "music" and none come close the musical purity
and palatable enjoyment of spinning vinyl on a good turntable. The Kuzma Stabi
S Turntable/Kuzma Stogi S Tonearm is produced in Slovenia, and has been in production,
unchanged, for nearly 10 years. When something works…
Digital technology has certainly evolved since the late '80s, but vinyl still
accomplishes something that only more expensive CD players and SACD discs can
claim. Sure, you don't get the gut busting, feet scorching bass reproduction of
digital, but that is more than accounted for with vinyl's deeply layered, palpable
soundstage and exceedingly natural sound. Music just sounds more whole when played
back via vinyl and turntable: the ear relaxes, music flows with an exceedingly
rightness of feeling (not to mention a larger more deeply layered soundstage).
The Kuzma Stabi S turntable looks like no other. There is no conventional plinth
(or base), but two interlocking massive solid brass rods connected in T formation
which gives the frame high rigidity and resistance to vibration. The Stogi S tonearm
is a unipivot design, its headshell and arm machined from solid aluminum and metal
block, respectively. Weighing 35 pounds and costing $2,450, this is a very well
designed, seriously manufactured turntable that has fans all across Europe. Brass
spindle weight costs $99.00.
TheMusic.com which distributes Kuzma in the US, also provided LP review samples:
Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges' Back to Back [Verve MGVS-6055-200gm] and Side
to Side [Verve MGVS-6109-200gm], and John Coltrane's Live at the Half Note One
Down, One Up [Impulse! B000-2380-200gm].
Upon dropping the needle (a Denon DL-103), it was instantly apparent that there
is little semblance between the domestic CDs releases and the Classic Audio LP
reissues. The sound of live performance, of flesh and blood musicians breathing
in and out as portrayed on the Kuzma (with a Denon DL-103 cart) equals and in
some cases surpasses anything I have heard on CD or SACD. Granted, we are talking
about a posh turntable linked to equally expensive ancillaries (yes, my rig!),
but analog sound is not about dollars but a difference in medium, in presentation
of texture, of small details that result in an, again, superior realism, completeness
and faithfulness to the recorded event.
The Kuzma Stabi S/Stogi S combination is a hands-down winner, and in my opinion,
one of the world's great turntable bargains. It played every piece of vinyl put
to it with a welcome wink-wink nod-nod and proceeded to reveal its true nature,
good, bad or glorious. It performed flawlessly, ran up to speed quickly, and was
relatively easy to setup. And I liked its streamlined dust cover the most. Ignore
this Slovenian mini miracle at your own peril and be forever doomed to the trash
heap of lousy digital. Now you don't want to do that do you?
The second part of the analog equation can be found in the choice of speakers.
Now, where some insist you need a million drivers in a big cabinet to make real
music (and lots of power to drive them), Omega Loudspeakers of Norwalk, Connecticut,
take a different approach. The Omega Super 3 XRS uses an Omega modified full range
4.5" Fostex paper cone driver coupled to a 2" flared single port, placed
close to the bottom of the cabinet for maximum impact. The cabinet is composed
of varied widths of ultralight MDF, Baltic Birch, and Phenolic. There is no crossover
to muddy the signal, internal wiring is 16-gauge stranded copper, and stated frequency
response is 40-18KHz with a gobsmackingly good sensitivity of 93dB at 8 ohms.
This handsome $849 mighty mite measures 27" H x 11"W x 7.5"D and
weighs a back-friendly 30 lbs. apiece.
Remember TV sets in the 50s? Okay, I was only two but my mom's black and white
Polaroids show that they looked kind of portly and had a big eye. Just like the
Super 3 XRS. But those old Admirals didn't have any bass. The Super 3 XRS produces
the kind of meaty, acoustic bass loving tonnage that I can truly get down with.
Looking at their diminutive size it just doesn't seem possible, but they had -
can I say it - slam. Warmth. Decent extension. And even better tone. Of course,
when I hit them with David Gray's White Ladder they folded, the small Fostex drivers
freaking at the first sign of subsonic synth bass. So don't even go there. But
every other CD in the small group jazz, large jazz ensemble, punk rock trio, and
rock and roll quintet formats became the sonic gift that just kept on giving.
I didn't have any worries in that department, and I report on that first because
I really expected so little. Silly me.
For pure coherence, the Omegas were full and round sounding, and pretty darn seamless
top to bottom. Were they a little colored? You bet. These are not neutral speakers,
they are emotional transporters. Is their soundstage perhaps not as statuesque
as that of my almost four times as expensive DeVore Super 8s? Certainly. And the
small Fostex driver doesn't reveal all the detail and depth of the DeVore tweeter.
Nor does it present the same level of note decay and silkiness as the DeVore.
But listening to all manner of music for days on end through the Omegas I was
constantly taken with their musicality, their exceptional, even liquid midrange
presence, and their overall extension, which again, just knocked me out. Their
signature sound is one of tremendous bloom, speed, and extension. They get a lot
right, and not much wrong. $849 just shouldn't buy this kind of listening fun.
And that is what it's all about, right?