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"Come Alive"
Changing Into Me
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Audio [Issue #23]
: Kuzma Stabi S Turntable & Omega Speakers
By Ken Micallef

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?

Kuzma Stabi S Turntable & Omega Speakers

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