Many established audio manufacturers owe their success, at least partly, to their components’ signature sound. Consider the laidback “pipe and slippers” mien of my 1978 Spendor BC-1 loudspeakers, the rich tonal palette of my Shindo Laboratory amplifiers, or the celebrated drive and timing of late-’50s era Thorens TD-124 and Garrard 301 turntables.
Schiit Audio, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2020, is a relative upstart, but I think it belongs in that company. Schiit’s trademark sonic signature is defined by force, what Art Dudley used to call drive. That trait translates as momentum, energy, forward motion, boogie factor, and that other audiophile cliché, “PRaT” (pace, rhythm, and timing). Whatever you call that quality, it is, to me, an essential ingredient of great sound, however new or established the company that makes the products that produce it.
In my review of the Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 integrated amplifier, I wrote, “The explosive thwacks of drummer Warren Smith’s Warren Smith & Toki (45, RCA RVL-8501) and the timpani and snare drum battles of Makoto Aruga’s Digital Percussion (LP, Seven Seas K2BC-165) revealed an amplifier that doesn’t soften transients.”
It’s not just me. Stereophile Senior Contributing Editor Herbert Reichert wrote this in his review of the original Ragnarok: “The Ragnarok conveyed the music with a unique and very seductive force that I had never quite experienced before, at any price.” Meanwhile, Herb found that the Schiit Audio Aegir stereo power amp demonstrated “a vigorous class-Dlike force, delivering strong momentum, clean bass detail, and articulate, open highs.”
Built in America and selling for a mere $799 with cartridge, Schiit Audio’s greatly anticipated Sol turntable is not your typical entry-level deck. It incorporates options not typically found in low-priced turntables. But can it compete on Schiit’s own terms? Can it deliver music from black grooves with force?
“In Norse mythology, Sol is the personification of the sun,” states the Schiit Audio website. “That’s like Mani,” Schiit’s $129 phono preamp, “which is the moon. We picked them both because they went together and were both round, like a record. Sometimes we’re simple like that.” Gotta love those guys.
The Sol first came to my attention at the 2018 New York Audio Show. It resembled some odd, alien creature, out of its element. Its tonearm and connecting wire looked spindly and frail, its platter rough and unfinished. I was intrigued. The word on the street? It’s the Schiit! It’s gotta be good!
The Sol’s release was delayed for months. Then more months. What caused those postponements? “Lots of little detail stuff!” Schiit co-founder Jason Stoddard told me by email. “Mainly machining issues, but Sol had a long gestation because we kept finding things to tweak. Not unusual in a complex mechanical product.”
The Sol is aimed at entry-level audiophile aspirants with a few hundred dollars more to spend than the typical $300$400 entry-level turntable. For that price, you get an outboard AC synchronous motor and a solid metal plinth and platter. The Sol is well-built, adjustable, and cleverly constructed and includes an 11″ unipivot tonearm with a carbon fiber arm tube and a preinstalled Audio-Technica AT-VM95EN cartridge, which retails for $119. If you can find another turntable near this price with these features, I’ll send you a Harpo Marx record.
The brainchild of Mike Moffat, the Sol employs an 11.75″-wide, 3lb platter atop a Y-shaped, powder-black tripod plinth with three rubber feet. Platter and plinth are made from a die-cast aluminum alloy.
“Unless you’re talking cost-no-object turntable designs, the critical platter bearing is usually…somewhat anemic,” the Schiit Audio website states. “Frequently based on the 0.28″ record spindle, they may only have an effective 0.51″ height. Sol’s [platter bearing] is a ridiculously overdeveloped 0.5″ diameter, 2.5″-long inverted bearing with Igus bushings for much higher performance.” (Igus is a company that makes polymer bushings.) A ¼” steel ball bearing is stationed atop the (inverted) bearing shaft, positioned under the Sol’s platter. Lightly spinning it with my hand, free of its belt, the platter took a full minute and a half to stop, a sign of a well-made bearing-platter assembly.
Isolated motors are rare in sub-$1000 turntables, but the Sol has one: A 24V Hurst AC synchronous motor lodged inside a detached, Sorbothane-damped, 3″ × 3½” steel-shelled pod. Sorbothane is wedged inside the motor housing between the motor and the top of the pod. Screwed onto the motor’s roughly ½” steel shaft, a machined, two-step (45/33rpm) pulley propels a 70-durometer synthetic rubber belt, which rotates the Sol’s platter. A soft-rubber base on the motor pod further isolates the motor pod from the surface and hence from the platter, which is topped with a fairly thick rubber-and-cork mat. “Everything…is machined except the [tonearm’s] cueing lift and the rear pod, which are stamped,” Stoddard told me. “Rear pod,” he later clarified, refers to the sheet-metal piece bolted to the cast plinth where the on/off switch, power connectors, tonearm connectors, and so on are located.
The Sol’s next high-value feature is its 11″ carbon fiber, unipivot tonearm, designed by mechanical and analog-electronics designer Conrad Hoffman. This type of arm is typically seen in more expensive ‘tables, including the Stogi arm on my (former) Kuzma “pipe bomb” turntable.
“Low friction and no critical assembly adjustments are strengths of the unipivot design,” said Michael Trei, turntable setup wizard and contributing technical editor at Sound & Vision, Stereophile‘s sister publication, who was on-hand to examine the Sol and check its cartridge setup. “And the longer the arm, the lower the tracking angle error. An infinitely long arm has zero tracking angle error.” As I’m sure Trei would agree, an infinitely long arm is also not very practical. I know he agreed about the Sol’s exceptional value: “I don’t know of any [other] entry-level table with an 11″ arm. Or a separate, isolated motor,” he said.
In an email, designer Hoffman cited the strengths of the unipivot tonearm design. “I like unipivots because they have lower friction than any other type besides air bearings, which have their own set of problems. I wouldn’t claim that unipivots track better than other types, but they certainly don’t track any worse if properly designed. Another advantage is [that] the bearing doesn’t get gummed up over time, and any damage is easily fixed, unlike the tiny ball races used in other arms.”
NEXT: Page 2 »
22508 Market St.
Newhall, CA 91321
FollowUp June 2021
Click Here: UK football tracksuit