The arm is called OEM 300, and it’s the classic and widelyused Rega RB300 that SOTA has outfitted with Expressimo’s VTA adjuster.
One thing each of these turntables has in common (the TTPSU-equipped Rega excepted) is that the user must manually move the belt from a smaller to a larger pulley in order to play 45rpm records, as I did in order to hear the fabulous Hank Mobley Blue Note reissue mentioned above. As I stated earlier, there’s a sound to this combination that is best described as easy and relaxed—not sloppy and overly laidback, but confident. Mobley’s rich tenor came across with a brassy weight and golden tone, and the rhythm section swung to a calm yet steady beat, with equally convincing solidity.
Nono’s A Carlo Scarpia was quite dramatic, with a large soundstage of impressive width and depth, great clarity to drum as well as high-percussion strikes, complex instrumental textures, and a notably wide as well as nuanced dynamic response.
These qualities translated nicely to the beautiful ballad set, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman [Impulse], in which the soothing vibrato of Hartman’s baritone melds with Coltrane’s dry, reedy tone, and to Zeppelin’s “Gallows Pole,” where Plant’s voice seemed super-focused on an expansive stage, stringed instruments played with great verve, and Bonham’s drums hit hard but with easily grasped musical purpose.
As I said at the outset, each of these three turntables is from a genuine high-end survivor, a pedigreed company with a great track record. I didn’t attempt to switch cartridges, which contribute greatly to the differences heard, but instead evaluated each as a complete setup, the way the manufacturers presented them to me, and the way they present them to you.