If your unipivot kung fu began and ended with the Naim Aro, the concept of damping may seem alien, but it works. It means the arm doesn’t feel twitchy when cueing up a record. It also seems to give the arm a more clearly defined and authoritative bass and a more extended top end. If the deck is designed to get out of the way so the arm can extract the maximum information off the groove, this arm steps up to the task perfectly. What this offers is a sense of even-handedness that is made all the more real and valid by the reduction of tracing distortion a 12” design brings. What this means in musical terms is simply more gets through and does so with greater clarity and neutrality. I find the Pixies Surfer Rosa on MoFi to be a real torture album for most decks, because adding distortion to an already distorted sound can make for a very grating sound. Here, it manages to retain all the energy and excitement of this seminal post-punk band, but also does so with greater precision.
The criticism that can most readily be leveled at the current deck as it stands concerns the baseboard and cover. The motor’s best position is next to the middle of the T of the T-bar, and that simply can’t be done with the current base. A bigger base (whether Kuzma-produced or custom-made) would be a lot better, as would a new larger cover. I suspect both are in the pipeline. There is also the price-creep that comes when adding those extra arm inches. The standard Kuzma Stabi S/Stogi S combination is roughly the price of a Michell Gyrodec, while the S-12 combo costs as much as an Orbe. It is still competitive (in fact, the deck+arm costs slightly less than a 12” SME V arm on its own), but it does put the Kuzma combination up against stiff competition. Fortunately for the Kuzma combo, it still wins.
Finally, there are a couple of potential upgrades that will raise the sonics still further. The first is a Heavy Platter kit, a £450 extension that sits between existing inner and main platter to add mass. There’s also the SD (or SD-12 add-on, which is a relatively straightforward standalone outrigger that can be used to add a second arm to the Stabi without tears. Fortunately, all of these upgrades can be made post-purchase, and the only mechanical actions that need to be performed to the deck are basically lifting up parts of it.
There is also an upgrade that’s popular outside of the UK, which adds an electronic speed control box and brings superior speed stability and the chance to switch to 45rpm without using the supplied pulley adaptor. As this brings the cost of the complete package up to almost £4,000, the distributor thinks this is an upgrade too far.
There is a temptation to think of the Stogi S-12/Stabi S-12 combo as the stretch limo of the Kuzma world. But it’s more than that; the typical stretch takes a perfectly reasonable car and messes up its suspension geometry, fills it with an uncomfortable and garish interior that always faintly smells of spilled Remy Martin, cheap perfume and Lambrini sick. In short, it’s tacky. This just adds to the Stabi S/Stogi S, and takes nothing away, apart from tracing distortion. It’s no longer cheap, but still represents one of the cheapest ways to get into the joys of 12” arms today. If you really love your vinyl, this is the next step forward.
Kuzma Stabi S-12/Stogi S-12 turntable/arm combination
Motor type: Synchronous AC motor
Main assembly: Brass T-Bar chassis, oversize aluminium platter
Suspension system: Unsuspended turntable
Arm type: 12” Damped unipivot tonearm
Complete price: £2,750 (excl. Cartridge)
Manufactured by: Kuzma
Distributed by: Audiofreaks
Tel: +44 (0)20 8948 4153