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Kuzma StabiR/4Point9/Ortofon-Anna D
Copyright 2020 © Troels Gravesen

June 2020 - go to July 2020

A friend asked me to come and hear his new Sikora turntable. The result can be seen below. Not at all what he had bought, but the result of months of speculation and readings reviews. I'd seen and heard the Kuzma products several times in Munich and had always been taken by their solidity and non-pretentious design.
The 11" 4Ppoint and 9" 4Point9 tonearms have gotten rave reviews everywhere and I've seen people, whose sonic judgment I deeply respect, use the StabiR and 4Point/4Point9. If they can live with it - I felt confident I could too.

My friends system is very different from my own, but from the first record I could hear calmness and control from the 80 kgs turntable. The turntable itself that should always be the solid foundation upon which we place our tonearm, our cartridge, our cables, etc., all the way to our speakers. What resonances may originate from our turntable will end up amplified in our speakers. Not least when we start out with something like 0.2-0.4 mV from our  MC cartridges.
I'm pleased with the performance of my Maglev/SME and Denon DP67L/Moerch DP8 turntables - but this Sikora convinced me it might be possible to extract even more from our vinyl grooves.
My recent purchase of My Sonic Lab EMINENT EX cartridges for both turntables had brought new levels of quality to my systems, but what if...
Thus, I took the plunge and ordered StabiR turntable and 4Poin9 tonearm with Cardas Clear Cable with Silver Bullet RCA plugs from Gert Lindgreen at High End Sound/Denmark. Delivery, despite the pandemic, was surprisingly fast, less that a month. These Kuzma components come from Slovenia.

I sat up the StabiR/4Point9 with the EMINENT EX cartridge and put on a troublesome piano record and here it was. That last bit of treble shimmering I had noticed on my other turntables - on a few piano recordings - was gone. In addition to this that background calmness, I don't know any other way of describing it, that struck my mind at my friends' system was apparent.
I don't excel in long sonic descriptions, but record after record - an ease of listening. I'm sure we're susceptible to minute levels of distortion on an unconscious level and we may even praise certain types of distortion. Only by trying out other components and combinations can we sometimes be lucky and discover things we thought was how it should be - but turned out to be - nonetheless - distortion. We really only have that level of relaxation as a guideline for picking out components. Components all have sonic signatures and we can set up systems in numerous ways that makes us feel comfortable and one system may be as right as the other. Matter of taste - and "pick your poison" as someone cleverly put it.

Anna D:
The Ortofon Anna D was not bought just on the recommendation of Michael Fremer/Stereophile, although that review leaves no doubt he likes the Anna D - a lot! Download article here.
You hear stuff here and there and you try to value the statements given by people having been in touch with this cartridge - or even own it. So, another plunge and the Anna D was on my 4Point9 tonearm - and I wasn't disappointed. This cartridge does whatever other cartridges may do well - all together in one package. I can't pinpoint one single thing where I would miss specific qualities from other cartridges. Read MF's review and I can subscribe to every single statement.

One really weird thing is that this Anna D has made me hear numerous vinyls pressed in the 60'ies and 70'ies. A lot of these 2nd hand records I have considered worn and despite careful cleaning on my ProJect Vinyl Cleaner I mostly listened for sake of curiosity. The Anna D tells another story. What the heck is going on I can't tell, but this cartridge has the ability to extract the best and not focus on all the things that may have been lost over the years due to bad cartridges, poor handling and general wear. A lot of these vinyls also have a distinctive 60'ies voicing, where a modern mastering would increase bass and try reducing some sibilance. The Anna D let me forget about their shortcomings and fully enjoy the music. I'm really puzzled by this - or maybe the Annas "special polished Nude Ortofon Replicant 100" tip just digs into places where no needle ever was before. Who knows?

 

Unpacking and setting up is half the joy

 


 

Next in line for an investment is a rock-stable rack for my turntable and pre-amp.
See my rack here.


For once I'll keep track of actual hours on the cartridge with this Stylus Timer :-)


Kuzma on top of rack.

 

July 2020

What I soon found out with my Stylus Timer after a month or so was that I would much too soon wear out the Anna D. I never played so much LPs as after the Anna-D and I do play quite some LPs for background music just sitting at my laptop.
A friend of mine lend me his Jelco TK850S + an "Easy VTA black mounting collar for Jelco tonearms" (eBay). I sat it up with my extra Kuzma arm-board and the MSL Eminent EX cartridge. Well, this proved more than a worthy competitor to the 4Poin9/Anna-D set-up, so much I immediately ordered one of the few remaining TK850S arms in this country. Jelco appear to be in trouble due to corona, aging staff and worn-out machinery - according to their press release. I hope someone will take over and revitalise the company as I had quite a few Jelco arms and always been happy with what they did. Also considering SME has stopped selling tonearms.
This VTA on-the-fly is of immaculate design and manufacture. Really, really well made.

 


Jelko TK850S tone-arm with VTA on-the-fly.

 


My MSL Eminent EX cartridge in a close-up.


So, the Stabi-R with two tone-arms.

 

By the way!

As much as I'm pleased with the Kuzma StabiR/4Point9, the finger lift on the headshell just plain sucks! A tiny 2 mm pin meant for dwarfs.
This modified SME finger lift and an M2 screw does it. This is made for a grown man's fingers and you feel safe and in control.

 


The Anna cartridge has three elevated points for coupling to the headshell. The front point exactly fits into a hole in the Kuzma headshell, thus does not mate properly. So, from 2 mm aluminum sheet a small plate was cut to fit the dimensions of the headshell.


A splash of black paint and it's ready to go.
Aligning an Anna cartridge on a Kuzma headshell is not easy.
The Etsuro cartridge below with its square mounting plate is much easier!

 

 


Above aligning the Jelco headshell/Etsuro with a spirit level.
First I adjust the tracking force with the spirit level in place, replace the balance with an LP and adjust first VTA, then azimuth.


Etsuro next to my MSL EMINENT EX and must have protractor.

Had the opportunity to try out Etsuro Urushi Cobalt Blue cartridge. Quite a remarkable cartridge with an unusual hollow sapphire cantilever. "The magnetic circuit combines the performance proven samarium cobalt and electromagnetic soft-iron to achieve the magnetic features consistent with the coil vibration". A cartridge I could easily live with, superb tracking and dynamics with remarkably spacious presentation.