The Schiit SOL Turntable (Updated 10/26/2020)

(Schiit just announced it is producing a new pulley that will run the turntable at the correct speed and will send them free to all existing customers). Executive decision: no Schiit jokes, ok? Especially since the Sol turntable is so well conceived, designed, executed, made in America and remarkably priced at $799 including a $119 Audio Technica AT-VM95EN cartridge.

That said, if you want an “open the box, plug and play” type turntable, the SOL might not be for you. On the other hand, if you buy one with the cartridge already installed, Schiit makes the Sol reasonably easy to set up.

But let’s start at the beginning with the concept: a “plinthless” turntable made of metal, not plastic, with an outboard A.C. synchronous motor topped with a stepped 33 1/3/45rpm machined metal pulley, complete with a fully adjustable 278mm effective length unipivot tonearm featuring a carbon fiber arm tube. Add a relatively high mass machined aluminum platter weighted around its perimeter for “flywheel” effect and topped with a thick cork mat, riding on a beefy, inverted ball type spindle bearing. That’s an awful lot to accomplish for $799 made in U.S.A.

platter bottom, bearing sleeve.

Inverted ball bearing.
Why “plinthless”? The real question is “why plinth”? We use that word even though the platform upon which most turntables are constructed is not really a “plinth” (look it up). Turntables, particularly lower cost ones, usually rely upon a “plinth” made of wood, particle board, plastic or whatever to hold the main bearing, the motor and the tonearm. These tend to be “lively” affairs that can sympathetically resonate with the music coming from the speakers as well as transmit motor and bearing vibrations throughout the system.

“Fixes” exist, but these add to the cost and sometimes create their own technical issues (like a motor suspension that isolated vibrations but also causes the belt to move relative to the platter thus causing speed variations), and of course plinths have to be painted or veneered, which adds unnecessarily to the cost.

Schiit chose to eliminate the “drummy” plinth, replacing it with a cast aluminum “tripod” with a central spindle bearing and featuring one longer leg to provide both rigid tonearm support as well as sufficient distance from the spindle. The casting also includes a fixture for the cueing platform. Schiit saves considerable money here, replacing the more typical and costly damped arm lift mechanism (look for one online and you’ll see they cost between $70 and $100) with a non-damped but easy to use cam-type lifter that you’ll quickly get used to.

A panel attached to the left side of the longer leg contains the RCA jacks, a ground lug and an “on/off” slide switch as well as power jacks.

The generously lengthy (11” effective length) tonearm features a carbon fiber tube and a unipivot bearing system that provides all possible adjustments—including one useful one that in my experience was available only on one other arm costing thousands of dollars.

Set-Up

For unboxing and set-up watch the Schiit YouTube video:

One thing to keep in mind: you must provide the level platform upon which to place the tripod because the feet are not adjustable. A level platform is critical. Learning how to place the O-ring belt around the platter and motor pulley is definitely a “learned” skill set as you’ll find out so be sure to take care doing it (make sure the stylus guard is in place) and don’t get frustrated if it falls off a few times before you get it done!

I encountered a small issue upon set up: after flipping the motor switch, the platter did not spin. Before panicking I felt the motor pod to see if it was vibrating, which it was. I’ve seen this before: in shipping the pulley sometimes gets pressed down against the motor housing. Loosening a set screw and raising the pulley on the motor shaft solved the problem. I bet Schiit gets more than a few panicked calls about that (or maybe not).

The Schiit Arm

The Schiit arm has a 265mm P2S (pivot to spindle) distance and an overhang of 13.828, which produces an effective 278.828mm (11”) length.

Schiit sent three easy to “drop in” arms: one without cartridge and two ready to use with cartridges they offer: one with the “thrown in” Audio-Technica AT-VM95EN and the other with the high output version of Grado’s $275 Timbre Series Opus3, which Schiit will sell you instead of the Audio-Technica for an additional $156. I wrote about the Opus3 in another turntable review.

I realize Schiit wants to make this all as simple as possible and that’s laudable but in the “Getting Started” section under “Tonearm Setup” it says after you place the arm on the pivot pin (with stylus guard on the cartridge) if the arm is “overbalanced” and doesn’t rest on the cueing shelf but instead leans backwards or worse, falls off, loosen the counterweight and slide it in until the arm rests on the cueing shelf.

Okay, that makes sense but then the instructions go on to get you ready to play a record and “enjoy” without warning you to correctly set the tracking force!. Of course, turntable veterans will know to do this but the others? Maybe not!

The arm allows you to adjust every set up parameter: tracking force, VTA/SRA (on the fly), azimuth (which the manual calls “cartridge angle”—and which in the case of an unrestricted unipivot is critical) and of course anti-skating using a monofilament/weight arrangement. Schiit provides various weights and wrongly suggests using a grooveless record to set anti-skating so the stylus doesn’t drift either in or out. You should, if you are using a blank record, set it so the stylus drifts slowly inward. Why? Please check this out.

There’s one additional and very useful adjustment I’ve seen only once on an arm and that’s labeled “Tonearm Height”, which could lead some to confuse that with the VTA/SRA adjustment that also adjusts “tonearm height”.

While the instructions say this setting “adjusts tonearm pivot cup height”, it really does not! The pivot cup itself remains fixed in height while the large tonearm ring and thus the arm tube itself can be either raised or lowered within the limits of the pivot cup cylinder’s vertical travel.

The other arm that offers something similar is the original Immedia RPM 2.

Ideally you want the arm pivot at the “plane of record play”. Very few arms do that. The unipivot Immedia allows you to permanently set the bearing cup at record height. Adjusting VTA/SRA via a screw set in the pivot center that rests on the cup, raises and lowers the arm without changing the pivot cup height. Unique!

The Schiit arm arrangement is thus very similar though here you can also raise or lower the arm via the main shaft. After installing your cartridge and with the VTA/SRA fully down, if the arm tube if not parallel to the record, you can adjust “tonearm height” to get it level, which of course is only the starting point for setting VTA/SRA. If you use a digital microscope to set this, ideally, if possible, you’d raise or lower the “tonearm height” adjustment rather than use the VTA/SRA adjustment. That way, you’d get correct VTA/SRA and maintain the bearing height at the plane of record play. Or use a combination of both.

Schiit also supplies a useful paper alignment gauge (assuming you accurately punch the spindle hole) sensibly calculated for Löfgren A but offers overly simplified alignment instructions that based on years of experience helping readers, I’m certain some new to vinyl will misconstrue. The instructions advise you to “align cartridge to either grid” but fail to tell you to first be sure the stylus rides on the arc across the entire record surface! If you just “align to either grid” you’ve accomplished nothing.

Be very careful routing the tonearm wires from where they exit the bearing ring to where you plug in the multi-pin connector so that the arm doesn’t bind across the record surface. Schiit doesn’t pay sufficient attention to this in the set-up instructions. No matter how you do it, it will always appear to be interfering with arm travel, but I found it never did.

COMMENTS
Anton D's picture

This table is going to open many doors and create its own mini-industry of fun tweaks and add ons.

I hope they let it stay and play with you as we watch the evoluton of things to do to it!

Cheers.

Michael Fremer's picture
Have to pass it on to the next reviewer and make room on the stand for the next on the assembly line!
christopherorman's picture

I have been saving and planning to add the Sol to my setup, but the absence of any reviews has culled my enthusiasm. I have read several forums and posts, but none quite as full or complete as this. What made the decision easy for me? The recorded version of Feels Like Rain. I've always been partial to Buddy Guy's version admittedly, but the clarity and accuracy of this version was staggering.

Michael Fremer's picture
Yes, it is amazing what's possible with a fundamentally sound design properly set up (etc.)
Anton D's picture

John Hiatt also does a good version....

I find that my favorite varies by mood.

I love all three!

John Hiatt:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tw-yZB-frc

Buddy Guy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QButLzJB5SI

MichaelTrei's picture

Thanks for the write up. I look forward to getting my hands on one soon.
It seems to me that a lot of these are going to get paired up with Schiit Mani phono preamps, so it would be neat if Schiit added the little multi pin tonearm wire connector as an alternate input connector directly on the Mani, eliminating a bunch of extra signal path connections and cables in the process. They could even make a little bracket to hold the Mani in a suitable orientation near the base of the arm. Just a thought.

NJaniga's picture

That is a great idea!

Michael Fremer's picture
didn't fare so well in our blind file test....
Tom L's picture

for that price point.
Also an outstanding idea from MichaelTrei!

cdvinyl's picture

Nice job Michael.

NJaniga's picture

First off, Thank you Micheal for the work you do.
I own a SOL. I have since April or May. I bought it with the Grado cart. So this was my first turntable in 15 years. When I first set it up I thought it sounded great, and as it burned-in, it just got better. As I've started really fine tunning it, it just keeps getting better. I just wanted to add that the Plater height is also adjustable, this came in handy when changing out my matt and setting VTA. Just another amazing feature on a table at this price point.

I've done one upgrade/tweak so far. I built my own two-piece isolation platform out of maple, with Sorbothane feet. The motor sits on one platform and the rest of the table sits on the other. This made the background and spaces between instruments very quiet.

I am one to always tweak if I can. Thank you for the speed controller suggestion. I was looking at it and wondering if it would work, or if it would add hum to the motor. Are there motor upgrades or blet upgrades that you think would further improve the performance of the little table? Or any other suggestions?
Thanks,

Glotz's picture

Great stuff for turntables that require 5 watts and under for a power supply.

It is more expensive now, I believe, by $100, which sucks. It's still worth it though, as many others are way more expensive (though more well-built and allowing for a greater range of power supplies)>

Michael Fremer's picture
I know of no belt or motor upgrades rn
Oddiofile's picture

How about replacing the drive belt with a polyester thread a la the Well-Tempered turntable? It should improve speed variations, perhaps at the cost of increased transmission of motor noise to the platter. Cheap to try!

Michael Fremer's picture
like that is worth a try....
Michael Fremer's picture
I'm not sure a knotted thread will be beneficial but again, why not?
Oddiofile's picture

This video was my inspiration for the thread comment. Enjoy it with a Faster's Lager, mate:
https://youtu.be/a8vhQuYP6XU
I've  tried it myself on a DIY table, and the results are promising. The knot, it turns out, is vanishingly tiny. I know, I know...so is the output from a MC cartridge...

MichaelTrei's picture

Substituting a thread would make it run slower.

Oddiofile's picture

I should have added that a controller would be a necessity.

krahbeknudsen's picture

Great review and quite remarkable sound for this price range!
I hear hum and the start and end of the record. Is that from guitar amps on the records or from the table?

Michael Fremer's picture
turntables don't hum...but could be a ground loop though I didn't hear it to tell you the truth. Could be in the recording too (on the vinyl)...
NewVinyl's picture

First post, so before I begin... long time lurker, great site, great content.

I hear the hum at the beginning of the song too. Definitely a ground loop. I transcribe LPs to digital files too and was interested to see your needle-in-the-groove-without-music level, but the hum (at -32dB) overrode that.

redchaser's picture

Thanks for the great review Michael.Like Christopherorman above, I've had my eye on this turntabe but was waiting for a review from a trusted reviewer. Here's a questions, by the time you add your recommended Music Hall Cruise Control and Funk Firm Achromat you are at $1,200 (which I still think is a good value if you get high end performance). How do you feel the Sol compares to turntables available in that price range? Is there something at that price range that doesn't require additional enhancements over the SOl? Thanks

Michael Fremer's picture
It is so fundamentally correct in so many ways, compared to others at the price point and since you can adjust every parameter, I'm not sure what competes...
Ortofan's picture

... a Technics SL-1500C, about which MF said "I really can’t imagine one better at $1199.99."
Add a KAB fluid damper for the tonearm and exchange the 2M Red stylus with one for the 2M Blue.

redchaser's picture

Thanks Mike

mikehoustina's picture

I was exhausted by the time you got to the listening. I know there is a market for difficult to use products but will the customer that buys an $800 table want to go down all those roads? I doubt it. If Michael Fremer finds it tedious then it is definitely not for me.

Michael Fremer's picture
I didn't find it "tedious".
mikehoustina's picture

Sorry if I misrepresented you. It felt like a lot of work. My bad. Maybe more than I would want to put into it. On one hand I want great sound but on the other hand I don’t really like to fiddle with stuff.

Jfuquay's picture
Telekom's picture

This is why I enjoy the reviews here on Analog Planet - Michael clearly has a thorough understanding of every technical aspect of turntable engineering. Reviews elsewhere can often focus more on the hard-to-quantify, hard-to-describe, ineffable qualities of a turntable’s sound. I learn so much more from reviews like this one where the technical qualities of the machine are explained as well as the sonic results.

Redchaser asked about possible alternatives in the price range. I haven’t seen it mentioned here on AP, so I will briefly say that my local hifi shop (The Music Room, Glasgow - two doors down from my flat!) is the UK distributor for New Horizon turntables, an Italian brand. Jack (the owner) was very impressed by these turntables and really worked hard to bring them to the UK. He usually sells Origin Live and Michell and Brinkmann turntables, so he knows his onions and has high standards. One comparison that might be interesting is the New Horizon GD2 or GD2.5, along with some of the cartridges mentioned above, to roughly hit the $1200 price point. Full disclosure: I do not work for Jack, and I have not heard these turntables! Possibly worth exploring though.

dial's picture

New Horizon turntables use Project tonearms (elemental on the 101 an extremely cheap design totally unusable). Don't know how they could get these parts from them as their delays are extremely long (centuries or so) when you get something (no stocks perhaps)... Here we have a good to very good original tonearm alas without detachable headshell nor proper lift (Elipson Alpha 100 has no lift at all but it's a cheap turntable) (?!).
Speed problems and unadjustable feet (re- ?!) make me want to get the arm separately and forget the rest.
The Grado is interesting.

Andy18367's picture

There is nothing worse than a turntable that runs slow.

So this means that, to actually enjoy music on the Sol, you've got to spend $800 for the TT and another $300 for the Music Box Cruise Control. That's $1100, for which you can get you a Technics SL1200 MK7 (with $100 left over towards a cartridge).

I guess running slow is better than the belt falling off, which apparently is what happened during the Sol beta release.

Anyway, it's great that Schiit tried to make a turntable -- their heart and market instincts were in the right place and I had high hopes for this product -- but it appears to fall short (or fall slow, I guess) where the platter hits the road (mixed metaphor)

Michael Fremer's picture
All Schiit has to do is better machine another run of pulleys and then offer customers a pulley replacement. Problem solved.
scottsol's picture

but Schitt’s proposed solution for use in 50Hz countries is for them to make an electronic speed adjustment device if sales support the notion, rather than simply offering a smaller pulley. Redoing the pulley doesn’t seem to be part of their thinking.

NJaniga's picture

I have a SOL and check the speed on mine with the exact same app Michael used. Mine was bouncing between 33.3 and 33.4. I adjusted the position of the motor slightly and now is reading 33.3 on the nose.

audiof001's picture

I have 5 turntables in my home and tested each motor speed with the Turntabulator iOS app. All 3 of my older Well Tempered tables run below 33.3, in the range of 32.8-32.9rpm. A classically trained musician friend, who also builds turntables and tonearms, explained that the slightly slower speed, to some manufacturers, represents a compromise to bring the 440 A tone down in pitch a bit because many consider it a touch strident when played back at perfect pitch. As a hobbiest musician with good relative pitch (and audio reviewer), I've never felt the urge to modify these tables - the ever slight drop in speed has never triggered my ear.This 440 pitch issue is discussed in various places on the web.

I have an idler drive and one other heavily modified Well Tempered, a Simplex. The Shied MO-19 runs dead 33.3rpm and I can adjust the DC motor on the Simplex.

Speaking of triggering my "ear," back in the 1990's, I couldn't sit in the room when a friend played the album Muddy Waters "Folksinger" - Willie Dixon's bass playing was just too off pitching all over the place for these ears... I had to leave the room until it was overland have not listened to it since.

Andy18367's picture

If your TTs run 1.5% slow, they're not well tempered!!

Jfuquay's picture

Submitted by Jfuquay on Sat, 2020-10-24 06:39
Not sure what happened to the comment portion of my post previously. But thanks for addressing all the issues that have circulated out of Sol’s beta release. I’ve been looking for an upgrade from my Debut Carbon, which has always been touchy about motor vibration. I’m not sure how I feel about the slow speed, but you put my mind to rest about the uni pívot arm and general design of the Sol. In any event, I’m current running, and like, a low-output Opus 3 cartridge so I’d say the Sol is a real candidate. I stream so much now that I’m just not willing to spend $$$ on a new table.

Michael Fremer's picture
Hopefully Schiit will do another run of pulleys that spin the platter more precisely and offer them to SOL buyers...
dial's picture

I've read they wait for years* to ad this table to their line so if it's just a pulley affair they can do something. Hope it'll be the same price outside USA.

* = 6 in fact

Jfuquay's picture

I have a heavy, rubber-like mat, I’d say 4-5mm thick, from an old Yamaha P450 turntable. It’s very flexible but also really substantial. Anybody know anything about whether it is similar to the Achromat? I didn’t use it on my Debut Carbon because it was so much thicker than that horrible felt mat, and then I didn’t need a mat at all, per Pro-Ject’s instructions, after adding the acrylic platter (which I found a big improvement, BTW) If the Achromat works by deadening resonance, the Yamaha mat sure looks like it would do the same. Thanks.

avanti1960's picture

Not ready for prime time.
The frame looks excellent but needs leveling capability.
The platter has noticeable wobble and runout.
The tonearm pivot design looks like a science fair project.
At the moment this table is Schiit Out of Luck......

scottsol's picture

You don’t think the goof balls over there really named the table after the sun, did you?

robert r dawson's picture

Schiit Sol, Schiit Fulla, Schiit Stack...Schiit Outa Luck might actually be in the near future.

Glotz's picture

Lol.. so funny.

krahbeknudsen's picture

An early review online mentions problems mounting longer cartridges eg. Denon DL103 due to lack of space in the head shell. I was wondering whether Schiit have addressed this issue?

ProjectOregon's picture

I own a SOL since April. The issue with long cartridge has been addressed in the March relaunch. I currently use a Dyna 10x4 MK IV, without no issues.

Jaytee58's picture

I have the Shinola turntable but before I read this review I didn't know Schiit from Shinola.
Couldn't resist, sorry.

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