The Schiit SOL Turntable Page 2

I'm not going to go into how each of the set-up parameters get adjusted. They are well described in the instruction booklet.

Place the motor behind the turntable sufficiently back to produce adequate belt tension and if you have a strobe disc, use it to help you locate the best motor placement. Distance from the platter slightly affects speed.

Use

Once set up, using the SOL is straightforward though the placement of the “on/off” switch is less than convenient (but I know why it's where it is: saves $) and of course those unused to unipivot's “floppy” behavior will at first be put off but don't worry! Once the stylus has stopped its wobble it will be well-behaved and you'll hear rock solid and stable imaging and soundstaging.

After a few days of letting the motor constantly run I used the Platterspeed app to check speed accuracy and consistency. Here's what I found:

As you can easily see, the 3150Hz tone gets reproduced slow— around 3132Hz and the filtered green line though not “flat” is reasonably consistent and typical of decent belt drive performance. Other than the speed being considerably slow (3150Hz reproduced as 3132.5Hz) the chart numbers are reasonably well balanced. The slow speed did bother me though, but in my opinion better slow than fast.

Enter Music Hall's Cruise Control 2.0

A reader who knew I was about to review the SOL turntable emailed to say he'd bought one and his ran slow—about the same speed as mine. He recommended Music Hall's Cruise Control 2.0, an outboard box that can control either a 120V A.C. synchronous motor or a 16V A.C. motor like the one Schiit uses. I asked Music Hall for a review loaner and once installed (you run the belt of the 45rpm pulley) I was able to achieve 3150Hz. The Controller's digital read out lets you know the frequency needed to achieve the correct speed. Its quartz oscillator is claimed to have speed stability of 0.0001% and its pitch control offers 20 steps in 01rpm increments. At the push of a button the controller also switches between 33 1/3 and 45rpm. Here's what the Platter app looked like with the controller in the line:

The speed was correct now (with the digital readout saying 33.6) though the speed consistency was about the same. Should you buy a SOL and it runs equally slow, whether or not the Cruise Controller 2.0 is worth $338.71 is of course your call.

Warm SOL Sound

Using either supplied cartridge the immediate reaction playing familiar recordings was “rich, warm and full on bottom, maybe “thick” but definitely not “resonancy-y” as in the bass notes are hanging around too long. They were as solid and rhythmically well defined as you could possibly ask for from any turntable costing less than a few thousand dollars., never mind $800 with cartridge.

Above the bottom octaves was all sweetness and light, precision and smoothness with, despite the “floppy” nature of an unrestricted unipivot, rock solid imaging and (if you correctly set azimuth) a wide open and deep soundstage when the recording offers that.

I played all four sides of the recently released male vocal showcase album The Wonderful Sounds of Male Vocals (APP 131) mastered by Ryan K. Smith at Sterling Sound using DSD files (the only way to produce such a compilation). As with the female vocals set, I wrote the annotation. In order to do that I played these tracks repeatedly for weeks, especially getting to know the unfamiliar ones so I could organize the running order. I didn't choose the tunes, just the order.

Without exception, the Audio-Technica cartridge produced that full thick bottom end through either the new budget priced iFi Audio Zen phono preamp ($149) or the more costly ($995) Channel Islands PEQ-1 MKII.

As did the Grado Opus3 on every record. I know both of these cartridges and of course I know these records, so I first decided to remove the thick cork mat and replace it with a Funk Firm Achromat. HUGE IMPROVEMENT with either cartridge. Though it's somewhat dependent upon the size of your speakers and the general sound of your system, I strongly recommend replacing the supplied cork mat!

With the Achromat in place (I used the $130 5mm thick one to better match the height of the cork mat) bass greatly tightened, but more importantly became less of a “thickening agent” that interfered with everything else. Baritone Greg Brown's searing “Brand New '64 Dodge” went from overwhelmed on bottom both on his voice and the drums, to being properly “grounded” on bottom, with deep, full and well controlled bass you simply do not get with most similarly priced turntables (and I'm listening on the new Wilson Audio Specialties XVX speakers that produce astonishingly great bass).

The same was true of the kick drum on Roy Orbison's atmospheric “Blue Bayou” and Elvis Presley's “Fever”.

The A-T is a fine starter cartridge but if you can spend the extra few bucks for the Grado, you'll be rewarded with more top to bottom timbral and imaging solidity, a richer midband balance and greater transient precision on top. Well worth the difference especially if you are not comfortable doing cartridge set up.

I also played Lang Lang's superbly recorded Goldberg Variations (DGG 481 9736) with both mats. The Achromat was transformative, unclogging the bass clarifying the midrange and allowing the top end to sing, thus producing a timbrally believable piano in my room, or more accurately transporting me to the Berliner Studio space that I've been in more than a few times.

I also tried an IsoAcoustics ZaZen 1 isolation platform ($199) designed for 25 pound and under turntables and electronics. However, the turntable was already sitting on an $8000 Stillpoints ESS rack, so not surprisingly it had little effect on the sound. That said, if your stand is “meh” consider an upgrade like this one under any unsuspended turntable.

Conclusion

I spent a great deal of time listening to, playing with and “tweaking” the Schiit SOL turntable (I think Schiit can produce a few good “tweaks” too, like, perhaps a silicon damping reservoir and paddle designed to fit under the ring). It is a fascinating design, incorporating many good, fundamentally sound ideas priced to bring vinyl lovers on a budget, both tech and sound quality otherwise out of their reach, but (and it's a zoftig butt) getting the most out of the SOL requires more than a casual set up, though even then you'll get pretty good sonic performance. However, it would be a shame to buy one and not pursue the sonic excellence it is capable of providing, starting with as good a medium to high compliance MM or MI cartridge you can possibly afford.

So, please consider getting the necessary tools to properly adjust the iconoclastic, versatile arm including in addition to an accurate VTF gauge, a Fozgometer to set azimuth and if you can at least borrow one, a microscope to set SRA. Oh, and remember to set overhang using the paper alignment tool's arc before aligning to the grid.

Also at the very least, please, if you find the SOL's sound in your system somewhat “thick”, consider replacing the thick cork “Mr. Softee” mat (cork works well on lesser 'tables IMO) with an Achromat or other harder surface mat used in conjunction with an inexpensive Record Doctor clamp ($30), and if yours runs slow or fast, consider adding the Music Hall Cruise Controller 2.0. if your turntable sits on a less than idea platform, be sure to level it and consider an isolation device such as the Isoacoustics Zazen 1.

I will now make clear why I suggest all of these things: the final cartridge I auditioned on the SOL was a vintage Grace F9 MM cartridge that I've had for years with no stylus to use. Soundsmith began producing super high quality styli in various configurations for this legendary cartridge. I got the laser mounted to a Sapphire Cantilever CL Nude stylus “Ruby” $399 option (there's one more costly) and I set up the F9 carefully to get the most from it.

So, here's what the F9 sounds like tracking at 1.2 grams in the Schiit Sol turntable (I hope the copyright police don't take down this file) using the Channel Islands PEQ-1 MKII (with optional $299 power supply). Are you Schiiting me? (Okay, one Schiit joke).

Feels Like Rain

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

I’ve never quite eliminated motor noise on my Debut Carbon, so had been waiting for a strong review of this table as I pondered my next upgrade. As it happens I already own and like a low-output Opus3 cart and a heavy rubber platter mat from a previous table, so I’m thinking the Sol is right for me. Thanks for covering what seem to be the principal issues clearly. The VTA and other adjustments were high on my list, especially considering I’ll probably try an MC cart sooner than later.

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.

Jfuquay's picture

I pulled the trigger on a Sol a week ago and am very happy with performance. No platter wobble, although the mat is slightly irregular. Here are some observations. Setup is not hard. Very straight-forward, especially with the video on the Schitt site. The included AT cartridge is OK and I used it to make sure everything was working right. Then I mounted my own Grado Opus3 low-output cart, whose 1 mV output is better suited to my 55 dB gain phono stage. I was afraid I wasn’t going to get the azimuth vertical but hit it right before the adjusting weight bottomed out. I haven’t yet adjusted VTA; the set screw is quite tight, but I’ll get to it. The unipivot arm is my first, but it quickly settles in with no rocking side to side. But wow, the arm is feather light and unconstrained, so it will go flying with the slightest touch. No way I’d own this with a cat or a child in the house! The cueing lever is undamped and can slip out of the raised position unless it is exactly at 12 o’clock. Not a table for casual use. But I plan to experiment with MC cartridges and wanted an adjustable table without spending $$$$. Finally, I think the tripod plinth looks very cool and seems rock solid. Leveling screws would be nice, but I may end up putting an isolation base under it anyway. Thanks, Michael, for the review.

Jfuquay's picture

After several hours of playback, I’ve noticed that after fine tuning the cartridge, a Grado Opus3, I hear a considerably quieter noise floor than with my Debut Carbon with acrylic platter. The music just seems to jump out of a dead-quiet background, and there’s less pop and crackle from surface imperfections. I have to think part of that is due to the adjustments to VTA allowed by the TT and to a more stable platter bearing and steadier arm.

ken h's picture

Given the capabilities of the Sol what preamp and cartridge would bring out the best in the table? Pre-amp wise Project Phono Box Ultra 500, iFi iPhono3, PS Audio Stellar? Cartridge wise go the MC route and get a Hana ML? Any suggested for a new Sol owner is appreciated.

Old Audiophile's picture

First off, thanks Mike! You're the best!

I read this review at the behest of a friend who's thinking of getting back into vinyl.

This is definitely not a beginner's TT, even a beginner with deep enough pockets to shell out 12 to 15 hundred bucks to get it right, so to speak. Also, as one commenter pointed out, not a beginner or anyone with small children, cats, dogs, spongy floors or anything likely to insult that tonearm or introduce vibration. Seems like this TT would also need to be located as far away from speakers, as possible. However, it certainly seems like a budding tweakofile's dream. It seems, to me, like this TT was rushed to market, rather than doing the proper amount of beta testing and development to avoid all the little glitches unearthed during this review. Not expensive "fixes", relatively speaking, but add-on "fixes", nonetheless. I've never been a fan of outboard motors that cannot be fixed in space, for obvious reasons. However, this, too, is another inexpensive fix. Gotta admit, though, that tonearm is hot Schiit! (Sorry! Couldn't resist, either. C'mon! Even you couldn't, Mike.) If Schitt keeps at it and keeps paying attention to customer and reviewer feedback, this is a relatively inexpensive TT with lots of possibilities.

ringmeraudioguy's picture

Nice touch with the audio file Mike, it sounds very good,thanks, David Tomsett.

philgo01's picture

Based upon Jason's recent, but first Youtube Q&A from Corpus Christi, he had mentioned that the future of SOL as a product is being discussed internally. SAD.... Yes, there were hiccups but turntables are TOUGH to do as it is very mechanical yet I think overall, people that are really into vinyl really like it. It is unique, it is AMERICAN.. Hope it survives...

AudioFileZ's picture

Reading I couldn't help but think about the AR XA which by the time I bought one was almost $80. Why? Well, the AR broke ground at a ridiculously low price point. It encouraged tweeking like a better mat, counterweight, as well as any one of several arm lifts (mine was a Lyra Lift). And some other things like different springs and possibly an improved motor. The weak point seemed to be the tone arm which was plenty good enough at rock bottom prices, but oh so simple with the ugliest plastic headshell. The tnng was the AR had a sprung platter and arm isolated from the plinth/box. This was in a time where Dual and Garrard were using a less sophisticated spring suspended whole table in a box. AR went it's own way at what was an amazing low price. So in 2021 I see parallels with the Schitt Sol table. The Schitt, adjusted for inflation and including a decent starter cartridge, is within a stone toss of the AR cost-wise. One has to believe it's sol (couldn't resist) purpose is to make a very high-performance cdeck available to the masses for peanuts. Like the AR XA The Schitt Sol can encourage the audio hobbyist to search for and install upgrades. In this case it would seem the AR's weakness, the arm, has been given much thought making t not a weakness, but a strength. Aimed at the audio hobbyist seeking max performance for a bargain price I hope this table will so well encouraging Schitt to evolve the table over time to be more and more of a cornerstone product. I'm tempted to buy it without a deeper dive.

Jfuquay's picture

By the time I bought my AR-XA, they were all the way up to $90! As I recall it was about 1976 or so. When I finally traded it in for a new TT, my dealer offered me $90 for it. This was at least 10 years later, so I was thrilled to say the least.

Tilo Benz's picture

This is definitely not a beginner's TT, even a beginner with deep enough pockets to shell out 12 to 15 hundred bucks to get it right, so to speak. Also, as one commenter pointed out, not a beginner or anyone with small children, cats, dogs, spongy floors or anything likely to insult that tonearm or introduce vibration. Seems like this TT would also need to be located as far away from speakers, as possible. However, it certainly seems like a budding tweakofile's dream. It seems, to me, like this TT was rushed to market, rather than doing the proper amount of beta testing and development to avoid all the little glitches unearthed during this review. Not expensive "fixes", relatively speaking, but add-on "fixes", nonetheless. I've never been a fan of outboard motors that cannot be fixed in space, for obvious reasons. However, this, too, is another inexpensive fix. Gotta admit, though, that tonearm is hot Schiit! (Sorry! Couldn't resist, either. C'mon! Even you couldn't, Mike.) If Schitt keeps at it and keeps paying attention to customer and reviewer feedback, this is a relatively inexpensive TT with lots of possibilities.

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