Schiit Sol Turntable Review - Episodic.

Discussion in 'Vinyl Nutjob World: Turntable and Related Gear' started by purr1n, Sep 10, 2019.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Didn't I say that this is not a turntable for beginners? Well after opening the box and finally getting the thing to work, and work rather well, I would have to say that this is the biggest pain in the ass turntable ever in terms of set up. Yes, the Schiit video made it seem easy. Of course, videos make things easy. The power of editing allows this.

    First of all, the sound is fabulous and I think it's fair to say that this turntable punches well above its price point. Superior to the likes of Rega Planar 7, VPI Aries Scout, 2, 1, Project Xperience. The caveat is that it must be set-up right and that it's difficult to set-up. I grade the Sol a D+ (needs improvement) grade in terms of ease-of-use. That's almost a fail. At times, I wanted to punch or yell at a wall. The remark about getting a cup of tea and taking a deep breath in the instruction manual should be heeded. If you don't like putting Lego Technic pieces together, then definitely don't do this because it's harder. Throughout my posts, I will mention things that are awesome and things that drove me nuts.

    Here are some pictures.
    IMG_20190909_202640.jpg
    IMG_20190909_202909.jpg
     
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Here's my first gripe. There isn't enough working room under the headshell where the headshell meets the shaft. This makes is a royal pain to fit longer carts were the pins stick out further.

    This was my initial attempt to fit the Denon DL103. As we can see, the stylus is way forward of the alignment point.
    IMG_20190909_211640.jpg

    I almost gave up, but determined to make it work, I squished in the connectors against the wall of the headsheel (I dislike doing stuff like this, but it works). The red and green wires just couldn't be pushed back any more.

    IMG_20190910_124000.jpg

    This sort of worked, but ultimately the needle was just a tiny bit forward of where it needed to be. But close enough.

    I do think that Schiit should do a minor redesign to provide for more room behind the cartridge where the pins attached. It would just make life much easier. I've never with such a difficult headshell design before.
     
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Out of the box, the motor pully height was way off where the platter rested. Using the smaller 33rpm pulley on top, the belt rested at the top of the platter. The problems were twofold:
    1. I could only lower the motor pulley so far since a certain amount of clearance was necessary to fit a hex wrench for adjustment.
    2. The rubber belt is a colossal piece of shit that wobbles up and down the platter while turning it, never being able to settle into a spot.
    Here is a picture of the motor assembly and the set screw. Note that the band here is a nylon thread which I used to in place of the rubber belt.
    IMG_20190910_133407.jpg

    In regards to the rubber belt wobbling up and down the platter, this required me to keep the (reasonable) pulley height above and put 1x1 Lego pieces under the feet of the table. Note that the feet have no adjustability.

    The end result looks like this:
    IMG_20190909_230409.jpg

    EDIT: Oh shit, I just found the platter height adjustment screw. Doh!
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I was hoping the band would settle, but nope. I'm guessing that these bands are cheap and have different tensions and twists along their length. So screw this shit. I'm going old school tweaks. In this case, I used a nylon string. Silk, fishing line, dental floss can also be used with different effect.

    The problem with a band that wobbles up and down is lack of speed stability. For those familiar with jitter on digital devices, poorly controlled speed (wow and flutter) sounds like bad jitter: hazy, lost dynamics, lack of focus, etc.

    DIY strings and belts aren't necessarily the cure-all to all situations. The tighter coupling can introduce motor noise or sympathetic vibrations that sound like screeches or screams. Fortunately, in this case, the nylon string that I used only added a bit of motor noise that could only be heard when I was sitting right in front of the woofer. This noise wasn't noticeable at my listening position on the couch. Another downside is that different material will result in different speeds. I wouldn't be surprised if this nylon string setup ran a bit faster than the cheap rubber band.

    Here is a photo that I took of the platter spinning with the DIY nylon string. After a few rotations, it's settled perfectly. The sound is now focused, exhibiting solid dynamics and strong attacks. No smeared soft shit, although I can see some owners preferring the smeared sound of the stock rubber band.

    IMG_20190910_135101.jpg

    Finally, I did find the motor pod a little bit too light. Perhaps I am spoiled with heavy motors from VPI or much more high-end brands. But I found it just too easy to tip the motor over while I was putting on the stretchy rubber band. A little bit more mass with the motor, not a ton more, would have been more suitable. Also, some ribbing on the platter may have helped secure the band, but that may have increased the price of this cast part or made it impossible to cast.

    So here's a list of my complaints in this post (not counting the ones in the prior two posts):
    • motor pod slightly too light
    • no adjustable feet
    • piece of shit rubber band
    • lack of ribbing on platter
    • lack of available speed controller
     
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Finally, one last thing that annoyed me was the anti-skate. The anti-skate hook on the arm (red) is lower than the spot (blue) where the string with the weight loops over. There is a small detent at the top of the red nook that should catch the loop of the string. However, it just doesn't work. It's physics.

    Because the red hook is lower, the sting is being pulled up and away from the hook rather than to the side. Total fail here unless I am missing something or need to do something super delicate like small a super small loop that catches on to the detent. Note that the user must thread the provided string into the weights and make their own loops and knots.

    140606333.jpg

    The table sounds better with anti-skate, so I just did it the old-fashioned super reliable way: I just tied it around the counterweight shaft. Note that the above photo reflects what I did here - the anti-skate hook isn't used.
    IMG_20190910_140509.jpg

    One thing I should point out is that I had to adjust the tonearm pivot cup height lower so that I could get the right VTA (arm roughly parallel with the record) with the bottom of the "O" hitting the base of the plinth. This is done with a small hex wrench to turn the set-screw at the top of the "O" of the arm. Be sure to not let the pivot cup fall out when you loosen the screw!
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    One thing that I wanted to point out which was confusing in the manual was the location of the set screw for the on-the-fly VTA adjust: The manual doesn't actually show a picture of the set screw (in blue). In only shows a crop below that with the screw marked with an X, which is not the set screw for VTA. The knob is for VTA adjust. Turning clockwise moves the bearing up. Counterclockwise moves the bearing down.

    IMG_20190909_204854.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I would like to see the following improvements (or instructions in the case I was dumb and missed something):
    1. Less cramped quarters behind the carts under the headshell so I don't have to smash the wires and pins into the back wall of the headshell.
    2. A better quality belt that does not wobble up and down on the platter.
    3. A slightly heavier motor pod. I understand controlling costs. But just a little bit heavier or more stable.
    4. Ribs on the platter to better hold the belt or install the belt
    5. Easier anti-skate: premade loops on the strings with the weights, better mechanism where the anti-skate attaches to the arm. Also, include anti-skate weights with each new tonearm.
    6. Fine adjust VTF option.
    7. Adjustable feet option. Can't level the table.
    8. FIne speed controller option.
    9. Center weight option (with Schiit symbol on top).
    10. Heavier platter option. (zinc, copper, etc.)
    11. Parts replacements (mat, tools, screws, weights, etc.)
    So now that I've mentioned all the bad stuff, what's good?

    The azimuth adjustment is simple and effective. Both the brass piece and the threaded screw can move. At first, I thought the brass piece was stuck on to the threaded screwed, but both pieces can move freely. The VTA adjustment requires a precise hand but actually works. The counterweight is simple enough, sure maybe a fine adjustment for VTF adjustment would have been a nice touch, but a counterweight works well enough with gentle taps from a spoon to make fine adjustments. The cueing mechanism is smooth and feels good. The tonearms are 11" long providing better tracking angles. The implementation of the inverted platter bearing is simply ingenious. As is the design of the arm is the low slung O and counterweight shaft at the end, providing for more stability than is typical for unipivot designs. And finally, the sound is really quite good.

    All tables have their own sound. The VPI Classic 4 I would call neutral and energetic (this last applies to all the Classics). The under $1.5k Regas all seem to sound like ass, I mean warmpoo, I mean organic. The Sol I would say sounds fluid, liquid and dreamy with the nylon string adding more energy to the sound.

    Finally, the best feature of the Sol? High-quality (that sound better than the VPI 3D printed shit) swappable tonearm wands. That cost not $1000, $800, $400, but $200. I've already got two wands running different carts.

    CONCLUSION:

    User-friendliness: D+
    Sonics-for-price: A
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
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  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    IMG_20190910_150744.jpg
    Shure MM95HE MM
    Denon DL103 MC

    Other thoughts:
    • Azimuth should really be adjusted with a Fonzimeter (whatever they are called) or under FFT spectrum analyzer using a test recording. Eyeballing doesn't work and most carts needles are aligned that precisely with the cartridge body. You can also do this by ear, using the Force (imaging).
    • VTA (vertical tracking angle). If the shaft of the arm tilts up toward the cart, that means more lows. If the shaft of the arm tilts down toward the cart, that means more highs. Best to keep parallel and start from there.
    • VTF (vertical tracking force). Avoid cheap digital scales from China. They don't work right. Use counterweights. There is a good reason why many medical offices still use old-fashioned scales. More WTF means more damped sound and less skipping. Less WTF means more lively transients.
    • Try with the grounding wire connected and disconnected. Sometimes there is less hum with the ground wire not connected.
    • Be sure to work the tonearm wire out of the way and fashion so that it doesn't apply any force that might affect azimuth, anti-skate, etc.
    IMG_20190909_221703.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
  9. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    So with the 103 being a lower compliance cart and the schiit tonearm being towards the lower mass end of the spectrum, did you notice any typical compliance/total system mass miss-match issues (i.e. groove bounce on needle drop or weak tracking on lower SPL/needle jump on higher SPL?). IIRC optimal tonearm mass for DL103 is something around 11 or 12 grams for total system mass around 18-ish grams. Going off memory, so I'm probably wrong. Anyhow, I only ask because if i were to try out a Sol, it'd be with a DL103r and an old AT440ml that probably needs to be retipped... tho I might factor in cost-wise a swtich to a Hana Sl to try out a shibata.
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Let me measure on FFT with a blank track from a test record to look at the subharmonics. I've always viewed needing a super heavy arm with the DL103 with suspicion. Part of this is because how the Japanese measure compliance differently. Vinylworld tends to be filled with a lot of misinformation, lack of measurements, perpetuation of urban legends. It's only slightly better than HF.

    For what it's worth, the DL103 sounds damn good, as it should. Everything anybody has said good about it, that it's 90%+ of the best MCs around, is true. I'll put some old records and see.

    Shibata is good for old worn records, to extract the detail deeper in the areas of the groove not worn down by conicals. Downside it that it picks up all sorts of shit, dirt, dust mites, etc.
     
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  11. Mr.Sneis

    Mr.Sneis Friend

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    So..... no stamp approve?
     
  12. Ringingears

    Ringingears Honorary BFF

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    I would never had made it had I tried to assemble this TT. I would have thrown it threw a window. Obliviously a product for those with a lot of patience and the ability to modify. Re-affirms my decision to stick with CD’s. Spent half my life with vinyl. Really don’t miss it.
     
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    The headshell is cause for concern. I don't know if the protractor was wrong or if I was retarded. But it seems that folks at Hoffman forums have had same issue. Was too lazy last night to print my own protractor to confirm.

    I think some elements can be better adjusted out-of-box to reduce hassle. Other spots can perhaps be better labeled, or perhaps a better manual that highlights all the adjustment points on a single page.

    After these things are addressed, then stamp of approval. Otherwise this is for level 87+ vinylheads with patience. The typical entry-level vinylhead that would otherwise go for a Rega 3 or Project Xpression will throw this out the window, run it over with a car, and pick up the pieces to put back into the box and return it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
  14. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    reading @purr1n Sol posts felt like a brain aneurysm bursting.
    might go to basement and pull two random records out of storage and snap them in half. just because.
     
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  15. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    LOL. Exactly how I felt at certain points last night. You feel like brain is going to explode from frustration.

    I try to tell a story. Connect with the readers. It appears that I was successful.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
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  16. Ringingears

    Ringingears Honorary BFF

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    @jexby. Not proud of this, but years ago after fucking around with an uncooperative TT, my first copy of Zeppelin’s In Thru the Out Door, turned into a Frisbee smashing into bits against the far wall of a friends apartment. |\/|
     
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  17. Mr.Sneis

    Mr.Sneis Friend

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    I have 3 TT's, 3 phono preamps, 1 SUT, 6 carts, and about 900 records between them. Not to brag, but I dont think I am a vinyl n00b or hipster. Based on what I can see here, I think the adjustments would drive me insaaaane.

    The alignment protractor depends on the spindle to pivot distance right? What is that distance?
     
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  18. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I don't think Schiit included specs in the manual. They just included a printout using Conrad Hoffman's Windows XP program. It says 265mm for spindle to pivot. I haven't measured it to confirm or printed out my own yet.

    A nice sheet metal protractor like what VPI provides would be cool. I know I'm asking for a lot for a sub $1k table.
     
  19. Mr.Sneis

    Mr.Sneis Friend

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  20. Ringingears

    Ringingears Honorary BFF

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    Looks like the Sol should come with a bottle of nice scotch and/or a bottle of tranquilizers, at least for now. Was hoping this was going to be my entry back into vinyl as I have a shit load of records from the 1950’s to the 1990’s. Oh well.
     
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