Lublin, Poland, is about 130 miles from Lviv, Ukraine, a town that has been in the news lately. That’s about the same distance as Hershey, Pennsylvania, is from my desk in northern New Jersey, where I’m writing this. They are close. Russian missiles struck Lviv on March 18, 2022, and today Lviv is preparing for more intense bombardment.
J.Sikora manufactures turntables and tonearms in Lublin, Poland. Concentrating on something as frivolous as audio reviewing and not thinking about what’s happening in Ukraine is difficult enough. Lowering the stylus onto a record spinning on J.Sikora’s top-of-the-line Reference turntable, manufactured in the Allmet metal fabrication factory, which is so close to the mayhem, amplifies feelings of helplessness.
Those feelings are further intensified by having met and spent time at more than one Warsaw Audio Video Show with Mr. Janusz Sikora and his son Robert. (Robert is also a musician, in the band Crab Invasion, with his brother Jakub. I’m itching to hear their record.)
The Sikoras are the nicest people. In fact, so were most of the Poles I met at the show and around town. It doesn’t surprise me at all that so many Poles welcomed millions of displaced Ukrainians into their homes.
I was happy to welcome into mine the $47,000 J.Sikora Reference turntable, having heard the J.Sikora Initial Max turntable at the Capital Audiofest and, at a friend’s home, the company’s $21,500 Standard Max turntable.
I’ve done my research on Mr. Sikora. I learned that as a young man he was a rock guitarist. Later, he was a locksmith. He was also involved in tube-amplifier manufacturing. But metalwork is his main skillset, and once analog staged its comeback, he set his sights on making turntables.
The Reference is a superhigh-mass design, weighing 253lb. The dynamically and statically balanced platter alone weighs 40lb; it’s the same one used on the Standard Max. Fabricated from a combination of Delrin and cast iron, with a subplatter of copper, aluminum, and stainless steel, and topped by a glass-crystal mat, the tall platter rides on an inverted ceramic ball bearing that also makes use of steel, cemented carbides, and zirconium, set within a circular machined aluminum platform.
The platter is driven by a quartet of rubber belts set in motion by multigrooved Delrin pulleys, those spun by four Papst DC motors enclosed in heavy Inox steel capsules set equidistant from one other. The bearing platform and motor housings incorporate thick bronze bases.
Any conceptual and/or visual similarity between the Reference and the Kuzma XL is strictly intentional. Mr. Sikora is a Franc Kuzma fan. That makes two of us.
Setup takes balls
Notable Audio’s Jeff Fox drove up from Falls Church, Virginia, to install the Reference. However, the Reference comes with among the best setup manuals I’ve ever received with a turntable, and I’m sure that with the help of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, anyone reading this could easily assemble it.
The normal isolation footers on the HRS base couldn’t handle the high mass, so HRS kindly lent me four special footers that could handle it, along with a set of washers for each footer, calculated to level the large Sikora aluminum plinth upon which the turntable components sit. Two high-mass arm towers located at the plinth’s rear produce a weight imbalance that would otherwise cause the platform to go out of level, though Sikora does provide an independent leveling system consisting of three feet that screw into the bottom of the plinth on large-diameter machined, threaded brass bolts. You won’t see this detail once it’s assembled, so I’ve provided a photo on the following page. The Reference comes standard with one armpod, but the turntable can accommodate three.
The instructions suggest putting the very heavy plinth on a perfectly level platform, then, if necessary, using the feet for a leveling fine-tune. The approximately 1.5"-tall platform also incorporates the motor controller and a five-pushbutton panel with an LCD screen for speed selection and trim: 33 1/3, 45, Off, +, and –.
Sikora provides four leather coasters, three of which you place under the three feet to avoid scratching your support shelf. Once the plinth is in the approximately correct location, sliding it on the leather coasters to the precise, final location is easy. Once that’s done, you replace the leather coasters with indented aluminum discs. Ceramic balls placed into the indents fit into indents on the bottom of each foot, producing a secure, efficient ceramic isolation sandwich. An Allen key inserted into each of the three feet can rotate and fine-tune the platform level.
A supplied template makes it reasonably easy to precisely position the spindle assembly/platter platform and around it the four high-torque motors. The instructions include a link to a video showing how to add oil to the spindle shaft and how to place the small ceramic ball in the indentation on top of the hefty bearing. Properly aligning and lowering the plinth onto the feet is the trickiest setup step, requiring two people operating in perfect synch. If it’s not lowered carefully, the ceramic ball can pop out of its perch and fly across the room, never to be seen again. (You will not have to grow a pair; J.Sikora provides extras.) The second most difficult part is aligning the square belts so that they lay flat against the platter’s side, untwisted.
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