Review: STST Motus II turntable
This turntable from German manufacturer STST is a minimalist design with an ingenious approach to direct drive. Paul Rigby finds out more…
Motus II £6,399; Vertex tonearm £3,399; Etsuro Urushi cartridge £5,995
All the way from Germany, STST has been up and running since 1985, at the hands of Stefan Strohmetz. The company makes two turntables, the Motus and Motus II, using a direct-drive motor that has been created in-house.
Although run on a similar drive system, the two turntables differ in how the decks are isolated. The basic Motus is a ‘fixed’ design, whereas the Motus II has the motor and tonearm base mounted on a separate sub-chassis, which is carried on a fully sprung suspension system. Hence the Motus II is the more advanced of the pair; and the design that, as you would expect, offers the lower-noise performance.
The Motus II can be supplied with a variety of wood-veneered plinths, with a choice of matching or contrasting top plates. As such, the turntable looks meaty and strong and, indeed, that’s what it is. The Motus II is quite a robust design, minimalistic and clean in its lines.
The direct-drive system featured inside the Motus II is an intriguing one. We are so used to associating direct-drive motors with the likes of Technics models and other turntables out there that are allied to the DJ cause. As such, most turntables that are used as DJ tools employ a direct-drive system that is based on heaps of power. This power enables the platter to run up to speed in a fraction of a second: very useful when you have a complex nightclub set planned and you require reliability and instant response.
For audiophiles, though, the turntable is a sonic source, not a DJ tool – and so the instant direct-drive power is not required. Now, of course, DJ-style direct-drive turntables are often used in home hi-fi set-ups and a Technics turntable can be tweaked to sound very nice indeed. The issue, though, is that massive power boost that spins that platter.
What happens is that the high energy used to drive the platter has to go somewhere, and it’s the platter that it normally occupies. This noise spills around and interferes with the cartridge, masking detail. The better your system, the more obvious this issue becomes. This is why STST have created a two-speed direct-drive motor that operates via low torque.
The featured high-density platter helps here, because of its built-in high inertia. Hence, a lot of the inherent direct-drive sonic issues should not be present in the Motus II. The rocker switch for that motor, incidentally, is hidden under the front edge of the plinth.
STST also manufactures a tonearm called the Vertex, which is available at 9″, 10″ or 12″ length. The Motus can be supplied in a larger plinth, in order to accommodate 12″ tonearms. The Motus II is generally supplied to take 9″ and 10″ tonearms, and it was the 9″ that I reviewed.
To complete the system, I sourced an Etsuro Urushi moving-coil cartridge from Japan via the Excel Sound Corporation: you may know them from encountering their lower-cost Hana cartridges.
As with the NAD C 558 reviewed on the preceding pages, I listen to high-energy jazz from Joe Jackson and Beatles parodies from The Rutles and I note how the upper frequencies are well-behaved and sophisticated, but still retaining a bass grunt, when required. There is also an impressive precision on offer here, no doubt aided by the direct-drive basis of the turntable that also helps to provide a comforting reliability to the presentation as a whole.
Jazz-based piano playing has a calm, naturalistic yet easy-going flow, while the lead vocal remains lean. Meanwhile, the rock track offers a superb degree of midrange insight with a beautiful reading of the lead vocal, along with strong and forceful bass.
The Motus II turntable patrols across every single frequency, never allowing a wayward note nor a wobbling crescendo to encroach upon it. Emotion might not be too high up in terms of its sonic priorities, but accuracy and a meticulous application to detail certainly is – music is transcribed diligently, with perfect accuracy, but also with an easy, unhurried nature.