One of the unique features of the M is its machined blue plastic belt. This is designed to be near indestructible in daily use, so no changes in speed as the deck compensates for an
ever-shifting rubber belt. In other words, less wow or flutter from play in the belt, in fact all the advantages of belt drive with much of the precision of direct drive. In the unlikely event of damaging the belt (say, you used it to drive a supercharger or maybe used it in self-defence against a rampaging polar bear) an SME or Linn standard belt or Kuzma’s neoprene belt could be used instead, with appropriate modification.
The turntable itself includes an off-board speed control, but the basic controls are replicated on the front panel of the M itself, and turning the motor on or off can be operated by remote control (not supplied at the time of review). I’m not entirely convinced of the need for a remote, but basic replication of speed and power controls on the deck itself is a great thing if – like most people playing turntables – you’ve hidden the PSU on a low shelf and your knees make that twig-snapping sound each time you bend.
The whole deck sits on three spiked feet for easy adjustment. Although its sheer weight means nothing about set-up of the Kuzma M is ‘easy’ (anything ‘easy’ that involves at least two people puffing and panting usually means you have to at least buy her a few drinks first), but the assembly of the deck is straightforward.
This proved to be one of the easiest reviews I’ve ever performed. Most of it was done with just two albums. The first – Sea Change by Beck showed how adept the deck was with simple music and vocals. The second – Newport 1958 by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra– highlighted what it could do with a massively dynamic piece of music. Between the two, you could hear the difference in pressings and the ‘fist’ (in the Morse Code operator sense) of the mastering and recording engineers, even the difference in vinyl formulations.
Naturally, some of this comes down to the abilities of the Benz cartridge fitted and the performance of the system it was used in. But a good deal of this comes right down to the authority and precision of the turntable.
More than this though, the two words that punch through the whole review are ‘master tape’. OK, so on many recent recordings that should be ‘Hard Disk’, but it just doesn’t have the same impact. This presents vinyl with the kind of precision one would normally find when invited to listen to a freshly minted master tape. It was like the pressing plant and all the stages between tape and ear had been swept aside.
That first album (on MoFi) is a dry studio cut, although you can easily listen into the wet parts, such as the reverb tails on the guitar parts and the placement of the synth bass in the mix. It’s a fantastic recording, although those seeking ‘the absolute sound’ ideals of live acoustic instruments in their own space will be slightly disappointed, it always sounds good in an increasingly (and very deliberately) claustrophobic manner. The Kuzma M made light work of this. Vocal rooted centre stage, layers ofinstrumentation (it doesn’t matter if it’s natural spacing or pan pot and delay, the instruments were clearly sitting in their own 3-D spaces) and the precision of the instruments just made the sound more like what you’d expect to hear in a control room than a listening room. And yet, it also had the refinement, sophistication and insight of high-end devices, along with that precision and speed and detail demanded by a recording engineer.