Kuzma SAFIR 9

Marcus

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Audire

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After five-years of concerted research and development, an effort that has refined our existing designs and practices as well as introducing entirely new and unique materials, the revolutionary SAFIR 9 tonearm is finally ready for launch. A significant step forward in performance, tour new flagship tonearm will be shown for the first time at the Munich High-End Show in May 2022.

The Safir 9’s most obvious feature and the heart of the design is its conical sapphire arm tube. This provides the cartridge with unprecedented stability, delivering optimum electro mechanical performance from the generator. Extremely rigid, this tube is stiffer and offers a higher resonant frequency than any arm tube ever previously used. It's first break-up mode occurs at over 5KHz, providing the cartridge motor with a true mechanical ground.

Due to the use of a sapphire tube, this is a high effective mass tonearm!

The bearings are a further development of our own, proprietary 4Point design, the four contact spikes being located in sapphire/ruby receptacles. These ensure rigid, friction-free coupling of the tonearm to its mount, allowing the headshell to move, freely and precisely on the optimum path across the record.

The sapphire tube and bearings are fitted into massive solid aluminium and brass blocks, whose inert support helps dissipate the mechanical vibration generated during playback. The double brass counterweight (with locking mechanism) allows extremely precise application of VTF, while azimuth can also be precision adjusted in small, repeatable increments with zero play. The use of the sapphire armtube makes this an high effective mass tonearm, suitable for low compliance cartridges only.

The tonearm is mounted to the turntable's arm board using the Kuzma arm base. Arm height is adjusted with a fine VTA screw which controls the height of the tonearm's pillar in the arm base, allowing allows precise and repeatable adjustments whenever required.

The internal wiring uses special silver alloy wires that run, unbroken from the cartridge pins via a 1.5 m long tonearm cable to the silver RCA connectors.

SAFIR 9 reveals the ultimate potential of your cartridge, revealing musical detail, nuance and expression previously hidden in your record's grooves. Move up to the SAFIR 9 and you suddenly discover not just a whole new record collection, but that the music and musicians you've always loved are even better than you realized!
Technical data:

Effective length: 229 mm (9 inch)
Mounting distance: 212 mm
Offset angle: 23 deg
Effective mass: 60 g! (Suitable for cartridges with CU below 25)
VTA adjustment: yes
Azimuth adjustment: yes
Bias adjustment: yes
Cables: silver (Kondo)
Arm mount: Kuzma arm base 212 mm
Mass: 1250 g
Informative price: 20.000 EUR

D2FE521D-957F-42C5-A018-2B1374A3F76A.jpeg
 
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Marcus

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I had a privilege to follow development of SAFIR 9 for more than two years. Even in it’s earliest prototype stage it was clear that Franc set himself a goal, not only to construct the best tonearm he can, but also to raise the bar of state-of-the (tonearm)-art. I haven’t heard this new tonearm in my system (yet), so what follows are my impressions based on listening sessions at Franc’s listening room which I know quite well.

The main characteristics of SAFIR 9 is a tape like lack of distortions with extremely high but unforced resolution. Music sounds much less reproduced yet you can hear so much more what’s on records or to put it differently, you get more resolution but not at the cost of musicality. I fondly remember lively reactions of my audio buddy when we left Franc’s place after the first introduction. He was shocked and couldn’t believe what we heard. There was a kind of calmness to the sound, instruments and their positions in space were breathtakingly convincing. Also, music in general was spectacularly fast. Of course not in the sense of turntable speed but in the sense of lighting fast reactions to signal changes.

When listening to systems with ultimate aspirations, I always listen (if it’s possible) to The Royal Ballet, the Arabian Dance from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker suite (RCA Living stereo/Classic Records reissue). My reference experience of this piece until I heard SAFIR 9 was Audio Exotics system from 2016. Arabian Dance ends with a short, slowly fading clarinet line. Usually you can “see” more or less clear 2D image of a clarinet but in this case you can also see a realistic, full bodied 3D image of an instrument with all of it's subtle dynamic and timbral shadings. SAFIR 9 evened the score. Even though this was a completely different system, the impact of this new Kuzma tonearm had the same effect.

I still think 4Point14 is one of the very best tonearms but SAFIR 9 is simply in a different league. No point to compare. Some will say its ugly (not to me) but don’t forget Franc design approach is strictly form follows function and SAFIR 9 is a purest result of that.

You will be able to see (and hopefully hear) SAFIR 9 at Munich High End show in May.
 

Audire

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View attachment 90760

I had a privilege to follow development of SAFIR 9 for more than two years. Even in it’s earliest prototype stage it was clear that Franc set himself a goal, not only to construct the best tonearm he can, but also to raise the bar of state-of-the (tonearm)-art. I haven’t heard this new tonearm in my system (yet), so what follows are my impressions based on listening sessions at Franc’s listening room which I know quite well.

The main characteristics of SAFIR 9 is a tape like lack of distortions with extremely high but unforced resolution. Music sounds much less reproduced yet you can hear so much more what’s on records or to put it differently, you get more resolution but not at the cost of musicality. I fondly remember lively reactions of my audio buddy when we left Franc’s place after the first introduction. He was shocked and couldn’t believe what we heard. There was a kind of calmness to the sound, instruments and their positions in space were breathtakingly convincing. Also, music in general was spectacularly fast. Of course not in the sense of turntable speed but in the sense of lighting fast reactions to signal changes.

When listening to systems with ultimate aspirations, I always listen (if it’s possible) to The Royal Ballet, the Arabian Dance from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker suite (RCA Living stereo/Classic Records reissue). My reference experience of this piece until I heard SAFIR 9 was Audio Exotics system from 2016. Arabian Dance ends with a short, slowly fading clarinet line. Usually you can “see” more or less clear 2D image of a clarinet but in this case you can also see a realistic, full bodied 3D image of an instrument with all of it's subtle dynamic and timbral shadings. SAFIR 9 evened the score. Even though this was a completely different system, the impact of this new Kuzma tonearm had the same effect.

I still think 4Point14 is one of the very best tonearms but SAFIR 9 is simply in a different league. No point to compare. Some will say its ugly (not to me) but don’t forget Franc design approach is strictly form follows function and SAFIR 9 is a purest result of that.

You will be able to see (and hopefully hear) SAFIR 9 at Munich High End show in May.

Thanks for the report and further details. Much appreciated.
 

Brian Beck

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Sep 15, 2013
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The elephant in the listening room is the extremely heavy effective mass of this Safire 9 arm. Most medium-mass arms suitable for moving coil cartridges have effective mass figures in the 12 to 15 grams range. That mass works with the compliance of the cartridge to produce an arm-cartridge resonance in the 10 or 12 Hertz region, approximately. The resonance is typically damped so that there is only modest peaking at the resonant frequency, while a 12-dB-per-octave roll-off occurs below resonance. Conventional wisdom has it that resonances in this frequency range enable bass reproduction below 20 Hz while filtering out vibrations from foot falls on wooden floors that might occur in the 2 to 7 Hz range. If your friends decide to break dance near your table, they might even upset the stylus with their vibes, if that resonant frequency is set too low.

The effective mass of the Safire 9 (unless I’m interpreting the specs incorrectly) is an elephantine 60 grams! That is 4 to 5 times higher that a typical arm. To determine the change in resonant frequency with a heavy arm, we must take the square root of the effective mass ratio, meaning that the resonance would drop in frequency by a factor of 2 to 2.3, down to the 4 to 7 Hz range, very approximately.

(I have purposefully left out the additional influence of turntable suspensions, just to keep it somewhat simple.)

The upside here is that very low bass notes will be reproduced farther away from the now-lower resonance, reducing amplitude and phase distortion in the bass region when compared to an arm with a conventionally higher resonance. More tuneful and tighter bass? More “digital” bass? It’s very possible, and an exciting prospect.

The potential downside is that the Safire 9 and cartridge could pick up extremely low frequency floor noise, causing the woofers to pump and making the powers amps work harder. But, I think anyone paying €20000 for an arm probably has vibration under control, either with the built-in suspension of the turntable, or by some other means. Owners of floppy Linn Sondeks should probably avoid this arm. (That comment is bound to provoke someone).

So, I will be very interested to hear reviews of this arm. Kudos to Kuzma for thinking outside the elephant cage!
 
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tima

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@Marcus, thanks for your great reporting on the Safir 9. Looks like launch is May 19-22, 2022, at the Munich show. Attached is the Press Release from Kuzma.

With regard to resonance, cartridge compliane and a 60g effective mass, the Kuzma Web site includes this note: "Suitable for cartridges with CU below 25- tonearm resonanes will be in range of 5-7 Hz which is preferable."

The only ergonomic 'issue' I see is VTA adjustment via screw within the arm base. (The VTA tower on the 4P-11 and 4P-14 is excellent.) I'm guessing the deck-of-cards method will be in play with Safir 9. The sapphire arm tube is audacious. Franc is a brilliant engineer.

I'm told US price is $21950. Fwiw, a 10% price hike as of April 1, 2022. Short notice given the increase last November.

 

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bazelio

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I don't think playing cards come in to play. It sounds like arm height is directly adjusted via the screw, and that it's precise and repeatable. Not a situation where the user needs to count cards and shim.
 

tima

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I don't think playing cards come in to play. It sounds like arm height is directly adjusted via the screw, and that it's precise and repeatable. Not a situation where the user needs to count cards and shim.

Maybe, maybe not - it's not clear. Need a photo to see if there are markings or a scale for relative position a la vta tower. If no markings, then cards can be helpful for repeatablility.
 

bazelio

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My money is on Franc not having forgotten to provide the same gauge as on the 4 point, though my money may not stretch far enough to acquire this arm either way. Another thing that's unclear is whether any of the dimples at the top align with the pivot center point so as to allow the use of my P2S measurement tool.


Still wrapping my brain around 60g effective mass, too.
 

tima

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My money is on Franc not having forgotten to provide the same gauge as on the 4 point, though my money may not stretch far enough to acquire this arm either way. Another thing that's unclear is whether any of the dimples at the top align with the pivot center point so as to allow the use of my P2S measurement tool.

It aapears a few more photos are posted which tell us more.

The dimples visible in the photo do not serve for a P2S tool lilke the dimple on the latest 4Point.

The leftmost 'dimple' is a set-screw for adjusting azimuth. On the main block this is a set-screw on the side to lock/un-lock the arm tube for azimuth adjustment.

Azimuth adjustment - links go to pictures

The dimple to the right of the azimuth socket, a bit further back, is a set-screw for adjusting VTA. From another photo it appears that VTA height is controlled similar to the SME V, which is a threaded-rod that pushes against the tonearm base and raises the arm post through its mounting collet. I'm guessing the Kuzma version is more sophisticated than the SME with turning the set-screw able to both raise and lower the arm. The hole in mounting base may be to lock/un-lock the arm post. No indication of a gauge or markings - the photo does say one rotation changes 0.5mm or 0.15°.

VTA adjustment

VTA adjustment screw


Yes 60g effective mass is radically different from any other arm I've owned. I'll assume the Safir-9 works well with his own cartridges. Compliance of his own CAR 20-60 cartridges runs 8 - 10 CU. The Fuuga is 7 CU measured at 100Hz.
 

bazelio

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Yeah, hmm. That VTA method is disappointing. It looks like it'd mean needing to loosen up the arm in the base and potentially throw off the P2S at the same time. The absolute beauty of the 4p design, aside from it's tight tolerances, is the independent nature of each individual alignment parameter. Needing to recheck p2s with a jig anytime VTA is adjusted to ensure it wasn't nudged out of alignment would be somewhat of a hassle.

With the 60g effective mass, Franc is essentially saying forget what you think you know about rules of thumb for resonance. And this is what I want to wrap my head around a bit more when time permits.
 
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J.R. Boisclair

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Jul 1, 2020
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On a 9" arm, having overhang off by 0.25mm results in a cantilever angular error at the inner null point of only 0.17 degrees. The outer null error would be even less at 0.09 degrees. I challenge anyone to have better than 0.5 resolution with their mounting accuracy. I don't think I could do better than that and I setup cartridges almost daily.

I have three different Kuzma arms and would be shocked if any of them offered 0.2mm change in overhang due to slight repositioning of the arm post in the arm collar. In other words, don't worry too much about being off a little bit with your overhang.

The azimuth adjustment mechanism on the Kuzma arms is a dream. Its a worm drive gear. Excellent control and no possibility of changing the azimuth by twisting the armwand - even when the set screw is not tightened down.

I am not only not worried about the Safir's lower resonance, I invite it. Of course, I don't have to live with warped records for a variety of reasons. Eccentric records are another issue but there is actually a way to correct for eccentricity. I'll do a video on it someday.
 

tima

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The Safir-9 page does say "Technical papers on tonearm resonances and effective mass- soon".

While he wants to encourages sales, Franc is not prone to hyperbole: SAFIR 9 shows the ultimate potential of your cartridge and will reveal music hidden in the grooves, effectively, giving you a new record collection! Sounds like we may learn something new.
 
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djsina2

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The Safir-9 page does say "Technical papers on tonearm resonances and effective mass- soon".

While he wants to encourages sales, Franc is not prone to hyperbole: SAFIR 9 shows the ultimate potential of your cartridge and will reveal music hidden in the grooves, effectively, giving you a new record collection! Sounds like we may learn something new.
A while back CSPort told me their arm has an effective mass over 50g. Had never heard of an arm with such high mass and now the Kuzma even exceeds that. Did the industry learn something new?
 

bazelio

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Well, not to state the obvious, but a tonearm/headshell/cart combination outside the rule of thumb ideal of 9-11 Hz is not problematic if there is nothing present at that particular frequency to excite resonance. I always prefer being on the low end and relying on isolation or just pure mass to squelch the amplitude of external vibration. But this leaves record warp, and it would only make sense that periphery rings, vacuum hold downs, et.al. are imperfect at ameliorating it. I'm definitely on the low end now with my current combo, and rather than use flawed (verified empirically) online calculators, I simply measure resonance frequency with test records. This also allows me to backwards-calculate cartridge compliance. But I digress. With my lowish system resonance, I'd previously assumed that tonearm damping was the right thing to do. However, more recently, I determined subjectively that draining the damping troughs and subsequently even removing them from the arm altogether produced a substantially more desirable result. I've never had a single skip event except when using VdH carts for a brief while. I also note that Safir doesn't even provide damping oil troughs.

As to overhang, I agree. The evidence I have leads me to believe it is not uber-critical. However, I can get it very close to ideal and do prefer to know it is at all times.
 

Loheswaran

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Dec 20, 2014
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wow - a £20k lightsaber

Out of pure interest has anyone just thought about adding mass to an armtube to get a similar affect as opposed to making one from such an esoteric material?
 

Brian Beck

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Sep 15, 2013
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Sure, that’s been done a lot. Somewhere around here I have heavy knurled thumb screws that are placed on top of the head shell to receive the cartridge mounting screws. This added mass must be countered by moving the arm’s counterweight farther from the pivot, to maintain the same VTA. I’ve also seen metal plates with mounting holes meant to be placed on the head shell.

You won’t achieve 60 grams this way though!
 
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J.R. Boisclair

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Jul 1, 2020
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Well, not to state the obvious, but a tonearm/headshell/cart combination outside the rule of thumb ideal of 9-11 Hz is not problematic if there is nothing present at that particular frequency to excite resonance. I always prefer being on the low end and relying on isolation or just pure mass to squelch the amplitude of external vibration. But this leaves record warp, and it would only make sense that periphery rings, vacuum hold downs, et.al. are imperfect at ameliorating it. I'm definitely on the low end now with my current combo, and rather than use flawed (verified empirically) online calculators, I simply measure resonance frequency with test records. This also allows me to backwards-calculate cartridge compliance. But I digress. With my lowish system resonance, I'd previously assumed that tonearm damping was the right thing to do. However, more recently, I determined subjectively that draining the damping troughs and subsequently even removing them from the arm altogether produced a substantially more desirable result. I've never had a single skip event except when using VdH carts for a brief while. I also note that Safir doesn't even provide damping oil troughs.

As to overhang, I agree. The evidence I have leads me to believe it is not uber-critical. However, I can get it very close to ideal and do prefer to know it is at all times.
I totally agree with your assessment of online resonance calculators being questionable in their value. There isn't even a consistently implemented standardized test that cartridge manufacturers adhere to. Your solution of using the test record is probably the best there is right now.
 
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Chop

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This could work like a dream with Koetsu's!
 

Adagio

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Wow! Way of my chart money vise. But so cool, some people don’t appreciate the Kuzma functionalism “Star Wars Imperial style” design but I love it.
It would look nice as a second arm on my Stabi R.
 

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