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Manufacturer: J. SIKORA
Price (when reviewed):
• 11 900 EUR (turntable)
• 5150 EUR (KV12 White tonearm)

Contact: ul. Poligonowa 41
20-817 Lublin | POLSKA


Provided for the test by: J.SIKORA


zdjęcia „High Fidelity”

No 234

November 1, 2023


J.SIKORA company was established in 2007 in Lublin. It was then that the first turntable, the STANDARD model, was developed. It took as many as seven years to prepare the next model. However, it was the top model, REFERENCE, which was shown in 2014. In 2018, the company introduced its first turntable arm, the KV12, and last year at the Audio Video Show new and better versions were presented - the Zirconium Series line of arms (9-inch and 12-inch). This time we're testing a unique all-white lacquered version of the INITIAL MAX turntable.

HE J.SIKORA COMPANY'S LINEUP ranges from the powerful Reference turntable and the entry-level model called Initial. In between, we find another series, the Standard. Although it would seem that we have thus exhausted the range, between each series there are still Max models, that is, "doped-up" basic versions - Initial Max and Standard Max. Probably, but this is just my theory, in time the Reference Max will also arrive. "Maximized" models differ from the basic ones primarily in their plinths, but also in the number of motors, record clamp, glass mat on the platter and type of power supply. For example, moving from Initial to Initial Max model means an increase in total weight from 28 to 51 kg.

In turntable technology, such scaling is not easy, and you have to appreciate what J.Sikora has developed. Thanks to it, you can start with the cheapest turntable, and then move to higher and higher levels - even between the Initial and Standard series. This saves money, but above all it's fun for years - and after all, audiophilism is supposed to be a form of entertainment, right? It's also important that you stay with the same type of sound all the time. Since I have already listened to both the Initial and Reference models, I can say that J.Sikora's idea works (premiere tests → HERE (PL) and → HERE).

Initial Max

INITIAL MAX IS THE TO VERSION of the Initial turntable - the entry-level model in J.Sikora's product line. Compared to it, the Initial Max has been equipped with a second motor, an additional plinth and a tower for the second arm. Also part of the kit in the Max version are a glass mat, a record clamp and a linear power supply. The manufacturer emphasizes that, as in all the brand's products, the Initial model's design is based on the philosophy of combining materials with different physical and sonic properties.

⸜ PLINTH • But first things first. The J.Sikora Initial Max turntable is a mass-loader, uncoupled, belt-driven design with two motors. It weighs 51 kg and is surprisingly compact at the same time, as it measures 620 x 350 x 296 mm. In the case of turntables, 'decoupling' means suspending parts of the plinth on spring materials. I make this clear because, in fact, both plinths of this turntable ARE decoupled, only that in a rigid system based on a ball bearing. This is a solution developed by the German company Finite Elemente (more → HERE), and in Poland primarily by Franc Audio Accessories (more → HERE). In the case of the turntable under test, these are aluminum cones and pads, with a zirconium oxide ball between them.

Aluminum of varying hardness, cast iron, steel and ceramic components were used in the construction of this turntable. The inverted bearing with ceramic ball and carbide, motors and controller are exactly the same solutions we know from the higher models in the brand's catalog (Standard Max, Reference). As Robert Sikora, in charge of the company's management, said during the installation, the Initial Max turntable's design is focused on maximizing resonance reduction and maximizing the turntable's resistance to external vibrations.

That's why this model has two plinths. The upper one holds the main bearing with the platter, weighing 4 kg and made of Delrin®, as well as the arm and one of the two motors - these are DC (asynchronous) designs from EBM-Papst. The whole stands on another plinth, but of larger size, on which the Initial turntable - for that is how it should be understood - as well as the second of the motors and their controller were placed. The motor housings are made entirely of Inox steel.

As its designer, Janusz Sikora, said on the occasion of the Reference model test, the point is that Inox steel is very "sticky" in machining, it's a material that doesn't "ring" like, for example, hardened steel. Its structure is pasty and is very difficult to work with, because it sticks to the knife. Inside the housings, the motors are separated from the housing by silicone and fastened with polyamide screws designed to decouple them from the outer walls. The rollers on the motor axles were CNC-machined out of aircraft-grade aluminum; this is the only part of the build that came into contact with CNC.

⸜ PLATTER • The plate, as we said, is made of Delrin®. This is one of the brand names for plioxymethylene (POM), a thermoplastic organic chemical compound widely used in industry; other names are: Ertacetal, Tecaform and Boracetal. It was invented in 1952 by German chemist Hermann Staudinger, who would receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry a year later. For industrial use, it was developed in 1960 by the American company DuPont, the same company from which we got Teflon, Kapton and other materials used in audio. Two years later, the German company Celanese presented its own version of plioxymethylene, called Celcon.

Delrin® has many interesting characteristics, including machinability, good sliding and frictional properties, chemical and water absorption resistance, very good dimensional stability and high impact strength, and, above all, very good mechanical properties, resulting in favorable resonance distribution and good internal damping. It is these last two elements that have made it widely used in audio. Let’s mention such companies as Clearaudio, Transrotor or MoFi ELECTRONICS (PL).

All the platters in J.Sikora turntables are made of this material, they differ only in weight. In the Max version, a plate of graphite glass is put on the top of the platter. Its center is cut out and an aluminum disc of the variety of this material used in aviation is inserted there. Torque is transferred from the aluminum rollers attached to the motor axis to the platter via silicone belts. To improve the platter's responsiveness to changes made by the controller, which watches over the precision of the rotation, two, not one, belts were used.

⸜ COLOR • But why the white color? J.Sikora turntables are available in two colors: black or silver; yet on special order, such as in the case of the turntable for Julian Soja (Soyaton), the plinth can be varnished in another color. The model we're testing, however, is all white: plinths, motors, controller, power supply, platter, and even drive belts; the latter, by the way, are - unofficially - slightly better than black ones.

The history of this version goes back several years, when such a model was prepared for one of the shows. People visiting the show liked it so much that it was ordered by one of the Asian distributors. When he showed pictures of it on the web, people - in the words of Robert Sikora - "went crazy," despite the fact that this version is more expensive than the basic one. So several units were made by special order, for which a white version of the KV12 arm was also prepared. We premiere tested it in 2019 (it was also on our cover; test → HERE), so let's just repeat the most important information.

⸜ TONEARM • The KV12 is a 12’’ unipivot arm (effective length: 304.8 mm). This means that it is suspended from a single pin. Since an arm of this type tends to vibrate horizontally, the KV12 is oil-damped. This extinguishes the vibration while controlling the movement of the arm - it descends very gently and steadily. To increase the surface area on which the oil, poured into the "cup" in the base of the arm, acts, the lower part of the element to which the arm tube is attached has been spirally milled.

A special feature of J.Sikora turntable arms is the material from which the tube is made. In the basic version, it is yellow in color, because it is a ribbon of aramid fibers, which were invented by the DuPont company and are known by the trade name Kevlar®. The tube is tapered, and its interior is damped with foam. It features a solid, though openwork, and therefore not very heavy, headshell.

On the other side, a counterweight was mounted. This is a complicated design. First of all, its center of gravity is located very low, which is supposed to improve the speed of the arm. But also the counterweight itself consists of two components. One is fixed and allows user to change the azimuth with it, and the other moves along the shank. From the top, cables are brought out. For some time these have been cables from Soyaton, made of gold-plated 6N copper.

The arm base was constructed from three different materials - one of the techniques used by this company in turntables. On the outside there is aluminum, and inside bronze and cast iron. The whole thing is surprisingly light - although the weight of the whole (without the base) is a solid 890 g, the affective weight is only 13 g.

The whole design is stunning.


| A few simple words

Managing director

⸜ ROBERT SIKORA receiving Krakow Sonic Society Member’s certificate

WHAT'S NEXT, YOU ASK? - Our next steps will involve a new arm, in 9" and 12" lengths, but cheaper than our existing KV12. Distributors have suggested to us that the Initial turntable should be equipped with a cheaper arm. We are talking about a level between 1000 and 1500 euros. And achieving it, while staying faithful to our philosophy, is not an easy task. This project is still just a vision as of today, nothing concrete has been developed yet. We don't even know what type of arm it will ultimately be. We have some ideas, we more or less know what kind of arm it should be and what it should be made of. At the beginning of next year, however, work on this project should accelerate significantly, and our goal is to present it to the world later in 2024.

And after the cheaper arm, our next project will be related to the turntable. And it will be a turntable from the highest price range, definitely higher than the Reference. Stereophile magazine's ranking has the highest quality group "A+", and in it five models, including our Reference, with the latter being significantly cheaper than the others. It is the only one with a price tag of $50,000. The others cost more than $250,000, some many times more like the TechDAS Air Force Zero, which is priced at $550,000. We have signals from selected distributors that there are customers for whom, in addition to the class of sound, it is also a certain price threshold that defines the ultra premium segment. A segment which, according to them, encompasses only absolute luxury products. And it is with them in mind, i.e. mainly the American and Asian markets, that we will prepare something special.

We have some ideas about how it should look and be built. It will be a turntable integrated with a stand and rack. The design philosophy will remain the same, we will use non-ferrous metals and aluminum, but we assume that we will have to experiment with precious metals. There will also be some technological innovations, which my father has been working on for several years. The visual side will also be important, and this will be handled by a person who specializes in such projects. But that’s not something we can discuss now :) In the end anyway, the most important thing is, of course, the sound.

However, we are not going to rush with this project, if it takes us two or three years to develop and refine it, so be it. If it takes five years, that's OK too. We are talking about a product that is assumed to be unique in the whole, worldwide turntable market. Therefore, there can be no pressure on those working on this project.


⸜ HOW WE LISTENED The J.Sikora Initial Max turntable was tested in the HIGH FIDELITY reference system. It stood on a carbon fiber top shelf, on a Finite Elemente Master Reference Pagode Edition MkII rack. I used DS Audio ST-50, a solidified gel used to clean the needle.

When testing the turntable, I listened to it with a Miyajima Laboratory Destiny cartridge (more → HERE). I also used an RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC phono preamplifier, from which the signal was forwarded via a Crystal Cable Absolute Dream interconnect. I placed Verictum X-Block passive noise filters on the phono power supply and on the preamplifier. I connected the preamplifier to a Nordost QKORE6 artificial ground (more → HERE).

⸜ Records used for the test | a selection

⸜ THE DUKES OF DIXIELAND, ...You Have To Hear It To Believe It!, Audio Fidelity ST-90254, LP (1956).
⸜ BENNY CARTER, Jazz Giant, Contemporary Records/Analogue Productions AJAZ 7555, „Top 100 Jazz, 45 RPM Limited Edition #0404”, 2 x 180 g, 45 rpm LP (1958/?).
⸜ BILL EVANS TRIO, Waltz For Debby, Riverside Records/Analogue Productions AJAZ 9399, „Top 25 Jazz, 45 RPM Limited Edition #0703”, 2 x 180 g, 45 rpm LP (1961/?).
⸜ TSUYOSHI YAMAMOTO TRIO, Midnight Sugar, Three Blind Mice/Cisco Music TBM-23-45, „Limited Edition S/N: 0080/1000”, 45 rpm, 2 x 180 g LP (1974/2004).
⸜ DEPECHE MODE, Behind The Wheel (Remix), Mute 12 BONG 15, 45 rpm maxi-SP, LP (1987).
⸜ THE BEATLES, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Apple/Gold Note DT-01, „Limited Edition No. 82/500”, 180 g LP (1967/2016).
⸜ ADAM MAKOWICZ, Blue Sapphires, AC Records 028, „Crystal Clear, No. 237/1000”, 180 g LP (2023).


IT IS EASY to call a good product good. It is even easier to point to an outstanding product and, with a serious face, say: "it is a top product". However, go ahead and try to summarize listening, for example, to a turntable that you have known for years that it is excellent and you know no one really needs convincing of it, and at the same time not to fall into cliché. In order to succeed in this you need more than mere exclamations and admiration, it's acutely simple. Fortunately, it is the case that these truly outstanding devices, regardless of their price, guide the listener "by the hand".

So when I heard the first sounds from THE DUKES OF DIXIELAND album entitled ...You Have To Hear It To Believe It!, I knew which way it was all going. Released in 1956 by Audio Fidelity, a small label owned by Capitol Records, it was the world's first stereo recording available to the general public. Capitol, which was preparing to switch to the new format, was probing public interest in this way without risking its reputation.

The stereophony of this album is incredibly interesting, because it resembles what was developed in jazz after many years. So there is a natural panorama, without artificial division into left and right channels, with a filled-in midrange and very good depth of image. And it's hard to believe that immediately afterwards stereo regressed and we had to wait another ten years for a return to normalcy.

But to the point - both stereophony and dynamics, and immediately afterwards timbre, were all shown beautifully by the Sikora turntable with the Miyajima Labs cartridge. The sound was internally focused and resolving. It gave a dark tone with a warm expression, but which was not darkened or warmed. This is a phenomenon we talk about from time to time, which is directly linked to resolution and differentiation. The better these qualities are, the more the sound darkens and gets warmer. After some time, when you get used to it, it turns out that it's just a natural sound, and everything else is artificially colored. And this is also what the tested turntable offers - an incredibly natural sound.

Mass-loader designs’ feature often is that the sound tends to dry out with them, or that the micro-dynamics is somewhat limited; some even sound "dead" because of this. However, since they offer other advantages, such as excellent bass and large sound scale, we accept these handicaps. J.Sikora's turntable is different. It has an internally focused sound and is not "forward-sounding", so to speak. This is something it has in common with other turntables of this type of design. However, it does not extinguish micro-dynamics, but focuses on the overall presentation, without emphasizing the attack of the sound. That's why The Dukes Of Dixieland's excellent disc sounded explosive, and that's also why the excellent reissue of BENNY CARTER's Jazz Giant album, pressed by Analogue Productions on two 45 rpm discs, conveyed so well the character of a meeting of the masters, playing in an unforced, even joyful way.

Staying at the same speed (45 r.p.m.) with the same reissue label, I reached for Waltz For Debby by the BILL EVANS TRIO. The concert, which took place on June 25th 1961 at the Village Vanguard in New York City, was fantastically captured by Dave Jones. This sound engineer specialized in concert recordings, directly on two tracks. Perhaps that's why this album always makes a great impression on me. J.Sikora showed the incredible depth of the soundstage, the remoteness of the drums from the main microphones and the full body of the double bass.

Because it is a turntable playing a big, broadband sound. It goes very low on the bass, and the treble is sonorous and active. However, both extremes are in perfect proportion with the midrange. Therefore, it seems that the sound is close to us. Warm sound also creates such an effect, but here it is about something else. The sound is seemingly close, but it extends deep into the stage. And this is because this turntable is able to build a large, three-dimensional body of instruments and connect them with the acoustic environment. And it is the acoustics that most often create the impression of a real "presence" of the instruments.

Staying at the same speed, but changing continents and moving to 1974, I confirmed these observations with TSUYOSHI YAMAMOTO TRIO's Midnight Sugar album, as released in 2004 and mastered at JVC studios by Tohru Kotetsu. With it I got excellent dynamics, and dense sound, and deep stage. The turntable does not widen the space, but rather focuses on the close planes and what is on the listening axis. It does an excellent job of differentiating distances from the listening position and from the microphones, and it also shows the panorama. But we still take in the sound as a whole, a sort of "package" coming at us from the window in front of us.

It's a sound that encourages loud listening. It has a brilliantly arranged internal, complex "personality", so that nothing in its sound irritates. Although it plays with a strong treble, it is a filled and saturated treble, and thus natural. And maybe that's why we feel like turning up the volume knob, surrounding ourselves with the sound and immersing ourselves in it. Even, after all, Yamamoto's extremely penetrating piano had a natural impact. Perhaps slightly more silky than I remembered from TechDAS or Kuzma turntables.

Because, after all, it is the work of a particular person who has his own preferences and has at his disposal such and not other tools. Therefore, he has what we call a "his own sound", which at this qualitative level can be described as "personality". Personality, because it is difficult to talk about whether one choice or another is better, because all of them lead to a similar goal - the transmission of energy recorded on the vinyl record to the listener.

And the tested turntable transmits it in an above-average way. It holds the rhythm superbly, as demonstrated by DEPECHE MODE's Behind The Wheel (Remix) maxi single. It was recorded with a very strong bass, and it's the bass that the entire song is built on. Sikora perfectly maintained the tempo that got us moving with the musicians. What I thought was more important, however, was how it showcased Dave Gahan's vocals. In older DM albums, he is almost always mixed quite deep into the scene and only on the radio does he seem to be in the foreground, but that's due to compression.

The reviewed turntable perfectly preserved the balance between the not very loud, but always clear vocals and the very strong synth beat. The highs were slightly withdrawn, because that's how this remix sounds, and one could hear that they were slightly over-driven at times - this is also part of this album's own sound. For J.Sikora skillfully combines the small elements with the big ones, the loud with the quiet, the dynamic with the less dynamic. Its sound is dense, its tonal balance is set low and its dynamics are very high.

All this adds up to a presentation with an almost tangible "texture". But not because the sound is pushed closer to us. It is quite the opposite. As the Italian pressing of THE BEATLES Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album demonstrated, the turntable builds a deep panorama in which so much happens that we sit listening, almost enchanted by the multitude of events. This particular pressing is an unofficial release, but an excellent one. It was prepared in full analog track from a master tape probably acquired from some defunct publisher (perhaps an Italian one?), cut at Studio il Poggio in Montecatini by Flavio Lenzi and released in 500 copies. And it sounds remarkably organic. That is, exactly the same as the tested turntable.

You have to "rock" this sound, turn it up to bring out all the flavors - you can hear that no strong compression was used here. With J.Sikora it is trivially easy, because the turntable is extremely quiet mechanically and increasing the volume does not cause an uncontrolled increase in noise. The louder we play, the more dynamics we get. Pops&cracks are almost inaudible and only with heavily worn off by time, parties and heavy cartridges records you will hear more of them. But even then they will be perfectly suppressed and quickly extinguished.


THE LAST MUSIC I PLAYED with Initial Max was the latest album from AC Records, Blue Sapphires by ADAM MAKOWICZ (more → HERE). As usual, the excellent all-analog recording, recorded directly onto two tracks of a mastering tape recorder, using beautiful HUM Audio Services microphones, features music that references the 1930s and New York in mood even if it is Antonín Dvořák's Humoresque or the pianist's own compositions.

So the music flows slowly, albeit with a drive - a perfect contradiction. The J.Sikora Initial Max turntable goes in exactly the same direction. It's a machine meant to offer pleasure. And it does. It is a tool that allows you to better understand the music you are listening to. And it makes it possible. It is, finally, a fantastic example of a precise device serving a single purpose, and serving it in a fantastic way. Simply put, it plays music.

Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer)

Total mass: 51 kg
Motor: 2 x DC
Belt: silicon
Record clamp: yes
Glass mat: yes
Power supply: yes
Dimensions (W x H x D): 620 x 350 x 296 mm
Additional plinth: 18 kg, 620 x 350 x 75 mm (W x H x D)

Type: unipivot
Material: Kevlar, aluminum, bronze, brass, stainless steel
Oil damping: yes
Tube: conical (Kevlar)
VTA adjustment: yes (on the fly)
Azimuth adjustment: yes
Tonearm mass: 250 g
VTA weight: 225 g
Effective length: 304,8 mm
Mounting distance: 291 mm
Effective mass: 12,5 g
Available colors: natural yellow / black mat
Wiring: Soyaton, 24K gold-plated 6N OCC Copper

THIS TEST HAS BEEN DESIGNED ACCORDING TO THE GUIDELINES adopted by the Association of International Audiophile Publications, an international audio press association concerned with ethical and professional standards in our industry, of which HIGH FIDELITY is a founding member. More about the association and its constituent titles → HERE.


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Record mats:


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