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Tonearm | 12”


Manufacturer: J.SIKORA
Price (when reviewed):
6000 EUR with VTA | 4500 EUR w/o VTA

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


Provided for test by: J.SIKORA

J.SIKORA company was founded in 2007. It was then that the first turntable, the STANDARD model, was developed. It took seven years to prepare the next model. However, it was the top model, REFERENCE, which was presented in 2014. In 2016, the cheapest turntable model, INITIAL, was added to the lineup.

verything you need to know about the story of Janusz Sikora has already been said during the test of the top turntable of this manufacturer, the majestic REFERENCE. It arose out of disagreement with existing reality, in which it resembles the first steps of most high-end companies in the world. Having the background in the form of an efficient metal workshop, also a background as a musician (guitar), as well as audiophile experience, Janusz Sikora developed his turntables in such a way as to solve the problems that he noticed in other designs.

Within a few years, a series of three turntables with a non-decoupled, mass construction was developed. What is characteristic for all of them is the use of various types of metals, including INOX steel, aluminum, bronze, as well as cast iron - Mr. Sikora's favorite material. As he says, it's one of the best solutions whenever we care about damping vibrations. After all, it is cast iron that car blocks are made of, right?

The company currently offers three turntable models: Initial, Standard and Reference. The basic assumptions are the same for all of them, and with each model the mass of individual elements increases - the base, platter - and the number of motors. The company is proud of the fact that almost all components are made in-house and that they are machined manually. It also owns a microprocessor-based motor control system, designed by a IT specialist friend.

| KV12

Kuzma | While turntables were created out of the heart's need, the tonearm seems to be the result of reflection. One does not exclude the other, it is always a combination of emotion and reason, but that's how I see it. And this is because J. Sikora already had perfect arms at their disposal - they offered their turntables with the tonearms made by the Slovenian company Kuzma, primarily ones from the 4Point series.

They are available in three lengths, 9, 12 and even 14", but due to the unique design, the 4Point 12 version can be mounted like a standard 9" arm, and the 4Point 14 version can be mounted like a 12" arm. The design of these arms is unusual because it combines the advantages of unipivot and gimbal suspension. It is nominally a unipivot arm, but it is supported at four points and is damped in two planes. The arm tube is made of aluminum and narrows towards the headshell.

Having such an excellent construction at their disposal, thinking about own tonearm, especially since we're talking about a small Polish company, may seem crazy. And, in a sense, it is. But there are many “crazy” people in audio industry (Russian юродивый) who push the it forward, who spin it. The J.Sikora KV12 arm is a manifestation of such a craziness and at the same time a brilliant idea. The point is that Mr. Sikora decided to make his arms, the tube part, of aramid fibers, known under the brand name Kevlar.

JANUSZ SIKORA | owner, designer
ROBERT SIKORA | sales director

Messrs. Sikora: Janusz (sitting) and Robert

WOJCIECH PACUŁA: The first question is obvious: why aramid fibers?
JANUSZ SIKORA: I encountered this material for the first time in the Focal speakers. I remember an article in one of Polish audio magazines after visiting their factory. It presented the technology of preparing Kevlar membranes and its advantages. I liked it and I was a fan of this solution for many years. The moment I thought about creating my own arm, I remembered this experience.

Almost all companies offer arms made of aluminum, wood or carbon fiber. I am against using wood for the production of arms, because it is impossible to make two identical ones. In turn, carbon fiber is good, but for fishing rods, because it transfers stress and vibration very well. Action and reaction in this case are immediate. And this is not what the tonearm is about. Membranes of this type are damped with Rohacel (special foam - ed.), But in case of tonearms, for technological reasons, this method cannot be used. But still, many companies are now switching to carbon arms, because it is a cheap - tubes are inexpensive and widely available, which are cut, cured with resin on the top - and the tube is ready.

The KV12's tube weights only 15,8 g! | photo J.Sikora

However, nothing is as hard and stiff as Kevlar. We make the KV12 arm not from ready-made pipes, but from fabric - we use its smallest version, the so-called "sixty". The fragment measuring 1 x 1 m weighs only 60 g. The problem is, of course, how to cut such a pipe, because its edges are crumbling. The right layering is also a problem - we have two coils around the perimeter. It is important that the ending of the layer is not visible, which is really very difficult to achieve. It can be felt, but we try, to the best of our ability, for this not to happen.

For all this to work, we had to develop many new techniques related to heat treatment, resin use, etc. A difference of 1-2ºC is enough for the material to wrinkle. Although we managed to master it, still two or three out of five tubes have to be to discard because they do not meet our standards.

WP: So, back to my question, you chose Kevlar because it is light-weight, very rigid and features good internal vibration damping?
JS: Absolutely! It is all about rigidity - it is used for the production of bulletproof vests for this particular reason. Making a Kevlar fishing rod would be a failure, because the rod would not bend, there would be no action or reaction. But internal damping is also extremely important.

WP: You mentioned that it is a tapered arm.
JS: Yes, this is one of the problems we had to face. Making a cone from aramid fibers is insanely difficult. It took us over a year to figure out how to do it. But the result is unique.

ROBERT SIKORA: Let me only add that the shape proves that each arm is created separately, this is not machine production. Each tube is manufactured from scratch. The tapered shaped was therefore an additional challenge, but we thought it was worth it. Anyway, I think it does improve the performance and one can hear it :)

WP: Why 12”? What's so special about this length?
JS: I have experience with the use of 9, 12 and 14" arms. Based on it I concluded that the 12" length is optimal. When I heard the Kuzma's 4Point 14 (14”) arm for the first time, I really liked it. The distortions introduced by the angular error are the smallest with it, it's obvious. After a while though, I sobered up a bit from the delight and realized that it was a very long lever and such an arm would never be as fast as the 12". Delays are really big with it.

I believe that we managed to combine the best qualities of a long arm with those of a short one in the KV12. That's what makes its reaction incredibly fast.

KV12 disassembled | photo J.Sikora

WP: One of the key elements of this tonearm is the VTA.
JS: I thought about it from the very beginning, for me it was an element that had to be as precisely thought-out as the arm itself. Most manufacturers simplify this mechanism to the limit. They add some screw and pretend that everything is OK. I meant it to be precise, small and modest. So once again we decided to take "the hard way" ...

We managed to solve this issue too, though it took some time. The first prototypes were too loose. They featured standard threads that did not work. In the final solution we used two trapezoidal threads, lapped in - only this solution resulted in the precision we were after. The problem is that it's an expensive solution.

RS: Maybe you share what was an inspiration for this mechanism.

JS: Well, a telephoto lens was my inspiration. I thought that if the such lens works, and it is about the smallest possible looseness and runout, as well as the speed of action, why should it not work in the case of VTA? But we did it so that one rotation is 4 mm movement vertically, and the dial is divided into four parts, which gives a very precise adjustment. Graduations were made by laser. The whole adjustment is 12 mm high.

WP: So tell me please, what are advantages of this tonearm compared to other, top competitors?
JS: This Kevlar tube made this tonearm amazingly analytical. It is able to read the tiniest details from the groove. The unipivot design helps in achieving it - I'm wholeheartedly behind this solution. It's the simplest form, and everything that is simple is better. Horizontal alignment of two bearings is a problem with other tonearms. There are also no two ideal bearings, equally stressed. And there are no such problems in unipivot design. That is why the Kuzma 4Point arms are so good. But, it must also be said, there unipivot requires oil damping. There is no good tonearm without damping.

In our arm damping is not only controlled by oil, but also by the arm head in which the stop spike is based. It is made of bronze and cast iron. I combined these two materials. The spike is hardened to level 58 on the Rockwell hardness scale, while the seat is made of mild steel. The whole arm is features an interlacing of various materials that dampen each other. And there must be proper mass - the load on the head must be high. The counterweight load, on the other hand, should be as low as possible. It's all about speed, the response must be extremely fast. That's why KV12 doesn't get lost even with the most “wavy” records - we've done such tests. Unlike other arms, it follows the curves rather than bending the cantilever.

WP: Are you happy with the final result of your work?
JS: (laughing) This is the best tonearm I've ever listened to :)
RS: Yes, I can say that without any hesitation, that we are extremely proud of the KV12.

TECHNOLOGY | The KV12 is a 12'' unipivot tonearm (effective length: 304.8 mm). This means that it hangs on a single mandrel coming out of the base. But such an arm tends to oscillate horizontally. J. Sikora's arm is therefore damped by oil. Thanks to this, the vibration is suppressed and at the same time it controls the movement of the arm - it lowers on the record very gently. To increase the surface which interacts with the oil, the latter is poured into a "cup" in the arm base, and the lower part of the element to which the arm's tube is attached has been spirally milled.

Tube | This part was built from two different materials – it's one of the technologies used by this company in turntable design. There is an aluminum on the outside and cast iron on the inside. On one end, an arm's tube was attached. And that's the clou of this design - the thing that makes people talk about the KV12 around the world.

The tube was made of aramid fibers, which were invented by DuPoint and are known under the trade name Kevlar. This is the first design of this type I know. The tube's shape is also tapered. Its interior is damped with foam. At its end there is a solid, though openwork, and therefore not very heavy, headshell. The whole design is surprisingly light - the whole mass (without the base) is 890 g, but the effective mass is only 13 g.


Kevlar is a light-weight and extremely durable polymer material belonging to the group of aramids. It was invented (by accident) in DuPont laboratories. The polymer is the work of an American chemist of Polish origin - Stephanie Kwolek. Today it is one of the most important and most recognizable synthetic fibers ever invented. The material patented in 1974 is currently used in the form of fibers and mats in the production of many items, including protective helmets, bulletproof vests or skis. (source: „Materiały Inżynierskie”, accessed: 25.11.2019)

In Kevlar audio - it is a proper name, so we write it with a capital letter - has a long tradition. It was used to construct dynamic speaker membranes. The most recognizable products featuring this material were designed by Focal and Bowers & Wilkins. And this is because the braid of this material is extremely stiff and has excellent internal damping, even better than carbon fiber. Today, this type of drivers are offered by QTX. The use of this name is strictly limited and is specified by the company's special instructions. Similarly, as in the case of another manufacturer's invention, Teflon.

„DuPont™ and Kevlar® are trademarks owned by affiliates of DuPont de Nemours, Inc. and Company.”

Counterweight | On the other end of the tube, a counterweight spindle was mounted. It's a complex design. First of all, its center of gravity is located very low, which is to improve the speed of the arm. But the counterweight itself consists of two elements. We fix one permanently and change azimuth with it, and the other we move on the threaded spindle. Cables are led from above - this is a special version, made only for J. Sikora, of silver, monocrystalline cables from another Polish company - Albedo. Cables go continuously from the tonearm pins to the plugs, but you can order a version with a DIN plug mounted in the base of the arm. The cables are quite stiff, so they work a bit like anti-skating, but there is still a classic version of this solution, with a line and weight. Although it is not really necessary, you can do without it.

VTA | The arm stands on a solid base and the VTA system, i.e. the arm height adjustment, is integrated with it. The VTA mechanism can be very simple. But it is very difficult to make a good VTA system. There is so little tolerance that hardly anyone is ready for the challenges they have to face. It is not accidental that only few manufacturers propose good VTA solutions. The Transrotor, i.e. one the the big fishes in the analogue world, only in March this year proposed its version of the VTA adjustment in the Alto TMD turntable.

The adjustment of the tonearm's height in KV12 is extremely advanced. It consists of two conical, fine-groove modules that ensure its stability. You do not need to tighten anything, fasten, because this system is stable by itself. The height changes by turning the black knob with the clearly marked scale. One turn is a 4 mm height change. The precision is therefore extremely high. The arm in this version costs 6000 euros. However, you can buy it without VTA, for 4500 euros. I just don't know if it makes any sense ...


I listened to the KV12 tonearm installed the company's Initial turntable. Although this is the cheapest turntable from this manufacturer, it easily showed the differences between the four arms I listened to it with. I conducted the basic listening sessions with the J. Sikora arm. Messrs. Sikora - Janusz (dad) and Robert (son), who brought everything to me, armed it with the Audio-Technica AT-ART1000 cartridge, that costs 5,200 euros. Later, I also listened to my cartridges from Miyajima Labs, the Madake (stereo) and Zero (mono).

I compared the arm to three other arms - two by Kuzma – the 4Point 12 and Stogi S12 - and Reed 3Q. They were all 12" tonearms. Changing them is easy because the KV12 has a "Kuzma" type mount and comes with a precise laser cut gauge on an aluminum ruler. Let's add that the arm is delivered in a large plywood case.

J.SIKORA in "High Fidelity”
  • AWARD | BEST SOUND 2016: J.Sikora REFERENCE | turntable
  • TEST: J.Sikora REFERENCE | turntable

  • Recordings used for the test (a selec- tion)

    • Art Ensamble of Chicago, The Spiritual, Freedom/ORG Music ORGM-2121, „Record Store Day 2019 Exclusive”, transparent red-wax, 180 g LP (1972/2019)
    • Bill Evans Trio, Waltz for Debby, Riverside Records/Analogue Productions APJ009, „Top 25 Jazz | Limited Edition #0773”, 2 x 180 g, 45 rpm LP (1961/2008)
    • Buck Clayton, How Hi The Fi, Columbia/Pure Pleasure Records PPAN CL567, 2 x 180 g LP (1954/2006)
    • Clannad, Nádúr, ARC Music/Music on Vinyl MOLVP908, 180 g LP (2013)
    • Clifford Jordan, Hello, Hank Jones, Eastworld ‎EWLF-98003, „Direct Cut” LP (1978)
    • Cocteau Twins, Stars and Topsoil, 4AD, CAD 2K19, 2 x 180 g, white LP (2000/2011)
    • Gerry Mulligan & Thelonious Monk, Mulligan meets Monk, Riverside/Analogue Productions AJAZ 1106, „Top 20 Jazz, 45 RPM Limited Edition | #0584, 2 x 180 g, 45 rpm LP (1957/2009)
    • Pat Metheny Group, Offramp, ECM Records/Trio Records PAP-25533, LP (1982)
    • Pearl Jam, Ten, Epic Associated/legacy | Sony Music 88697413021, 2 x 180 g LP (1991/2009)
    • The Cure, Disintegration, Fiction Records 532 456-3, 180 g, 2 x 180 g LP (1989/2010)

    | I remember perfectly well, even though three years have already passed, the impression that Mr. Sikora's Reference turntable made on me. It was a powerful tool for both the reviewer and music lover, because it extracted both information related to the recording process of the album and quality of a release, as well as emotions associated with music. It offered an incredibly resolving, fast and dynamic sound that I remembered for a long time.

    However, I also remember that listening to this masterpiece I was not at all convinced that I would like to have it for myself. Although excellent, it proposed a slightly different vision of performance than the one I am looking for. These were not big differences, but rather slight shifts of emphasis, but still. The point was that the Reference turntable was focused on openness, speed and dynamics. For me these are also key aspects of sound, but I value richness and smoothness even more.

    And only because it was such a great sound and it lacked virtually nothing, and I won't be able to hurt the Reference model in any way, now I will say something that I would not normally say, because it is associated with individual preferences, not the "absolute truth": I liked the Initial with the KV12 tonearm almost as much as the Reference. Maybe even more ... No, it is not better than the top turntable with the Kuzma tonearm, it was a perfect combination. But it spoke more directly to 'me' and I enjoyed music even more with it.

    | What made the difference was the KV12 arm. I compared with two Kuzma arms and Reed 3Q arm, which is also great piece of art, and I will say this: the Kuzma 4Point12 is fantastic, it's one of the arms that I'd see in my turntable. In turn, the sound with the Reed tonearm is smooth, dark, natural. But the KV12 has something in itself that fits in even better with my sound philosophy, thanks to which the relatively inexpensive Initial sounded so great.

    Its sound is clear, repeatable from disc to disc, and in addition easy to describe. Because on the one hand it perfectly disappears from the sound, you can not feel its intrusive presence, and on the other, it shapes the sound in such a way as to add more weight to it so that it is more serious, more similar to what is happening in the recording studio and on stage. And this is because the KV12 sounds in an extremely dynamic way (I will talk about its "sound", but it means actually how it shapes the sound). This is the feature that he shares with this manufacturer's turntables.

    But this dynamics is supported here by remarkable, simply fantastic resolution. This is a resolution that does not go in the direction of the sound being highly detailed, but rather extremely reach with information. And these are two different things. This is a detailed arm, that is it shows a lot of details, both in terms of timbre and positioning of instruments on stage. We get so much information with it that they made up a whole without our participation.

    When the gentlemen Sikora set up the turntable and mounted the arm, they asked for a short listening session to see if everything was "right". In this way we listened to two direct-to-disc albums: by Clifford Jordan titled Hello, Hank Jones and to Vivaldi in Venice from Chasing Dragon label. I immediately knew the performance was more than good, although Mr. Janusz said during the break that the sound was slightly softer than in his system. It was still fantastic, but a little milder.

    | And that's what turns me on, what delights me, so to speak. One after another albums from Riverside Records, released by Analogue Productions on 180 g vinyl in the Top 100 Fantasy 45 Series, that is on two 180 g records, sounded outstanding. They had density, saturation, thickness, textures - everything we expect from such music.

    What's more, although they had a common denominator, one could easily point out the differences between them: Bill Evans Trio from Waltz for Debby sounded in the most resolving and open way, Groove Yards by The The Montgomery Brothers sounded lower, with the instruments shown closer, which were also more full-bodied, and the sound from Mulligan Meets Monk was the least resolving, there was the most noise, but the image of the instruments was at my fingertips, "here and now".

    Yet different sounded an album by Buck Clayton's How Hi The Fi, in the Pure Pleasure Records reissue. It was less resolving, less saturated, but it did swing well, which is the key in this type of music. I heard it as if the timing aspect was even more emphasized with it. Because it is a tonearm that differentiates amazingly well. And again - not by showing you more details, not forcing anything upon listeners, but rather by what I would call "clearing the field in front of us." The point is that there is less of this "something" between us and the music that prevents us from turning off the analytical part of our brain and focusing on pure music.

    Noise, pops&cracks
    | Very low noise and and less pops&cracks also help in achieving that. I could hear them and they were not as dim as with the TechDAS Air Force One turntable, equipped with the SME V tonearm. But one should not forget that now I listened to music using an inexpensive turntable, and the effect was still excellent. Because the level of these distortions, that caused many music lovers to loose their minds in the mid-1980s and to sell their vinyl collections for almost nothing, was lower than with almost every tonearm and almost every turntable I've listened to. Music was always in the foreground and pops&cracks and noise (if any) were in the background.

    | What I liked about this arm the most was its tonality. It presents a dark world, a dense world, but always open - to changes and possibilities. There is a lot of treble, but it is always justified by the played music. There was more of it with Riverside Records releases than with the Pat Metheny Group's Offramp, and yet the recordings of Monk, Mulligan, the Montgomery brothers and Evans sounded darker and denser. ECM is an excellent label, but even it can't compare with what was done in the US in the 1950s and early 1960s.

    Probably the most important sub-range that most people will immediately notice with the KV12 is the midrange. The saxophone, piano and even the double bass sounded in a way that offered a sense of security. I listened to records without trying to find any downsides in them. The vocals also sound very natural. In their lower part I noticed a slight thickening, which occurred with each cartridge I used this arm with. It is not really a coloration, it is too small for that, but rather about a slight "touch" on this part of the band. The vocals are large and the bass instruments have lots of energy. The only downside to this presentation was the slightly lower resolution of this part of the band.

    And the bass. This is an arm that differentiates sound perfectly, showing colors and dynamics, shading the performance, but always with a strong foundation. The density and "weight" of the sound I mentioned earlier largely result from such a precise presentation of the bass. It is slightly soft, as in real life, but never lose precision. There is long sustain, but it never sounds too “fat”. And finally, the decay phase is also perfect, although it is never too fast, so the sound is not too dry.

    | And finally – the dynamics. Even if none of the above features appeals to you, listen to the KV12 for its dynamics. This is probably the fastest arm I've ever heard. I know that listening to the Swedish Analog Technologies (SAT) tonearm is still ahead of me. For now, it is the J. Sikora's arm that is the best for me in this respect.

    It could already hear it with Riverside recordings, it also worked well with ECM discs, it was also well demonstrated by Depeche Mode maxi single titled Behind The Wheel. But nothing prepared me for what I heard with the Art Ensemble of Chicago album titled The Siritual. This is a new release on red vinyl that was released on Record Store Day 2019. And it's perfect. On the Initial turntable with the KV12 tonearm it sounded better than ever before.

    There was a slam, breath, power, but when it was necessary the sound was also extremely tangible - like in the second track, when in the right channel you can hear something like pipes used in Japanese watering gardens (these are the ones that move when splashing water - remember the fight scene from the Kill Bill movie?). The turntable showed them as if someone were sitting inside my Harbeth speaker and actually banged such pipes against each other.

    Imperfect recordings | They were all reference records, or just very good ones. But I also mentioned the 45 r.p.m. maxi-single by Depeche Mode. To see what the arm does with lesser quality discs and most of available ones belong to this category, I also listened to the Cure's Disintegration as well as Pearl Jam's debut digital remasters with two versions of the album, as well as the original release, or Nadúr by the Clannad. All of them were released on 180 gram vinyl. The releases look really nice, like someone put a heart into them.

    But anyone who expects fireworks from them will be disappointed. Their realization is quite flat dynamically and tonally. However, the KV12 did everything possible so that I could listen to them with pleasure. First of all, it never brightened the sound. Even with the Stars and Topsoil by Dead Can Dance, that is quite bright and flashy, it showed something beyond this feature. It was primarily the midrange and space. Anyway, all these discs sounded nice, enjoyable.

    It was interesting that the lower quality material was not thrown “in my face” as it usually happens. Due to high compression, the sound is often aggressive and individual elements "pop" out of the mix. The KV12 arm slightly distances these elements, moves them away and only then allows them to develop. And that is why the records in question sounded quite well.

    And they featured a low, great bass too. Because, let me repeat once more, the J. Sikora's tonearm sounds low and dense. It does not blow out the sound, because when the drums in the Prayers For Rain by The Cure hit far behind, and it is almost monophonic, it was shown this way. In turn, when in the Rhapsody on nCrann from the Clannad album there are widely spread voices, they were wide spread. But the sound is always based on something solid, powerful, massive. This is, I think, an advantage of slight thickening of the midrange, combined with excellent resolution of low and high tones.


    The KV12 by J.Sikora is an extremely colorful arm. It offers a dark timbre, sounds low and delivers a full sound. It is also extremely dynamic and fast. I haven't referred to this category yet, but all this offers a very pure, clean sound. Pure in a way that is natural, it is without any harshness or sharpness. And yet the treble is open and very resolving, because you can hear both the color, richness and texture of the sound.

    It is important that it is a very universal product. With top releases it will deliver top performance, and with lesser ones it will still sound good. Each time it will show what the given album, release, version is all about, because it is extremely well differentiating. This is, next to the Kuzma 4Point 9, the best tonearm I know and heard under controlled conditions. In some aspects, such as reaction speed and density, it's even better. Wow! The 'BEST Product 2019' award at the end of the year is simply a must!

    Technical specifications (according to manufacturer):

    Type: Unipivot
    Materials: aramid fibre (Kevlar), aluminium, bronze, cast iron, inox steel
    Oil damping: yes
    Tube: conical
    VTA: yes (optional)
    Azimuth adjustment: yes
    Tonearm mass: 890g (+ 140g armboard)
    VTA mass: 225 g
    Effective length: 304,8 mm
    Pivot to spindle distance: 291 mm
    Effective mass: 13 g
    Cabling: noncrystalline silver (custom made by ALBEDO)
    Available colors: natural (yellow), painted black


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