Best cartridge for modded Technics 1200


Hey everyone!

I recently purchased a heavily modified Technics 1200 MKII on advice from some audiogoners... The cartridge that is mounted on my arm (which is an RB-600 with cardas re-wire) is getting a bit old--its the Rega Exact 2.

I'd like to upgrade, but I'm wondering at what point cartridges eclispe the capacities of my TT.

I've heard that Dynavector (10x5) cartridges work well with Rega arms, but I was thinking about the Shelter line (501) as well (which I've read good things about). These are all about the 'mid' of my price range.

What about $1000+ish carts? Would mounting something like the 47 Labs cartridges or a low-end Koetsu make any sense on this table?
satlos
Lots of information in the Vinyl Forums about the Technics Turntable and what cartridge to use.
Search for Arthur Salvatore and read what he has to say about Shelter cartridges before you buy one.
Search for him on google. I think it is .highendaudio.com

You might be surprised.
Thanks Ponnie--

Based on Salvatore's various 'reviews', I think I'll shoot for the Shelter 501 II. I've seen a couple on audiogon today, actually...

Another general question: is it best to buy cartridges new, or used? Is the discount buying used actually worth it, as I assume you're losing potential listening hours by buying what is, in essence, a somewhat 'damaged' (or 'degraded') product?
A modded Denon 103 works nice as well but it seems like the Ortofon 2M Black matches the table as if it were made for it. I also had the 2M on my modded NAD533[P2} and it liked the RB arm as well. Give it 25 hours to break-in and you will do one of those "not looking back" things.

The only worry in buying used is you are not sure of the hours on the stylus, but it is still a good way to test drive.

Once you find something you love you can replace it with a nice new one when the time to replace the old one arrives. problem is, is that you will probably want something different ...
As long as we're talking MM, I have to put in a word for the Audio Technica MLX150 II. I've been listening to it intently for about 2 months, it's motivated me to get a new phono stage and speakers, and I still can't say enough good about it.

Sweet, smooth, lush, detailed, yet clean and clear, extended at both ends, yet never "hi-fi" boom & sizzle. All music all the time. Great separation and tracking, esp. with the fluid damper.
I can't comment on teh carts that you are considering, but I have a Denon DL160 on a Sumiko Headshell that I use with an SL1210. I prefer thsi combo to a VPI Scout and Dynavactor 20x that I previously had.
Tigerwoodkhorns,

I have a DL-160 on the SL1200 and can't get rid of sibilance which does not show up on finer styluses that are on the Ortofon 2M Black and retipped Denon DL103.

I really like the DL160. The slightly warm midrange, energetic expanse of the display, definition/detail, topend extension. But the stylus is it's weak spot even though it is supposed to be a finely made elliptical. I plan on getting it retipped with a fine line stylus which should rid it of all distortion, improve already good tracking, and finally rid it of all sibilance.

And why should you spend $250 for a retip on a %150-180 cartridge? Because it is a sound that is worthy aside from it's price.
Of all the cartridges I have tried so far, and I've only had a few so far, the Clearaudio Maestro is clearly the winner on headphones so far. I have not used my big rig since summer started, only been enjoying through headphones this summer.

But the Maestro MM comes with the same cantilever/needle as their high end MC lines, and this cartridge is just in another league compared to an Ortofon 2M Black, or a Denon 103sa in a UWE ebony body.

I am still using the factory needle cantilever from Denon, so I cannot comment on an aftermarket upgrade. How ever, I do believe that the cantilever/needle on the Denon is a very weak link after the stock body.

I think the more effort you invest into your table, the more rewarding it will be for you. Enjoying various cartridges/arms/preamps and the like will probably be more enjoyable once you get the 12xx setup to your liking. The potential of this table exceeds it's price expectations, so you reach a point of asking yourself is it worth it. The monetary threshold is really a question you ask yourself.
07-20-08: Gadfly
I have a DL-160 on the SL1200 and can't get rid of sibilance which does not show up on finer styluses that are on the Ortofon 2M Black and retipped Denon DL103.
When I was running a DL-160 on an SL1210 M5G, I noticed the sibilance went down slightly when I got a better phono stage. Ultimately, however, I upgraded to an Audio Technica AT150MLX and couldn't be happier. It does the things I liked about the DL-160 (even tonality, musicality, good level of detail and tracking for the money), and adds several more into the mix (better tracking, more detail, higher output, better stereo separation, smoother yet airier treble, *no more spitty sibilants*, very present and solid-sounding midrange while improving the frequency extension at both ends. Fuller yet better-defined bass).

One thing I noticed is that I needed to clean the DL-160 stylus after playing about 3 sides, but I hardly ever have to clean the AT150MLX stylus. I wonder if this resistance to build-up has anything to do with the difference in how it handles sibilants, or perhaps the difference in stylus shape avoids gunk *and* tracks sibilants better.

I really like the DL160. The slightly warm midrange, energetic expanse of the display, definition/detail, topend extension. But the stylus is it's weak spot even though it is supposed to be a finely made elliptical. I plan on getting it retipped with a fine line stylus which should rid it of all distortion, improve already good tracking, and finally rid it of all sibilance.
Like I said, if you like the DL-160, I think you'd *love* the AT150MLX. No need for a re-tip, and the replacement stylus is available for $179.95, or the price of a DL-160.

I have a DL-160 on the SL1200 and can't get rid of sibilance which does not show up on finer styluses that are on the Ortofon 2M Black and retipped Denon DL103.
Gadfly (Threads | Answers)

I will lay odds this is due to cartridge set-up rather than the cart, stylus or phono, and it's not limited to your set-up, but to all those discussed.

Why do I say this? Because I have had marginal sibilance issues as well, and with several carts including Benz Ace (marginally problematic), AT150MLX (most problematic), Dynavector XX2 MK2 (least problematic).

I solved the problem this weekend, and the solution was the MintLP Best Tractor protractor. My cartridge set-up was not properly dialed in, despite using a Technics specific protractor. The MintLP demonstrated this very quickly.

The MintLP Best Tractor, if properly used, will eradicate sibilance caused by microscopic mistracking. It will be a revelation to you if you follow the alignment procedure according to the instructions.

IMO, it is a more valuable mod/tweak than any of those offered by KAB, which are excellent but should come after a proper cartridge set-up (and no, the Technics jig is not sufficient because it does not help align the cart).

Indispensable. I can't recommend the MintLP Best Tractor highly enough.
st up on the 160. I don't know. I've had this issue with this cart across two different tables. It really shows up in comparison to the other cartridges. On it's own I wouldn't have a big deal about it.

It's not a killer amount of sibilance, I suppose, but it really really bugs you when you have two carts that don't do it at all.

So it's not the phono stage or setup. It's the cart. But I have been poking around reading about the fluid damper and someone says it reduces sibilance on a cart that he was using. I plan on getting that damper so I will hold onto the 160 and see if it makes a difference.

I quote TVAD: "My cartridge set-up was not properly dialed in, despite using a Technics specific protractor." Now using that protractor is a big nono. I am using KWILLIS' homemade arc protractor and it is easy to align a cart with it. Check out KWILLIS over at the Vinyl Asylum to get one.

Dude. NEVER use that Technics protractor.

Johnnyb53, I heard those AT carts are peaky, bright. You should check out the Ortofon 2M's. I have the 2M Black and I love it.
I was using the Baerwald Arc Protractor specific to the Technics SL12xx, downloaded from VinylEngine.com, and accurately sized.

Now, admittedly, I was perhaps not using it accurately. I'm not criticizing the protractor, but I am promoting the benefits of the design and effectiveness of the MintLP Best Tractor, and it's accompanying excellent instructions. The MintLP protractor is designed using a printed guide on a mirror that enables the accuracy of one's cartridge alignment to be well beyond what is possible using a protractor printed on card stock.

The MintLP was a revelation to me, as it has it been for several other Audiogon members who have discussed the protractor in other threads.

Also, please understand that I am not dismissing the quality of one cart over another. However, I am making a point that some problems mentioned in these threads that are attributed to carts are clearly attributable to set-up rather than the carts.

I suspect many readers who read my post will dismiss the advice about the MintLP. It's natural for each of us to assume we are doing everything correctly, and that we can be taught nothing.

Give the MintLP Best Tractor a try, or not.

Have fun!
I'm in the same boat having just purchased here a SL1200 with the KAB tonearm damper. I like what I've read about the Audio-Technica AT150mlx in terms of price/performance and output (not wanting the expense of a step-up) and am leading in that direction.

But I'm curious, has anyone had any experience with the Stanton 890LE that KAB is now selling?? It's less expensive than his S30 (which I've heard is not as good as the AT150) but I like the high output (I'm running a passive preamp) and am wondering how good it might be.

07-20-08: Gadfly
Johnnyb53, I heard those AT carts are peaky, bright. You should check out the Ortofon 2M's. I have the 2M Black and I love it.
Mine isn't peaky. I have no tolerance for peaky, and even if I did, my wife would let me know. In fact, I've always been able to gauge whether the treble is dialed in by how my family behaves when the music is playing. If the treble has glare or is edgy, they get loud and irritable. When it's right, they calm down. I read a review in Sensible Sound that observed that the plastic-bodied AT440MLa had an upper midrange peak, but not the AT150MLX, which the reviewer felt was very neutral and linear, but had plenty of dynamics, trackability, and separation.

Actually, in spite of its trackability, linearity, and higher level of detail over my DL-160, I'd describe the sound of my AT150MLX as lush. Lush in the sense that the details enrich the musical picture rather than distract the listener from the music. My current setup conveys a connection to the music as I've never had before in my home system.
I have Shelter 501 MK II on mine (it's KAB modified table).
If you were to use Sumiko headshell with Shelter, you'll discover, that the hight of Shelter is not enough to have proper VTA. I ended up using Isoplat mat on a top of Technics thick rubber mat and also a spacer b/w cart and the headshell- only then VTA falls into acceptable adjustment range. Also, Sumiko is heavier, than OEM headshell, so you'll have to use aux. counterweight.
In terms of performance, Shelter is a very good cart without a hint of brightness and sibilance, very resolving and musical as well.I feel quality of KAB- Technics is high enough to serve as adequate platform for Shelter 501 MKII- level of carts.
With respect to the post above, regard. feet for SL 1200-
after switching from stock feet to Audiopoints (Starsound Technologies), I firmly believe, that this table will benefit greatly from rigid coupling system, and de-coupling (suspension)is simply contrindicated (as long, as your floor is concrete, as mine).
Tvad, I thought you meanty you were using the Technics jig. That poor molded thing. I am willing to humble down and try setting up that 160 again. I may gain something by trying it .... but I doubt it. ;-)

Johnnyb53, I know that the Technics likes a more energetic cartridge. I just tried the Benz-Micro MC20E2-L and even using a SUT it was a little steely. But then again it had an elliptical stylus. With what you say about the AT440MLa I think I really might be on the right track with retipping the 160 with a fine line.
07-20-08: Gadfly
Johnnyb53, I heard those AT carts are peaky, bright. You should check out the Ortofon 2M's. I have the 2M Black and I love it.
I just remembered--another characteristic I've read about the AT150MLX is that it's smooth, linear, and musical *if* the catridge sees about 200 pF total capacitance. Too much and it turns hard (peaky?) in the midrange; too little and the high treble is exaggerated.

My Technics interconnect is 100 pF, and either the Cambridge 640p has another 100 or so internally, or the interconnect I use between the phono and line stages adds the extra capacitance needed.

However the capacitance added up, the AT150MLX sounds great in my system. It gives me more of everything, and prompted me to change line stages, get new floorstanding speakers, and bi-amp them to show off the increased resolution of the AT150MLX over the DL-160. Considering I got it for little over 1/3 of a 2M Black, I'll be sticking with it for awhile, though if I had it to spend, I'd have probably gotten a 2M Black and been ecstatic about it.