the 1200 would be the classic here. you may want to look at the denon 500m as well. the mmf7 and rega 5....are arguably on par with the technics and denon
43 responses Add your response
Here's the obvious answer but I rarely take my own advice: Buy two or three units used if you have the cash on hand, compare them together in the same room on the same system, and then sell what you don't like. If you've been coming to audiogon enough you should know w/in $50-$100 what you will be able to resell for and you could easily wind up even or perhaps making a bit of money.
Really, the Technics is a cheaper starting platform than the other two. You can get an SL1210 Mk2 from Musicians Friend for $399.99 here. That's almost in the price range of a P1 or MMF 2.1. Remember, the P3 is $685. For that money you could get the SL1210 Mk2 plus KAB's fluid damper and threaded clamp mods.
The platforming you mention (thick slab of wood with Vibrapods or Isoblocks) is essential for moving the SL12x0 'tables up into their potential. To that I'd add a Sumiko headshell to increase tonearm/headshell rigidity and use its azimuth feature to optimize cartridge angle. Now it can handle a wide variety of cartridges, both in weight and compliance.
The big inherent advantage of the MMF5 and Rega P3 is their tonearms. The big inherent advantages of the Technics are speed accuracy, low motor noise, close tolerances, build quality, and ergonomics. You can narrow the gap in tonearm performance with the KAB fluid damper and Sumiko headshell.
Or you can eliminate the tonearm gap this way: Start with the SL1210 Mk2 for $400 and order Origin Live's Technics armboard adapter (about $70 here) and an OL-1 tonearm (about $240 here or here). Your total price (plus shipping) is $710, which gives you the Technics drive system and ergonomics with essentially a rebadged Rega RB250 tonearm.
That's a mere $25 over the P3 and you have well-mapped upgrade paths available--from KAB for the turntable (outboard PS, threaded clamp, strobe lamp disabler, Isonoe Footers) and Origin Live for the tonearm (structural mod w/tungsten counterweight, tonearm rewire, and slotted armtube).
I was looking at the same TTs as you are now. I contacted a well respected on line retailer. The guy I talked to had a VPS Scout...he recommended the Technics from KAB. His store didn't eve carry Technics. That impressed me. I ordered a pretty heavily optioned SL1210M5G this past winter along w/KAB mod'd. Stanton audiophile stereohedron tip cart. I am really enjoying the Technics table. No - I did not do AB testing. Went solely on reviews (here and also TNT Audio), simplicity of setup and operation as well as tank like build. Good luck with your decision.
thanks alot, It seems for the price range you really can't go wrong with the SL 1200 which I am 90 percent sure is the direction I will take. I really like the idea of using the origin tonearm. By the way, I have heard the standard arguement that the rega turntables under the 1,000 dollar mark run a little fast--is there any such reason not to go with Music Hall 5?
Given that the VPI Scout is considered the price/performance leader at $1650 (bolstered by Art Dudley's review in S'phile where he said the Scout whaps it out of the park [in its price class] so far it isn't even funny), it makes me wonder, given your dealer's recommendation, whether the SL1200 can be better than even *I* think, and I own one. I haven't listened to a Scout, but I know they're very highly regarded and appear to be very well built. I wonder what all a KAB-modded SL12x0 can
do by comparison.
I have to say, I get just tons of musical enjoyment out of my SL 1210 M5G. Always did, but the tweaks and cartridge/headshell improvements have resulted in an outsized increase in enjoyment. I'm going to get a fluid damper soon. Should be interesting.
Being a Rega dealer and a DJ at a local radio station that uses the 1200 I did a quick but well controlled comparison and posted the results on an earlier thread that was removed for some reason. I used the latest P3/24 with its outboard power supply, with a barely broken in Rega Exact on both tables. I played them through my reference system. Unfortunately the record I used was punched out of round so speed stability issues were clouded. I would assume the Technics to have noticably superior speed stability. The Rega however was noticably more dynamic and transparant although a bit edgier on sibilance. The Technics was warm but muffled in comparison. Ideally I would have liked to have had more time to experiment though.
Addendum to my other reply:
Bear in mind that the new Rega P3/24 I used now sells for $845 and the outboard PS is an additional $345 totalling $1190 compared to the $550 for the 1200. Comparing the Rega P2 would be would be more apples to apples pricewise. Also, comparing the 1200 with the same Rega RB301 would have been interesting.
Bear in mind also that Although I am a Rega dealer, I also have access to the Technics tables, so no particular conflict of interest there.
Johnnyb53, I had the exact same thoughts. I spent $900 (shipped) for my limited ed. 1200 and have it now at KAB for another $900 in upgrades. There's a barely used scout listed today for less than that so it makes me think.
However...I owned an Aries 3 and without the SDS (which adds another $900) the speed was unstable and sounded like it so I figure the Scout must also need the SDS.
I also loved the idea of playing 78s and of starting and stopping on a dime with the 1200.
Discuss the SL1200 tonearm with Kevin at KAB and you might be persuaded not to swap it for a Rega. He makes some cogent points about the true cost and performance of each.
Also, I would respectfully disagree with my friend jaybo regarding the MMF-7 being on par with the Technics SL1200. The Technics is far preferable to my ear. It might be the MMF-7's stock Goldring cartridge that was objectionable, and changing it out for something else might make a significant difference.
Also, the SL1200 tonearm's anti-skate and VTA adjustments are far superior to those on the MMF-7's Pro-Ject tonearm.
For what it's worth, I've owned a couple of direct drive tables of this genre/design -- a Technics SL-1800 fully manual with an ADC ZLM cartridge way back when and a Pioneer PL-600 (1981...regarded by most as a sort of "SL 1200 with a Pioneer label") using several cartridges over the span of 25 years, the last being a Shure V-15 IV. My parents still enjoy the SL-1800...The Pioneer finally bit the dust this Spring. I replaced it with a new MMF-5 with the stock Goldring cartridge. My subjective take on the whole experience has been that, while the aforementioned direct drive turntables certainly proved more than worth every penny in terms of longevity and in good (as in adequate to please a broad cross section of listeners) sound quality, the MMF-5 inhabits an entirely higher sonic plane. If it lasts half as long as my Pioneer PL-600 did, I'll consider it the best purchase of the bunch.
Johnnyb & Jmoog -
I was not as precise in my language as I ought to have been. The person I spoke to owned a Scout. He had the opportunity to audition at home a KAB mod'd. Technics table. He was very impressed with the Technics table. I didn't intend to imply he said it was sonically better than the Scout - more that with the Scout as a reference point he was still very impressed with the performance and value of the Technics and (given my budget in the ~$1000 range) thought I should consider one. 2 points he made specifically were about the quietness of the Technics (very black background might have been his exact words) and the twitchiness (my word) of the Scout in terms of set up and what appeared to be an ongoing need for adjustment. This conversation did follow however from my expressed interest in Rega and Music Hall tables (both of which his store carried). Hope that clarifies.
In my comparison, it was definitely not so cut and dried, in either direction. Perhaps my sample of the Technics was compromised in some way, but not that I could tell. I used the same cart, mat and record weight and mounted both on the same VERY isolated platform, and the result was points in both directions. The Technics was smoother but not as clear, fast or dynamic. The Rega was edgier though. Speed stability, is another matter, and obviously a point in favor of the Technics.
There are so many variables with vinyl and, as I said above, a better comparison would have been to use the same arm as well, and perhaps a better cartridge, not to mention more time to tweek.
To me, this is a good distinction, and one that does not indicate one being better than the other. It's merely a matter of preference.
I would say Piedpiper's description of the Technics sound is in keeping with what I hear with my SL1210/Benz Micro Ace combo. I would also say his description of the Rega is in keeping with the sound of my previous MMF-7 with Goldring Eroica cart. I prefer the smoother sound of the Technics/Benz Micro Ace versus the edgier sound of the MMF-7.
He's also on the money about the speed stability. I could discern the speed instability of the MMF-7.
the fact is, except for the edginess, I prefered the Rega. Generally, I am always on the look out for a better, more elegant and, if possible, cheaper answer. I would have been delighted to find a cut and dried result so I could move on in definitive terms. Although I feel my comparison was not conclusive because of insufficient time, I do feel I got some welcome and relevant input.
The Rega P3 is obviously an entry level table for those who want a no fuss no muss set up. I'm not sure what that has to do with anything other than that it is arguably an appropriate comparison to the Technics, and a well known quantity to boot. I believe I made it clear tha I'm in a position to sell both. I do not think the Technics pulls the rug out from under the Rega line. My sense is they will appeal to different folks both sonically and otherwise.
I have no ax to grind here, although I get the distinct impression that you do.
"Happens all the time."
Quote: "The Technics is clearly superior.....if you have the ability to discern the differences."
Even before I started on vinyls a year ago, I have auditioned the Technics on 2 occasions - sounds good but something was just missing - the "connection".
Things changed when I heard the P3... and it is belt driven TTs from then on for me....
But of course, the Technics is basic enough for the general masses.
Audio is obviously very subjective and there is simply no accounting for taste. That is not to say that there is no basis for ojective analysis, but people have different priorities and are sometimes willing to put up with some major downsides to get even a single major upside. It takes a much more ambitious product than either of these to aspire to being uncompromised. In my original review that I posted in the now defunct thread, I noted that my reference Maplenoll table understandably blew both the Rega and Technics out of the water. I couldn't live with either of those as my sole table. One of the two LP used to test had very challenging sybilance and the Rega had a real problem with it. The 1200 handled it better but was muddier across the board, although quieter. I suspect that this is plinth and arm related rather than direct vs. belt issue. The high mass, highly damped plinth of the Technics is the poloar opposite of the purposefully low mass highly rigid, undamped plinth of the Rega. Choose your poison.
The high mass, highly damped plinth of the Technics is the poloar opposite of the purposefully low mass highly rigid, undamped plinth of the Rega.
There is a thread on Audiocircle specifically addressing the issue of damping the platters and plinths of Japanese direct drive tables. The author of the thread argues quite adamantly that the Technics table requires substantial damping to sound its best.
You and he offer completely opposite views of the same table.
I'm not trying to persuade anyone that A is better than B (as a side note - might some of the differences in opinion about the Technics table revolve around experiences with a stock SL1200 series TT vs a KAB modified version?)- just trying to relate my experience and also confirm what Johnnyb has said, "the Technics is giving me a lot of musical enjoyment". Two recent changes have contributed greatly to this: 1) I purchased a used Lehman Black Cube phono-pre (in part because of a thread response by Tvad (though not the SE version). This replaced a very entry level NAD PP-1. 2) I did a DIY Mapleshade knockoff using a heavy, 2&1/4" thick Cuisinart chopping block from the kitchen organizer dept at Lowes along with 4 Dayton speaker cone spikes from Parts Express (thread of the accompanying studs is a perfect replacement for that of the Technics stock footer). I'm using Isonoe boots (orginally purchased for the stock TT footers) under the cutting board. The benefit of this latter tweak may go to Tvad's point above about the need for damping. Whatever the cause(s), vinyl on the KAB Technics SL1210 M5G is sounding amazing to me.
I don't see myself as offering a "point of view" so much as observations and hypotheses. It makes sense to me that a direct drive would need damping. I did not at all intend to say that the Rega low mass undamped technique is better, just that it may contribute significantly to the differences between the two tables. My Maplenoll is VERY high mass and very damped but rigidly with lead and corian rather than rubber like the Technics. There are a alot of folks that believe that evacuating resonance is more effective than soft damping which they argue traps the resonance within the component. Perhaps the Maplenoll optimizes both by damping rigidly in a way that facilitates evacuation as well. I don't get that there is any "right" way to handle these issues, just lots of different roads any of which need to well tended and balanced to be comprehensibly effective. My sense is that the art of Turntable design and resonance management has evolved a bit since the Technics team made there (significant) investment. They got alot right, especially for a $500 table. I can easily relate what I heard to Johnnyb's comment, "the Technics is giving me a lot of musical enjoyment". My initial impression was, "mmm, comfy." The Rega was simply more incisive, but at a cost.
Incidentally, I heard recently that A. J. Conti compared the speed stability of his upper end Basis table, a belt drive using an exeedingly thin but super accurately ground rubber belt to the Technics 1200 with excellent results. Go figure.
Thom Mackris sums up this dynamic nicely in an unrelated adjacent thread:
"...while specific "superior" architectures may well arise, that ultimately, mature designs arise from multiple different architectures ... in the hands of a skilled and aware designer. I truly feel that these superior (yet divergent) architectures tend to converge on musical truth."
or as someone else once sung it:
"it ain't the meat it's the motion."
"I will go with the Rega any time over the Technics. The Technics is no way an audiophile TT if you are the discerning kind."
Shsohis: The Technics SL-1200 was designed at a time when it was much more affordable (and profitable) to design high-end DD turntables. Add to that, that Technics obviously has a tremendous edge in R&D funding over all "cottage" companies in Europe and North America, that have given the turntable industry the reputation of being a "cottage industry". While it is true that many Japanese companies offered cheap, lousy sounding direct drives (mostly because of the shitty arms on them) in the '80s, what is NOT true is the inferiority of DD over belt-drive...quite the opposite, in fact. A properly designed DD has huge advantages over direct drive that enable the table (we're not factoring in the arm) to far surpass the performance of a belt-drive. The 1200 was and is the giant killer of DD, along its bigger and more bad-ass brethren, the SP-25, 15 and the mighty 10 Mk2 and 10 Mk3. There are converted audiophiles who swear these tables, with the right arm, are the best-sounding tables ever. If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of DD, check out the details on KAB's website. I won't even begin discussing the audiophile snobism towards the EPA-120 arm, which is again vastly better than audiophiles think (though it is not to the level of the table itself). The arm boasts bearing tolerances of half a micron, which puts it into SME, Rega, Graham and Kuzma territory, amongst other great arm manufacturers.
Enough here....my Michell turntable is up for sale if anybody wants it....I just purchased a 1200MkII and awaiting delivery...going to mount my Rega arm on it with the Origin Live armboard.
How do you know it was the belt? Maybe it had more to do with the more inert platter, the plinth material, isolation, or damping, or that RB300 tonearm? Perhaps there was a better arm/cartridge compliance/resonance match.
Perhaps you found it easy to listen through the P3's speed accuracy issues, which may be good enough for the general masses, ;-) but not for me, as 1% speed inaccuracy is simply unacceptable for a Count Basie fan.
I've now lived with a Technics SL1210 for 6 months and I can say with confidence that the disdain for its direct drive and S-shaped tonearm w/detachable headshell is misdirected.
The biggest problem with the Technics SL12x0 turntables is that they're based on a 1979 understanding of isolation, damping, and vibration control.
The good news is that the Technics SL12x0 turntables are practically a gift ($399.99) when it comes to build quality, speed accuracy, and quietness, because the isolation/damping/vibration control issues are not hard or expensive to fix.
Platform it on a thick slab of maple or butcher block supported by vibration-absorbing footers, get a Sumiko headshell and a serious 21st century mat, and get back to me, and don't forget how little you spent.
I'm currently using 1) Nottingham Spacedeck, VDH silver mod OL RB300 arm, Ortofon Rondo Bronze, Pass Xono Phono amp 2) First Sound Presence Deluxe, Pass X150.5 3) Unity Audio Signature One speakers 3) Cables are all Kimber Selects, Shunyata Copperheads & Synergistic Research Designer Reference power cords.
Johnnyb53, to add one more supporting comment: isolation is isolation. The success in isolation depends in part on controlling resonance, to keep them from drumming their way through the turntable system. The isolation required for DJ applications is in fact no different than what is required for home audiophile applications. Put a killer arm (or just use the stock EPA-120 which is already quite decent) and a killer cartridge that tracks at most at 1.75 grams, and play a record. Bang on the table the turntable is sitting on. You'll get nothing. The cartridge/arm will not move out of the groove. Now do the same for virtually any spring-suspension turntable(I know of anyway), and the arm will start jumping around like a 2 year old child with a tantrum...
So, while it is true the SL-1200MkII was introduced in 1979, the physics behind isolation have been well documented decades before that. Isolation is accomplished in part by correct rejection/damping of unwanted resonances. I doubt there is a better table out there for that than the 1200. Look at it like this: if Matsushita forked out the bucks to design the SL-1200MK2 today, I don't think they would have made it any better mechanically. The electronics may improve by integrating all the discrete circuits onto an IC, but the mechanical portion wouldn't change. If the SL-1200 was designed today, my guess is that it would sell for anywhere between $3000 and $4000, factoring in inflation, and other costs. It's amazing how this table "slid under the radar of inflation" and manages to seel for what it does. IMO, it's a gift at the asking prices. It's too bad that audiophiles don't give this table the credit it deserves. I strongly believe most of it is mere snobbism, that they cannot believe a 'DJ' product can outperform an audiophile piece.
In my experience, an SL-1200 Mk2 with a Rega arm, and a good cartridge to match, provides a superb level of "speed", neutrality (especially in the midrange), openness and transparency, all without the mushiness and over-warmth of some belt-drives.
It seems to me managing resonance for isolation directly affects sonics. The two cannot be separated. If not, why bother with isolation?
Can you be more specific so I can better understand your point?
Managing resonances for sonics has to do with isolating and evacuating resonances generated internally such as those generated by the motor, by the spindle and arm bearings and by the cartridge. Managing resonances for isolation has to do with isolating the table from externally generated vibes such as footfalls and airborn and structurally transmitted musical feedback. Musical feedback also effects sonics, whereas footlfalls effect skipping and the like.
"Bang on the table the turntable is sitting on. You'll get nothing. The cartridge/arm will not move out of the groove. Now do the same for virtually any spring-suspension turntable(I know of anyway), and the arm will start jumping around like a 2 year old child with a tantrum..."
That is an example of isolation issues, possibly irrelevent or detrimental to sonic issues.
An example of prioritizing sonics is how Lloyd Walker chose to design his table using air bearing feet, the stiffnes of which was tuned by ear. This then sits on a massive wood platform, designed by ear, which then sits on sorbothane pads on a massive rack, which then gets strapped to the wall if footfalls are a problem. At each point in the continuum from table to floor, sonics are the priority. At no point does he allow issues of isolation to compromise sonics.
Incidentally, I'm not speaking authoritatively so much as theoretically. Imperical research is always king.
For about $1750, you could have a Technics SL1210 mk2 with KAB outboard PSU, Origin Live armboard, and their OL Silver tonearm. The combo would have wow and flutter around .01 to .025% and a weighted rumble figure of -78dB tops.
Would it sound the same as the Nottingham? No, but the differences would be a matter of taste and preferences. Would it sound as good? At least.
I had a Linn Basik turntable with a Basik Plus tonearm and Van den Hul wiring. I switched it out for a totally unmodified, only 'good' condition Technics SL-1200 mkII "just to see what happens" and was instantly converted.
You can find both tables for similar prices, and the Linn reputation would lead most Audiogon members to recommend that table, but there was just no comparison; the Technics was that good. And it's also nice to have an upgrade path via KAB electronics.
Speaking of resonances - in the tonearm - if you don't want to spring for a new arm, I can recommend wrapping the Technics arm with a $3 roll of cloth-based medical tape or similar materials. This does tame some spurious sounds to my ear, the chief benefit of which is that midrange and treble image density and solidity increases. My table/arm was bought with the Cardas internal wiring from KAB and I believe that wiring at this level has to make a difference. I can also vouch for the Sumiko headshell for at least the azimuth adjustment, if your cantilever is not perfectly perpindicular.
Just thinking that, if these modified SL-1200s are as great as touted, someone should seize the marketing moment and get a mass distribution thing going to coincide with the recent resurgence in vinyl. Sure there's a few aging 'Boomers here and there who'd prefer their LP-12s, Spacedecks, and the like on the strength of snob appeal alone, but a $1750-ish (??) table that bests designs costing five times that should sell like....well....commensurately with its reputation.
According to Mike Fremer's column in the August Stereophile, Zu Audio was thinking of doing just that, but have apparently backed off from any production intentions.
I suspect (or heard) that there is too much handwork in the modifications to make it cost-effective. Fremer reports that the the Zu boys claimed their mods made the SL 1200 "world class."
Also, currently Panasonic is making and selling about 88,000 of these units per year, in their premier Japanese facility, and to very close tolerances. The SL12x0 family of turntables is the biggest-selling audio component of all time, with more than 3 million of them manufactured and sold. They may well be making all they can to the standards that they hold.
Still, I see your point. Kevin certainly provides that service of converting SL 12x0s into high-end 'tables, but two additional services might be mounting the Origin Live (or his own) arm board and an RB-based or compatible tonearm, and putting together a truly optimized platform.
two additional services might be mounting the Origin Live (or his own) arm board and an RB-based or compatible tonearm, and putting together a truly optimized platform.
I have spoken with Kevin about this, and he is adamant about not replacing the stock Technics arm. He makes a good argument for leaving it as is. You will not see him in the business of installing Rega arms and OL arm boards.
Thanks, Tvad. I'm actually in favor of leaving the stock tonearm and getting the fluid damper mod. It's certainly less expensive, and you retain the convenience features of removable headshell and very slick VTA adjustment.
What I'd like to know is what are Kevin's arguments in favor of retaining the stock arm? It sounds like he feels that it actually works and sounds better.
I was just thinking, although at first glance an S-shaped tonearm might be less rigid than a tapered cylinder, wouldn't the S-shape actually make it *more* rigid in the horizontal plane?
Speaking of which, for all the attempts at explaining the performance of RB300 and similar tonearms, has anyone actually tested and quantified the stiffness of the Rega and the Technics in both the horizontal and vertical planes? Technics publishes their tolerances (1/2 micron) and friction (7 mg) specs on their tonearm bearings. Is there any similar info about the Rega or other unipivot one-piece tonearms?