How much am I missing with SL1200 mk2?

Hi everybody,

Hope you are enjoying your Labor Day Weekend.

My system is:

Anthem 225i (using phono pre in rec)
Musical Fidelity A5.5 CD player
Usher CP 6311 speakers
Clean SL mk2 with AT cartridge 120e

How much am I missing with my SL opposed to a $1000-$1500 including cartridge more modern setup like Rega RP3, entry Clearaudio, VPI, etc?

I'm pretty happy with the current setup but have been told I am giving up a lot with the SL.

Your opinions are appreciated, just curious.

Thanks in advance,

Compared to the tables you mentioned you're not missing much.
I had a SLmk5 but I don't think there is any real difference. I also had a Luxman PD131 with Grace 707 Tonearm. These turntables cost the same but the Luxman was more detailed. I used a Ortofon 2M black on both. I changed the tonearm on the Technics to a Jelco 750D, but the Luxman was still clearly more musical and detailed.

I have sold both and now have a Denon DP6000 and a DP80.

You can get very nice TOTL vintage turntables with a cartridge well within your budget that will easily best the Technics.
Thanks, that's good news. I've been a drummer for years, my ears aren't golden. If the difference is minimal I'm not sure I'd notice.

Everyone's going to give you a completely different answer. And the motivation's behind the answers will be different, especially since your current TT is pro gear. If you want the right answer, borrow a TT to try in your system or bring your TT to a store where you can try it next to something else.
Zd542 is dead on.

This is a very solid table not prone to delicacy splashing lots of audiophile terminology about. It is a solid performer with an AT cart. What you are 'missing' is lots of air around the instruments, imaging and a black background. it should have great impact. I know, I've sold the table.

It is a direct-drive table with inherent problems of that design. I know, I owned a very high-end Denon table with a Denon 103 moving coil cart. But perhaps these are not goals and that is okay too. It is a bit of a blunt instrument. But if that is your sound, it is far from a criticism.
Thanks guys, I guess the only way to know is to try it out. The closest brick and mortar dealer is probably 200-300 miles. It may be worth a shot to demo one via an Internet dealer if agree to pay frt, etc.

I was curious what others had to say to see if it motivated me to take the next step.

Thanks for your thoughtful feedback

I also agree with Zd542, but with that said I do truly believe your SL1200 mk 2 is a better TT then you or others might give it credit for. There are a number of inexpensive tweaks you can perform on it if you wanted to.
If you have not done so, check out the KAB website:
On the other hand, if you have the desire to purchase something new or different have at it, but I'm not certain there will be improvement within the price range you mention.
Why not spend some bucks on a new cartridge then you can always take it with you when you get a new table later down the road.
I think you would get a lot more out of your TT if you upgraded the cartridge to a Denon 103. It's a very good match to the Technics arm and it's not too expensive.

I've heard good things about the Denon. However, my built in phono stage is suited best for MM or high output- ruling the 103 out. Correct me if I'm wrong.

When I upgraded from NOS Shure I noticed a pretty big difference, so I'm not opposed to changing cartridges. I prefer a lively sound, so my current AT cartridge is a good match, for me anyway.

I've considered the KAB Ortofons that basically set themselves up. Anyone here tried any of those cartridges? They appear to be a Concord body with an audiophile stylus.

I'm jealous of you that have shops that are willing to loan gear, etc. I'm surprised it's not the case in my hood. Maybe someday!

Thanks again for the insight/ advice.

"I've heard good things about the Denon. However, my built in phono stage is suited best for MM or high output- ruling the 103 out. Correct me if I'm wrong."

Yes. Unless you can bypass the internal phono stage, you'll need to use a MM or a HOMC.

"I'm jealous of you that have shops that are willing to loan gear, etc. I'm surprised it's not the case in my hood. Maybe someday!"

If you live in the US, you can always use The Cable Company. They will send you demo units of anything they carry before you commit to a purchase.
If you insist on a high-output cartridge, try a Goldring Eroica High-Output. You're cartridge is fine if you just want to hear some sound, but if you want to get more out of your system, you're going to have to spring for something much better. But not so much that the arm can't take advantage of it. I think the Goldring would work well. They're good carts.
I don't have any recent experience with a 1200. The last time I used one was as at college radio station 35 years ago.......but I would think that a WTRP would be a good change. You could even get a WTTT or classic at a decent price used. Forget the 103 and go with a 301 mkii when you up grade your phono stage.....or grab a 110 until you have the extra cash for a phono stage and cartridge up grade.
For two or three hundred dollars, you could upgrade your SL1200 to compete with $1500-2000 turntables, and exceed many of them in certain parameters.

The SL1200's strengths are high torque combined with low noise, rugged construction, speed accurcy, and smooth, slick, user-friendly controls.

The high torque combined with low noise provides good dynamics, bass extension, and rhythmic drive.

The cheap'n'easy tweaks include:

1) A better platter mat; Google around and check some recommendations here. The Herbie's Way Excellent mat is a good place to start, and so are some of those leather or hair-oncowhide models.

2) Get a low-cost record grip; you'll get more consistent tonal balance and s/n ratio regardless of record weight.

3) The stock feet look effective but they aren't. An easy and inexpensive solution is a set of Vibrapod Cones set on top of Vibrapod #2 Isolators. You unscrew the stock feet, set the threaded sockets (that used to hold the feet) onto the steel balls of the Vibracones, and then set those on the Vibrapod Isolators.

4) Wrap the tonearm in Teflon (PFTE) plumbers pipe thread tape. It's one or two bucks a roll; you need about 18" of it, tops.

5) Upgrade your headshell to a ZuPreme from LPGear.

6) Place the turntable on a hardwood butcher block style cutting board. Mine is 3-1/2" thick and made of end grain rock maple. You can also put gel pads or more Vibrapods under the cutting board to improve isolation and vibration reduction.

For a bit more money, add the following upgrades:

7) Have KAB rewire your tonearm with at least OFC copper, or get his very reasonable hyperlitz cable, or the Cardas.

8) Get and install the KAB tonearm fluid damper trough. Fill the trough no more than 1/3 full.

I have done all the above except the tonearm rewire because I have an SL1210M5G, which has OFC tonearm wire.

For a sanity check, I visit my high end store's annual open house where I hear state of the art systems including some pretty sophisticated turntables. Across the street from them is a store that carries Pro-Ject, the full Rega line, and Roxsan. So I'm regularly exposed to $2000-10,000 belt-drive turntables. I never come away from these sessions wishing I had a better turntable. In fact, I marvel at how well my 'table does certain things and how well it holds up against the Rega and Roxsan's strengths.

Oh, yeah: the Audio Technica AT150MLX is wicked fast, articulate, musical, extended, quiet, and linear. Great match for your turntable. I've been using mine for seven years.
Great information in your post!
Try Music Direct if you can't audition locally. I'd suggest giving them a call and talking to Chris or Bes, their vinyl gurus. They can help steer you right and they have a great return policy if you don't like what you buy.
I have a different take(one I will get a lot of grief for). You might be missing the foot tapping quality of music. Does your body want to dance to the music? I've only listened to needle drops, a brief listen to one, and a Technics SP10 mk11(I think.). I'm pretty sure the arm is not too good. Are you getting the reason why someone made the music(I doubt most records are made for the tonal quality of the instruments, but rather they are done to communicate something. Of course, some are made just for the "sound" of the instruments.).
Mmakshak: The strongest trait in quartz-locked direct drive turntables (including the OP's), it's a strong sense of pace as well as dynamics and bass extension. These are the very traits typical of direct drive turntables. Plus, the SP 10 didn't come with a tonearm, so whatever it has is what someone installed on it, post-sale and there's no way we could know what it was.

The weakness in the SL12x0 series was vibration control and damping, which can be inexpensively treated.

Another solution is the new Pioneer PLX-1000, an SL1200-style direct drive turntable with three times the torque (talk about propulsion and timing!), built-in tonearm damping sleeve, damping sheets under the plinth and in the subchassis, and improved feet. It's $697.
I'm with Johnny. Do those cheap tweaks then see where u are at. U will get a greater sense of satisfaction from doing that as opposed to just going out and buying another table. Plus u will learn more.
U can use mc into your mm stage, just add a SUT. Parks audio sells one that uses the cinemag trannies for a third of the price of a bobs devices but it is pretty much identical. Great bang for your buck and you can always take it with you as well.
Thanks guys,

All great advice! Can't thank you all enough.

For the most part, I enjoy the SL1200. It sounds dynamic and exciting to me, and soundstage seems solid and the speakers disappear. I'm sure the saying applies, "you don't know what you don't know"

I think the route I'm most comfortable with is:

Vibration Control (Isopod/mat/maple plank)
Look into, continue reading up on KAB mods.

It won't break the bank, and I have faith it will improve the sound. Afterwards, I think I'll demo a table or two and compare.

My investment in vibration control, headshell, cartridges, etc will hopefully move forward with me if I upgrade tables.

Again, thanks for your advice- I'll use it all in one fashion or another I'm sure.

Kindest regards,

Tweaking what you have is always a great adventure and personalizes your audio experience. Enjoy, but don't rule out the Well Tempered recommendation if down the road you are still not satisfied. The older models are still more than competitive with today's offerings and a steal at their used prices.
At the same price, you are missing nothing, you are ahead of the game. And with the names you mention, the same, you are doing fine. You have to spend a lot more ($5k+) to get a lot better, and it will take different brands than you mention.
I've owned an SL1210M5G from KAB for a going on10 years now. I've done a number of the same tweaks that Johnny b53 recommends (have not wrapped the tonearm, however). Independent of his suggestions, I ordered my TT from KAB with the fluid damper installed. BUT I didn't actually start using it until a couple of years later. Consequently, I have a good sense of what that will do for the sound. I was already using a heavy hardwood plinth and had replaced stock footers + using other vibration control devices. For me, the fluid damper made a significant improvement to the sound. I'd caution you not to overfill. I only use enough fluid to where the paddle from the tone arm is immersed in it by just a couple of millimeters when the needle is on the record. I also found the Way Excellent TT Mat from Herbies to bring a nice improvement in clarity (am actually using it in conjunction with the heavier Technics rubber mat). It's your money and I'm not trying to say there aren't better TTs out there (especially for more $) but I think you have a good foundation with the SL and tend to agree with those who suggest spending elsewhere. Don't know anything about the Anthem phono pre but maybe that's something to consider...separate, outboard phono pre-amp. Am using a Heed Quasar, myself. Had a Lehmann Black Cube before that. You might benefit by dropping Kevin of KAB an email. He's very practical and down to earth. Good guy to deal with. I like his mod'd. integrated carts. I have a couple of Stanton's from him with vintage Pickering ellipticals. They do take all the hassle out of install and alignment. Might do one of his Ortofons in the future. Right now running a Grado Prestige Black w/8MZ stylus that he installed for me. Enjoying it. Good luck.
Johnnyb53, I guess I was surprised about the fact that I wasn't engaged by the music of a Technics SP10 mk11 at a recent audio show. I definitely think a stock Technics SL1200 needs something-even if it's only careful placement. I just wanted to point out what Uncledemp might be missing(what he might look out for), as that was the question he asked, and what I thought was missing from the SP10 mk11. I was unfamiliar with the music, and I have heard, and danced to a Technics 1200 at a dance club. I also think a stock 1200 might need some looking out for, based on needle-drops and hearing one at an audiophile's home.
If I can continue to gain performance from the 1200 by spending a few hundred dollars, I'll be happy. I have some of the items on order now, and will contact KAB in the future. With my associated gear it appears keeping the 1200 is the way to go, at least for now.

I think I will avoid any demo's of high end tables. Ignorance is bliss!
I have a full KAB SL1200 and several cartridges the most expensive of which is an Ortofon Cadenza Black. To answer the question for myself, I have ordered a VPI Classic 3 and will post here once I have had time to listen and compare the two. In an older system in another house (so a direct comparison is not possible) I have a VPI HW-19 MkIII, which also sounds very good. The KAB SL1200 is a lot more user friendly than the VPIs. Time will tell the tale.
If you like Technics buy SP10 MK2 which is amazing turntable compared to cheap and dark sounding SL1210. I own both, even totally rewired 1210 with fluid damper and stock arm is far away from SP10 with tonearm of your choise.

With 1210 you need to replace the tonearm to a better one (sme, jelco, audiomods etc). It's not worth it as the SP10 is better and more flexible (with big plinth you can use "10 or "12 inch tonearm or even two arms on one plinth). Save movey on a better arm and better turntable is more reasonable than trying to upgrade SL1210 of any kind.

I use upgraded 1210 as second system and even with Technics EPC-100cMK3 or Glanz MFG-31L or Audio-Technica ART2000 it can't compete to my SL10 mk2 with Reed 3P "12 arm.

P.S. someone posted here that Denon 103 is a "good combination" with SL1210 stock tonearm. This is not true, it's the worst combination for low compliance Denon which works well on high mass tonearms ONLY! Technics SL1200 stock arm designed for cartridges of higher compliance, say 20-30cu @ 10Hz.

Chakster: the OP is pretty clear that he's looking at a $1000-1500 budget tops. Can you realistically put together an SP10 mkII rig like you describe for that kind of money? In under 6 months watching auctions and possibly doing extended parts searches to pull the whole thing together?

It depends on whether he's looking for some easy upgrades or an adventure.

He already has an SL1200. New mat, better headshell, better feet, fluid damper and tonearm rewire will noticeably raise the 1200's performance for little money and little hassle.

The SL1200 can be taken even further with aftermarket armboards available to accommodate SME, Jelco and Rega (and compatible) tonearms.
I posted earlier I went down the upgrade path .. its not worth it. The money is better spent on a TOP vintage turntable. You also don't need a new tonearm many vintage tonearms are excellent. ie superior to the SL1200 tonearm.

If you go down this path if you don't like it you can sell it and most likely get your money back.

If you go down the SL1210 upgrade path if you go to sell it will be hard to recoup more than a base SL1200 is worth.

I think the underlying problem with the SL1200 is the rubber plinth and none of the upgrades mentioned above address this.
Can you bypass the internal phono stage in the 1200?
Hi, the phono stage is in my Anthem integrated. But I see your point. The answer is yes, I can change the phono stage by adding one between the Technics and the Anthem via Aux input.

I do like the simplicity of my system. When I've had more complex systems I always wondered about interconnects, synergy between components, etc.

At this point in my life, I would sacrifice a bit of performance to keep it simple. The Anthem's phono stage did pretty good in the reviews I read and sounds good in my system (my opinion) - but I'm sure improvement can be had for a price.

With that said, I am open to Phono preamp suggestions if they would considerably improve the sound.

Uncledemp, you're right; the Anthem phono stage has a good reputation and adding an external phono stage complicates things--in added cost, compatibility, appropriate interconnects, and even shelf space.

It may be something to keep on a back burner until later. In the meantime, you have a really powerful integrated amp, a good (at least) phono stage, and a list of upgrades and tweaks for your turntable. I think it's best to do the upgrades and let them settle in to see what you have before going on to something else.

It may be that the tweaks and upgrades mentioned in this thread will totally ring your bell, and if you throw in another phono stage you're complicating things until you're not sure which part is doing what.
Johnny, SP10 cost under $1000 (used) and compete with $10 000 turntables, Teak Wood plinth for it cost $700 new, the rest is tonearm and cartridge.

Upgrading SL1200 is waste of money, i have done so with my two SL1200 ( rewired tonearm with cardas $25, changed external cable to Zu Audio Mission $150 used, fluid damper about $130, isonoe feets about £150, i have not replaced the arm cos it's another $450-1000 depents on the arm, you can also buy external power supply and lose more money on it)

It's a waste of money, better to sell the deck and buy a proper Hi-End SP10 mk2 and keep it forever!
I have to admit that(as I remember it) I thought the Technics SP10 mk2, I heard on the needle drops, was more competitive with the best turntable sound I heard there(Pink Fish Media). In addition, the SL 1200 had some mods(one improved the table for sure.). The question is cost and getting an arm, I guess. If you go the SP 10 route, I still suggest you audition, to see if it satisfies you.

Again, a lot of great info, thanks. Unfortunately, I don't have a background in electronics and am unable to maintain/repair vintage gear. If the 1200 weren't so hardy I would not have it.

At one time, I traded in and out of a fair amount of vintage gear. Once I had some well regarded pcs, I would read how good the units would sound if I would bring them up to spec via, recap, power supply rebuild, etc. Point well taken- but my bargains would lose some luster after a thorough going through. Not to mention not having a personal relationship with someone I trusted to do the work. The honest guys out there seemed swamped and if you were lucky enough to get them to do the work- it may take months.

I just looked into some discussions on the SP10, and read the units would need to be brought up to spec to sound as good as it's younger brother SL1200 mk2. (Unless I read something wrong.)

I've never had any high end vintage turntables, but if it is labor of love, I better pass. Just don't have the skill and patience.

If the 1200 died today, I'd probably go buy a Rega table with Rega headshell and install 3 screws and be done. Otherwise, I'd be wearing a paper protractor out to check alignment one more time!

I know it may be blasphemy - but I use the Technics overhang gauge on the Sl1200! Hopefully, we are still friends...

Thanks again,
"09-08-15: Uncledemp
Hi, the phono stage is in my Anthem integrated. But I see your point. The answer is yes, I can change the phono stage by adding one between the Technics and the Anthem via Aux input."

I wasn't suggesting that you bypass the phono stage in your Anthem. That should work just fine for your needs. The TT itself has a built in phono stage, and if you can't bypass it for some reason, you can't use the one in the Anthem, or any other one in between. You'll have to plug the TT directly into a line level input on your integrated. If you can't use the phono stage in the Anthem, I would consider a different TT. But that's just my opinion, and I know many people really like the 1200, so I understand why they want to keep it.
I didn't know the SL1200 had a phono section built in. I've been using the phono input on the Anthem. Am I doing something wrong?

09-09-15: Zd542
"09-08-15: Uncledemp
I wasn't suggesting that you bypass the phono stage in your Anthem. That should work just fine for your needs. The TT itself has a built in phono stage, and if you can't bypass it for some reason, you can't use the one in the Anthem, or any other one in between. You'll have to plug the TT directly into a line level input on your integrated.
You either have no experience with an SL12x0 Technics turntable or you are confusing it with a latter day copy by another manufacturer. The Technics SL12x0 series turntables--all of them--do not have--and never have had--a built-in phono stage. They were designed in the '70s and early '80s, when *every* receiver and integrated amp had a phono stage.

The output of any SL12x0 direct drive turntable is RIAA signal coming off the LP. Period.

There are latter day and cheaper turntables that have built-in phono stages. Two such are the Audio Technica PL120 and PL240 direct drive turntables. They are styled like the Technics and they're decent for the money, but they aren't in the same league as the SL12x0 series when it comes to close tolerances and slick and silky feel. And they were designed after most mid-fi receivers and integrated amps only had line-level inputs.

09-09-15: Uncledemp
I didn't know the SL1200 had a phono section built in.
That's because it doesn't. How can you know about something that doesn't exist?
I've been using the phono input on the Anthem. Am I doing something wrong?
Not only are you doing nothing wrong, you're smart enough to recognize the quality of the phono stage in the Anthem.

Keep doing what you're doing. You have good instincts. The SL1200 is fundamentally a good table and the tweaks and mild mods discussed here will make it "pop."

I should have the mat and isolation done in a couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to it!

I appreciate the help johnnyb53.

These two thing will help you to improve the sound:
- Boston Audio mat 2 (one of the best)
- Isonoe feets for your sl1200
I have 2 of them. Whatever version of the 1200's I have, I know they have a built in phono stage.

"09-06-15: Uncledemp

I've heard good things about the Denon. However, my built in phono stage is suited best for MM or high output- ruling the 103 out. Correct me if I'm wrong."

To me, that sounds like he was referring the built in stage on the TT.
09-09-15: Zd542
I have 2 of them. Whatever version of the 1200's I have, I know they have a built in phono stage.
Unless they are custom built-ins, you are mistaken. You can even Google the entire WWW universe and you will not find any instance or mention of a built-in phono stage for a Technics SL12x0 series DD turntable. The Audio Technica copies, however, do have them.

The AT copies have a defeat switch for the internal phono preamp. I can't imagine a turntable with internal phono stage that wouldn't have a defeat switch. The advice you were giving the OP indicates that the turntables you're thinking of don't have the defeat switch.

#1: Any Technics SL12x0 series with an internal phono stage would be an after-market modification.

#2. Check again. Your assertion flies in the face of all available info about the Technics SL12x0 series DD turntables. If yours truly have a built-in phono stage, pictures please.

There are many articles out there about orienting new owners to the SL1200. They usually go into detail about making sure your receiver or integrated amp has a phono stage. Example

Check the Web for any example of an SL12x0 series turntable with a built-in phono stage. YOU WON'T FIND IT!
All I can tell you is that the ones I have, come with a built in phono stage. I plugged one of them directly into a line stage and played a record. Maybe they were modified with after market parts, or are knock offs. I live in NY, anything like that is possible. I should have mentioned before that I pulled them out of a DJ booth. My family owns several night clubs and that's how I ended up with them. Maybe they make a DJ version with a phono pre. They don't have a regular head shell that you would mount a regular cart on. Its some type of quick connect setup.

I can do better than post pics. If anyone wants them, they can have them. They're not that old and in very good condition. I'll never use them and would rather give them to someone that would. As soon as I get back to NY, I'll pull them out of the closet and post back when it would be OK to pick them up.
Maybe they make a DJ version with a phono pre. They don't have a regular head shell that you would mount a regular cart on. Its some type of quick connect setup.
The quick-connect cartridge you're talking about is an Ortofon Concorde or one of the copycats. They're pretty standard fare especially for clubs, as they automatically have the correct overhang and overall geometry for any Technics SL12x0 series. Those are everywhere, available from Amazon, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, etc.

Built-in phono preamps in SL1200s? Not so much.

A mat is on my list. I have the Isonoe footers already, but not the cones. I'm going to add the cones, mat, and maple plank.

Thanks for the input,

I had various SL1200's and I had Rega P3(not RP3).
I'm sure that RP3 is just different name, but everything else is same as P3.
I decided to give it a try to have a dedicated turntable for home stereo while using my 4x SL1200 for DJ and club applications only.
After introducing Rega P3, I realized I'm loosing exceptional speed stability and low noise floor of quartz direct drive motor along with clarity and precision. You're also loosing on-flight VTA adjustment and forced to use spacers instead(I could never get it right with P3!).
After realizing I've lost too many things I loved about SL1200 without gaining much improvement on sound, I traded my RP3 for Michel Gyro SE... Other choices I looked was Nottingham Analogue Spacedeck and Basis Debut. Turned out I like performance of suspended plinths in general.
What you are actually missing in SL1200 vs. RP3 is that unsuspended motor sound Trrrrrr heard via whole plinth.

Thanks for the input. I enjoy the 1200, and I think a few tweaks will keep me happy for awhile. The VTA is handy and I use it, something I forget about and take for granted.

Yep believe it or not, even stock SL1200 is substantial step above RP3 or P3 no matter how much they worth vs. one another. P3 or RP3 is primitive, noisy while SL1200 is superior built and engineered. Go through various offered KAB upgrades and SL1200 will be on the same league as VPI Junior, Spacedeck or similar.
Zd542 there is NO factory made technics 1200/1210 with build in phono stage, DJs use mixer with phono stage, every mixer has phono input. That's how it works in the clubs and there is no need for build in preamps inside the decks for club use as there is a mixer (aka preamp) between the decks anyway.

p.s. ortofon concorde or any other ortofons for djs are the worst cartridges ever made, but very papular and very expensive compared to top quality Grado DJ200i which is the best sounding new DJ cartride.