KAB 1200 vs. everything else.


A few weeks back I asked Kevin of KAB USA what price level a fully modded 1200 competes with, and he thought somewhere in the 4500-5000 dollar price range. His reasoning was that the business concentrates on romantic reproduction rather than technical reproduction. It sounded plausible, but I am pretty new to analog playback. What do you think of this claim--Cheers
jmoog08
I own a KAB Technics table. I believe Kevin is being extremely optimistic in his
$4500-$5000 estimate. However, I'm also certain one could find people who
prefer a KAB Technics to $4500-$5000 (or higher priced) table, just as one
could find other people who would prefer a competing $1000 table to a KAB
Technics.

I don't understand the romantic versus technical reproduction argument and
how it factors into his pricing estimate, but I'm sure if Kevin explained this
himself, it'd be plausible. He's a rationale and reasoned person.
I believe Kevin is being extremely optimistic ..

Me too!
I own a TW Acustic Raven One with Michell Tecnoarm and the SL1210 with some Kab Mods ..
The SL1210 sounds fantastic for the money it costs .. but please don't compare with a Raven One
I could see a fully modded Technics SL-12xx making it very difficult to see significant performance gains until you reach the $4,500 to $5,000 price range. Granted, this is just conjecture on my part, but I feel there is a big price / performance gap between the $1,000 and $3,500 price range. Until you're ready to drop some coin, you're better off focusing on set-up and low-dollar tweaks on an SL-12xx than investing in what I see as the analog "no man's land." Again, just my opinion.
The modded 1210 is "fun", but not as spectacular as Kevin's claim . I love Kevin, though. I'd suggest you listen to a Rega 3 or 5 and see what you think. I'd own a 1210 in a hearbeat, though. It is rock-solid and will provide more music than ANY CD player.
It is rock-solid and will provide more music than ANY
CD player.
Lindisfarne (Threads | Answers)

I disagree. I'll take my silver disc player over the KAB Technics any day.

To my ears, the KAB Technics is essentially a high end CD player with pops,
clicks and surface noise.

If there's a comparably priced turntable that presents a revelation,
then my opinion of vinyl versus CD might change, but the KAB Technics,
while excellent, doesn't change my preference.
Except for a rehabbed idler. I have a Thorens TD111, which is their lowend offering. It does have more impact, weight, and drive. It is speed stable. Plenty of torque. You can get an old "needs work" idler for about $500+. You will need an arm, and a plinth.

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"I disagree. I'll take my silver disc player over the KAB Technics any day."

Actually, I have to disagree with Tvad here. I have a somewhat highly modded KAB SL-1210M5GSE, with a Benz Micro Ace cartridge, playing through my old model McCormack MPD (with Rev. A mods) and, use to think digital was better than vinyl. My digital player is no slouch and, I've owned quite a number so, I have some breadth to base this on.

Of course, all of this is dependent on the quality of the source material but, all things being relatively equal, I hear the KAB/McCormack combo to be the most believable and certainly, the most enjoyable. There is more music flowing into my listening space and, it is always gaining more of my attention vs. the digital equivalent.

I can now see why some vinyl lovers are willing to spend more money, to enhance this experience - I know I’m certainly no different. Having said that, I will keep the KAB gear, possibly upgrade the cartridge, change the tone arm, mat, etc but, don't see pursuit past this. I know it could get much better but, it has already exceeded my expectations by such a wide margin – I’m now that rare audiophile – happy with my equipment lot.
My KAB Technics has the fluid arm damper, tone arm rewire, external power
supply, Zupreme headshell, Neuance platform, and a $2000 Dynavector
cartridge (previously have used a Benz Micro Ace medium, and an Audio
Technics AT150Mlx). I have set up the cartridge with a MintLP Best Tractor
protractor (significant benefits). Phono preamp is a Heed Quasar.

Preamp is a Lamm L2 Reference running balanced to Pass Labs XA-60.5
amps.

Since I prefer my APL Denon 3910, I'm considering selling the KAB Technics
rig and simplifying my system. I could easily let my vinyl rig go without any
regrets of sacrificing sound quality, musicality, or any other adjective you
wish to use. My only regret would be the money I would lose on the table,
cart, phono preamp, and vinyl I've purchased during the past two years.

There simply has not been an "Ah-Ha" revelation with my vinyl-
round-two experiment. In fact, I enjoyed vinyl more back in the 80s when I
owned a Philips GA312 with an Audio Technica MM cartridge.
Tvad, with all due respect you are expecting too much from the Technics. The KAB modified tables are fine tables, but by sticking on expensive peripherals (and I use the term peripherals loosely) like a 2K cart and 5K phono you’ll only end up revealing the SL’s shortcomings; hence your preference for your 3910.

I own two Technics tables myself – you can take them only so far and no more.

Cost wise an analogue setup is significantly more expensive than digital; sadly one has to both dig deep in your pockets on all the analog components and match these components carefully to have something that competes and beats a nice digital setup. That includes a topflight table.

Regards
Paul
12-24-08: Pauly
Tvad, with all due respect you are expecting too much from the Technics. The
KAB modified tables are fine tables, but by sticking on expensive peripherals
(and I use the term peripherals loosely) like a 2K cart and 5K phono you’ll
only end up revealing the SL’s shortcomings; hence your preference for your
3910.

Pauly, your point is lost on me with the examples you use to support your
position.

If you read my post carefully, you will see that I have used cartridges ranging
in price from $250-$2000 . The $2000 cart produces a better result that the
other carts (less distortion, better balance...more pleasing sound overall).

Also, I do not use a $5000 phono. The Heed Quasar retails for $995.
I think Pauly's point, and mine, is that the KAB Technics, although obviously a great value, is limited, arguably not worthy of a $2k cartridge, and possibly not revelatory in comparison to a good CD player, although you'll get arguments, of course, on that.

Personally, I think the KAB fully modded version is one flavor of ice cream comparable to other good value tables in the $2-3k range, IOW, punching above its weight, but not overly so.
Understood.
One must factor in what an SL-12xx series would cost to manufacture if it were developed today? The price for base 1200's today are around $500 US. Add some KAB mods and they go closer to $800-$1000. But it's not that these take on in competition with other sub $1000 decks. No, it's becase Panasonic has been making and selling these units for near 30 years, the large sum of money they put into R&D of not only the SL-12xx series drive system and other parts has be recouped many times over. They now only need to make profit on the cost of direct manufacture of each and since they still sell relatively large sums of these the costs are appropriate.

Kevin is in the right ball park IMO if not a bit high. My belief using my logic of the business model and marketing would say one likey needs to spend minimum $2000 or more to begin seeing units from other makers begin to truly rival or excel the general playback of the SL-12xx series.

But it is a personal thing and being subjective many will have raw opinions on such. But one can't look at the SL-12xx series as just anoth $500-$1000 (with pertinent KAB mods) TT. Pick any cottage maker of note and if they had to invest in R&D around the making of the SL-12xx series today they would likely have to price it at least $2000 but probably closer to $3000 in current dollars to make any real profit on it.

I love my SL-1200MKII with KAB Cardas arm rewire. It impresses me every day I play it. If one had no idea what they sell for they would, likely think it was way more expensive and their opinions would be even more positive. Too many so called audiophiles think " Meh it's $500, how good can it be?" They allow the price to blur the facts that it's a killer TT that will scare or humiliate many other TT's that often get rave reviews.
Less Creative .. I love my Technics SL1210MKII and it shocked lotsa sceptical friends but trust me .. don't compare with a TW Raven One with a good arm .. this is another planet.
I'm sure the SL1200 outclasses many Rega and I think some Gyrodeck/Orbe not well tuned .. maybe some Scout and Scoutmasters (but I don't know these) .. pratically TT around 1000/3000 USD$ expecially if you setup the SL with the fantastic MintLP Tractor but don't push forward

Always IMHO
I won't go into detail where the 12xx tables fit in the hierarchy of analog, but I do believe that one could get away with putting a very nice Cartridge on board, running it though a really good Phono Stage, and get quite surprising results.

Seems most wanna fit this table with a Shure 97, AT440, and I would bet this Table can showcase much better than this, with exacting, precise attention to set up, and the components used downstream. Mark
Markd51,

That's what I was thinking. I strapped a Benz ACE H to an RB250 on the Sl1200. The way it responds makes me think that a $2k is not out of the question.

A Dynavector XX-2, Benz wood body something, and Koetsu Black are on the wish list.

In using a Cardas re-wired RB250, which does track better than the stock arm, I can see that the stock arm with better cable (which mine has) and the fluid damper may exceed the RB250 in performance.

The Rega is solid but not as open or as lively as the Technics stock arm. The only issue being tracking with the Technics arm (which would be overcome by the fluid damper).

The only are where the Rega arms is superior is the unbroken Caras from cart to RCA. You can sense a purer presentation. The overall liveliness and versatility of the modded Technics arm is worth the trade-off....for me.

.
The technics is a great budget table

I was happy with it but moving up to the lenco L75 idler wheel with jean natais plinith was a clear step-up. I got this used on the 'gon for $1600.

The lenco and gerrard are a great alternative for someone wanting
More than the technics but still avoiding a belt drive and high prices.
I am gonna at some point upgrade the arm from rega rb700 with shelter 501mk2 cart for even more performance...darn my au24 speaker cables may need upgrading too....where is the money tree damn!!!

Some people skimp on the preamp and that holds the tt back.

better speakers, better amp and voilà the technics really can shine

Tonearm dampen fluid is nice but room acoustic should not be
Forgotten either
If in a given system, one source clearly betters another, then the room,
amplifier, preamplifier and speakers, being constants in the equation, do not factor into the difference in sound.

The difference in sound is solely attributable to the sources (or the recordings).
Not necessarily true it's a given because your preamp might handle line better than phono

Besides some people have separate preamplifier for phone and line

Besides, the interconnect is quite different on your tt to preamp versus cd tp preamp....power cords might be different too
12-25-08: Audiohifila
Not necessarily true it's a given because your preamp might handle line better than phono.
I am using an example of a line preamplifier with a separate phono.

The phono preamp is part of the analog source, as far as I'm concerned. The analog source being comprised of: table, arm, cartridge, phono interconnects, phono preamp, phono preamp interconnects, phono preamp power cord, turntable power cord, table isolation and anything else you care to add to the analog front end. We can split hairs all day long.

Certainly changing any aspect of this analog front end will affect the sound.

My point...specifically as it relates to my system...is that my digital front end, which retails for $6500 (not including interconnects and power cord or isolation platform) outperforms my analog front end, which retails for $4500 (not including interconnects or power cords.

I do not wish to spend more on the analog front end.

As I've already stated, I am considering selling the KAB Technics rig.
.
Go right ahead and sell it, Tvad.
But then what about all those records that have not made it to CD? That might be the only drawback to dumping the analog front end.
.
...then what about all those records that have not made it
to CD? That might be the only drawback to dumping the analog front end.
.
Gadfly (Reviews | Threads | Answers)

I don't have any of those, nor do I intend to buy any, so it's not a concern.
However, you raise a valid point.
Well, I love my 1210M5GSE with KAB fluid damper. I could (and probably will) do a few more upgrades but I think I am getting the best sound for the dollar now. I bet it is better than some that are higher-priced, and you will not find another better in the 1200/1210 price range.

Not one component in my system cost over $1000 (most under $500) and I think of myself as a more of a music fan (if my house was on fire I would rescue my vinyl first, gear second). Most musicians and music fans I know have systems worth less than mine. In fact most "audiophiles" I have met are really just wealthy individuals looking for something to spend money on. It is amazing to me that some think they only way you can enjoy music is if you are insanely wealthy. Oh well, just my two cents...
Tvad, I agree with your comments as to what constitutes an analogue front end – table, arm, cart, phono cable etc. etc. Many folks ‘conveniently’ leave out items such as cabling and phono stages in their costing.

I mentioned earlier that you have to spend more an analogue than digital for analogue to start matching, never mind outperforming, digital. However, I found that the 5K mark is a threshold where a carefully assembled analogue front end will match digital and start beating it sonically. Disclaimer is that I do build my own amplifiers (pre, phono & power) and often purchase used, so the $5K number is relative.

I own two Technics TTs and like them, but I am somewhat surprised to hear that you use an SL1200 as basis for a $4500 analogue setup. Long story short, a cart will only perform as well as the arm that supports it will allows it to. An arm can only support a cart as well as the turntable which it resides on supports it. IMHO you have over-carted both your TT/arm and your phono stage.

I am not surprised you prefer your digital setup – I am sure I would also. However, you may think differently if you were exposed to a more evenly constructed analogue setup.

That said, the appreciation of sound is as subjective as anything out there. I’m always sorry to see somebody turning away from analogue, but what’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander.

Regards
Paul
Pauly, I mentioned twice before in this thread that I have used an
AT150Mlx in my analog rig. You wouldn't consider the $250 AT150Mlx
"over carting" the Technics, would you? The Dynavector XX sounds
better than the AT150Mlx, so I use the Dynavector (I paid less that half the retail
cost for it, so the cost ratio isn't as out-of-whack as the retail price would
indicate).

Now, perhaps I haven't found precisely the correct cart to use with the
Technics. Thus far, I have used a Benz Micro Ace, AT150Mlx and Dynavector
XX II. Frankly, they all had strengths. I'm not going to continue the search,
though. I don't have the patience or continued interest for it.

I should add that the carts were set-up using the MintLP Best Tractor (an
outstanding device that yields excellent results). I highly recommend the
MintLP.
1200 is a great table itself, and what Kevin does to it brings even more lifelike presentation to this already great table. In my opinion Kevin is actually playing it safe.
For the record - I had 1200s for quite some time, with various modifications and I was never able to find a table in $4-6k range that wound better it.
However, one has t understand that when directly comparing two tables all parameters have to be taken into account. Only then comparison can be fair.
12-26-08: Tvad ‘Pauly, I mentioned twice before in this thread that I have used an AT150Mlx in my analog rig. You wouldn't consider the $250 AT150Mlx "over carting" the Technics, would you?’

No I wouldn’t. The Dyna XXII on a SL is over carting and that’s what I was referring to. I think the 150 is a very good match for the SL.

12-26-08: Thus far, I have used a Benz Micro Ace, AT150Mlx and Dynavector XX II. Frankly, they all had strengths.

You cannot hear the XXIIs strengths on the Technics. A good hint of its strengths maybe, an improvement over the others, yes, but certainly not what XXII is really capable of. The XXII is too delicate an instrument for an SL to get the best out of it.

BTW, I did the same – I ran a Koetsu Rosewood on a Rega at one stage. My jaw dropped once I used the same cart on a better table. I simply couldn’t believe it was the same cart.

Regards
Paul
You cannot hear the XXIIs strengths on the Technics.
Pauly (Reviews | Threads | Answers)

I'm sure this is true. However, it performs better on the Technics than any of
the other carts I have used, and this was my goal: to maximize the Technics
rig, not to maximize the Dynavector. I understand the Dynavector on a better
table/arm would shine even brighter, but I am unlikely at this point to invest
further in analog.

The Technics/AT150Mlx combo may be a good match, and the individual
pieces may be ideally suited to maximize their individual performance,
but the sound of that combo is inferior to the less-than-ideally matched
Technics/Dynavector (in my system).

IMO, if the sound of the overall analog front end improves, then the
improvement is worthwhile, regardless of whether the maximum benefit is
being fulfilled by any of the individual pieces of the puzzle.
Of course the Dyna will better the AT. The question is whether the $ spent on the Dyna would have been "better" spent on a better table. The answer to that "theoretical" question is yes. In "reality" you had your own reasons for hanging onto the Technics and getting the deal on the Dyna, and it was an enjoyable improvement but not enough to keep you from moving on from analogue. cool.

On another front, re: the original question, the rubber hits the road not in theoretical conversations about exchange rates of 70s R&D dollars etc etc but in direct well conducted comparisons. I have not done such a comparison with a KAB 1200 but I have with the stock 1200 and my own taste did not favor the Technics. My only point here is to temper the religious feelings we'd all like to prove that we've seen the light and it only costs $500.

Happy New Year!
12-26-08: Piedpiper
Of course the Dyna will better the AT. The question is whether the $ spent on
the Dyna would have been "better" spent on a better table. The
answer to that "theoretical" question is
yes.

Fair enough. This question will be valuable to everyone reading this thread.

I spent $800 on the Dyna. The KAB Technics table cost me $1000 including
the mods.

For $1800 invested on a table/arm and cartridge, where would you
recommend the money would have been better spent?
Again, theory vs. reality. In your case, your choice was, as I already implied, perhaps a good one, but you could have spent the $800 on a better arm and used the cart you had with possibly better results.
12-26-08: Piedpiper
...you could have spent the $800 on a better arm and used the cart you had
with possibly better results.

You have changed your advice. Previously, you stated, "The question is
whether the $ spent on the Dyna would have been "better" spent
on a better table. The answer to that "theoretical" question is
yes."

Now, you state that I could have spent the $800 on a better *arm*.

I'm not trying to be argumentative, however I am trying to get you to be
consistent and specific, because specifics are helpful, but general
opinion/advice without specifics is not.

I spent a total of $1800 on table/arm/cart. What would you suggest would be
a better allocation of that money? Assume that I am not willing to tear apart
the KAB Technics and retrofit it with a different arm.

Please be specific. Thank you.
Perhaps a different phono preamp on par with your lamm line stage with current cart and a used gerrard tt should smoke your cd player on most recordings

My cd player playback design is great and better than previous emmlabs I owned but still my lenco with shelter 501mk2 and rega rb700 easily matches it or even surpassed it on many recordings
Sorry. sloppy me. The arm would be the weaker link IMHO. ...and IMHO the Heed
phono stage ain't that bad (but I'm a dealer for them), obviously not up to your
Lamm but neither is the table/arm. I thought I made it clear that for that money
you did arguably well in your choices however theory might conflict with
practice. Since I haven't compared the KAB version I have little to say to conflict
with your choices if you don't want to retro fit another arm. My comments have
been to lend perspective to the conversation rather than to criticize your
choices.
Folks, some of you are proposing spending more money...more expensive
phono preamp, more expensive table...

Not gonna do it.

I have a silver disc player worth $2500 that is superior to the
$4500 vinyl rig. Why would I dump more money into vinyl playback in an
attempt to make it equal? As I own no vinyl that cannot also be purchased on
CD, it makes no sense to spend more than double on vinyl playback.

Piedpiper, I'm going to assume you would be thinking of replacing the
Technics arm with a Rega arm as others have done. If so, the jury is out
whether that combo is better than the KAB Technics or not, but there's no
question that it'd be different.

Tearing apart the Technics would destroy its resale value for those interested
in a KAB Technics, so I'd rather keep it intact.

Since no table/arm/cart alternative at the $1800 price point has been
mentioned, I'll assume what I own is good for the investment, and I'll move
on from here.
FWIW, I think you've optimized your $1800 quite wisely.
Tvad, I just read through this thread , I am a little confused with some dollar figures mentioned for your table and cd player.
$6,500 cd player and $4500. for your table mentioned 12-25-08.
Is the $2500 and $1800. mentioned above used currant market value for your front ends?

Speaking for myself, putting all my effort into one play back format and sticking with it is best.
$6500 (retail of digital player). $2500 current used value.

$4500 retail value for entire analog front end, including phono preamp.

$1800 (retail value of Technics SL1200 MK II and KAB mods + used value of Dynavector XX MK II cart)
I think it's your APL-modded 3910 that is skewing the paradigm. I just read this A-gon review of it and it's obvious that this digital rig breaks all the conventional rules on what redbook playback sounds like. I got into LP playback because I auditioned a DSD-encoded SACD vs. the original LP when played back on a $5500 Linn player, and the LP smoked it. My LP playback rig is similar to yours except I stayed with the AT150MLX and use a humble Cambridge 640P and a homemade TT platform. Still, most digital playback under $10K doesn't tempt me. This Technics/AT rig has no trouble trumping my similarly priced Sony ES CD/SACD player.

So I think a significant element in your dilemma is that your digital source is an over-achiever, maybe even an anomaly among digital playback systems in its price range that upsets the conventional paradigm of digital vs. analog.
When will you be dumping the Dynavector?