New TT -- $1k - $1500

Where do I go from a technics 1200mk2?  I was thinking of the VPI scout.  Thoughts?

I know KAB upgrades are out there, but all totaled they are about $5-600 in upgrades.  I'm wondering if I can sell the 1200, and upgrade to something more exponential (offering even better upgrade options that I can spend over the next years).  

I've had the stock 1200 for almost 3 years and looking for something different.  Can I get it at $1500?
You'd be amazed how a few low cost tweaks can elevate the SL1200's performance.

You're starting with an extremely precise, extremely rugged high torque design that would cost much more in the belt drive world to approach its speed accuracy, S/N ratio, and torque.

You could get the tonearm rewire and fluid damper, but with your budget you could instead get a Rega, Jelco, or SME armboard and one of those tonearms or one of the many Rega-compatible arms, such as Origin, Michell, etc.

Here's a thread that lists several Rega-compatible tonearms:

ToneAudio mounted a used SME on an SL1200 and proclaimed it the standalone turntable value at around $2K.
If you take the leap to a REGA RP6 or even a RP3 with upgrades, you will find that the technics sounded THIN compared to the huge soudstage and fleshy images you will get with a REGA table and a EXACT/ Dynavector 10x5 cartridge. Any other table is moving sideways IMO.

Matt M

Even out of the box, I wouldn't characterize the SL12x0 series as "thin" unless there's a cartridge mismatch or bad setup. Murky, yes, but thin? I don't think so. The most significant sonic shortcomings of the SL12x0 TTs are minor and cheaply remedied. You just have to know whtat to do: Get an LpGear ZuPreme headshell, get the fluid damper for the tonearm, wrap the tonearm in teflon pipe thread tape, toss the stock footers and replace them with Vibrapod Cones and Isolators, get a better mat, and platform the table on a thick maple butcher block cutting board. Do these and the murkiness disappears and you find it an overachiever in inner detail.

I regularly visit a local Rega and British-heavy dealer and often hear the upper end Rega tables with great setups and excellent downstream electronics (e.g., Naim), and also the nicer Roksan tables. I have *never* returned home from one of those sessions to play my SL1210 M5G (with all the tweaks mentioned above) and wished I had a better rig or setup. "Thin" never came into the equation. The Technics trumped them in propulsive tempo and lack of stylus drag on heavily modulated passages (e.g., orchestral crescendos). I'll grant you that the soundstage is usually narrow, but the depth is excellent and imaging is pretty good.
johnnyb53:  You were one of the primary influences in me getting a technics when I posted about what I was looking for back 3 years ago.  I was just getting into vinyl and wanted to test the waters.

The technics is one of the many reasons I stuck with the hobby.  It has performed well.  Quite well.  But, it is a fiddly beast.  If I stick with the technics (I bought used), I'd feel most comfortable sending it off to KAB for work (mostly so he can give it a once over before I put a bunch of $ into it).  I am a DIYer at heart and I would love to mess around with it, but I think it might get in the way of me enjoying the music.  Plus, I can't find anyone in the SE Michigan area to work on it - most audio shops ... well ... have other suggestions for me.  Which is the main reason I'm looking for something new.

RP3 and RP6 are both good candidates...  I wish the RP6 was in the price range - that's a little out of the box for me at the moment.  RP3 might not be enough.  
Well, Martinman, I’m *not* a DIY-er, and yet all the tweaks I mentioned I did myself. Installing the KAB fluid damper was pretty simple, and everything else was easier.

I had one advantage, however. The SL1210 M5G model comes standard with oxygen-free copper wiring in the tonearm, so I never had that rewired. I suspect that a low-capacitance the tonearm rewire on the standard models is essential for all the other good things to follow. I wonder if your any of your local audiosnob shops would be willing to stoop to rewire the tonearm. KAB has a low-friction hyperlitz tonearm wire that’s only $10/foot.
Take a look at the new Technics 1200GAE table due out this summer. You can find a posting by mitch4t today on this forum with a link to more information.
If you take the leap to a REGA RP6 or even a RP3 with upgrades, you will find that the technics sounded THIN compared to the huge soudstage and fleshy images you will get with a REGA table and a EXACT/ Dynavector 10x5 cartridge. Any other table is moving sideways IMO. 

Matt M

My experience was totally contrary with Rega P3(terrible deck and great arm). I found that Rega P3 sounded FLAT and buzzzzed lots. It lasted couple of month in my system and I found that even stock SL1200 humiliates Rega P3 with greater tonal balance and clearer midrange. Bass was also tighter and substantially faster. 
Invest your money into upgrading SL1200 arm, arm-board, because the quality of this deck is substantially higher of any Rega in the market.
FWIW, there is a Sota Sapphire that just popped up here from a guy in Toronto with a number of updates at the low end of your range.  That leaves enough room left over for both a new arm and cartridge if desired.  I have been totally satisfied with mine for 30+ years and strongly suggest you consider it.  I feel it is a far more musical table than either Rega or Technics.  Note I moved from a Rega Planar 2 (way back in the day) to the Sota, so have A-B experience in my own home there.  Sota tables can also be upgraded in any number of ways for reasonable money when the mood strikes.

Good luck & happy listening!

This is a nice one within your budget!
Tone Publications review of SL-1200 with SME tonearm and other upgrades here:
effisher:  thanks for the hup - i contacted george and we're exchanging emails.  I haven't looked at SOTA tables before - mainly rega and VPI.  
Rega: Many dealers carry them
VPI: Nice clean looks

SOTA looks very good too!  Very few complaints online (whereas Rega and VPI have their share!). 

Regarding 1200 upgrades: The KAB level of upgrades is where i'm at financially.  Seems to be the best bang for the buck *and* provides the most benefit.  Though, the tonepublications article is down on these mods, when comparing them to a $2k tonearm...  not sure that's a fair comparison.  

I actually found someone local who can service / rewire the tonearm on the 1200.  This was my biggest hurdle.  Plus, they can go through it and fix up anything that needs attention.  The biggest thing that I want to make sure is the tonearm bearing.  All the tests i've done seem to pass, but i'm not sure if i'm doing them right.  

So, with tonearm rewire, at150mlx cart +SumitkoHS12 (i have this on hand), tonearm fluid dampening i'm in for about $500 (labor included).  
martinman, where are you local to?

Lower michigan
The fluid damper works very well, and the Technics tonearm bearings seem to hold up well. My deck has been in daily service for almost 9 years. Technics actually stated the bearing drag (7.5mg, I think) as one of its published specs.

Concerning the damping fluid: Fill it too high (over 50%) and it kills the liveliness and detail of the music. 1/3 full is j-u-u-s-t right. It'll track like a mofo (including very warped thrift shop records) and the music has a nice flow with excellent dynamics.
Martinman, your question has a very simple answer. Look for a used ClearAudio table in your price range. I'm sure you'll be more than pleased with any of their TT's.
Hey everyone -- I thought I would report back with my decision.  I decided to spend about $130 on a tone arm rewire, RCA jacks and the wax bearing mod from Kevin at KAB.  

This weekend I embarked on the tonearm rewire (which is quite intimidating based on the reading i've done!).  The biggest hurdle was the wire routing through the tone arm.  After much frustration, the magic finally came when I removed  the tonearm all together.  After this, it was quite easy.  Only thing I messed up was the anti-skate spring was on the wrong side (I must have set it at 3 during the install...  anyway, I had to open the patient again and fix).    Soldering was a little fiddly, but wasn't bad at all.

I'm glad i kept the table.  The tonearm rewire + cardas RCA is a huge improvement.  It's like i have a new deck.  I haven't even done the wax plate mod or the soon-to-be-ordered dampening mod!