New upgrade alternatives for the Technics SL12x0


Up to now, if you wanted to do something about the Technics SL12x0 series tonearm, you either got KABUSA's fluid damper or the Origin Live adapter armboard, enabling mounting of most Rega-mount arms (including the Origin Live line.

If you wanted a better power supply, you could get the one from KABUSA.

Well, there's a new vendor in the UK, Sound Hi-Fi, a comprehensive British high end vendor who also offers some interesting modifications of the SL12x0 series here.

He has armboards for SME and Jelco tonearms. Why no Rega? Owner/operator Peter Cawley doesn't feel that the Rega is a particularly good match for the Technics.

Consider this: When Panasonic released the 1st gen SL1200, they also offered the SL120, the same turntable, but with no tonearm. It came with an armboard for the SME Type III Improved. SME was probably the number one tonearm choice for Technics take-no-prisoners pro model, the SP10.

Peter also likes Technics/Jelco matchups very well. So if you can get ahold of an Audioquest PT6 or PT9 ... Here's a 9-page thread from mostly last December where an SL1210 enthusiast (who already had several KABUSA mods) introduced Sound Hi-Fi to the Analogue part of the Art of Sound HI-Fi forum in the UK. During this thread he upgraded to a Jelco arm and the review is pretty interesting.

Notice that Peter has his own external power supply, 78 rpm mod, and three different aftermarket feet including the Isonoes. His type 1 feet are actually just Foculpods. Also, his turntable mat is sourced from Herbie's.

Marco's review in this thread mentions the Technics' tonearm's persistent upper midrange "spotlighting", something I usually call "glare." Following that hint, I wrapped some very thin, lightweight plumber's tape (the Teflon kind for sealing threads) around my tonearm including the headshell joint, and voila! The midrange calmed down and with it I got a more relaxed sound with better ambience retrieval and a fuller, yet better defined bass.

Anyway, I recommend you follow the links and do some reading/surfing. I found it quite enlightening to find another pocket of SL12x0 enthusiasts and an alternate source of upgrades and modifications.

Also, notice that Peter sells Avid, SME, Clearaudio, and Marantz turntables, and SME, Jelco, and Hadcock arms, so if he has an axe to grind, it's a pretty broad one.
johnnyb53
hey johnny
do you have a fluid damper on your 12x0?

any pics of your tape tweak? or more detailed description of the amount of tape(single wrap, double?) and specific locations.

checking out the hifi thread next...thanks
cheers, ed
04-29-09: Edo_musica
hey johnny
do you have a fluid damper on your 12x0?

any pics of your tape tweak? or more detailed description of the amount of tape(single wrap, double?) and specific locations.
Yes, I have the fluid damper. It helped in many ways in refining the sound and improving tracking, but there was still a persistent midrange glare that the arm wrap significantly reduced.

Sorry, no pictures of the wrap. I'll see if I can get around to that. In the meantime, I'm talking about that really thin, very light teflon tape used to seal pipe threads. I wrap it from just in front of the arm rest all the way up to the headshell. In fact, from flicking the tonearm, headshell, and collar, it sounded to me like the collar itself rang a fair amount. So after I wrapped the arm, I put the headshell back on, and then I wrapped some more around the collar itself to deaden it.

Basically I use a single layer and overlap it by about 1/4 the width as I spiral it up the arm. But it's really hard to keep this tape totally flat when wrapping it, some of it doubles up slightly along the way.

The really good news is that this tape adds very little mass to the tonearm. I reset the tracking force after applying the tape and I don't think it changed by more than 0.2 g.

Other arm wraps A-goners have reported are:

--Tonearm wrap available from Music Direct for $19.95
--Shrink tubing like the kind used to bundle or terminate wires
btw.... a recent toneaudio blog entry mentioned going down the Sound HiFi avenue for sl1200 mods.

http://www.tonepublications.com/blog/could-this-be-the-future-of-the-sl-1200/
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Looks interesting BUT buying from Kevin in NJ sounds far simpler than shipping from the UK to US, no?
Another alternative source of Rega and SME armboards for the SL-1200 is SoundSupports out of the UK.

SoundSupports SL-1200 Armboards

I have one that I use with an Incognito wired RB-250 on a SL-1200MK2. SoundSupports sell on E-Bay quite a bit too and very reasonably, which is where I got mine (~$50 shipped).

I compared their armboard with the Origin Live one and the SoundSupports was clearly superior. Heavier guage materials and very well made.

I'd be curious as to why Sound Hi-Fi feel the Rega arms are not a good match for the SL-1200. If he simply prefers the Jelco and SME in general, that's one thing - but I can't imagine what would make the
I'd be curious as to why Sound Hi-Fi feel the Rega
arms are not a good match for the SL-1200. If he simply prefers the Jelco and
SME in general, that's one thing - but I can't imagine what would make the
I think it's resonance control. The Regas are
undamped tonearms. The Rega tonarms may have a complementary effect
with their own turntables that may not translate as well to some others. The
stock SL1200 tonearm is also undamped, but is significantly improved with
fluid damping and a tonearm wrap or Marigo Dots or similar.

The mid-'70s Technics SL120 was an SL 1200 with a SME armboard instead
of an included tonearm. Word is that this platform was designed for the SME.
Not only are SME arms damped, but so are the Jelcos. Even the entry level
Jelco has foam stuffed in its armtube (the base arm for the Graham Robin),
and the higher level models have that plus a damping oil reservoir (the basis
for the Audioquest PT9).

Overall, I think choice is good. I like the idea that you can get armboards for
the Rega-compatible, Jelco, and SME tonearms. Now how 'bout a Well
Tempered Amadeus arm?
Edo_musica: thanks for posting that link but please keep this in mind when reading Tone's publication.... He doesn't like KAB because he won't send him a free review versions and the reviews in the past of the Technics SL1200 was done with an Audio Technica deck that looks like a Technics.

Peter isn't a fan of the Rega based on his cart choices if you notice he recommends arm/cart combos and I agree, I tried running a Shelter 501 mk2 on a RB300 and all it did was shake the arm to death because of the short stiff canti.

Plus for people running heavy Denon Carts Jelco has higher mass arms that work better with this type of cart then a lower end Rega.

I also think Rega's were the only thing going in the past in the Low dollar category and now you have Jelco in the mix which provides another step up or lateral (except people have recommended rewiring them)
Thanks for bring this up Johnny. I have been reading about these guys in the UK for a few weeks now. My interest is in the 1200/Aquest PT-9 combo. I sold my modded KAB SL 1200 this winter (they go very fast) and got a VPI HW 19jr with the PT- 9 arm. It is a nice table and the arm is great but I am having a hard time dealing with the speed instability of the belt drive in comparison to the dead nut speed and torque of the Technics. Although the Technics arm is very underated and I miss the removeable headshell, the Audioquest/Jelco PT-9 is a notch up the tonearm foodchain to my ears. I know I could buy the SDS speed controller and probably solve this problem, but at $1,000 I'll pass for now. After reading about these guys overseas mounting the PT-9 to the Technics deck and the great results they were getting I felt this was the way to go. Although I love dealing with Kevin at KAB, I heard that these guys are top shelf also. So at some point soon I am going to throw the PT-9 on a SL 1200 deck. I am really looking forward to it and will let you know when I pull the trigger.
Johnny-
You mentioned wrapping teflon tape around your arm. How did you actually get it to stay put as it has no adhesion?
05-16-09: Zenblaster
Johnny-
You mentioned wrapping teflon tape around your arm. How did you actually get it to stay put as it has no adhesion?
I use garden variety teflon pipe thread tape like this. I just wrap the last bit perpendicular to the arm shaft and press hard to make it stay put.
05-16-09: Cytocycle
Edo_musica: thanks for posting that link but please keep this in mind when reading Tone's publication.... He doesn't like KAB because he won't send him a free review versions and the reviews in the past of the Technics SL1200 was done with an Audio Technica deck that looks like a Technics.
It's not that Marc Phillips doesn't like KAB; KAB won't deal with him because of things he's written about the Technics (they were opinions, not reviews) for a couple of online audio mags over the last few years.

They aren't reviewing an Audio Technica PL-120 instead of the SL1200 Mk2; they're reviewing both. Publisher/editor Jeff Dorgay did a very favorable review of the PL-120 a few issues back and Senior Ccontribing Editor Marc Phillips is doing an ongoing evaluation of the SL1200. He has tried at least 20 different cartridges in it and is now looking into installing an SME V on it. His most recent article about it mentioned that the Ortofon 2M Blue is a good match but he's bothered by a persistent darkness to the tonality and a narrow soundstage. That's why he's looking at the tonearm upgrade next. His main deck is a Michell Orbe with SME V.
also think Rega's were the only thing going in the past in the Low dollar category and now you have Jelco in the mix which provides another step up or lateral
If the arms are about equal quality but the Jelco is a better match, then it's an improvement. Of the two Jelco arms Peter offers, one has a foam-damped tube and a straight, one-piece tonearm with an effective mass of 11g. The other is an S-shape arm with detachable headshell, oil-damped bearing, and effective mass of 18g. Peter recommends the heavier arm for the DL-103 and the lighter arm for typical medium-compliance cartridges.
but he's bothered by a persistent darkness to the
tonality and a narrow soundstage.
Johnnyb53 (Reviews | Threads | Answers)

I read statements like this, and I just scratch my head. I don't get it. My KAB
Technics SL 1200 MK II with Dynavector XX II cartridge and Heed Quasar
phono preamp has an expansive image, and its tonality is anything but dark
(and it has not been dark with any of the other carts I have used including
Benz Micro Ace Medium, ZYX Yatra and Audio Technica AT150Mlx). Phillips
isn't the only one to mention this online, and I'm wondering if the comments
are independent or if some people are being influenced by what they read
rather than trusting their own ears.

I can say if what I hear is considered dark with a narrow image, I don't
think I'd want anything brighter.

I'd like to get Phillips over to my place and ask him if what he hears in my
system is what he hears in his.
Tvad, did you get the tonearm rewire? I have a two or three theories about Marc's "persistent darkness" comments that don't match my experience either:

1) I have an M5G, which has factory OFC tonearm wire. Marc is using a Mk2 with stock wire. Maybe it's the tonearm wire that makes it sound dark or not.

2) Marc uses Neuance shelves on his rack. They have a foam core. I read a review of this shelf somewhere where the reviewer considered the shelf somewhat dark sounding. Marc mentioned that he has always gotten good inner detail from the SL1200 with stock feet and mat and no additional isolation platform, so I suspect this shelf has a profound influence on the sound.

3) Marc's preferred signal chain is an LOMC on a Michelle Orbe into a SET signal chain. SETs are usually somewhat rolled off in the treble; perhaps his normal rig offsets this, but a more linear source reveals it.

Just guessing here.
For a long time I used Neuance platforms, including one under my Technics turntable. I don't believe the Neuance platorm is a cause of darkness.

It could be the factory wiring, but having never heard a stock SL1200 MK II, I can't comment from personal experience.
So Tvad, I take it you have the tonearm rewire? I can see where that might make a noticeable difference, particularly in a hi-rez system.
Yes, I have the KAB Cardas tonearm rewire. I never heard the Technics with its stock wire, so I can't offer a comparison.
Johnnyb53, thanks for sharing your findings!
As someone who has heard the stock SL-1200MK2 wiring, I can say with certainty that the "darkness" issue is, in fact, the stock wire. It's the weakest link on the table by a long-shot.

I know conventional wisdom with regards to the KAB upgrade path has been "do the fluid damper first", but I would say that if you have a MK2, do the rewire first!
06-03-09: Vinyladdict
As someone who has heard the stock SL-1200MK2 wiring, I can say with certainty that the "darkness" issue is, in fact, the stock wire. It's the weakest link on the table by a long-shot.

I know conventional wisdom with regards to the KAB upgrade path has been "do the fluid damper first", but I would say that if you have a MK2, do the rewire first!
Absolutely right. Those who bought M5Gs wonder what all this "darkness" fuss is about. We never heard it because the M5G and GLD editions have factory upgraded tonearm wire. But if you start with a mk2 or mk5, your first upgrade *must* be the tonearm wire, or it will compromise the benefits of the other improvements until it's addressed.

This may be why some owners find the installation of an RB250 or RB300 to be such an improvement and revelation, where others say "meh" and return to the original arm. The improvement may have more to do with the wiring than migrating to a straight arm with integrated headshell.