Hi, Zaikesman, nice review. The mod sounds to me like a good improvement, and from your description, sounds like it had alot of effect on reducing arm vibrations, which I guess is one of the main goals for it. From our previous discussions, I would have thought that it would have increased dynamics, and bass, but maybe the Glider's compliance is not really trying to move that arm around much. If the arm already has enough lateral stabilization for that compliance, then the damping won't do alot in that department. Very interesting though. Thanks.
18 responses Add your response
Thanks for taking the time to write this and share your experience.
I have noticed that many "tweaks" don't necessarily give you "more", they simply give you "less" of things that one might find undesirable. By lowering your noise floor and removing "clutter", in effect, you have gained dynamic range while increasing contrasts from note to note and instrument to instrument. I would call these "negative gains" because they are not giving you more of anything, they simply "take away" negative aspects of a given product and / or refine what you already have. These are all good things yet some would tend to overlook such changes as they are both subtle and require a keen ear.
On the other hand, getting "more" of any given quantity is typically easier to notice as it tends to stand out in an "over the top" manner. I tend to call these "positive gains" as they've given you "more" or "added" to what you already had. Many of these type of changes can seem quite positive initially but turn out to be TOO dramatic and / or un-natural over extended periods of time.
As to comments regarding gear / cables / tweaks that result in greater sense of time / space between notes, be careful. While this can become appealing in a "hi-fi" sort of way, you can back yourself into a corner. I am talking about a system that is very high in resolution but lacks the pace, prat and dynamics that give music the "drive" that we initially were drawn into it for. Slower is not always "more resolving" and faster does not always offer "more pace". There is a fine line between what sounds detailed and resolving while achieving a good sense of musicality in a natural manner. It sounds like you are doing your best to achieve those goals that so many of us are working towards. Sean
Twl and Sean, I think you both pick up on the gist of what I am talking about. The funny thing is that there definitely exists, at least for me, this unstated expectation - maybe even unconcious - that better should somehow = more. That if I don't get 'more' in an obvious way, I initially feel a little let down. And this persists, even though I've educated myself more than a few times to the contrary. I like the way you've catagorized the phenomenon, Sean. I think sometimes it's too easy to forget the reality of the situation is that gear can only have a destructive effect upon the signal, and all we can try to do is to minimize this. We get so accustomed to speaking in terms of what our gear 'gives' us, we lose sight of the fact the high end is really in large part about gear that simply is *less destructive* than equipment not as carefully designed and made.
I do want to make note of another quality I have heard with the damper. Even though high frequency range sounds, like the cymbals I mentioned in the review, sound more extended on top, the soundstage as a whole actually sounds a bit less airy. This reminds a lot of what I heard as I underwent the process of determining how to resistively load my cartridge at the phonostage. When I finally arrived at the value of around 400 ohms after many substitution trials, I knew I had found the most accurate response (to my ear) and the best combination of focus and liveliness, yet there was also a reduction in apparent soundstage airiness vs. running unloaded at 47k ohms. I concluded then, as I do again now, that a good part of this superficially pleasing quality is in reality spurious in nature, probably produced by unchecked resonances (the result of too little electrical damping in the case of the cart loading, and too little mechanical damping in the case of the arm without the fluid damper). This makes it clear that 'air' and 'HF extension' are not always necessarily the same thing, the difference being the distinction between something that's supposed to be a part of the signal, and something else that may be added to the signal by the system.
This observation jibes well with my sense of what live music actually sounds like. Indeed, I had the occasion a few months ago to hire a live string trio to play at a gathering in the very living room that my system is set up in (I think everyone ought to try this at home sometime). If I were to critique the sonics of this event as I might a hi-fi system, I would've said that it lacked a little for weightiness in the cello, attack in the violins, and detail and air in the soundstage. Ha! You know what? Music doesn't really sound like that, it just is.
Zaikesman, I would suggest trying different levels of fluid in the trough, and different angles on the paddle. This system seems as though it can be "tuned", and you may find an "ideal" setting for your particular needs by doing this. I know that you are already thinking about this, or doing it, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.
I wanted to ring in so I could keep track of this, as I read this with much interest, and have continuing interest. Your description and assesment were great, so much so that it evan helped me to describe to myself what I hear when I damp.
If you do as twl mentions above I would love to hear that. I hear differences when I do, and I often still go back and forth with damping, laoding, and evan vta, for the above reasons discussed by you and twl.
Unlike others who use the TD-1200 Fluid dampener, I am not an audiophile, but a DJ who plays at various nightclubs, and rents sound equipment for events at a variety of different locations and setup configurations.
Here's my recent experience with the TD-1200.
First installing the dampeners to my Technics SL-1200M3D's a couple of weeks ago, I immediately went to work to see what improvements they would offer to the rigerous enviornment of the DJ.
Using Shure M44-7's, with a 23 degree inward turn (basically turning my "S" style tonearm into a strait tonearm), I proceded to configure my turntable setup as normal. Leveling the tables, adjusting the height, and applying 2.5 grams of weight using the Shure SFG, and adjusting the anti-skate.
From here, I do what many of you would cringe over...
and proceded to "scratch" with the record, vigerously moving the record back and forth while the stylus tip is in the groove. My previous normal responce, when too much speed or vibration is caused, is immediate skipping, where with some play on the anti-skate, I can get improvements, but not necessisarely fix the mis-cue problems. Where other DJ's an I disagree, adding more weight doesn't fix the problem, but just gives the tonearm more mass behind it's inertia to cause even further skipping.
Back to the Dampeners... Well, small adjustments with the anti-skate halted the tracking errors, and I was able to scratch faster, and harder than ever before. So, I proceded to lower the weight in .25 gram incriments. By the time I got to 1 gram, I couldn't stop laughing. The tracking improvements were increadable. So, the scratching test went very well.
Now to the Live Enviornment.
Having gone to a show at a venue I was scheduled to do an event at the next day, I noted the power configurations of the system, and the level settings of the crossover, eq, and compressors. The total power of the system was 4,500 watts, with 2,750 watts being powered to 4 18" subs, between 35-90Hz. During the breakdowns of the tracks, I could immediately hear LF feedback, and noted that even with the eq settings pulling down at 63Hz by 5dB, there was no solution for them to fix the problem.
The next day, I set up for a show at the same venue... only with more power, and the dampeners. 14,650 watts, with 6,000 watts powering 4 18" subs between 30-80Hz, with a 2dB per octive crossover. Using a spectrum analyser, I was able to power up the system to RMS, and peak out at over 14,000 watts, but the difference between the show before, and mine, was that I only decreased 63Hz by .5dB. Not once during the show, during a breakdown in the track did I hear even the slightest hint of LF feedback. Also, with the venue having wood floors, a wood stage, and the turntables set-up on top of this, I never even heard a single skip.
Just last week, we showcased the dampeners at a show for 1500 people, on a sound system that peaked out at over 45,000 watts, with almost 15,000 watts of power on the stage, and 4,000 watts to the monitors, which were only inches away from the turntables. Again, no LF feedback, and nothing but praises from the DJ's who performed that night, as only 1 DJ had a single skip, while trying to see how well the dampeners could perform during vigerous scratching. (With a small adjustment to the antiskate, and still only using 2.5 grams, he never had another skip during the show.)
So, as much as i'm in a different enviornment as many of you, I hope that you understand that in a more dramatic setting, the benefits of the dampeners becomes more apparent.
Mr. Barret, I praise you for your contributation to the Dance Music Industry.
Donovan, thanks for posting your experiences and bringing a different perspective not only to this thread, but to this website I'm sure (I'm assuming for the moment that you arrived here by following the link Kevin recently put up on the KAB website - we don't seem to get too many working DJ's around here normally!).
Detlof, I second your thoughts on Sean's post, and wonder if you know that he may not be participating around here for a while in order to respond himself.
As for myself, I have left the 1200 fluid damper fitted continuously ever since I first installed it, but in the meantime have upgraded both my preamp and my speaker cables, so a second comparitive assessment with and without the damper may be in order (what I plan to do is simply rotate the paddle completely out of the fluid but leave it attached to the tonearm for consistency and to eliminate the need for rebalancing, and I also want to make before and after CD-R recordings of the results).
Soon my TT will go to KAB to have the 78rpm mod installed, and I may also come back bearing Kevin's latest accessory, a dedicated outboard SL-1200 power supply, for testing in my system...
"Z": Take a look at the ART thread as to my "more recent thoughts" about Agon and "taking a vacation".
Other than that, i too find Donovan's comments VERY interesting and a very worthwhile contribution to this thread and Agon in general. Obviously, this mod reduces susceptability to acoustic feedback, which also plagues listeners at home. If it can damp out this much vibration from external excitation, it can only help provide the cartridge with a more stable platform to ride upon. This can only improve the physical aspects of cartridge performance and the sonic aspects of data retrieval.
While i know others that have stated that fluid damping can reduce the "dynamics" of a system, my thoughts are that the arm should not be moving in response to physical excitation at all. If the arm IS moving and being excited by either airborne vibration or the stylus / cantilever movement, energy transfer from the vinyl is either being lost by that movement or corrupted by the extraneous addition of that movement. As such, making the arm less susceptible to deflection in any manner "should" be beneficial. That is, so long as the cartridge / arm are properly matched and "dialed in" to begin with.
As a side note, removing the majority of mass / movement from an "arm" that extends the cartridge over the vinyl pretty much negates most of the objectionable side effects that damping takes care of. It is for this ( and several other reasons ) that i began looking into the Souther / Clearaudio tangential tracking arm. Not only do you minimize the effects of having an "arm" with this design, you've reduced tracking error to a minimum. On top of this, VTA problems are also more easily addressed.
The drawback to such a design ( all designs have "drawbacks" ) is that the Souther / Clearaudio arm absolutely requires that a table have excellent isolation from external vibration AND internal vibration. I am talking about internal vibration as generated by its' own motor and bearings.
If you try to use an arm of this type without the above factors being taken into consideration, you'll run into a whole 'nother set of problems that only this type of arm would bring with it. This has to do with the fact that the Souther type design "rests" on the spindle to form a "bridge" for the cartridge to ride across. A more conventional design doesn't do this as it lacks the physical connection to the spindle. As such, if you've got bearing or motor problems, they will manifest themselves MUCH quicker with this type of arm than with any other that i know of.
Given the cost of a new Souther / Clearaudio arm, it appears that the "proper" implimentation of fluid damping can help bring a more conventional arm up to a higher level of performance without major expense. Obviously, one would have to be willing to experiment with various levels of damping, etc... to find out what works best in their given situation. Once that was done though, i would think that the end result would be well worth the effort and cost involved. Sean
I am happy for all of us, but especially more for Kevin. His genuine efforts to fight the mainstream and give us what is, in his (and our minds) the best TT in its price class (and the only remaining DD in this range--and higher!).
Zaikes, your review is absolutely eloquent and well thought out. I have abstained from commenting in order to let things run their course w/out my intervention. Those who downplay this unit do so without a proper knowledge of what makes good TT design features. I strongly suggest you go for a tonearm rewire with Cardas tonearm wire and an excellent interconnect of your choice (I will go for Ridge Street Audio Designs). Given the drastic changes in my system's performance since using RSA ICs I can only imagine what it will do for my TTs performance. I will wait for that and the outboard power supply mod before passing final judgement on the modded Groovemaster's high frequency response. I have the feeling it will be OK once revealling and neutral wiring is used in the signal path.
I have stated that I want my analog and digital rigs to sound close to each other and, as Zaikes said, the damper makes the sound closer to the positive attributes of digital. Different flavors...
Sean: I personally have never had a problem with high-level acoustic feedback at home with this TT, before or after the fluid damper was fitted, though I've witnessed it happen with some of the Euro-changers of yore. But Donovan's post would seem to confirm that the plinth and platter of the 1200 are already well-nigh insusceptable to exitation through airborne feedback, and that simply damping the tonearm virtually eliminates the possibility. I guess that's part of why DJ's use 'em, among other virtues.
As folks who read the review at top will know, I had already installed a tonearm-damping polymer wrap on mine before getting the fluid damper. The wrap, of course, is just a static damper, while the KAB is a dynamic damper. But since I never had a feedback problem, and since the wrap isn't coming off easily, I can't comparitively report on whether static damping alone can impart a meaningful portion of the benefit for DJ's that Kevin's device alone seems to. Some audiophiles may question whether my 'arm will be 'overdamped' with all of this tweakage in place, but I note that the highly regarded SME V 'arm is damped both statically (internally) and dynamically (fluid trough).
Psychic: I discussed the wire issue with Kevin, and he prefers not to get into any rewires of the tonearm or the lead-out cables. He mentioned you were intending to do this, so can you report your results of the procedure if and when you do it? Kevin does tell me that either the Mk. III or IV version of the 1200 (I forget which, or maybe both - I believe these are just versions that have been ergonomically modified to suit DJ needs even better) comes with a chassis-mount output-jack for external interconnects, but is unsure if he can get this part separately from Panasonic...
I bought My damper on the basis of positive feedback in a Vinyl forum. As I live in th UK I bought the damper unheard and at my risk. Well it arrived and was fitted in minutes checked over and I settled down to play music.
Technics SL1210 with Shure M95ED or Denon DL160
Exposure 17 pre-amp with Two Exposure 18 power amps
Sonus Faber Minima Amator speakers
Sound with Damper:
Not subtle compared to the standard SL1210. As most people know the Technica arm is the waek area on this deck, and this mod gave an addition depth to the soundstage of three to four feet. The colourations in the midrange and fuzzyness disappeared so that individual strands od the music became clear to hear. The bass was not deeper (my speakers do do deep bass anyway) but clear and distinct.
The top end clearer and much more distinct. Overall clarity and definition were superior.
A superb improvement alround. If you want a big improvement at minimum expense and hassle DO IT!!
I dont know how it compares with the origin live arm upgrade (much more expensive and complex mod) but the improvements are worth the money and you retain all the excellent adjustability features of the Technics arm. I would love to comapre this mod to a Technics with the entry Graham arm, I reckon this would beat it!
Thanks for visiting this thread to post your impressions Mike. It sounds as if you heard pretty much the same improvements I did. Based on my experience with the TD-1200, I tend to think that any competing 'arm that lacks dynamic fluid damping may be at a disadvantage in some ways, and understand why many premium 'arms incorporate the technique.
BTW, for anyone interested in the KAB damper - and especially for those who've already tried and liked it - I'm pleased to be able to report that Kevin's recently-introduced external power supply for the SL-1200, the PS-1200, represents an even larger and more fundamental upgrade for the performance capability of this turntable. I'll post a full review soon in a separate thread.
Update: I recently received a new paddle assembly from KAB, to replace the original that I busted by accident. During the interem while awaiting my new paddle's arrival, I was reminded, in the first absence of active damping from my tonearm since I started this thread, just how much this modification does for the sound.
Anyway, it turns out that the old, outsourced plastic paddle (which attached to the tonearm by means of a hinged plastic collar with plastic thumbscrew, that fitted around the armtube) has been replaced by one of Kevin Barrett's own design, nicely made (like the fluid trough) of machined aluminum to match the turntable chassis deck. I don't know how long this upgrade has been in effect, but now that I have it I wanted to report on it.
The new paddle attaches, by means of a machined-slot/metal set-screw combination (again similar to the trough and the way it attaches to the base of the stationary gimbal support), not to the hollow armtube itself, but to the small, solid cast-aluminum side-arm that protrudes inward from the bearing-housing piece that carries the armtube, whose regular function is to interface with the hydraulic arm-lift actuator.
This is an ingenious solution (that doesn't interfere with the arm-lift), and because it's constructed of one solid aluminum piece, should last forever (unlike, as I found out, the former plastic version). And not only is its appearance more integrated with the turntable, it also looks to me like this paddle presents a larger surface area for the fluid in the trough to act upon.
(See a photo here -- the KAB paddle is just below and to the right of the locked armrest, although you can't see its business end from this vantage point. The armlift actuator -- as opposed to the lever -- is the curved black rubber-topped piece nestled behind the curved aluminum KAB damper fluid trough.)
Unlike the previous paddle however, which could be rotated about the tonearm to achieve different immersion angles and depths into the viscous silicone damping fluid, the user cannot adjust this new paddle -- it has one fixed, presumably correct, position. That's fine with me -- one less thing to play around with and get wrong. You can still adjust the level of the fluid in the trough as you wish to control the total amount of immersion and therefore damping.
The only downside of this arrangement is that you also lose the ability to rotate the paddle out of the trough entirely in order to make balancing of cartridges go quicker. (Of course you can't simply remove the paddle from the tonearm since subtracting its weight would change the balance.)
So if you don't like rebalancing your cartridge/headshell swaps with the paddle still in the fluid, the only way to go is to remove the trough itself, a bit more of a hassle which probably means (if you're not to risk making a sticky mess with the silicone) carefully removing and cleaning the paddle first, then removing the trough, then reinstalling the paddle and setting your balance, then going through the reverse to reinstall the trough. Personally, when I installed my replacement paddle for the first time, I just lived with it being immersed in the fluid -- since my trough was already installed and filled -- and simply allowed the required extra settling time when setting the tonearm balance, and this is what I'd suggest you do too for any rebalancings after the initial setup. (After all, the tonearm is ulitmately going to be played with the paddle in the fluid, so why not leave it there for set-up too?)
I suppose the only other reservations that some fanatic (like me) might come up with about the new paddle is that its attachment point has moved about half an inch closer-in to the pivot-point from before (theoretically, the ideal damping point would be out at the headshell, far away from the pivot), and the fact that the damper no longer attaches directly to the armtube itself, but to a separate piece that is in turn attached to the armtube. But I think these items are probably of about zero importance all told. (Oh, and you will need more than your fingers to install this version of the paddle, you will need the correct Allen key, same one as for attaching the trough -- lock your tonearm first and use the short end, the clearance is a bit tight but it's no problem if you go slowly and use appropriate care.)
If you own an older TD-1200 damper with the plastic paddle, it's an under-$30 upgrade to switch to the current version, and one I would recommend purely for aesthetic and durability reasons. (As you may have surmised, I can't do a direct sonic comparison between the new paddle and my old one, since that's both broken and thrown away, but puh-leeze...I wouldn't bother anyway.) As a possible bonus on the side, assuming the metal paddle is unavoidably somewhat heavier that the plastic one, if your cartridge is slightly too lightweight to use with Technics' screw-in auxillary counterweight attachment, you might be able to do it with this paddle attached. Adding the auxillary counterweight, and the resulting repositioning of the main counterweight closer to the pivot-point, could have a side-effect of favorably impacting residual tonearm resonance.
On the other hand, if you have a Technics 1200 (or are thinking of buying one) but haven't gotten Kevin's damper kit yet, you should know that he hasn't raised the price since introducing the new paddle, even though I'd imagine his cost for engineering and subcontracting manufacture of this bespoke part has got to have taken a bite out of his bottom line. So nice job KAB of making a good product better while holding the line on the price.
Hi Detlof, and thanks for checking in on me :-) I may not have been "cured" as you say, but I've been doing my best to keep it down to a low roar, and ceasing to write about the subject every day has helped. (That and, sad to say, getting burned a bit on a handful of Agon deals in succession.) In any case, although my system has continued to evolve substantially since I last documented any changes in the forums, overall I'm glad to get back to focusing more on my music and less on my rig -- or, frankly, anyone else's. (Though I admit to recently having taken some small satisfaction in belatedly learning of the esteemed Albert's direct-drive/Technics conversion, albeit on a much higher plane!)
Anyway, now that I reread my update again a few days later, one thought I'd like to add about the new paddle: As I mentioned but downplayed, it attaches a little closer to the pivot-point and not directly to the armtube like before. However, it occurs to me that since it is now made of solid aluminum and attaches more rigidly to a piece of the same -- implying improved mechanical impedance-matching -- there should be a not-insignificant payoff of improved high-frequency conductivity in the mechanical pathway to the damping fluid.
Despite the supposed benefits listed on the KAB website (see the link in my previous post) having mostly to do with record warps and external vibrational inputs that are primarily low-frequency in nature, in my personal opinion the lessening of these effects is not the main reason for the active damper's sonic effectiveness. Based on the evidence I've heard, as indicated by the benefits listed in my review at the top, I've concluded that a dynamic fluid damper offers musical improvments regardless of whether and to what degree factors like record warps, woofer-pumping or ambient speaker volume-level come into play.
I think this is because the main vector of its action has mostly to do with the audio-band energy (including mid- and high-frequency energy) generated by the stylus itself as it transcribes the music vibration in the groove, and how that energy is handled in its transmission to the tonearm. After all, a property of the viscous silicone fluid, like any compliant damper, is that it functions as a low-pass filter, so it allows slower movement (like not impeding the tonearm from tracing the groove across the record's radius, and permitting it to follow a record warp or deal with an off-center spindle hole), while progressively damping higher-frequency movement (like overshoot and ringing resulting from attempting to track a record warp).
So the higher the frequency of the impulse input into the tonearm (e.g., audio-band excitation resulting from playing music), the more effectively it is absorbed by the fluid. But this energy (and the resonances it induces) must be transmitted to the trough before it can be damped, which is why the HF vibrational conductivity of the paddle matters, and common sense says a rigid metal paddle of matching mechanical impedance ought to be superior in this regard. I don't want to overstate the possible benefit, which as I said I am not in a position to ascertain by direct comparison, but I suspect it should more than make up for any slight relative disadvantage in theory of the new attachment point.