Technics SL-1200MKII and AT-440MLa, very good

This may have been posted before but I just wanted to let others know my experiance and setup that has worked out great. Now after 50 hours of playing time the soundstage has really started to open up and I'm starting to hear some very good depth to sound. AT really have done a good job with the AT440MLa cartridge and I thought I would never hear a cart in this price range sound this good, not only match well with my Technics SL-1200MKII but also with my Electrocompaniet ECP-1 phono preamp that I upgraded a few years back and is just finally breaking in also. The recordings I have done to CD on my computer have come out really nice and sound better than the store bought ones, more real. This is my secondary system in the room but I would like to try the Technics and AT440MLa on my main system or even better with the Teres 255 I have with the ET2 arm, I have a ceond tonearm for the ET2 and I may just do this. I used to own a Technics 1600MKII back in the ealy 80's and right up to 95 then I bought the Linn LP12 then Teres255, but I never thought the Technics SL-1200 could sound so good but I do remember on some material back when I had the 1600MKII that the sound was really nice. I going to do a side by side comparision with the 1200MKII and Teres 255 both with the AT440MLa cart just to see how close they come or don't to each other. This could be very interesting.

It was really a great buy and I will be getting more of the AT440MLa's
Try the fluid damper from KAB, a little spendy, but certainly worth the improvement with the AT.
Please report back! When I DJ'd, my 1200's were builtproof. .7 seconds to spin up speed and rock solid speed accuracy.

I was thinking about getting another 1200 from KAB(external powersupply, and some other mods) with the Origin Live Rega Armboard Mod and a Modified RB250 arm.
I've read your post, but am going to ask anyway. I just took delivery of my KAB SL-1210 MK5, Shure M97xE, and after some very careful setup, am not too impressed with the sound at this point. This is replacing an old Yamaha tt in my garage rig. How did yours sound right out of the box? Do you feel that the tt and/or cartridge require break-in? Kevin at KAB seem's to feel that break-in is a non-issue.
The M97xE is a fine $60.00 cartridge, but it is kind of bland and dull with not the best definition and detail retrival. If your system already leans in that direction, it will not be a good match.
No offense but someone using a 1200 is likely making comparisons within the constraints of the DJ realm.
Analogbass, you're wrong, maybe you haven't heard a 1200 when calibrated properly. While it is obviously designed for a DJ environment, it is nonetheless a pretty high-end design and the basics of good turntable designs are the same for both audiophile and DJ applications - good isolation and low noise. The 1200's drive motor is far more accurate in speed stability than any belt drive, and the arm, although not a real top knotch design, is no slouch, and the table as a whole outfitted with a good matching audiophile cartridge (i.e. suitable weight and compliance with the Technics S-arm), will surprise you. The system sounds accurate, and not "euphonically colored" like many belt-driven designs can often sound. To go a step further, but at a far higher price point, try a well-assembled kit consisting of an SP-25, SP-15 or SP-10MkII, MkIIA or MkIII, all with a proper plinth and high-end arm. There are audiophiles swear these are the turntables to beat - at ANY price. These are professional tables made not only for radio stations, but their superbly engineered mechanics make them ideal for audiophiles too. Did you know that the best record-cutting machines use SP-10 motors and are NOT belt-driven?
There are obviously many good belt designs too, but don't let snob-ism make you believe an SL-1200MkII cannot make music, because it is very capable indeed.
The TT will not need break-in, but the cables will. Also, make sure the bearing has oil all the way to the top. Even though the manual states oiling should be done every 2000 hrs, there is a BIG sonic difference when the bearing is completely full.

Viridian is right about the Shure. You need a better cartridge. I use an Ortofon X5 high output MC and a KAB modded Stanton Groovemaster.

I'm wondering if I'd benefit more from a cartridge upgrade or an external phono stage?
Perfectionist - No matter what, you really need a better cartridge before you can make any other equipment decisions. As others have said, the M97 is "ok" for $60, which just means it doesn't outright suck. That's about it - all the music is there but the excitement isn't - hard to figure why that would be, but we seem to have some agreement on that. I tried one myself and it's no match for other MM's that can be had in the $180 range like better AudioTechnica or Ortofons.
I've also got a thread running here...

Trying to narrow my choices.
To Perfectionist: I just got a Technics SL1210 M5G (Grandmaster), and also got a Shure M97xE because of all the buzz. I also had an Ortofon OMP 10 lying around, so got a second headshell and 1/2" cart adapter. I much prefer the Ortofon. It has about as much slam, but is smoother through the midrange, has more inner detail, and just "feels" better when I listen with it. The Shure by comparison gets congested and hollow-sounding in the midrange when things get busy (i.e., crescendos bringing in lots of instruments/voices).

Also, this humble rig has had no trouble smoking the CD/SACD players I have in the house. It's certainly as dynamic, bass is fuller, and the timbres are much better fleshed out. I have an Amber 17 preamp, and maybe it's spoiling me. If you're plugging into a phono section in a receiver, that may be why you're underwhelmed.

Also, experiment with the Shure--try it with the damper brush up and down, and with different tracking forces. I also tried it with both the extra headshell weight and the extra tonearm counterweight to increase tonearm mass. That seemed to open up some detail, but I still prefer the Ortofon w/o the extra weight.
Well, my thread referenced above was deleted for some reason. Asked Agon staff why, no reply. So I'm going to post here since this seems to be an open forum for the SL-12x0. I've installed an AT440MLa and it is much better, IMO. It is more lively and upbeat with better PRaT. The highs are also much more extended. The build quality and overall design of the Shure is very nice at it's pricepoint, the AT is cheap looking in comparison, IMO. But it's the sound that matters. One thing that really irritates me about the AT is they didn't even scribe a line in the top of it to line up the needle for easier queing. Blackmongoose, I did experiment with the brush, tracking force, and VTA on the Shure, nothing seemed to help.

I've been playing around with the VTA on the AT, and I discovered a problem with my brand new TT. I could barely raise the VTA above 4mm, even with two hands and four fingers. WTF? Agon member Cytocycle suggested that perhaps the tonearm cables were too tight. Called Kevin at KAB and got his blessing to flip table, remove base and cable clamp for tonearm cables. Sure enough, the cable's were clamped in the wrong position, not enough slack, causing the VTA adjustment to bind. I repositioned clamp and can now freely move VTA from 1-6mm.

Anyway, I like the AT much better than the Shure (for sale) for shure (hehe), but it still isn't on par with digital in this system. And it's not even in the same league with the Naim setup in my main rig. I prolly really need to do a phono pre. I may try to pick up a used Gram amp 2 here on Agon. I just don't want to sink too much money into this rig.
Perfectionist sez: " I prolly really need to do a phono pre. I may try to pick up a used Gram amp 2 here on Agon. I just don't want to sink too much money into this rig."
My SL1210 is up against stiffer competition from the CD player. I have a recent Sony ES SACD/CD carousel which totally smoked the 1998 CEC single-play CD player that it replaced. Yet the TT rig bests the new Sony CD player in musicality, rhythm, bass, fleshing out the timbres, and subjective emotional involvement. So if an older Kenwood changer isn't beating your SL1200, it may be the phono section.

For $249, you could get a Bellari VP 129, which is a tubed MM phono stage. It also has Michael Fremer's enthusiastic recommendation and has a Stereophile Class B rating--right in there with the $1500 phono stages. For $150 the Parasound ZPhono and NAD stages come well recommended, but not as highly as the Bellari.

Has anybody else noticed that 3 carts recommended for the SL 1200, especially for opening up the soundstage--the AT-440 and the Denon 110 or 160--all have nude square stylii?
I believe that would be nude, square shank, stylii. The Denons have elliptical cuts and the AT is a Microline. Pretty much all of the better cartridges use a nude square shank at the mounting end, the exceptions being some of the Grados and the Ortofon Super OM-10 which both use bonded stylii. Once you get up to the Super OM-20 and the Grado Sonata, everything in these lines are nude, square shank as well.
Perfectionist: If you don't want to break the bank, the DB Systems phono pre is a really outstanding phono pre available for $165 direct from the manufacturer, David Hadaway of DB Systems. I have owned both the MM and MC version of this preamp and frankly believe you would probably have to spend at least $500 to significantly better it (I've also owned the basic Project Phono box and the DB is way, way better and do own an Aqvox 2CI which is a very well reviewed phono pre selling for around $1200).

Here is a link to a review of the DB MC stage (the MM is essentially the same with lower gain-37 db as opposed to 52 for the MC):

If you do order the DB, I would advise that you request David Hadaway to install a basic subsonic filter, which would add an additional $5 to the price tag.

I have the DB MM stage in a system I put together for my son which includes a tweaked Pioneer PL-12D with an AT 120E and the combination is surprisingly good in light of its very low cost.
> I believe that would be nude, square shank, stylii.

Thanks for clearing that up. I'm just getting back into vinyl after a 25-year hiatus and I have some catching up to do.

Another question--what's with the round stylus on the Denon 103 and 103R?
Being nude refers to not being bonded to a piece of metal. In a bonded cartridge a very small diamond is bonded to a piece of metal, a holder of sorts, and this piece of metal is then affixed to the cantilever. A nude cartridge uses a larger diamond, of higher quality, which is either pressure fit or attached by adhesive, or both, directly to the cantilever. The square shank is the end of the diamond that fits into a hole that has been cut into the cantilever and is square to align the cut of the diamond, on the opposite side, correctly. The cut, conical, elliptical, fine line, etc. refers to the other side of the diamond, the side that contacts the record. The Denon uses a nude, grain oriented, conical stylus in the 103 and 103R, this is also referred to as a spherical stylus. The two descriptions are used interchangably.
Well, I'm finding this all very interesting. I read every thread (here) on the Bellari VP 129, most are positive regarding this unit. But I got a little turned off when I read in one thread that the price increased substantially after M.Fremer reviewed the unit. I have a local dealer that really likes the NAD PP-2. I've also read all threads (here) regarding this unit, and the common consensus seems to be that the Bellari is preferred over the NAD. But I decided to start at the bottom if you will, and picked up the little NAD.

I grew up with vinyl having mediocre setups in the past always just using the phono section of whatever receiver I had at the time. After taking a long hiatus from vinyl I decided to set up my old Yamaha tt in the garage just for fun and since I have over 100 albums. I recently decided to replace the Yamaha with the Technics, because I wanted a dd workhorse with more adjustments on it, and I wanted something that would be less susceptible to feedback as well (which it is). Since I got more into the high-end in '03, I have a greater appreciation for all thing's audio these days. The reason I bring this up is...

This stupid little phono pre has opened up a varitable pandora's box for me! For the first time in a long time, I actually enjoyed the quality of sound I was hearing last night. Man what a difference! What's better? Simply put, all of it. For a budget setup it sounds pretty darn good, and obviously, there is much room for improvement here. I just hooked it up with some old AQ Topaz cables I had laying around, but am going to throw a spare set of Nordost Blue Heavens on it tonight to see if it improves further. So, where to go from here? I'll run the lil' NAD for awhile and then probably move up to either a VP 129 or a (used) Gram Amp 2, leaning towards the latter.
The good thing about the NAD is that it has good name recognition and is readily re-sold without taking too much of a loss. Generally speaking, though, it is considered to be pretty much an entry level phono pre and not one of the better ones at that.

I'll re-iterate what I said above about the DB Systems phono pre as I think it would better both the Bellari and the Gram Amp, probably for much less money. To put it into perspective someone that I purchased the MM version from for my son's system that owned both the MM and the MC versions of the DB Systems preferred the MC to an older version of the Lehmann Black Cube with upgraded power supply. The Lehmann has generally been very highly thought of, sold new for around $700 and they typically sell instantly on Audiogon in the $300-$400 range.

The only bad thing about the DB Systems is the poor name recognition and limited resale that goes along with it; other than that it's a great phono pre that makes a lot of sense in terms of matching up/balancing well with your existing front end before you upgrade in that area to go really upmarket and then want to do the same with the phono stage.
The Bellari VP 129 lists at $300, but most places still sell it at $249, including Audio Advisor, Needle Doctor, and Music Direct. Recently I got a mailer froM Audio Advisor who had a demo VP 129 for something like $217. Hard to beat for a Stereophile Class B. Also, in the same price range as the NAD is the Paragon ZPhono in their half-chassis Z series. I have a line level amp and preamp from that series and it's tasty stuff.

> This stupid little phono pre has opened up a varitable pandora's box for me! For the first time in a long time, I actually enjoyed the quality of sound I was hearing last night. Man what a difference! What's better? Simply put, all of it.

Hear hear! I got a Technics SL 1210 M5G and Ortofon OM 10 plugged into a pawnshop Amber Model 17 preamp and am having the time of my life. In every case where I have an LP and CD of the same recording, the LP trounces the CD for musical satisfaction, rhythm, and timbre.

Today I came home with 22 LPs from the 99-cent bin for $22--about the price of 1-1/2 to 2 CDs. My yield included a pristine Brothers in Arms and a still-sealed ECM-era Pat Metheny.
HDM is correct about the DB phono pre. It would also free cash to buy KAB mods for your 1200, like the fluid damper & outboard power supply.

I neglected to discuss the DB systems phono pre. I'm a bit skeptical because I can't find any threads relating to it. I read the review you referenced, but it is from 1998, which leads me to more skepticism. But you seem quite persistant about it, and with Psychicanimal now chiming in, perhaps I should put it on my short list. I will most likely call Mr. Hadaway Monday and have a conversation with him. At $165 it is not to big of a gamble.

I stopped in to a local hi-fi shop today that specializes in vinyl and tubes. After my conversation there, I think I'm going to rule out the Bellari VP-129. They suggested that the Clearaudio Basic would be a good choice, with the Smartphono being an even better choice (of course)(said dealer carry's Bellari, but not Ghram Slee). He said they will do the Basic for $279.

What say you all?
I'm assuming it's the Clearaudio Micro Basic at $279. I considered it before purchasing the DB Systems. Not really familiar with it but anything I've read about it has not been very impressive; in written head to head reviews with other similar priced phono stages it usually finished near the bottom of the pack.

You can do a search on DB Systems at the vinylasylum. Not much, but there are a few positive comments generally pertaining to it hitting above its price range (ie. someone there as well preferring it to the Black Cube and another user who ended up going to the Sonic Frontiers-a $1000 phono stage-who felt the DB was a very good product). The DB flies under the radar as it is a one man operation now sold only direct to the public-no advertising, marketing, etc. David Hadaway is about as low key as you can get, but my experiences with him having owned two of his phono stages have been superb.

As I said before, if you order, have David Hadaway put in the basic subsonic filter for an extra $5.
Yes, I was speaking of the Clearaudio Micro Basic. After sleeping on it, I decided to call David at DB Systems (forgot it was Easter Sunday, oops!) and order one up and get it over with. He said if I'm not having any rumble or feedback issues (which I'm not) I don't need the subsonic filter, and he basically steered me away from it. Hopefully, I will have it by next weekend. Oh, and I did apologize for bothering him on a holiday. I'm very excited about this as I am really enjoying the vinyl right now.

Forgot to mention in my last post that I picked up a remastered 180g version of Deep Purples' Machine head ($25) yesterday at local dealer. This is the first "audiophile" grade lp I have ever bought. It's warm sounding, and the high's are rolled off, but it's not too bad for something from '72 I guess (although I don't feel it is worth paying $25 for). But I have a question... On side two, the grooves are not perfectly round, that is, they're almost egg shaped. So, the arm is moving in and out big time. It calms down some towards the center, but not completely. It also has a sharp warp to it. The cart tracks perfectly, and I really can't "hear" it, but I have over 100 lp's and I have never seen this before.
Is this acceptable in this day and age at these prices? Or should I bring it back?
"Highway Star", "Smoke On The Water", if you are using the proper mind-altering substances to appreciate "Machine Head" the grooves are probably moving all over the place. "Paranoid" should be next!
Perfectionist: I'd return the album. You should be able to find a decent used copy of Machine Head for no more than $8-$10 at any used record store. I picked up a mint copy at the thrift one day for a buck.
I added a DB Systems DB-8 MM phono pre and I've done some A-B'ing between the NAD PP-2 and DB-8 on my garage rig. I just can't hear much of a difference between them, it's very close. Maybe a little bit better channel separation on the DB-8 and a tiny bit less grain. I'm thinking this system may not be resolving enough, so I plan to bring the tt in the house and try another a-b session on my main rig. Then perhaps I can decide between them. For now, the DB-8 remains installed. I blew the 30 day return on the DB-8, so I own it now. Another thing worth mentioning, I've never cleaned a single connection on this system, even though it is in a somewhat harsh enviorment (I'll get around to it one of these days). This is prolly not helping matters. And I've only got one decent set of ic's on this rig (another thing not helping my cause). I think I prefer the DB-8 (slightly) over the PP-2 and that's why it's still installed. I just can't seem to put my finger on it at this time...
I picked up another Tech deck, an SL-1210M5G, and it is installed in my main rig. Do check it out...