TECHNICS SL1200 MKII.......THE REAL FACTS


I have been a very active participant in this hobby for many years (going on 30). I have owned amplifiers by B&K, Marantz, Forte, VanAlstine, Accuphase, GAS, Onkyo Grand Integra, Musical Fidelity.....Speakers by Thiel, Energy, Genesis, Vandersteen, PSB, Definitive Tech, KEF, Mission, B&W....Turntables by Sota, Rega, Linn, AR, Thorens, Dual, and yes; Technics. I have a Technics SL1200 MKII which I have had for a few years now. It has been modified in the following ways (all mods based on trial and error and final listening results):
-TT Weights 454 record weight
-XPM1 Acrylic mat with 1/4" heavy Technics rubber mat underneath
-Steel plinth cover (chrome finish). I cannot explain why, but the background is more quiet and micro dynamics are better with this in place.
-Armtube stuffed loosely with cotton.
-Heat shrink tubing on outside of arm tube.
-Stock headshell replaced with Sumiko with Sumiko headshell wires (do NOT underestimate what headshell quality can do with these things).
-Plugs on the stock cables replaced with better plugs: Vampire OFC RCA plugs.
-Bearings adjusted for minimal play with minimal friction.
-KAB Power Supply added

Now, this is the scoop. I do not want a Technics turntable. I am an audio snob. I want only salon approved brands; period. That is why this situation sucks dog. Out of all the turntables I have owned. This Technics with this combination of mods has the blackest background, the best dynamics, the most detail, the clearest stage, the most pace and timing and overall just simply plays the song in the least-confused manner of ANY turntable I have ever owned. In many ways it makes every other turntable I have ever owned sound like Amateur Night in sonic comparisons. Facts are facts. The Technics SL1200 MKII, when properly tweeked, is one serious LP playback unit. At least the chrome plated steel plinth cover covers up the name.
audiomaster1967
Where does one get such a plinth?
Imagine what you could do with one of the high-end Japanese direct drive tables, say an SP10 MK ll . I think you'd be able to put away your shame. :)
You are an audio snob. Not that there is anything wrong with that. :] Pride of ownership goes along way. You should love your gear just to look at it. Sound, sight and feel all matter, if it matters to you.
-Armtube stuffed loosely with cotton.
-Heat shrink tubing on outside of arm tube.
The above is brilliant. Great idea.
I also use the Sumiko head shell and wires. And yes they do help.
-John
OK, so your Technics sounds better to you than did your "Sota, Rega, Linn, AR, Thorens, Dual". Each of those brands comes in several flavors (except for the AR). If you owned the low end of each line, your results with the SL1200 are not at all surprising or remarkable, IMO.

Now as to the "steel plinth cover", I am a bit confused. Is this kind of a "cap" that sits over the plinth so that the platter and tonearm poke through it, or are you talking about what is in effect a dust cover?

Finally, it's a wonder the platter can still rotate with all that added mass from your aftermarket platter mat and record weight. Theory says that adding so much mass might compromise the proper operation of the servo system, which was designed to cope with the inertial mass of the stock platter and mat. Also, the bearing is under extra stress, which may or may not be a longterm issue. But if the net result pleases you, it's all good. I do think that getting rid of the stock rubber mat (or in your case, covering it with another mat) is a good move.
I started off with a technics 1210, and have been very happy with it. Every now and again I get the urge to "upgrade" to a system that would impress an audio snob, but at the end of the day I know I would not come close to reaping the aural benefits of investing four times the amount I have already spent on my current setup. It's a shame that the 1210 was discontinued, but not that suprising. I guess manufacturing an heirloom product is a little incongruous with our culture of perpetual obsolesence. I'm not an audiophile, but to me one of the simple pleasures of life is coming home on a Friday, and pouring a glass of wine while Monk or Otis spins on my Technics. To reiterate it's bloody shame that it is no longer commercially available at $399.
There is something to be said for tts made back in the day when they were actually common and popular with the masses.

Most of teh better newer "audiophile" tables are good no doubt, but more of a boutique type item which is different. They have a lot to offer the target market but also do not come cheap.

Nothing wrong with either, just making an analogy.
Are we supposed to respond to try to convince you otherwise?
You should.
I bought a 1210M5G a couple years ago in order to play my vintage moving magnet cartridges. The interchangeable headshell feature is terrific; it allows quick cartridge changes which is super for comparisons.

However, the stock tonearm is the major drawback of this table. You can change the bearing, isolate the table with fancy devices, re-wire the arm but a lipsticked pig is still a pig.

If you fancy using this arm with any serious cartridge, you're already bottlenecked by the arm.

At the end of the day, the 1200 series is legendary and one of the best bargains ever but let's not get carried away.

IMO
I initiated my vinyl renaissance 4-1/2 years ago by purchasing an SL1210 M5G. I have done some similar tweaks to similar effect. I don't have the KAB power supply, but I have his fluid damper for the tonearm. I don't have a 454g weight but I have a KAB record grip. Instead of an acrylic/rubber mat sandwich I have a felt/sorbothane sandwich. Instead of stuffing the armtube with cotton and shrink wrapping it, I wrapped it with PFTE pipe thread tape, including the knurled collar for attaching the headshell. I also have a Sumiko headshell plus an LP Gear Zupreme one, which is very similar and both have the high quality cartridge leads and tags. Finally, instead of a chrome/steel plinth cover, I've platformed the turntable onto a very thick and heavy maple butcher block cutting board, with a Vibrapod assembly between the turntable and board, and gel pads between the board and the shelf it sits on. Every one of these tweaks has contributed significantly to more clarity, lower noise, better dynamics, and extended frequency range. Upgrading from a lightweight cutting board to the 30-lb. behemoth I have now was particularly significant.

Anyway, I agree that the Technics is a great fundamental platform and easy to improve with low cost tweaks and accessories. I can go to my local store and listen to turntable rigs up to around $7K and not feel like I'm missing anything, and may have an advantage in speed accuracy and the sensations of better pitch, rhythm, and propulsion that come with it. Only at the $12K DPS/Ayre rig do I begin to acknowledge an improvement.
I certainly am not trying to start an argument or controversy or anything of the sort. I am stating this for the sake of fellow analog lovers. How I even wound up with this thing is funny. At the time, I owned a Linn LP12 with the Basik arm. The Linn was a 1980 model with no updates. Sounded nice though. I was in a pawn shop that was going out of business and everything was "make an offer". There sat this SL1200 MKII in like new condition. I offered $50. He said $100. We settled on $80. I had never heard one I had no desire to own one. I bought it to "flip" it. Before walking out the door, this guy hands me a chrome cover (steel, fits over the cast aluminum top of the turntable and totally covers all the aluminum, allowing only the controls, tonearm and platter to show) and he says "You might as well take this too. It fits nothing here." I have just played with and experimented with this thing and it really does not take much to make it really sing. After some tweeks, I discovered that it resolved better than my Linn (plus it did not go out of whack every time the barametric pressure changed). In detail, the turntables that in some way or another this modified Technics has bettered are: Sota-Comet, Rega Planar 3 with motor upgrade in 1999, Thorens TD320 with Audioquest PT5 arm, AR ES1 with Sumiko Premier MMT, Linn Axis, Dual CS5000, and I forgot about the VPI HW19 JR with the MKIII platter. The modded Technics: Is more 3 dimensional with more images that are both more forward and further rearward- The bass is dynamic as all hell. It is tight and defined with superb pitch definition- The midrange is unravled in a sense.... Example: On Abby Road, the song Something in the Way She Moves there is a spot where there is organ, bass guitar and electric guitar. Normally (with EVERY other table I have owned) these would all be homogenized to the point that you could kind of tell what all was making up these notes, but with the modded Technics they are clearly individualized; the timbre of each instrument being revealed. In a nutshell, the modded Technics offers the pitch stability, freedom from peaks or dips or bloat in the bass yet with bass slam, the separation of voices and instruments......things that are actually strong points of CD yet with the musical harmonic structure of analog. Overall, pretty cool. Without the mods, you get tastes of this, but the mods solidify it. It started out as money making purchase, then an experiment, now I am trying to de-throne it without mortgaging my home doing it. (LOL) I am not looking to stir any pots, I am not looking for validation, I am simply stating what I (and numerous audiophile friends) have heard. By the way, the motor has no trouble at all getting up to speed. It's like the extra weight isn't even there. All this performance with so little maintenance. Kind of neat, but it does make my "snob meter" go off every once in a while.
compared top of the line mods on 1200 vs. used stock vintage oracle alexandria and most of praises after side by side went to vintage oracle. speaking of around $1100 for new 1200 vs. $400 used vintage oracle. math rules!

10-13-11: Audiofeil
I bought a 1210M5G a couple years ago...

However, the stock tonearm is the major drawback of this table. You can change the bearing, isolate the table with fancy devices, re-wire the arm but a lipsticked pig is still a pig.

If you fancy using this arm with any serious cartridge, you're already bottlenecked by the arm.
I'm not saying the Technics arm is better than an RB500 or 700, but when the drive mechanism and tonearm resonances are controlled and the noise drained out via a platform or plinth, the overall package is surprisingly satisfying.

And when you hit that tonearm performance bottleneck, there are armboards available for mounting a Rega-compatible, a Jelco, or SME tonearm on an SL12x0 series. As much as I like my current rig, my next step would probably be to mount a Jelco or SME arm and still be ahead of the price/performance curve.

The SL1200 was always meant to be a mid-level enthusiast's turntable. It was also available as the SL120, which had an SME armboard instead of a tonearm. I suspect that that's more the way the engineers intended it.
I am certainly not stating "Throw away your Goldmund and get a Technics!"; what I AM saying is that all of the tables I mentioned were entry levelish in nature. The modded Technics holds it's own pretty damn well, it has surpassed all of them I mentioned in one or more areas and the overall versatility and "set it up and forget it" nature of the Technics is pretty damn nice.
The 1210 suitably mod is a great TT So far the best example of this i heard has the following upgrades
The Paul Hynes SP5 power supply It seems the power supply is really important to getting the best out of the 1210
The Mike New bearing and platter
The Olyide matt
as well as the usual feet upgrades
This takes the TT in a very similar performance level to the Trio LD07
Its not cheap to do this lol
>>10-14-11: Johnjc
The 1210 suitably mod is a great TT<<

Incorrect.

It is a great value but it is not a great turntable.
For the sake of argument let's say there is a hypothetical audio professional that can quantify how much better a particular TT is over another. What would he say about the Technics facing off against something that has snob appeal? That the higher end unit is 5 or 10 percent better? Would that be worth putting up 10 times the price?
Jmoog08,
Why don't you stop by here some time and decide for yourself instead of proposing hypothetical arguments?

You can listen to some "snob appeal" turntables.

I have a 1210M5G for your comparison.

Thank you.
10-14-11: Jmoog08
"What would he say about the Technics facing off against something that has snob appeal? That the higher end unit is 5 or 10 percent better? Would that be worth putting up 10 times the price?"

Absolutely would be to many people given the choice. Many people spend a lot more than 10x the cost of a technics TT to get 10% better performance for sure.
As in anything, getting that last 10% takes 90% of the effort, whether it is in athletics, business,education or manufacturing. the first 90% is the easy part.
Yup. I'd plug in yer 12xx.
Perhaps you would find the following titles interesting reads Mr. Audiofeil. 1. Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value 2. The Comsumer Trap. You see, when you want to sell products to over indulgent consumers you don't lower the price of items--you send through through the ceiling. I guess that's another hypothetical theory, but something tells me your own empirical knowledge on the subject will be substantiating.
Jmoog08, I forgot more about analog than you've ever learned.

And believe me, audiophiles with great systems aren't using Technics 1200 tables as their vinyl sources. Read some of the threads here; it's that simple.

Now come give a listen and stop yakking.

Your inexperience is showing.
Hi Audiofell
I heard the 1210 with a the Mike new platter and bearing, the Paul Hynes power supply and Oylide matt along with a few other mods in with this level of modification it sounds pretty good I will compete with a lot of high end TT. All just IMHO
Hi johnjc,

Modify the bearing, add isolation, change the power supply, etc. and you still have to deal with a lame tonearm. It's a major bottleneck. See my earlier post.

When are you guys going to get this?

Look, I own this table. I use it almost daily. It's a great value. Perhaps the best value in turntables. I'm simply identifying the limitations.

Peruse the analog threads for users' systems and pick out 10 killer vinyl front ends. See how many Technics 1200 series tables you find.

Answer: None.

The campaign here to elevate this product to something far beyond its' capabilities is just plain lame.

I'm done; anybody that wants to compare please come here and give a listen. I'll mount your cartridge(s) in my 1210M5G with a Mint LP protractor and you can hear alongside some "snob tables", "snob tonearms", and "snob cartridges".

Bring your own bottle.

The humble pie and crow are on me.

I'm out.
Filling an arm with cotton and then covering it with shrinkwrap does not sound like something I would want to do to any arm. Are you sure this helps the sound? I would think its a good way to kill the life and depth out of the music.
Forgot to add the arm was also changed and totally agree the arm is a bottle neck
It also had the feet replaced and was using a SPU
As I said to upgrade to this standard will not be cheap but will compete with high end TT at this stage. Of course most people will not take the 1210 to this level
Enjoyed your post, sold my Scoutmaster/Dyna XX2 combo (thank you Dan ed, etc., for saving my viny life re: unique ringing arm/tracking issues "thinning of sound myth"). I picked up a Technics D202 w/AT 130E cart which I bought on a whim for $20 in a Thrift as a "place-holder" until I was to decide what to acquire next; most likely a DAC--I sold my record collection. Well, I was pretty stunned at what the Technics could do: flawless tracking, open inner groove sound, nice soundstage, imaging, "organic" sound, could even capture the lowest fundamentals of pipe organ.... To be fair to the Scoutmaster/Dyna, the Technics didn't have quite the explosive dynamics, nor the ultra-black backgrounds. Though I was initially thrilled with Scoutmaster/Dyna, I really hadn't acquired enough Lp's to judge its performance accurately.
I found that after adjusting the bearings, new arm wire, cotton internal filling and heat shrink on the outside and a Sumiko headshell (which is not only a better headshell but also adds Azimuth adjustment) the arm sounded way better. I installed a Sumiko Premier MMT with the thought that it would be better yet only to find that I really did not gain a thing, but lost lots of the original arm's ease of adjustment.
There are a lot of needle-drops on Pink Fish Media that have Technic turntables(SP 10 and, I believe, one of the 1200 series). I think most use other arms, and have some modifications, if anyone is interested in hearing for themself. There are also other turntables(I was interested in Linn lp12 dynamik.)for comparisons.

I understand your situation. I owned a SL1200 for awhile and liked it alot sound wise. It just didn.t look audiophile to me. So I sold it and went throu several TT,s and landed on a Rega P25...

11-07-11: Dklk

I owned a SL1200 for awhile and liked it alot sound wise. It just didn.t look audiophile to me.So I sold it and went throu several TT,s and landed on a Rega P25...
I'm one of those geeks who gets a perverse pleasure in getting killer sound out of unconventional sources. By the time I tweaked and platformed my SL1210 M5G, it no longer looks particularly DJ either.
I agree with Audiofeil w/regards to the arm of the 1200. Nice table, especially with some of the mods mentioned, and the arm will be better too with the mods mentioned.

But- regardless up updates, the arm of that table is the bottleneck. I've had a few of them apart and they are built for the expedience of semi-pro DJ work, which is the market to which the product is aimed.

Its cool that there are after-market armboards for the 1200 platform, after the initial surprise at what a reasonably well-engineered unit like this can do I think you will find that an upgraded arm will yield even more delight.

At some point, with the new power supplies, motor mods, modified or replaced plinths, etc, one wonders where the mod is and why not just build a new machine from scratch? I used to go through that a lot when I would update/modify Dynaco PAS-3 preamps. These days I like to make all the mods fit in the original box so the preamp retains its original looks and is thus a 'sleeper'.

If you are thinking of building up a 'table from a stock unit like this, you might look at the 'Vintage DD turntables- are we living dangerously?' thread
http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?eanlg&1317949815&openflup&65&4#65

From the sounds of it, that Dual DD motor is the one to start a new build with... of course, $80 is a nice price of admission :)
Hi Audiomaster1967,
Today, I am listening to computer audio only, but I miss vinyl and have no doubt, I will re enter. As you, I have had an old Kenwood KD600, a Linn, Walker, Oracle and Micro Seiki. The Oracle and the Micro Seiki with nice arms Grado & Saec competed quite well with the Technics and in some ways were better. As you did, I dampened inside the unit, added tampening tape(putty) to the platter, heat shrinked the arm(no cotton), changed the headshell and used different tonearm cables. If you want a beautiful table some of the micro seiki are georgeous, they cost alot of money and I can tell you for me, I'm going to pick up a used SL1200 from around town and be happy. Tim
Atmosphere: "From the sounds of it, that Dual DD motor is the one to start a new build with... of course, $80 is a nice price of admission :) "

I can recommend getting a JVC QL-7 and start modding with that because it's a manual table and the motor unit is TT-71 and the arm can be replaced with something better. Not to mention a new plinth.... A lot of potential. The Dual requires more gutting and hassles. The JVC is the one that started me the alternative path away from the Technics. It's fun and it's cheap.

_____

At some point, with the new power supplies, motor mods, modified or replaced plinths, etc, one wonders where the mod is and why not just build a new machine from scratch?
True enough. At some point you have to know when to quit, or plan ahead as to where the cost of mods hits the point of diminishing returns.

However, when it was easy to get an SL1200 for $399 (from Musicians Friend), for another $1500 you could add a lightly used or demo SME 309 tonearm, and you would have a $2K turntable that had the tracking *and* the speed consistency and low noise of a more expensive 'table. Rather than put $5K into an SL12x0, however, your money would probably be better spent elsewhere.

If you really want a Technics and to improve on the SL-1200Mk2, then get an SL150Mk2. It's an armless table with the same electronics and similar motor from the SP-15, heavier platter that's dynamically balanced. The SP-25 is identical electronically and same motor to SL1200Mk2. After messing around enough with the SL-1200, you can just get a better turntable. Also don't forget the SL-M2 is also same motor and electronics in a wood plinth and much better heavier platter and comes with a decent integrated tonearm. Unfortunately most come with a P-mount headshell. Rare version comes with detachable headshell though. There are so many ways to NOT use the SL1200 and still get similar or better result and for even less money, in my experience.

______
I have a technics SL-1210 with KAB fluid damper,Cardas arm rewire,strobe disabler,and power supply.Funk Achromat 5mm,sumiko headshell and a Denon 103R running thru a Harman Kardon Citation 1 pre feeding a Mccormack DNA 500 feeding a pair of JMlabs Diva Utopia Be's and the sound is absolutely "Stunning".
BTW,for something that will better what I am hearing presently take a look at:
http://www.audiocognoscenti.com/index.html
Pitch Perfect Audio has the Shindo/Garrad 301 system
One thing I left out from my previous post was my Allnic AUT-2000 Step-Up-Transformer which feeds the Harman Kardon Citation 1 Preamp.
It is clear that the Technics tt is best in class for speed control. And that should be an indictment for all of the high end hifi turntable makers out there that seem to come in at a distant second for speed control with motors and/or drive systems at 5 or even 10 times the cost. But while we can give kudos' to the Technics engineers for their motor design, they failed to follow up on optimizing the other design parameters of a turntable. It is a valid question to ask: Why can't someone build a commercially viable turntable with a drive system like the Technics, but with the isolation and support structure for a decent tonearm that doesn't cost upwards of $12k?

01-29-12: Tonywinsc
It is clear that the Technics tt is best in class for speed control. And that should be an indictment for all of the high end hifi turntable makers out there that seem to come in at a distant second for speed control with motors and/or drive systems at 5 or even 10 times the cost. But while we can give kudos' to the Technics engineers for their motor design, they failed to follow up on optimizing the other design parameters of a turntable. It is a valid question to ask: Why can't someone build a commercially viable turntable with a drive system like the Technics, but with the isolation and support structure for a decent tonearm that doesn't cost upwards of $12k?
I think that in the '70s the Technics DD turntables posed a threat to the emerging high end status quo. High end brands of the time represented USA and European efforts to beat back the onslaught of mass market audio from (primarily) Japan. When Ivor Tiefenbrun made his tours with his Linn turntables, he was discrediting the DD principle in favor of cottage industry belt drive turntables. To me, however, it was sleight of hand. The comparison tests created the widespread (and persistent to this day) conception that the DD principle was inherently flawed. What was not apparent is that the Linn suspended turntable was what was draining most of the noise. While the belt drive drained some of it, it also introduced speed fluctuation as the belt flops and wobbles. That's why these days people try to replace the stretchy belts with dental floss or mylar tape, and VPI finally came out with a rim drive.

This created the high end dogma that BD=Good and DD=Bad. Truth is, the Technics DDs had it all over the cottage industry BD TTs regarding speed accuracy and inherent noise floor. What was not apparent is that the Linn had *other* features that drained vibrations and controlled resonances that the popular-priced DD tables didn't do well. If--rather than vilifying DD as a concept--the UK turntables had bought the Matsushita-sourced DD motors in bulk and then sued their engineering to drain vibration and control resonances, then the TT industry would have produced what you envision here--an affordable table with low noise floor and speed accuracy.

You don't get the speed accuracy of a Technics SL12x0 'table on any belt drive table under $5500

Why Technics didn't continue to develop the table after 1981 is a matter of business model. The units became so affordable ($399 from Musicians Friend for awhile) because Technics had ceased any significant further development. After 1981 they knew they had to shift to CD and digital audio. The Technics turntables stayed in production for as long as they did because the bigger turntable market shifted from quality home audio to DJ use. If it hadn't been for that, Technics would have discontinued their DD turntables when everyone else (Denon, JVC, etc.) had. There was no motivation to improve it further except for DJ use.
Johnnyb53,
I totally agree with your statements and personally, I think one has to spend upwards of 10k for a turntable that will beat a modded SL-1200 markedly.
I owned a Technics SL1200 and it was mediocre. It sounded electronic. Bass was not articulate and imaging was not very specific. I doubt your tweaked out Technics would impress me.
Real nice Tomjoe. You're a veritable festival of constructive helpful criticism.

02-02-12: Tomjoe
I owned a Technics SL1200 and it was mediocre. It sounded electronic. Bass was not articulate and imaging was not very specific. I doubt your tweaked out Technics would impress me.
That's pretty consistent with how most of us perceive a Technics SL12x0 right out of the box. But if you never tried any enhancements such as a better mat, headshell, damping, or platforming, you have no frame of reference for what the rest of us are talking about.
This will always be a battle of the Hatfields vs the McCoy's but in my system, the Zu modified Technics 1210m5g with Zu Denon 103r was so much more engaging than my Well Tempered Amadeus with Dynavector xx-2 cartridge that there was no way I could ever go back to the Amadeus. I'm not trying to get in the middle of this battle but I can't imagine ever wanting to upgrade from the Technics table and it should last for 30 years without a hiccup...can't ask for much more than that.
I set up a NEW SL1200MK5 that I found on eBay last December and went with a KAB/Ortofon Pro S cartridge and STY40 stylus.

It took only twenty minutes to set up the table and catridge and I was spinning my old vinyl from the 70's. My albums sound great with black background and next to no surface noise. Punchy bass, clear treble, and I can definitely hear the difference in the quality of various recordings.

The Technics is built like a tank and speed control is critical. I spent a lot of time researching this purchase and felt that belt drive is inferior unless you have a lot of extra cash sitting around.

So for about $1000 I am in heaven with a table that will only get better with low cost modifications.
I love my ugly 1210MKII. What sweet sounding beast!
I dunno, I like my 1210M5G as is, bone stock without tweeks. It sounds great to me. The secret imo, is the quality of the cartridge. I'm running a Audio-Technica AT150MLX MM cart, and it's pretty damn good.