I'd like to have a thread on cartridges that work with the Technics SL1200MK series tables.
I want to buy a Technics SL1210MK2 (the new black version from Musicians Friend) and need a cartridge recommendation. I am using a Musical Fidelity A308CR preamp that has MM/MC capability. My amps are Bryston 7B ST's and I have a pair of B&W Signature 800's on the way to replace my N801's. The MF Preamp is rolled off on top and the system is very listenable for long lengths of time. I'd describe it as detailed, but not too bright.
I really want to try the Technics table as it is relaible and inexpensive ($400 shipped or less for a used table if I go the ebay route). Please do not try to talk me into a different table. I had a VPI Scout and Dynavector 20x (High output) that I sold because I just wasn't using it. I'd like to keep this cheap so that I have decent TT available when and if I want to use it.
What can you recommed for a cart? I'd like to keep $160 to $200 as a max and stay lower if possible. Here is what I am considering:
Denon 103 (not the R) Denon 110 Denon 160
Audio Technica 440 MLa
I do not know what carts work well with the Technics tonearm. I know that it is light and some threads recommend a Sumiko headshell for the Denons. What do I need to know here before buying a table and cart.
I will shortly have my SL-1200mkII modified with Cardas tonearm rewire from KAB USA. When it arrives I am going to put my Denon DL-110 on it. The match should be very nice and I can hardly wait to get it up and running.
I am currently running a Technics SL-D20 which though is no match for the SL-1200MkII is at least a Technics direct drive and even this lil $200 (1982 dollars) unit sounds pretty good with its entry level P-mount cartridge. The thing I notice on it and am sure to on my soon to be SL-1200mkII is DEAD STABLE platter running. Even this low priced unit runs DEAD STABLE!!! :-)
I'm currenty running a Shure M97XE on a Thorens TD-160. The pluses are that it is very smooth with no harsh bright spots and listener fatigue. It is very natural sounding and, IMHO it gets timbres impressively right for such an inexpensive cartridge. It also images out very well. On the minus, it is not the last word in detail or soundstage depth. You're not going to "hear the room" with this one. I bought it when I first got my TT about six months ago and I was very impressed with it for the money, but I've since heard others and am currently looking to upgrade. You won't go wrong with this one, it is very satisfying, but you might want more than it can deliver.
Also, as a practical matter, I've noticed that some of the popular audio/music websites have increased the price of the M97xe to $140. Do a search before you buy. I got mine from Keenzo.com for $50.
I'm using a heavily modified technics 1200 TT. Three of the Mods are from KAB. Record clamp, Tone arm Damping and Iso Footers. Headshell is Sumiko with Dynavector 10x5 cart. Also SDS Turntable Mat. Running that thru a Jolida JD9a with NOS Tubes. Speakers are B&W 803's, Theta Enterprise Mono's.
Sound is very detailed and evolving. I'm very pleased with this setup. The Jolida has a ton of Gain so it took me a while to get the loading correct but once dialed in it's really a high end setup even thought many others may disagree. This TT is very flexible if you want to change the tonearm. Origin Live makes a few that work well this TT. The table is built like a tank. Very stable. Theres a lot of info posted @ the Vinyl Engine. Kevin @ KAB is a wealth of knowledge on this table and sells many mods. I think youll really fall in love with this table once you get it into your system.
Dear TigerwoodKhorns: IMHO you can use almost any MM cartridge from the Sumiko Pearl ( for less than 100.00 dls.) and up, with the advantage that those inexpensive MM cartridges outperforms the Denons.
Skip the Shure it's a dud on the SL1200, My friend bought one with all the hype and then turned around and bought the Audiotechnica ML440a (notice the 'a', better version) which made the sure sound closed in and broken. The shure is really boring and dull on top. Build quality on the shure looks top notch and the aluminum box it came in is premium but they didn't spend the money on the cart. I owned a SL1210 M5G at the time and was looking for cart options and went with the Shelter 501 MkII, but I did try the Shure on my table also.
I have had an SL1210 M5G for about a year now. I've used it with a Shure M97xE with occasional switches to an Ortofon OM10, followed by an upgrade to a Denon DL-160 mounted on a Sumiko shell. Three months later I added the KAB fluid damper and everything got that much better.
The Sumiko headshell is a good investment regardless. The extra weight improves the mass/compliance ratio with the Denon and most modern carts, it's more rigid and non-resonant, the lead wires and clips worth $20 alone, and it has adjustable azimuth, which helps dial in soundstage and imaging.
The Denons are noticeably better than the Shure M97xE--more linear, better frequency extension at both ends, tighter bass, cleaner treble, and smoother yet more dynamic everywhere. Add the KAB fluid damper and you can "hear the room." Denon+Sumiko headshell+fluid damper has turned my Technics into a 3D sonic virtual reality machine.
On top of all that, the Technics tonearm plus fluid damper will easily track a record with 1/2" warp fluctuations in the outer track. Nice to know if you're a thrift shop bottom feeder like me.
02-27-08: Cytocycle Skip the Shure it's a dud on the SL1200
Hear hear! Finally someone who agrees that the Shure is dull as dishwater. For $60-80 I'd rather have a Grado Black or Green. At $100 I'd look at the AT440MLa, the Ortofon 2M Red, the Grado Blue, the Sumiko Pearl.
At $140 and $180, the Denon DL-110/160 are really hard to beat.
Another thing I don't like about the Shure--I've seen a frequency graph on it, and it rises to a peak output at 100 Hz and then gradually trails off in amplitude from 100 Hz on up to its HF limit. You have to keep overall capacitance low (<150pF) to have much treble at all.
This corroborates my experience: The Shure is particularly sensitve to 100-150 Hz resonances, such as in-room footfalls and thumps transmitted up through the Technics' structure. In other words, the Shure magnifies one of the Technics' weak points--resonance control in the 100-150 Hz range. This also kills inner detail and overall clarity.
02-27-08: Johnnyb53 the Shure is dull as dishwater.
That is about the best description I've heard yet! I am said friend to Cytocycle, and I'm in total agreement. I personally think they should just stop manufacturing it, it sucks that bad. Kevin at KAB (who sold me this cart when I got back into vinyl) is a great guy and very knowledgable, but why he endorses this cart is beyond me. I am running the 440MLa on my 1210M5G in my main rig, and I'm here to tell you, at $100 bucks (give or take), it's a pretty decent cart. And my main rig is a fairly hi-rez system. IMO, the M97xE is not even in the same league with the 440MLa. About all it's good for is cleaning the grooves of a thrift store album...
02-27-08: Tigerwoodkhorns The Denon Dl-110 and 160 with a Sumiko headshell seem to be the way to go. What about the DL 103 that is available for about $150. Is the 110 or 160 superior?
I've never had a Denon DL-103, but I get the impression that while it's capable of performance well beyond its price range, it has to be dialed in just right in terms of compliance match with the arm, tracking force, and how the output is preamplified. That the DL-103 is a low-output MC makes its interface more complicated than the high-output DL-110 and 160.
Several aficionados seem to prefer using a DL-103 with a voltage-matched stepup transformer into a MM phono stage, rather than plugging into a generic MC stage.
Furthermore, given the DL-103's very low compliance, I speculate that it can't really show its stuff with a Technics table without the fluid damper.
My point is that it may be better to start with the DL-110/160 and learn about the mysteries of VTF, VTA, overhang, damping, and compliance-matching before tackling the additonal tuning challenges in getting the best out of the DL-103.
02-27-08: Johnnyb53 the Shure is dull as dishwater.
That is about the best description I've heard yet!
Thanks. I wish I could take credit for the comparison, but I co-opted it from the May/June 2007 issue of the $ensible Sound, whose cover story was the KAB-modified SL1200. The reviewer (David Arthur Rich) tried a number of cartridges on the turntable, including a Shure V15VMR and coined the "dull as dishwater" description when referring to his Shure V15VMR, especially when compared to what he considers a much better implementation of that stylus, the Audio Technica AT150MLX.
The MR in the Shure model number refers to "Micro Ridge." The "ML" in the AT carts refers to "Micro Line." As near as Rich could tell, they're really different trademarked names for the same stylus shape.
He liked KAB's Ortofon Concorde implementations too, but I get the sense that of the carts he tried (all MMs), he found the AT 150 MLX the most linear, most detailed, fastest, etc. Compared to the AT440MLa, he found it more linear and resonance-free, too.
does the same cartridge and stylus considerations apply to the Technics SL 1300 MK2? I just pruchased a Denon DP 45-F as a second table for aolde records, and am looking for a less expensive stylus for it, but the SL 1300 is my main and I love operal and classical. Also have the SF Grand Piano homes, the musical fidelity A5 preamp, and a Denon DR335 formy tuner.
I never even bothered trying the stock headshell with the Denon. Even though my Technics headshell has a screw-in 4g weight to make it heavier, I took the advice of the sales rep at Acoustic Sounds and got the Sumiko. It's just a better headshell in every way--less resonant, more structurally rigid, much better lead wires and clips, and that totally cool azimuth adjustment. I figured the extra weight would also come in handy with the lower compliance rating of the Denon compared to the Ortofon and Shure carts I'd been using.
I consider the Sumiko the first step required in elevating the SL12x0's performance to reach its potential.
03-04-08: Tjnindc First, my KAB mod 1200 arrived today. I can't wait to get home and take it for a spin. At Kevin's suggestion, I went with the Goldring 1022 GX. Of course, I'm already curious about other options.
I use a Audio Technica AT150MLX MM cartridge. Online I found it almost 1/2 price of the ($400US) at an approved vendor.
As my KAB SL1210 is my first TT, I have no way to make comparisons. I am fortunate that my TT setup sounds just right to me in my system. I did bring it to a Audio group meet and listened on another system Tube AMP + big Audiokinisis floorstanders and it was favorably received.
My TT set up: * Technics SL1210 MK5se (new), with KAB mods: -Tonearm Fluid Damper -Cardas tonearm rewire with add-on RCA Phono Plate * Audio Technica AT150MLX MM cartridge * SDS Isoplatmat + Herbie's Way Excellent II mat * On a 3" oak? cutting board * Graham Slee Gram Amp 2 SE phono preamp * VenHaus Pulsar IC cables * >TT used with a newish Denon AV Receiver and Tetra speakers + sub
I'm sure this has been discussed, but let me raise it again. Is the SL1200 KAB genuine competition for belt-drive tables of the Linn/Spacedeck/Scoutmaster/Gyrodec/etc caliber? Can you put a Koetsu or good Benz or Dynavector on one and get good results? I ask this because the enthusiastic posters about the Technics seem to be first-timers in analog, or people getting back into it. I'm looking for some seasoned perspective.
Probably not. But, I had a VPI Scout and Dynavector 20x cart (high output) and was not blown away by it. It was a toss up between that and my CD player so I sold the VPI. At this price point, I don't mind playing around. I'll let you know when I get it set up next week (1200 + AT 440).
Just picked up a 1200 mk2. Will be doing some mods on it first. Have a couple cartridges lying around that I will mount on it and report back. Have a Crown Jewel SE and a Dynavector XV1. WIll get to it this weekend and let you guys know the outcome.
Stanton 681EEE MKIII Shure M97XE Grado Prestige Gold Denon DL-160
Each cartridge has less than 50 hours so they are just barely broken-in but my initial feelings are:
Stanton 681EEE - Good. Tracks well. Not using brush. Plays ok but it seems to be subdued and missing brilliance. Decent soundstage. Good midrange response. Maybe too much bass which sounds muddy to me.
Shure M97XE - Good. Tracks well also. A bit more forward than the Stanton. Clear, with a nice soundstage but IMO just missing the mark.
Grado Gold - Excellent. Bright and lively. Handles difficult material well. Well-balanced soundstage. Midrange is smooth. Lets me know about every pop and click in the source material. I DO prefer it over the previous two.
Denon DL-160 - WHOA! Absolutely the biggest soundstage! On several recordings I had to make sure that I wasn't using 5CH surround processing because there were definitely ethereal 3D effects. Some recordings sound like S**T though.
As I said, all of the cartridges are not fully broken-in and their characterics will certainly change a bit over time. I can envision using a different cartridge depending on what genre of musics I am in the mood to play in the evening. All are brand new, not NOS.
I would like to audition the Audio Technica AT440. It seems to gather favourable reviews
Understand this. These cartridges are NOT cheap here in AU. They start at A$200+ I have a small fortune tied up in the four of them. It is a good thing that I am single again, otherwise I would have to endure the b***hing about paying a lot of money for something so small.
Do you have the KAB fluid damper? What headshells are you using?
I'm using a DL-160 on Sumiko headshell with KAB fluid damper and KAB rubber record clamp (the $25 one w/o the bubble level). The clamp often does wonders at reducing surface noise and eliminating resonances that otherwise cloud inner detail. This combo works very well for me on a wide variety of music styles and varying record conditions.
Has anyone found good cartridge cases for their spare headshells and cartridges? If so, where did you get them. I'm about to pick up the Sumiko headshell and Denon 160. I'd like somewhere safe to store my other combo.
03-08-08: Tjnindc Has anyone found good cartridge cases for their spare headshells and cartridges? If so, where did you get them. I'm about to pick up the Sumiko headshell and Denon 160. I'd like somewhere safe to store my other combo.
DJ suppliers have these--secure cases that hold 2 or 4 cartridges intact mounted in their universal headshells.
IMO, quite good. You can even display your cartridge/headshell collection on a shelf mounted at eye level and with the plexi/perspex top cover you will get a lot of oohs and ahhs - that is if you have any friends left.
Audiophiles only go out for fast food and more records and accessories - Hahaha!
He preferred (and bought) a KAB-modded Technics SL1200 with KAB/Ortofon Concorde cartridge ($1172 total) over a nearly twice-as-expensive Music Hall MMF 9 with Music Hall Maestro LOMC cartridge.
That doesn't indicate that it would compete with a Gyrodec (something I'm dying to find out myself), but it does indicate that it's competitive with a belt drive rig just north of $2K.
And I can tell you this: I have an SL1210 M5G w/fluid damper, spindle clamp, Sumiko headshell, DL-160, Oracle Groove Isolator sorbothane mat, and brass cones/butcher block/Vibrapod platform. It is very musically involving. If I'm in another room while spinning LPs, the sound compells me to come back and sit down in the sweet spot. I can definitely "hear the room."
But most telling of all, when I go to the local analog shop and listen to a P5 or P7, it doesn't make me feel like I'm missing out on something big. The P7 did sound more relaxed--or does that mean the Technics sounded more propulsive? I'm the kind of worry wart that if I hear something significantly better, it tortures me until I can attain it, whether it's a guitar or amp, ride cymbal, or snare drum. But I'm happy with my fluid-damped SL1210.
03-09-08: Tvad Johnnyb53, I have never read any post on Audiogon where a Linn/Spacedeck/Scoutmaster/Gyrodec...or MMF9 owner switched to a KAB Technics, and I doubt we'll see more than one or two, if that.
No argument here. The TNT comparo was the only thing I could think of.
Marc Phillips, who writes for Tone PUblications and a couple of other online review mags, uses a Michell Orbe SE as his main rig. Tone Pubs bought him an Technics SL1200 to review to see if the hoopla is well-earned. Unfortunately, the review only looked at the bone stock Technics with a few cartridges. The original intent was to first compare the SL1200 to the similarly-priced Rega P2, and then try the Technics with a wide variety of aftermarket mods, but none of that has materialized and Phillips is evidently swamped reviewing other gear and music that claims a higher priority for their readership.
If you are looking for a comparison, I like the Technics more than my old VPI Scout/JWM9/Dynavector 20x. Here is why:
Out of the box, the Technics feels like it in a thoroughly engineered product. The VPI, with its separate motor assembly (which has a pretty cheap feeling motor inside of a pretty case), rubber belt and pointy feet felt more like soemthing that was built in a garage.
Setting up the VPI was just a pain (and I am a former engineer and very mechanically and electronically competent). The tonearm was really heavy and balanced on the top of a pin, it never felt right. Trying to set the tracking force was a nightmare. It had a set screw and the weight just slid (poorly). You could never seem to hit the right spot. To set the balance, quote, "get a coffee stir and put on top of the tonearm. Make sure it is level." They could have at least given you a stir. I had to go to work the next day and get a stir. The tracking force had to be set with a guage that I had to order. It took a few weeks until I could actually set it up at all. The VTA was adjustable, but the guide never said how to set it. To level the table was also painful. I just kept setting the feet, over and over until it was straight in all directions. Then there is the speed. How do you know when you are at 33.3 rpm? You don't. You just move the belt back and forth on a spindle and guess. I played a CD that was the same as a record and the TT was way off. Kind of hard to tell if you have not been doing this for years. Oh yea, I forgot about the anti skate. You twist the tonearm wires. How do you know when it is right? You can only go in certain incraments so that you can plug the wire back in. Finally, do you like dust all over your TT? You had better because the VPI has no cover. You want a cover for your $1600 table. Plan on spending as much as the entire Technics table for one. And dusting the TT every time you want to use it is no fun at all. It made me not want to use it and in fact I rarely used it and eventually sold the table, cart and 16.5 cleaning machine.
Now the Technics SL 1210 MK2. It is just so well engineered. Solid as a rock. You unpack it. set the voltage, pop on the plinth and a nice thick rubber mat. OK, that part is done. How about setting up the tonearm? I had my trusty force guage ready. Hmm. OK, you mount the cart on the headshhell, which is easily removeable without any tools. Thankfully the wires on the headshell are thicker than a human hair and have nice sturdy feeling ends that easily slide onto the cart with a fingernail. Pop the headshell on a plastic alignment guage, line up the cart and tighten down. Then put the headshell back on the arm. Counterweight. Just put in on the back of the arm. Balance the arm by screwing the weight. No 30 minutes of fighting with the counterweight. Then the force. Lest see. 1.4 g. Set the scale at zero and then dial in 1.4 g by moving the counterweight and dial at the same time. About 10 seconds to do. How about antiscate? Ready to twist wires and guess? Nope, just set the dial the same amount as the tracking force.
VTA. Hmm. This is a tough one. Measure the height of the cartirdge, look it up on a chart. You set it by flicking a lever to unlock, dial it in and then flick the lever to lock. Now you are done. It looks like you can set it on the fly is you want.
Here is the part that is really nice. My VPI had a soundstage that was always between the speakers. Maybe due to improper VTA. I could never seem to get it "perfect." The Technics is set up in 1/2 hour and it is right. The soundstage is wider than the speakers and has a nice weightly bass. Before eveyone flames me for being technically illiterate, I am a former engineer and have significant electrical and mechanical skills and have been fabricating for 20+ years.
On to using the Technics. It gets up to speed instantly. Hit a button and it is in 45 to clean the record. Then back to 33 to play. Hit a little button and a light pops up (I love this. I had to use a separate light for my VPI). Is the speed set right? Of course, just look at the strobe on the left side. Perfect 33. So you heard that Rega's have PRAT that may due to being 1% fast. OK, just use the slider and dial in 1% fast (while the record is playing). The arm lift mechanism is really smooth and not clunky at all like the VPI's. After dropping the tonearm on the record, feel free to put the dust cover down, the needle will not skip.
The sound is rolled off (I am using an Audio Technica 440) and has a nice heavy bass, just like vinyl is supposed to sound.
Anyone considering getting into Vinyl, try the Technics. If you don't like it, you can get almost your full purchase price back on ebay. I just wish that it was a fully automatic table, but re-engineering this table would ruin it as the price would rise. I'm sure that there is a home version (I think the 1300).
A friend has a Project that he gave up on and went for a Technicks linear traking table. He has the really heavy all aluminum model (DL10 or something like that). The audiophile tables feel like under-engineered sports cars that have constant annoyances. The Technics feels like a Lexus. Solid and just starts up and works - very well.
I am using very respectable equipment with the Technics (B&W N801's, Bryston monoblocks, Musical Fidelity A308CR preamp). The Technics is not out of place or outclassed at all. It just sends a beautiful signal to the speakers (so far). After I spend a few months with it I will form a more critical opinion, but I regret the VPI and and very happy with this purchase. For under $500, if I barely ever use it it is worth it, especially sice it will not be collectng dust because Technics has the decency to include a dust cover!
A quick question. I friend lent me a Micro LC80W cartridge. Has anyone used this cart on a Technics? It is a Moving Coil. Do I need a Sumiko headshell? The cart actually feels pretty heavy and may need the counterweight that is supplied with the Technics table.
Wow awesome response Tiger! I got my Technics MK5G two days ago...This thread pushed me over the edge...I've got a Wright Sound with the step up transformer...Denon 103 and a Fluid Damper here I come...
The Technics 1200 series of turntables are hard to beat. It even rivals my old standby: The VPI HW19III. I got a Technics 1210 off ebay for $380 before I found out about the Musicians Friend $399 shipped deal. Mine was essentially new so I can't complain but that has led me on a cartridge quest. I have tried a Shure m97 and the Denon 160 and found both lacking. I got a tip on the Audio Technica AT150mlx at $260 shipped from J&R and what sleeper this cart is! It really sounds as good if not better than my other old standby: The Shure V15IV. I have no adjust problems with the VPI as you stated but that may because of the basic tonearm (AudioQuest PT5) that came it with. Also it is a a more conventional style of turntable than the latest VPI's. And I like that old school look and feel. But I agree that the Technics is a breeze to set up, solidly built and the quick start and stop is great, not to mention the pop up light for those late night listening sessions.
The JWM9 is a different arm. Fine adjustment on the balance is difficult as the weigth slides along the arm instead of screwing.
I am not claiming that the Technics is the end all in TT's, but playing music is a breeze. With the VPI, the ritual of changing the record was difficult. The screw down clamp annoyed me and the arm wobbles like crazy (which does not make you feel secure with a $600 cart on the end). I played several records on the Technics last night and it was as I remembered growing up. Because the table starts and stops in an instant, you can change records quickly. Just give it a quick wipe and, put the arm down and close the lid. I really hated not having a dust cover on the VPI.
Most importantly, it sounds like vinyl. Nice detail and a laid back sound. I kept playing records until my wife came downstairs to compalin about the time.
03-10-08: Tigerwoodkhorns Because the table starts and stops in an instant, you can change records quickly. Just give it a quick wipe and, put the arm down and close the lid. I really hated not having a dust cover on the VPI.
If you want a little airier treble, leave the lid up when you play a record.
For $400, the SL1210 Mk2 available at Musicians Friend is a no-brainer. However, if you can get a good price on a 1210 M5G (I got mine for $500), it's worth it for the upgraded tonearm wire. The rest of the upgrades on the M5G have no audiophile applications.
OTOH, a KAB tonearm rewire is $169.00, which would be better wire yet (e.g., Cardas) than the improved wire on the M5G.
Spraglow, go to http://www.kabusa.com/and navigate through it. There is a chart that lists the difference is the 1200 series tables. I believe the one to get is the 1210 M5G with better 1 piece internal wiring.
I believe the finishing looks better too. I received my 1200 mk2 last week. Still looking for some spare time to tweak it. I will be using mine in an auxillary system. It's built well, sounds good and easy to work with.
Like others have said, get a better headshell. Hope it helps
Spraglow: if you aren't going to rewire the stock arm, spend the extra and get the 1210 M5G which has OCF copper cabling in the tonearm plus it's the best looking.
I liked the performance of my 1210 M5G and how amazingly easy it was to setup and maintain, but sold it to a friend, he later put the KAB fluid Damper on and Mapleshade brass footers on a 4" maple block and that completely transformed the table... plus I bet the tonearm cable broke in.
The 1200 and 1210Mk5 are basically the same. The 120o is silver the 1210 is black (charcoal) with a space for an extra head shell. The 1210M5G has factory upgraded tonearm cables and more features suited for DJing or scratch along with a glossy finish. If you want the best one out of the box the 1210M5G may be your choice because of its better factory wiring. But KAB can upgrade for you the others with Cardas wire, it just takes a little while longer to get the unit delivered.
I chose the 1200MkII because I like the silver over the charcoal. The high gloss M5G interested me but it has added LEDS and other features I just did not need so I went with the more simple looking 1200MKII with Cardas rewiring. It will be hear anytime now, bu you have to be more patient as the mods and testing done by KAB takes added time.
I am looking forward to getting it putting on my Denon DL-110 cartridge. Down the road I'll probably buy the KAB arm damper. and maybe better feet for it.