turntable newbie: need advice for better sound

Recently bought on Amazon the Technics SL 1200MK and a Shure M97XE cartridge to go with it. Got an old guy in a record shop to set it up for me. Got it home and... I'm very ambivalent about the sound. While the soundstage is wide and there is definitely "air" between the different sounds, there is very little detail--sometimes I can't even tell what instrument I'm listening to. There is also a dullness (perhaps "darkness") to the sound and a lack of 3-Dimensionality despite the wideness of the soundstage. what else? Some distortion.

I learned enough to successfully change the tracking force from 1.25 (with the M97XE brush down) to 1.50 (with the brush down) and that actually got rid of a little distortion. Even that, however, makes me a little suspicious since 1.25 is supposed to be optimal.

ANYWAY, I'm looking for better sound. Any thoughts, advice?

The Technics is wired directly to a Mcintosh MA6500 and plays through Sonus Faber floor standing Concertos.
How are you changing the weight? You truly need a scale. Also, a tiny bubble level for $5 will help. Otherwise, you are probably at the limits of the M97. It's nice but definitely not high end or even mid range. Look at some in the 2-3 hundred range???
Good points. I used the Shure Stylus Force Gauge and a bubble level to take care of setup requirements.

I guess I should start looking for a better cartridge....
You can "max-out" that TT by contacting KAB Acoustics. Google them. Kevin is the owner and he knows the Technics better than anyone. The rest of your system, leave alone!
What records have you played? My setup consists of a 1210 M5GSE (this has upgraded tonearm wiring and RCA interconnects) and I also have the KAB fluid dampening system. I am using a vintage Shure V15 III. I am using a Mac C28 and MC250 with Klipsch Heresys. I haven't noticed any lack of detail, my only complaint is the Shure is a bit bright with some rock recordings. I would second having KAB do some work on it. I would go with the Cardas tonearm rewire and fluid damper, if that doesn't do the trick go with the cart upgrade and you will still be happy you had the KAB upgrades. Another thing to check is cart alignment, there are alignment tools that combined with a test record like the Analogue Productions Hifi record (300hz tone), it helped me fine tune my rig by adjusting cart alignment.

There are some on here that feel the Technics is not an audiophile turntable, but it sounds better (and will last a lot longer) than anything "audiophile" at that price. Of course I use to DJ so I am very partial to them.
After reading the last two messages, I've decided to email KAB. Can I ship my table to them?

I have two records right now (with a bunch from my folks on the way). Both are new and were released within the past two years or so. One is The Editors "An End Has a Start" which is 33 1/2 rpm. I move the tone lever up one line for that. The other is Low "Drums and Guns" which is 33 rpm.
As far as I know, there are no 33 1/2 or 33 rpm LPs. They are 33 1/3, often called 33 rpm. I'm assumming that the Tone Lever is some sort of speed adjustment. You should leave it at factory standard, or set it w a strobe.
I haven't worked with Shure cartridges in over 30 years. That it probably a high output cartridge. I don't sell Mckintosh either so not sure about the phono stage but I would check to make sure you have a Moving Magnet cartridge and a phono input for Moving Magnet cartridges. Check you manual. Good luck.
This issue sounds like one of set-up/installation rather than equipment. A Shure
cart into a MAC integrated amp should produce very good sound.
The Shure cartridge is a bit dark and will not be a brilliant sound, say like a Sumiko BPS. Try isolating the table a bit better, and raising the VTA a bit, say just above parallel to the record. Be certain the table is level, very level. IMHO, all Shure cartridges track well, but sound dark and a bit smeared together. Jallen
Tvad is totally correct.I'm wondering if the cartridge is wired out of phase"lack of 3 Dimensionality despite wideness of the soundstage".I would also ask can you tell what instrument is playing when listening to CD or Radio?This turntable/Cart combo should sound at least that good.The 1200 has a strobe,be sure you are looking at the 60 Hz band for adjusting speed.Have you talked to "The Old Guy at the Record Store"again? As an "Old Guy" (ouch) who has been known to frequent a record store I would want to know if what I did was less than sucessful.His objective is likely to want to share the LP experience with a "Youngster" talk to him.Let him know it's not working yet.
I'm a little at a loss. I really don't know anything about VTA.

I'm hoping that the problem is set-up. That would probably be the least costly thing to improve.
Send your table to Kevin at KAB. I recommend the fluid damper, Cardas tone arm rewire, and KAB/stanton 890LE cartridge and enjoy. You can consider the separate power supply (PSU) if you have a little extra cash.
Read the instruction manual that came with the technics, it describes setting the vertical tracking angle(VTA), you will find many alternate opinions on how to do it, but just starting out, following the manual is your best bet.
It's also possible there's something amiss with the phono section of your MAC. Have you tried connecting another turntable?

Perhaps taking your MAC to The Old Man and trying it in his system (or someone else's locally) would enable you to rule out the MAC as the cause of the problem.

Methodically eliminate the potential causes before you spend money upgrading a table about which you have yet to learn the basics.
Definately check your VTA. I had an M97xe on m last table, and while its not the most detailed cartridge ever, it is very good. The the darkness and lack of detail you're hearning might very well be because you've got the angle tilted too far back. You'll want to raise the back of the arm until the cartridge is essentially level with the record surface. Play around with it until it sounds right. Raise it too much and it'll sounds harsh and bright. the change will definately be audible. Generally the M97s are on the warm side with good timbres. I accidentally had the VTA too far back on mine and it sounded very much like what you describe.
Grimace, I knew you couldn't stay out of a shure posting! I still have my M91 for emergencies...
By any chance is the red light flashing on the power knob when you are playing records?
Raising the VTA was a good idea. Darkness went away and the detail improved somewhat.

The red light is not flashing on the power knob. No problem there.

I got the guy at KAB, Kevin to give me detailed instructions on setting up the table. I followed them. I'm happier now with the sound. HOWEVER, I'm still considering whether a cartridge upgrade might not be best.
KAB offers some good cartridge upgrades that are plug-and-play because
they eliminate the headshell and the set-up variables a headshell introduces.
I cannot say the set-up with these is optimal over what can be achieved with
an excellent protractor and careful installation, but they eliminate some
problem areas where someone new to turntables might get into trouble.

One of these KAB modified Stanton or Ortofon cartridges might be a good
option for you.