Upgrade from Technics 1200 MK2? $1-$1.5k budget


I'm faced with the option of selling the 1200 and buying another table, or spending for KAB upgrades. I'd like to explore a new table in the $1k-$1.5k price range rather than upgrade the 1200. The table must provide a good base upon which to upgrade.

I'd stick with the technics, but the tonearm is way to "fiddly" for me. There is way to much play in the headshell attachment area. The 2 screws on the bottom, and the single pin / bayonette style attachment are just to imperfect (maybe this is an advantage to some?). It seems like the slightest bump on the ortofon headshell, and I have to play with the azimuth. Also, i'm quite tired of dealing with ever so slight tracking issues. Very frustrating...

For completeness sake -- Stock 1200, AT120E/T, Baerwald protractor setup, 1.4-1.8 VTF, anti-skate 1.0-2.0, VTA at 0 (I have the thicker 1/4" technics mat). The setup is dead spot on, yet I still have tracking issues.

The VPI traveler jumps out at me as a good option. Likewise, Rega RP6, Clearaudio Concept (or SE). These are at the top end of my budget. The RP3 is around 1k, but all the reading I've done suggests that it might be a lateral move from the 1200. Pro-ject 5.1 as well.

One imperative feature must be ease of use / setup. I don't want to fiddle with anything. Thoughts?
Convert?fit=crop&h=128&rotate=exif&w=128martinman
VPI Scout Junior.
I have been using an SL1210M5G for nearly 8 years now and have no plan of changing. I have applied some tweaks and enhancements that have made this a very reliable, consistent, and easy-to-use turntable. I have some questions about your setup:

1) What headshell are you using? One of the first things I upgraded was from the stock headshell to a Sumiko or LpGear ZuPreme headshell. The ZuPreme is now a lot less money than the Sumiko with a feature that I like. Either of these headshells has two locking pins (above and below) instead of one, and the cartridge mount is absolutely solid. They both have azimuth adjustment on the headshell, held in place by a very strong hex-head set screw.

2) I added the KAB tonearm fluid damper. Now there is nothing jittery or fidgety about the tonearm. It tracks well and even navigates hideously warped records without skipping.

3) The Technics Super Mat is a good way to quell the ringing of the platter; I lucked into an Oracle Groove Isolator sorbothane mat for $10, so that's what I use. However, I also found that the platter rang even less if I first placed the Technics felt slipmat on the platter and the rubber or sorbothane mat on top of that.

4) Get an inexpensive record grip such as the KAB or the Clearaudio Clever Clamp. Both are inexpensive and damp record resonances such that a light record such as an RCA Dynaflex has about the same tonal balance as a 180-200g deluxe pressing. My KAB record grip also seems to lower the noise that may be coming up the spindle shaft.

5) The stock feet on the Technics SL12x0 series look effective, but functionally they are not. Just about anything you can replace them with would be better. The easiest is to get four Vibrapod Cones and set the metal threaded inserts of the turntable onto the steel balls of the Vibrapod Cones. You can further drain the nosie by setting the cones on Vibrapod Model 2 Isolators.

These are all cheap fixes that cumulatively should quell the stock Technics' weaknesses while showcasing its strengths.
Change the arm out on the 1200MKII. It will sound like a new/different TT but it will still be ugly, :-}. Also, if by chance you don't like the change, you can sell it without loss.
Wow, that's one great table to set aside because of a fiddly arm. I'd re-plinth the table and get a different arm. With your budget, have you considered a Jelco 750L (12") arm?

Otherwise, you're likely to spend Over $3000 even in the used market to approach the performance of your Technics table.

And that's coming from a very satisfied owner of a VPI Aries table with a 12" JMW arm.
I have an SL-1200 with a Jelco SA-750D tonearm, Herbies mat and Michell record clamp and I am VERY satisfied with it. The tonearm has built-in fluid damping and with my Denon DL-160 tracks very well. It's hard to beat the 12X0's rock solid speed.
I can speak only to Item #4 of Johnnyb53's recommendations, the two cheap record clamps. I own both of them and wish I didn't. My turntable (not a Technics) sounds substantially better without either.
Johnnyb53 et. al. thanks for your input

To answer some questions:
+ Headshell = ortofon. Does the Sumiko or LpGear ZuPreme lock into place well? In my setup, I can twist the ortofon even when it's screwed down. There is quite alot of excess tolerance around the pin / tone arm connection.
+ Fluid dampener - yes, this was one of the upgrades on the list. I was also going to rewire the tone arm. I hear it's a PITA, but well worth it.
+ The 1/4 in. mat does a pretty good job. I can't really tell a difference between the 1/4" and 1/8" mat -- i've only been using the 1/4 mat for about a week.
+ This is the record weight that I've been using: http://www.amazon.com/Chrome-Finish-Turntable-Stabilizer-Audiophile/dp/B0043KJAK4
I've only had it for a couple weeks. Not sure it really does anything with my 180g records.
+Hmm. So the feet i haven't though much about. The stock feet allow for level adjustment which I need. johnnyb53 - how do you level your table with the vibrapod cones?

I emailed Kevin a while back and he suggested that a rewire would be the most cost effective (it's like $30 + time). I was also going to replace the headshell wires and also add new RCA cables. So the order of my upgrades would be 1) tonearm rewire, 2) headshell + rca cables, internal ground, fluid dampener.
Mod yours for half your budget.
ANY unstable movement in the arm, any looseness in the headshell, any play in the arm bearings, any non-rigid components in the chain must be eliminated.

IMO, not to mince words, your planned corrective action to your existing arm is a silk purse / sow's ear proposition.

Replacing your current arm with a better arm will result in performance closer to the potential of your table. My suggestion, within your budget, is a Jelco SA-750L (adjustable fluid damping). You could also get a nice cart like an AT-33EV, a good match for the arm, and still stay under budget.

But ultimately, it's your decision.
My SL1200MK2 has all of the KAB mods and it is a damn nice package. I think it sounds better overall that my VPI HW-19 Mk3 with SME Series III. I am having no mistrakiing issues with my fully damped arm using four different cartridges. Headshells. The suggestion to consider Sumiko or LP Gear azimuth adjustable ones is something I have been contemplating too. My concern is that these head shells are much heavier than the stock Technics or the KAB version. A popular option for an arm upgrade is an SME 309. Try to get your hands on a copy of the February 2015 issue of HiFi World (UK) covering a bearing upgrade. The same company also offers a platter upgrade. In short you can take your SL1200MK2 a long way further. Kevin at KAB is extremely knowledgeable about this product, is very easy to work with the his modifications make these tables very, very good.
Great advise folks. Keep the 1200 MK2 unless you're willing to spend over $3000.00

KAB fluid damper is a good option, Jelco SA-750L is a much better option.

Threaded brass cone footers (Bearpaws or Mapleshade) is the way to go.

My favorite matt would be the Funk Firm Achromat. Just remove the rubber matt and replace it with the Acrhomat.

Finally a better headshell like the Sumiko HS12 or the Ortofon LH series (6000, 8000, 9000) will also bring the performance of the TT up a notch.

Save the money and buy records.
Happy listening!
+ Headshell = ortofon. Does the Sumiko or LpGear ZuPreme lock into place well? In my setup, I can twist the ortofon even when it's screwed down. There is quite alot of excess tolerance around the pin / tone arm connection.

--The Sumiko and ZuPreme headshells have TWO locking pins, one above and one below. If you don't get a rock-solid connection with these headshells, then your locking collar needs tightening or fixing. Read Needle Doctor's customer reviews of the Sumiko headshell and you'll get an idea of what it brings to the party.

+ Fluid dampener - yes, this was one of the upgrades on the list. I was also going to rewire the tone arm. I hear it's a PITA, but well worth it.

--Yep. I never did the tonearm rewire because the M5G and GLD versions have OFC wiring in the tonearm. I admit that some high purity litz like KAB is selling would be even better, as would upmarket interconnects, but I'm getting very satisfying sound now so I'm leaving it as-is. I added the fluid damper and was very happy with the results once I got the fluid level sorted out. Hint: don't add too much. Fill the trough about 1/3 full. It also tracks like a mo-fo.

+ The 1/4 in. mat does a pretty good job. I can't really tell a difference between the 1/4" and 1/8" mat -- i've only been using the 1/4 mat for about a week.

--Try putting a felt mat under the rubber mat and you might herar more improvement. Also, I'm using sorbothane instead of rubber, which absorbes and dissipates vibration whereas rubber tends to bounce it back.

+ This is the record weight that I've been using: www.amazon
I've only had it for a couple weeks. Not sure it really does anything with my 180g records.

--Nice grip; nicer than mine. But the cool thing is how a clamp or grip makes thin records sound more like 180g records. Also, I notice a slight reduction in noise overall with the grip.

+Hmm. So the feet i haven't though much about. The stock feet allow for level adjustment which I need. johnnyb53 - how do you level your table with the vibrapod cones?

--The stock feet are TERRIBLE! I use 3x5 index cards to shim the feet until I get the TT level. If this bothers you cosmetically, then use a Vibrapod to trace appropriate-sized circles of card stock for shimming. They should barely be visible then. You could even blacken the edges with a Sharpie pen if desired.
For half the cost of your upgrade budget, send your 1200 to KAB. Have Kevin rewire the arm and interconnect, mount the arm damper kit, install the outboard power supply/ strobe disabler, bearing thrust pad damper. Upgrade the feet (Isonoes recommended) and cartridge as funds allow.
Your KAB modified table will be competitive with anything near and way more than it's price.
Bflodave, I think that's good advice. At some point one has to decide how far to self-tweak vs. putting it in the hands of an expert. Technics SL12x0 owners are blessed with a knowledgeable, skilled source (KAB) that also has reasonable prices. I find his low friction hyper litz tonearm wire particularly intriguing.

Bear in mind that Kevin's skeptical of other headshells, but many Technics owners swear by the improvement wrought by the Sumiko/ZuPreme headshells.

Also, Kevin has a routine for bringing a turntable into absolute spec, including balancing the platter to closer tolerances and ensuring that the headshell mount is absolutely level.

The Isonoe footers may be the best available, but they're pricey, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Vibrapod Cones plus Isolators at $56 total were competitive. My Vibrapods are audibly better than the $85/ea. Navcom Silencers.
I know nothing about this turntable. But I will say that you have gotten some very good advice from seemingly knowledgeable folks. I think I would lean towards sending the table to KAB for refurbishing...

-RW-
Hi Everyone,

Just wanted to loop back give an update. I ordered a few things to aid in setup: HiFi News setup record, Shure stylus force gauge, bubble level.

After a complete setup things sound much better. Using the proper tools - I found that things were not setup optimally (surprise!). I leveled things out - table and and azimuth, both slightly out of spec. I found that my tracking force was way off - almost .3-.4 off. Before, I was using the "float your tone arm" method of force. Anyway, that wasn't too accurate of a method. So, I setup a 1.8 tracking force. Finally, I used the HiFi news setup record and found that a 2.5 anti-skate was the best. Originally, I had this matched to the downward tracking force.

The bad news, is that it didn't pass the torture track, and only had slight minimal trouble with the track before it.

Anyway, things sound a whole lot better!
Don't use the Hi-Fi New anti-skate tracks. Search the archive for why.
Is the 750D or the 750L the right arm for the 1200?
I own the Technics Sl1200 MK2 - upgraded by KAB. Sounds wonderful. No need to spend $$$thousands on so-called high end tables. KAB upgrade highly recommended.
Check SoundHiFi.com
Thanks everyone.

Surprisingly, I was able to dial in anti-skate by ear after reading through a few forum posts. Onhwy61 -- many thanks for the direction.

Now, as someone earlier in the thread pointed out, I can spend ~$500, send the 1200 to KAB and get a real nice mod'ed TT in return. I'm quite comfortable with electronics, but this tone arm rewire seems to be a pain. It's about $100 to have KAB do it -- is it really worth it to have Kevin do it?

Might also be good to have him do a once-over to make sure my 1200 isn't sick.
I can't say for sure because I don't have a test record with a torture track. However, I have an SL1210 M5G with KAB's fluid damper, and it can track hideously warped records that toss an undamped tonearm out of the groove.

About 3/4 of my records are used, from thrift shops, and there is nothing my fluid-damped SL1210 hasn't tracked.
My 1200mk2 is pretty much fully-KAB'd and IMHO, the biggest bang for the buck upgrades were the KAB fluid damper and the KAB arm rewire. I find that filling the damper trough just under half sounded best. My arm was rewired with Cardas wire from the arm to the RCA pins and Kevin also adds internal damping to the armtube. Big sonic improvement over the stock arm.
Kevin routinely goes over the entire unit and will communicate with you during the process. I can't speak highly enough about his services.
My 1200 MK2 is also pretty much fully KAB modded and it sounds really, really good. I doubt very seriously that any other turntable on the market at any price could out perform these turntables in any practical, measurable way. Since I had the whole job done at once I cannot confirm which mods were most effective. Ditto Bflodave's comments concerning Kevin's service and communication.