Search the forums under the user name of : Johnnyb53 as he has some useful information.
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I tried 4 or 5 carts with my KAB deck, I could live with any but I'll list from my fav to my least
1. Goldring 1042- just plain sweet with this deck, by far my favorite. At 1.5 gr it tracks great and deals well with any extraneous noise.
2. AT 150mlx- a bit more range than the G-ring but I found the bottom end a bit looser.
3. Denon DL160- I really liked this cart and could easily live with it, not far off the pace.
4. Ortofon 2m Blue- I found this similar to the Denon, tracks great and sounds more expensive.
5. Shure M97xe- this is the least expensive of the lot but deserves to be in the running. It does everything very well and also sounds like a much more expensive cart.
You can't go wrong with any of the ones I mentioned, paired with a KAB deck the combo will kick butt on most tables twice the price. You are going to hear from the crowd that thinks the Technics table is a dj deck and not good enough for audiophile duty. Just listen for yourself, I know I was blown away. They also have excellent resale value if you find it not to your liking.
Johhny has a lot of experience with this table and will probably chime in and give you some good advice. You can also do a search and find hours of interesting info on the KAB Technics. Good luck, you are in for a treat.
(This post is a little long, so you can skip the "journey" and go straight to my Ratings at the bottom.)
Ive owned several Technics 1200 turntables over the years and love them. Currently I have a 1210 M5G (the grandmaster) with two modifications the KAB fluid damper and the thicker Technics mat. I havent tried the new power supply but I intend to. First let me say the M5G has better wiring, thicker cables, and gold-plated RCA jacks compared to a standard 1200MK5 and the sound is noticeably better. So the tonearm rewire mod offered by KAB is probably a good bet if you purchase the regular 1200 MK5. I also like the fluid damper, it helps keep the M5G more calm and relaxed. I use a Pro-ject phono box ($129) which works very well, and sometimes I switch it with a Pro-ject Tube Box II ($449) that I normally use with my Nottingham Horizon SE with the same system. The Tube Box tames the 1210 even more with blacker backgrounds and a more controlled sound, since it uses two tubes. Compared to the M5G, the Nottingham has better detail and sounds slightly richer overall, with more natural sounding bass.
In everyday listening, however, I actually use both tables about 50-50 - thats how good the 1210 M5G sounds, plus I clean my records with it due to the strong direct drive motor, it has cool blue lights, and I can change pitch just for fun. The rest of my system is very simple, an Onkyo A-9555 integrated amplifier (it kicks butt and is very well built, especially compared to a standard receiver) and a pair of Mobile Fidelity OML-2 speakers, bi-wired.
Now on to the cartridges. Over the years Ive tried many. For lower cost cartridges Ive used a Grado Green (about $80), Shure M97 ($89), a Nagaoka MP110 (about $100), and an Ortofon Arkiv--which I do not recommend due to its harsh and distorted sound. I also have a Technics SL-1401 turntable from 1978 and it sounds good with its original Audio Technica. The Grado Green is adequate, the Nagaoka is very good, especially for the money, and the Shure has a solid sound with great tracking (very little end of record siblance), but to me sounded a little industrial without much dynamic range. (I havent tried it, but I have read good reviews on the Audio Technica AT 440ML. And as someone else mentioned, the Goldring probably sounds great too.)
But when I discovered the Denon DL-160 there was no going back. The DL-160 sounds like stereo compared to the comparitively mono-sounding Shure M97. The DL-160 was my first ah, now I get it moment with the Technics 1200, because up until then I had been dissapointed with its sound. The DL-160 is a moving coil but is high output so it can be used with any phono stage and has great tracking. It really opened up the 1200s sound and its only about $159 on ebay. Plus it has a little flip down stylus guard which is very handy, especially when youre trying different cartidges attached to the removable headshell. It is by far my best recommendation under $200. I also tried a Sumiko Blue Point No. 2 ($299) and it sounded better on the Nottingham than the Technics, its a little on the delicate-sounding side. I tried a Benz MC Silver ($375) which is a high output moving coil that came with the Nottingham. It does well on the 1200, a little more solid than the Blue Point but not quite as detailed.
I moved up the Denon line by next trying out a DL-103R. It is quite simply excellent and all anyone would ever need on a 1200. You have to set the VTA to zero and you need a phono stage with an MC setting because of its lower output, but it is about as solid as you can get and sounds incredible, with no end of record noise. You can score them on ebay for around $250, and it is well worth the extra $100 over the DL-160.
On the Nottingham I wanted a more substantial cart than the Sumiko so I tried a Denon DL-304 (retail $699) which I found new on ebay for only $389. It is an awesome cartridge well suited to the Nottingham. Its very low output and like the Sumiko sounded a little delicate on the 1200.
As you can tell I started to become enamored with Denon, so there was one more I wanted to try the DL-301 MKII. It is a higher output moving coil than the DL-304 but lower than the DL-160, so it needs an MC phono stage. They go for around $250-$300 on ebay. It sounds absolutely amazing on the 1200, better than the the DL-103R, the DL-160, and even better than the twice as costly DL-304 (although the DL-304 sounds better on the Nottingham than the DL-301). For me the DL-301 is the perfect cartridge for the 1200 of the ones I have auditioned. It is crystal clear yet sweet sounding, with perfect tracking. Its very clean and detailed without being dry and analyticalclear and smooth with a just a touch of warmth, and without the delicateness (is that a word?) of the Sumiko Blue Point and the DL-304. So the solid, tight bass inherent with the Technics 1200 remains along with a rich mid-range, searing guitars, and crystal clear voices. Put on Van Halen I, turn it up, and prepare to be rocked youll get more tingly than Chris Matthews at an Obama speech.
With a DL-301, neither you nor your opinionated audiophile buddies will ever think of the Technics 1200 as a disco deck. I listen mostly to pop/rock from the 60s through today, and the M5G/DL-301 plays classical, jazz, and acoustic-flavored music just as well. Listening to Blackbird from the White Album the other day, I was actually startled by the clarity and emotion of Pauls voice and how the guitar strings resonate separately. In fact the Beatles Anthology 2 and 3 albums sound especially good, which are mostly acoustic-based demos live in the studio. The DL-301 also looks cool, its a gold/brown two-tone and fits well in the Technics headshell.
All of the Denon cartridges, especially the 301, 103R, and 304, track almost perfectly on the 1200 with little or no end of record noise. And they can all be found on ebay at very reasonable prices.
So heres the summary of my subjective experience with cartridges for the Technics 1200. The Rating from 1-10 represents sound, tracking ability, and cost combined.
1) Denon DL-301 MK II (retail $329; $250-range on ebay) Rating: 10. Nah, this Rating goes to 11!
2) Denon DL-103R (retail $379; $250-range on ebay) Rating: 9.5
3) Denon DL-304 (retail $689; $380-range on ebay) Rating: 8.5
4) Benz MC Silver ($375)- Rating: 8
5) Sumiko Blue Point #2 ($299) Rating: 8
6) Denon DL 160 (retail $180; $150-range on ebay) Rating: 8
7) Nagaoka MP110 ($100-range) Rating: 7
8) Shure M97Xe ($89) Rating: 7
9) Grado Green ($80) Rating: 5
Hope this helps and thanks for the post. Its great to know what others are experiencing with the Technics 1200. - Tony
Wow great post Tonym211.
I just got my KAB 1210 last week and I love it. No mods but I use it with a Tonar mat on top of the rubber one which smooths the highs and rounds out the bottom end.
I use it with a Sumiko Pearl which sounds awesome. I have also tried it with a Sumiko Blue Point which is more detailed but softer sounding and an Ortofon OMB10 which is pleasant but not in the same league as the other two.
This is the second table in my main system. The other is a Rega P5/TTPSU/Elyse2 fed into a Mac intgrated an B&W floorstanders. On the 1210 I use a Rega Fono MM pre-amp.
Technics is definitely an audiophile deck. It is different from the Rega which is fuller and more liquid sounding but this table has got to be one of my all time favourites just for the fun factor. I am a recent convert to DD and also own a vintage high end Toshiba DD as well.
I will be setting up a bunch of additional heashells with different cartridges over the next few months and am also looking for good suggestions.
I don't have the broader experience that Zenblaster and Tonym211 have with cartridges. I've spent more of my effort on vibration control: I started with the SL1210 M5G with upgraded tonearm wire, use an LPGear ZuPreme headshell, the KAB fluid damper, which lowers the resonant peak, wrapped the tonearm, which quells a persistent upper midrange resonance in the tonearm, and I have other damping effects--sorbothane (not gel) mat, record grip, and a multi-layer isolation platform. Those vibration control efforts improve the inner clarity, dynamic range, and lower the noise floor regardless of the cartridge. And it should help get the most out of the better, more resolving cartridges. For example, I'm very satisfied with the bass tightness of the AT 150MLX on my well-damped rig.
Since my experience doesn't include high end cartridges on the SL12x0, I can only go by what I've heard from reviewers I trust. Tone Publications has been evaluating an SL1200 for some time, and with the original arm (but no fluid damper), they seemed to like the Zu103 the best. I have also heard from Positive Feedback reviewer and SL1200 booster Ed Kobesky that the $949 Denon DL-S1 (an LOMC) is a *really* good match. I suspect that that cart on an LPGear ZuPreme headshell with the KAB fluid damper would really rock.
i have also used the 199 Benz Micro MC, the Carnegie one MC, and a Monster Alpha genesis all with really good results on a KAB technics. Be sure you get the arm dampener and the arm re-wire; both are key to improved sonics. Make sure you add cardas headshell leads too to the technics headshell; much better than stock.
08-27-09: JohnssVery good suggestion. Another approach would be to get an LPGear ZuPreme headshell, which is about $2 more than the Cardas leads. The ZuPreme comes with improved headshell leads with gold plated tags; they appear to be just like the AudioQuest leads at about $20. The Cardas leads are most likely better, but the ZuPreme headshell is way better than the Technics. Best solution would be the ZuPreme headshell plus the Cardas leads.
Denon. Whatever one you can afford and matches the capabilities of your phono stage. The DL-110 and DL-160 are great for MM stages, but the DL-103 is an even better match if you have appropriate gain and loading. The DL-S1 is an amazing cartridge but it does require a very, very good phono stage or step-up transformer to hear it at its best. Quite frankly, the DL-103 performs in some ways as well as cartridges costing two or three times it price.
We can -- and have -- debated the Technics' weaknesses, but I think one that is fairly well established is that it can have a somewhat truncated lateral soundstage. The Denon cartridges are not only smooth sounding and great trackers, but they are renowned for their wide, deep soundstaging, which helps mitigate what is for me the only truly glaring weakness of the Technics.
I had used the Nagaoka MP-110 cartridge on my MkII and liked it very much but, itching to try something else, I bought a Zupreme headshell and added the Dynavector 10X5 which was even better. The Dynavector is a high output MC so is suitable using the phone stage's MM output. I tried it on MC but the MM had a lower noise floor.
My 'table has the KAB damping trough plus I'm using the TTweights copper mat as well as their 1 lb. record weight. The copper mat is placed on top of a stock 1/8" rubber mat which both damps the platter and provides VTA adjustment with "thinner" bodied cartridges.
I was considering Denon DL-301 MK2 after reading a lot of good reviews. My question is, what about the headshell. I would like to update the stock headshell, buton technics tonearm it has 12g effective tonearm mass. And all the good headshells I see are 12g, so a little math:
(12-7.5+12) = 16.5g - effective tonearm mass with the new headshell.
-7.5 stock technics headshell
12 - new headshell
And this will move the resonanse to a point, where it's not good, right?
Do you guys have any suggestion for a good headshell, that will sound better than the stock one?
First you have to convert Denon’s (DL-301 MK2) compliance from 100Hz (Japanese only system) to 10Hz (Western world system):
Compliance of your Denon is 13x 10-6cm/dyne @ 100 Hz
You have to multiply it roughly on 1,7 to find out what is the real compliance of your cartridge @ 10 Hz
13 x 1.7 = 22,1 cu - this is real compliance of your cartridge.
Then you have to count not only effective mass of the tonearm + headshel (which is 12g as you said), but the mass of the cartridge itself (which is 6g). You have to count in the lead wires weight and screws/nuts weight too.
Then USE THIS ortofon diagram to calculate resonance frequency.
You can also use Hi-Fi Test LP to calculate resonance frequensy by playin this record with your actual cartridge/tonearm.
As you can see the resonant frequency with stock headshell and your Denon will be around 8Hz (roughly). Resonance frequency within 7-12Hz is optimal for the system! Technics stock headshell is a good one if you have already replaced stock headshell lead wires. Before upgrading the stock shell you have to completely rewire your technics with Discovery Tonearm Wire (internally) and with external RCA phono cable of your choise.
I think you need lighter headshell, not heavier if you are so concerned about resonance frequency with this tonearm/cartridge combo. Or you can simply ignore this theoretical point of view if you play flat (not warped) records with heavier headshell.
P.S. I have 8.4g DENON headshell for sale here. You can also try the Orsonic lightweight headshell.
@chakster Hi, there, thanks for the perfect reply.
I made the calculations, and actually it turned out that for the resonant point of view, the headshell should be even less than 6g, in order to match the perfect 10Hz resonant frequency.
But I also read that MC cartriges need higher mass headshells, for some reason.
Maybe the original technics headshell is perfect after all, but I will have to change its wires, because they are very basic. Also, I'm not sure about it's material, from another forum I read MC should Not be used with headshells that have anything metal on them.
About Discovery Tonearm Wire .. Is this the best choice for technics stock arm? Or at least is it good enough for me, after all I'm not gonna use it with $1k+ cartriges after all. But it seem cheap, for such an important thing as the wires for the tonearm.
And one more question. I can hear the power supply when I turn maximum gain on anything. I know it's the power supply because when I turn off the turntable this low noise stops..
Will the achromat mat help to reduce it? Or maybe better feet?
I still don't want to touch the original technics power supply.
It looks like this cartrige makes perfect match with Technics stock tonearm, when used with 12gr headshells which are easier to find :)
Maybe I should rethink my choise, but from what I read 301 is more warm, which is something I really like... But actually I'm not sure because it is so subjective, does anyone listen to both cartriges (103R and 301 MK2) to tell what are there strengths and weaknesses.
Discovery Tonearm Cable is great and not so expensive, for Technics tonearm you need 25cm, but it’s not easy to find, this cable is 4 wire (4 colour) is sold by the foot. You can buy from partsconnexion.com in Canada. I don’t know any other seller who can provide it. Discovery wire is more flexible than Cardas Tonearm Wire, which is widely available and a bit cheaper, but also good option for resonable price. If you want Cardas buy it from thebetteraudiocompany on ebay, they can also custom made headshell lead wires with pins for you from the same Cardas cable. My pair of 1210mk2 rewired with Cardas internally, but my external RCA phono cable is Zu Audio Mission. The 1210mk is not my main turntable, but it was fully upgraded long time ago, before i bought Sp10mk2.
I just ordered Discovery tonearm wire for my Lustre GST-801 tonearm as i wanted something better than Cardas. Another option is Audio Note silver tonearm wire, but this is very expensive.
Personally i don’t care about resonance frequency anymore: 8Hz or 10Hz or 11Hz it doesn’t really matter and anything from 7 to 12Hz is fine, you will not hear the difference!
Most of the MC cartridges are low or mid compliance, while the MM can be mid, high or very high compliance. Your technics was designed for MM cartridges, but mid compliance MC are OK to use too.
Headshell and screws should be non magnetic - that’s all.
The weight of the shell depends on the compliance of the cartridge, the lower the compliance the heavier headshell required on this arm. But when it’s too heavy it will be impossible to balance the tonearm even with small additional counterweight. This tonearm is not designed for heavy cartridge/headshell combination!
I don’t think you are hearing the power supply, the lower the signal on your MC the better shielded phono cable you need. In real life you will never use maximum gain. This is not a high-end turntable anyway, especially with MC cartridge, try it with MM instead for noise problem. I can’t remember any noise problems with MMs i’ve tried on my 1210mk2. I would never invest money for external power supply for this deck, it’s much better to buy another turntable if you want to know what technics is all about (try SP10mk2 with EPA-100 tonearm).
Look for SAEC SS-300 matt - this is the best!
SAEC SS-300 looks expensive, and I read a lot of reviews for achromat mat for 1210.. it looks like it's better than the stock rubber mat. So I'll try it. But still the main question is what cartridge.. I really liked to try MC cartridge, and I guess it will happen that I will try both 301 and 103 and decide for my taste..
I wouldn’t change the rubber mat until you have a cartridge that works fine for you. The reviews means nothing for me, the quality of SAEC SS-300 is better than anything else on earth, especislly the overpriced new toys. If you are looking for new stuff then Boston Audio Mat 2 is another option.
Denon DL-103 is the worst choise for your tonearm, it’s been said so many times here, for this low compliance heavy monster you need at least Jelco tonearm.
Your tonearm is for mid compliance MM cartridges or mid compliance MC.
Technics own vintage MM cartridges works fine with this tonearm, headshell integrated versions like epc-100c mk3 or 205c mk4. If you want warmer carts try MF (moving flux) Glanz MF31 - 51 - 71 and Astatic MF100 - 200 cartridges, they are very good too. Garrott P77 is great, Grace F9-U and F-9F are amazing. Pioneer PC-1000 mk2 is outstanding. Those cartridges are better than more expensive MCs and i have tested them all on sl1210mk2 in the headphones before switched to my reference tonearms and turntables.
Those Denons are just cheap and easy to buy new, many people use them for this reason. It’s not so easy to find top vintage MM cartridges, but when you got them in perfect condition you don’t need an MC, because there is nothing to lose if you load your MM at 100k ohms instead of standard 47k. Read Raul’s MM thread here (tons of information from the best audiogon contributors)!
Yes, DL-103R with a proper headshell becomes too heavy, for the stock tonearm, I did the calculations..
From what I read the best match as MM is probably Nagaoka MP500, but I really want to try MC to hear what is it all about. So I'll take a risk with 301 MK2. The only problem is I don't see a good headshell around 6g for it in ebay :)
Btw, do you know what is the material in technics stock headshell, maybe it's not that bad after all, and I don't need to change it. Just new lead wires will be fine.
And I decided this rewire kit for the tonearm:
The wire kit you’re talking about is in fact this cardas litz 33 awg cable http://www.ebay.com/itm/400731159612 But you need two of this for stereo (single run for each channel).
And for internal tonearm wire this single run (500mm piece) is long enough for two turntables (two tonearms): http://www.ebay.com/itm/302220538153
If you can do the soldering yourself all you need is two RCA connectors to make your own cable using those Cardas 33 awg lits configuration.
Or buy the kit someone else made for you (maybe for higher price).
P.S. I think for internal wiring Discovery Cable is better as it’s more flexible. Discovery tonearm wire used in Tri-Planar and Graham high-end tonearms.
Your upgrade plan sounds solid, but you didn't mention two of the most effective: bearing upgrade & KAB fluid damper. Here is a good resource for you: http://theartofsound.net/forum/forumdisplay.php?46-The-Techiepedia
Also, FWIW, I agree that the 301 is a bad choice for that arm. There are plenty of warm, rocking carts that will be better match(e.g. Dynavector). Cheers,
Also i think those DL-103 lovers should try DL-107 first (it was MM alternative to 103).
picture of my DL-107: https://scontent.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t31.0-8/11270594_1023749200976580_1216688043735474609_o.jpg?oh=1a13c...
Well, it looks like anything is bad match for the stock tonearm.. but I need to put some cartridge there :)
I still don't want fluid damper, I think the engineers from Panasonic knew what they were doing. The only problem is the wires, and I will change them.
Btw, I really would like to make upgrades step by step, so I can test very well what is the effect after each change, by analyzing the sound + the WAVs downloaded on my computer.
P.S. The bearings actually is one of the very best parts on the 1210, this thing is rough, and proven in time and abuse by so many djs.. I have the feeling that if something is working, don't touch it. Noone knows the long term effect on the new fancy bearing on the motor of the 1210 which is what makes this turntable unique, and its stable speed. Probably it will have some effect on a 1$k+ cartridge, but for the ones I'm looking for, I doubt it.
P.S.#2 Why do you think DL-301 is not a good match, actually I did the math, it looks very good match technically.
Sure, but Discovery Tonearm Wire from here if you have to rewire just 1 tonearm. Their price is $24 per foot (for 4 colored tonearm wires) + shipping from Canada.
You're right about the bearings of 1210, i got mine since 1996 and they are still works fine (absolutely no problem with bearings), but fluid damper is good option for high compliance cartridges, i just don't like the KAB fluid damper design, cos it's collect dust everyday. honestly when it comes to serious investment it's just better to buy Technics SP10mk2 and EPA-100 tonearm (what i did).
I think Spencer ( sbank ) meant the DL-103, not 301
I understand.. Thanks for the advice.
For now I will just try to find the perfect match for the stock tonearm rewired.
For the shipping from Canada.. It will take a long time and probably be very expensive.
Isn't this the same wires?
Isonoe designed them for professional use, when you play records near powefull sound system with 20 000 watts for example. The bass feedback is the weakest point of the technics sl1200mk2 in this situation. Replacing the stock feets people can get rid of this problem completely, so these isonoe feets are amazing. If you are listening with headphones maybe yoy don't need them, but even for design purpose isonoe feets are the best, i use silver isonoe feets on my sl1210mk2 mods. Isonoe feets are fully adjustable and very well enginered, so you can level the turntable properly and get rid of any feedback/vibrations etc. I have not seen any other feets that even looks good, most of the others are ugly. I did not pain full price for them, bought new on ebay with discount. At that time my cartridge on upgraded sl1210mk2 was Technics EPC-205c MK4. I'm pretty sure you will be happy with isonoe even at home use only. This is top quality product!
Nice, I got rewired (internally) my rare Lustere GST-801 tonearm today with Discovery Wire and Cardas male 5 pin DIN connector. My ex flatmate did the soldering nicely. 4 years ago he got started with technics sl1200mk2 rewiring for himself and then for most of our friends, now his skills are very very good.
I think for the first time you’d better ask someone (experienced) to do that for you and you can watch and learn, i’m sure then you can do it yourself.
My advice is to bypass the "motherboard" when you will have to soldering tonearm wires to the phono cable. There must be a motherboard, but just to fix the cables on it, the stripped ends of the cables should be directly soldered (tonearm wires directly to phono cable) without shite "motherboard" in between like a connector (avoid the "motherboard" if you don’t want signal degradation).
Another problem I have is I can't really align it in Baerwald protractor on the technics stock headshell, because even the cartridge is in the most front position, the end point of the protractor is forward 1mm from the tip of the stylus. But it doesn't seem to be bad for the sound, the sound is perfect.
I don't know if it's optimal, but on the stock technics.. this seems to work.
Technics was made stock to use Stevenson alignment, you're right that Baerwald cart needs to be very forward, so you need headshell with longer slots to make it work. Jelco is a good option with adjustable azimuth reasonably priced.
Try setting antiskate lower to equal or a bit less than the VTF setting. Cheers,