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.