What's all the fuss about late 70s and earl 80s run of the mill midfi turntables?

My first table was a Garrard SL95-B. It was really nothing to sing about and you had to pay extra for the plastic base. I graduated from that to a Philips GA 212. Thank God it was located on a concrete slab floor. Still nothing special. Then on to a Sony 2251 LA with an SME 2009 tonearm. This was a real upgrade with an Ortofon MC20 cartridge and transformer. I thought I was doing that thing in tall cotton. Then I met Russ Goddard at The Audible Difference in Palo Alto. He told me to bring my setup to his store and we would do a little A-B comparison. After listening for only a minute or two it was obvious My Sony was not any way near a Linn LP 12 of that time. Anyway the point is most of the common tables from people like Garrard, Dual, Marantz, were just imposters to the real thing. I hold no nostalgic emotion to those tables. I was foolish enough to sell my Linn setup when the writing was on the wall around 1999 regarding vinyl. Big mistake!! I sold all my vinyl, my table with an Ittock arm arm and audio technica OC-9 shibata. A SOTA MC Head Amp designed by John Curl (a collectors item today) for $1000.00. Lock me up. I had every cartridge of the day, Koetsu, Supex, GAS, Fidelity Research. My 2 year old son tore the stylus off my Sleeping Beauty Shibata accindently.


I agree that the tables you mention listed below are nothing special, and I don't know who would disagree

Garrard SL95-B

Philips GA 212

Sony 2251 LA with an SME 2009 tonearm 

Some vintage tables can sound great and are desirable for that reason.

I know its bizarre I saw a Philips 212 (I had one too) for sale for 550.00

I am glad I kept all of my records, originals from 60s, funky remixes from the 80s

and so forth, records everywhere in my house...I am okydoky With it.

Cant believe the revival in vinyl, every record I have is worth more than I paid, I am talking records I purchased for 1.99-3.99 now sell for 8-15.00. or more, weird.

Post removed 

My focus was to acquire a vintage table that I could modify with newer technology, like an Origin Live tonearm, motor upgrade, a quality MC mono cartridge. Anyway, I’ve been modifying a Thorens TD 160 MK1. The fact that I found the Thorens in pristine condition for $200.00 made this endeavor seem pragmatic and worthwhile. Anyway, there were a lot of lower end turntables and consoles that were sold in the 70’s. I had an RCA console that consisted of turntable, tuner/amp and small box shaped speakers. It sounded fine to me at the time. Where I’m going with this is that nothing could be done to upgrade those cheaper components. The Realistic turntable sold by Radio Shack in the 1970’s was a good value given it’s price tag but if I’m correct, nothing could really be done to improve it or modify it. The better tables from then offered the opportunity to change tonearms, cartridges, etc… and because of that, they have potential even today. 

Beats me… nostalgia I guess. they did not sound that great then and todays turntables are much better.

I owned a Phillips 212 back in the day.  If I remember, the arm was a true piece of crap. I couldn’t get rid of it fast enough.  

Where do you draw a line and say this table is "vintage" and that table is "modern", not to say also "better"?

I am usually surprised at how good most of those 70s and 80s ‘consumer grade’ low- and mid-level turntables actually sound. They look like plastic toys and are mostly lightweight and almost flimsy. In that light I am almost always impressed by their performance. 

Wow, I had a Philips 212 - I loved that table. Not that it sounded amazing, it was fine with the AT cartridge I had, but my friends were just so jealous. It was cool looking overall, then with the strobe, and the best, it also had those touch lit buttons. 

Once the buttons didn't light up anymore I sold it and got an Acoustic Research and a Micro Research 2002 cartridge. I might have that cartridge wrong, it's been 30 years now and more upgrades then I want to admit. But that was a great upgrade. 

Yep, I sold many of my records back when CD's came out, got at most $1.00 each for them, luckily I did keep a few and yes, the values have gone way over what I paid.

Why? Records are fun. I'm using it to teach my niece and nephew to listen to music, not just have it running in the background or only with cheap earplugs. Although it took a while before they understood not to hold the records sideways between their fingers! 

My records have appreciated more than my 401k.

Cant believe the revival in vinyl, every record I have is worth more than I paid, 

I bought a Thorens TD126 MKII—in the late 1970s I think—and just had it serviced and put back into operation with an Audio Technica VM540ML cartridge.  I am quite frankly stunned at the quality of sound I am getting out of some 1980s audiophile LPs—Sheffield and a couple of 45 rpm LPs.  I don’t think my setup is anything special, but the sound is so … “organic,” alive, vibrant, “ really real.”  And that is with a Schiit Audio Mani2 phonomstage.  Wondering if a MC cartridge would make a further significant improvement, I am now researching phono stages now to upgrade, looking at Sutherland Insight, LoungeAudio LCRIII with his SUT, and others.

Would the OP consider my Thorens TD166 Mk II mid fi from the 1980s?  Bought it new in 1984 because I thought turntables would vanish 😆 and I wanted solid West German(!) engineering that would last.  Got it with two carbon fiber arm wands.  39 years later, and it sounds great with either Ortofon OM 40 or Denon DL160.  Had it modded a bit 12 years ago to damp the platter, upgrade the cables, and replace the feat with adjustable cups that hold racquet balls.


All I can say is that when I listen to needle drops done on that rig, through the phono preamp in my McIntosh C220 pre, using my Sweetvinyl Sugarcube to clean up the record and digitize it at 96/24 or 192/24, the sound often beats the hi res versions on Qobuz, especially in terms of soundstage width and height.


I sometimes think about some of the modern, moderately priced DD offerings from Thorens, Technics and Music Hall, but I just can't seem to justify spending the money to fix something that isn't broken.

Having been around all those years, I agree with the OP that most of what was popular in the heydey of vinyl was mediocre.  Thorens floaters were an exception…basically AR done better.  Before Linn hit the scene German rim drives were the standard…Dual, Miracord, PE. But in the esoteric background there were Garrard 301s, Rek-O-Kut, Weathers.  Then Panasonic launched the SP10, and many others dove into Direct Drive.  Denon and Luxman also made some very good ones, as did JVC.  These are still credible if given adequate vibration decoupling and properly matched with cartridge.  The midfi is still meh. Then too, there was B&O, did anyone here ever use a TX2 with MMC2?  At my store, the gold standard setup was a B&O table with an MMC3, a Nakamichi cassette deck, a Yamaha or Nakamichi receiver, and a/d/s/ speakers, all day long. 

Well i'm happy with my AT LP 120 with AT ML540 Stylus and Cartridge with Acrylic platter mat.  Sounds good with my Outlaw amp and Sub and Dahli speakers.


                              yeah i'm finding that out to be true!!!   

I have a late 70s era Garrard in my bedroom system and it sounds damn good. It surprises me every time. As good as my VPI? No....but still very good.

I have a Sansui 838 that was purchased new in 1979. It's been coupled with an AT-155LC model cartridge most of the time, has been rock solid and sounds great. It saw heavy rotation up until around 2010 and is still in today use in my office system. It's pristine and I've thought about selling but then I come to my senses.   

Who says there’s a fuss about late 70s and early 80s run of the mill midfi turntables?

I had a BIC 960 table w/ a Stanton 681 EEE cartridge in 1974.  I think it was designed well w/ a decent arm & sounded pretty good but was built like crap & sold it before it completely fell apart. I then had a fully manual Thorens w/ an Ortofon cartridge & that was a pretty nice set up & probably would still cut it today. I then got the high end bug & moved up to VPI, SOTA. & finally Basis when I still am today. 

@ghdprentice    Yes, nostalgia for sure.  I liked my Garrard but swapped it back in the early 70s.

There is a notable number of audiophiles said to have good ears who still use 'upgraded' Garrard 301s and 401s and various Thorens.  Art Dudley was a big case in point.  Many of them allege these old tables are better than modern tables and recent heavyweight $000,000 monsters.  I am a fan of good engineering and certainly not of 200lb+ overkill (not even if gold plated).

But Is there something wrong with their ears?  If so, surely we should be told?

I had to laugh at the poster who had the BIC turntable...we used to sell them at my shop, along with the bouncy Thorns and Linn-Sondek.  I kind of liked the SP-10, and we sold some of those as well.

Big issues with tone arms back then.  The Shure 3009 was over 100.00, so not as popular as the ones that came on the tables.  In those days, arms and moving coil cartridges were fairly new, but certainly were better than the standard tables.

The B&O straight arm tables were good, but with only the MMC cartridges, it was a failure for the best systems.  RABCO tried the straight arm design, which was said to be the "ideal" way to track vinyl.  Evidently no one has figured out how to do that yet...

Anyway, we also had on display a Transcriptor table.  It was beautiful, but didn't really work.  Can't remember what happened to it...


The old Duals were well-made for the time.  I enjoyed many hours listening to my 1019 with Shure V-15 III.  Still have it in storage.

Wow, I had a Philips 212… what a terrible sounding turn table. Also, some Thorens and cheap Garrard. I also had an AR circa 1980… with the Sure V15 (?). Wow, also terrible in comparison to any reasonable priced table and arm from the late 90’s to now. While I understand nostalgia, I really understand sound quality… and none of the old stuff had it… maybe high end Garrard.

I am a "cold war" era G.I. that went to Europe and bought a Thorens TD126III and a SME 3009 tonearm.  I still own it. While in Europe I bought A Stanton 881S and a Micro acoustics 530MP.  This was magnificent to my ears.  I later bought a Shure V15VxMr and it STILL sounds magnificent.  I own a system that is shifting more to digital and the heart is a multi-function DAC, but I still own close to 1200 albums. Analog will always have a physical aura to how it represents reproduction; but the whole audio spectrum will shift.



Yep, 2’ idis in smaller packages. 😂😂😂

Audiophiles are worse than boat guys

While I still have a couple hundred records, As fast as I could afford it, I bought a CD player and haven’t looked back.  I found all the clicks and pops, no matter how small, very distracting and annoying.  We all talk about that being there sound and when I go to the symphony if someone sneezes, I find it distracting as well. 
Having said this about vinyl, when I stream something that’s labeled HR and I hear clicks and pops or tape hiss that really makes me scratch my head.

Getting off my soapbox….

I like my new Thorens td1500, yea not a linn, but I bet it's pretty close for a lot less money.

I recently pulled my Rega P-6 out of service and set up a second JVC table.  I'm now running a QL-Y66F and a QL-Y77F.  Both are excellent machines from the early to mid 80s that are at home with high end cartridges installed.  I love my vintage JVCs.

@curiousjim    I don't know how you get 'all the clicks and pops'.  I sometimes get a couple on the run-in groove but very few while the music is playing.  Have you tried not eating dinner off your LPs?

Interesting point about audience noise in concerts.  I wonder why more people don't complain.


Back then all I had was a discwasher brush and a Zerostat. My TT was was a B&O Beogram 1900 with their best cartridge.  I did try several of the record protection systems as well. I cleaned every record every time I played them. But yeah, most of the albums I bought, had clicks and pops right outta the sleeve.

And what’s wrong with using records as lazy susans? Ya have to put the Guac and chips somewhere 😁

@curiousjim      I never found the Zerostat worked well on those fortunately few LPs that got static.  But a few times it was so bad a small crack could be heard when the edge of the disc was earthed.  I bought a Nitty Gritty years ago and still have it.  It cleans the few discs I need to clean very well.

But I have never had the problems you cite with new records.  Yes some had pressing faults you could see and I sent them back.  What kind of cartridges and arms have you used?   I did find when I changed to MC years ago from Shure V2 and V3 that the surface noise diminished a lot.  That was because tracking at 2.5g is a lot more secure and cut through a lot of the crap compared with floating around at 0.95g which was Shure's boast when the idea was to reduce tracking weight as low as possible.  I recall Beograms had  light tracking force.  A silly idea - none of my records has ever worn out - except my original Blonde on Blonde that I played incessantly in 1966 and beyond on my father's Garrard with a flip-over cart, massive 'needle' and a spring applied tracking force that must have been at least 3-4g.  I've got lots of other BonBs now, but that was an original mono bought on the first day, hard to find now.

The ’Vinyl Revival’ has created a market for a new segment of buyers who never grew up with a turntable. They want a turntable but they have no experience. Meanwhile, because of decades of vinyl sales there are literally thousands of turntables for sale worldwide. To someone who knows zip about turntables: A turntable is a turntable is a turntable. They all play records, don’t they?

Sellers gleefully get to sell turntables that no experienced Vinylista would touch with a barge pole. New and Used.

My mother in law just turned 92 and is doing pretty well but wants to clear out her house .  I took the Gerrard that the 6 kids played in seventies and not since.  The mat and belt had rotted out and I replaced them.  It turns out the cart and tonearm were manufactured as a unit and I left than in place after checking the alignment with the owner of a local record store.  I plugged it into the same AVR that my Technics 1500 resides in, (AVR has a phono input with grounding), and even my determinedly non Audiophile wife could easily perceive the difference .  It played, no audible distortion or hum, but just sounded grey opaque and much noisier.  


Too bad it didn't sound good.  Perhaps the rubber suspension components of the cartridge had deteriorated?  Would replacing the arm and cartridge be worth considering?