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.


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.