What vintage Technics tables are best?

Which are best for audiophile listening?

None, if you ask a Linn LP 12 owner. All, if you ask just about anyone else.

For an extreme audiophile experience, I would think an SP 10, SP 15 or 25 with a suitably matched arm cartridge and/or tweaky plinth is what you want.

I have never had one, but still remember the gold old days of listening to music on my Kenwood KD 500 and Yamaha PX 2 in my youth, before audiophilia nervosa set in.

T Bone has a lot of expertise on Japanese turntables if you search for his name.
There is a lot of information in the forums regarding the sl-1200 mk/2. After you get done here, then go over to Audio Asylum as well as Vinyl Engine for more info.
the usual suspects are the SP-10 MKII, or if possible, the very rare SP-10 MKIII(supposedly the ultimate Dir Drive TT). Either with the arm of your choice, but there are many who love the 100 series arm that came with the MKII
If you are looking for vintage Japanese TT, I would take Kenwood 500 over
Technics 1200 any day.
i bought a used sp25 and built a heavy plinth for it. i use a fidelity research fr14 and a benz h20 cartridge, the combo rivals my micro seiki ddx1000 with a breuer 5c arm and benz h20.
see pics on my virtual system.
the sp25 is a bargain compared to the high dollars that you have to spend on the sp10's.
Agree with Corby. In late 2008 I took an SP-25 with the factory base in on trade. It sat in my storeroom until earlier this year when, for grins and giggles, I mounted a modestly priced Hadcock tonearm on it. I had no clear expectations.

For about $1000 it will smoke any VPI, Nottingham, etc. up to and perhaps exceeding $3K.

The only modification is a copper mat replacing the cheesy factory rubber mat supplied by Technics.

Dealer disclaimer.

For mid-priced Technics, I prefer the SP-15, SL-150MK2, SL-M3 over the SL-1200Mk2 because they ALL have better platters.

For mid-priced Japanese direct-drive turntables, I prefer the JVC QL-7(TT-71) over ALL the above Technics.

speaking if jvc, i also built a plinth for a jvc ql-5, added a black widow arm and a soundsmith cartridge. i still prefer the sp25, but that is probably the arm/cartridge combo making the difference. it's hard to compare tables since it's rarely apples to apples comparisons, there are way too many variables.
also, on the mat subject, i added a carbon fibre donut to the rubber mat on the technics. blacker backgrounds than the rubber mat alone.
the jvc is definately a nice solid table. the platter is heavier than the sp25. there's a pic of my table at:
If you limit yourself to the "Technics" brand, then the SP10 MK3 is the obvious winner. It's the most expensive, rarest, and best of the Technics direct-drive turntables. However, IMO, you don't have to spend nearly that much to get very close to it. Tables that I have personally auditioned (and own) include the SP10 Mk2 and the Denon DP80. The latter is a really undervalued sleeper. I also own a Kenwood L07D, which is fantastic when electronically restored and set up, so I would imagine that its smaller brother, the KD500 is also excellent. The better vintage Pioneer direct-drive turntables are also excellent and plentiful in the US market. Oh, and mind what Audiofeil said, the mat makes a huge difference on any of these turntables. I use a vintage SAEC ss300 metal mat, and it kicks butt over the stock rubber mats on any of the aforementioned. In choosing an aftermarket mat, stay fairly close to the weight of the stock rubber mat you are replacing (within 0.5X to 2X in weight, for example). The servo mechanisms were optimized for a specific mass of platter + mat. One cool thing about the L07D is that by flipping a switch on the outboard PS, it can accommodate additional peripheral platter mass, a ring designed and implemented 30 years ago.
I own a Technics SP-25 with stock base, and although the mat is poor, the turntable seems to hold up to the SP-10 mkII well. It clobbers the 1200 series and can be bought used for much less.

Corby, the JVC QL-5 is nice but not as good as the QL-7. The later automatic tables that uses coreless motor like the QL-Y66F, QL-Y7, QL-F6, are just as good and added a touch of smoothness in the texture and presentation. The QL-7 has better drive possibly due to its higher torque core motor. The QL-7 is very under-rated and under the radar. And it's quite fine by me and let everyone jump on those Technics.

As for Kenwood, only two models below the flagship L-07D for me are worth bothering: the KD-770D and KD-990 (KP-1100 in Japan), as both use very nice coreless motors and employ beautifully constructed tonearms. The KD-770D is a great sounding DD table that can compete with a belt-drive table in the fluidity and smoothness department. Nothing is perfect, it does lack the momentous drive like some Technics tables but still precise enough sounding without the graininess.

Don_c55, I agree that the SP-25 can hold its own against the SP-10Mk2. I have an SP-15 and after I sold all three of my SP-10Mk2 tables and keeping one SP-15, I don't miss the SP-10 much. I still have several Technics tables and still enjoy them tremendously but the SL-1200Mk2 is not one of them. Seriously, there are SO many direct-drive turntables of various brands in the used market other than the SL-1200 that one can get them for cheap and with a little tweaking, they provide long term enjoyment without hassle and audiophiliac insecurity - let 'em keep those Scottish appleboxes.