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SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

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SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

Postby Shadowman82 » 05 Nov 2017 22:53

I have been wondering as far as the original SL-1200 MK2-Mk5 series Technics TT are concerned what's really the limit here in terms of getting a better sound with more expensive cartridges and phono pre amps ? For example while getting a Ortofon 2M Black cartridge would provide an upgrade over a lesser MM cartridge at what point is the table just not high end enough to warrant anything more expensive ? Like would anyone use a $3000 MC cartridge on this thing ? Same goes for pre amps , anything more expensive than a Project RS worth it on the Technics ?
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Re: SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

Postby cafe latte » 06 Nov 2017 01:22

It depends on what you do to the turntable.. Without a damper (Kab oil damper) using the stock standards arm I would not bother with anything more than a mid range MC. I tried a few Mc's with stock arm and it felt like there was a sonic wall somehow. Maybe what the Technics haters call the 'closed in sound'. Add a damper and suddenly everything opens up, detail improves and bass is more controlled it is just better. Adding an external psu and strobe disable is a lesser gain but more of the same, this level of mod I run a few Mc's well over 1k, a Decca super gold (1700 Aus dollars right now) and most recently a Grado statement reference 1 all sound stunning with a stock arm with a damper. I have no doubt that further gains could be made by swapping out the arm for maybe a sme309 or similar, but I think diminishing returns point has been reached already. I also have a Technics sp10mk2 with an Eminent Technology air arm and my carts get a turn on it regularly too. It too sounds amazing but I dont rate it better than my modded sl1210m2 I will say maybe my Decca sounds a bit better on the air arm (very minor difference if any), but Decca are an a odd cart and they like certain arms so I think maybe the air arm is just a good match for it.
My opinion for what it is worth is any unsuspended deck like a Technics get it wall mounted and a recent experiment led me to believe that any shelf at all will be feeding noise back to the cart. My solution here is put feet in cups and have deck attached to the wall using brackets without a wooden top as the top will be resonating and feeding to the turntable. The more simple the wall bracket is the less will get to the turntable IMO. Ok so as I said wall bracket, then isolation ie sorbothane footers, next arm damper or new arm for ultimate but would not go lower than a sme309 as stock arm damped is very good indeed IMO. This should let you play with carts over 1k no worries, external psu, maybe a better platter mat will make really top carts sing. IMO there is no limit to what will sound good on the technics deck, but it is limited by the arm when new and damping seems to help a lot. I also changed the leads so I could fit any ie fitted sockets, but this mod did not seem to improve sonics, but I now have more robust rca leads.
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Re: SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

Postby VinylDan1 » 06 Nov 2017 19:23

I think the limit is what you are willing to spend!
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Re: SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

Postby Shadowman82 » 06 Nov 2017 23:14

I was thinking of an SL-1200 that has no mods . The only mod that was done to my SL-1200 is that the ground wire was removed/made internal and higher quality RCA cables installed . That's good to know though where the limit is on a non mod TT .
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Re: SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

Postby cafe latte » 06 Nov 2017 23:22

Shadowman82 wrote:I was thinking of an SL-1200 that has no mods . The only mod that was done to my SL-1200 is that the ground wire was removed/made internal and higher quality RCA cables installed . That's good to know though where the limit is on a non mod TT .

The arm is a good arm, but cant explain why but without the damper really good carts are just missing something. If you want to keep your Technics stock standard I think a damper is a cheap way to get the best out of the arm. Oil damping is known to extend compliance of arms and it helps the stylus track the groove. If you are even considering carts up to 3k the damper is a no brainer IMO as last time I checked they were only 130 odd bucks. Probably one of the biggest mod you can do is good isolation apart the damper so Sorbothae feet with a decent wall shelf. All these things will depend on how good a serious cart will sound as to get more out of the grooves you need to prevent as much as possible getting music from the room back to the cart.
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Re: SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

Postby anmpr1 » 06 Nov 2017 23:37

The KAB damper is worthwhile. Not snake oil. The big thing about phono carts is whether they ARE snake oil, after a certain price level. Back in the day (according to the Shure site) the V15MR and Utra 500 series were the same thing,electrically, in different bodies and packaging. One of the Stanton engineers wrote on line somewhere that the 881/981/CS100 series were essentially the same thing with different packaging. I don't know if that's true, but it wouldn't surprise me. Grado says their top line models are the same as their lower models, but with tighter FR specs. Or something to that effect.

Where's the magic coming from? Mark "I never met a preamp that was too expensive" Levinson sold exclusivity, but couldn't tell you why his preamps were supposed to sound better. Eventually he took to selling Chinese tube amps under the Red Rose name. I think that once you reach a certain price point, price is meaningless. After that you are paying for intangibles--and a lot of that is make believe. Yoshiaki Sugano realized that he could sell expensive jewelry to audiophiles by putting his cartridges in semi-precious stones. Smart guy.

The idea that you need a special, exclusive, and expensive tonearm/turntable for a special, exclusive, and expensive cartridge seems to me to jump the shark. At least after you get to a certain level of build quality. Finally, why spend $1000.00 on a cartridge when that money will buy 60+ records? Of the two, which expenditure will maximize your musical enjoyment more?
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Re: SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

Postby cafe latte » 06 Nov 2017 23:50

anmpr1 wrote:The KAB damper is worthwhile. Not snake oil. The big thing about phono carts is whether they ARE snake oil, after a certain price level. Back in the day (according to the Shure site) the V15MR and Utra 500 series were the same thing,electrically, in different bodies and packaging. One of the Stanton engineers wrote on line somewhere that the 881/981/CS100 series were essentially the same thing with different packaging. I don't know if that's true, but it wouldn't surprise me. Grado says their top line models are the same as their lower models, but with tighter FR specs. Or something to that effect.

Where's the magic coming from? Mark "I never met a preamp that was too expensive" Levinson sold exclusivity, but couldn't tell you why his preamps were supposed to sound better. Eventually he took to selling Chinese tube amps under the Red Rose name. I think that once you reach a certain price point, price is meaningless. After that you are paying for intangibles--and a lot of that is make believe. Yoshiaki Sugano realized that he could sell expensive jewelry to audiophiles by putting his cartridges in semi-precious stones. Smart guy.

The idea that you need a special, exclusive, and expensive tonearm/turntable for a special, exclusive, and expensive cartridge seems to me to jump the shark. At least after you get to a certain level of build quality. Finally, why spend $1000.00 on a cartridge when that money will buy 60+ records? Of the two, which expenditure will maximize your musical enjoyment more?

Easy, best cart I ever heard is my Decca super gold. If is probably robbery when you consider what it cost to make, but it brings music to life. Also Grado up the range are not the same at all as the ones lower in the range the reference series for example has a series resistance in the coils of 470 ohms ,but the statement series has only 2 ohms. Each model had differences too not just stylus if you check specs. The carts I have that are 1k sound far better than the 500 dollar ones and it is not small.
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Re: SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

Postby anmpr1 » 07 Nov 2017 15:34

cafe latte wrote: Also Grado up the range are not the same at all as the ones lower in the range ...


I was speaking of the reasonably priced models. From their own literature: The Gold model is selected from the Silver production run and meets higher test specifications. The Red model is selected from the Blue production run and meets higher test specifications. So essentially they are selling you the same cartridge with tighter specs, and calling it something different.

With the Ortofon OM line, you have the same body with different styli, ranging from the Pro S ball, the to an OM 40 Geiger. Stylus assembly is the only difference in this line. My guess is that, with the 2M series, Ortofon is doing the same thing since, for instance, Black styli are interchangeable with the Bronze, etc.

I'd also guess that Audio Technica is using the same bodies for their comparable MM designs. In their case, to cite an example, the discontinued 440ML is now sold ad the VM 540 ML. The difference, according to the AT Website, is the cantilever damper, which has been compressed stiffer in order to allow for a greater tracking force. In fact AT now recommends the 540ML stylus as a direct replacement for the 440ML.

With higher priced cartridges, for instance the Koetsu line, you are paying for quality materials and better QA during production, small production run, exquisite Japanese craftsmanship, pride of ownership, and tender loving care from a dealer that makes 50% markup on your 10 thousand dollar purchase. Don't get me wrong. Of course they sound good. But it is a qualitative thing significantly influenced by the psychology of paying a lot for something, and enjoying the satisfaction that you are part of an exclusive club. I have no problem with that. But I'd argue that if you can really hear a big difference between a thousand dollar cart and a ten thousand dollar one, then what you are paying for is a subtle (or not so subtle) FR curve built in to the cartridge response, along with various distortion products. If someone is seriously interested in playing this high end game, they'd probably save money by buying a used Cello Audio Palette and making some adjustments. But for these folks, money is likely no object, anyway.
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Re: SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

Postby Shadowman82 » 07 Nov 2017 22:56

Well on my not modded SL-1200 I probably wouldn't buy anything more expensive than the 2M Black .
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Re: SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

Postby cafe latte » 07 Nov 2017 23:28

Shadowman82 wrote:Well on my not modded SL-1200 I probably wouldn't buy anything more expensive than the 2M Black .

I would try cheaper MC's without a damper, but honestly every cart I own sounds far better with the damper fitted even my m97xe so quite honestly I consider the damper a must have mod either that or the next level which is arm replacement. I have never felt the need though to change the arm.
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Re: SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

Postby cafe latte » 07 Nov 2017 23:41

anmpr1 wrote:
cafe latte wrote: Also Grado up the range are not the same at all as the ones lower in the range ...


I was speaking of the reasonably priced models. From their own literature: The Gold model is selected from the Silver production run and meets higher test specifications. The Red model is selected from the Blue production run and meets higher test specifications. So essentially they are selling you the same cartridge with tighter specs, and calling it something different.

With the Ortofon OM line, you have the same body with different styli, ranging from the Pro S ball, the to an OM 40 Geiger. Stylus assembly is the only difference in this line. My guess is that, with the 2M series, Ortofon is doing the same thing since, for instance, Black styli are interchangeable with the Bronze, etc.

I'd also guess that Audio Technica is using the same bodies for their comparable MM designs. In their case, to cite an example, the discontinued 440ML is now sold ad the VM 540 ML. The difference, according to the AT Website, is the cantilever damper, which has been compressed stiffer in order to allow for a greater tracking force. In fact AT now recommends the 540ML stylus as a direct replacement for the 440ML.

With higher priced cartridges, for instance the Koetsu line, you are paying for quality materials and better QA during production, small production run, exquisite Japanese craftsmanship, pride of ownership, and tender loving care from a dealer that makes 50% markup on your 10 thousand dollar purchase. Don't get me wrong. Of course they sound good. But it is a qualitative thing significantly influenced by the psychology of paying a lot for something, and enjoying the satisfaction that you are part of an exclusive club. I have no problem with that. But I'd argue that if you can really hear a big difference between a thousand dollar cart and a ten thousand dollar one, then what you are paying for is a subtle (or not so subtle) FR curve built in to the cartridge response, along with various distortion products. If someone is seriously interested in playing this high end game, they'd probably save money by buying a used Cello Audio Palette and making some adjustments. But for these folks, money is likely no object, anyway.

The Black and green have a three piece cantilever, the blue and red have a OTL four piece cantilever as does the silver and gold, but the gold has better wire in the coils. The gold is only 240 dollars so even the top of the entry stuff is not an expensive cart. The Platinum 1-s is the bottom of the statement range which is only 350 dollars and this has a very different coil than the cheaper gold. I would argue that even the cheaper Grado are very different, different stylus cantilever on the bottom range stuff, then different wire for coils, then much shorter coils, far more than just selling you the same cart for more money.
Re 10k carts, dunno how they sound as I have never heard on, but I can say carts between the 1-2k mark there are big differences between 500 dollar carts, the ones I have heard anyway. I think though at the 1-2k mark the diminishing returns point has been reached.
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Re: SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

Postby anmpr1 » 08 Nov 2017 18:54

cafe latte wrote: ...but the gold has better wire in the coils. The gold is only 240 dollars so even the top of the entry stuff is not an expensive cart.


I was quoting Grado's own explanation, which indicated that Golds came from batches of Silvers.

I admit that the most engaging cartridge I've heard was a Koetsu from the 80s. Along with a Highphonic (not their modified Denon 103, but one of their aluminum bodied, from years past). FWIW, the Highphonic was so nice that I bought one from the importer. Against standard MC design, it was a higher compliance cartridge. After about two months the cantilever suspension gave out..., and this was on a Grace G-707 low mass arm. The importer sent me a second one, no questions asked. My impression was that this was a common problem with Highphonics. That one crapped out, too--same problem. But by then the importer was out of business. From then on I decided never to buy an expensive, esoteric cartridge.
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Re: SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

Postby cafe latte » 08 Nov 2017 23:31

anmpr1 wrote:
cafe latte wrote: ...but the gold has better wire in the coils. The gold is only 240 dollars so even the top of the entry stuff is not an expensive cart.


I was quoting Grado's own explanation, which indicated that Golds came from batches of Silvers.

I admit that the most engaging cartridge I've heard was a Koetsu from the 80s. Along with a Highphonic (not their modified Denon 103, but one of their aluminum bodied, from years past). FWIW, the Highphonic was so nice that I bought one from the importer. Against standard MC design, it was a higher compliance cartridge. After about two months the cantilever suspension gave out..., and this was on a Grace G-707 low mass arm. The importer sent me a second one, no questions asked. My impression was that this was a common problem with Highphonics. That one crapped out, too--same problem. But by then the importer was out of business. From then on I decided never to buy an expensive, esoteric cartridge.

It is true Grado pick the carts in the entry level line ie gold from best of silvers, but I was just saying that there are other differences for your money ie stylus or wire of coils.
It is a shame a bad experience put you off high end carts as around 1-1.5k there are some real gems from companies that are very respected and reliable. I was gifted my Decca super gold from a very good friend who sadly died of cancer about a year back.. Anyway from day one I had issues with it as mine was an 80's model and QC was poor then, new ones are very good in this respect I am told. First the tieback of the stylus which I fix myself and second was an intermittent coil issue on one channel. I fix watches so I though hey why not open it up and have a look myself, but the super gold has a rubber like damping material inside the cart surrounding the coils so I ended up with a cart in bits with dead coils.. Bin? No way I sent it to a Decca specialist in the UK (yes it really was sent as a bag of bits). He checked the stylus which he said was perfect which was no surprise as my friend had hardly used it and he replaced the coils redid the tieback and calibrated it all for from memory a couple of hundred bucks and I had basically a brand new Decca. If it ever needs a stylus or has any further issues I will send it to him for sure. After my good experience with my Grado I am thinking od sending my Platinum wood for a Paratrace retip, hopefully this will bring it close to the level of my Reference 1. This sort of thing is another way to get a high end cart cheap. I am told a gold with this retip sounds amazing. I also have bought quite a few vintage MC's and had soundsmith retip them, I have some very nice carts which cost me very little doing this.
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Re: SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

Postby Shadowman82 » 08 Nov 2017 23:43

I would try cheaper MC's without a damper, but honestly every cart I own sounds far better with the damper fitted even my m97xe so quite honestly I consider the damper a must have mod either that or the next level which is arm replacement. I have never felt the need though to change the arm


Honestly I'm not very handy or mechanically inclined . I'm not sure what exactly you have to do to install a damper but it might be beyond my skills .
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Re: SL-1200 series upgrade limit ?

Postby cafe latte » 09 Nov 2017 02:33

Shadowman82 wrote:
I would try cheaper MC's without a damper, but honestly every cart I own sounds far better with the damper fitted even my m97xe so quite honestly I consider the damper a must have mod either that or the next level which is arm replacement. I have never felt the need though to change the arm


Honestly I'm not very handy or mechanically inclined . I'm not sure what exactly you have to do to install a damper but it might be beyond my skills .

It is about a 5 minute job tops, probably less. You sit it in position which is the only place it can go and tighten up one Allen screw and this clamps it in position. Then the paddle clamps to the arm riser in the same manor with another screw ie two screws and job is done. Then fill trough will supplied oil to just over half full. I cant remember, but I think Kevin even sent me the Allen key I needed for the job.
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