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question about sub-$500 TT choices

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question about sub-$500 TT choices

Postby jim hughes » 11 Nov 2017 22:54

A few months ago I got a free turntable: a vintage Technics SL-L24. Since then I've bought a few LPs and found that I really do enjoy shutting off the d@mn computer and spinning some good stuff on vinyl. While the Technics works, it's sort of low end, not very handsome and probably not performing as well as something I'd buy today. So I'm shopping.


I could go as high as $500 but don't feel obligated to pay that much if it isn't necessary. I have some high-frequency hearing loss; so I care more about W & F and distortion than high-end response.

HERE'S MY QUESTION: Like everyone, I've seen ads for the U-Turn Orbit and it sure looks nice. But I like the way my old Technics parks automatically at the end of a side. Without that, I'm sure I'd inevitably leave one spinning all night. What's comparable to an Orbit, but with automatic shutoff? Or is that not found in my price range?

And if I can't get an automatic is there some other gadget available to make sure it's shut off?
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Re: question about sub-$500 TT choices

Postby Vinylfreak86 » 11 Nov 2017 23:09

New turntables with automatic functions are cheaper designed like those with manual functions. So if you want auto-return function I would advise to buy one direct-drive from eighties in a decent condition.
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Re: question about sub-$500 TT choices

Postby Ghaasl » 11 Nov 2017 23:13

You should be scouring the local craigslist for good vintage units. Namely of the semi-auto variety. Pioneer, Technics, Sanyo, Realistic, Denon, Sony, etc. I happened onto a Pioneer PL-250 for much less than $500. It works splendidly and it’s in pretty fair shape. There are still deals to be had out there. I know that new tables come with a warranty and are aesthetically pleasing. But, the specs of vintage tables are far superior, and with some basic servicing, they’ll last for years and years to come.
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Re: question about sub-$500 TT choices

Postby jim hughes » 11 Nov 2017 23:18

I get what you guys are saying - but are the vintage specs really better, and if so does performance of those old units really match their specs?

I won't lie, the aesthetics do matter to me, I'm into visual design. That's what initially drew me to the Orbit. It doesn't look like 70s Radio Shack.

And after a long and futile struggle to diagnose hum in a 70s receiver I bought on Ebay, I've sort of burned out on vintage gear. I worked in electronics for many years - been there, done that.
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Re: question about sub-$500 TT choices

Postby Ghaasl » 11 Nov 2017 23:27

jim hughes wrote:I get what you guys are saying - but are the vintage specs really better, and if so does performance of those old units really match their specs?

I won't lie, the aesthetics do matter to me, I appreciate visual design. That's what initially drew me to the Orbit. It doesn't look like 70s Radio Shack.


With a quick lubing of the motor bearing, the spindle bearing, new belt (if belt driven), and some deoxit in the speed control potentiometer, a good vintage table will out spec, by far, any of the new sub-500 stuff on the market. The key word there is “good”. I’m a sucker for old stuff. So, to me, vintage tables are asthetically pleasing to my eye. The thing that bothers me about my vinyl rig is that my receiver is a mid 90s Kenwood AV unit, while my table and speakers are of late 70s/early 80s vintage gear. I’d love to get my hands on a Pioneer SX3700 Flouroscan unit to match my turntable and speakers. The Kenwood works just fine, but looks out of place.
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Re: question about sub-$500 TT choices

Postby Ghaasl » 12 Nov 2017 00:00

The beauty of craigslist is you can usually try before you buy. That’s the problem with eBay. It’s a huge gamble.
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Re: question about sub-$500 TT choices

Postby jim hughes » 12 Nov 2017 00:50

Following up on the 'vintage specs' issue, I looked up what I already have.

There's no manual out there for the Technics SL-L24, but there's one here for the SL-L20, which looks very similar to me. The W & F spec is 0.045% WRMS. Holy smoke! That's better than anything new I've looked at.

The cartridge is Audio Technica 8008. Specs on this site give it a frequency range of 5-30000 Hz. That would be very high end if true.

Can these numbers be believed?
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Re: question about sub-$500 TT choices

Postby Ghaasl » 12 Nov 2017 03:20

I certainly believe them. The turntables of the hi-fi wars needed to be at least that good to compete. The W&F specs on my table are <.025% WRMS. The build quality of these tables was also much better than the mass produced Chinese stuff from today. U-Turn is built here in the USA, but there’s no automatic features on these tables. I love my vintage Pioneer. It was built to last, holds rock steady speed as indicated by the strobe, and had a brand new cartridge on it when I got it. The cartridge is the weak spot, in my opinion, and will be replaced in due time (I just bought a truck and spent $94 on a Zeppelin bootleg on eBay). I serviced the table right after I got it, and it’s been performing flawlessly. I have no doubt believing the W&F specs of this table.
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Re: question about sub-$500 TT choices

Postby eddie edirol » 12 Nov 2017 04:01

jim hughes wrote:
Can these numbers be believed?


The numbers can definitely be believed, but only with the reputable companies like the ones Ghaasl mentioned. Those companies were in serious competition with each other back in the day.
I love my aesthetics as well, so I found a few vintage Technics (Im a Technics fanboy) that I think look good and cost more than $500 when they were new for ya. These are pure quality, in order of greatness. And theyre all automatics. These are all that I could find under 500. All the other good ones are above 500.

1.) Technics SL-5300 Quartz $275.00
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Technics-SL-5300-Fully-Automatic-Turntable-with-Shure-M91ED-cartridge/132387241388?hash=item1ed2e4fdac:g:N0cAAOSwr0hZ0Ad1

2.) Technics SL-5310 Quartz $349.99 (same as above but in black)
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vtg-Technics-SL-5310-Quartz-Automatic-Turntable-w-Cartridge-Clean-Works-READ/192295181563?hash=item2cc5af9cfb:g:k80AAOSwD6xZqZ~W

3.) Technics SL-DD22 $478
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Technics-SL-DD22-Direct-Drive-Automatic-Turntable-System-NEW-NIB-NEVER-USED/132394750594?hash=item1ed3579282:g:l00AAOSw1NFaBmvS
This one apparently is new old stock, in the box, and was never used. It doesnt show a cartridge in the picture but it should come with one if the box is sealed. This one is literally plug & Play. They had a line of these back then.

Some higher end ones--all around $700 just for kicks...Theyre all gorgeous

4.) https://www.ebay.com/itm/Technics-SL-M1-Quartz-Control-Direct-Drive-Auto-Lift-Up-Turntable-TESTED-OK/112616665766?hash=item1a3879f2a6:g:7iQAAOSwywRZ8Jfj

5.) https://www.ebay.com/itm/Technics-SL-MA1-Direct-Drive-Fully-Automatic-Turntable-TESTED-OK/112621050135?hash=item1a38bcd917:g:~bUAAOSwxIRZ8Jb9

6.) https://www.ebay.com/itm/Victor-QL-A70-Quartz-Locked-Auto-Lift-Up-Direct-Drive-Turntable/112621050136?hash=item1a38bcd918:g:c-IAAOSwJtdZ8Jcd
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Re: question about sub-$500 TT choices

Postby Spinner45 » 12 Nov 2017 07:27

Back in the 1970's you could buy a brand new full-featured lovely turntable/changer for under 300 bucks.
Even $100 would get you a quite nice unit.
And they had individual style too!
They performed admirably for decades, without a problem.
Those suckers were built!

Now, with inflation and greed, people are left with only boring flat boards with a platter and arm - all looking the same, generic, and most often talked about needing "upgrades" of some sort for these critters, after only a short ownership.

Yes indeed, if one can locate a nice vintage machine in decent shape, and have some needed servicing done to it, it's worth the fuss to keep those old relics alive.
As mentioned previously, they were made when quality control and design were foremost policies.
Best to stick to simplicity, avoid the overly complex "electronic" models with computerized tonearms like those Denon DP's and Sony's.
All you need is a silent spinning platter, and a friction-free tonearm.
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Re: question about sub-$500 TT choices

Postby Vinylfreak86 » 12 Nov 2017 10:14

We have to admit that older turntables from entry to mid level looks ugly in terms of plinth material. Gray plastic, also 1200 mk2 is the same. In 70`s and 80`s there wasn`t so advanced technology for processing plastic available like today is. Today you can make realistic copy of aluminium or wood made out of plastic material. So yes, new turntables are more friendly to eyes, but in terms of specifications they are behind their vintage comrades.
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Re: question about sub-$500 TT choices

Postby Spinner45 » 12 Nov 2017 19:39

Vinylfreak86 wrote:We have to admit that older turntables from entry to mid level looks ugly in terms of plinth material. Gray plastic, also 1200 mk2 is the same. In 70`s and 80`s there wasn`t so advanced technology for processing plastic available like today is. Today you can make realistic copy of aluminium or wood made out of plastic material. So yes, new turntables are more friendly to eyes, but in terms of specifications they are behind their vintage comrades.


Customization is always an option.
The Technics SL-1200 for instance, can be wrapped in a wood frame, and look fantastic.
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Re: question about sub-$500 TT choices

Postby Sunwire » 12 Nov 2017 20:17

I think a properly serviced vintage turntable is far more likely to meet its specifications than a lower end modern turntable.
No one tests or does vigorous reviews of modern turntables. Back in the 70s and 80s there were about a half dozen magazines that performed laboratory tests on all kinds of audio products.
That doesn't happen anymore.
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Re: question about sub-$500 TT choices

Postby jim hughes » 13 Nov 2017 16:34

Interesting replies, thanks. I started the thread having decided to buy a new turntable, but thanks to this site, that's off the table for now.

Like so many people I simply assumed that 'newer is better' and that a turntable of today would obviously outperform technology of the 70s or 80s; surely it would have some phase-locked microprocessor-controlled motor with a feedback loop, locking the turntable into perfect speed. But I'm not seeing that in the specs - the W&F of my old Technics TT is less that half that of the Orbit. And the numbers for this AT8008 cartridge can't be beat.

Assuming that these specs are real, and not compromised by age, the remaining reason for buying 'new' is style. And this Technics is profoundly ugly: grey plastic with fake-y trim and ugly white lettering. A U-turn or Rega would look sooooo cool in this room. The idea of modding an old turntable, with a new wood case, is fascinating but I probably lack the woodworking skill to pull it off.

And my original question still stands. I don't think I can so without automatic shutoff.

I'm going to keep using the Technics until I know more about these specs, about what really matters to my ears, and what's on the market today. Maybe a next generation Orbit will bring down the W&F spec. Or maybe I learn how to actually measure W&F and find out how this old TT actually performs.
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Re: question about sub-$500 TT choices

Postby max_hifi » 13 Nov 2017 20:48

Old turntables were built when a turntable was a fixture in every house... much larger market, much larger R&D budget, more competition. Audio magazines ruthlessly testing specs, and many people at the time bought on spec.

Now, turntables are a specialty market.. smaller companies with lower volumes, and much less R&D going on. The only way to get automatic lift, is either go used, or go very low end.

Also, most people who hung on to vinyl after the early 1990s did so for sound quality. Auto-lift, and other automatic features, were often thought to detract from sound quality, and thus any semi-automatic turntable wasn't taken seriously as an audiophile product. The people who wanted such features were among the first to convert to CD and Cassette.

What you're looking for is something in between the cheap nostalgia oriented players, and the "audiophile" oriented players.. a spot which no longer exists in today's market.

I would humbly suggest to just consider a Pro-Ject or something similar. You clearly want something brand new, for several valid reasons, and can get it if you forget about auto-return. Then you can focus on collecting and listening to records, and not on nursing along vintage electronics. If you miss it after all that, spring for one of these https://www.needledoctor.com/The-QUP
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