We're well into the 21st century and I'm happy to say that vinyl is still alive - indeed independent record shops are also thriving at the moment and the interest in the vinyl format actually appears to be growing. Vinyl records are, of course, rather delicate and may be now be viewed as increasingly precious, so it is more important than ever to preserve them by using a high quality turntable and take good care of the discs themselves by keeping them clean.
Get Your Vinyl Out!
So - fancy a bit of fun? Have you got a box or shelf full of records? .... Well, why not get them out and enjoy all those old favourites!!
There's no time like the present, so unpack all your treasured LPs and singles. Clean up your vinyl. Spin those discs and have some fun....
In this section you might find the way to real vinyl nirvana......
There is a real magic about playing records that - for me - is absent from CD's and certainly from those highly compressed and invisible MP3 and AAC files which can sound very tatty. Part of the magic of playing a vinyl record is the unique ritual of removing a treasured 12 inch LP or 7 inch single from its sleeve, carefully placing it onto the turntable platter, cleaning the dust off and then gently moving a precision engineered pick-up arm over the lead-in groove and carefully lowering the delicate stylus onto the playing surface of the record.
Playing our vinyl records can also evoke unique memories of the sounds as we remember them from being played heard them from our turntable back in the day. So sit back and enjoy that special and, as some might describe, mellifluous sound that only your vinyl records can provide!
So - Get Your Records Out!
What About A Turntable?
Many of us will still have a turntable connected to a stereo or hi-fi system, which will make the process very easy. Perhaps there is a turntable lurking in the cupboard or attic perhaps just waiting to be re-connected to a hi-fi system. If not, there is still a wide variety of turntables being manufactured ranging from high-street cheap-and-nasties to very good quality hi-fi models.
The high street cheap and nasties will be found in the typical electronic gadget shops and even electrical stores such as Maplin. They will often include a facility to convert the audio to digital mp3 files via a USB connection to a computer. While this facility is useful, and it might be seen as admirable that these devices are still promoting the vinyl medium, the turntables themselves are usually of extremely poor mechanical quality and as such will provide very poor and disappointing sound quality.
It is still perfectly possible and quite easy to convert your vinyl records (and cassette tapes) to mp3 files using a better quality hi-fi quality turntable using some free software called Audacity. Admittedly it might not be quite as easy to set this up initially, but once done the recording process will be just as straightforward as with a cheapo turntable and will obviously provide infinitely superior sound quality.
See: Digitizing Records
Vinyl reproduction, being an electro-mechanical medium, requires top quality engineering precision as far as turntable design and manufacture is concerned. High quality engineering does, necessarirly, cost money. Cheap turntables will be flimsy in constructing a manufacturing tolerances will be lax, this will result in poor sound quality, unwanted distortions and speed fluctuations and will do your record collection a disservice.
It pays to use a good quality turntable to obtain the most enjoyable sounds.
What's The BEST TURNTABLE ?
Better quality turntables are offered by manufacturers such as Dual, Goldring, Project, Thorens and Rega. Such turntables range in price from around £100 to around £300 and will provide better sound quality. There is also a "high end" market in turntables that aim to provide the very best sound that can be achieved from vinyl. These can cost thousands of pounds and the name Linn may be familiar.
Until the end of 2010 Panasonic-Technics manufactured what was arguably the best value bargain - sound for pound - that a reasonable money could buy - the Technics SL-1200 series. However, after thirty eight years of manufacture, Technics decided to discontinue this marvelous turntable.
These pages started off as being devoted to the Technics turntable, but even though it is no longer produced I hope that my scribblings will still encourage you to get out your classic old LP's and Singles and even your old turntable if you have one lurking in the cupboard or loft.
Your Vinyl Replay Turntable Recommendations (NEW):
If you don't have a turntable, Ivan Kursar of Cool Gales has been kind enough to make some excellent suggestions (April 2011):
My current favourite for a superb budget turntable is the Pro-Ject Xpression III, now fitted with the very fine Ortofon 2M Red cartridge. Extremely stylish deck. Both my daughters have one.
Moving up the range, the Scheu Cello is another great looking and great performing deck. It just got a rave review from Hi-Fi Choice. A popular (rightly so) alternative at just a bit more dosh is the Clearaudio Concept.
And finally, I believe the Scheu Premier II to be the best-value turntable we sell. I have heard it in several very, very high-end systems, and it more than holds its own. This is really a top-notch deck at around a mid range price.
Best wishes, Ivan Kursar [Cool Gales]"
The Technics SL-1200 Series
The Technics SL-1210 Mk 2 (SL-1200 MK 2 PK in N. America)
These pages aim to explain some of the fun in more detail, especially why the Technics SL-1200MK2 or SL1210MK2 really provided magical sound quality and a brilliantly enjoyable experience! So, if you have arrived at this page there is a good chance that you are looking for a turntable to play your precious collection of vinyl records. There is also a very good chance that you are dissatisfied with your current turntable and are looking for the ultimate turntable upgrade for not too much money.
Having owned some different turntables over the years and heard many others, I finally discovered the Technics SL-1200MK2 (and SL-1210MK2) turntables and it now has pride of place in the sitting room and playing records has never before been such and enjoyable and rewarding experience.
It is unfortunate that many people believe that vinyl records are not worth playing. I must disagree. One of the main reasons for the misconception is that the record decks that are supplied with the typical all in one ‘stack’ or midi system are horribly substandard and generally produce extremely poor audio quality. Sadly there are also mini, midi and even full size turntables that are being sold separately for about £100 or less that will produce equally horrific sound - such turntables may also have well known manufacturer names on their badges, but appear to be cheaply made 're-badged' products.
Given a turntable of suitably high quality and a vinyl record that is in good condition and clean (see cleaning), the sound quality obtainable from an LP can be extremely enjoyable as well as being great fun too. Indeed there are some people who would argue that the sound from vinyl is even more enjoyable than from CD! But you do have to use a very good turntable - the Technics SL-1200MK2 fits / fitted the bill perfectly.
Unfortunately good mechanical design and engineering of a quality required for a turntable to provide decent sound quality is difficult and therefore expensive when compared to the design and manufacture of electronic products such as hi-fi tuners and CD players. This is why the cheaply made turntables included with system packages sound so poor whereas a cheap CD player can often sound quite adequate. Good mechanical design is very important for a turntable and is difficult to achieve and will therefore cost money.
A really good quality turntable will inevitably cost more than a mass produced CD player.
The Technics SL-1200 turntable was expertly designed and engineered to produce excellent, top quality sound and while not exactly cheap, it represented phenomenal value for money for sensible sensible amount of money (around £350-600).
I have owned and listened to other turntables - some with disappointing results. Then I found the Technics SL-1200 and knew instantly that it was right!
My Turntable - The Technics SL-1210 Mk2 - High Specification = Amazing Sound Quality
Specifications can tell you a lot about a product, how well it has been conceived and its ultimate quality. True spec's cannot actually tell you how it will sound in the real world (you'll need an audition for that), but it's a safe bet that poor technical specifications will result in poor sound and that a machine with excellent specifications has a much better chance of producing good sound. But go and listen first.
It should be noted that many other turntable manufactures do not appear brave enough to publish the specifications of their equipment - are they that poor?
As it happens, the Technics SL-1200 has some of the best specifications in the industry with a highly specified FG servo direct drive system and solid and thoughtful construction. Of course these paper facts, as mentioned, do not guarantee great sound. It turns out though, that upon listening to the SL-1200 MK2, it does indeed sound magnificent, and I have to conclude that this must be due to excellent design and engineering.
The Technics is the only system that can guarantee absolute unerring speed stability and 'blackness' of background absent from many belt drive spinners. No other turntable at its price or even several time its price can match the specifications of the Technics SL-1200 MK2.
I decided on the Technics SL-1210 MkII because I wanted a black one, well it’s Technics own very attractive dark gunmetal grey in actual fact – 1210 denotes black rather than silver. It's called the SL-1200 MKII PK in North America, by the way. Incidentally the MK5 version offers no significant improvement in the way of sound quality over the MK II for Hi-Fi use, merely having some cosmetic changes and ergonomic improvements for DJ usage. The construction is identical save for the better quality wiring, gold plated sockets and removable phono inter-connect cable. The MKII has captive phono leads.
On unpacking the SL-1210, I was instantly impressed by its battleship build quality, the balanced and rubber-damped METAL platter and its generally fine engineering quality. Everything about this turntable exudes precision quality. No electric motor glued to the underside of a bit of MDF, or chipboard platters here! The Technics is different to anything else I have seen or heard at the price.
The Technics arm is a precision instrument with bearing tolerances of 0.007mm (another specification other turntable manufactures seem reluctant to quote). The arm is a medium to low mass affair (12g) the wand of which is of the classic ‘S’ shape and incorporates a useful SME type removable headshell. For those that follow trends and fashions, the ‘S’ shape arm may seem slightly 'old hat' since many other turntables use straight / tapered arms, but the Technics arm looks extremely business like and very elegant and having listened extensively proves its worth in every way.
Incidentally the ‘S’ shape does perform a practical function, as does the taper of a straight arm, in that it eliminates standing waves along the arm, which would otherwise degrade the sound quality.
MP3 - Wave - Media Players?
You precious record collection deserves to be preserved with the highest audio quality. Produc Wave files to burn CD's or MP3 files for your MP3 or media player. See 'digitizing your record collection here >
On these pages you will also find:
Why Does The Technics SL-1200 Sound So Good?
What Other Equipment Do I Need (further down this page)
My Vinyl Epiphany - or How I Found The SL-1200
The headshell of the Technics SL-1200MK2 will accommodate all standard ½ inch mount cartridges, such as moving magnet types from Ortofon, Goldring, Shure, Grado and Audio Technica and those from other familiar manufacturers.
I opted for an Audio Technica AT120E, since I have had very good experiences with other cartridges in the Audio Technica range.
I removed the headshell from the arm and used the cartridge gauge supplied with the Technics SL-1200 in order to set the specified overhang when fitting the AT120E. After re-fitting the headshell onto the arm (with the AT120E lightly screwed into place) I also used my “Baerwald” cartridge alignment protractor to check to make some very fine adjustments that I hoped would ensure absolute tracking accuracy:
You can download a very useful Baerwald Protractor as a PDF from the Vinyl Engine. Make sure that you print it out very accurately, otherwise it will be worse than useless, and laminate it if possible. Find it here:
Once the turntable had been made completely level by the use of a spirit level, and the tracking weight and anti-skating force had been correctly set to Audio Technica specified 1.7 grams, it was time to play some records.
Read more about Cartridges and setting up HERE >>
The Technics SL-1210 MK2 Arm and Audio Technica AT120E/T Cartridge
While the Audio Technica AT120ET cartridge really is excellent and I can recommend it very highly indeed, there are plenty of high quality alternatives available if one wants to consider a different pick up.
Some other choices might be the Ortofon 2M Red, 2M Blue, Super OM10, OM20 or OM30, the Shure M97XE or a cartridge from the wide Goldring range, maybe the new 2000 series.. Some cartridges offer styli with ‘Fine Line’ type profiles – much smaller diamond tips that can extract even more information and musical detail from the record groove.
You can see more about Cartridges Here >
First Impressions - Nectar For Your Ears - The Technics SL-1200 and Audio Technics AT120
After playing the first number of LP's my thoughts were that the sound quality is utterly breathtaking - in fact it was like nothing I have ever heard from vinyl records before. The sound was a revelation, incredibly clear, lacking distracting distortions and full of details that I have never previously experienced. The sheer stability of the sound-stage is something to behold, and with good LP's the lack of noise was impressive. The Audio Technica AT120AT cartridge and the Technics arm seemed to be working very well indeed with each other. There are minimal discernible end of side tracking problems (Something that has always seemed to plague record playback for me in the past.), the music remarkably smooth, with the combination extracting enormous amounts of detail from the record without ever sounding stressed or harsh.
This must be down to the rock solid, utterly stable and 100% accurate Technics Direct Drive system (something not available on any other turntable at this price or anywhere near the price) and the absolute solidity of construction of the SL-1210 and its immunity unwanted resonances.
Credit must also be given to the Audio Technica AT120E cartridge, its musicality and clarity is wonderful. The bass from the AT120ET is clean and musical, utterly controlled and lacking any of the woolliness and 'waffle' that can be apparent on some systems.
Initially I noticed a slight lack of bass weight which I thought may have been an effect of the phono pre-amp built into the Marantz integrated amplifier that I was using (* see next paragraph below), but I found that this effect could also be attributed to the fact that the new AT120ET cartridge had not yet been 'run in'. It is worth noting that it can take around 50 to 75 hours for a new cartridge to 'run in'.
During fifty or so hours of playing the AT120ET cartridge the sound gradually changes and gets even better, and when it is fully run-in it really is a wonderful little marvel!
A different and higher quality phono pre-amp will certainly change and improve record playback when compared to some phono pre-amps that are built into integrated amplifiers. You will be able to read more about phono pre-amps later in this article. Different cartridges will also display rather different sonic characteristics.
It is certainly fair to say that the treble is brilliantly smooth yet very detailed and sparkles really sweetly with none of the roughness and sibilance that can be present on some turntable set-ups.
I also used an Audio Technica AT-110 with the SL-1210, and while it is not quite as refined as the AT120E, it is still weighty and punchy which makes it very suitable for most rock and pop music. It is also amazing value for money and I feel sure that it would meet many listener's requirements. [Unfortunately Audio Technica have now discontinued the AT-110]
A Different Pre-Amp
I later changed from using the phono preamp that is built into the Marantz amplifier for a discrete outboard phono stage, this brought about a improvement in reproduction. The new outboard pre-amp was a further revelation, the music gained some weight and scale, there was also noticeably more presence and music had even more focus.
The AT120ET can have a very slight tendency towards brightness with the Marantz phono pre-amp (probably due to capacitance and loading issues) but this was not an issue with the new pre-amp, and the tremendous levels of detail and enjoyment remained from the SL1210 and AT120 remained. I have to say that the new phono pre-amp really allows the Technics SL-1200 and Audio Technica AT120 to sing a very sweet song and for me the combination makes an ideal partnership.
I can already hear you asking the question "What is this remarkable phono stage?".
Well the pre-amp in question is the Elliott Sound Products Hi-Fi Phono Pre-amp. This high quality device is actually a DIY project, Project 06 on ESP's website in fact. To quote: "It is very easy to build, and gives performance that is second to none. Using 2 op-amps, this preamp will outperform most of the circuits you find anywhere on the Internet or the high fidelity stores, with very low noise and accurate RIAA equalisation (but with an extended bottom end that sounds much better than the "true" RIAA equalisation curve". You can read more here >.
The rather good Audio Technica AT120E/T cartridges >
The Foot Tapping Technics SL 1200
As you may well be be able to deduce, I am extremely happy with my Technics SL-1210MK" & AT-120 combination. Musicality is brilliant: This combination passes the foot-tapping test every time!
The Technics is very quiet and extremely stable in operation, the arm works so well that it simply lets the music flow in the most detailed, enjoyable and above all, musical and way - which is what a good turntable should do. The Technics SL-1210 MK2 really is a tremendously entertaining piece of equipment.
The SL-1200 not only sounds better than anything else I have heard at anywhere near its price, sound is always the premium consideration of course, but if you own a collection of 45 rpm singles this turntable even has the truly modern convenience of being able to switch between 33 and 45 rpm at the press of a button! This might seem obvious, but perhaps will not be appreciated until one realises that on most other turntables currently offered it is necessary to remove the platter, move a belt from one part of a spindle to another and then re-fit the platter.
Can you believe that? What a chore! It's no wonder that many people faced with this bothersome fiddling end up ignoring their collection of 45's. What a shame - if only they'd bought a Technics SL-1200 Mk2!
The Technics SL-1200 Mk2 is a one time purchase – you just know it’s right from day one, and I am certain that it will continue to be right.
It is unfortunate today that the SL-1200 has come to be regarded as purely a DJ’s turntable for use in nightclubs and by 'scratching' enthusiasts. While the SL-1200 MK2 certainly has been adopted by serious DJ's as the de-facto standard turntable, it should not be dismissed by home audio and hi-fi enthusiasts as merely a DJ machine when, in fact, Matsushita embarked on a no-compromise mission to develop the finest sounding Hi-Fi turntable possible – the result being the SL-1200 series.
Certainly the SL-1200 is built like a tank, it is rock solid and extremely reliable and these strengths have earned the SL-1200 a well deserved reputation as king of all DJ turntables. However the 1200 is more than this, it is also a very fine sounding piece of audio equipment, and certainly far better than anything else in or well in excess of its price bracket. It is a high precision instrument that is capable of the very finest hi-fi reproduction when combined with a suitable high quality phono cartridge and phono pre-amplifier.
The vast sums that were initially lavished by Matsushita on the SL project having been written down during its long production run which makes the SL-1200 series the most competitively priced and best engineered Hi Fi turntables available to serious music enthusiasts.
The SL-1200 remains the very best Hi-Fi turntable a sensible amount of money can buy. A word of warning though; despite being built like a tank, the Technics is possibly the most exquisite piece of precision hi-fi engineering you might ever own, so it would be wise not to buy a second hand 1200 that has been used as a DJ deck. It may have undergone all sorts of mis-treatment and mis-handling, such as ‘scratching’, or if used as part of a mobile disco may even have been dropped. The wear on the platter and arm bearings will be unknown and if any damage has been done it may go unseen.
It is interesting to note that there are reports of Technics SL-1200’s being dropped and surviving unscathed – which proves just how strong and well built they are. I doubt that you could drop any other turntable and expect it to still work properly.
If you must buy a second hand SL-1200 MkII ensure that it is known to have only been used for home Hi-Fi use. and be cautios as turntables are comprised of many very delicate parts that are easily damaged by clumsy fingers.
Note: The arm and main bearings can be replaced fairly easily, as can many other important components on the SL-1200 series.
The Hi-Fi press, and consequently many other music and so-called 'hi-fi purists', seem to look down their nose at the Technics. This is unjustified and is a great shame and may have denied thousands of people the accurate and enjoyable vinyl reproduction that they sought. I believe that the SL-1200 will sound better than most turntables of a similar price, or indeed many costing a good deal more than the 1200's very reasonable asking price.
So far from being ‘hijacked’ by club DJ's and the budding home DJ's fraternity we should be very glad that the SL-1200 has been adopted by DJ's! Their adoption that has brought about a very beneficial consequence: Without these continuing DJ sales Technics may have ceased production some years earlier, thereby denying real vinyl enthusiasts access to one of the best sounding and most rewarding and exciting hi-fi products of all time.
So a BIG thank you to all the DJ’s who enabled the production of the world’s finest turntable to continue for over thirty years and a big thank you to TECHNICS too for continuing production for that long! It is also worth noting that Hi-Fi World have been pretty much the ONLY paper magazine to champion the 1200. The 1200/1210 series are superb value for money players, which can be upgraded to majestic levels.
You might like to look at http://www.soundhifi.com/sl1200/index.htm for some of the hi fi world mods and also http://www.vantageaudio.com/
SL-1200 Product Brochure: The Technics SL-1200 product brochure, from Vinyl Engine is here.
Read more about the Technics SL-1200 on Vinyl Engine: Part One Here and Part Two Here
Solid & Unerring Stability -
The Highly Entertaining Technics SL-1210 MK2
The SL-1200 MkII is a revelation, requiring no tweaking or endless and expensive upgrades - just sit back, relax and enjoy more and more and more music. And that's what enjoying music on your hi-fi should be all about - shouldn't it? The music now flows perfectly, this is surely as a result of the solid and unerring accuracy of the excellent quartz lock direct drive system. Also what is also readily apparent is that audible mis-tracking and tracking error distortion has evaporated now that the Technics SL-1200 MkII is employed for vinyl playback.
The main consideration now is cleaning dirty records and then keeping them clean. See Record Cleaning here >.
More About Cartridges and Other Things Here >
Cartridges > Cleaning Your Records >
More Testaments To The SL-1200 MkII >
Build A High Quality RIAA Phono Preamp >
More about cartridges & alignment >
Next Page - Cartridges >
Incidentally, I don’t work for any company or organisation that has any connection with the manufacture or sale of the Technics SL-1200 series turntables. It is when one experiences an epiphany as great as the one I have experienced with my SL-1210 MkII that realise that you just need to shout it from the rooftops. Lacking any suitable rooftops, I am shouting it from the world wide web!
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