Vinyl Epiphanies and Testaments
On this page are some extracts from other users experiences with
the Technics SL-1200 Mk2 turntable.
One story in particular demonstrates an unnecessary, frustrating and
pointless journey through other highly recommended but ultimately
inferior turntables to reach the conclusion that the SL-1210 really was
the best sounding turntable that a sensible amount money could buy.
The main thing is to sit back and enjoy your collection of favourite and cherished LP's and singles.
Wishing you Very Happy Listening!
u can see more here:
vinyl - part 1
Originally posted on www.audiogon.com
About five years ago, while I was living nice, quiet, and boring
vinyl-less life, I run across some very nice LPs while walking around
my local flee market. I got rid of all my records years ago, almost
immediately after Sony and Philips promised us all “Perfect
My music life was easy and simple, few hundred of my CDs were
complemented by couple hundred cassettes and only sometimes I was
wondering how come some of my cassettes sounded very obviously better
than CDs. But I would not let these thoughts bother me –
digital was better, period. Doesn’t every manufacturer of
audio equipment say so for 20 years now? Anyway, the albums I run
across were so dear to me and so impossible to find on CDs that I
bought them, without even thinking about the fact that I had absolutely
no idea how to use them. Did they even sell turntables any more? Being
nerd I started searching the Net for information and to my surprise
discovered that not only they still sell TTs, but there is a whole
range of them, from 50 Presidents all the way to tens of thousands. I
was considering getting me some of those 78s, so three-speed machine
I quickly found a site of KAB Electro-Acoustics, and called
the guy, Kevin, was very helpful and knowledgeable. After hearing my
story he very kindly described me current situation on the marked and
few days later I was a proud owner of KAB Broadcast Standard, equipped
with Shure V15VxMR. The LPs that I bought sounded amazing. They were
almost 40 years old, though in very good condition, but the sound was
so real that no CD could even touch it. Bare in mind, my system was
nothing to write home about – middle-of-the-road ES Sony CD
player, amplifier and cassette deck and Mission speakers. And then I
found audio forums.
OK, I have to admit – I am always questioning my knowledge.
Even when I am 100% sure about something, there will always be a
thought buried somewhere deep inside, saying “What If You Are
Wrong?” So I started asking questions and in return heard
condolences about my turntable and really stupid explanations about why
drive is inferior to belt drive. Someone even quoted well-respected
magazine reviewer stating that a direct drive table is constantly
changing speed at
a rate of about 3500 times a second, which is quite audible. I bought
it. I sold my KAB table (surprisingly very close to the original
price), in my heart blaming Kevin for selling me this junk, and got
myself a … well, I don’t think I should use any
more names here – it is really irrelevant. Let’s
just say that the table was listed at $750 and at that price point is
considered to be a de facto standard in audiophile world. Well, this is
where my problems started.
First, the damn thing was running fast. I
was trying to get my dealer to fix it with no positive outcome.
“The table is flawless” was the answer. Oh and did
I mention “No Returns” policy? Running fast,
switching between speeds was a nightmare, and then in 2000 they
released an updated motor in which was supposed to fix speed deviation
problem (what problem?) which set me back another $150. With no
positive outcome. I had to let it go, losing a lot of money in the
process. What do you think I did next?
Correct, I bought another belt-driven table from different
manufacturer. It was about twice as expensive as my first one and was
coming from the company that is even more respected in audiophile
world. The construction of the table was very unusual. Almost as
unusual as one of the first models from this company, shown in one of
Stanley Kubrick’s movies. Built quality seemed to be better,
but as I discovered, in order to achieve best results, I needed much
better tonearm, special power supply etcetera, etcetera… Oh
and did I mention that you can’t really clean the record on
this table? Friction between the belt and the platter is too low for
it… I got back to the previous company and purchased their
just-released top of the line model. Exotic materials used for platter,
outboard power supply, fancy words used in its description…
I was not as stupid as I used to be, so I purchased it from Canada,
thus losing my US warranty, but saving about 30%. Well, what do you
know? The table was running fast! The brilliantly engineered power
supply did not allow for speed adjustments without knowing the
schematics and friendly technical support staff of the manufacturer was
too friendly to respond to my request. Another bummer. I was getting
smarter. No more purchases, I said to myself, before I am sure I know
what I am buying.
Very famous and very local manufacturer just released reasonably
inexpensive model, which I borrowed from my local dealer. Build quality
was so low that I still don’t understand how people can
actually mention the word “quality” when talking
about this table? Platter bearing was loose, table was running slow and
besides the motor was running hot as hell. I called the company with my
questions and they responded that bearing has to burn-in (oh really?)
motor has high operating temperature and speed can be easily adjusted
by using their power generator costing a mere $1000! Thanks!
I tried few more tables. The more expensive they were getting, the more
I was shocked by their poor quality. I got tired. My vinyl collection
was several hundred LPs by now but I had no means of listening and
enjoying. Then I called Kevin. I told him about my experience and my
frustration and his simple and knowledgeable words got me back to real
world. I have a degree in electrical engineer for crying out loud,
cant’ I do something? And I did. To be continued…
vinyl – Part 2
I decided to go DIY way. I built quite few audio things in my life.
Back in Russia I built several pairs of speakers from the ground up,
which to be honest sounded like you know what. Later I realized that
when I used drivers from actual speaker manufacturers the results were
much better. I shall not mention power amps and all sorts of tweaks
– they don’t count if you have a PhD in
So I decided to approach this as an engineer. What is a
turntable anyway? Tonearm part is easy – though some people
get exotic and build them, there is no need for that. Second hand
market in the US is not as extensive as it is in good old Europe, but
it does exist and one could buy a very decent arm for very little
money. Plinth (if any) has to be acoustically inert. Big deal! I live
in New Jersey, kitchen remodellers are probably as common here as
lawyers and realtors, no shortage of Korian and granite of any shape,
form and color (I tried to write “colour” but my US
edition word processor stopped me). Motor – well, not that
difficult. Very high quality 32 pole DC motor with adjustable power
supply would cost you a mere 5-6 hundred bucks (and don’t
listen to that BS you hear at CES!). Bearing can be special-ordered
from any reasonably good machine shop.
Depending on the quality and
materials it would cost anywhere from $10 for a decent one to $500 for
something out of this world. Platter can be made in the same machine
shop using any material you want and the cost would be so low that is
not even worth mentioning. If you are fan of acrylic, try calling a
place that makes it and get a quote. You’ll never be able to
look at one German turntable company without a smile… I was
almost ready to start ordering components when accidentally run
across… Technics SP10MK3! Not Mark 2, but legendary Mark 3!
The one that lots of people are talking about but almost no one
actually saw! I bought it from a guy in Australia for an incredibly
small amount of money. Even with shipping it was still much less that
you could expect paying for a piece of History.
I inspected it
thoroughly when it arrived. It seemed to be in almost perfect
condition, small scratches here and there, turning on and off, changing
speed (and adjusting it). I ordered a service manual for it and began
working on a plinth and tonearm. Korian plinth with space for 3
(three!) armboards - 12” SME arm for my dear Kontrapunkt B,
RB600 for Exact that I use as a test platform and one extra space for
heavy arm with Grado Statement that plays female voices like no other
cartridge I ever tried. Is this Heaven or what? Well, it was Hell. Two
months into the project everything was assembled. Amplifier was warm,
phono corrector just re tubed with NOS Telefunkens, one of the last
Frank Sinatra’s albums was ready to go out of the shelf when
I heard terrible squeaking noise from the table that I turned on and
that was spinning at exactly 33 1/3 RPM for the last hour…
The motor was gone.
After I took it apart I realized that the table was
probably very heavily used and before selling the owner put some really
thick oil into its bearings so after you turn it on it would not be
apparent that it is completely worn. I tried to find new motor with no
results and the quotes from machine shops to rebuild the motor were so
high that it did not make any sense to try to resurrect it. I sold SP10
in pieces and actually even made couple hundred vs. what I spend on it
(including shipping from Oz), but once again I did not have a table!
And I called Kevin again… To be continued… P.S.
The reason why I did not mention any names in Part 1 was not political
correctness. Coming from the former Soviet Union I am as far from being
politically correct as it gets. I was just trying to be nice to people
that own those tables and like them!
vinyl – Part 3.
Interesting thing – Kevin (you know,
gentleman behind KAB Electro-Acoustics?) never suggested me to buy 1200
again. He would talk about its benefits and quality and terrific
price-performance ratio, but never actually tried to push me into
buying it. This is so unlike one dealer that I use every once in a
while. I’ll leave his name out of the picture. His showroom
(which was just recently renovated) is just a few blocks away from my
office (right in the middle of North East Philly), which makes it very
convenient for me to visit him during lunchtime. Well, not any more
actually. After driving to my office for six years I finally gave up to
road rage and started taking a train. Now I can at least read, and by
the time I come to work I don’t use the
“f” word in my mind few dozen times. Anyway, this
dealer humbly calls himself “Ultra High End
Dealer”. He would not talk to you unless you promise to spend
at least 5 Gs (plus cables) and his knowledge of electronics is pretty
much limited to the names of the owners of high end companies.
very interesting listening to his story about great owner-designer of
one British company named after him, while I personally know the guy
who designed pretty much everything that came out of that place in the
last ten years. He finally left the place. But just try to ask this
dealer’s opinion about something – he would
immediately tell you that he knows exactly what you need and he has it
right here, or at least can special-order it for you… well,
for extra 150 bucks, but what is 150 when you are spending 5 thousand?
When I came to him with my turntable problems, he proudly showed me his
latest arrival. That thing had tonearm by major manufacturer specially
built (actually, “specially” in this case meant
covered with 24 Karat gold), cheapo AC motor, chrome-covered platter,
all for mere price of well equipped Nissan Centra. Oh, and did I
mention that the plinth is an individually picked stone slab? Of course
then I needed to replace my equipment rack, buy external power supply
and probably run a separate line from my local power company. Same old
story… I was tired, frustrated and little angry with myself.
The solution was always there, right in front of me, but I was too
blind to see it. I made a quick phone call and three days later a box
was sitting on my porch. It was brand spanking new Technics
Editors Note: --In case this conclusion seem contradictory, go back and
read the second paragraph.--
Maybe later I will tell you what I did to it to improve on this simple
and already very capable design, but this is a completely different
story… Now I listen to my records every day, I change the
speed to any one I want and I don’t need to hear
anyone’s opinion on how bad direct drive sounds. This time
the only one I listen to is myself. And maybe also my wife. Well, maybe
also my son. He is 13. You know – the “MP3
generation”? He asked me few days ago –
“Dad, can I have table like yours for Christmas?”
In my world it is too much for a Christmas present, but this time I
think I’ll make an exception. In conclusion, when comparing
tables from "High End" manufacturers with 1200 one has to understand
the difference in production cost. If 1200 was built in one of these
tiny places it would cost thousands. But even without taking price into
consideration - I would put my modified MK2 against anything below 5-6
thousand, maybe even more. After my DIY project I was left with plenty
of parts for three tables, so I built mine different from Kevin, with
more radical approach to power (I removed all original power supply
components) and replacing tonearm with RB600. Also, I got rid of pitch
slider and strobe LEDs.
For the less adventuresome, all upgrades are available from KAB. So you
can grow your 1200 at any rate you desire up to a world class KAB
Audiophile Standard. This story was originally posted on audiogon.com
in the analog discussion pages.
are some more comments - this time from the pages of TNT
SL 1200 review:
Dear Mr Ogiers, I'm sending this mail from Italy to sincerely thank you
for your wonderful job. I've been an hi-fi lover and record collector
for years, owned different types of hi-fi turntables and since 1992 I'm
a fan of the SL1200 that I use together with my current system composed
by Thorens TD160 Marantz 1060 amp and AR 3a speakers.
Gotta say that the SL1200 has always sounded extremely good, and the
Thorens and all the other decks of the same category I used never did
Always liked the quality of its construction but I saw that all the
"experts" were always talking bad about this deck. Anyway I noticed
that none of them had listened to it. They simply say that it's a pro
turntable. That's very unprofessional. All the SL1200 fans in the hi-fi
world were take for a joke. Anyway none of them for what I know have
stopped to state what the truth is, AND THE TRUTH ON THIS WONDERFUL
DECK IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU STATED IN YOUR REVIEW.
I'm very happy that TNT is not afraid to speak the truth loud. I'd like
to know if you have tested the SL1200 with the hi-fi mats, to see if
that lush and warm sound can be improved. I can't wait to upgrade my
deck in the better way, so I hope you could help me. Thanks.
I can't wait to read your future reviews!
thank you for your letter. Indeed, as soon as one drops one's
prejudices and listens it appears that the SL1200 MkII in its basic
form is perfectly competitive in sound and in price with more
fashionable products. All it needs is a suitable cartridge and some
care in set-up. But this rule applies to any record player.
SL 1200 review
I commend you for your review. Many "high-end" audiophiles are herd
animals and refuse to check things out for themselves. Also, it is easy
to let preconceived views influence ones thinking.
As you point out, the Technics is an older design, but, then again, it
is not older than the belt drive turntable. Your review makes clear
that the table was originally intended for the consumer market,
however, with the Mk 2 version the deck was specifically marketed
towards "professionals" as part of their pro line (along with the
SP-15, 25, and 10 Mk2 and 3).
It shares the same motor and electronics with the erstwhile SP-25. I
have 2 Technics decks. The SL-1100, and SL-1200 Mk5. The latter is
similar to the Mk 2 with the exception of a Quartz lock reset, and a
recessed power switch. Also, the stylus light is, I believe, now an
LED. The 1200 Mk2 is a better engineered deck than either the 1100, or
the original 1200.
The tonearm on the Mk5 has not changed from the 1200 Mk2. I have seen
modifications allowing use of other arms, but, as you point out, the
VTA function is then unavailable. An option would be to find an EPA-250
(which consists of the EPA 500 arm base and EPA 250 S-shaped tonearm
assembly; they occasionally turn up on ebay).
This ought to fit the table without much modification, and would then
allow adjustable VTA. In any case I'd like to mention that at least one
MM cartridge can be used without problems. I have a V-15x MR sometimes
installed, and with the damping brush there are no resonance issues.
Good MC cartridges work well with the arm. Some of the very heavy
cartridges are best used in heavier arms. I would hesitate against
using a stone Koetsu, a Fidelity Research cartridge, or an SPU in the
tonearm, but who knows? Denons work well. Unfortunately, Denon has
decided to offer only the spherical tip in their current 103 line-up.
Nevertheless, the DL-103 (and I presume, the 103 R) mate well with the
Technics arm. I have used both the 103 and 103 D with good results.
I have just ordered my second 103, and will then be sending my current
Denon to Mr. van den Hul in order to have it re tipped. The cantilever
will also be replaced with a boron tube. I am interested in hearing
what difference a modern line contact stylus does for this ancient
Direct drive has gotten a lot of bad press over the years. Yet, two of
the most highly regarded phono technologists have used this principle
in their designs. Here, I am talking about Mitchell Cotter and Sao Win.
As far as I know, neither Cotter nor Dr. Win are involved in hi-fi
any more, but in this I could certainly be mistaken.
The idea that the quartz servo system "hunts and pecks" and that this
is responsible for audible speed problems is foolish. No one will hear any flutter or
speed variation with the SL-1200. A good check is Liszt
Just piano and voice--two of the most difficult instruments to
reproduce. I own a Thorens TD-160 which I have modified in accordance
to standard practice. I prefer the Technics. I can discern no speed
related artifacts between the two, but the Technics is less prone to
room vibrations affecting the tonearm. In general, I prefer mass and
rigidity over a spongy, springy suspension, but I suppose that
different installations have different requirements.
The Technics is also better in this respect than a Denon DP-75 I once
owned. The latter's factory laminated wooden base was quite resonant,
not unlike a guitar or violin. The base of the Technics is relatively
If I could make any changes I would add the addition of 78 rpm. KAB
offers an appropriate modification, but then the factory warranty is
voided. In a more perfect world Technics would still offer the EPA 500
tonearm system as an option.
However, as it is, the standard Technics tonearm is well designed and
functional. Like you, I have noticed and agree that it is surprising
how friction free it feels when handling it. There is no bearing play I
Older designs are not necessarily always worth ignoring. There is a
gentleman in Japan designing low powered tube amps that he mates with
classic horn systems. He employs a primitive Grace oil-damped tonearm
(ever see one of those?) with a Denon DL-102 mono cartridge in order to
show off his wares.
So, I feel a bit modern sporting a Denon DL-103 on a Technics SL 1200.
thank you for your lengthy comment. You touch on some aspects covered
less in my review, but then, reviews cannot be of infinite length, and
so we sometimes have to leave things out. Yes, the damper-equipped
Shure cartridges can be used with arms of excessive (relative to the
cartridge's compliance) mass: the damping action cancels the negative
effects of a peaky resonance at too low a frequency.
As for the DL-103's spherical stylus ... it may seem crude, but it
keeps the cartridge cheap(er), and as long as the result sounds like
music we're all happy, not?
Thanks for the feedback!
You might like to
look at http://www.soundhifi.com/sl1200/index.htm for
some of the hi fi world mods and
SL-1200 product brochure, from Vinyl Engine is here.
the Technics SL-1200 on Vinyl Engine: Part One Here > and Part
To Buy YOUR Technics SL-1200 MK2
As with any piece of sophisticated equipment, such as the Technics
SL-1200 MK2, the only safe option is to buy from an approved
authorised dealer. It is only in this way that users will be able to
obtain the proper after-sales support.
the UK there should be numerous authorised dealers. SUPERFI
is a highly respected hi fi dealer and stocks various Technics SL-1200
models. Visit http://www.superfi.co.uk/index.cfm/page/moreinfo.cfm/Product_ID/228
North America the renowned Technics turntable experts are KAB
Electro Acoustics. There is probably nothing that KAB's Kevin
Barrett does not know about the Technics SL-1200 line. Visit http://www.kabusa.com
NOTE: Now that Panasonic have discontinued the Technics SL-1200 the only way to obtain one will be on the used market.
Although the Technics SL-1200 is regarded as almost 'bomb proof' by
many, make no mistake, it is a precision instrument and it is probably
very wise to avoid buying a used model, unless it is certain that it
has been used carefully and only for hi-fi reproduction and definitely
not for DJ work or 'scratching'.
My own vinyl epiphany
does take a little while to get there.
When CD's were
launched in the
early 1980's, I already had a substantial collection of LP's and 45's
that I loved. Early adopters of the CD format, in those far
that vinyl (LP's
and singles to you and me) were dead. I did not quite believe
'vinyl is dead' statement then and I'm glad I didn't, otherwise I might
have sold or given away all my precious records as many people have done - and since regretted.
Having said that,
from my records was just not good enough on my old belt drive
turntable, and when compared directly with a CD the sound of vinyl was
unquestionably worse. CD's were sharper and cleaner, and
and tracking distortions and lacked the
‘ticks’ and ‘pops’ of a dirty
LP's and singles, but more of that later
I am quite
sensitive to speed
fluctuations and quickly notice 'wow' on tape decks and turntables that
are not functioning properly.
Wow and flutter is completely absent from digital playback,
can plague magnetic tape and vinyl reproduction. Wow is the effect of the speed
up and down from the mean pitch slowly, while flutter is the effect of
the speed varying up and down from the mean pitch very rapidly and will
blur and spoil musical detail. Some players are quite good
while others are quite poor - the effect being obvious and
spoiling the enjoyment of an
otherwise perfectly good record. Even small, almost imperceptible,
speed errors will cause subtle timing problems that will detract from
pure musical enjoyment.
Wow is a
particularly disconcerting effect that can affect belt drive
turntables (and tape machines), it may be caused by
a badly engineered motor or motor spindle or a stretched and slipping
belt for example. The belt drive system a very low torque and
relies on the flywheel effect of the platter in order to maintain its
Sadly many turntable platters are very lightweight
especially, it seems, when they are made out of a simple piece of MDF
(fibreboard) or similar.
The belt can
cause other problems; being elastic, it is very lively and
will inherently introduce unwanted resonances into the drive system
which will degrade the sound, the tension will also be
pulling against both the motor
and the platter spindle and bearing which will cause uneven wear in the
Additionally on most familiar turntables the
motor is screwed (or glued!?) on to the piece of MDF that supports the
spindle bearing of the platter leading to a common problem of
motor noise and poor signal-to-noise ratio.
The motors usually used in belt drive turntables are
be simple synchronous AC devices which can be prone to speed errors due to
fluctuating mains frequency. Some such turntables are also
known to be prone to running at the incorrect speed, so records will
play at the wrong pitch. Without
high quality electronic speed control these turntables will almost
inevitably be prone to unwanted speed errors and fluctuations. Other
turntable designs use DC motors with electronic servo control to help
speed errors, fluctuations and wow. Apparently, however, DC servo
motors can also cause
some flutter as the speed is constantly being corrected at a very rapid
rate. I must add that I did find that the DC Servo motor in the Rotel
RP855 ran spot on the
correct speed and with apparent good stability. In this respect scores
than some turntables that use AC motors that can famously run at the incorrect
timing - It's the drag
Apart from 'wow', there other speed
inconsistencies inherent with “ordinary” belt drive
systems that will cause speed, pitch and
timing problems, these are the effects of stylus drag.
There are two types of stylus drag, static drag and dynamic
Static drag occurs when the stylus is lowered onto the record, it tends
to slow the rotational speed of the platter, this applies particularly
to belt drive turntables that have low torque (turning power). Towards
the end of
the record there will be less stylus friction and increased
torque available, the
speed could therefore increase towards the intended speed - so the
speed can vary
across the side of an LP.
Additionally dynamic drag occurs in the few moments during and after a
loud (highly modulated) sound as the energy is dissipated by the
stylus causing increased friction and drag on the rotating
was one made by Micro Seiki, it was a semi-automatic belt drive model.
It was solidly built and I had great fun playing all my records on it. It didn't have the greatest sound quality; the
belt drive system suffered
from some noticeable pitch instability and the bearing was rather
noisy, so the signal to noise ratio was rather compromised, manifesting
Additionally it suffered a certain
of mis-tracking distortion that I could never quite eliminate no matter
how I arranged
the cartridge in the arm. This became rather
at times. The cartridge was quite good, however, being an Ortofon
VMS20EII which had an
even handed sound and was really quite detailed and revealing - mainly
revealing the limitations of the turntable I fear.
Some years later, around 1990, I decided to upgrade. From
press at that time, it seemed that there was only one budget turntable
to buy - a Rega Planar. Most so called hi-fi 'experts' seemed to
belt-drive turntable was the best, if not the only drive
worth considering and so I (along with so many other 'green' and
convinced (conned) by the magazine reports and hi-fi shop
sales-people and decided that I must have
this type of turntable. I listened to an example in
but I have
admit that while its was certainly better than the budget Micro
Seiki - the arm/cartridge
very much better - it did
not offer the revelation that I was expecting.
I then listened to a Systemdek turntable which
vastly superior, but the particular turntable, arm,
cartridge combination was ridiculously expensive as I remember. Out of
my budget anyway.
CD's were, of course, around at this time and offered the stability of
dynamism and lack of distortion that I was seeking from my collection
I therefore continued my search.
After hearing the Rega I just did not believe that it was as good as
magazine reviewers claimed, and certainly it did not seem worth the
asking price. Sure, the arm was a very nice piece of metal, but a the
the package was basically a piece of wood with a pretty basic motor
to it. I trusted my own ears on this matter, as anyone auditioning a
turntable or a pair of loudspeakers (or any other component) really
should. My suspicions were later confirmed by reading other owners'
experiences with this turntable which cited: speed
instability and noticeable motor noise and rumble. Many people's opinions
admit that the deck plays too fast.
apparently refuted these complaints, but strangely some time later
these non-existent faults would be 'fixed' if the owners bought an
different (quieter?) motor that would be fixed to the wood using glue
pads - real high tech' stuff.
I am very saddened saddened by all this, particularly as I like to buy
British if possible and was so initially keen to buy one - but my ears
wouldn't let me.
In the end, later in 1990, and after more auditions, I settled
for a Rotel RP-855 turntable.
Admittedly it was relatively inexpensive, but it did offer an
upgrade over my existing deck. The Rotel RP-855 is still a belt drive
affair ( I had been
convinced that I needed a belt drive turntable, remember), just like
Micro Seiki, Rega and Systemdek. However the Rotel, unlike some other
turntables, uses a DC
servo motor which has proved to be very accurate and stable
is quite entertaining
to listen to. Apparently a DC Servo systems
a sensitive regulator to monitor the voltage to the motor which
improves the long term speed drift and static stylus drag
susceptibility. Being a DC motor, the Rotel also has the extremely
useful feature of being able to adjust the rotational speed so that it
would spin accurately at 33 and 45 rpm, a feature that seems impossible
implement on turntables that use AC synchronous motors - the reason why turntables with AC motors can to rotate several percent
faster than they should! Playing music just a
few percent faster than it should be makes it sound more energetic -
more exciting if you will. This 'excitement effect' may be why such
turntables get erroneously good reviews.
That's just my own little suspicion.
* Some Project turntables later offered
control units as an optional extra - which is a very worthwhile accessory.
The arm is nothing particularly fancy on the Rotel RP-855, but has
reasonably well, although there is still some noticeable end of
distortion even after careful adjustments using stylus gauges. However the
tonality pleasant and accurate, the drive
system it is
and the output detailed and very pleasingly musical. Given its
strengths, I felt that the Rotel RP-855 was a fair compromise for its
reasonable price at
the time, though not perfect of course, but offering much better value
for money compared to that alternative turntable. The Rotel is
certainly very well
has also proved to be completely reliable during its 22 years of use.
and static aside) my
LP's still did not sound technically as good as most of my
CD's, of course, though
I tended to prefer vinyl's more inviting feel.
there again.........maybe just
I hadn't found the Holy Grail - yet?
In 2007 I was looking again and stumbled upon a Technics SL-1200. I did
some much more thorough research
proved to me that the belt drive
system is actually a compromised system that may never be able
provide the stability and lack of unwanted resonances that is needed
for truly accurate and, moreover, enjoyable sound. Looking back on the
subject now it seems obvious
that noisy motors and bearings
mounted on bits of MDF, in the
down to a price
turntable, is surely going to be compromised on an
engineering level by
speed errors & fluctuations, noise and unwanted resonances and
quality must suffer.
and dynamic drag will cause subtle speed and timing problems
can only be overcome by extremely
heavy belt driven platters. Such heavy platters are very costly and
consequently very rare indeed. Another method that will eliminate speed
errors is to use an extremely accurate frequency generator quartz lock
system - such as used in the Technics SL-1200 series of
speed problems are
totally undesirable but are completely solved
Technics SL-1200 MK2 system. If only that hi-fi shop that I'd visited years earlier had stocked the
SL-1200 series I would have bought one there and then!
So why do some hi-fi enthusiasts bury their
head in the sand? Why recommend obviously flawed products to other
people? Is it asking
to much for a turntable that plays at the correct and consistent speed?
For me the solid, immediately foot-tapping quality of the Technics makes
it the direct drive
stallion to many of the other belt-drive turntable donkeys and is my
Gets My Goat!
All this has caused me to become increasingly frustrated with some
Hi-Fi magazines that continue
to ignore genuinely great products, yet continue to write in glowing
terms about products that they state are excellent and yet when I have
heard them I know that the claims must be, at best, misguided or at
worst written to please certain
many occasions I have gone out of my way to listen to some equipment
that has been favourably reviewed, only to find that it really is
garbage. On balance, there are other occasions when some highly rated
equipment has turned out to also be good in reality.
The simple lesson
is that the only safe way to use such publications is to obtain a few
to what's currently on the market, then go out and listen for yourself,
to ignore all the shop assistant's biased ravings!
Trust your own ears
Any potential hi-fi buyer really should audition any potential new
purchase such as CD player, tuner or amplifier - but absolutely must go
out and listen to important items such as loudspeakers, turntables
and cartridges since these items will impose a very particular
audio signature on the overall sound.
Choosing hi-fi is as much about
the technical accuracy of a particular component as it is about
personal taste of course. I doubt that many people could easily
and immediately identify
significant differences between one amplifier and another (as long as
they are from decent well respected hi-fi manufacturers) though I am
saying that there is none, but the differences can be quite small.
However the differences between components such
as loudspeakers and turntables is
extremely significant (which is why I now have a Technics SL-1200 of
course) as is the huge difference between different loudspeaker models.
The key is take
Hi-Fi magazine's subjective opinions will a large dose of
salt - avoiding misdirection and the biased influence of
dealers who appear to have some axe to
grind. Use magazines as a guide to what's available, take
- if the manufacturer dares to publish them, if they
don't, don't buy - above all audition and listen to hear find the best
sounding and most pleasing equipment.
Hi Fi World Magazine - a good magazine!
wrote these pages because I felt frustrated that there is so much dubious advice written and printed. Our correspondent Euan Stuart
points out that in actual fact: "....Hi-Fi
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 - check
out the Hi Fi World articles - nobody fits an SME V and Koetsu Rosewood
to a deck they don't rate..."
If only I had read those editions of
Hi-Fi World magazine! Thank you Euan. The SL-1200 should
have been obvious all along. I hope my
experiences and research might prevent future and continued
heartaches, headaches and bank-balance aches of people struggling with endless and
fruitless tweeks and money draining 'essential upgrades'.
I must admit
that I have
enjoyed reading various Hi Fi magazines over
the years, but as my own listening skills improved I have become better
at weeding out the good from the bad as far as Hi Fi journalism
goes. While there are some excellent reviewers writing for
certain magazines, some magazines appear to have gone very down market,
particular What Hi Fi Sound and Vision which now seems to reside in the
Clarksonesque school of sensationalist writing.
informative pieces between the glossy covers, it seems to me that most
of the (so called)
reviews are extremely superficial, highly subjective, very lightweight
and generally omit any meaningful
analysis or product
specifications and are written in an unnecessarily sensationalist and
typically 'blokey' FHM style that appears to have little relevance to
serious music lovers and real stereo
that forming a personal opinion of hi fi sound is subjective,
but surely there should be some objectivity in a written review and
some of the reviews I have read must simply be plain
I have been
and listened to some of the 5 star recommended equipment and found
that, at best,
it sounds disappointing and at worst it's just plain 'B'
Amazingly some of the shops that are selling this 5 Star junk
even agree! One frustrated hi-fi dealer exclaimed - well what
of hi fi journalism do you expect from people who are more
to writing for caravanning magazines and the like - i.e. they are just
writing stuff for writing's sake and the end of month wage packet. They
are not real stereo enthusiasts at all. They tell readers to buy this
rubbish and we shift loads of the stuff, even if it isn't any good.
Why let facts get in the way of a sensational but
ultimately pointless (and sometimes downright misleading)
suspect, and one or two hi fi shops have confirmed this, that
some hi fi magazines award top marks and highly recommend mediocre
products so long
as the manufacturer in question places lots of advertising with the
publication. I may be cynical, but I now take most of what I
with a kilogram or two of salt as I get increasingly annoyed with the
garbage written in certain H-Fi magazines (such as must-have
loudspeaker or interconnect cables that can cost up to and over
hundreds of pounds - of all this is "snake oil" for the
gullible): The only safe way to use such
publications is to use them for clues as
to what's currently on the market, then go out and listen taking care
to ignore all the shop assistant's biased ravings!
Here are some brilliant
examples that you might think could have been
given Best Buy Five Star reviews in a certain hi-fi magazine. High Wot
response to Andy Cullen who argued that I unfairly decried certain
turntables and did not represent them - including an Ariston RD110SL -
fairly, I have to say that this entire article was written because of
the entirely miserable experience that I personally had while
attempting to find my own perfect turntable solution. I had to
that it, in my experience, it was these very products that were
unfairly represented in certain parts of the hi-fi press and these
pages are the counter-balance.
Thank you for your email.
the years I have gone on far too many wild goose chases prompted by
some of the reviews in the hi-fi press to audition their recommended "5
Star" products, only to find that they are poor beyond belief and
therefore to come away either disappointed, disillusioned or with an
entirely different product.
This was especially true of Project
and Rega turntables. I even had one dealer say exactly - "I know
they're total c*** but we have to stock them because What Hi Fi keep
recommending them". Therefore I went away and tried the SL-1200 and was
This was just one of several similar experiences.
the article was written to put my side of the story - just my own views
- to balance the material written by *some* of the hi-fi press - who
get very wide and monthly publicity. Since I (and many others) have
been astonished at some of the drivel written in some of the Hi-Fi
press, I consider that to be the balance.
It's quite true that
these pages are not a forum or a message board, though I will say that
there are indeed some other references to belt drive T/T's that are not
berated, and the Ariston might well be included one day on those pages
as, perhaps, an example of an alternative T/T that readers might want
to consider to play their record collection.
In the mean time
there is plenty enough coverage and publicity given to Rega and Project
in many other publications. I merely offer my side of the story; the
way I see it personally as a consumer.
I am sorry that you feel the way you do, but I am grateful for your
email and for taking the trouble to get in touch.
May I wish you a good weekend and happy listening.
is my counter-balance and I speak as I find. I have heard poor
drive turntables and adequate belt drive turntables - but for the price
(and that's the critical thing here - the price) the SL-1200 cannot be
Which is better?
Vinyl or CD? There's only one way to find out.......... Sorry, this
Harry Hill's TV Burp!
Vinyl and CD are very different. The great advantage of CD is that it
is free from
problematical surface noise and static. A good digital recording should
be technically better than an analogue recording.
convenience and potential excellent quality of CD and other digital
sources is undeniable, but some CD's can have poor sound quality - I have found some recordings that have rather course and 'gritty' treble and even
suffer from some subtle and inexplicable but very noticeable
distortions. What is
difficult to explain is that the music
reproduction from some digital CD's that are not obviously faulty can
seem less musically
from a good analogue source. Perhaps there are some digital induced
distortions that are at a very low level, so not immediately
noticeable, but none the less make some CD's sound less
articles that I have read (I'll admit to never reading Philips Red
Book, the bible of the Compact Disc standards) the CD format should
provide near perfect sound reproduction, and I have no reason to
These effects cannot be put down to a
player, as they will be noticeable on budget decks as well
very expensive machines. Perhaps
mastering or pressing, rather
intrinsic defect of
the CD system, but certainly
there are some CD's really do suffer from nasty gritty digital
compressed mp3 tracks can also sound utterly dreadful.
manufacturers slogan of the 1980's was 'Perfect Sound Forever', but
even though CD reproduction is never plagued by such trouble as speed
error, wow and flutter, end-of-side distortion, mis-tracking or
crackles and will have lower
noise and distortion and a much flatter frequency response, they can certainly be damaged by
scratches, just like
vinyl records, and subsequently suffer skipping, jumping, sticking and
may even be rendered completely un-playable.
These should be rare occurrences if one looks after a CD
Listening to a perfect digital recording is quite a revelation and one
can have no complaints whatsoever about the sound quality. Indeed Mike
Brown has produced several CD's that have absolutely magical,
perfect sound demonstrating what a genuinely good digital recording can
sound like. When
done properly, digital is undeniably best.
That said, I can get just as much -
maybe more - enjoyment
from playing records as I
do from CD's. In fact I find vinyl far more fun - it's nice and big, the
sleeve artwork is large and there is some satisfaction in having to
handle the delicate media with great care - like a valuable antique!
That experience can make playing those cherished vinyl records somehow
more rewarding. Certainly a high quality vinyl pressing will sound very
good indeed and is different experience to digital,
because the turntable and cartridge combination, being electro-mechanical, will
have some sort of subtle acoustic effect on the reproduction.
Perhaps it's as much about emotion as it is about the actual sounds.
As was stated on
the previous pages it is relatively easy to design and mass
produce a CD player in the Far East that can sell in the UK for
£100 to £200 that will make the basis for a very
sounding real Hi-Fi system. This is due to the fact that a CD player
consists mostly of relatively inexpensive highly integrated electronics. These Large Scale Integrated circuits (LSI)
will be extremely cheap to make when mass
produced, unlike precision mechanical devices which will be relatively
It seems certain
that it is rather more difficult to design and manufacture a
high quality turntable for £300 or £400 that will
sound as good
that relatively cheap CD player in terms of high signal to noise ratio
(lack of rumble and noise), lack of wow and flutter and perfect pitch
stability. This is because the requirements of a good
turntable are down to high
precision engineering and manufacture which
is more difficult to accomplish, and therefore very much more
expensive, than producing electronic equipment such as CD
players. The costs of R&D and engineering for the CD
player, or constituent components,
are also borne over a very much larger production run than would be the
case for a new turntable design.
don't know what it is, but I like it.
It is true
that record replay can sound utterly dire if played on poor equipment,
and will sound extremely poor even if played on good equipment that has
not been set up and adjusted properly. That's the snag with
vinyl - it
takes some real effort to set up a turntable and cartridge properly in
order to obtain really good sound quality.
an extremely enjoyable medium and in many listener's opinion the sound
of analogue LP's is much more
preferable to digital CD. So how can this be? I
have taken good quality LPs and
the audio onto a PC as Wave files (.wav not compressed mp3 or
files) and then burned the resulting files to CD using Windows Media
Player or Nero and the resulting CD is, I would say, all but
the original LP. Does this prove that CD makes perfect copies of
the source material? Perhaps so. But why
do so many
people (60 percent according to one recent listening test) prefer a
piece of music played from vinyl to the identical piece of music played
frequency response of a cartridge should be flat, but it is known that
each cartridge has its own subtly different character. So maybe one
factor in the
LP vs CD debate may be that vinyl record reproduction is itself subject
to its own form of distortion - but perhaps the ear, or a least some
listeners' ears, regard this as a rather 'nice' distortion. The
frequency response may not be as ruler flat as that achieved by CD
players, but the
audio signature of vinyl reproduction, in the form of a
slight emphasis of certain frequencies, making records can sound smoother and warmer, can perhaps make for a
pleasurable audio experience. Maybe this is part of the
reason that can make listening to
an LP a very rewarding? This
is a very
difficult phenomenon to explain.
Perhaps it's a purely
psychological effect that renders LP reproduction as a far more
rewarding and physical
experience: The listener has to carefully remove
the beautiful black vinyl from its sleeve,
enjoy its physical feel as it is placed onto the turntable and clean it, then gently
elegant tonearm (a Technics SL-1200 tonearm, of course!) onto
playing surface of the record then sit back, relax and enjoy the nostalgia of remembering where all the clicks and pops are from all those years ago when the record was first played!
Some people still argue, on the other hand, that a good analogue recording really is better
than digital, After all the word analogue means
an exact copy,
whereas a digital recording is split up into jagged bits of data,
the ones and zeros that computer binary code uses, that attempt to
represent a musical wave form. Well, it's an opinion!
The main thing is to sit back and enjoy your collection of favourite and cherished LP's and singles