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I have a bunch of records that I'd like to listen to and dub to a digital format for convenience. I have virtually no turntable experience. My neighborhood electronics repair shop has a used Technics SL-1200 mkII turntable for sale. The guy there said that it's in excellent condition but he has it currently set up for the DJ market, meaning higher tracking weight and a tough cartridge. He said if I wanted to buy it for listening to records, he would install a Shure M97XE cartridge and get it all set up and adjusted for that instead of DJ-ing. Total cost would be $480.

I'm not obsessive about quality, but I would like something decent. (to give you some perspective on me, I'm perfectly happy with my iPod 5th Gen playing 256 kbps mp4 audio going to a Total Airhead amp, then to Etymotic ER4S headphones. The "iBuds" of course sound terrible :) ) My google searches of those Technics and Shure parts seem to indicate that they are just that: "decent".

So, are they "decent"? I know that's very subjective, but to the people out there who know about turntables: would you pay $480 (which includes the tech getting everything set up just right. I wouldn't know where to begin in that area...) for that setup?
 

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First, welcome to the Forum, tarsier!

The SL-1200 is certainly a good 'table, but really overkill for what you need. Being a DJ turntable means it's designed to withstand the punishment of being schlepped around from place to place and bounced around in the back of a truck. There's no need for you to pay a premium for that kind of build quality.

Basically, any medium-quality turntable in the $50-100 range (used) will do just fine for what you are intending to do - no shortage of them on eBay. They aren't hard to set up - all that means is proper mounting and installation of the cartridge. Just make sure you get a 'table with an owner's manual, which will tell you to do that. Good brands were Yamaha, Denon, Pioneer, and of course Technics. A little tip, the 'tables with thick bases were often the upscale models.

I recommend a semi-automatic 'table with dampened cueing. That means you manually positition the tonearm to begin playback, drop the lever and the tonearm gently drops to the record, and the 'table automatically lifts returns the tonearm to the carriage after playing.

I also recommend a direct drive model rather than a belt drive. When I tried to use my belt drive 'table after letting it sit in the closet for several years, the belt promptly broke. Probably it had either "formed" to the drive spindle, or the rubber had hardened over time. Either way, considering that most turntables have spent years without being used, this could very well be an issue. If you end up with a broken belt, there's a good chance you won't be able to find a replacement for it. Direct drive 'tables have the platter directly coupled to the motor, so this won't be an issue.

The most important thing is the cartridge - it makes or breaks your sound quality. Fortunately, many cartridges that were top-rated back in the day can be had cheap now. I personally recommend the excellent Shure V15 Type V-MR cartridge. It made my $100 (1979 dollars) Technics 'table sound like a million bucks.

Regards,
Wayne
 

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I don't know anything about that particular cartridge, but I DO know that turntable and know it well. I think the reason the price is high is due to the legendary reliability of that table. The 1200 mkII is known in professional DJ circles as probably the best and most indestructable turntable ever made. I know that DJs that worked for me many years ago used to love to actually stand on the platter and the thing would still spin up. It may or may not be overkill for what you want, and I'm not suggesting it's the best sounding table out there; merely that it's as reliable as you're ever going to get. I probably would search out a Rega on Audiogon were I you. Remember, as in all things your mileage may vary.
Hope this helps...
Cheers,
Konky.
 

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My neighborhood electronics repair shop has a used Technics SL-1200 mkII turntable for sale. Total cost would be $480.


So, are they "decent"? I know that's very subjective, but to the people out there who know about turntables: would you pay $480 (which includes the tech getting everything set up just right. I wouldn't know where to begin in that area...) for that setup?
$480 for a used SL1200 that sounds like it saw some DJing is way too much, especially when you can buy the table new for $50 more. That doesn't include a cartridge, but for another $50 you can get a perfectly serviceable cartridge. As for "setting everything up just right", with a little reading you can learn to mount the cartridge with the correct overhang. That's really about all there is to setting it up. It takes maybe 15 minutes to set it up. Don't believe all the mumbo jumbo.

You can buy turntables off ebay, but you need to be pretty knowledgeable to get a decent deal. You also need to buy from someone who knows how to pack them correctly. The tonearms can be easily damaged and I've read too many horror stories where nice turntables were ruined in shipping.

You might want to consider an Audio-Technica PL120 Turntable (http://www.needledoctor.com/Audio-Technica-PL120-Turntable?sc=2&category=358). It's only $299 and that includes a cartridge and pre-amp.

Speaking of pre-amps, do you have a receiver that has one?

I have two Technics turntables, the SP-15 which is a professional turntable and an SL-1500 MKII, one of the precursors of the SL-1200. I bought the SL-1500 at Goodwill for $15. It was mechanically solid but cosmetically nasty. All it took was a good cleaning and it works and sounds great!

I have 2500+ LPs, 2000 45s and 3500+ 78s. I've been restoring for several years. Here are some thoughts:

Dubbing LP's can be time consuming. If you have lots of LPs you want to transfer, it can become quite a project. I have a Rhapsody account and I just download popular albums to my Creative ZEN instead of dubbing my copies. Often this is a better solution since many of the great albums have been remastered and sound better than the best possible transfers. That frees me up to only transfer rare albums not otherwise available.

Even though there's plenty of software products that do a great job of removing noise, starting with a properly cleaned record is leads to much better results. Record cleaning is a huge topic in and of itself; you can go with fairly simple and inexpensive solutions all the way to record cleaning machines that cost more than a really nice turntable. I use a DIY vacuum record cleaning machine.

If you're really hard core like me, the best transfer results are obtained by using a special pre-amp with no RIAA equalization. After the file is transferred to the computer, I use a Diamond Cut's DC7 software to apply the proper RIAA curve digitally. This gives a much better EQ than even the most expensive esoteric phono pre-amps.

Check out these sites for more help/info:

http://www.audiokarma.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=28
http://www.diamondcut.com/
http://tracertek.com/

Good luck!

Doug
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks all, for the input.

Yes, I do have a receiver with a phono preamp so I'm covered in that respect. Most of the albums I have came from my dad's collection and are quite esoteric, so wouldn't be available anywhere else. I've searched for digital versions of some of them with no luck.

The final price did seem high for a used 1200. Guess I'll pass on this one and keep looking.
 

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I agree that the price seems high for a used 1200. It is a fine turntable for its intended use and would be fine for most home use, other than the tonearm is a bit heavy and will work best with cartridges with lower compliance designed to be rugged for DJ apps. If you use a higher compliance cartridge, like the V15, you may get some tracking problems on high excursion recordings.
 

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The SL-1200MKII is an excellent turn table, technically. It has an extremely low resonance table and platter, made of thick cast aluminum and layered hard rubber in places to act as a constraining layer system. The quality of construction overall, as already states, is pretty much as good as is physically possible: this thing is designed to withstand years of hard use professionally. The motor/speed control system is superb, with near the best speed stability possible on a turntable. (There were somewhat better speed stability tables on some extremely high end direct drive exotic systems from major manufactures in the early 80's - such as Technics own discontinued SP10 turntable system) Due to the high level of engineering, noise/rumble from the direct drive is not any issue here, as it may be with cheap quality direct driver systems. The arm is of good quality, with high precision bearings with very tight tolerances, along with many precise/easy to dial in tone arm controls/adjustments. The arm is of moderate mass, and as suggested already, an appropriate cartridge should be used to mate with the tone arm mass.

I don't know of any so-called audiophile table near the selling price of the SL1200MKII that is even similar in quality. At least not that I am immediately aware of.

The selling price of that used unit is horrible. You can find new ones for around $400 if you shop around online.

I recommend the Denon DL-110 cartridge. It is probably the best you can get anywhere near it's price range from the stand point of minimum surface noise/artifacts and detail extraction, due to it's small and extraordinary precision crafted elliptical stylus. Microscopic analysis has demonstrated that this unit uses a much more precision crafted stylus tip as compared to almost anything else near it's price class. The cartridge also has an extremely flat frequency response, which IMO is critical. I desire minimum coloration.

-Chris
 

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If you're really hard core like me, the best transfer results are obtained by using a special pre-amp with no RIAA equalization. After the file is transferred to the computer, I use a Diamond Cut's DC7 software to apply the proper RIAA curve digitally.
I'm not hard core (yet... :) ) but even before your post I was wondering about the digital eq method. I see that Diamond Cut sells a non-RIAA preamp, but I thought that it might make a good DIY project. Google turns up a ton of DIY phono preamps but none without the RIAA eq. Anyone know of any plans for a phono preamp without RIAA eq?
 

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Anyone know of any plans for a phono preamp without RIAA eq?
See here: http://www.hagtech.com/equalization.html. I don't know if you could calculate replacement values to get an effective flat response by pushing the bass and treble turnovers below and above standard frequency response.

I have a Terratec sound card with a breakout box with a flat pre-amp. I bought it before DC Art offered the phono preamp. I've compared the results to my NAD preamp, which has a well regarded phono section. I prefer the results of adding EQ in software. It sounds much more open and clear. If you do a search of the Diamond Cut forum, Craig explains the advantage of adding EQ in the software stage.

If you don't mind sharing, tell me more about your dad's records. What are some of the esoteric titles?

Doug
 

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If you don't mind sharing, tell me more about your dad's records. What are some of the esoteric titles?
The collection is at my Mom's house, but a few titles stick out in my memory. "Meet Claude King" by Claude King, "Pair of Fives (Banjos that is)" by Roy Clark and Buck Trent, and a bunch of sets of classical and popular music (ie marches, dance tunes and so forth) put out by Time Life. I daresay I could collect them all elsewhere in a digital format, but there's a definite nostalgia and remembrance factor in playing the records.

One of my favorites was "Stan Kenton Live in London", which I just found out is available on CD. When I looked for it a bunch of years ago it wasn't. Another standout is a version of Caravan on one of the records that I can't remember the title of.

I also remember a Mariachi album in there somewhere. And some steel drum stuff. Let it Be, and Abbey Road are there, but no other Beatles. Overall, it seemed quite eclectic.
 

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Yep, there's nothing like spinning familiar records! Even though I'd replaced my Beatle's catalog with CD versions, I'l listen to "Meet the Beatles" and "The Beatles Secon Album" on LP because I grew up with the Capitol stereo version (I've since bought the CDs).

I have several of my Dad's jazz LP's; Jonah Jones, Tommy Dorsey, Dave Brubeck, Glenn Miller and others. He died in 1964. I play them on occasion. He loved good sound, but couldn't afford high quality equipment. No Bozak speakers, just EV coax drivers in home built cabinets. No McIntosh amps, just Bell. I play his records on a mid range system that sounds better than anything he could have dreamed of. I look over at a photo of the two of us and raise my glass in salute.

Doug
 

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Yeah, my dad died in 98. He played bass in a jazz trio in the 60s, but mostly gave it up before I was born. One of my treasured memories was me playing drums, with him on bass, in a little combo for a neighborhood block party about a year before he died.
 

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I have a Terratec sound card with a breakout box with a flat pre-amp. I bought it before DC Art offered the phono preamp. I've compared the results to my NAD preamp, which has a well regarded phono section. I prefer the results of adding EQ in software. It sounds much more open and clear. If you do a search of the Diamond Cut forum, Craig explains the advantage of adding EQ in the software stage.

If you don't mind sharing, tell me more about your dad's records. What are some of the esoteric titles?

Doug
There should be no audible difference between two methods discussed here, assuming they are executed properly. I would definitely get a high quality test, preferably The Ultimate Test LP which will let you perform accurate frequency response and distortion analysis so that the true culprit of the audibility difference can be tracked down.

-Chris
 

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There should be no audible difference between two methods discussed here, assuming they are executed properly. -Chris
That's the bugaboo. Even a well designed RIAA EQ circuit can fall victim to resister and capacitor tolerences. NAD's were known for their "warm" sound. It could be that the designers aimed for a less than accurate EQ.

I've done restorations of the same source using the two methods. I burned the results to a CD and asked my son which he preferred. He consistantly chose the cuts that were restored using the flat amp and software applied EQ. It's not that the NAD was bad, the differences were subtle but significant.

BTW, I have a test record. I ran some tests and was suprised to find my phono recording chain is as flat as it tested.
Doug
 

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That's the bugaboo. Even a well designed RIAA EQ circuit can fall victim to resister and capacitor tolerences. NAD's were known for their "warm" sound. It could be that the designers aimed for a less than accurate EQ.

I've done restorations of the same source using the two methods. I burned the results to a CD and asked my son which he preferred. He consistantly chose the cuts that were restored using the flat amp and software applied EQ. It's not that the NAD was bad, the differences were subtle but significant.

BTW, I have a test record. I ran some tests and was suprised to find my phono recording chain is as flat as it tested.
Doug
Many well designed RIAA circuits have a deviation of a fraction of a dB, and it also, can be easily corrected with a very minor software correction, if the deviation is tested/known, and the result would be the same on both methods after this compensation. Usually, the error(s) are insignificant on really good phono stages, and appear near the upper treble passband. The real key here is to measure the throughput of your phono chain and conversion, and ensure the result is flat/accurate, regardless of the method used. Unless there is a practical SNR advantage in one process vs. the other: I am neutral on which method to suggest.

Chris
 
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