My Technics SL-1200 MK2 modification
How would you build the best (within given price range) turntable set? You’d take the best turntable ever made from the best production year, pair it with the best matching tonearm from the best production year, and add a good (as the matter of taste in the same price range) cartridge matching the turntable-tonearm combo. More specifically, I want something decent for the less than $2000. Plus. I'd like to use a commonly accessable components to be able to do a selection and get the best of the best.
Here we are: NOS Technics SL-1200MK2 from the golden 80’s.
If you ever had a chance to disassemble this table, you know there is nothing inside that could be improved (despite what some other companies are trying to charge you for disconnecting strobes, pitch controls etc.). I know there are some crazy people who saw somebody doing a pizza delivery on BMW 530, and based on that claim that BMW now is not a luxury sedan anymore, but I don't care. For me it is still the best of ever produced for the mass market turntable under $1000. The only weak point of this turntable is a tonearm. Not that existing tonearm is bad, but there is certain room for improvement.
There are multiple options for the tonearm replacement.
Some of them are listed here: http://www.sl-1200-mk2.com/
In my understanding of the best fit tonearm, it has to be midweight, 9” long, and extremely sturdy. When the sky is the only limit, I would say SME V is the way to go, but I see no sense to put $5000 arm on the $500 table. So my logical choice was the Rega RB300 tonearm, but the original one, with tungsten balance weight. I got NOS with Origin Live wiring upgrade.
The next step was to order the corresponding arm plate (there are plenty of them on ebay from the different manufacturers),
and assemble table, plate and arm.
Originally I had a crazy idea to make an adjustable tension for the arm mount via spring, to test the reported “improvement” of the sound if the arm is a little bit loose.
But it did not work out how it was reported, so I removed the spring.
Second, I've checked that strange Rega’s way to ground tonearm via one channel. Maybe, it worked on some low quality systems, but I could hear that ground hum in my home setup, so I had to change it to the standard grounding schema. When doing it, I’ve installed Cardas 5-pin connectors.
Now I have an option to use any phono cable I want. The final step, after reassembling the table again, was the choice of the cartridge.
The choice for the cartridge is a pure action of art. Within the requirements for the weight to be from 5 to 7 gram, to have a specific height (no VTA adjustment in this setup), and compliance to be around 20 x 10-6cm/dyne there are plenty of cartridges in the $500 price range. I’ve decided to install the Grado Reference Platinum cartridge, just because it did not play well with my other lighter tonearms, but seemed to be a good match for the Rega RB300.
As the Grado site stated (http://www.gradolabs.com/reviews/cart_ref_6.htm) about this cartridge:
"Is it perfect? Of course not. The many inherent distortions of the vinyl process, recording and playback, can be lessened but never eliminated. At a less comical level, the Reference requires warm-up. Each time you begin a listening session, it must play at least two sides before the cantilever relaxes and the magic is full apparent"
Finally, I’ve got a perfect in any way turntable that works on par with my Oracle Delphi MK1.
PS. I tried a few exotic mats, but at the end decided that stock Technics rubber mat works pretty well. Heavy clamp/stabilizer, from the other hand, for some not perfect records could be a must have addition.