Friday, June 3, 2011
Yet another modded Technics SL1200
In response to my latest Vinyl Anachronist column at Perfect Sound Forever, I got the following email from David Bosci. He writes:
"As a life long HiFi nutter with more than 35 years of experience and a long trail of turntables: Dual>Fons/JH>Kenwood DD/SME3>Linn/FR>Gyrodec/Syrinx>Rega>Consonance. I finally settled on a highly modified SL1200 because it was much better than any other turntable I have heard. The best way I could describe the difference would be “pitch stability” or the ability to stay in tune.
Mine is based on KAB unit but with extensive further mods, Mike New bearing & platter, SME 309 tonearm, TTWeights Cu mat, Isonoe bearing & booties, Cartridge Clinic tonearm mounting, Thorens stabilizer etc. Why...because I don’t know a way of buying a turntable as good for anywhere near the same price. It is worth a listen."
Mr. Bosci is one of the rare members of the 1200 Army who have actually heard (and owned) high-quality belt-drive turntables and yet feels the 1200 sounds better. Usually it's quite a different scenario: many former 1200 owners switch to belt-drive once they hear a good design and they never go back, and many current 1200 owners don't feel the need to compare and are happy with "the way things are." I know this is a generalization, but in my experience it occurs an overwhelming amount of the time.
In addition, Mr. Bosci points out one of the strengths of the 1200, and that's pitch stability. Most 1200 fans state they hear pitch variation in most belt drive designs (something that is virtually eliminated with the use of electronic speed control devices...and there's still the fact that the servo of the 1200 often "hunts" for the right speed, causing speed variations), and that's why the 1200 is the 'table for them. But in my opinion, I'd rather have soundstaging, imaging, tonal accuracy, dynamics, realistic transients and decay and a relaxed presentation--things the 1200 does poorly. I think the whole pitch stability argument is flawed at best, simply because the measured pitch stability on most belt-drive designs is NOT in the audible range. If you're hearing pitch problems, it's probably just time to buy a new belt.
Still, I'm running into more and more of these 1200 owners who tweak the holy hell out of their turntables and claim to get excellent results. The point of my column, which Mr. Bosci doesn't address directly, is that tweaking is fine for some, but many audiophiles would rather have a stock product that performs well right out of the box. A heavily-modded audio product can be a nightmare if it breaks down and no one is willing to repair it because it's too complicated or there are warranty issues. I've spoken to at least one audio tech who laughs whenever he sees one of these machines and usually tells the owner, "No thanks."
Then again, most tweakers are fairly handy when it comes to these things and can probably fix most of the basic problems that can occur with a turntable. But if you're not, I suggest you steer clear of these "Frankenstein TTs."