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Lil' Kaboosa says, Let's play it!

Turntable Economics

Or Why Your Next Turntable Should Be The
the Technics SL1200 MK5 SE From KAB

Can you really compare turntables by retail price? The real world answer is no.

Help me make sense out of responses like these from 2 customers:

"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." A.Y. NJ USA

"By the way your system improve dramatically the TT so much I don't recognise many difference from my previous SME 20 / SME V combo TT. Just a minor sonic weight overall the frequencies spectrum , probably due the the heavy base of the SME or the higher mass of the SME V arm. But soundstage is practically the same and this is a great goal! So Kevin , I'm very happy about your TD-1200 fluid damper, also the little clamp works fine. Best regards and my compliments again!"
C.A. Via San Polo Italy

The first quote comes from a customer who bought a 1200; got talked out of it by the newsgroups and then went through 5 different popular hi end belt drives before coming back to a 1200. The second customer is reporting on the addition of the TD-1200 tonearm fluid damping system to his own 1200. I Like stories like these because the show what I call "top down conversions". True dyed in the wool audiophiles who have ammased sufficient listening skills to make truly informed decisions. Audiophiles brave enough to go against the tide and try something different. It can take many years of serious listening to develop the skills neccessary to distinguish these differences. But like anything else, once you have them they are with you for life. And finally, they shine a light on the price/performance differential between a small volume product and a high volume product.

Here is another "epiphany" that was posted on www.audiogon.com

"Hey, So maybe it's me, maybe it's my records, maybe it's my power, maybe it's my new cartridge. But, having just mounted a new Dynavector 10x5 on my Rega Planar 2 and replaced the belt as well, I am of course now listening more often, and more attentively to my 'table to get the know the cartridge, than I have in quite a while. And I am noticing, on certain records, some apparent pitch instability -- a sort of warble of relatively high pure notes. I hear it particularly on piano and organ. At times it doesn't seem to be there at all, at other times it seems quite subtle, so that I think maybe it is just the natural envelope -- attack, sustain and decay -- of the note, and at other times it sounds obvious and very distracting......Could I have put the belt on wrong? Could it be the cartridge breaking in (seems unlikely, but so does general relativity:))? A defect I should compain about? Some subtle mounting error? Suggestions?"

The first response to this poster is very telling because it shows a contradiction that occurs all to often- The most reccomended turntable on this news group suddenly becomes un reccomendable. check it out:

"Without going into alot of detail, the basic reason is that the Rega Planar 2 is a very "entry level" turntable, and cannot do the speed control thing as well as the better turntables. Not a knock on your TT, just simply recognizing that a manufacturer can only do just so much for that amount of money. "

Wow! I can only imagine how the poster feels now. Like, didn't you guys reccomend this 'table to me not too long ago? Further, it is an immediate condemnation! Not even so much as one suggestion to try or evaluate. period! That's how it is.. too bad! And I thank the responder for saying this: "a manufacturer can only do just so much for that amount of money " Hi end manufacturer yes, but not a worldclass manufacturer. The Technics 1200 is the living example that it can be done. What follows is where the epiphany rears it's head. A few hours later this post appears:

"Time to put this thread to bed. It was in fact the belt. I fished the old one out of the trash -- luckily it was unsullied -- and put it back on. Stable pitch is back. Surely not perfect, but not a distraction either, so I can enjoy my new Dynavector. Thanks for the advice, all. Now if I can just get the seller to make good on the new belt."

The epiphany for this audiophile is the statement:"Stable pitch is back. Surely not perfect..." He hears it now! And he will hear it forever. The Technics 1200 does not suffer from any speed instability period, stock it cost about the same as the subject 'table. Go figure! If the hi end company specified speed accuracy and wow & flutter, the customer might have been spared the whole ordeal.

Interstingly, the same nite after the above exchange the same ritual repeats itself. Check it out:

" I recently took the plunge and got married again, besides finding a wonderful woman I happened to fall into a sizeable record collection that is being held by her retired Dad. None of his children appreciate his love of music and he is so thrilled that I share his love he wants to gradually part with his collection of over 2,000 jazz, blues and classical records by transferring them to my keeping :) What I humbly ask from anyone that may help is advice... I am looking for a Plug & Play TT and Phono stage to go with it, I know nothing about adjustments nor do I see myself tweaking with the TT, I want something that is simple to set up and maintain (simple enough that my grade school aged daughter can use) I have a very simple but pleasing system comprised of NAD amp and digital source and PSB 5t speakers and would like something that would compliment it nicely. Budget for everything including cartridge and Phono stage to be kept under $600. Thank you in advance"

"That would be a Rega table, Rega cartridge and Creek phono preamp. Now go and be happy. "

"I would go with the Regg p-3 to keep it simple its very easy to setup and if you don't have a Phono input I would use the Creek Phono Preamp or even the NAD PP-1 you can find them for 100 dollars used and they do a Fine Job Not Great but very good. Also you might go with a Grado Red Cartridge there well priced and do a great job for a Budget Cartridge IMHO."

" Rega all the way is probably the best suggestion. I have been using the Sumiko Phono Box for a while and am pleased with the sound. "

Amazing really. It just goes on and on. "go and be happy!? Does the first post sound like it comes from someone who is happy?

There is a wealth of real world postings from these prolific news groups that show the vacuum that has developed in the hi end. Even when verified criticism arises, the mind set is still to continue reccomending the torture to some newcommer. Why would you do that? Obviously a judgement call is made that the newcomer will not be able to "hear" the problems. Not at first maybe, but as the post above shows, epiphany's occur every day! And they are totally unneccesary.

The way I see it, the hi end has built a wall around itself and pretends that Technics simply does not exist. Fine. I cannot do that. And let me tell you, it's not easy promoting a product that is ignored, even dissed by "Hi Enders". But I feel a strong need to do so.

I didn't come to this realization easily or quickly. I too believed for many years that belt drive was superior. But slowly the affect of stylus drag began to resolve itself- the sense of unsteady pitch after a large crescendo. I so wanted to blame it on the record itself. Believing it was a hard passage to "cut" and so the cutter must be slowing down. You can only imagine my surprise when I played these same records on the 1200 and, as I would grit my teeth as those passages went by, a curious thing happened... nothing! The '1200 is truly capable of controlling the platter speed to near perfection. The clarity and stability of the soundstage is nothing short of transparent and still. [As an aside I was surprised to learn that many disc cutters still use the Technics SP-01 disc cutting turntable, a direct drive precision powerhouse. Much of the technology found in the SP-01 found its way down into the 1200 as well!]

If you really think you can do cost comparisons and come up with better performance over a 1200, try this check list when you go looking for your next turntable:

  1. What is the speed accuracy? (is it better than 0.005%)
  2. What is the Wow and Flutter rating? (is it better than 0.025%)
  3. What is the tonearm tracing accuracy? (less than 2.32° outside and 0.08 ° inside)
  4. What is the tonearm bearing friction?(Is it less than 0.007 gram)
  5. What is the tonearm mass?(is it 12 grams or less)
  6. How sensitive is the table to air and floor borne vibration?
  7. Is the tonearm fully adjustable?(VTA and Antiskate adjustable while record is in play)
  8. Are the adjustments easy, repeatable and stable?
  9. Does stylus drag slow the speed?(Without servo or flywheel, forget this one)
  10. Does dynamic stylus drag alter the pitch?(Without Flywheel or >20Lb platter forget this one)
  11. Is the construction non resonant(Hint: a single block of wood or plastic is insufficient)
And do not get sucked into the old saw that it is only what you hear now that counts, unless you want to get stuck in the cycle of constantly upgrading and replacing. Only engineering specifications will ensure that you have chosen a product that will grow with you as you gain new skills. Not one that will fall down on the job the moment you've learned a few basic listening skills. Go check out that first post again.

And the 1200 is fully upgradeable. The already superb true Gimbal tonearm can be elevated with fluid damping. and the motor performance can be enhanced with an outboard regulated power supply. Beyond that there is little left to improve. 30 years ago, some of the worlds best material scientists, mechanical, industrial design and electrical engineers were charged with making the perfect turntable. The Technics SL-1200 mk2 was the result. The latest version Mk 5 remains a worldclass retreiver of grooved information. Everyone else, I'm afraid, is just re-inventing the wheel.

You know what they say about those who ignore history? They are simply doomed to repeat it.
We are seeing much of that right now. But with the market so much smaller this time around, the cost of admission is just too high!
Isn't it time you started asking questions?

KAB

KAB ELECTRO ACOUSTICS
P.O.BOX 2922
PLAINFIELD, NJ 07062, USA
PHONE 908-754-1479
FAX 908-222-3442
EMAIL TO INF0@KABUSA.COM