Review of the Technics SL-1200 mk2. Turntable
Two weeks ago, after a fair amount of research and visiting the (few) area retailers that still sell turntables, I threw caution to the wind and ordered a new Technics SL-1200 from B&H Photo. I would have preferred purchasing locally, but this turntable is now out of production and is available new through just a small handful of retailers. My reasons for choosing the Technics are both sentimental and practical. My father gave me his Technics while I was in college and I regrettably gave it away a few years after graduating. And with so many 20-30 year old SL-1200's still in use, by DJ's who use them for scratching no-less, I figured it had to be reliable and easy to get serviced. My impressions:Build Quality:
This TT is very substantial and well built. I'm aware that the $1099 I paid is $3-400 more than what the SL-1200 typically sold for just prior to going out of production. It seems the few dealers with a few units left are taking a bit of advantage, which is certainly their prerogative. Still, at $1099, this turntable strikes me as extremely well built; perhaps far more solidly constructed than many of the Pro-Jects, Music hall's and Thorens that I've seen at/ near the same price point. In fact, this seems better built than just about any $1000 audio component I've encountered. The switches, knobs, levers, etc.. all have a silky smooth action and high quality sturdy feel. I'm astounded that just a short while ago this thing was a mere $500 or so. ..Clearly, with millions of these built/sold, economies of scale allowed Technics to achieve what seems like an incredibly low price point for something as substantial as this.
That said, I do have a few minor fit/ finish quibbles. First, the lower half of the SL-1200 mk2 is made from heavy tire-like rubber. Intended to isolate the table from vibrations it also gives it an incredibly solid feel. The table weighs nearly 30 pounds. The problem, however, is that the rubber surface was covered with a whitish film which I presumed to be permanent discoloration. A quick Google search, however, revealed that it's just a silicone release agent used in the molding process. Thankfully, using some warm soapy water I was able to clean it off. This took a while to do and I was bit annoyed that I had to give a brand new turntable a sponge bath upon unpacking it. Secondly, no matter how much I tinker with the adjustable hinges I can't get the dustcover to close with perfect symmetry - after the right corner has touched down, the left corner floats 1/8" above the plinth. ..I seem to recall my Ariston doing this too and that after a few months, the cover settled. ..So this problem will probably self-correct, or perhaps I'll figure out how to better adjust it. As my wife pointed out, "only you would even notice such a thing." ..This wasn't a complimentPerformance
This is the quietest turntable I've ever used. Every other TT I've encountered, even before the stylus was lowered to the record, exhibited a bit of rumble and hum, etc.. Even though the noise wasn't necessarily audible while playing music, it bothered me knowing it was there and I suspected it wasn't doing the speakers any favors. But with the SL-1200 there's none! Plus, whereas my Ariston was very susceptible to buzzing caused by our recessed lights and dimmer switches, this TT seems impervious. I had assumed it was the cartridge picking this up, but using the same cartridge with the SL-1200 I don't hear any clicks/buzzes, etc. associated with our house wiring.
How does it sound? Fitted with the same Ortofon 2M Red, t's clearly superior to the Ariston it replaces. Most noticeably, it does a far better job of maintaining a steady speed. ..With the Ariston, I found it frustrating to listen to piano pieces (ex., George Winston's "Thanksgiving") as there was obvious pitch drift. ..I notice NONE with this. If I play the same song on my SL-1200 and my CD player, they end at precisely the same time. ..Not so with my Ariston and Duals. ..They would generally fall behind by a few seconds. Furthermore, the music generally seems more sharply focused and clearer with less audible noise during quiet passages and b/w songs, etc..
So to summarize, even with the 50% surcharge I paid for it, I think the Technics SL-1200 mk2 is a terrific piece of audio equipment. ..It's beautifully constructed, looks great, and sounds better than any turntable I've had in my system.