Here at Dynamic Headroom HQ, the Technics SL1210 mark 2 is the turntable of choice in my hi-fi system. Actually, it was left over from my DJing days, but nevertheless it was dusted off when the vinyl revival started and I began buying vinyl again. Upgrading to another deck would set me back £1000 in order to get a performance bump to make it worthwhile. I don’t have that kind of money so began to wonder, what is the best way to upgrade a Technics SL1210? And can I do it on the cheap?
The Technics SL1200 is a legendary turntable, there is no denying that, even if you don’t happen to like it. Revered by DJs and anyone into electronic dance music, this turntable became an icon of the underground scene. The silver SL1200 was followed by the black SL1210 which in turn was updated several times over the years. Production of the turntable stopped in 2010 due to a downturn in demand and difficulties with the manufacturing process.
Six years later it is back, looking familiar, but with a number of changes under the hood. First came the limited edition Technics SL1200-GAE which was around £5000! Only 1200 of the GAE model were ever made and sold out almost instantly to collectors with more money than sense (I say that while secretly wanting one). Put that price in the context of me paying only £500 for the original SL1210 in 1997.
The Technics SL1200-G quickly followed but was still pricey and this time aimed at hi-fi audiophile users, priced at £3000. More recently Technics release the SL1200-GR and SL1210-GR, both priced £1299. The tradition of “1200” signifying silver while “1210” signifies black. The GR models are apparently aimed at DJs – that is still over twice the price what I paid 20 years ago – talk about inflation!
My Technics tragedy
At university I blew a year’s worth of student loan on a pair of Technics SL1210 mark 2 and a crappy Gemini 3 channel mixer. Hooked on DJing, I spent all my spare cash on vinyl. Instead of studying, I learned how to beat match and got quite good if I do say so myself.
Fast forward a few years and CDJs had replaced the Technics SL1210 as the weapon of choice for most DJs, myself included. Buying vinyl was too expensive compared to WAV quality digital downloads. It was always a struggle to find the tracks I wanted on vinyl too, whereas with invention of Beatport you could find anything.
A few years ago I was looking for funds to upgrade my hi-fi and decided to sell my DJ gear. One of my turntables was auctioned on eBay and went for just £170! Gutted, but entirely my fault. At the time I was something of an eBay virgin and, to be fair, Technics were going for around £300 at the time. Everyone thought vinyl was completely dead at the time but we were wrong!
Technics SL1210 for hi-fi
I am still sad to this day that I let it go for so little money. Anyway, I was smart enough to keep the other one and it is still working well to this day. I snapped up an open box bargain on a Rega Fono MM phono stage and hooked up the Technics to my hi-fi.
It sounded crap! The sound was muffled, flat and unappealing. Disappointed and wondering what the big deal was about vinyl, I did some research. DJs tend to use a “slip mat” on top of the stock Technics rubber mat but in hi-fi you don’t want the record to slip – it needs to grip! So the slip mat was removed and the vinyl placed directly on the rubber mat. Still no improvement.
It didn’t take me long to work out that the problem may be the cartridge/stylus that I was using. Back in my DJing days I was using Stanton D5100 AL-11 purely because that is what came with my decks! Time for upgrade no.1…
A quick google lead me to one of the best value bargains in hi-fi, the Audio Technica AT-95E. At this met my criteria for being affordable. Wow, what a difference the AT95E made! Now my vinyl records sounded far more respectable and I could happily sit and go through my old collection of music once again.
It occurs to me that I am not showing you the best way to upgrade a Technics SL1210 but rather recounting the steps I took. Anyway, we are aiming for better sound without spending a fortune so lets see how we get on!
Part 2 coming soon…