The Technics SL-1200 direct drive turntable, in its various iterations, will be well known to most vinyl lovers these days. They have become almost legendary for different reasons – DJs love them for their fast startup and solid build; home users love them for their engineering and audio bang for the buck.
Make no mistake – the SL-1200 is no audio weapon in the big picture – it is never going to scare an SP-10 or L-07D. What it does do though is offer good performance for the money, great build, proper engineering which leads to speed accuracy, consistency and reliability.
Contrast this with the alternative from other manufacturers of cheap belt drive decks: tiny clock motors, wooden platters, runner band drive and home-made build quality. You can see why much of the smart money is on the Technics.
Servicing an SL-1200 is quite straightforward. We need to oil the motor bearing, check deck electronics and – most importantly – carefully check and adjust arm and cartridge alignment.
This is where I come in. I can’t recall a deck that has come in to me over the past few years that was set up correctly in terms of tracking force, cartridge alignment and anti-skate. Some home users get close, but the last few percent in really nailing the adjustments is what makes the difference. Just guessing at the anti-skate settings for example is no substitute for playing a test track, and dialing in the anti-skate to exactly what is needed to keep the stylus tracking blank vinyl correctly. And this makes a real sonic difference. Too much anti-skate creates a channel imbalance, to little and tracking suffers, and distortion increases.
This is why is suggest all owners of SL-1200s and other good turntables bring their decks in for service. There is no substitute for doing these things correctly and they really do make an audible difference. The best deck will sound ordinary if not set up just right!