Technics SL-1200G Versus Continuum Caliburn And SAT Arm

The Sl-1200G review will post shortly. Meantime, here's a comparison between it and the Continuum Caliburn fitted with the SAT arm, both fitted with a Lyra Etna cartridge.

The price differential is "huge". How big is the sonic differential? Watch and listen to the video of course, but also if you want to hear the full resolution 96/24 files, they are embedded below the YouTube video.

The music is "Vanquish" from the percussion group Smoke & Mirrors's Yarlung 45rpm release. As you'll see this is a really mess up pressing but it's a good tracking ability test. A just received pressing was outstanding as are just about every Pallas pressing I've ever gotten (other than this one).

SL1200

Continuum/SAT

Oh! and for now I'm not identifying which file was which!

COMMENTS
Wimbo's picture

First.

zackmc's picture

First Audio

abelb1's picture

The video of the SL1200 playing sounded more solid and less frazzled for lack of a better term, so I'm going to say the audio was switched. With the high res files I'm calling it for S&MTECH.aif.

Jon's picture

I only listened via the YouTube video but the second section of audio (the one accompanied by the video of the Continuum) had noticeably more flutter than the first extract which in relative terms had rock solid pitch stability (this is especially noticeable with a Glockenspiel). I am not an expert in this musical genre and would have had a better chance identifying which is which had it been a large scale orchestral excerpt on a long LP side (say 26 minutes plus). I tend to find that classical music separates the ultra expensive from the extremely good better than anything else, but perhaps that is because I am trained in classical music performance and that is mainly what I listen to on my system.

In any event, I would say the audio extracts in the YouTube video did align with the video and that the Technics was first and the Continuum second. As for which I prefer, they both sound good to me (in terms of the ability to be immersed in the music which is what it is all about in the final analysis) in this particular genre. If pressed, however, I preferred the first audio except on the YouTube video, regardless of whether I am right or wrong about which turntable produced what extract. I found the pitch stability distracting on the second excerpt and the timing was better in the first excerpt. Then again the second excerpt was more musical and the first sounded a little synthetic to me. If it were not for the flutter issues with the second extract, I would have preferred that to the first. Caveat: This was only listening on my PC via a Xonar Soundcard and reasonably good Sennheiser headphones. I have always found my actual music system gets considerably deeper into the "truth" of a recording so my opinion might very well be completely different hearing the systems in person.

MrGneiss's picture

I enjoyed the first one in the video more..

hifiralph's picture

Hi Michael I enjoyed listening to the two tables through my Accuphase DAC. I listened twice to make sure but both times I preferred the second table. I am an audio professional and manufacturer so I hope I am right. Both tables exhibited excellent attack of the notes but the second had more and clearer low level information along with a very nice decay of the music. The first recording the Lyra sounded cold like the compliance was not fully loosened up yet but as the record played it did loosen up and sounded much better. I may be wrong but this is what I perceived. On the second recording I got great sound all the way through. Thanks this was fun

BillK's picture

The sound seems more developed, less smeared and the bass notes seem more positive in nature.

badboss429's picture

First video was preferred. Bass better controlled, highs less smeared and far better dynamics.

herbo's picture

has that "short" Technics sound

Erocka2000's picture

I really hope the 1200g review includes trying a different tonearm on the Technics as well as testing the Auto Mode vs. Manual Mode on the torque setting.

smargo77's picture

the first video - the sound was very perfect and very hifi like

the 2nd video had more dimension to the sound and touched off more emotions

volvic's picture

The second is much better, cleaner, quieter, better decay an reverb.

volvic's picture

So downloaded and listened again. I take it back the second through headphones is much brighter - almost CD like which is what the Technics 1200 GAE sounded when I auditioned it, a little more compressed and slightly more noisy. I do prefer the sound of the first, it is smoother, less bright and more quiet - more musical. Still the differences to my ears are not as glaring as one might think, maybe because I am listening through a computer with no DAC connection or anything.

volvic's picture

Listened again and now prefer 1 again, goes to show you that my old 51 years there isn't much between them. Would be happy with the Technics.

AnalogJ's picture

The 2nd one was the Technics. It had higher level groove noise. The instruments had less tonal density, more of a greyish, cloudy feel. That didn't stop me from enjoying the music. But there's no doubt that the first play through on the video had more confidence, more presence.

ravenacustic's picture

Mike,

I listened once via iPad / YouTube. Seems clear to me that the Techy was the first played and the Continuum second. The Continuum, number 2 demo, was better by a huge margin. Cleaner more realistic leading edges, air between the instruments, more solidity in the instruments, better decay, more realistic soundstage depth, and more musically compelling. The Techy was very good considering price point but had less of all the things the Continuum presented. Only question unanswered is what was the Techy sitting on? Platform, rack, footers have a huge impact on performance.

Chris F's picture

I listened last night before bed and was thinking that the first one (S&MTECH) sounded better. Thought I might be losing it a little bit so I decided to sleep on it but I am glad to discover this morning that I am not the only one that feels that way.

The first one has:
- more natural attack and much better decay; second one is very aggressive/almost brittle on the attack and is short changing the decay
- better speed stability; the S&MCAL one has audible wow/flutter in several locations. Some fault is no doubt with the pressing but the first sample is clearly better at dealing with it.
- better frequency response; looking in my audio editor the S&MTECH sample has about 1dB better bass and a couple dB less past 10Khz. The second sample sounds a bit "tipped up" to me whereas the first sounds natural. This could be just a VTA thing on the cartridge.
- better harmonic structure; the piano sounds more like my idea (20+ years of playing piano) of a "live" piano in the first sample. Same thing with the percussion.

Anyhow long story short I am pretty sure Michael has swapped the samples and the first one in the video (S&MTECH download) is actually the Caliburn/SAT while the second one is the 1200.

Very much looking forward to the review as I am considering getting a pair of the new 1200G to DJ with specifically because I care about sound quality.

RR's picture

Prefer the sound of S&MTECH.aif file
S&MTECH.aif sounds like an OK tape machine
S&MCAL.aif sounds like a BETTER-than-OK tape machine

Michael, is under-the-hood torque adjustment possible on the 1200G table, like the 1200GAE?

Erocka2000's picture

Yes, both the GAE and G have the same torque adjustment. The only thing different between the GAE and G are the feet and tonearm finish.

otaku2's picture

I liked the first one better. No objective reasons, just a subjective feeling.

Zwingli's picture

Heard more record noise on the 2nd clip. Second audio comes from Japanese turntable.

decameron's picture

Preferred the first clip. Believe the files were switched.

fetuso's picture

I didn't even get to the audio. Haven't stopped laughing after Mickey's intro.

Mickey, I'll see yous later at the bada bing.

fetuso's picture

I didn't even get to the audio. Haven't stopped laughing after Mickey's intro.

Mickey, I'll see yous later at the bada bing.

cdlp4578's picture

With a gun to my head I'd pick the SAT arm because I think it mates better with the cartridge. But it also seemed to expose the pressing flaw more than the Technics especially on the piano. I'm in an office with background noise using a JBL bluetooth speaker.

I don't claim to have a perceptive ear or a decent setup. But yes, I do have a filthy mind.

jimgross2016's picture

I took Michael's advice seriously, and didn't assume the visuals were correct... It is often written the the eyes overrule the ears, and critical listening should be done with the eyes closed to reduce possible bias.

Listened to take one, and the bells did it for me. The decay and delicacy of the bells told the tale... And in this case, for whom the bells tolled was Continuum... Listening to take two really drove that home. That delicacy and decay was compromised... Kinda mid-fi sounding.

atomlow's picture

The first one I'd hope would be the Continuum. I think the sounds are switched. Wish me luck.

atomlow's picture

and I suppose if I'm right, I win a Continuum turntable? YES!

XjunkieNL's picture

The most enjoyable to listen to, for me, was the first part. The instruments felt more 3D especially the size sounded bigger. This made thrm sound a bit more real. Although the placement was very similar. Hope the first part is the Technics. That one is just about affordable :) /Paul

Corsair's picture

I enjoyed the first one better. Doesn't mean the videos were necessarily switched, but I'm guessing they were. Moreover, With the variety of opinions on here, is it any wonder why there's often a huge vinyl vs digital difference of opinion? People hear different things. Bygones.

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

More decay revealed on percussion with 2 as well as a slightly fuller presentation. Therefore I think that is the Continuum. 1 sounds more hi-fi. If I'm wrong I can buy the Technics and save £150K!

Jon's picture

I think that is why most us don't mind getting it wrong for that exact reason. A saving of a one-bedroom unit...Mind you, there is always going to be a difference not only hearing them in person without all this digital intervention, but also living with one or the other, day in day out, LP after LP, genre after genre. Sometimes it is a bit like the analogy of owning a Porsche or a Lexus sedan. They both take you to the shops perfectly well and are extremely competent in almost any ordinary road driving scenarios. But when you push them to the limits, the differences are manifest. The test track in this instance doesn't really do much to stretch a great turntable or tonearm in my opinion so I am not surprised there are differences in preferences. Put on a 36 minute LP side of Bruckner Symphony No. 9, for example, and I think whatever differences exist would become much more apparent.

Grant M's picture

Is the Lyra Etna going to make anything it's attached to sound great?
Geeze that's an expensive cartridge.

kronning's picture

with earbuds, both sounded very nice on the top end. On the low end the kick drum seemed more realistic on the first but with more punch on the second. The first, overall, more refined. The second, more revealing (maybe more surface noise). For sound from a YouTube video, I think I liked the first just slightly better.

xtcfan80's picture

Both sounded great...My guess was the Continuum was #2 as it sounded more 3D and "Live" through my cheezy mono PC speaker.

Rick Tomaszewicz's picture

Comments on video tracks. iPhone 6S through Stax SR-407.

First track impressions:
-obvious surface noise ebbing and flowing in lower treble range (warped record?)
-great transient attack
-great pitch consistency
-piano in left channel clearly recessed (poorly mastered balance?)

Second track impressions:
-surface noise less obvious and spread over a wider spectrum
-wider and deeper instrument placement
-piano level in left channel better balanced
-obvious pitch variation on celesta notes
-a more relaxed presentation

Jon's picture

Yes, they are pretty noticeable and I commented on that aspect in my original response. I remember last year Michael did a digital transcription of a newly-released Reference Recordings LP with the Fanfare for the Common Man (Copeland). There was noticeable pitch instability on that transcription as well. What was more disconcerting is that I have the very same disk and made my own digital transcription of it using a modest Project RPM9. The pitch stability was better on my version. So I can only surmise that Michael's turntable motor has seen better days (if the Continuum is indeed excerpt # 2) or that the Technics, despite the technology, has an inherent pitch stability problem. Of course, this is easily solved (I assume) with a Continuum but if the pitch problems are from the Technics turntable, they are "baked in" since the unit is obviously near-new and presumably not faulty.

teenage diplomat's picture

Listened only through computer speakers, unfortunately. But to my 61 yr old ears, there was greater depth and width present in cut no. 2, along with more, for lack of a better term, reverb. I also heard more of a differentiation in space between the instruments. I'm guessing that no.2 was the Continuum.

xtcfan80's picture

I also have 61 year old ears....we're "veteran" listeners...

drdarkfish's picture

Finding it hard to have a preference here...

I've clinically evaluated the files (under the microscope so to speak) and it appears the file labeled 'TECH' has a lower noise floor. This was by about 2.5db ... Surprisingly you could also hear a little underlying "buzz" in the file labeled "CAL".... If that truly was the Cal there is something wrong with the grounding..

There is no doubt that the file labeled 'CAL' is 'brighter'.. The bells seem to have a longer decay and greater presence, and the drums have more air..

The detracting characteristic about the CAL file is that the groove-noise appeared to interfere more with the music, most noticeable in the drums.

If I had to put money on it, based on the higher noise-floor, slight "buzz" and the lesser ability to tame groove noise, Id suggest that the files have indeed been switched...

Said that, I think both sound fantastic. Looks like Technics have come up with a winner here regardless.

Michael, I think you should do a few more of these comparisons, they are completely and utterly insightful.

MannyE's picture

I went back an forth and back and forth just on the youtube video and just with my shitty all in one monitor speakers, and all I can say right now is I am glad I can buy a turntable that can actually make me go back and forth between a 6 figure turntable and something costing less than a speeding ticket in Adell, Georgia if you're not from Adell, Georgia. My next audio purchase is going to be a Technics 1200G.

alucas's picture

technics first, knew they were different and the technics was better the first 10 seconds into the second one.

Ortofan's picture

... a given listener prefers isn't the one that reproduces sound with a quality which is closer to that from the master tape - which one should they then buy?

DigMyGroove's picture

The audio accompanying the second video sounded far more dynamic, with better detail, "air in the room", more realistic bass, and longer decays. But which was which....?

Rudy's picture

Given how YouTube compresses and otherwise distorts the sound with their processing (it is lossy, after all), I don't think it is going to sound right.

For the download files, though, were the filenames changed? I can see from downloading which is which. I am going to have to try to get someone to change the filenames here so I can play them at random and try to guess which is which.

Rudy's picture

OK, I listened to the downloads on my "big boy" system. I piped it over to the system using JRiver on shuffle, and "reshuffled" the tracks (while keeping the playlist covered) so I could listen to both without knowing which was which. After the first run-through, I sent back and replayed a couple of passages multiple times to highlight some characteristics I wanted to observe more closely.

I will say right off the bat that both tables sounded surprisingly close to each other, more so than I would have thought. So it is not a knock on the Caliburn, but a testament to the Technics that you can get some really good sound for a few (heh) pennies less. I do hear differences, though.

A couple of observations.

Pitch stability--I can clearly hear those wavering from the warps in both pressings. Some have commented on that above. What I see happening is that it is not so much a product of the motor/platter than it is the arm. If I am thinking this through properly, the arm that has a slightly higher mass is going to exhibit more up/down movement of the stylus, causing a "scrub" (aka stylus bounce) which makes the pitch waver.

So in this single characteristic between the Caliburn and Technics arms, it is not showing which arm is superior to the other, but rather, how one's mass is slightly different from the other. And to clarify, I am only speaking of the pitch stability, not other attributes of the sound. Given the two samples, the CAL download has more wavering than the TECH. Check this from about 2:10 onward in both tracks. Also, you can hear very slightly less "chuffing" at the very end of each track (as the music ends) on the TECH.

As for overall pitch stability between the two, I found this wavering to be too distracting to determine which motor/platter/bearing combination might have improved on the other. For that we would need a solo piano recording, playing sustained notes and chords, on a perfectly flat pressing.

Background noise (aka rumble. and the resonance of the vinyl)--slightly less on the CAL track.

One thing I am noticing is that the CAL has better attacks and more punch to the bass, in addition to being slightly brighter. The TECH seems to have a slight veil over it in comparison.

And after all this comparing, if I never hear this track ever again... ;o)

Rudy's picture

I watched the video for the heck of it. The sound isn't too bad considering it is lossy, but it did blur some of the differences I heard in the 24/96 files. However, the visual cues I saw in the video helped confirm 1) that the arms' masses are different (notice how one of them "bounces" over the warp, where the other barely does, at somewhere around the 2:30 point after each one begins playing). Based on the wavering caused by the warp, and each arm's handling of it, I'm pretty sure I figured out which sound sample is which. (Spoiler: #1 video is Technics, #2 is Caliburn.)

But it is like I said earlier--this does not make that arm on the Caliburn a bad one. It simply shows that there is a difference in mass between the two.

To take this example to the extreme--that same mass difference also can change the sound, as on the microscopic level, the stylus could make the arm "move" if the arm is very light in mass, whereas the more massive arm prevents that energy from moving the arm, to moving only the stylus. So could the more massive arm have caused the slightly brighter yet more dynamic ("punchy") characteristic I noticed? Possibly!

Mile High Music's picture

Listening through my Sound Matters portable speaker my guess is the video and audio tracks are correctly matched, so no switcharoo here. I hear more detail, more decay and space from the second audio. Youze gotta agree, right?

Doug Olsen's picture

The first track sounds best to me and I believe it is the Continuum. The second track has a lot of groove noise and pitch issues. I don't know if the pitch control on the Technics is reason for the pitch issues but it is not set at "zero" but instead a notch or two below zero. I hear a slow wah, wah on the second cut, perhaps due to the pitch control setting? Regardless, I prefer the first cut.

Erocka2000's picture

I think it is at zero, it's just the angle of the shot and the lighting that makes it look like it's below.

atomlow's picture

I listened to this again through my Apple Laptop ---> Grado 60 headphones and if those audio tracks aren't switched you can kick me in the ballz. OUCH!

I thought it was interesting most of the YouTube comments thought the 2nd audio was better, but the comments on AudioPlanet seem to favor the 1st audio as being better.

MannyE's picture

Because i also liked #1 better and I can't afford the Continuum! :)

atomlow's picture

I also meant analog planet not audio planet... where is my mind?

Jim Tavegia's picture

The lower rumble of the Caliburn revealed more surface noise of the disc to me. Michael is the clean disc champ of all time. The telling part is the piano, which I think LPs have the hardest time with as this can be a cutting problem and how much bass is allowed. The Caliburn is much fuller her than the technics and if you have had a chance to play a nice 7 or 9 foot Steinway or other piano you know the fullness of sound below C4 that is there when you play. Mic choices are a huge component of what is captured and where they are place near the piano and where.

Clearly the Technics is a speed stability champ, but there is more to this than just a strobe reading. There is just no substitute for a higher platter mass, superior bearing, and high torque. The Caliburn is just a fuller presentation overall.

When dealing with MV and less, everything matters.

turntable_life's picture

I like number one the best. I'm a fan of modded Tech 12's...think KAB, etc. I'm going to say the Tech is the first one.

Eskisi's picture

The second one is SO bad, I do not actually believe it would be a difference of turntables but some other error...digitization, quantization?...it is warbly, like a dirty tape head falling in and out of contact with the tape.

katylied's picture

Until now, I've seen and sold only 2 version of the new SL1200: the GAE and the GEG. The GAE was the limited edition (sold out) and the GEG that is exactly the same but without the limited edition plate (and ironically more expensive than the GAE ......).

yoss's picture

Have you tried the manual torque gain adjustment on the 1200g? I've read that turning it to about 1/5th of full improves note decay, sustain, and overtones... which are the primary differences I'm hearing here.

TOOL's picture

The Record is still warped, on both players. And how can you sit and listen to this sonic noise? Play some music will ya?

atomlow's picture

There's more kinds of music out there than Tool. You might want to broaden your scope.

TOOL's picture

Ever GOTTEN? What kind of writer uses grammar so pathetically? Ever RECEIVED is how an educated writer would write...

Lincoln Matt's picture

He had already used RECEIVED in the same sentence. To my way of thinking it would have looked worse using the same word twice as you suggest. Now, could Michael have taken the time to find another word, sure, but this is not the printed page - it is a blog. Lighten up!

Flash77's picture

I preferred the first one, to me more spacious , better flow, more like a master tape, second had
the impression of a greater dynamics, but other aspects were not quite on cue

katylied's picture

I did my homework and find out that the SL1200G actually is the SL1200GEG. No difference between this model or the GAE (limited edition) beside the plate with the Limited Edition logo and the serial number. The SL1200GR will be the cheaper version (no magnesium tonearm, different foot, etc..)

rosiemax's picture

The second,much nicer. Discouraging to think ,that much difference costs so much.

Packgrog's picture

Continuum is better even just from the YouTube video. Easy to spot the difference. The Technics still sounds like a Technics (murky, too much excess flabby low-end). I'm curious if a different mat and a clamp would even things up, though.

A comparison with a comparably-priced belt drive would probably be more meaningful, though.

Erocka2000's picture

I don't think it's been revealed which sound is from which table in the video posted. How are people so sure of which is which?

otaku2's picture

Thanks for asking that. I thought that I had missed the reveal.

kozakjj's picture

I have listen several times and cannot tell the difference.

yoss's picture

You ever going to deny/confirm the status of these audio files?

shawnwes's picture

It's not even close with the sound coming through my laptop through my 7 yr old Sharp TV. The Cal smokes the Technics. How anyone could prefer the Technics I don't know.

I once had a letter published in TAS back when Michael was still working for them stating that we both might be eating vanilla icecream but one of us is savouring it. I think some of us can hear the nuances that a good recording produces and some of us can't. To those of us that can hear it we bathe in it and those that can't, or refuse to (Jullian Hirsch anyone?), I feel sorry for them because the difference is as stark as McDonalds and Ferran Adria. I feel blessed because I can hear the difference and if you have the talent to tweak a well matched budget high end system you can enjoy a very good approximation of what Michael gets to listen to on a daily basis.

However, playing devils advocate, I'd like to hear the 2 turntables with the same cartridge that's on the Calibri!

Let the games begin!!!

shawnwes's picture

Correcton - Caliburn

shawnwes's picture

Correction - Caliburn

Snorker's picture

The article indicates the both have the Lyra Etna.

shawnwes's picture

Even though the lp is defective the way the notes just hang in the air and you can follow the mallet as it strikes the vibes on the Cal and almost see the skin on the drum when it's struck it's night and day for my ears.

Would love to hear what the Technics/Cal could do with the cartridge that's usually on Michael's main table.