Technics SL-1200G Versus Continuum Caliburn And SAT Arm--File Identities Revealed

The file labels were not reversed in this story!

In this case the Technics should have sounded better and I’m glad many people heard that, but there’s a good reason and it's why i asked you to listen and look!

The record was seriously defective. If you look at the grooves you will see them move in very unusual ways beyond the usual concentricity issue. Even the warpage is not normal.

Usually vacuum hold down (which the Continuum has) is beneficial, but in this case by sucking down the record and flattening it (as much as possible), the bad pressing’s problems came out “in relief”. You can see that easily in the video. The record’s serious “warps” (warps in quotes because the pressing problem is more serious that just a warp) appear to have been pushed upward relative to the "flat" part.

That is why the SAT arm jiggles and sways far more than does the Technics arm as it tracks the record. That it does so at all, given the pressing defects, is near-miraculous in my opinion. I am not sure the Technics arm on the Continuum could have done that.

The same record sitting on a rubber type mat does not exhibit the same problem to the same degree. In fact you can't really see the arm jiggling as much, or even at all, because it doesn't. It's no wonder that the sound was "jagged" on the Caliburn file compared to the Technics!

When I return from the U.K. next week I'll post another comparison using a non-defective pressing of that same track and if you're still up for it, listen again!

jimgross2016's picture

The file link labels in the article are correct. Does the audio in the YouTube video also correspond to the correct TT video? That is what I listened to, not the audio only files... Thanks.

Michael Fremer's picture
The picture and sound went together.
Anton D's picture


Manimaldoug's picture

Did folks think the techniques turntable sounded better?

Michael Fremer's picture
Many did, in this particular instance.
yoss's picture

Whew! I knew it the whole time but it's nice to be confirmed. The downside of this is, I still heard the superior presentation of the Caliburn even with the faulty records. I would've been happier had he told me the superior sound came from the 4k turntable ; )

Erocka2000's picture

...what the SAT tonearm would sound like on the Technics. Shouldn't be that hard to do. Just need a new armboard.

Wimbo's picture

which pulls you away from the "HiFi".

yoss's picture

I agree 100%. Less hifi but man does it sound sweet!

Glotz's picture

Why didn't Technics try to re-design the look of the turntable in any meaningful, modern way? I look at the design, the sliders, the buttons, and it still screams completely 70's. I get it's a larger Japanese company, and their supporters don't respond to change well, but ah.... (Sorry, had to.) It seems like some kind of re-sculpting could impress its owners.

Look at the Classic (coming from an HW-19 user), the design has been updated consistently over time so that it retains elements of the original, but modernized with some forward thinking with allowance for evolution not only inside, but out.That being said, I would never own a Classic... after seeing the Prime, it is all over with. Big dosh, but it's justified. VPI takes a lot of different design approaches, both in form and function.

I am still waiting for the day to hear and see what vacuum hold down might do for their lineup's platters. I bet good things!

BillK's picture

When a good portion of the entire world can identify your product by its signature look, you don't redesign it unless you need to.

There are third party companies that will happily encase your SL-1200G in a wood exterior if you so desire; I prefer the current aesthetic.

Glotz's picture

They redesigned the table, but did not redesign the aesthetic. That is conservatism, as almost all 1970's (and 80's) turntables look like that turntable (with the same buttons, sliders, etc.). If there were 10 1970's Japanese turntables on a bench, most would still have difficulty from a few yards away. Hardly iconic.

It's really archaic looking and shows little inspiration, esp. when they have the money to offer two designs easily, one to satisfy the new and one for the old. They are a long standing company; they have the capital.

Third party companies do not speak to the actual manufacturer, who has incorporated design change to improve the performance, but not the look? That's the easy way out, and they lose out on their own product development and their own accessory market- namely any option improving performance or the look. What about a more-upscale tonearm variant for the well-established, or those that might upgrade later? There are a lot of meaningful, low-cost, after-market upgrades out there from manufacturers that offer their own turntables. It's obvious they are missing out on another segment of their own market. Lazy business sense, esp. in this era.

They easily could sell 2 turntables, new and old, with the same design approach, and see what the market would bear.

BillK's picture

Developing tooling for even a single redesigned product is very expensive and not worth the "Hey, let's try it out" angle on their part.

The SL-1200 very much is iconic; anyone who has ever been around them can pick out an SL-1200 from across the room, to the point that there are low-cost Chinese clones that look just like it but certainly don't perform the same (see the Audio Technica AT‑PL120.)

Technics doesn't "have the capital"; they resurrected the SL-1200 as a bold experiment and to attempt to reenter the high-end space; only time will tell if they are successful but the speed at which the SL-1200GAE special edition sold out is quite telling that they made the right decision, at least for that model; I've no idea how well the SL-1200G has been selling.

Glotz's picture

The tables I was referring to are any of the countless dj-style turntables that were ubiquitous in the 1970's. They look a lot a like, and it appears the '1200 has not changed any aspect of it's aesthetic whatsoever over 30 plus years. It is obvious now they needed to take die-hard fans into account.

While it's true that many dj's are using a digital mixing rig instead of turntables, I am surprised that Technics is in the position they are in. Perhaps they weren't innovating enough over time, turntable and company.

I'm sure MF will review the product impartially. Given how they've improved the product, it sounds like they will do well.

cdlp4578's picture

Much like Linn doesn't mess with the aesthetic of the LP 12. The aftermarket is so huge they'd probably alienate people by changing it. You can't please everybody.

It would not surprise me if Technics came out 5 years from now with a direct drive table with a vinyl veneer fake-wood look with no pitch slider, no lights, no strobe pattern platter, and different feet at a $4,999 price tag - if the market wants fewer features but is willing to pay more for a furniture look then they will do it.

yoss's picture

I'm skeptical that this is what you meant to show with your video. I just find it very difficult to believe that you INTENDED to demonstrate a weakness in your $160,000+ turntable system's vacuum platter in a video labeled to be a comparison/demonstration with the new Technics.

I think it's far more likely that you noticed the issues when commentators pointed it out AFTER the video was uploaded then put up the next video in an effort to fix the issue without directly addressing it. (Maybe the egg on your face in the 2nd video was intentional and symbolic?) ; )

All this being said, I still find the Caliburn with the jacked up vinyl superior, in many ways, to the Technics. The glock had more dramatic overtones, the notes seemed to bloom and had more body and personality, and the overall presentation was more immersive and life-like on my modest 2-channel system.

Michael Fremer's picture
You are partially correct: I made the recordings and videos and didn't pay attention to either. I didn't watch the videos, nor did I listen. Only afterwards did I see the SAT arm jiggle and then I listened. Rather than scrapping the whole thing I though it would be an interesting exercise and it was!
Jon's picture

I got them right but I also originally commented that I would have preferred the second one (Caliburn) had it not been for the speed stability issues. I also believed that those issues were the cause of the better PRaT (to my ears) of the Technics in that example. And since PRaT is one of the things that is right near the top of things that matter to me in hifi reproduction, it is perhaps not that surprising I preferred the Technics even though I knew it was (by far) the cheaper turntable.

I never bothered to reply to the classical vocal excerpt you kindly also did, but I did actually download and listen to the 24/96 files. In that case, there was a very obvious improvement with the Caliburn over the Technics. It wasn't even remotely close. Actually to the point where the monumental price difference was worth it (if you could afford it).

Mind you, the reality is that the Technics seems extremely capable (from your demos) of tracking poorly pressed vinyl whilst maintaining superb stability and superb PRaT. To me this is perhaps it's most redeeming feature. And it is something that people should think carefully about given that - in my experience at least - getting perfect modern pressings - title after title - is (to use the American vernacular) a crap-shoot.

yoss's picture

I've already purchased the cd version of this piece and will be doing side-by-side comparisons with these files in order to see which is more accurate vs which I find more involving and enjoyable. Cheers!

Corsair's picture

Hope we can hear your impressions

Jon's picture

How you can possibly determine which is more accurate, since to do so would be completely and utterly impossible without having direct access to the original master tape and playing that back through the exact same (extremely high end) amplification and speakers in the exact same conditions in the exact same room along with the CD and the LP. Even then you are introducing too many variables to make any sort of judgement because there is no such thing as a turntable front end that sounds like CD front end that sounds like a R2R front end.

I guess what I am saying is enjoy your comparison but any conclusions you come to will be completely and utterly pointless.

yoss's picture

CD's are a perfect copy of a tape recording at a point in time and match the waveform of the tape identically... Now, Michael will fight this tooth and nail but I have faith in measurement. What I'm interested in are the difference from the cd "standard" and the two turntables.

Jon's picture

On the off chance you are being serious I won't waste any further time on this sort of idiocy. Tell it instead to someone stupid, naive and inexperienced enough to believe it and who lacks the listening skills to refute it (therefore, not me, nor most anyone else here). And please don't bother linking to youtube videos with men in beards and lab coats showing perfect in and perfect out on testing equipment. It doesn't actually translate when you actually sit down to LISTEN. I could write a hundred pages explaining why the theory behind CD does NOT work in practice but you've already made your mind up and nothing is obviously going to change it.

yoss's picture

Still, the fact remains that superiority of alternate formats in an appropriately controlled setting has not .yet been demonstrated, despite multiple attempts. What's even more hilarious is when people start playing cd's through old Sony Playstation's and comparing them to 3k+ cd players. They are not paying for accurate representation of sound, but for things to be colored a particular way that's pleasant. If you want to know what happens to sound when it's recorded to 2" tape (the analog standard) check this out: It's blatantly obvious that the digital has far more resolution, clarity and detail, and far less coloration. Give, some may prefer the colorations of tape but they're NOT accurate at all. The bottom live is, if you want more accurate sound quality... the smartest thing you can do is put the money you'd spend on high dollar dacs and turntables towards the best speakers and high current power amps you can afford as you will most definitely improve your accuracy that way. However, if you don't care about accuracy at all and find that you prefer the colorations and noise of vinyl, tubes, tape etc, go for it... there's nothing wrong with that philosophy, just don't try to claim its more accurate... because its not even close.

Robin Landseadel's picture

I've sat down many a time. There are so many variables as to why and how one can hear differences in the music carrier. There's an extraordinary range of difference of sound quality of LPs and CDs, in the quality of playback gear and system set-up, and in the different modes of listening/hearing. I listen to a lot of music that requires steady pitch—piano, organ, new age. Steady pitch is not one of LP's long suits compared to CDs. Maybe not so important to you, terribly important to me. Something easily measured and very easily heard.

atomlow's picture

I thought the sound was switched. Both sounded really good. I dig "hifi" but I'm extremely happy with my $2000 setup. These listening tests help me realize to just keep buying records. If I get 90% of the way there to a $500,000 system I can live with it.

Corsair's picture

Agreed. get 80-90% there and spend the rest on not only records but phono stage, cart, cables, etc. Balance is key.

GroovyGuru's picture

well, the research for perfection reveals sometimes the ugly faces of the reality...

Corsair's picture

But i'm surprised that a good condition record wasn't played in the first place. Why do that to your excellent cartridge, and why do that to our time? Should this story be renamed SAT vs Technics arm on bad record? I'd be grateful for another test, hopefully with a Quality Records or MoFi pressing.

herbo's picture

When I first listened, in like ten seconds I thought wow! That Technics sounds "short" as in harmonically underdveloped - just like the SL1200GAE I reviewed. Then I listened to the Caliburn, SAT rig and thought wow! Listen to that fully extended sustain. Look at all that full openness. But then I thought I don't wanna guess wrong (how embarrassing that would be) so I re-listened to several other of Michael's U-tube videos of the Caliburn rig and they all sounded the same as the second video. What to me is so cool and fascinating is just how clearly different the two recordings can sound on even a low-res U-tube vid and just how musch fun I had thinking and guessing and even stressing about - did I get it right?? Keep these coming Michael !!! game on!

Erocka2000's picture

Hey Herb, I assume you're the Herb from Stereophile. Wondering if you can touch upon the comparison between the GAE and your Thorens TD-124 a little more. I currently have a TD-124 but have been very interested in the GAE/G. I'm just nervous that it's going to be a step down in sound quality. For reference, the TD-124 has a 9" Schick tonearm, Kiseki Blue NS, and has been entirely rebuilt with upgrades.

herbo's picture

As Michael's wonderful comparison just showed: 'Best' is what pleases you most -- and every bit of audio gear sounds mainly like audio gear and in the end - different from all its brothers. Meanwhile, your setup sounds totally delightful and is something YOU created. I believe that counts for a lot. I would keep what you have and spend your extra cash on more black discs.

Erocka2000's picture

Being as though I haven't heard the Technics in my own system, I suppose I'm not sure which pleases me the most. I wish dealers would allow home demos these days...

DJ Phase Four's picture

I'm astonished, I really am.

DJ Phase Four's picture

I misread the lead paragraph for this article, ignore me and move on.

DJ Phase Four's picture

Did you guys want fins on it or something? Maybe some propellers...

Erocka2000's picture

...Is this review coming out soon?

Neverenough's picture

And it would be great to do a blind comparison of this new Technics vs the last generation 1200.

BENEDICT's picture

Good morning Michael,

I have been the fortunate owner of that TT since 07/2016.

I don't pretend at all it's the best one nevertheless I had

previously the Rega P7 and the SL 1200gae is a step up according

to me and I do not regret my choice.

I would appreciate your final review

Thanks and keep vinyl alive


anaBlog's picture

I appreciated this challenge. I didn't watch the video, just listened to S&MTECH.aif and S&MCAL.aif through an iFi iDSD LE powering Grado SR325 headphones. I preferred the latter file but the tracking issue had me second-guessing that maybe it was the Technics recording. I therefore found Michael's explanation of the outcome with respect to the Caliburn's vacuum platter rewarding (and a relief!).
Thanks, Michael.