Technics SL-1200 MK2, SL-1210 MK2 and SL-120 MK2 Turntables

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The Technics SL-1200 MK2 series of quartz locked, direct drive turntables were introduced in 1978 to replace the popular SL-1200. The SL-1200 MK2 series should not be thought of as a "mark 2" version of the SL-1200 but rather a completely new deck as it was re-designed "from the ground up" and shares little with it's predessessor. Later versions, however, such as the MK3, M3D, MK4, MK5, M5G and MK6 were just mildly revised versions of the MK2. Incidently, the MK4 was officially sold only in Japan.

The Technics SL-1200 MK2 series was available in the following versions in the UK:-

  • SL-1200 MK2 - Silver
  • SL-1210 MK2 - "Technics black"
  • SL-120 MK2 - Silver, No Arm

The SL-1200 MK2 and SL-1210 MK2 had an extremely long production run with production finally ceasing in October 2010. I can think of no turntable with a longer production run except for the Linn Sondek LP12. The armless SL-120 did not run for as long, however, being discontinued after only a few years. This series of decks were manuafactured solely in Japan for it's entire lifespan. All versions of this turntable are technically identical, however it should be noted that the 1200/1210 arm assembly has a 3 point mounting whereas the 120 armboard has a 4 bolt mounting arrangement. A 120 armboard will not, therefore, fit a 1200/1210 without modification.

The SL-1200 MK2 and SL-1210 MK2 (and the later variants) were extremely popular with DJs with whom it became widely seen as the "industry standard". It even found its way into some radio stations although "quality" broadcasters such as the BBC tended to favour the much more expensive Technics SP10/SL-1000 MK2 - a true professional deck. Audiophiles and DJs seem to inhabit parallel universes and have little understanding or respect for each other. However, audiophiles should be very thankful for DJs and their liking of the SL-1200/1210 because without them this turntable would surely not have survived the CD age.

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Drive System Direct drive (quartz referenced servo control)
Motor Type Brushless DC, rotor built into platter, stator bolted onto plinth top plate
Plinth Contruction Die cast aluminium & rubber
Platter Die cast aluminium, weight 2kg
Standard Platter Mat Thick, heavy rubber
Speeds 33.33 & 45 RPM
Pitch Control? Yes, +/- 8%
Stroboscope Yes, marking on outer platter rim
Tonearm Type 1200/1210: S-shaped, SME 3009 type headshell. 120: No Arm
Tonearm Effecttive Length 230 mm
Tonearm Effecttive Mass 12g (without cartridge)
Manual or Auto Operation? Fully manual.
Startup Time 0.7 sec. to reach 33.33 RPM
Starting Torque 1.5 kg-cm
Platter break? Yes, electromagnetic
Quoted Wow & Flutter 0.01% WRMS, 0.025 WRMS (JIS C5521)
Rumble -78 dB (Weighted, IEC98A)
Dimensions 45.3 x 16.2 x 36.0 cm
Weight 12.5 KG (SL-1200/1210 MK2)
When manufactured 1978 to 2010 (SL-1200/1210 MK2), 1978 to 1982 approx. (SL-120)
UK new price circa 450 GBP (in 2009)
eBay price guide (boxed, in full working order and in near mint condition). Note that prices are dramatically lower for examples in less than perfect condition! 400 to 600 (SL-1200/1210 MK2), 275 to 350 (SL-120) Rating
Rarity (SL-1200/SL1210)
Rarity (SL-120)

Let's not beat around the bush. The Technics SL-1200 MK2 and its derivaties are superb turntables. The build quality is way beyond what you might expect at the price and Technics quartz-locked direct drive motor gives exceptional speed stability. They are extremely robust & reliable and require little maintenance. In terms of price, technical sophistication, build, ease of use, measured performance and subjective sound quality, they make some "modern" high-end belt-driven tables, costing 4,000 to 20,000+ GBP look very silly indeed!

However, in stock form, SL-1200/1210 MK2 performance is limited by the tonearm. By average 1970's standards, the arm is reasonable, if unexceptional. In 2012, however, the arm is hopelessly outclassed by every modern arm I can think of. The SL-1200 should really be thought of as a superb high-end turntable at a giveaway price with a "free, get you started arm". To be frank, the standard arm is good enough for DJs only. Fortunately, there are a number of companies, such as Origin Live and Timestep who supply replacement armboards for fitment of, for example, Rega, Linn, Jelco and SME arms. The armless SL-120 MK2, however, came with a die-cast zinc alloy SME compatible armboard as standard.

You might ask how can it be that Technics could sell such a superbly engineered and high perforance turntable for so little compared to modern high-end decks? Well the answer is in mass production. Technics turntables were made by the Matsushita Corporation of Osaka, Japan who were (are?) the largest electronics company in the world. The SL-1200 MK and it's derivatives were mass-produced in Japan in very efficient factories. They were designed by first rate engineers working for an R&D department with very large budgets and access to state of the art technology. Modern high-end turntables, by contrast are designed and manufactured by very small companies with literally only a handful of employees, with tiny R&D budgets and limited resources and use cheap, off-the-shelf belt drive motors. Instead of being mass produced in their hundreds of thousands, or millions, they are hand-made in small workshops by a few skilled craftsmen. Also, the very long production run of the SL-1200 meant it was even cheaper to buy in real terms in 2010 than it was in 1978. Mass production can result in cheap, mediocrity or, in the case of the Technics SL-1200, in technical excellence, high quality with consistency and outstanding value!

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The SL-1200/120 MK2 tonearm may look good & be nice to use but severely limits performance!
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The SL-1200 MK2 can be greatly improved by some well chosen modifications. As discussed above, replacing the arm makes a huge improvement to the sound and this should be the first mod you make. Even a bog standard Rega RB250, RB251, RB300 or RB301 sounds great on this turntable and these arms are excellent value for money. Rega arms themselves are highly tweakable and upgradable with end-stub/counterweight mods and re-wiring taking an excellent budget arm up to the next level. Based on my own experience, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Origin Live Rega armboard and the OL "Structural Mod" (counterweight & endstub) and internal & external rewire of the Rega RB250. Those with more money to spend should consider fitting a SME 309, Series IV or Series V. Timestep can supply a good quality SME armboard (see links below).

Another weakpoint on the SL-1200 MK2 is isolation from external vibration. It would obviously have been stupid for Technics to design the deck with a sprung suspension as this would have made it unsuitable for DJ use. Instead the design relys on the use of rubber to dampen the rigid cast metal top part of the plinth and rubber feet for isolation. This design works well but can be improved by replacing the original feet with something better. Based on my own experience, I can recommend the "Isonoe Isolation Feet" for this purpose (see links below) but several other alternative feet are available.

The standard platter mat is another area rife for upgrade. The standard thick, heavy rubber mat is not bad. It's adds weight to the platter, it's resistant to slipping (which is why DJs don't use it!) and provides reasonable damping but better sounding alternatives are available (and not a DJ type felt "slipmat"!). David Price recommended the "Sound Dead Steel Isoplatmat" in the respected Hi-Fi World magazine a few years ago. The Isoplatmat is basically a rubber sheet sandwiched between two stainless steel sheets and is made in England. I have not tried it myself but it seems to be highly regarded. I have found that acrylic mats work very well on an SL-1200 MK2 and I use the very reasonably priced "Acrimat" from Inspire of Derbyshire with excellent results.

I do not recommend using felt patter mats (or DJ "slipmats") as they do not dampen the platter sufficiently and therefore colour the sound. Also, unless you are a DJ, not use a Stanton cartridge (whatever arm you have). Stanton DJ cartridges are robust, track well (at very high tracking weights!) and have a very high output making them popular with DJs but they are primitive, crude sounding transducers that have no place in a decent audiophile setup.

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Armless SL-120 MK2 with platter removed.
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Technics SL-1200 MK2 & SL-1210 MK2 Links

1. Origin Live

The Origin Live site has a lot to interest the Technics modder from an excellent Rega armboard, Rega arm mods, power supply modifications and platter mat upgrades. Origin Live is a long established and well respected British company that also make it's own high-end turntables and tonearms. The company is based in Southampton, UK.

2. Sound Hi-Fi/Timestep

The Sound Hi-Fi/Timestep site also has a lot to interest the Technics modder including mods to the standard Technics arm, replacement armboards for Jelco, SME and others, replacement platters(!), power supply upgrades and bearing upgrades. The company is based in Devon, UK.

3. Isonoe

The Isonoe site contains information on the excellent and highly recommended British made Isonoe Isolation Feet for the Technics SL-1200 MK2 series decks (also suitable for the MK3, M3D, MK4, MK5, M5G and MK6).

4. Inspire Hi-Fi

The Inspire Hi-Fi site Inspire site is still under construction at the time of writing this page but once complete you should be able to find info on the "Acrimat" platter mat and other useful accessories & upgrades. Inspire Hi-Fi is based in Derbyshire, UK.

5. SoundDeadSteel

The Sound Dead Steel site contains information on their highly regarded British made IsoPlatMat and IsoFeet isolation feet. SoundDeadSteel are based in Northumberland, UK.

Underside of a armless SL-120 MK2 showing rubber base.
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How to Tell the Age of a Technics SL-1200 SL-1210 or SL-120 MK2

When buying a used Technics SL-1200 series deck, condition is the most important factor with age being largely irrelevant. However: It is possible to tell the year (and the month) when the SL-1200 was manufactured from the serial number on the back or bottom (for earlier examples) of the deck. There are two different formats of the serial number, the original format and the later format. It is not possible to determine that exact decade the deck was manufactured, as the serial number contains only the last digit of the year. If the year digit is 9, the turntable may have been manufactured in 1979, 1989, 1999 or 2009. If the year digit is 0, the turntable may have been manufactured in 1980, 1990, 2000 or 2010, etc. As a rule of thumb the old-format serial numbers belong to SL-1200s made in the 1970's and 1980's, while new-format serial numbers belong to SL-1200s manufactured during the 1990s or noughties.

Old-format serial number: NHOJF10331 (SL-1200 manufactured 1981) The first digit shows the year when the SL-1200 was manufactured. These serial numbers contain no indication of the month of manufacture. It should be noted that serial numbers in this format contain no letters following digits.

New-format serial number: GE7DC01290R (SL-1200 manufactured April 2007) The first digit shows the year when the turntable was made, while the month of manufacture is indicated by the letter following it. Months are coded as letters from A and L inclusive; A indicates January, B indicates February, and so on. Note that the above serial number is from an actual deck purchased brand new from a retailer in December 2007.

In addition to the above, all the SL-1200MK2s from the 1970's and early 80's have a 4 inch diameter plate where the RCA and ground wires enter the chassis in the rubber base of the unit. The SL-120 omits the plate leaving a 4in hole for easy arm access and the later model SL-1200 and SL-1210s have a smaller hole through which the wires enter the unit (you will probably need to enlarge this hole if fitting a non-Technics arm - a straighforward task).

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