Tools & Tech


The complete guide to buying Technics SL-1200 turntables second hand
Before you hit the ‘Buy It Now’ button, follow this guide to make sure you end up with a pair of SL-1200s you don’t regret.
Considered by many to be the best ever, the Technics SL-1200 and its dark side variant the SL-1210 have garnered a legendary reputation in DJ circles and beyond.

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The complete guide to buying Technics SL-1200 turntables second hand
Before you hit the ‘Buy It Now’ button, follow this guide to make sure you end up with a pair of SL-1200s you don’t regret.
Considered by many to be the best ever, the Technics SL-1200 and its dark side variant the SL-1210 have garnered a legendary reputation in DJ circles and beyond.
Although Panasonic recently resurrected the 1200, the cheapest of these has a £1,299 price tag whilst the ‘regular’ edition is available for an eye-watering £2,799 and the limited edition fetches even more on the resale market.
So if you want an industry standard DJ deck at an affordable price point, the best option probably remains going used. Buying a turntable used always carries risks (particularly if you shop online) but our step-by-step guide to buying a Technics SL-1200 second hand tells you what to look out for and why.
The complete guide to turntable cartridges
Know your moving magnets from your moving coils with our comprehensive introduction to cartridges.
Needles, styli, cartridges, pick ups, call them what you like, every turntable has something that sits in the groove and ‘reads’ the undulations in the groove wall.
The signal produced by this process gets sent down the wires in the arm to an amplifier that equalises and boosts it to a level where it can be sent through another amplifier and into the speaker.
The cartridge has a tricky job because it has to turn a mechanical movement into an electrical signal, it does the opposite of a loudspeaker which turns a signal into vibrations in the air. Both are types of transducer.
How They Work
Cartridges turn movement into signal with a magnet attached to the top end of the cantilever (the thin rod with the stylus at its tip). When the stylus moves the cantilever moves the magnet and this induces a voltage in a coil of wire placed very close to it. This wire is connected to the pins on the back of the cartridge, and as there are two sets of coils in a stereo cartridge the four pins on the back are the positive and negative connections for each channel.
That’s how a moving magnet (MM) cartridge makes a signal, a moving coil (MC) works the other way round: the coils move and the magnets remain static. This makes for a much lighter moving mass and as engineers will know is a good thing – it means that the stylus, cantilever and coils weigh less and that allows them to stop and start more quickly. But it requires finer wire for the coils and greater precision in manufacturing to make a moving coil. As a result MCs are almost always more expensive than MMs.
As you can imagine the size or power of that signal is very low, that’s why a turntable needs a separate amplifier called a phono stage to boost the voltage up to a point where an ordinary amp can work with it. MCs have even lower output voltages and consequently MC phono stages have to be that much quieter than MM varieties.
How well a cartridge does its job depends on a lot of factors: the shape of the diamond stylus, the material used for the cantilever and the arrangement of the magnets/coils in the body of the cartridge are just a few of them. Even the material that the body is made of has a pretty dramatic effect. The Japanese are keen on cartridge bodies made of hardwood and semi precious stone like jade, while some MC cartridges have no body at all, which brings weight down but does make the delicate parts quite vulnerable.
In an ideal cartridge all the vibrations that the stylus picks up from the groove would be transformed into electrical energy, but it’s a crude system that constantly has to battle with unwanted vibration in the air (sound) and coming through the turntable from the furniture and floor. This is why you get the best results with vinyl if you keep your turntable away from speakers and large pieces of furniture, the most practical solution is a wall shelf at the other end of the room from the speakers if possible. (Read our step-by-step guide to speaker placement for more on this.)
Set-up
If you want to hear as much music as possible and minimise vinyl wear, it pays to set up cartridges as carefully as possible. One thing that’s obvious when you think about it is that the stylus can only be perfectly in line with the groove at a certain point on the vinyl. This is because most tonearms pivot around a fixed point and this means that the cartridge describes an arc as it traverses the record.
Over the years numerous attempts have been made to overcome this but few have been good enough to make much commercial impact. The exception are so-called parallel tracking arms that allow the cartridge to travel across the vinyl in a straight line. These were made by Technics and B&O among others in the eighties, but ultimately did not prove to be as good nor as reliable as was hoped. You can still buy a high end parallel tracking arm but the fact that they still represent a niche tells you that this is not the ultimate solution.
So cartridge set up is a balance of compromises, you need to optimise the angle and position of the stylus for as much of the vinyl surface as possible. Getting this position right requires an alignment protractor which need not be any more complicated than a piece of card with a hole and lines on but inevitably it’s possible to spend an awful lot on tools made for the job.
Use The Force
First it’s necessary to fit the cartridge and set the downforce that’s appropriate. The figure can be found with the cartridge packaging or online and with arms that have calibration marking you balance the arm so that it’s floating with the tip close to the height of the vinyl by adjusting the counterweight, then dial in the required downforce.
With arms that don’t have this facility you need some kind of downforce gauge like the Shure SFG-2, then adjust the position of the counterweight until the downforce is correct. The benefits of correct tracking force are numerous but fundamentally if it’s not correct record wear will be greater and sound quality lower. The old ‘put a coin on the headshell to stop it jumping’ technique is not a good idea if you value your vinyl.
Once that’s sorted get hold of a protractor – there are free ones online – and use it to fine tune the position and angle of the cartridge and stylus. I prefer a protractor called Polaris Plus because it makes the job easier and if you want an accurate result it’s hard to beat, but the simpler options are good enough for most inexpensive cartridges. In fact the fancier the cartridge the more demanding it tends to be about set up. The great thing about most MMs is that they have spherical styli that are easy to align. Higher end MC cartridges usually have line contact styli that need to be precisely aligned for best results.
If you want to push the boat out, and your tonearm allows it, you can adjust vertical tracking angle or VTA. This is the angle of the stylus in the groove as viewed from the side. As rule if the armtube is parallel to the vinyl surface when the stylus is in the groove then VTA should be correct. If it isn’t and the arm allows adjustment for height at its base then you can raise or lower it to achieve that end. Interestingly one of the most knowledgeable turntable and arm makers, Rega Research, does not offer height adjustment on its arms because it feels the small benefits of perfect VTA are outweighed by the lack of rigidity introduced by an adjustable arm base. And given that they make the best sounding record players on the market they are probably right.
Conclusion
The great thing about turntables is that you can hear differences with every change you make, and good set up is a very cheap upgrade that can turn something that’s the merely entertaining into a source of musical ecstasy. But don’t get carried away, they’re only records!


HOW TO GET THE BEST SOUND FROM YOUR RECORD PLAYER: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
Record players work by measuring vibrations. The vinyl groove causes the stylus to move or vibrate, and this is turned into a tiny electrical signal that is amplified and turned into sound by the speakers. This means that for a turntable to work well you want it to ‘read’ just the vibrations in the groove rather than having them muddied by vibration coming from elsewhere. The difference between good and great turntables is their ability to cope with external vibration but none will give off their best if they are in the wrong place.
In practice this means putting the turntable on something that’s not going to vibrate with the music, such as a small table or a shelf rather than a sideboard. Large pieces of furniture vibrate when speakers are playing, just put your hand on them and you’ll feel it; ideally you want something that’s both light and stiff. So a small wall bracket or a lightweight coffee table – the Ikea Lack has for a long time been the preferred support for Linn’s classic LP12, and at £5 it is unbeatable value.
The other way to minimise vibration is to keep the turntable away from the speakers, and don’t even think about putting the two on the same piece of furniture. This is one of the many reasons why complete record players in a box with speakers built-in sound crap, it’s a miracle they work at all.
Finally, wherever you put the turntable make sure it’s level. Use a small spirit level and adjust the feet so that its level in both side to side and fore/aft planes. If the feet aren’t adjustable use pieces of card or similar under the feet.
Once you’ve found a good spot for your deck, follow this five-point guide to extract the best sound.
1. SET-UP
The next thing is to ensure that the stylus (cartridge) is at the right angle in the arm when viewed from the front. Most affordable turntables are supplied with the cartridge ready fitted, and most of them are installed more or less in the right place and at the right angle. But it’s worthwhile checking because not only does a poorly aligned cartridge not sound as good as a properly set up example, it can also damage your vinyl in the long run.
Before checking alignment it’s a good idea to establish that the tracking force is right, if you have a 10p on the end of the arm it definitely isn’t. Usually there are marks on the counterweight, the lump at the other end of the arm to the cartridge that balances it. Turn the weight to zero and the arm should sit level without the stylus hitting the platter, if it’s up in the air or still on the platter adjust the weight until it sits parallel to the turntable. Once your arm is ‘floating’ thusly dial in the tracking weight that’s recommended for the cartridge, usually this is somewhere between 1.5 and 2 grams but do check as too much force can damage the cartridge while too little results in mistracking which damages the vinyl.
For an in-depth guide to adjusting your tonearm click here.

MIGHTY 
replaces its legacy RLA System and is awarded the first fully commissioned EAW Avalon Club.two® system in the country.
San Francisco, CA (March, 2013) - Mighty owners, Sean and Isabel Manchester, tapped San Francisco's JK Sound to design and install a new sound system to replace the historic Richard Long and Associates sound system. Michael Lacina, JK Sound President, and Brad Katz, Designer, suggested EAW's new Club.two line coupled with a combination of Lab Grupen and Powersoft power and processing for a combined output of 50,000 watts!
"Although there was much love and praise for the massive, classic RLA system at Mighty, we felt it was time to move forward with a brand new "state of the art" sound system that will raise the bar for super clean yet powerful sound on a dance floor". 
-Sean Manchester - Mighty
Avalon Club.two by EAW represents a radical departure from all previous dance club loudspeaker systems, putting cutting-edge acoustic technology in a package that appeals to the design-conscious dance club market. The industrial design turns the loudspeaker inside-out, mounting an exposed mid/high horn in front of the grille. And the concave grille – sculpted in clean, straight lines – expresses the bilateral symmetry that unifies the design.
The main dance floor at Mighty will consist of four CLUB.two tops flown, with six SUB.two subs stacked in a “mono block”. The CLUB.two tops are designed around a unique high/mid co-axial compression driver, that combines ultra- efficiency and extreme output paired with symmetrical quad 12" lows, and everything is axially aligned for true phase point sourcing.
The SUB.two is the worlds first bi-amp hybrid subwoofer system; combining a bent bass horn driven by two 12" driver's and a single direct-radiating 21" driver mounted on the last horn flare.
Powering the mains will be a pair of LabGruppen PLM10000q that couple high- output quad channel amps with legendary Lake® processing.
The subs stack will get two Powersoft K10's and one K8, all with the DSP+AESOP options that combine state the art processing, professional networking, and some of the highest power density available. There is even a cable damping factor correction inside the processing...an industry first.
All amps have their own built-in processing that integrates with EAW's Gunness Focusing, another milestone in speaker processing that adds unmatched clarity by eliminating distortion through custom box algorithm's.
“EAW enjoys a distinguished history working with Michael Lacina and JK Sound. Michael has deep experience in dance club design and has been particularly excited to implement a new Avalon by EAW sound system. I know this because Michael strives to deliver the absolute pinnacle of quality, and that’s what Avalon by EAW is all about. But I also know this because Michael checked in frequently during product development. At Mighty, his pro-active approach has paid off. Congratulations to Michael, JK Sound and the team at Mighty on reaching this important milestone.”
-Jeff Rocha, President, Eastern Acoustic Works
To complete the system, the install will include the revolutionary Waves MAXX BCL preamp – used at Lincoln Center and on tour with Cirque Du Soleil, Metallica and other superstar acts. The MAXXBCL will send a digital AES signal to all amp/processor's, no extra digital to analog conversion allowing for even greater clarity and headroom. This also allows Mighty to have an all digital feed option straight from any digital mixer by converting the S/PDIF to AES and straight into the Waves unit, while also having a pristine analog feed with some of the best analog to digital converters in the industry.
“This absolutely sets a new standard for club sound. Beyond the power we’ve gotten from the new generation of components, the symmetry gives these systems an unprecedented level of clarity. The sonic imaging is simply amazing.”
- John Lyons - John Lyon's Systems
"This is a dream system for Mighty and me, the best of all things audio, pristine from track to ear. The idea is very, very, very large studio monitor's and a 3D sound you feel. This is new technology that really works."
-Brad Katz - Designer, JK Sound
DJ Mag's Top 100 DJs: Best DJ Headphones

DJ Mag has been publishing their Top 100 DJ list since 1991. In this article, we take a different approach to finding the best DJ headphones, by using Equipboard data to find the headphones used by DJs in DJ Mag's 2014 Top 100 DJs list.
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The 8 best turntable cartridges to achieve ultimate sound quality
When it comes to playback quality, the choice of cartridge is just as important as the amp, loudspeakers and the deck itself. On the hunt for perfect sound, our tech guru Paul Rigby reviews 8 of the best phono cartridges on the market right now......................

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