Is the KAB Fluid Damper worth it if...

...that is the only mod you purchase for a technics 1210? My setup will consist of a 3" maple platform with brass footers replacing the existing ones. I really don't think I could do the rewire myself, and I don't really want to send my turntable into KAB. With just the purchase of the damper would this rig be able to get the most out of higher end cartridges?--Cheers

04-09-08: Edo_musica
So, the sumiko headshell provides what improvements? I already have the fluid damper and use a AT150MLX cart.
First of all, I'm a BIG fan of the fluid damper. I added it after I had already gotten a DL-160 mounted to a Sumiko HS12 headshell.

Improvements from the Sumiko?
--Increases effective mass of the tonearm to match the compliance of popular cartridges today
--More rigid and less resonant than stock cartridge
--Much better headshell leads and clips than stock (worth $20 on their own)
--More secure and rigid mechanical interface to the tonearm with second alignment pin
--Azimuth adjustment, which enables you to dial more accurate and symmetrical seating of the stylus in the groove, resulting in better balanced stereo image and soundstage

The headshell weight could be a help or hindrance depending on the cartridge. The DL-160 is very light, so the Sumiko helps compensate. For a heavier cartridge, a lighter headshell might be warranted, but the Sumiko still brings better wiring, better bayonet mount, more rigidity, and adjustability.
Thanks johnny. I see. Good to know about the weight.
BTW, my AT150(MM)cartride's weight is 8.3g vs. the DL-160(MC) 4.8g. -ed
Ed, in past times you were pretty enthusiastic about the DL-160 on the SL-1200, a little less so about the DL-103. How has that changed for you in the last 2-3 years.

Since I discovered the SL-1200, I've found that, at least on bulletin boards and discussion forums, that "the most popular pairing is with the DL-103 and DL-103R." I was just stating what I believe the be a fact, not my personal opinion. I still prefer the DL-110/DL-160 to the DL-103 because I like the additional detail their more sophisticated cantilevers/styli provide. But the DL-103 has an undeniably bold and immediate sound that many people associate with much more expensive low output MC designs.

I just got in touch with Denon to see if they would loan me a DL-103 or 103R for a detailed review in Positive Feedback Online. I'm also planning to conatct Kevin at KAB about whether or not the fluid damper will work with my SL-1400Mk2, which is the only Technics I have on hand right now. If both work out, I'll be able to do a thorough listening test of the DL-103 and a nice sidebar on how it performs with -- and without -- the fluid damper.
I own a KAB SL-1210MK5SE with just about all of the mods you can get from Kevin, except for the record clamp. You can always remove the tonearm and send it in to Kevin to be rewired, that's what I did. That was because when I bought the table I planned on using it with the OL armboard and a Rega RB300. Didn't like it and when back to the OEM arm with the fluid damper and rewire. I think the rewire over the stock wire is the biggest bang, then the damper. I tried the LPGear Zupreme headshell and didn't like it with my cartridge, a Garrott FGS. I went back to the OEM headshell, but did upgrade the cartridge leads. But, I'm sure the headshell upgrade is all dependent upon the cartridge you choose. Just a word of caution though that it may not work as well with all applications.
Back to the original question, I *think* both mods are important, but I don't know exactly because I have the SL1210 M5G which comes from the factory with upgraded wiring. I *have* noticed further (subtle) improvements by separating the interconnect leads and then loosely twisting them together. Based on that, I suspect that an upgrade from garden variety SL1200 tonearm wire to Cardas, Kimber, or whatever Kevin offers would have a welcome effect of more openness, more detail, more dynamics, airier presentation, improved soundstage, etc.

The fluid damper brings a different set of improvements to the party. I can't say which is more important, though I guess if you don't have good signal transfer from the cartridge, the rest of the tweaks won't be as noticeable either. Some critics say the stock SL1200 sounds dark. I would never say that of the SL1210 M5G, but hey, maybe it's the better tonearm wire.

OTOH, I disagree somewhat with Ed in that I found the fluid damper to be a noticeable improvement even with fairly low-priced cartridges, in my case, the Denon DL-160. It's not a dramatic night-and-day difference, and you have to make sure you don't overdamp, but once it's in, you get a greater sense of refinement, sweeter strings, clearer, more articulate percussion, more clarity and inner detail and bass detail. Its improved ability to track warps has made it a boon to this bargain-bin LP shopper.

Ed may well be right that these improvements manifest themselves more dramatically with upscale cartridges. I can't speak to that but I certainly felt that the trough was well worth it for the DL-160.

Given that great matchup, I bet the Sumiko headshell and trough would be killer with a Sumiko BPS EVO III or Blackbird.