Technics Sp10 Mk2 vs SL-1200G - I finally did an A/B

Guys, it is payback time. I have asked so many questions here to improve my knowledge or make a good purchase. I should give back now.

This is a topic that is HOT these days. Are the new generation Technics 1200G/GAE and Sp10-R better than the vintage Sp10 Mk2 and Mk3 ? 

I have myself asked this question multiple times here. The most common reply was a resounding "Yes" in favour of the new 1200G/GAE. The 10R is still too new and not many have a direct opinion. But in general, even those who have commented on the 1200G vs Sp10 mk2, almost no one has compared them side by side. Some have written based on aural memory, some based on specs and design, and some have written based on pure subjective opinion.

In any case, most of us are very happy that Technics has done it. A very few business oriented minds might be disappointed that their business around vintage Technics DDs would take some hit due to these modern machines.

Since I was in the market for a good high resolution TT to replace my modded Loricraft Garrard 301, I took active interest in the Technics DDs. Overall I was convinced that the 1200G is the machine to look out for. It was clearly favored over the smaller sp10 and more or less compared to the bigger sp10 mk3. I got a brand new 1200G and sent it to Time-Step audio for their Evoke PSU mod. It is a very well accepted mod in the UK markets. In general the Switch-Mode PSU of the 1200G is considered its Achilles heel so this mod was a necessity.

I finally had the 1200G at my home. I won't go into the process of setting up as it was a simple and straight forward one. I used its own Technics tonearm to start with. I tried couple of platter mats but its own default mat sounded fine so it remained. I have 2 cartridges to play, the Denon 103r and Ortofon Cadenza blue. None of them are esoteric stuff, but I find them very neutral and musically "right" sounding carts.

Straightaway the 1200G revealed that it was a more transparent and higher resolution player than the Garrard. The noise floor was lower, inner details more easily heard. Soundstage more precise and layered. Great! There was an extra sparkle to the sound which was quite thrilling. More like going from HD to UHD. What felt a bit lacking was overall dynamics and scale. The 1200G sounded "Compact". The Garrard was like a full blown full scale sound. I let the 1200G run at 78rpm for many hours so that the burn-in process is expedited. I also tried both the auto and manual servo settings to vary the torque and balance of the sound. As I listened more I also realized that the 1200G does not have the fluidity that I am used to with the Garrard or other belt drive TTs I have heard. Notes bloom but die out instantly, followed by a silence before the next note. Something that joins the notes so that it all sounds related was missing a bit. In terms of dynamics, the intensity of an "explosion or a shout" was kind of controlled. That takes away a bit of that startle factor which allows us to get awestruck with our systems. Bass on the 1200G sounded a bit chopped. It did not feel very deep and powerful. I rather felt I am listening to mid-upper bass with average impact. But when it came to details it sounded like a super Cd player in a good way.

I decided to play with the tonearm at this point. I have a 47 Labs RS-A1 tonearm which has its own standing mount. One can just lift it and place it at the right distance so that the under-hang is correct and you are good to go. It is a musical tonearm. Once installed, this tonearm gave the Technics a significant jump on the performance. Especially it made the Technics sound less hifi and more musical, more fluid, more jump factor. Just plain more realistic. But then it brought the same kind of improvements to the Garrard too. I did a lot of comparison shifting this tonearm between the 2 TTs. All my above comments about their differences holds true. 

After about 2 weeks and multiple hours of comparison on all kinds of music, I decided that while there are areas where the Garrard lacks and Technics clearly shines, musically Garrard is more realistic whereas Technics is more cerebral. I knew I was going to miss that hi-rez sparkle from Technics but I could only keep one so it has to go. I sold the 1200G. But the curiosity still remained so I bought a Sp10 Mk2.

After there 1200G left my place, the Sp10 Mk2 arrived. I did not have a plinth but I had read on Audiogon that it can be used in the naked form with a suitable isolation like the Audio Technica AT-636 Pneumatic footers. I have those footers so I installed the Sp10 on those footers and used the 47 Labs tonearm with Denon 103r for listening.

In the first 10 secs it was clear the Sp10 Mk2 is a more dynamic player than the 1200G. It sounded more like a Garrard in terms of scale, dynamics and drive. At the same time it was more transparent than Garrard. I had read couple of opinions that the vintage Sp10 DDs has more torquey motor drive. Here I was clearly hearing that. If I enter the room, I would not know which player is playing simply because of the similarity in slam, dynamics and tonality. My Garrard has the audiosilente idler wheel, woodsong audio brake disc and kokomo bearings. It is also driven by a dedicated AC regenerator for a clean AC input. In effect it is a much cleaner and neutral TT than typical Garrards. The Sp10 Mk2 is a less romantic sounding TT overall but it does not feel "compact", "thin" or "bright". It sounds natural, which is a very important trait to enjoy music. It sounds big and punchy without sounding colored or veiled. I have not even installed the plinth yet. My Garrard is still the king in the system but the Sp10 is a good contender with higher resolution and lower noise floor overall.

Guys, I don't know how to put it. I am not here to spoil the party of the 1200G/GAE owners. It is definitely a very complete package. You get warranty, company support, spares and all the peace of mind with the new Technics DDs. But if you are one of those adventurous types deciding between the old school and new gen Technics TT, the old Sp10 mk2/mk3 wins it for me, purely from the sound quality perspective. New technology probably has given the new Technics a bit more refinement but the drive, excitement and immediacy of real instruments still is conveyed best by the grand old boys.

My system:
. Loricraft Garrard 301 (mods: Kokomo mk2 bearing, Audiosilente idler wheel, Woodsong audio brake disc, Funkfirm Achromat, Monarcy Audio AC regenerator)
. 47 Labs RS-A1 tonearm
. Ortofon Cadenza Blue, Denon 103r carts
. Trilogy 907 phonostage
. Berning MicroZOTL 2.0 preamp
. Audio Note Conquest Silver Signature SET monoblock amps
. Tannoy Turnberry SE speakers

P.S: I did not compare the 2 Technics side by side but it was almost back to back as the Sp10 arrived after 3-4 days of the departure of 1200G. Since it was all in my own system, I had a good hang of what they felt like.
You can always recognize a determined troll by his stalking behavior and his pattern of always responding to every single bait cast out into the water, chomping down on the hook with gusto.
Thanks for inspiration geoffkait.

Over the last couple of months on Audiogon, I have not learned much about actual music reproduction. However, I did learn that geoffkait’s posts are a well of inspiration for answers to his own posts.

My previous post (July 11, 2018 9:11 pm) was, in fact, a copy of geoffkait’s post aimed at me not so long ago. I cut it short so not to mention one of his favorite words. Otherwise, I think that geoffkait should start answering to his own posts. He really writes a good description of himself and picks on things he is weak at.
Is this the same thread I started ?
I have something very interesting to share.
Has anyone heard the Audiospecials Phonolab 1.0 phonostage ?
Hi Pani.

No, but I have heard good reports about it.  Do you have one?  please tell
I just thought I would add a comment about the 1200G.  I have had the table for about four months and when I went to listen today it was like a completely different table.  I listen a lot so this kind of suprising.  Bigger stage,  Lower mids, and a lot more bass and I did nothing.  I did not touch any settings.  Sound is even more relaxed.  It sounds absolutely incredible.  So... when you think you have the table run in, maybe not.  I cannot believe this.  Just incredible.  This table can have surprises, good ones at that.
@tzh21y thats very good news. I hope to listen to this TT again some time. It is a TT that if you like, you won't change for a long long time.

@downunder , yes I have the Audiospecials Phonolab 1.0 at my home for trial. I have been hunting for that perfect phono for a long time now.

First it was RCM Sensor Prelude - Good but not super.
Then it was the Naim Superline with Supercap - Very dynamic and holographic sounding, but in the end it did not have the right flow of music (quite contrary to typical Naim products.
Then I bought a Audio Note M6 phono. It is a MM only model with a SUT required. It is expensive and it sounds expensive too. Tone color, dynamics and all the tube goodies in huge dose with very good resolution too. What it lacked was speed. It doesnt swing and boogie with that realistic pace. Rather it gives music its own flavor of bloom, color and body with a laidback, full sound. To me I was listening to a "voiced" product.

After all this I kept things simple and bought an old Yamaha C70 preamp with in-built phono which did not have any special tricks to highlight itself. Its all discrete FET based phonostage played music in a straightforward manner and it was okay for me till I found a truly honest phonostage with all the dynamics and slam of the big boys.

The Audiospecials Phonolab 1.0 is here for a trial at the moment. They offer a 7 days trial period. What I am hearing is very very good. Colorless, big dynamic range, very quiet, high resolution and above all fast and precise like a true studio gear. You immediately know that you are hearing whats on the record with all its glory without voicing. Flow of music is very accurate so you sing along as the music plays. Lots gain and impedance adjustments so thats not a limitation either. That tube vs SS thing doesnt come into picture because music is sounding just right. I think it could be a solid keeper. I am happy with this discovery. At last someone hears music right and made an appropriate device. 

Now for my TT hunt, still on. That will be closing chapter (almost!).