Trying a turntable-it sounds crappy, what's up??

Borrowed a friends TT.
It is a Technics SL-1900 Direct drive(Panasonic circa 1980's is my guess).
The cartidge is an Audio TEchnica with the #'s 22780 on it.

I hooked it up to my Musical Fidelity A300 integrated amp which has a dedicated phono input.
I aa not sure if this TT and cartidge should be on the MM or MC setting.
I have tried both and one is louder than the other.

I had not used a TT since my Phillips belt drive was stolen 12 years ago. It certainly sounded better than this or maybe I am just nostalgic.

I was kind of excited about trying a TT again as I have about 300 albums from college and the 80's/early 90's.

Anyway-I pulled out Steely Dan Gaucho (a good recording if memory serves me) and it sounded warmish but a kind of muffled. Nothing was really that defined.
I teid a nice Elvis Costello aLP and it also sounded very undynamic.

I have a decent digital front end (CAry 308 CD Player) and nice speakers (ACI Sapphires with an ACI Titan Sub). MAny feel that this Cary and these speakers tend toward neutral and warmish sound. Nice system.

What's up-is this a crappy turntable or a crummy cartridge?
WHich setting should this be on MC or MM?
Thanks for any insight-I wa skind of thinking about taking the plunge again, but am not sure now.
Low end TT + low end cartridge + alot of age = low end sound.

Would you feel like giving up on digital after hearing a Soundesign CD walkman that is 10 years old and half broken?

Come on, be real.
Having never heard your particular model, I wouldn't want to jump in and say that the Technics is crappy, but will say this. With exception of a couple of comments from some folks who do heavy mods on SL1200s, not too many comments have arisen praising the sound of Technics tables. Sure it could be in less than great condition, due to age etc., but there are plenty of Thorens and other old tables out there that still sound great.
I would try to listen to someone else's system with a decent table before you give up on analog. A cd vs vinyl of your Gaucho LP will be all you need to hear. Many of us have also plunged back in, and most are happier for it. I know I am.
Another thing that will greatly affect the sound is a good wet cleaning of the LPs. Many threads here will explain various methods that you can try. Regardless of which you choose, a good fluid/brushing routine will make a big improvement, and is really a requirement to getting enjoyment out of your records Cheers,
The SL-1900, is a very GOOD budget Technics direct drive. All you need to do, is install a new cartridge and check the tonearm wires and alignment. Set the turntable up on a slab of bricks or marble, (because of the feedback prone base)and you can experience very decent LP playback. I now prefer direct drives to most belt driven tables and feel pace and transparency to be superior. Only idler driven Garrards sound better to me, My good friend modified the SL-1900, with better tonearm wires and various other tweaks. The results were amazing.......Better than all the belt driven high end offerings that he had in house.
The above is from my personal experience and I hope is helpful to you...Best regards and good luck
Twl -
Not much help guy. I never said I was an expert on analog gear or that this was great stuff, just trying to gain a perspective. You may be correct but your delivery is a bit harsh.

Sbank- Thanks for a helpful response.
I will pick up a decent cleaner and give it a little time.
I am listening to Joe Pass -Portraits of Duke Ellington, and the LP is in immaculate condition. Now this sounds pretty decent. Still a little dark but the guitar sounds live, and the tube amp sound he is playing comes through well.

Hey Frap-

Well, this is good news. Glad to hear it is not a paperweight.
I know he had it serviced about two years ago to fix something on it.

ANy recommendations on a decent new or used cartridge that I could put in it for my buddy?

I am still confused about the MM or MC thing?
Which is this player?
Make sure the spindle is oiled all the way to the top. If you don't have Technics oil then 3 in 1 will work too. Adding one of Chris VenHaus' inexpensive cryo'ed outlets will add slam and dynamics to the music.

KABUSA sells Sorbothane hemispheres which are pretty effective...

Your Audio Technica is most likely a MM cartridge. They make some very good sounding models today for about 100.00 if I recall. The Shure V-15 is still a model of neutrality and Various heavyweights in the industry use it for listening to the results after mastering. I would much rather have this setup and spin records, than a tweaky exotic and cost prohibitive table, that made vinyl out of the question. I hope this helps.
OK, one last question for now....

Will this tonearm cartridge mount take any cartridge?
Is their a certain type of cartridge it will not work with?

Don't be too hard on Twl. He's just giving you the cold hard reality. You've got an ancient TT, arm and cartridge. Chances are they need a lot of work to sound good.

At the very least, the stylus on the AT is likely to be worn out. Very possible that the suspension on the cartridge is blown as well. Both need to be replaced before you can tell anything about your setup. Then you need to look at the TT/arm.

Sorry - but analog has to be "just right" to sound good. And that usually means new, or seriously refurbished by experts, with regards to turntable and arm. Cartridges and styli need to be very recent, or new.

Best of luck
I initially had a dual TT (some arm) and a grado black cart with hagerman phono. I was not impressed with vinyl at all. I also threw away the three records that had tempted giving up vinyl altogether. Then we got a thorens 166 with grado black, then later a grado gold. much better. It was actually listenable then. The midrange and overmusically with better than my redbook front end, but everything else suffered in comparision. Then we got a michell gyro SE, incognito rb250 arm, and the grado gold (later dynavecotr 20hx). Holy crap. technically it was almost as good as my redbook front end and the TT's musically was light years ahead.

My $0.02 on my journey. (of course now I'm stuck with a music hall mmf-2.1. :-(

You could also try the outlet tweak someone else suggested. You might also try a wall shelf (if you are on a suspended floor) and using cones or spikes to spike the TT directly to the wall shelf or concrete slab (if in a basement). I'm not familiar with you TT, but with my TT, I'm better off defeating the tables suspension and spiking the TT's plinth directly to my rack with is directly spiked to the concrete slab. Much better soundstage, detail retrieval, prat, less rumble, less noise, etc.

meant to say that I *almost* threw away the three records that I first bought. Never fear. I still have those three records and piles and pile more since then. :-)
I was going to ask if you/anyone has checked the cartridge setup at all. Spend $39 on some alignment tools (you're going to need them anyway) and see if you can improve things. That said, if this has recieved significant use during its time here on earth, yes the stylus may well be worn, and the cantilever suspension may be deteriorated, and there's no way to make that sound good. I have a 26 year old Pioneer (with a considerably younger cartridge) that I still use on older damaged albums, and it sounds pretty good - nowhere near the level of a 308T though. My RegaP2/Denon160 combo is nice, but not quite to that level either. A friend's P25/Dynavector20/BlackCubeSE gets to that plane. I think Twl was just trying to manage your expectations a little. Spencer's suggestion to demo some good properly setup deck(s) is a good one. Patrick, I will respectfully question, or perhaps clarify, the very last part of your post. I would think that '...very recent, or new.' still could be somewhat dated. For elapsed time in a properly matched and setup arm/cartridge one would expect at least 2000 hours on a stylus, and I'd expect calendar time on the suspension to be at least 5-8 years, wouldn't you?
Sorry Lkdog. But it just struck me like that.
It takes a certain level of equipment to expect decent reproduction in either digital or analog.
A Technics headshell will take just about any cartridge. An integrated headshell cartridge is also an option. I use the modded Stanton Groovemaster in my KAB modded 1200.

A Stanton 881S should be in your short list of cartridge choices. The sound is rather neutral, with excellent tracking and deep, tight bass...

Hey guys Thanks for the input.

Twl- no worries: I am just trying to learn here.

I am in a bit over my head. Have spent all of my time on my digital front end on my stereo setup and on my pro audio/digital workstation guitar recording setup.

I guess a couple questions right now:

1) Is it worth putting a different cartridge on this Technics just for fun (<100$).

2) How much does it really cost to get into a decent TT/cartridge setup that introduces one to decent LP playback? Maybe I can do a search on this question?
I was hoping something like 4-500$......

I tried a couple other LP's last night and some of them sounded OK. Still a bit dark and slightly lean sound, and not a great soundstage, but some of the LP's had their moments of midrange warmth that is hard to get on a digital front end.
In my opinion, it takes about $2000 for turntable, cartridge, and phono stage combined for a minimum dollar investment to get decent sound. You may find something used for less though? One can certainly spend much more for sure and get much better sound. But much less than $2k investment and I think you are kidding yourself.

Just my two cents. I used to have a Dual years ago and some of the other cheaper tables, and they are cheap sounding. No way around it.

Ouch! That is a big investment:)

I was hoping it would be like digital front ends- there are some pretty decent sounding 4-500$ used CD players out there. Yes, to get higher end sound you typically need to spend well over a grand in a one box or transport/DAC, but the used $4-500 player is still not too bad.

Anything comparable to that type of paradigm in thinking?
Some answers for your questions.

1) Sure it can be a fun thing to put a new cartridge on your existing turntable, and it will get you by for the short term, while you look for your upgrade path. Nothing wrong with that at all.

2)I think you could get into a decent level of analog playback for around $1k, if you look around and get some good buys on used equipment. For new equipment, it probably will take close to $2k, by the time you get a new phono section/TT/arm/cartridge/cables/etc. There are some good new turntables coming into the affordable range now, from a variety of quality manufacturers, and the $1k TT market is becoming quite competitive. I'm sure you could find something satisfactory in that range now. Maybe a little more for a better tonearm/cartridge wouldn't hurt any.

As you go up the performance ladder, the advantages of analog become more and more apparent. Many users on this forum even feel that a Rega Planar 3 with a basic Goldring cartridge exceeds their more expensive digital players. But I'd consider the Planar 3 to be the bottom rung of the audiophile analog ladder, in real terms. Anything up from there would be better. If you could go up to $2k or more, then you are really getting into what analog can do. Beware, it is addicting.

What you are hearing now is only the tip of the iceberg. You have a mass-market TT, and it can only give you a glimmer of what is there.
Twl -
Thanks for the info. I guess you are a right; to put it in perspective I have well over $1000 in my digital front end (I bought the CAry used and it was $1500 new). Once you add cables and power cords, and various tweaks it really adds up.
Even with all of that I have an entry level audiophile front end.
I appreciate your input.
Was kind of hoping I could get something fairly decent for 5 bills, but maybe that is not realistic.
Hi Lkdog, to be somewhere near your budget used is the ticket, definitely. You could start with something that does perform incredibly well and has a lot of support: a Thorens TD160, right now there is a MKII going on Audiogon (don't know the seller, yadda-yadda) for $235 with excellent MM cartridge. This 'table has excellent pace and dynamics (make sure the springs are level), good detail retrieval, deep bass and a decent tonearm, as long as you stick with MMs. For an excellent phono stage the Antique Sound Lab Mini Phono, which is a tubed unit and excellent value, sells for $250. Ta-da. Of course, the rest here are right and once you're hooked you'll likely get into better components at a higher premium. There are other excellent 'tables which can be had at the $200-$300 level, underrated sleepers like the AR turntables, the Aristons (RD-11s are superb), a variety of heavier direct-drives, and so on. The Thorens is a good place to start, though, due to websites like the following:
TWL & Johnnatais are painting a clear picture for you. I agree that about $1k would be great budget for a nice starter table, but think you can find something pretty good for $500-800 if you're patient. The VPI HW19jr and HW19III can be found in that range, with a solid upgrade path for down the road. Someone here just got an LP12 for $800. Better yet, I've seen Nottingham Horizons used for around $800. If you post a wanted ad, you might even prompt some potential upgrader to go for it, since you made selling his old table so effortless...fight the good fight! Cheers,
Something decent for 500 is attainable. There are a number of darn good cartridges you could get for around 150. Poke around the archives here to get other peoples perspectives or maybe start a new thread. Slap that baby on your technics and listen for a while. Then, if the hook is set, and I think it will be, take your remaining 350 and get a nicer table. You could get a rega p3 for about that. It's a nice table with a great arm and is pretty much plug and play. Another option would be to go with an older thorens. Less money, but a little bit trickier to find in good conidition and set up properly due to its age and suspended design. The good thing about the thorens and rega is that you could resell them for what you paid, though I doubt you would want to.
Hey thanks guys.
I was warned by a buddy (a recovered TT guy)that the analog forum is passionate and knowledgable.
I will do a little research on some of the models you have mentioned.
Shersta - Any recommendations on $150 (I assume used) cartridges?
I kind of like your suggested upgrade path of getting a decent cartridge to throw on this table and then go from there.
The only thing a little tricky about that path, is cartridge/arm matching. I have no idea what the effective mass is of your current arm (someone else here may have some info on that), but you will need to match the cartridge compliance to it. Then if you upgrade you'll need to get a 'similar' arm, or sell off the cartridge. Many (but not all) modern arms are sufficiently middle-of-the-road on mass that most (but not all)cartridges will work. Make sure you do a bit more homework before you paint yourself into a corner.

There's an old Chinese proverb that goes something like: It is unwise to leap a chasm in two bounds. I could be all wet, but I'd hate for you to spend some not insignificant amount money, yet be disappointed and write off analog rather than trying to spend what it takes to begin to get a representative view.
"Was kind of hoping I could get something fairly decent for 5 bills, but maybe that is not realistic."

There's some people here that have good analog knowledge but not experienced with direct drive or idler wheel drives, much less tweaking and modding them. Thus, they have NO clue where to place direct drives/idler decks in proper perspective w/ belt drives. Take TWL, for example. He's an authority but badmouthed the SL-1900. At least he hit the brakes after Frap commented on actual *experience*. Then there's the parrots, who will repeat over and over choices that will actually set you back: Rega P3, Music Hall, Project. Yeah, right...

If you learn how to tweak & work on your 1900 you'll set up a knowledge base that will let you further enjoy music and know what to listen for. Then you'll be in a position to make your own mind...

As a side note, the 1900 does not have "on the fly" VTA adjustment, so it's best not to use a cartridge with a line contact/hipereliptical stylus. The 881S I suggested does. I would call Kevin Barrett at KAB Electroacoustics and have him help me choose a cartridge. Perhaps one of the Ortofon Concorde's will do the job nicely, perhaps a Shure M97 will work right.

Kevin is an analog expert and a professional. An integrated headshell cartridge will get you going fast. I use Kevin's modded Stanton Groovemaster, an integrated headshell model and couldn't be happier. It does have a line contact (Stereohedron) stylus grafted to the assembly, though.

I almost threw up when I connected my turntable for the first time after a 15 year hiatus (it's a new cheapie, but still..).

Then I realized that the damn thing was being bounced around by the output of the speakers. At any decent volume, the needle skids right off the platter!

Now I have the turntable in another room, and all is well..problems that just don't occur with cd's!
"I almost threw up when I connected my turntable for the first time after a 15 year hiatus"

That is the best line of this thread :>

Psychicanimal/Inscrutable-Thanks for the info. So there may be hope to try this Technics table with a well chosen cartridge to at least help me get started to get the idea of what reasonable analog sounds like again.
If I like what I hear, I can get my own table, but will no doubt need some guidance. For instance, I was at the local midfi/semi-high end store here in town and they had a Music Hall that looked just fine to me, but what do I know.

All you guys have all been very informative.
>At any decent volume, the needle skids right off the platter!<

If this is happening, you have a problem. Acoustic feedback can indeed be a problem with a 'table placed incorrectly in a room. But what you describe is out of the ordinary. Don't blame what you hear on inherent problems with vinyl, investigate further.

Lk, I've already gone through the motions of modding a 1200. I know what does what. My initial suggestions still hold:

1) Oil
2) Sorbothane hemispheres
3) Cryo'ed outlet
4) Call Kevin

There's more you can do on the cheap, but start w/ the above.

I just found out from the owner tonight that he thinks he bought the turntable in mid 70's!!!!
He may be wrong as he was high most of the 70's, but at any rate it is an older model.
It was serviced here locally about five-six years ago but I cannot vouch for what they did.
He thinks the AT cartridge was bought about the same time but he cannot remember.
I took off the shell mount and cartridge and found out it is an AT12SaPQ model. I did a Google and it does not show up anywhere so I have no idea what quality it is/was.

Will contact Kevin for more info.
OK, I have a little more info FWIW and also wish to share a little experience I had today.
I got some info on the cartridge from Kevin at KAB and also an A-goner in another thread.

Anyway-will maybe try a different cartridge to see what things sound like. Kevin at KAB beleives that the SL-1900 will provide pretty decent sound with the right cartridge and if things are set up correctly.

In order to learn a little more firsthand I went to a local midfi, sort of high end store today. They had four different turntables set up with different systems.
An entry level Music Hall, a Music Hall MMF 5 with the stock cartridge, a Project 1 Xpressions, and something else.

Out of curiousity I asked to hear the Music Hall MMF 5 that was running through a midfi Denon receiver and was playing through some average monitors, no sub.

The sound was smooth, but boxy, and small soundstage. Not real impressed.

I then went to another room where they has the Project
1 Xpression TT with a Sumiko basic cartridge. It was running through a Musical Fidelity A308 Integrated Amp and was playing through some multi driver large JM Labs speakers. The sound was smooth, but again the soundstage was small and I was not thinking this is great or anything.

In fact it was not that much better than this Technics with this mystery AT cartridge that I am borrowing.

For yucks, I also listened to the Musical Fidelity A308 CD player hooked up to the system. That was impressive-huge soundstage, depth, clarity, extension on both ends, blah, blah, blah.
Slightly edgy compared to the turntable as the source on the same int amp/speakers but that was only element that might have been better from the TT.

Anyway,the Music Hall TT may have been hampered by the basic system it was hooked up to. The Project 1 Xpression should have performed better as it was in a very nice system. I think the Music Hall was listed a $629 and the Project 1 at $400+ something.