Ellaskins from DJ Tutor has provided this excellent video tutorial on things to look out for when buying a second hand turntable. This video is geared towards the Technics SL1200 / 1210 but the principles will work for any turntable:
And for those of you who want a written overview and even more detail check out the following:
Buying a Used Technics SL-1200
Matsushita Electric has been making Technics 1200’s for 30 years. However the MK2 model, which began production in 1979 and still continues to this day, ushered in the era of the Technics as the Professional Industry Worldwide Standard for Direct Drive DJ Turntables.
The Technics 1200 / 1210 Family includes the following models:
Matsushita in its ultimate wisdom decided to only release certain models to certain regions of the world, and the only official versions released in North America were:
- SL-1200MK2 (Silver Chassis)
- SL-1200MK2B (Black Chassis)
- SL-1200LTD (Gloss Black w/ Gold Plated Hardware)
- SL-1200M3D (Silver Chassis)
- SL-1200M3DB (Black Chassis)
- SL-1200MK5 (Black Chassis / Silver Chassis, +/- 8% pitch control)
- SL-1200MK5G (Speckeled Black Chassis, +/- 16% pitch control)
- SL-1200MK5GLD (Gloss Black w/ Gold Plated Hardware)
There are a good deal of imported European versions designated SL-1210MK2 (Black Chassis) that somehow made it into this region through a “Grey Market”, or through direct importation by some owners.
So, now that we have the targets in our sights…
Let the Hunt Begin!
From our experience, it matters little if the Technics is 20yrs old, or 2 yrs old. These machines were built right from the beginning; and they were built like Tanks.
Technics invented the Direct Drive Motor as well as Drive Control and Pitch Control IC (Integrated Circuitry) technology and spent 10 years perfecting it before releasing the 1200 / 1210 MK2 models, and the ones built today are 95% the same as the ones built in 1979!
Here’s the catch, Technics 1200’s have an uncanny way of holding their value.
A well maintained 20 yr old machine will have nearly the same resale value as a well maintained 2 yr old machine…simply amazing,
On the other hand an abused machine will still have a great deal of resale value, mostly because of the fact that the retail price of a new SL-1200MK2 has not changed substantially in 20yrs.
Today the best deals we have seen on new 1200’s start at about $399 and go up to $499. (In the UK you are looking at £399 – £579)
Prices for pre-owned, or used stock original Technics run the gammut from $50 – $350 and there are literally hundreds of thousands of Technics 1200s in North America.
Where should you go to find a used Technics 1200 Turntable?
Here are a few places you may find a good used 1200 / 1210:
- Pawn Shops
- Skating Rinks
- Newspaper Classifieds
- Clubs (many are switching to CD and digital formats)
- Forums and online DJ communities
Now that you know where to go, it’s important to know what to look, or lookout for!
Here is a list of some things to check on a used turntable:.
- Grasp the Record Spindle and make sure there is no side to side movement
- Rotate the platter and note that it spins in both directions without dragging
- Power the unit, Press START , see that the Platter engages quickly and freely
- Switch between 33 Rpm and 45 Rpm platter speeds several times
- Leave the unit running for 15min or so..there should be no hot, or burning smell!
- Press the STOP button and the platter should come to a rest fairly quickly
- Press START again..Pitch control should be at ZERO, and the second row of Pitch Dots near the On/Off knob which are illuminated Red, should be still….completely motionless…if they are moving slightly clockwise, or counterclockwise and the green LED is on at the Pitch Control, then the Quartz Lock is broken…if the Pitch Control is at Zero and the green LED is NOT on, then you either have a 1200M3D Model, an MK2 with the Quartz Lock Removed / Disabled, or an MK2 with a burned out Pitch LED.
- Now move the Pitch Control slider slightly toward negative 2 (-2), just enough so that the green LED is no longer illuminated, and you can definitely tell that it is NO longer at zero…..look again at the Pitch Dots near the black On/Off knob….these should begin to move Counterclockwise in direction..if they begin moving Clockwise then it is an issue with the “Zero Point” being out of calibration…not a big deal, but this situation will have to be fixed, and can be used to reduce asking price.
- Next, Move the Pitch silghtly toward positive 2 (+2), pitch dots should begin rotating clockwise..If they begin rotating Counterclockwise, once again, this may be simply an issue of the “Zero Point” being incorrectly calibrated, but you might want a ask for a rebate of about $20 off the asking price
- Now, move the Pitch Control slider up to about positive 3.3 (+3.3)…you will have to eyeball it…look over at the third row of Pitch Dots and they should be still….they probably won’t be..and this isn’t a deal breaker, but indicates that the Turntable has fallen out of calibration
- Now, move the Pitch control slider up to positive 6 (+6)….look over at the fourth, or bottom row of Pitch Dots…these should be still and unwavering…once again they probably won’t be…once again this indicates that the turntable is in need of Pitch Recalibration and may help you reduce the price ($20 less) as this may mean that you have a limited ( <8%) control of Platter Pitch.
- Next examine the RCA & Ground wires. Look for breaks in the insulation and exposed wires. Does the ground wire have a spade terminal, or is it frayed and bare oxidized wire?
- You will want to check for feedback, hum, and ground loops. You will need to actually plug the turntable into an amplifier with a “Phono” input, or a mixer and use headphones to listen for buzzing, or humming.
- Now, hopefully you brought a cartridge to actually mount to the tonearm to check for proper channel output.
- First check the contacts on the inside of the Tonearm itself. These are spring loaded and prone to corrosion and becoming stuck. Take a sharp pencil and use it to physically push each of the four (4) terminals a bit to see if it still has spring recoil.
- Now mount the cartridge to the tonearm and secure the locking ring. Hope you brought a test record to check playback….but if you read this, then you did!
Buying a Used Technics SL-1200 text courtesy of Revolution Turntable & Mixer Lab
So that’s it! HAPPY SECOND HAND TURNTABLE PURCHASING! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below.