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Quick update on this ...

I had a chance to check out a Stanton ST150, which is a step up from the T92USB.
http://www.stantondj.com/stanton-turntables/st150.html

This shares some of the same stuff as the T92, including SPDIF (but no USB) output. To my ears, the 
built-in preamp sounded identical, so my bet is it's the same circuit board and SPDIF driver. The 
tonearm itself looked similar but the counterweight was an upgrade, felt and acted more like a 
Technics part, and there's an arm-lifter mechanism not present on the T92USB. Also present on the 
ST150 is an arm-height adjustment, which is useful if you're using a taller- or shorter-than-average 
cartridge. The whole arm pivot/gimble and lifter mechanism was much more Technics-clone and than 
Technics-like. Apparently this turntable is so close to a real-deal Technics 1200 that a couple of 
high-end places have started offering souped-up versions as low-end "super-tables." Such things as a 
wooden box and disconnecting the digital circuitry and replacing the feet, which may or may not 
actually effect sound quality. In the case of the T92USB, the two most audible improvements I made 
were first and foremost swapping in a better cartridge than the stock Stanton 500 (but keep the 500 
to play 78's, swapping in a 78 needle of course), and junking the cheap fabric "slip-mat" for a 
Technics heavy rubber mat. This killed off a metallic resonance that was audible on all records, but 
more so on thinner records. The mat, combined with a KAB push-on spindle clamp, really quieted down 
any "wiggly vinyl" noises and also made the turntable more impervious to tapping on the surrounding 
surface.

I concluded that the ST150 is a really close clone to a Technics, but may not be as mechanically 
rugged. It supposedly has a more powerful motor than the T92USB, but its overall build, while good, 
did not seem as bulletproof as a 1200. But it costs half as much as 1200's were going for before 
they were discontinued, and requires not modifications to play 78's.

Given that very similar units are sold under other brands, I suspect one Chinese company is behind 
all of this, and they caused mighty Pansonic to surrender by driving prices too far down for a 
Japan-made product to compete. One final point -- build-wise and ruggedness-wise, that ST150 ran 
rings around comparably-priced belt-driven models from Eastern Europe, sold under the Pro-Ject, Rega 
and MusicHall brands. The Euro-tables usually come with better-grade cartridges, though.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Tom Fine" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, March 08, 2011 2:16 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Possibly another reason why Technics is exiting the turntable business


>I was mainly praising the build quality for a very cheap-priced turntable, and the 
>interchangeability with Technics 1200 headshells, turntable mats, etc. As I said about the Stanton 
>500 cartridge, it's adequate but not great. Vast improvement in listening quality via better 
>cartridge. The stylus on this particular Stanton 500 unit seemed to do the job as expected.
>
> Google research indicates that A-T does indeed sell a very similar turntable mechanism. Must be 
> one Chinese supplier doing these. I think Numark has a similar unit with an S-shaped tonearm but 
> higher rumble specs and generally worse online reviews. The A-T unit seems to have less digital 
> connectivity but it comes with a low-end A-T cartridge, which some ears may find preferable to a 
> Stanton 500. I think the Numark comes with a Numark-branded cartridge which looks like it may be a 
> re-badged Stanton 500 or a Stanton 500 knock-off. All of these turntables aimed at the 
> DJ/turntablist market will not come with great groove-riding needles because the very nature of 
> scratching and spinning requires a conical needle so you can back-spin without damaging the 
> groove. So for regular listening, it probably always pays sonic dividends to swap in a better 
> grade of cartridge.
>
> -- Tom Fine
>
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Jim Sam" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Tuesday, March 08, 2011 1:04 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Possibly another reason why Technics is exiting the turntable business
>
>
>> 1200 knockoffs have been around for years.  A record store down the
>> street from my apartment has four Audio Technica models for
>> auditioning.  The store owner "love 'em" (his words), though he was
>> quick to point out the tonearm on those ATs was not nearly ideal.  I'm
>> surprised at the praise for Stanton since--at least four or five years
>> ago--their quality control on styli was terrible.
>>
>>
>> On Fri, Mar 4, 2011 at 7:05 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>> "Stanton" now has a 1200 semi-knockoff with many useful features down below
>>> $250 street price, Stanton 500 cartridge included:
>>> http://www.stantondj.com/stanton-turntables/t92usb.html
>>>
>>> I was curious enough about this thing, and wanted a turntable for the
>>> office, that I bought one of "factory resealed" units from ZZsounds.com,
>>> $240 delivered (with no sales tax). If one wants to play 78's, it's another
>>> $40 or so street price for the appropriate Stanton 500 needle.
>>>
>>> Let me say from the outset -- I'm not recommending this as a transfer-grade
>>> or archive-grade solution. But for casual listening and "vinyl to the iPod"
>>> transfers, this thing offers some compelling features. What surprised me
>>> most was the decent build quality for that price range, the powerful motor
>>> with quick start and speed-lock, the Technics-like tonearm which sounded
>>> like it didn't have resonance problems and felt non-cheap. I also liked that
>>> it's an exact copy of Technics' dimensions, so you can just swap
>>> cartridge/headshell combos. The counterweight and gimble system is cheaper
>>> build quality than a Technics 1200, but not junk. The most surprising thing
>>> to me was the relatively low rumble and impressive isolation for a
>>> low-priced turntable. I can see how Technics can't compete with this sort of
>>> product because, at half the price of a 1200, it's about 3/4 as good as far
>>> as durable build and probably near equal in rumble, speed accuracy and
>>> tonearm geometry. A Technics may well be a good bit more durable in the
>>> turntablist world, but these "Stanton" tables are so cheap that durability
>>> might not matter as much.
>>>
>>> The built-in preamp was OK but not great. It would be fine, for instance, to
>>> dub spoken-word records or poor-condition records. For 78's, it clipped when
>>> the groove-velocity was high. Note that all of this directly transfers to
>>> the digital outs, so keep that in mind when interfacing with a computer. I
>>> didn't expect a superb built-in amp with this. When I listened, to a variety
>>> of records for hours, through headphones and a decent preamp (nothing too
>>> fancy, just a decent-grade Gemini "DJ" preamp), I was impressed by low
>>> audible rumble, the decent but not great trackability you'd expect from a
>>> Stanton 500, and the nice isolation (the turntable was on a desk and I
>>> tested tapping the table at various spots, and then the turntable itself,
>>> and didn't get the needle to jump -- I'm sure a good hand-slam on any of
>>> these points would have cause a skip, as would a knee into the table). I
>>> swapped in a better Goldring cartridge and the sound improved as expected.
>>> Looked at the signal on the scope and didn't see the kind of rumble you see
>>> on some cheapo direct-drive turntables which I think comes from platter
>>> bearing or motor rubbing or uneven-ness. Then I swapped in a 78 needle and
>>> put the Stanton 500 back. Playback of 78's was pretty good, what you'd
>>> expect through an RIAA preamp. I was able to get the thing to turn at
>>> exactly 78RPM by adjusting with a strobe disk. For casual listening to 78's,
>>> this is a very appealing option due to it's "low fuss" factor. I should also
>>> mention that there's good grounding (no audible hum and very low measured
>>> background hum and noise). For background listening at the office, I'd say
>>> it's a no-brainer to just use the built-n preamp and connect to powered
>>> speakers or the line in on your computer soundcard.
>>>
>>> Another plus is that the unit ships with an install disc for Cakewalk's
>>> recorder/waveform editor software, so you are not stuck in Audacity hell,
>>> there's another option.
>>>
>>> Overall, I'd say build quality and features make this a very compelling
>>> cheap turntable. I think a produce like this price where this is makes it
>>> difficult for Technics to compete because it shrinks the 1200's potential
>>> customer base. I also think this particular unit is a good candidate for a
>>> "listening station" turntable for a college or archive. It's better built
>>> than other low-end turntables I've seen and it seems to have much better
>>> isolation than lightweight all-plastic competitors. The S-tonearm also
>>> offers some preferable features with some cartridges. The included Stanton
>>> 500 is idiot-proof, and one can use a cheap and available (for now) Technics
>>> alignment tool to set up the cartridge of your choice or verify the 500 was
>>> set up right (mine was delivered slightly too far forward). The conical
>>> needle makes it more safe in the hands of less experienced users. The
>>> available 78 speed is a big plus, too.
>>>
>>> -- Tom Fine
>>>
>>
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