Xonetacular’s Guide To Buying Second Hand Technics 1200s

While the advances in digital DJ gear keep coming everyday, there’s no denying that the classic set of turntables will continue to be DJ tech tools that every DJ with Rapid Gear Acquisition Syndrome wants to own. But with the classic model out of production, used is the only affordable way to get a pair of the industry standard Technics units – so read today’s guide (originally penned by Xonetacular on the DJTT forums) to ensure your money is spent on a pair that you won’t regret!

Note: most of this applies to buying tables in person on Craigslist or other local boards. If buying online, you want to be more scrutinizing – will probably pay a bit more!

It’s hard to really go wrong with Technics (if you are at all handy) unless they are really beat. I’ve bought, refurbished, and sold Technics on Craigslist quite a bit, and going through about a total of 50+ Technics I only encountered one I had to use for parts that had a bent tone arm not worth fixing and the chassis was bent like it was dropped off a stage. Pretty much anything minor can be fixed at a reasonable expense if you do it yourself, while servicing ranges between $75-$200 on average.

INSPECTING YOUR FUTURE DECKS

The biggest thing to look at is overall appearance to get a sense of age and how it was used. This will also determine price: if you want pristine tables, expect to pay more. Here’s a list of key things to test and check when you’re inspecting your potential purchase:

Power it on, hit play and adjust the pitch, paying attention to the strobe when the dots on the platter stay still looking at the pop light/LED strobe – these correspond to pitch increments. Make sure the dots stay steady.

Put it on 33 and 45 rpm and slowly move the pitch fader through its range. If the pitch is dirty or worn out, you will see the dots on the platter stutter in the LED strobe, showing the platter speed is inconsistent. You don’t want this – unless you’re good at DIY stuff, since this is easy to fix if you take apart and clean the pitch fader. You could also just buy a new pitch fader for about $30.

Look at the numbers by the strobe and put it on 3.3%, 6%, and -3.3% and see if the corresponding dot is steady at that number. I usually skip this step and just look for stutter since calibration is easy.

Make sure the tone arm is straight, if you can, see how a cartridge fits on the arm and if any of the contacts on the tone arm look pushed in, shot, or corroded.

Play a vinyl record if possible and see if you get an output in both channels. If there’s a mixer that shows left and right output levels make sure one isn’t significantly lower than the other (and if it is be mindful that could be a styli problem too). look at the RCAs and the ground wire, check to see if the ground wire is close to original length and not chewed up or cut down. check to make sure all wire insulation is in good shape and check what the RCA connectors look like and if they have a tight fit.

Remove the platter (if it is appropriate) and look for signs of anything being spilled (usually won’t cause permanent damage, but I have cleaned some thick nasty goop out of tables). To remove the platter just take the slip mat off and put your thumb on the spindle and middle fingers through the holes and pull up.

Check the pop up light and see if it is out. I replace them with LEDs anyway, so to me it doesn’t really matter.

Check the 33/45 buttons and make sure they don’t stick. Make sure all the LEDs stay steadily lit and don’t dim or flicker at all indicating a circuit problem (possibly bad voltage regulator).

Make sure the tone arm clip isn’t broken off – if it is you can get a new one for a few bucks – but make the seller knock down their price a bit.

CHECK THE RCA CABLES

A big thing I would look out for is if the units have aftermarket RCA cables. Turn the table over and see if the original plastic RCA clamp bracket is on there. This secures the cable in place and prevents damage resulting from pulling on the RCA, potentially damaging the small board it is connected to. Sometimes people replace the RCAs with thicker ones, but then they can’t fit the RCA clamp on, so the wires just kind of hang out through a metal hole in the bottom. This can put a lot of stress and potentially damage on the board if the RCAs get pulled.

Here is a table I got on Craigslist with a bad RCA cable mod, during which they ditched the clamping plate- not good. This means all that’s holding the RCAs to the board is the zip tie – if it got yanked it could rip the whole little board out.

You want to see the RCAs secured with this plastic clamp:

If they internally grounded the tables (a mod to remove the ground wire and connect the table ground to one of the RCA channel’s ground wires, so when both RCAs are plugged in the table is grounded without the extra ground wire), just make sure when the RCAs are connected to a mixer there isn’t a lot of humming or noise. This would indicate a potential issue with their internal grounding mod!

BUY THOSE DECKS!

Generally, if the unit plays stereo fine and the pitch is good, then it’s a solid table. The going rate for a used decent looking pair of 1200s with no mods seems to be $600-$800 a pair. You may get lucky and snag a pair for less. This may vary depending on your area and for nicer tables you may expect to pay more. Fully-customized, completely refurbished pairs of pristine MK2s go for $1000-$1500, and if you’re buying a pair of 1200s for life then it may be worth it to do it right.

If I were looking for myself I would look for M3Ds or MK5s. M3Ds are usually the best deal and are improved over the MK2s with the reset button. The importance of this is subjective and will bring the price up a bit, many people are perfectly fine with MK2s and you will usually find MK2s out in most venues – it is less common to find anything else.

M3Ds might as well be the same thing as MK5s, the only difference you will notice is they have an incandescent pitch light where the MK5 has a white LED. This is an easy mod and you can throw all color LEDs on for $20-$40 and you pretty much have nicer tables than MK5s for much less. MK5s also have higher anti-skate but you probably won’t care much about that.

Read More: Got decks? Now read our review of the top online turntablism schools.

Have your own experiences buying used turntables? Questions? Comment below and we’ll do our best to help you out. 

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  • Drew in Los Angeles

    Hi there i’ve got an issue with humming on my setup which I believe to be a grounding issue. Any help is much appreciated because i’m really not sure what else to do at this point. Here goes…

    Current setup is two Technics 1200 mkII ( both are internally grounded ) a Stanton M.203 mixer, which i’m running into powered KRK Rokit 5 monitors. I have absolutely zero humming issues associated with this setup. Here’s where i’m lost…

    I just purchased a brand new Allen & Heath xone: 23 mixer and after setting everything up I get a very audible hum that begins to show it’s ugly head as soon as I bring up the volume on either of the phono channels.

    I’m thinking to myself, “ok maybe your RCA cables need to be replaced or your internal ground mod needs to be redone” but then how come I’m not having any of these issues when i’m using the cheap Stanton mixer I bought for $40 off of craigslist???

    Could it be the A&H is more “sensitive” to any electrical currents that may be floating around therefor less forgiving of any noise in the signal path than the Stanton? I just think it’s crazy that I can play records just fine with the Stanton but not with my shiny new A&H mixer. Hoping I don’t have a faulty unit. Anyone with similar experiences or advice on something I might be missing? Thanks for you time!

    • DJ TeeOh “The Official”

      get them reground

    • Have you made sure your mixer is powered on a grounded plug? Meaning, the actual socket you plug into isn’t properly grounded. It could mean that your cheap stanton mixer is grounded somehow internally, and your Allen and Heath is not because internal grounding is not exactly optimal, and can occur from cheaper mixers wearing out, or poor design. If re-grounding your cables doesn’t help, you really might want to try a different socket, better yet an entirely new circuit that you know is grounded.

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  • Stefano Bosio

    I know this post is old, but maybe you can help me out. Does dust affect Technics turntables in any significant way? I went to see a used pair for sale today, quite dusty because of little use, but they played perfectly.

  • Ralph Jtek Cruz

    If any one on this forum need custom or service work done on their 1200’s hmu… I’m located in ny..I have reasonable prices.. New Led’s (choose your color) Halo light on the platter,Custom powder coated sets.etc for pics & info go to my instagram @jteknyc or visit my hashtag #teks1200shop

  • theaudiroom canada

    Home Audio Calgary Says.
    Second hand…………
    Let me think twice…..
    Sorry I m not interesting to buy second products…..
    This is the Answer going to from more 70% people….!!!!
    Including me I m also not interested for 2nd hand product sorry……!!!!!

  • pamma

    Do you have any pitch

  • This is extremely helpful and very needed. The humblest of THANK YOUs

  • Perhaps you can add another test that is (in my eyes) absolutely important to check whether the deck is in good condition:

    First remove the stylus from the tonearm. Place the counterweight at the very end of the tonearm. Release the tone-arm from the clamp –> It should point upwards. Now turn the antisakting-dial from “0” to “3” and reverse. When the antiskating is set to “0” the tonearm should move towards the center of the platter. When set to “3” the tonearm should move by itself to the outer rings of the platter. It this happens then both the bearings and the antiskating-spring are working well.

    In my opinion it is also important to check the level-adjustment of the tonearm. On older decks the outer ring you turn when you adjust the height of the tonearm-base tends to stick. (The lube or grease within the mechanism gets sticky, sometimes it’s nearly impossible to turn the ring. It this case you need to extensivly clean an relube the height-adjustment.

  • Anonymous

    GREAT ARTICLE!

  • EmP

    You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time to buy them. Got my first pair of MK2’s for 50$ (yes not a typo), my second pair of 1210 Mk2’s for 700 with needles and one case. Ive flipped both of those pairs and have sold them since. Currently i have pairs ofMK5’s and M3d’s which I purchased off of this guy who recently bought a club and was trying to fire sale the equipment. Mk5 pair for 400$ (which were pretty much mint not even a scratch) and the M3D pair for 250 which are in the paint shop currently. Just know what the decks are worth and you can usually cut down the price. Your biggest problems that you’ll find are bad RCA’s or pitch fader calibration as mentioned in the article but tech 1200’s are frikin tanks and each fix will be no more than 100 bucks, if that.

  • dj flexxy

    hey guys…please help me, i want ta have TECHINICS SL MK2 1200 SERATO READ…but i dont have money for that! Am from TANZANIA…help me please..(godfreykanyenda@gmail.com)

  • Do you have any directions/tips for replacing rca’s? What are some good ones to replace with?

    • FFD

      Radio Shack has regular RCA wires for 12$ and it should be long enough to make a set with. It isn’t going to make a huge difference if you get a gold tip RCA Monster cable or other expensive wires, unless the whole wire is made of gold. Plus the thicker the wire the harder it is to install the right way.

  • Great article. I picked up a 1200 from criagslist. Upon investigation it had a bad Rca connection into the board. Little research saved me 100 on the initial buy.

  • nobbycossie

    Good article. I bought a pair of SL1210s for £285 from a Cash Converters in the UK. Paid about the same restoring them and are now mint in perfect working order. Again great article as SL1210s are the best

  • lauti

    in my country (argentina) its really hard to get a pair of technics. Usually, the few that are for sale online are between 800 to 1000 dollars, if not more. Just one, not a pair. It doesn’t matter if it’s mint or completely fucked up, everbody wants to sell their technics for that money. But of course, nobody buys them. Eventually, somebody who actually wants to sell it shows up and you can get one for about 500 dollars, but that happens once a year.

  • Any advice on buying new/used turntables from other companies?

    • I heard a lot of good things about the Stanton ST150’s. They nearly look like 1210s and have similiar specs. I used to own two Reloop RP-4000. For home-use they are okay but I will never use them in the club! 😉

  • Im going to have to agree with Kunal. if your purchasing anything 2nd hand you should do your homework before you go and purchase. I would not walk into a used car dealership and buy a car without knowing what I am purchasing.

  • DJ84

    Great article. I have a pair of sl-1210 m5g in mint condition. what do those go for?

    • Xonetacular

      $750-$900 each typically. Sometimes even more.

  • I have two Technics 1200 MKG5 in perfect conditions for sale (Ireland). Barely used. Never gigged. Always in my studio under cover with original packaging.

  • technicaltitch

    I’d also add, slightly off topic, that older Vestax PDX turntable pitch control resolution is poor. I bought a PDX2000 as an alternative to a 1200, (cheaper with some great scratch functionality), but I play house as well as hip hop, and found there wasn’t enough precision in the pitch control for long mixes. Because pitch control is digital, as you slide the pitch control the actual platter speed goes up in steps, and for medium long mixes quite often I had to choose between slightly too slow or slightly too fast. I believe the resolution is higher in later models.

    • technicaltitch

      1200 pitch control is purely analogue, as far as I know, so a tiny, tiny move of the pitch control causes a tiny, tiny change in pitch. (This demands more of the internal electronics, as you can’t use negative feedback to correct the platter pitch.)

  • Andre

    what about M5Gs ? just ordered a new one a few days ago .. cant wait to get it

  • I’m from the Uk and got mine two 1200 mk2 from eBay for only £400 ($630) with a 3 channel Numark mixer and a heap load of vinyl plus the needles & a flight case. So just goes to show you it’s worth having a bid even if you think you won’t win it. Best purchase I ever made. And ill treasure them forever. Nice article.

  • Kunal

    I’m glad this got published by DJTT! Xone, you’re a beast with Technics my dude. But those of us on the forums already knew that. Good shit man! (Coldfuzion)