The Technics SL-1200MKII turntable is a robust, well-manufactured piece of high-end audio equipment and the turntable of choice for many DJs. Still, spec for spec, the Technics 1200 lags behind many new turntablist-style decks, particularly in the areas of pitch control and braking. The pitch range out of the box on a 1200MKII is ±8 percent. Compare that to the user-selectable ±10, ±20 or ±50 percent ranges available on the Numark TTX-1 (among others), and the Technics may leave you wanting more. Turntables such as the American Audio HTD 4.5 also feature user-adjustable electronic braking to give you control of the speed with which the platter stops when you hit the Stop button. Conversely, the stock braking on the Technics winds down to a stop in a quarter turn or so.
If you own a Technics 1200 and crave some of the other decks' features, all is not lost: By adjusting both the pitch range and braking on a Technics 1200, you can breathe some new life in to your trusty turntable.
ACCESSING THE CIRCUIT BOARD
Before you even touch your deck, heed the following warning: The steps described herein involve modifying your Technics turntable — and doing so will likely void your warranty. Worse, you could damage your turntable if you're not careful. Now that you've been warned, turn your attention to your turntable's circuit board, as both modifications require access to it.
To get to the circuit board, you need to remove the top of your turntable as follows: First, unplug the turntable (don't skip this step!), and secure the tonearm with the arm clamp. Next, remove any slipmats or rubber pads from the platter. You should now be looking at the bare metal of the turntable platter. It will have two holes, approximately 1 inch in diameter, directly opposite of each other. Now, place your fingers in these holes, and firmly pull straight up. The platter may feel like it is resisting your pull at first, but it should release. This resistance is due to the strong magnets (part of the high-quality direct-drive motor system) that spins the platter. Once you've removed the platter, you should see a black plastic cover with five screws and some cutouts, through which you should see some of the turntable's circuit board. Remove the screws, and lift off the plastic cover. Set all of these pieces aside. You should be looking at the main circuit board and motor of the turntable. You are ready to tweak!
The default pitch range of a Technics 1200 is approximately ±8 percent. With this mod, you can safely adjust the range to roughly ±12 percent. To adjust this setting, locate the blue pot (a cylindrical adjustable element soldered to the circuit board) in the top-right corner of the circuit board; it should be beside the label Pitch. Using a flat-head screwdriver, you can adjust this by turning it left or right. Turning to the right increases the pitch, and turning to the left decreases it. The setting is extremely touchy, so much so that a tiny adjustment could result in a massive change in pitch. With this in mind, take care, and test along the way after each adjustment. (I recommend no more than a quarter of a turn each time.) To test, replace the platter, plug in the turntable and test its playback. Although this is a time-consuming process, make sure you do not make these adjustments while the turntable is plugged in, and do not run the motor without the platter mounted.
Modifying this pot will throw off the pitch markings on your turntable such that the +8 percent marking will no longer be +8 percent. Using the dots on the side of your platter, you can get a reasonable idea of how it has been adjusted. The smaller row of dots above the large ones represents +3.3 percent, and the row below the large ones represents -3.3 percent.
If you have a pair of Technics SL-1200MKII turntables, you should take the time to make them match each other exactly so that sliding the fader to the same place on each turntable results in the same adjustment in pitch. By using the +3.3 percent dots on both turntables, adjust the pitch fader until they are stationary on one turntable. On the second turntable, adjust the pitch fader to the same place and, adjusting the aforementioned pot, play with the setting until the +3.3 percent dots are stationary.
On most Technics 1200s, pressing the Start/Stop button results in the record slowing down to a stop within about a quarter turn. By adjusting the braking setting, you can set your 1200 to brake harder, making it fast enough that it will spin the record backward ever so slightly when you hit the Start/Stop button. With that adjustment, you can create a nice little sound effect when you stop the record while it is playing a heavy drum sound or a constant tone. The result is like a really slow reversed chirp scratch.
To make this modification, look on the turntable's circuit board for the pot numbered VR201. It should be to the right of the blue Pitch pot, and it should say Brake next to it. Turning it to the right increases the abruptness of the braking. Don't turn it too far, however, as it is fairly sensitive. Start with a quarter turn, and then replace the platter and plug in your turntable to test the setting. Note that it takes slightly more force to stop the platter with a record on it versus an empty platter, so test this setting with a record and a slipmat on the platter.
By experimenting with different brake settings, you can create an interesting sound effect. For example, if you play with the Start/Stop button during the performance of certain scratch techniques, you can incorporate this sound into a scratch routine, enhancing the creativity and variety of your performance.
Although these modifications do not result in “field-adjustable” control like that available on other turntables, they do let you make adjustments that better suit turntablists and specific scratch styles. When properly dialed in, the Technics SL-1200MKII can still track as well as any of the current straight-arm turntables and is renowned for its reliability. Have fun experimenting with the various settings.