Technics SL-220 checklist?

Discussion in 'Turntables' started by penkosey, Oct 1, 2012.

  1. penkosey

    penkosey Well-Known Member

    A friend of mine was recently jonesing for a turntable. He lives out of state and we were communicating back & forth about different Craigslist and Ebay ads in his area. I think he got impatient and just randomly picked one. Fair enough. So, now he has a Technics SL-220 belt drive turntable heading his way any day now. It has a Pickering D8E cartridge (with brush) installed, of unknown condition.

    I imagine when it arrives he will be calling me with questions. As I mentioned, he lives far away; if he lived nearby, I'd go over and help with basic stuff like balancing the tonearm and cartridge alignment if necessary. I don't think he's familiar with those concepts. The last turntable he had was a close-and-play linear tracker.

    Anyone familiar with this particular turntable, any possible idiosyncrasies to watch for, or just general maintenance, etc? I'm guessing a lot of this comes down to how well it was packed, how safely it arrives, and how accurately it was set up to begin with. I've attached the auction pics below, and I immediately notice that the tracking force appears to be set at less than 1g, which seems low, although I'm not familiar with this cartridge. That makes me wonder if my friend is going to need a crash course in tonearm balancing.

    Regarding cartridge alignment...I'm curious if the original owner knew what they were doing. Although impossible to accurately judge from pictures, can anyone who is familiar with Technics turntables hazard a guess if this cartridge looks to be mounted in the right ballpark location within the headshell? Looks to me like it's sitting right in the middle of the two slots. I'm hoping it's where it needs to be, because I'd hate for him to have to dive into cartridge alignment...

    Also regarding the cartridge--is the D8E any good? Should he raise or remove the brush? Or get a different stylus or cart altogether?

    Thanks for any input! I don't know where this particular turntable is on the Technics food chain. I was under the impression that their Direct Drive models was where they really shine...I've never seen a Technics belt drive.

  2. penkosey

    penkosey Well-Known Member





  3. penkosey

    penkosey Well-Known Member


    --- As far as cartridge alignment is concerned:

    * Should he take an "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach?

    * Find a Technics alignment gauge?

    * Check the alignment using a Baerwald or online protractor?


    Last edited: Oct 1, 2012
  4. brichter

    brichter Well-Known Member

    Speed pots will most likely need clean/lube, check the electrolytics for replacement, probably needs (or will need shortly) a new belt.

    All the above are pretty cheap fixes, and I use the Technics overhang gauge to set up the cartridge, then the Technics Baerwald arc protractor off Vinyl Engine.
  5. Dr Tinear

    Dr Tinear AK Subscriber Subscriber

    I have a lot of experience with the SL-220 and its single-play automatic brandmate, the SL-230. As brichter said, the speed pots will probably need a cleaning. There are two user-adjustable pots and two more on the servo board, all of them easy to get at once you remove the bottom cover from the turntable. Unless the turntable exhibits speed problems after the pots are cleaned and a new belt installed, it probably doesn't need new electrolytic capacitors. My SL-220 and SL-230 are still running well with the original caps.

    As for cartridge alignment, I recommend using the Technics gauge. The arm is designed to use a Stevenson alignment with the IEC null radii. I initially set up my SL-230 using a Baerwald protractor, but switched to the factory alignment once I found that it eliminated inner-groove distortion with my Grado cartridge. If your friend's turntable arrives without the Technics gauge -- a likely occurrence, in my experience -- KAB sells them for less than $5. The gauge makes it easy for even an inexperienced user to set the overhang accurately. KAB also has 23.6" PRB flat belts for the SL-220, which I found to be more precisely made than the Taiwanese knock-offs that some other online sellers offer.

    Vinyl Engine offers the SL-220 service manual as a free download. You'll have to register to get at it, but registration is also free. IMO this series of Technics turntables plays well above its price point; the arm has excellent bearings and geometry, the plastic base does a fine job of suppressing resonance, and the drive system's wow and flutter, though higher than on the direct-drives, is low enough to be inaudible (and far lower than you'll find on most of today's "entry-level audiophile" turntables).
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2012
  6. majick47

    majick47 Addicted Member

    Hopefully it isn't too late, have him contact the seller and make sure the platter is removed, wrapped/protected preferably placed under the table. Also remove the counter weight and secure the tonearm. The headshell/cartridge should be protected preferably with the stylus guard and safely packaged along with the counterweight. Care should be taken with the dust cover to protect it from damage. Also get the owners manual from VE.
  7. brichter

    brichter Well-Known Member

    I'm going to have to disagree about the elctrolytics, as they have a finite life span, and if they're in an SL-220 they're either reaching or have reached the end of that life.

    The big cap (1000uF) in mine still tested good, but was so swollen, the end caps were ready to pop off and leak all over. For the cost of $1-2 each, there's no reason to wait until they actually leak all over the PC boards before you replace them. You've already got all the screws off the bottom cover anyway...
  8. GP49

    GP49 Super Member

    Most of the time the 1000uF in these turntables isn't the first capacitor to go. There are a lot of smaller ones which go bad, and when they do the first symptom is speed instability. You may not even notice it on the strobe, but when listening you may hear momentary wow which may or may not settle back down immediately. In really bad cases the speed will vary all over the place and the turntable will be unlistenable. The best cure is to replace every single electrolytic capacitor on the servo board, which is why I still can't say which one goes bad, after fixing a lot of them...I don't know which one or two are the bad-actors.

    It's not just this series of Technics belt-drives that do this, either. Kyocera, Garrard and others bought the Matsushita motors and were licensed to build the servo controls using the identical circuitry. Over the years, probably thousands of turntables of all these brands have been thrown out due to failed capacitors.
  9. brichter

    brichter Well-Known Member

    With the track record of the electrolytics, there's no reason to go any deeper in diagnostics. :thmbsp:

    Just think of all the other gear that suffered the same fate over the decades because they used electrolytic caps. I can't think of anything offhand that doesn't use them.
  10. Love-Vinyl

    Love-Vinyl It's about the Music

    I bought a 230 on a lark from a guy who never used it. I had to replace the phono cables, the ground cable and fix numerous bad solder joints. Also had to replace the belt but with an AT12Sa on it this little gem sounds better than my Dual 731Q. For the 20 I paid for it and all the things I learned from it by just jumping in it's been well worth it. I'm going to replace the caps at some point and the strobe light resistor needs replacing as well because the light is pretty faint. It had a plastic headshell that I replaced with a new metal one and new cartridge cables as well. I think I've got about 60 altogether in it and it's been one surprise after another just how well it plays. Far better than I ever expected. When folks make fun of Technics belt drives I just laugh and crank up the tunes!

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