Saturday, December 15, 2012

MCS 6603 Direct Drive Turntable

Back in the day, department store chains would re-brand popular electronics goods, offering their own versions of more expensive, name-brand products.  MCS (Modular Component Systems) was JC Penny's house brand for hi-fi audio products, mostly Technics, but occasionally other brands as well.  I've recently shown photos of the MCS 6700, an excellent turntable based on Technics' SL-1900, and it was one of the better models.  Here is one of the lesser models.

The MCS 6603 is a re-badged Technics SL-D2, one of the cheap, low-entry models from the early 1980s.  I picked up this table for $70 or $80, I can't remember exactly how much.  It was nice to play for a while, and it played a mean Led Zeppelin, but it shortly developed a serious problem with the power cutting out.  Unfortunately, my repair skills were sorely lacking at the time, so after numerous attempts to keep the thing running, it was sent to the closets, and then the garbage bin.  Can't win 'em all.

I'm not a fan of Technics' SL-D2, and while the MCS model has a more stylish frame (retaining the motor, electronics, and tonearm), it's still a cheap plastic turntable.  Packing the insides with 8lbs of modeling clay made a great difference, and if you find yourself with a cheap Japanese direct drive with box frame, I highly recommend the mod.  However, nothing could salvage the needlessly thick and heavy sound, or the crummy feet, or the cheap-o tonearm.

One more note: looking at these photos, I remember that I was using a heavy Sumiko headshell, which threw the tonearm resonance way off.  These low-to-medium mass tonearms require light headshells, especially with the Ortofon 2M phono cartridges.  I really don't know what I was thinking when I bought that thing; "heavier" equaled "better" in my mind at the time.  Ah, well, we all learn.

Prices on vintage turntables are rising across the board, and while the MCS 6603 was once a decent $50 buy, now you'll probably be spending a hundred at least.  That puts this table in the same league as much better machines, ones that look and sound much better, and there's really no point in wasting your time on a cheap record player.

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