Dual, a German manufacturer that had specialized in turntables since 1928, incorporated new innovations that made their turntables easy to use while still achieving near-reference quality sound. The Dual 1209, released in 1970 with a retail price of $129.50, exemplified this winning combination of precision and practicality.
At its core, the 1209 featured a heavy, balanced, one-piece cast platter weighing over 4 pounds and driven by a high-torque synchronous motor that accelerated it to full playing speed in under half a revolution. This drive system resulted in wow and flutter measurements – variations in playing speed that can cause distortion – of just 0.03%, which was extremely low for the time. The 1209 also allowed fine pitch adjustment of all three speeds (33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM) by ±3%, ensuring that the exact record speed could be properly calibrated.
Once calibrated, the 1209’s synchronous motor ensured not only consistently accurate speeds, but also near immunity from deviations caused by power line fluctuations. Tests showed that voltage variations from 80 to 135 VAC only impacted playing speed by ±1% at most. And unlike some turntables where the platter rotated on a fixed spindle that could gradually wear out the record hole, the 1209 used a rotating spindle for manual play.
The 1209’s rugged yet sensitive tonearm was equally advanced for the time. Crafted from metal tubing and using near-frictionless horizontal and vertical bearings, it allowed the latest high-compliance cartridges of the day to track at extremely low stylus forces without introducing distortion. Anti-skating compensation, which neutralizes the tonearm’s tendency to move inward towards the record center, was adjustable using one of two precisely calibrated scales depending on the stylus shape. Overall effective mass was also low enough to avoid resonant frequency problems.
You’ll see Dual 1209’s with different bases. There is the Dual base that is shown in the pictures here and there is a United Audio base that is probably more commonly found in the U.S. and can bee seen in the ads below. There are also a few different versions of dust covers. There is a one piece square dust cover with sharp edges, a one piece mushroom top dust cover with rounded edges, and one with a sliding top as seen below.
The Dual 1209 turntable’s removable cartridge holder sled allows easy installation and alignment guided by an included setup jig. Stylus force is set by a calibrated rotating dial that tests showed to be accurate to within just 0.1 grams. Lifting the start/stop lever with a record in place sets the automatic mechanism in motion: the platter began spinning, the arm gently lowered to the lead-in groove, and play commenced. Multiple records could be stacked, with the 1209 automatically dropping and beginning each one in turn. And a simple 3-position selector insured accurate cueing for 7, 10 and 12-inch discs.
Reviewing the 1209 in 1970, High Fidelity magazine declared it a “faultless automatic turntable” that combined “excellent performance and a host of useful features” at a competitive price point. They lauded everything from its smooth and quiet operation to the near non-existent 0.1 gram force needed to trip its sensor when cueing records automatically. Other audiophile publications agreed – the precision and practicality of the 1209 made it a best-in-class product at the time.
Like many turntables of its day, the 1209 reflected the state-of-the-art but was still limited in some ways. With no electronic speed control, it required manual calibration to maintain accuracy. Changing cartridges meant handling small fasteners in tight spaces. And automation capabilities, while excellent, only extended to record playing, not tone arm lifting.
Just a year later, Dual’s 1229 model upgraded some of these facets, including electronic speed control and one-touch tone arm lift. But the essentially flawless foundation of the 1209 gave audiophiles little reason to make a change. Well-cared-for samples still provide outstanding and dependable performance today, making them sought-after examples of the best from the turntable’s golden era.
Relative to some of the later Dual turntables the underside of the 1209 is not too complicated. There are some things that should be attended to if the 1209 hasn’t been maintained. First, don’t force any of the controls if they are stiff or stuck. Some parts can easily break. Usually just a cleaning of old hardened grease and an application of fresh grease will solve most problems. The motor, if noisy, can also be disassembled and cleaned.
The Dual 1209 is a high-quality turntable. The heavy 4 pound one-piece cast platter and high-torque synchronous motor make it a workhorse. Its tonearm provides precision tracking and anti-skating compensation and setup is easy with a removable cartridge sled, stylus force gauge, and overhang alignment tool. Automatic operation is smooth and flexible via replaceable spindles for multiple record stacking or single play use. Reviewers found little fault with the 1209, praising its combination of audio performance, precise engineering, automation, and usability. While lacking electronic speed control or one-touch cueing, its dependable design has made clean examples still sought-after today. Bringing audiophile capabilities to a mass market at its 1970 price point, the 1209 represented the state-of-the-art for accessible high-fidelity turntables at the time and is still an excellent choice today.