The Technics SL-1200 is back, and this time for DJs again

First it was dead. Then, it came back but … inexplicably cost four thousand bucks and seemed to be for audiophiles, not DJs. Now, at last, the iconic* Technics SL-1200 turntable is back, and in a newly-manufactured form that might actually suit DJs.

The pitch: take advanced tech, learned from Blu-ray players, and turn it into an accessible turntable that delivers the performance and playing style of traditional players, with greater reliability and better sound.

If you don’t particularly need the name “Technics” on your turntable, of course, this may not even qualify as news. Manufacturers from Pioneer to Reloop now make reasonably affordable turntables that expand on the legacy of the Technics turntable and enable DJs to play decks like an instrument.

A couple of years ago when Panasonic revised the SL-1200 name, it at first seemed the company was surrendering the DJ market to those rivals. The first SL-1200GAE/1200G was a heavy, expensive machine engineered to within an inch of its life for vinyl consumers and deep-pocketed audiophiles. (Okay, I want to say “suckers.” At least people with money to burn.) Bizarrely, there wasn’t much mention of the DJs or hip hop producers who made the SL series famous in the first place. (Wired got the first preview; Vinyl Factory commented on the company’s explanation of that $4000 sticker shock.)

Now, it seems, we’re back to reality. The new SL-1200MK7 has specs more like a normal SL-1200, has marketing and specs intended for DJs, and while we don’t know the price, at least returns to a normal weight (just under 10kg).

The SL-1200MK7 (aka the SL-1210MK7 in Europe) then can be fairly dubbed the first Matsushita/Panasonic turntable for DJs to come off the assembly line in nine years – and the first in nine years to be a direct successor to the 1972 original 1200.

Onboard, some new engineering, now again in the service of DJs:

Coreless direct drive motor – okay, first, Panasonic are again making a new motor, apparently even after the 2016 audiophile take on this. It’s a direct drive motor like the original, but Technics promises the torque of the MK5, but without the iron core that can cause cogging (inconsistencies that impact audio quality).

To put it more briefly – this is the kind of more reliable motor Technics was pushing, but this time not so damned heavy and expensive.

Also new:

Reverse it. Provided you have a compatible phono cartridge, you can enable a reverse play function accessed by hitting the speed selector and Start/Stop at the same time.

Scratch-friendly – with computer control. Here’s the surprise: you get new motor control Panasonic have borrowed from the development of Blu-ray drives, using microprocessors to keep the motor operating smoothly. The MK7 tunes that relationship, says Technics, to work across playing styles – including DJing. What else does that mean?

Pitch is digitally controlled. Greater accuracy of pitch adjustment is another side benefit, because the motor can respond interactively as you play.

Well, apparently the original silver color is now reserved for audiophiles.

But there’s no question this is a sign of the times. Where as the digital age first seemed to jettison old brands and old technologies, all of them are back with a vengeance, from film photography to turntables to synthesizers. And finally even the likes of Japanese titan Panasonic, Technics parent company, are getting the memo. Just like a violinist wants particular features out of a violin, a DJ has expectations of what a turntable should be – not only appearance or moniker, but engineering.

And, let’s be honest, there is something nice about seeing new Technics in production.

Now the question is, can Panasonic trickle down new advanced tech in motors and control, inherited from advanced Blu-ray players, to the traditional turntable? If they can, they might just be able to best some of the other commodity turntables on the market.

Full details:
https://www.technics.com/us/news/20190107-sl-1200mk7/ [Press release]

[Product page]

A timeline of Technics turntables

The SP-10 started it all – at least introducing the world to direct drive turntables. But notice it didn’t even have its own integrated tonearm.

DJ Kool Herc was far enough ahead of the curve that he started on the 1971 SL-1100, not the SL-1200.

1970: SP-10
World’s first direct drive turntable (the enabling technology that would enable DJing technique and scratching)

1971: SL-1100
Starts to look like the turntables we know (integrated tonearm and platter). Used by hip-hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc.

1972: SL-1200/SL-1210
You’d feel at home cueing and beatmatching on this, but – note that the speed control was on a dial. (The 1210 variation of this is a Euro-friendly model with voltage selection and black, not silver.)

1979: SL-1200MK2
The SL-1200 was already a standard, but the MK2 looks more like the template DJs recognize today. Influenced by a field trip to Chicago clubs, the engineers unveiled the MK2 with Quartz Lock, a big pitch fader (whew!), and other details like a vibration-soaking cabinet and rubber.

Later revisions added other minor improvements, but it was really the MK2 that looks like the template for all DJ turntables to come – particularly thanks to pitch being on a fader and not a tiny knob (once Japanese engineers worked out how artists in Chicago were using pitch).

1989: SL-1200MK3
Improvements largely around vibration.

1997: SL-1200MK3D
The end of the center click pitch controller (so you could get hairline adjustments around zero more accurately).

2000: SL-1200MK5
Sort of the gold standard here, based on tiny performance enhancements and details like brake speed adjustment. See also the MK5G variation, 2002.

2019: SL-1200MK7/SL-120MK7
All-new motor, digitally-controlled pitch, reverse play.

And yes, I agree with my colleague James Grahame of MeeBlip in thinking this is all becoming a bit like the modern Spitfire kit remake planes, the Submarine Spitfires.

All photos courtesy Technics.

The post The Technics SL-1200 is back, and this time for DJs again appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

There’s a new Technics SL-1200 coming, officially

The Technics SL-1200 turntable that defined DJing with record players has been awaiting a successor for some time now. Pioneer’s PLX-1000 is already earning some acclaim among DJs; it looks and feels like an SL-1200, but has great control and stability.

Well, now it’s Panasonic’s turn. Having revived the Technics moniker for the hi-fi market, they had already teased the return of the SL-1200. Today via social media, that became official.

technics1200new

The new turntable is called the SL-1200G, and it’s a new revision of the 1200 classic – what Technics says is a “new system for Hi-Fi use.” As many predicted, the presumably deeper-pocketed Hi-Fi market is the big target. Now, these days, “direct drive” turntables are known mostly as being for DJs, but as Technics note, their original invention was to produce greater reliability and stability for listeners wanting to splurge on gear.

So, what are they actually saying? They appear to reclaim higher sound fidelity, arguing that belt drive decks, thanks to the lower cost of development and production, had left a gap between belt and direct drive models. They spell that out here:

If we redesign the direct-drive motor and control circuitry, we will be able to create a turntable that is superior to other systems.

That also tells you what’s new: a new motor, new control circuitry, with an intent to make sound better.

From there on out, there’s a bunch of engineering razzle-dazzle that may or may not mean something to you. Being skeptical, I just want to let a DJ get their hands on the decks. Just because this is being made for the Hi-Fi market, will it be somehow less appealing to DJs – either because DJs weren’t taken into design consideration, or because it’s prohibitively expensive? That remains to be seen, although while Panasonic aren’t saying this is for DJs, they’re not saying it isn’t for DJs, either.

Of course, I don’t doubt for a second that listeners are a big market, too. And engineering aside, there’s some sense to Technics going after hi-fi fans, as Pioneer courts DJs. There are two vinyl resurgences on at the same time.

They say it isn’t a “replica of the SL-1200” – but then, we learned neither was Pioneer’s outing, and many people are happy for that. People may not simply want a remake, so much as they want at least what the original gave them.

First up is what’s called the SL-1200GAE – 50th Anniversary Limited Edition, coming summer 2016. This seems to imply there will also be a non-anniversary 1200G, of course, but no specifics on that or pricing.

Check out more on Technics’ site, including a feature-by-feature tour:

http://www.technics.com/global/introduction/hifi-direct-drive-turntable-system-sl-1200gae/

 

The post There’s a new Technics SL-1200 coming, officially appeared first on cdm createdigitalmusic.

Pioneer, The Company That Made CDJ a Hit, Teases a Turntable

pioneerturntable

The vinyl comeback couldn’t hit much more of a high note than this: it seems Pioneer, the company that popularized digital DJing and CDJs, is building phonographs.

Pioneer isn’t saying anything about the hardware that’s under plexiglass at Musikmesse, only that it’s a concept prototype. But they hardly need to. The hardware looks like someone took the most popular DJ turntable of all time, the legendary Technics SL-1200, painted it black, and re-lettered it with Pioneer markings. I don’t think they literally did that, though it almost doesn’t matter; the effect is unreal, like entering a bizarro universe where Pioneer invented the 1200.

The most tantalizing sign that Pioneer intends to make this a product is that the lettering is blacked out where the product identifier would be. It’s simply labeled “professional turntable.”

Technics walked away from the 1200 in 2010, just as vinyl records were making a niche resurgence. Vinyl still isn’t a mass market product, but then Pioneer is king of its main audience, DJs and clubs. And in a way, whatever Pioneer is cooking, it might make more sense to just make a turntable than bother people with thinking of it as part of a digital vinyl system.

Now, of course, Pioneer being digital, that may be exactly what they’re doing. But even so, the challenge of finding SL-1200s means that record lovers might pick it up anyway. This one should be interesting to watch.

I’ll say this: if Pioneer is going this route, it’s fantastic news for anyone pressing dance music on vinyl. It could create an entirely new market, just at the time that iPad apps start to stream digital downloads from Spotify. I can’t imagine anyone isn’t rooting for this.

Beatport Wax? Think about it.

The post Pioneer, The Company That Made CDJ a Hit, Teases a Turntable appeared first on Create Digital Music.