Technics is going to make turntables again!

Mike Blakesley

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From Billboard:

Technics Is Making Turntables Again

BY ANDREW FLANAGAN

Vinyl’s revivification continues. Just like the music format it exists to play, the once-discontinued turntable wing of Technics (rumors of its shuttering began five years ago) is set to rise again, with a redesigned line of platters. As Wired reports from the IFA trade show in Berlin, Panasonic (parent company of Technics) has unveiled a prototype turntable built of aluminum, an allusion to the still-in-demand 1200 series. The company also announced an all-in-one hi-fi system, amp and headphones.

A spokesperson tells Billboard the company has received “countless requests” for the turntables’ return. Technics was last heard from early this year, when a press release stated the brand’s intention to help fans “rediscover music” through several new technologies and products.

No mention of price points but I'd sure be a potential customer. I have two old Technics tables, a 1200 and (I think) a 1250 which was a record changer -- but neither one of them will work reliably anymore. I've always wanted to get a new turntable with a USB connection but most of the ones on the market seem to be pretty low quality.
 

Rudy

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Just about anything with USB is crap--so much plastic, they're not all that reliable. If you figure it's a turntable, cartridge, phono preamp, digital/analog converter and USB driver, that doesn't leave much in the way of funds to have any of them work properly. I'd rather spend extra and get something that is not slowly destroying my records. You can buy a nice quality outboard phono preamp with USB--might cost a little more but it's a leap upward in sound quality.

If you really do have a SL-1200 or any of its variations, spend the money and get it fixed. 1200s are built like tanks, parts are easy to find, and a good overhaul by a tech familiar with the 1200 series will net you a turntable that will probably outlive all of us, and have really good performance on top of it. Modifications are available out there to take the 1200 up to crazy audiophile levels of performance (fluid dampers, tonearm modifications, etc.). IIRC (and our compadre @KentTeffeteller would know), the only real step up from a 1200 is to get into the professional series like the SP10 which I believe used the same powerful direct drive motors that powered cutting lathes. There's a reason the 1200 is legendary--they were used hard by professional DJs for many years, and were one of the few that could handle the abuse.

I am hoping Technics changes nothing about the build and materials quality--that legendary durability was a result of using so many high quality parts, including a lot of metal parts, when others resorted to plastics.

If the 1200 is not working reliably, it could be as simple as oxidation on the speed control (it is not making a good connection). If it's the sound cutting in and out, it's likely a simple matter of replacing the RCA cables with something better. (If I were closer, I could do some audiophile grade cables with high-grade connectors that wouldn't cost much. Really not that hard to do.) If there's a problem, there's likely a simple cure for it. Here's one site that offers repair, maintenance and upgrade services for the 1200 series (and there are others):

http://www.turntabletech.com/maintenance.htm

If it were me, I would get it fixed, buy a decent phono preamp with USB if you need it, and then get a decent cartridge. And don't go too cheap on the cartridge--the 1200/1210 series can do justice to even the higher-end cartridges. Something that protects your records and plays them back accurately is the goal.

It's great with Technics bringing those back. It was a strange move to stop production. The turntable has always been in demand, and the competitors with their "clone 1200s" just proves there is still a demand for it. I still know DJs who use turntables at their gigs, and most pros want to use the Technics 1200/1210 and nothing else. Which is why the price on vintage 1200s has escalated so much.

BTW, one other idea, since you probably do not need a phono preamp, would be to get one of those TASCAM (or similar) handheld digital recorders, which can record up to 24-bit/96kHz lossless. Perfect for needle drops. Just plug it into the tape outputs, throw in an SD card and batteries, and you're ready to go. Then back at the computer, swap over your SD card and start editing! These recorders now start at a low enough price level that just about anyone can afford them, and with built-in mics, they are versatile so you could use them for just about anything. The TASCAM DR-05 is under $100:

http://www.amazon.com/TASCAM-DR-05-Portable-Digital-Recorder/dp/B004OU2IQG
 

Mike Blakesley

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Well I mistyped -- my turntable is not a 1200, it's an SL1400, and my automatic changer is a 1350 which is pretty much the same as the 1400 outside of the changer mechanism. The 1400 was my "personal" turntable and the 1350 was a "leftover" when we got out of the component business at the store, so I inherited it.

The 1400 was built when Technics turntables had really started to take off in popularity -- it was the "pro-sumer" version of the direct drive turntable, before they started to come out with cheaper versions. It weighs quite a bit -- metal base with isolated suspension, nice heavy platter, direct drive, and the head pre-dates the P-series cartridge heads by several years. The only problem with it is indeed in the pitch controls -- it won't stay on the correct speed and if you just touch the controls it'll go way faster or way slower. I didn't realize there were places out there to get it serviced, I'll have to look into that.

I also used a couple of Technics belt drive tables when I was DJing. We used the belt drives because they were robust, and I wasn't doing beat-matching and stuff like that because we played more rock'n'roll than we did dance music. Since we were a mobile service the turntables tended to get knocked around a good bit.
 

Rudy

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Actually if you're not afraid to dig into it, a spray of DeOxit into that speed adjustment slider, and working it back and forth a couple dozen times, would clean it off. At worst, it could be replaced with a new one (if parts for the 1400 are available, or it may have shared the slider with the 1200).

Other speed stability issues could occur on the circuit boards (poor connections, agreed capacities, etc.) , but if you are finding the control to be erratic, that is likely the culprit.

They don't build them like this anymore. :wink:
 

Mike Blakesley

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Jeez now I'm not even sure it's a 1400 -- I got that number from googling Technics turntables. (The actual turntable is at home and I'm still at work.)

Whatever number it is, the speed control is not a slider -- it's two rotary controls, one for 33 and one for 45. Yep they really don't build'em like that anymore! :) But yeah, I've thought about doing that -- the only thing that makes me nervous is the suspended base. I don't know how much of a can of worms it would be to get into it to the point of being able to get at the controls.
 

Rudy

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It may have an access panel to get at the electronics, or the base may come apart easier than you'd think. On my Denon, the motor unit is all one piece bolted to the base, as many of their turntables used. The controls are even right on the motor unit, so no wiring is needed within the base...



Can't say I was ever overly impressed with it, as a quartz-locked model came later that had far better speed stability (they had pushbuttons for power and speed selection). But the electronics on this type of Denon were all self-contained inside the motor unit.

My other old turntable had a suspended subchassis design (similar to the AR or Linn Sondek style), but even there, removing the bottom of the base was only four screws. The only "electronics" that thing had was a power switch and a capacitor or two. (It was a belt drive.)
 

KentTeffeteller

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Rudy is right on his assessment of the Technics food chain. And yes, new Technics better live up to that standard or why bother. P.S. Rudy is also right about the Technics SP 10 Mk II motor being used to drive some cutting lathe turntables in SP-02 guise.
 

Bobberman

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At the radio station i work at we still use the technics SL1200 Turntables ( they were lucky to get a pair of newer ones a couple years ago.) And the old ones were used long before i arrived there in the mid 90s i agree they are built like a tank. And if they werent so prohibitively expensive i would love to get one. All my old vinyl A&M stuff would sound their very best. Along with the rest of my very rare LP Treasures.
 

Rudy

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Those 1200s can be hard to find at a fair price, but they are out there. One that might need some gentle refurbishing (a good cleaning of the contacts, some cosmetic detailing, etc.) would be ideal. A company called KAB Electro Acoustics is one of the experts in vintage Technics parts and enhancements. Many who buy such add-ons as their fluid dampers or improved wiring for the tonearms are known to take these to a higher level of sound reproduction.
 

Dave

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Well, good to know if mine ever croaks... Luckily I can still push her button & she plays! :D


-- Dave
 

KentTeffeteller

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P.S. If your SL-1200 fails you, odds are I can make her sing again like new. My track record is great, even nightclub beer spilled, roughly handled examples. Parts supplies still fine.
 

Rudy

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P.S. Rudy is also right about the Technics SP 10 Mk II motor being used to drive some cutting lathe turntables in SP-02 guise.
Grundman Mastering uses them on their lathes; Fremer has it in one of his video tours of Grundman Mastering. Fascinating stuff. I really like his tube-powered cutting lathe.

Here is the new "Grand Class SL-1200GAE," which has been reintroduced not as the DJ workhorse, but as a "reference" turntable, redesigned from the ground up (although it looks very similiar to the 1200s of old). Cost is $4,000, which is right in the ballpark for this level of turntable design (if a bit on the high side, as some were expecting it to be $2,500). I will likely see one in April, and I'll try to bring back a few photos to share.

Technics has been reinventing itself not as a seller of mid-fi electronics, but as the cutting-edge high-end division of Panasonic. This SL-1200GAE is typical of a flagship product, and while it hasn't been announced, I could see Technics offering a couple of lower-priced options in the future which use some of the technology they pioneered here.

Grand Class Direct Drive Turntable System SL-1200GAE Hi-Fi Audio | Technics »

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Bobberman

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Grundman Mastering uses them on their lathes; Fremer has it in one of his video tours of Grundman Mastering. Fascinating stuff. I really like his tube-powered cutting lathe.

Here is the new "Grand Class SL-1200GAE," which has been reintroduced not as the DJ workhorse, but as a "reference" turntable, redesigned from the ground up (although it looks very similiar to the 1200s of old). Cost is $4,000, which is right in the ballpark for this level of turntable design (if a bit on the high side, as some were expecting it to be $2,500). I will likely see one in April, and I'll try to bring back a few photos to share.

Technics has been reinventing itself not as a seller of mid-fi electronics, but as the cutting-edge high-end division of Panasonic. This SL-1200GAE is typical of a flagship product, and while it hasn't been announced, I could see Technics offering a couple of lower-priced options in the future which use some of the technology they pioneered here.

Grand Class Direct Drive Turntable System SL-1200GAE Hi-Fi Audio | Technics »

View attachment 1251
This looks exactly like the original SL 1200 turntables we use at the radio station i work at. ( and i can say they are top of the line and to me they are the Gold standard of turntables.) I would like to find a more affordable equivilent of this turntable ( Direct Drive only) if i can accomplish that i would start buying vinyl again.
 

Rudy

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Our pal @KentTeffeteller knows quite a bit about this type of turntable, as he has used them for broadcast work also. Hopefully he'll see this and chime in. That and a good tracking cartridge would get you set up quite well. A used but refurbished Technics in a similar series would be a good bet, except that they did have some flimsy lower end models in the 80s that should be avoided. (And avoid the P-mount mounting system for the cartridges--there is no telling how long replacements will be around, as they weren't that popular to begin with.)

Just beware of the new SL1200 clones out there--some are perfectly OK, while others are a ripoff of the looks but poorly built.
 

Bobberman

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Our pal @KentTeffeteller knows quite a bit about this type of turntable, as he has used them for broadcast work also. Hopefully he'll see this and chime in. That and a good tracking cartridge would get you set up quite well. A used but refurbished Technics in a similar series would be a good bet, except that they did have some flimsy lower end models in the 80s that should be avoided. (And avoid the P-mount mounting system for the cartridges--there is no telling how long replacements will be around, as they weren't that popular to begin with.)

Just beware of the new SL1200 clones out there--some are perfectly OK, while others are a ripoff of the looks but poorly built.
I totally agree Rudy. I will need to do a lot of searching and comparing ( i was taught comparison shopping long ago.) I don't want to get stuck with a cheapo turkey. But i also want to stay within my budget too while at the same time wanting to get the best possible quality turntable that will work well for many years to come.and of course also treat my classic vinyl well.
 

Rudy

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I'm looking at a sturdy, 70s era semi-automatic direct drive for a family member. We can always upgrade once she gets used to operating one. For my part, I'm able to disassemble one and do some cleaning of the switches and controls so they work properly.
 

Moritat

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I can recommend Music Hall turntables. I have the MM5 model which I've owned for 20 years. They are highly rated, even in Stereophile magazine, but their prices are reasonable. They seem to be the low tier of the high end turntables. Check out their website and reviews before you make your purchase.
 

Rudy

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The Music Hall tables are made at the Czech same plant as Pro-Ject, so you will see some shared components and design there. (Roy Hall designs them...and given his outspoken reputation, I don't know if I look forward to, or fear, meeting up with him at AXPONA. :laugh: ) Music Hall uses the Pro-Ject arms, although I don't know if they've yet moved to Pro-Ject's carbon fiber "Evolution" arms yet. My pal in Columbus still has an older MMF-5 with the acrylic platter and it works well. I think the latest version of their entry level model is the MMF-2.2, or is it 2.3?

One table that had a dicey reputation due to motor hum was the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon. Yet they have a newer model out now, the Debut Carbon DC (which now uses a DC motor and supposedly an improved mount) which quiets it down. Pro-Ject's Elemental turntables are another entry level system. Rega also has one out for a small step up in price.

As bad as their reputation is, the plasticky record-shredder company Crosley has actually contracted Pro-Ject to build them a "real" entry level turntable.
 
I'm "making do" with a Technics SL-1700 DD (old enough to state on the badge: "Technics by PANASONIC").
Now, NOT being a vinyl junkie...it was only a substitute I'd picked up for having once traded away a THORENS TD-160Mk. 2 belt-drive...which, I'd admit: even with the most LOW budget AT91/mm cart. -- had it ALL OVER the sound of the Technics.
Like Fremer is adamant about, there IS such a thing as "direct drive sound"...it's almost "sterile" with a CD-type upper bass. My "holy grail" 'table, however, would be a THORENS TD-125 from the early '70s. I like Thorens and the 125 is an interesting hybrid of belt drive WITH electronic pitch control. What I'd *REALLY* would love to find, is: a 125 which had an aftermarket RABCO linear tonearm fitted to it(!).
 

KentTeffeteller

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A SL-1700 in good order is just fine. Well made, reliable, sounds great. On Technics classics, I like Audio-Technica AT 100e and higher, Ortofon 2M Red and Blue, Nagaoka cartridges, and like the Shure M97xE. The broadcast stations in the waning years of vinyl liked the SP-10 Mk II, SP-15, and SP-25 turntables mounted in broadcast furniture with their tonearms of choice, and cartridges of choice. Audio-Technica ATP 12-T (10") and ATP 16-T (12") commonly used with the SP line. I own a SP-25 motor and the ATP 16-T arm in a custom plinth, and will be soon using a Shure M25c broadcast cartridge in it. Other Technics choices sometimes used by broadcasters were the SL-1200 (Usually Mk II), the earlier SL-1100 with the Technics tonearm and some other choices like the SME 3009 S2 Improved.
 

KentTeffeteller

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If you can't afford a higher end consumer Technics, some advice. The SL-D1 or SL-D2 are excellent cheaper alternatives to a SL-1200 for use at home, and the SL-Q1 and SL-Q2 are the Quartz locked no pitch control siblings in the line. In nice condition, you can find one of these around for no more than $200. Their tonearms while lacking VTA, are as fine as a SL-1200 in every other aspect. The same cartridges work equally fine on these. I own a SL-D1 as a secondary turntable option and am very pleased with it's performance.
 

Rudy

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As an update, Technics now has an SL-1200GR at a lower price point. It loses the magnesium arm and has a few other substitutions (a different motor), but like the SL-1200GAE, is still hand-built (!) in Japan. Mikey has more details here:

Technics Introduces Appx. "half-priced" SL-1200 GR Direct Drive Turntable »

Notable:

Analog Planet said:
As I remark in the video, Technics' choice to maintain the original SL-1200's industrial design is a double edged sword: skeptics and knuckleheads think the new 1200 is the same turntable as the old one with a jacked up price, while ditching the classic look would have resulted in a loss of tradition and continuity. I think Technics was correct to keep the classic architecture and significantly upgrade the design and build quality.

 

Bobberman

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Rudy

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This new GR variation is probably listed at $2000 or over; the GAE (which I posted last year) is $4000, and actually sold out its initial run quite quickly. These new tables (both last year's GAE and this year's GR) look almost the same as the original 1200 series, but are completely redesigned from the ground up. I saw the GAE at AXPONA last April and the build quality of it was superb. The cartridge sucked, though. :laugh:

I would say, though, that for $4000, there are other turntables I would rather buy first... :wink:
 

KentTeffeteller

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From Billboard:



No mention of price points but I'd sure be a potential customer. I have two old Technics tables, a 1200 and (I think) a 1250 which was a record changer -- but neither one of them will work reliably anymore. I've always wanted to get a new turntable with a USB connection but most of the ones on the market seem to be pretty low quality.

What's wrong with the 1200? I might be able to repair it for you.
 
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