The Return of the Technics SL-1200 DJ Turntable!
The CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is a global consumer electronics and consumer technology tradeshow that takes place every January in Las Vegas, Nevada. Amidst the latest drones, virtual reality glasses and other such innovations, it's remarkable that the revival of a turntable originally released in 1972 has managed to generate so much excitement, but that's exactly what the new Technics Grand Class SL-1200G and SL-1200GAE direct drive turntables did, and proof that the mythical status of the SL-1200 remains undiminished. The two SL-1200 models unveiled - one of which, the SL-1200GAE, limited to only 1,200 units - mark the first update in years to the brand.
THE GREAT VINYL REVIVAL
Panasonic (who owns Technics) has said the launch was inspired by a resurgence in vinyl record sales. With vinyl sales on the up, HMV recently reported that they were selling 1 turntable per minute over the 2015 Christmas period. It seems music fans are really embracing the old format, but when it comes to professional DJs the story seemed to be different, with the vast majority still opting for MIDI DJ Controllers with their laptops or using CDJ controllers, and brands such as Native Instruments have been investing on new formats such as STEMS.
Now, with the new SL-1200 models, it looks like the tide is changing. A relatively small but passionate number of pros still prefer old-skool turntables, and not long ago the Pioneer PLX-1000 signalled that top brands were still willing to invest in the format.
Due to the widespread use of CDs, turntable systems disappeared briefly from the market, but their warm sound quality is bringing them back. The direct-drive turntable invented by Technics is still highly acclaimed by audiophiles and DJs in the form of the SL-1200 Series, and there have been many requests to revive the turntable system.
Direct-drive is generally considered to be for DJ use, and belt drive is for Hi-Fi use. In the 1970s, when Technics invented direct-drive turntables, their performance and reliability were first recognised by broadcast stations. High acclaim was then received by audiophiles. The high-precision rotation and absence of S/N ratio degradation were particularly attractive to these users. The high torque and reliability of direct-drive were recognised by DJs, and direct-drive turntables became the standard in the club scene.
Technics was also a leader in incorporating innovations, such as vibration-damping materials, cabinet construction, and insulators. Having inherited the DNA of Technics, Technics say they don't wish to merely make a replica of the SL-1200. In other words, their intent in this development is to redefine the direct-drive turntable reference.
THE SL-1200 "WHEELS OF STEEL" REVOLUTION
Released in 1972, the original SL-1200 was the only turntable that could withstand visceral nature of the scratch, and, because of this, it became an essential tool in the development of hip hop. Despite originally being marketed as a domestic hi-fi turntable, the SL-1200 immediately found its real home in the clubs and on the NYC streets, where the new style would develop. No wonder the SL-1200 has been described as "the most important musical instrument of the last two-and-a-half decades" and it's even on display at the London Science Museum, as one of the pieces of technology that have "shaped the world we live in".
Legendary DJs such as Grandmaster Flash (who immortalized the SL-1200 on the title of his seminal "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel") and Grand Wizard Theodore (the inventor of scratching) were among the early and very influential adopters.
The SL-1200 presence was ubiquitous not just in Hip Hop, but also in House music, and many pros still prefer it to anything else today - as well as audiophiles who simply want a great sounding, reliable turntable. One of the reasons, is that besides featuring an iconic design, the SL-1200 was one of those rare things - an electronic consumer product that was made to last. When you bought one, you knew it'd last a lifetime! Japanese DJ Tatsuo Sunaga ( AKA "The Record Chief") once said he'd "been using these products for around 20 years and rarely suffered a breakdown.This type of excellence is something not seen globally."
This is the same feeling shared by another DJ, Neil Hume, who says there is a good reason the Technics SL-1200 enjoys such a following:
“Things that DJs value in a turntable are the strength of the motor so records can be launched in beat matching time, the smooth and seamless control of pitch with a fader and the ability for the casing to eliminate interference from vibrations coming from speakers... you might think that making this project is simple, but no other manufacturer has managed to make a product that equals the Technics SL-1200."
Panasonic has sold around 3.5 million Technics SL-1200 model turntables since the original launch in 1972. It seems the time is right for a SL-1200 revival, and who knows, maybe many more will be sold, once again!
DJs still have a great and very respectable alternative in the more affordable PLX-1000, and Hi-Fi buffs might be happy enough with an Audio Technica AT-LP120, for instance, but nothing beats the legendary mystique and quality of the SL-1200! DJs and audiophiles... it's time to get excited!
Grand Class Direct Drive Turntable System SL-1200GAE & SL-1200G Specifications:
- All New Design for Redefining the Direct Drive Turntable
- Twin-Rotor Surface-Facing Direct Drive Motor
- Direct Drive Motor Controller
- High Sensitive Tonearm
- Brass-Top Turntable Platter
- Technics Definitive Design: Inherited SL-1200 Series, Heavy Aluminium Top Plate
- Turntable Speeds: 33 1/3 rpm, 45 rpm, 78 rpm
- Variable Range Pitch: ±8%, ±16%
- Dimensions & Weight: W: 453 mm (17-27/32 inch) H: 170 mm (6-11/16 inch) D: 372 mm (14-21/32 inch) Approx. 18 kg (39.7 lbs ) Height including dust cover
- Terminal: Phono Output x 1 / SIGNAL GND x 1
The Grand Class SL-1200GAE 50th Anniversary Limited Edition will be available in Summer 2016, with only 1200 units available worldwide. It will come with a magnesium case.
The SL-1200G Grand Class will come out later in the year. Features will be the same as the GAE, minus the case: an aluminum bound turntable with a high–dampening tonearm, a "three–layer" turntable system, complete with a microprocessor and rotary positing sensors to eliminate cogging, as well as 78 rpm speed compatibility.