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Technics announces a new SL-1200 turntable for DJing

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The first since 2008

Image: Panasonic

Technics has announced a new DJ turntable at CES 2019. Dubbed the SL-1200MK7, this is the first time the company has added to its legendary SL-1200 series in nearly 11 years. Its most recent predecessors — the SL-1200MK6-K and SL-1200MK6-S — came out in February 2008 in Japan. Technics hasn’t said when this turntable will be available or what it will cost, but considering this is a turn back to the line’s heyday, it should be more affordable than some more recent models, which broke wallets with price tags between $4,000 and $10,000.

The SL-1200 series has been a staple for Technics since it was introduced in the early ‘70s, but at the time, it was meant for audiophiles and home use. It wasn’t until the SL-1200MK2 was introduced in 1979 that radio stations, clubs, and hip-hop DJs like Grandmaster Flash began to favor it as a standard for performing. With vibration damping and feedback resistance, it could hold up in loud, unstable environments. They also used to be affordable, making the SL-1200MK series a vinyl DJ favorite for decades. But, as Technics’ Jonathan Danbury explained to The Vinyl Factory in 2016, the line’s enduring popularity over the years is what led to it being discontinued. The company made so many 1200-series turntables that the original moldings and dies wore out.

The SL-1200MK7 sports what one would expect from the historic series, and it improves some core components. It’s a direct drive turntable that inherits the same SL-1200 visual layout, but it’s now all-black with a matte texture. There are plenty of upgrades under the hood. It’s likely the beneficiary of Technics’ increased interest in the high-end turntable market over the past few years. A new coreless direct drive motor should eliminate the minor cogging issue some SL-1200 turntables experienced — tiny vibrations that can cause rotation irregularities. The magnetic force of the rotor magnets and the gap between the coreless stator and rotor magnets has also been tweaked, giving SL-1200MK7 torque that the company says is on par with the SL-1200MK5.

The tonearm has the signature Technics’ S-shape, it’s made of lightweight aluminum, and it promises minimum stylus jumping “even in harsh playing conditions.” There’s also a microcomputer tucked inside for increased motor control accuracy with things like record scratching. The starting torque and brake speed can be adjusted to your liking.

Image: Panasonic

Tiny changes are cause for excitement, like new detachable power and phono cable terminals. I’ve manually replaced SL-1200MK2 faulty phono cables before, and it’s a pain, so this is a welcome addition. There’s also a new reverse play function that can be enabled when the turntable is on. To use it, press the speed selector button and the “Start / Stop” button at the same time (and make sure the cartridge / needle you’re using is meant for scratching so it’s not destroyed). Lastly, the stylus illuminator has a new push-type structure, and Technics says it’s been refined “to provide improved visibility of the stylus tip compared to previous models, even in a dark environment.”

When it comes to the SL-1200MK7’s chassis, Technics again borrows from its recent work in high-end turntables. It has a two-layer construction, with die-cast aluminum and a thermoplastic material mixed with glass fibers. The combination, Technics says, increases the turntable’s vibration dampening even further. On top is an aluminum die-cast platter backed with deadening rubber, again for minimizing vibrations.

As a DJ who grew up using SL-1200MK2s, the past few years have been a partial bummer when it comes to Technics announcements. While the company now makes an array of beautiful turntables meant for hi-fi listening and home use, it arguably stopped catering to the DJ market when parent company Panasonic halted production of SL-1200s in 2010. The Technics brand then relaunched in 2014 with a “commitment to the creation of high-quality audio.” Since then, every turntable release from the company has been expensive and for home use, which is a letdown for many DJs who still highly value the SL-1200MK series as a dependable performance workhorse. But, as Danbury explained to The Vinyl Factory, with no molds, the company had to start from scratch, and “the present day price of making all of the parts and dies is astronomical compared to what it was in the ’70s.”

This is all to say, DJs had to wait for Technics to develop new models like 2016’s $4,000 SL-1200G in order to offset the costs of creating parts for another, more affordable DJ turntable. The SL-1200MK7 is a landmark release for Technics and an investment back into the community that has loved this series for decades. And in the process, the company has smartly chosen to refine what has always made the product great, instead of slapping on oodles of new features.

To celebrate the release of the SL-1200MK7, Technics is hosting a very fitting club-centric event tonight in Las Vegas with sets from Kenny Dope, Derrick May, Cut Chemist, and DJ Koco.