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Technics SL-1200G: The Wheels of Steel Are Back, But There’s a Catch

DJs, vinyl-heads and radio nerds rejoiced at the unveiling this week of the new Technics SL-1200G turntable. It’s an all-new version of the venerated DJ deck that ruled clubs, radio studios and many living rooms for nearly 40 years until being discontinued in 2010. However, for many there’s a grey cloud looming over this sunny news.

The reason for this turntable’s enduring popularity is because it, well, endures. It was a rock-solid direct-drive design that could survive the inevitable wear, tear and abuse suffered by any equipment installed in a DJ booth, all while literally never losing a beat. Because the motor directly drives the platter the record comes up to speed quickly, and gives the DJ precise control over that speed, making it the perfect tool for beat matching, scratching and mixing. It also sounded really good, and could be had for about $500 – $700. Not a bad investment for a piece of equipment that could last a true lifetime.

When Panasonic–Technics’ parent–discontinued the turntable six years ago it cited two contributing factors. First was a decline in demand for analog playback devices. Second was a growing difficulty in sourcing necessary parts. I had heard rumblings that the tooling used to manufacture the turntables was simply wearing out and Panasonic declined to invest in the assumedly expensive process of making new ones.

While the second reason made sense, many observers were puzzled by the first reason, since even then the vinyl resurgence was well underway–for instance the 3rd annual Record Store Day happened in 2010–and the number of turntables on the market was increasing at the time, not decreasing. It seemed like Panasonic was grossly misreading the marketplace, leaving money on the table, leaving many DJs in the lurch, and causing a surge in the price of second-hand 1200s.

Obviously, Panasonic saw the error in its ways, announcing the imminent release of a new 1200 last summer, followed by its public debut this past week at the Consumer Electronics Show. What Hi-Fi? has a hands-on overview of the pre-production unit at the show for those who want to dig into the details.

But here’s the rain on the parade. If somewhat affordable pricing was one of the original 1200’s virtues, that quality has not carried over to the new SL–1200G. The fresh ’table will debut in a limited-edition 50th anniversary version, at a eye-popping cost of $4000. Those who don’t need to rush to get the very first units off the factory line can with for the non-limited edition, which will cost… just a little less than $4000. Wow.

Panasonic says the pricing reflects that the 1200G is an all-new and much improved design. There’s no reason to doubt that assertion. Still, that places the new 1200s well out of reach for LPFMs and community radio stations looking to equip for vinyl playback, as well as small clubs, new DJs and most folks who would love to have a nice turntable at home, but can’t quite part with four grand.

That said, there are reasonable alternatives. Read my post on reasonably priced turntables for radio stations to find a suitable substitute that won’t trash your LPs or break your bank.

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