At the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show Panasonic revived the Technics hi-fi brand and with it, the iconic Technics SL-1200 turntable. Though best known as a DJ turntable, the SL-1200 was actually introduced in 1972 as an audiophile turntable and even up until 2010 when production ended, it was one of the best hi-fi turntables you could buy and a bargain at the price.
I was at the show attending the Panasonic news conference when they unveiled the turntable. I stated in disbelief, I never thought I would see the day! The new turntable was called the SL-1200GAE and had a newly-designed, state-of-the-art direct drive system meant to dispel any reservations fussy audiophiles had about the original SL-1200 direct drive system. I never found fault with the original system, and am proud to be an owner of an SL-1210M5G. (I think the claims that Technics direct drive has “cogging” and hunts for speed constantly are baloney.) Unfortunately for most of us, the SL-1200GAE sold for $4,000 and as it was limited to 1,200 units they were quickly sold out.
This year Technics introduced the SL-1200GR, a much less expensive version with a simplified, though still state-of-the-art, direct drive system. It also has updated materials and construction compared to the original SL-1200 series, which was designed over 40 years ago yet still remained a top performer all the way until 2010. Imagine how much better they can make it today! The SL-1200GR sells for $1,699 and with everything it has going for it, it looks to be worth every penny and them some. I have one on loan from Panasonic for a special project you will be reading about soon. Without even setting it up, I have a feeling I am going to be poorer when the project is over because I think I am going to send them a check for it rather than return the turntable. The previous SL-1200 series was amazing as it is, but combined with the new advanced drive system, the jewel-like finish and the refinements throughout this promises to be one of the best turntables you can buy at any price. Showing Technics’ focus on the highest of the high-end market, it is only available from a few select dealers nationwide and there are no online sales.
The review will be in several parts. I am going to start with unboxing in every single step, as if you were opening your very own SL-1200GR. Both DJs and hi-fi fans can rejoice, the SL-1200 is back and (relatively) affordable! Though certainly not cheap, it is a lifetime investment for a music lover.
Platter on top, accessories on the side and packed around the box.
Dust cover solidly packed away…
…out of the bag. It seems a bit lightweight, considering how solid everything else about the SL-1200GR is.
Included small bits. I will comment more on them later.
A couple of things were marked tentative. Looks like I got a very early production unit.
The headshell in the mounting jig, with the counterweight and supplemental weight. The mounting jig is one of my favorite parts of these turntables. It makes getting perfect cartridge alignment simple and easy.
The platter. It is weighty and like the rest of the turntable, very finely finished.
The substantial magnet has a protective cover when it is shipped.
Close-up of the drive system.
Pictures do not do justice to the tonearm and the workmanship exhibited in it.
Tonearm with VTA (Vertical Tracking Angle) adjustment. Easily-adjustable VTA is another huge benefit of the SL-1200 series.
Tonearm with headshell installed.
I liked the placement of the jacks, and the grounding post is solid, easy to access and a nice distance from the connections.
Tonearm with counterweight installed.
By the way, the RCA cables are definitely heavy-duty and gold plated, too boot. No need to upgrade these guys.
Check back soon for Part 2 of the review, and news about my exciting new vinyl project!