Technics Premium Class SB-C700 loudspeaker

1918: Konosuke Matsushita founds Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (Japan).

1965: Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co. (Japan) introduces the first Technics product, a two-way acoustic-suspension loudspeaker designed to compete with the increasingly popular line of sealed-box speakers made by Acoustic Research (US).

2008: Matsushita renames itself Panasonic Corporation.

2010: Panasonic halts production of the revered Technics SL1200 turntable, thus ending an era and the Technics brand name, whose wide-ranging audio products had become synonymous with smooth sound, elegant styling, and rugged construction.

2014: Panasonic revives the Technics brand.

2015: I listen carefully as Michiko Ogawa—former Technics engineer, renowned classical and jazz pianist, and current director of Panasonic's Technics division—speaks these words: "In honor of our 50th anniversary, we at Technics are determined to blaze a new audio path and deliver new and emotionally engaging musical experiences for another 50 years." (my emphasis)

All the turntables of my youth had natural wood plinths and staid, European-looking chassis. When Technics introduced the sleek, futuristic-looking SP-10 direct-drive turntable in 1969, and followed that in 1972 with the snappy, pro-style SL1200, I scratched my head. I was a confirmed Dual 1019–Shure cartridge kind of guy. But in 1974 I moved from Chicago to New York, and all my new reggae/ska/punk friends were spinning LPs on silver Technics 1200s. Then, in 1980, a stoned party guest punked my Dual, so I abandoned wood plinths and bought a shiny new Technics SL1200 Mk.2 at J&R Music World. The salesman swore out loud: "Your drunk buddies will never break this one!"

I remember a demonstration at Manhattan dealer Sound by Singer that featured a high-powered, DC-coupled, class-A Technics power amplifier, the SE-A1. At the time, I thought it was the most beautiful-looking and -sounding amplifier I had ever experienced. I remember Andy Singer saying that he loved it, too, but that he couldn't sell it because American high-end buyers think megabig Japanese receiver manufacturers make only mid-fi products. "Shame on them," I mumbled. "Their loss."

I urge you now to take a moment to look at the photos and contemplate the Grecian form of Technics' new stand-mounted loudspeaker, the Premium Class SB-C700 ($1699/pair). Note its bulging, wider-in-the-middle profile when viewed head-on. Like the Doric columns supporting the Parthenon, the walls of the SB-C700's cabinet thicken toward the middle (in this case, to absorb and diffuse internal resonances). Technics calls this their High Rigidity Entasis Form Cabinet. Its MDF walls range in thickness up to 42mm, and it weighs 18.7 lbs and measures 13.1" high by 8.9" wide by 11.2" deep. On the rear, note the substantial binding posts and the opening to its parabola-shaped (in cross-section: it flares at both ends) port. Note the sticky, sturdy rubber feet on the bottom. Pythagoras would be impressed.

Technics has used flat cones (I'll come back to that oxymoronic description) and coaxially mounted tweeters in their top speakers for decades. But, like the company's aforementioned class-A amplifiers, those high-tech speakers simply never caught on outside Asia. In the late 1980s, Technics' beautiful and very similar (but wood-veneered) SB-RX50 speaker visited the high-end markets of the US and UK, in hopes of giving those nations' domestic brands some worthy competition. But despite rave reviews, the handsome, well-made SB-RX50 failed to make headway. (Historically, Technics has made many different high-end products, but only their classic turntables and tape decks have earned appropriate respect in the US and Europe.)

Just like the SB-RX50, the mid/woofer of the new Technics SB-C700 has a flat, circular diaphragm, supported at its inner and outer edges by concentric rubber surrounds. That diaphragm is driven from behind—at its "geometric balance point," according to Technics—by a separate "coupling" cone. Attached to the cone is a short-voice-coil former with its own accordion-fold spider. This driver's flat diaphragm, which measures 6.5" in diameter, is a sandwich of two sheets of carbon cloth over a honeycomb aluminum core. (The SB-RX50's driver measured 9" in diameter and used a one-piece cross-carbon diaphragm.)

Also unlike the earlier SB, which had flat-diaphragm mica tweeters with samarium-cobalt magnets, the tweeter of the new SB-C700's is a 0.75" aluminum dome with an even more powerful neodymium magnet. The entire coaxial tweeter-woofer assembly is mounted on an unusually massive, "energy dissipating" die-cast aluminum frame.

Listening I auditioned the Technics SB-C700s in a variety of rooms, large and small, using a wide range of amplification. In each context, they sounded best from farther out in the room than I usually place speakers: a little wider apart than my favorite monk's-cell distance, and pointed directly forward, with no toe-in. In every room, the SB-C700s projected not the biggest but perhaps the most properly scaled soundstage I have encountered. Images were the opposite of ghostly; soundstages had a kind of linear tangibility, seeming more firm around the edges than usual. Energy projection in my smallish room was more even and businesslike than I'd experienced before. Dispersion seemed wide in both the vertical and horizontal planes. Impressed by the SB-700s' sound, an audiophile friend said, "Cabinet coloration seems nonexistent." I agreed.

With the Line Magnetic LM-518 IA: With any new loudspeaker, it's important that I begin each review session with music I love and an amplifier whose character is well known to me. To that end, I wired my Line Magnetic LM-518IA reference integrated amp to the Technics SB-C700s, the latter sitting on 24"-high Sound Anchor stands. Then I began with some beautiful black discs from EMI.

Using my multicultural front end of Technics SL1200 Mk.2 turntable, SME M2-9 tonearm, and Soundsmith Carmen cartridge, I enjoyed the Rondo in G, Op.129, "Rage Over a Lost Penny, Vented in a Caprice," from Vol.5 of Artur Schnabel's set of Beethoven's piano music (LP, EMI RLS 769). It left me dizzy and winded. Forward momentum? Feverish pace and rhythm? I could hardly keep up with this fun, sarcastic side of Herr Ludwig. No matter how fast Schnabel played, it was never too fast for the SB-C700s to expose the exact feel of each keystroke, the precise tone of each note. Throughout this entire Schnabel-Beethoven set, my brain received, grasped, and admired every note, better than with all but a few speakers I have experienced. Pedalwork was vividly clear to the point of being visual—as if I could see the master's shoes touching the brass levers. These Technics speakers had a unique way of presenting piano notes that was extremely close to their live-performance texture.

From another disc of Vol.5, I experienced Schnabel playing the Diabelli Schusterfleck (cobbler's patch), on which Beethoven had based his 33 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli (Op.120), in full, widescreen "texturecolor." And while I was playing Beethoven's "alterations" (Ludwig van's term) for the third time, I realized that Schnabel and the modestly priced Technics weren't just getting the pace, texture, and tone right—they were putting me in touch with the full momentums of Beethoven's mind.

To determine the SB-C700's maximum potential as a reproducer of piano sound, I listened to Todd Garfinkle's glorious recording of Ito Ema playing J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations at Harmony Hall, in Matsumoto, Japan (CD, M•A Recordings MO24A). I lost some of that goose-bump EMI analog texture, and I missed the force of Schnabel's hair-raising Beethoven-ism, but in return I received the most pure, liquid, golden tones. The tonality of Ema's piano was so mesmerizing that, half the time, I forgot what music I was listening to. I just dreamed about the beauty and elemental force of pianos as human-fashioned instruments of expression.

Going straight from the beauties of Bach and Beethoven to pissing and screaming in hell, I played Two Penny Opera by my longtime favorites, the Tiger Lillies (CD, Tiger 009). This (Kurt) Weill–ian, Brecht-ian, British punk-cabaret trio play St. Anne's Warehouse in Brooklyn every year, and I'm always in the fifth or sixth row. Their drummer, Adrian Huge, plays a tiny, toy-sized drum kit. Their bassist, Adrian Stout, plays double bass, musical saw, and Theremin. The group's founding madman is Martyn Jacques, who wears a derby, paints his face white, and sings in a squeaking, squawking, ridiculous falsetto. Jacques also plays toy piano, dime-store guitar, harmonica, ukulele, banjolele, and my favorite instrument of all: accordion. If you're a conservative bourgeois person and/or easily offended, do not buy this CD! Jacques's unique pan-genderism makes the Pogues' Shane MacGowan look and sound like an archdeacon. The Tiger Lillies take rudeness and avant-garde provocativeness to the highest levels of smirking irony and biting social parody.

Technics, Panasonic Corporation of North America
Two Riverfront Plaza
Newark, NJ 07102-5490
(800) 211-7262

AllanMarcus's picture

"effulgent hypersaturated musical hues"
why does that sound like something an Oenophile would say?

JoeinNC's picture

Pretension is apparently their hallmark.

K.Reid's picture

If the KEF LS50 is Class A sound, then it is only appropriate to classify the Technics as such. I had an extended listening session and they are every bit the bargain the KEFs are. Properly set up as Herb describes and, frankly, they leave the KEFs in the dust dynamically. Simply fantastic for the price. I really hope they can get the "street cred" they so deserve.

Steve C's picture

I had some Technics speakers back in the late 70's that were time aligned. Got them while I was stationed in the Azores, hooked up to a Kenwood integrated with a Thorens TT. Very nice overall sound. Wish I could remember the model #. Glad to see a comeback.

avanti1960's picture

At the end of the day it is difficult to eliminate distortion and maintain clarity / dispersion when a 6-1/2" woofer mates to a tweeter. Even the best 6-1/2" woofers typically begin breaking up at (and most certainly after) the lowest comfortable crossover point of a tweeter. Monitors with 5-1/2" woofers have the capability to be more transparent and with less distortion in the crossover region because of the smaller woofer.
I wish Stereophile would measure and publish harmonic distortion results with their speaker reviews.

TJ's picture

... you could try Neumann KH-120 recording studio monitors with 100 watts of bi-amped class AB power, balanced inputs, plus an onboard DSP for ruler flat frequency response and rear panel EQ options. After ~200 hrs of break-in (electrolytic caps), the sound and imaging are exceptional. Any chance for a Stereophile review?

Russell Dawkins's picture

to see the extent to which the conclusions of this review differ from those in the What hi*fi review, brief though it is.

I guess, as usual, a personal audition is the answer.

crenca's picture

I auditioned these speakers at a well known dealer about a month ago. I can't recall the amp (though I remember it being a SS unit costing about $8k). I could only stand them for about 5 minutes. The treble had an overly forward/bright texture that sounded very "metallic" and "brassy" to me. It truly skewed the music. Within the first few seconds I was quizzing the dealer assuming he was applying an eccentric EQ (he was not). Now, I admit that I prefer an accurate treble presentation that is not overly bright (I had just been listening to GoldenEar's products through a Rougue Audio Spinx and that sounded like "real" music to me) but this was off the charts.

Is it sample differences? Are they really sensitive to what they are matched with concerning amplification? Can Mr. Herb Reichert hear anything above 5k? Like you say, always audition them for yourself...

K.Reid's picture

You speak nothing about the room you auditioned them in, positioning (feet from front wall and side wall) associated equipment, cabling, etc. Did you ask the salesman how long they were in house and break in time. Give some details. Just because you auditioned with an 8K amp is no guarantee of a good match. The salesman should have demo the speakers with Technics new integrated amp which sounds fabulous.

I had a very lengthy listening session with a well broken in pair. Room was about 12ft wide by 20ft length. Ceiling was 8ft. All Technics set up with their music server and integrated amp. Cabling was Shunyata. Speakers were about 4ft out from front wall pointing straight with no toe in. Holly Cole Temption, Christy Baron and classical pieces sounded great. I think definitely Class A (restricted low frequency). The treble was fine and detailed and most certainly not bright or strident. I too like an accurate treble presentation and this was spot on. They really do exceed the KEF LS50 in performance. If Herb could not hear anything above 5K he would not be a professional reviewer for Stereophile. Clearly, there was something wrong in your dealer's presentation.

crenca's picture

For example, could perfecting room placement (a few feet here or there) really have changed the fundamental character of the treble I heard? Sure, it could have changed it some, but what I heard was beyond (way beyond) room placement tweaks, cables, break in, etc. Besides the dealer I heard them at (name withheld on purpose) is well known, respected, and uses cables that are priced/respected well beyond what I pay for. The room/positioning was a high end (treated, etc) listening room - it might not have been set up specifically for these speakers but it is no concrete floored wharehouse either.

Now, the amplification might have been a complete mismatch, and I admit that - but even if this were true I tend to believe it probably does not account for everything I heard...probably not...

So, giving the dealer and myself the benefit of the doubt (that neither of us are not complete morons) what can account for the differences between our experiences (that it was more or less in line with what the "whathifi" review described as "harshness") and your's and Herb's?

Possibly it's amplification. If that is the case, these speakers are sensitive to that to strong degree I think. Sample differences? I tend to think this is probably the main culprit.

However, I have noticed that there are many in the "audiophile" world who like a forward/emphasized/"detailed" treble presentation that I simply don't like as I find it very unnatural to what acoustic instruments sound like live. Perhaps this in combination with sample differences (with a little amplification mismatch) leads to this very diverse evaluation???

I am open to other ideas...

K.Reid's picture

Don't be afraid to give the name of the dealer. I am curious to see who it was. There are many great dealers such as Overture AV, Innovative Audio Video, Lyric, Hanson and others. I will ask again, what brand name and model amplifier did you demo with? In terms of the speakers I still think it may have been a bad sample, amp mismatch or a pair that was not broken in. This speaker must be given plenty of break in time...and that matters a good degree with these monitors. Furthermore, it will easily point out bad recordings or less than great upstream equipment. It is not a forgiving speaker. I suggest you go to another dealer for a listen with Technics integrated amplifier and make certain they have had substantial use.

Also, JA can give them to another reviewer...say Art Dudley to get his second opinion. Properly set up and demonstrated, the speakers are fabulous.

K.Reid's picture

Steve Guttenburg has a contrary opinion on He loved the Technics. Perhaps What HiFi had bad sample. I had read that "so called" review and thought to myself what that they must have been a bad sample. Go listen yourself to the complete Technics system with well broken in pair placed out from the front wall. I think you will be impressed.

Ayre conditioned's picture

JA didn't listen to these speakers, as he sometimes does. Maybe he could have offered some more insight.

K.Reid's picture

JA may do a follow-up, who knows. I think it is a good idea. I have no doubt that if I were choosing between the KEF LS50 and the Technics SB-C700, my money would go to the latter - based on my time with them.

John Atkinson's picture
Ayre conditioned wrote:
I wonder why JA didn't listen to these speakers, as he sometimes does.

I didn't have time to listen to the Technics speakers in my room, I am afraid. However, Herb still has the review samples, so the opportunity might present itself.

Ayre conditioned wrote:
Maybe he could have offered some more insight.

One thing I didn't emphasize sufficiently is that the SB-C700's low-frequency alignment is maximally flat instead of featuring the upper-bass bump so often found in small speakers. They will therefore work better in small rooms. The larger the room, the leaner they might sound.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

K.Reid's picture

John, you may not recall that we spoke about this monitor at an event held at Innovative Audio in NYC recently where Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio was demonstrating the Alexandria XLF. Guttenburg and Chesky were there as well all discussing MQA and recording methods. I let you know that I had been impressed with the Technics and you informed me that one of your staff had reviewed the them and to look for it in the January issue.

Notwithstanding the above, I think that it would be a good idea for you to give these monitors an extended listen. I think Herb's review was spot on. Though the LS50 is no slouch, these just outperform them in many areas in a small to medium sized room provided they are properly set up with good associated equipment.

K.Reid's picture

If you want to read what other listeners have said about the speaker Google the speaker name/model and Audio Asylum forum and you will see mostly positive comments.