Technics: The Force Awakens in Las Vegas

The reemergence of Technics on the world audio scene is, I believe, the biggest audio news of 2015–2016. I reviewed their SB-C700 stand mounted monitor speakers in the January 2016 issue and they already feel like my 2016 nomination for Stereophile's Product of the Year; but obviously it is still way early. Nevertheless, Technics is back with two lines of stylish excellent sounding equipment: a Reference R1 Class Series which will be described by my associate Jason Victor Serinus; a Premium Class System that can be purchased with the SB-C700 speakers I reviewed, an integrated amp that I loved, and a DAC music server—all for less than $5000; and! And! Stop the Presses!! The "Grand Class" which includes the new (as in just announced today!) SL1200GAE "Limited Edition" direct-drive turntable ($4000).

This thing is so new and so hot and so exciting, it nearly crashed the Internet. I started bowing and shaking uncontrollably the minute I saw it. Stuttering, I ran out in the hall and called my friends. I told them it looks like the new version of the venerable classic SL1200 is designed to be the best in the DJ as well as the audiophile and record collector worlds. Then I returned to fondle the new icon.

The SL1200GAE (which will not be released until summer 2016) is not a rehashed, cosmetic makeover of the SL1200 that was discontinued in 2010. This 18kg, direct-drive, black-disc spinner is made from, "all new tooling" and to me, looks and feels more like the legendary SP10 Mk.3 from the 1970s than any Technics table I know. Technics told me, that their goal was, ". . . to redefine the direct-drive turntable reference." The new 1200s are way more beautiful than either the black or silver ones I have at home. Similar to the SP10 Mk.3, the new SL1200GAE has a three-layer (bronze, aluminum, and rubber) platter (below) that is dynamically balanced (like the wheels on your car). The tonearm is "highly damped" and made from cold-drawn magnesium and features new, high-tech, "high-sensitivity" gimbal bearings.

The completely fresh and beautiful, three-layered plinth, features 10mm of hairline-processed, "immaculate" aluminum supported by BMC and "heavyweight-class" rubber. Besides its elegant embossed Technics logo, the new 1200 cabinet features the numerals, 33, 45, and 78!!!!! When I saw that it could play 78rpm discs—I put my head down and my hands together and whispered, "Thank you God."

The new isolation footers (above) are a work in progress made from cast iron (!!!!) and silicone. The table's designer, Tetsuya (Tony) Itani, says his final goal is to adjust the dampers until he gets the complete table's resonant frequency as far below 10Hz as possible. (Why isn't every turntable engineered to do that?) As demonstrated, the SL1200GAE deck literally floated. It moved very easily—in 3-dimensions—with only the slightest touch. This quality alone should make this new Technics a very strong audiophile contender.

The big news however, is the reinvented from the ground up, coreless, twin rotor, digitally-controlled, direct drive motor, designed to eliminate the minute speed blips—vibrations—commonly referred to as "cogging" (historically, this so-called cogging effect was the chief reason many people preferred belt-drive tables).

The first 1200 "Limited Edition" examples of the new Technics SL1200GAE will be sold for $4000. The next 3 million will be "regular edition" 1200s and substitute an aluminum tonearm for the magnesium one. They will cost $4000 also.

When I described all this to my friend Phillip Holmes from Mockingbird Distribution in Texas, he said, "It sounds like they are getting the band back together." I told him was ready for a SP10 Mk.4 and maybe a Technics EPA1000 tonearm. This is surely and auspicious start for my new great adventure.

volvic's picture

But a lot of us were hoping for a price range of $2,500, when announced at $4,000 there were suddenly a lot of disappointed people including myself.

volvic's picture

Time to finish the TD-124 project and start saving.

K.Reid's picture

Good to see Technics back in the game. The new table looks great...and those stand mount SB-C700 monitors are absolutely marvelous. Class A all the way in my opinion...and hopefully JA's.

Anton's picture

...the guy was distractedly looking over at a Hi Def TV and just spewed "4K."

I am with Volvic, and even that would seem high.

Any word on how well we can 'scratch' with it?

Nellomilanese's picture

This deck looks awesome! Very well enginereed too it seems. I have no doubt that from a professional/DJ pov it's the deck to beat!
Now I can't wait for a full review on it's "audiophile" score! Been thinking goin' for a Rega Rp8 but now I have doubts :D
It's got that "timeless" quality to it!

mockingbird's picture

They really should've named it something else. It's so much different than the discontinued 1200. But, if it performs like a stock SP10mk3 in a passable plinth (even 75%), it would be a fair deal. It will start every time, last decades, and you will be able to upgrade it eventually (unlike "audiophile" cases for mini-computers, where the gain is mostly proportional to your gullibility, you could take the guts of this thing and put it in an all new case cut from diamond-moon-rock,ununobtanium, or whatever, though it would be hard to out-engineer the guys at Technics). And I thought the "regular" version would be half the cost. Magnesium is about twice the cost (or higher) for plate, and an aluminum arm tube is cheaper to produce than drawn magnesium). Also, remember "MSRP".

deckeda's picture

... more attention (or, any attention) hasn't been paid to the tonearm here. I don't recall the bearings for example being perfection in the 1200.

stereophilereader's picture

this looks so boring !
what happened to the stylish concept that was shown last year ?
doubtful many djs will spring $4k for this

DanaHolmes's picture

I have read elsewhere that the regular edition to follow the limited edition will be around the $2-2.5K range. Can anybody else confirm or deny this? If I am going to go ahead and drop $4K worth of jingle I might as well get the limited edition magnesium-armed model. Love that platter too.