Technics Grand Class SL-1200/1210GR2 record player

In the early 1980s, I worked in a pop band playing AM radio hits, grooving behind my Yamaha drums and Zildjian cymbals as sweat drenched my body and my ears rang. We danced. We pranced. My shiny silk jumpsuit led upwards to a 2"-high afro, which women ran fingers through in hopes of finding contraband smokes.

I was not proud. Our band was hot, booked year-round in hotel lounges and standalone clubs from Florida to Virginia Beach.

"Beach music" was a popular southeastern style then, an R&B variation on '40s swing and doo-wop, with close vocal harmonies, popping brass, and choregraphed dance steps. Like peanut-sized rock stars, we reveled in this insular, south-of-the–Mason-Dixon– line entertainment lifestyle with its small-town intrigues, tasty southern food, and bodacious southern belles. Then overnight, everything changed.

At the beginning of the previous decade, Technics had released the SP-10, the first direct drive turntable. That was followed in short order by the SL-1100. Clive Campbell, aka Jamaican-American DJ Kool Herc, pioneered the simultaneous use of two Technics SL-1100s, initially at his sister's birthday party in the Bronx, inspiring "block parties" (rigging streetlamps for power) and hip-hop culture. Kool Herc isolated drumbeats from records by James Brown (with drummers Clyde Stubblefield and John "Jabo" Starks) and the Incredible Bongo Band (powered by master studio drummer Jim Gordon), among others, creating "breaks" for heated dance-floor partying. Soon, Lace Taylor (aka Afrika Bambaataa) and Grandmaster Flash (The Message) took Kool Herc's inventions into the mainstream, and hip-hop went global.

The SL-1100's successor, the SL-1200, released just a year after the SL-1100, quickly became the deejay's turntable of choice and continued to be until it was succeeded in 1979 by the SL-1200MK2, the first turntable to intentionally include deejay-friendly features. The world's most popular turntable was born.

Back to those clubs and hotel lounges. Rooms and audiences that had been ours and ours alone were stolen by a slick dude with a pair of silver Technics SL-1200MK2 turntables, a GLI PMX 7000 mixer, and a chintzy PA. Our kingdom of smoky lounges and come-hither smiles shrunk with every needle drop. Our snazzy silk jumpsuits were replaced by his louche Hawaiian shirts and flared polyester pants. One room after another fell to the cult of the deejay, who demanded less cash than a band of unruly musicians. Dancers grinded to the pounding music the deejay played, his cueing finger a powerful tool, his control total. A paradigm shift was in full force. The road-band scene was demolished. I left the road to study jazz.

Since those days, many Technics models have entered the market, for home, radio, and deejay use, to mark technological advancements and celebrate Technics anniversaries. Descendants of the Technics SL-1200 were consistent in their feature set: a direct drive motor with high torque for fast startup, a 9", S-shaped gimbaled tonearm, stroboscope and target (stylus) lights, a die-cast aluminum platter, isolator feet, and a slider pitch control. The SL-1200 deejay 'table is now in its seventh generation.

How is the deejay 'table different from the turntable I'm reviewing? The deejay version has a lighter platter, a reverse switch (so deejays can play records backwards), a nonhinged dustcover, and different torque and braking adjustments.

Technics never stopped making 'tables for music lovers, descendants not just of the SL-1200 but also of the original SP-10, which today is almost as legendary in audiophile circles as the SL-1200 is among deejays. 1200-series turntables have been on the market since their introduction in 1972, except for a brief pause between 2010 and 2016, when the SL-1200G was introduced. What music-loving teenager in the 1970s and '80s didn't own at least one direct drive Technics deck, maybe an SL-2000 "Black Beauty" or the semiautomatic SL-1700? (footnote 1)

Among the audiophile variants Technics has released since that 2016 reintroduction are the $4000 Grand Class SL-1200G, reviewed by Alex Halberstadt in November 2022, and the SL-1200GR, reviewed by Michael Trei in Sound & Vision in 2018. The Grand Class SL-1200GR2 ($2199), the GR's successor, is Technics's newest record player. It adds several features that should up its performance considerably.

The SL-1200GR2
This latest iteration of the Technics SL-1200 includes two main advances: "a revolutionary new drive control method for smooth, accurate rotational stability, and a new power supply for an exceptionally low noise floor," according to the press release.

It isn't obvious that technology from an amplifier could aid in a turntable's rotation stability, but that's what happened here. The GR2 uses technology that originated in Technics's SU-R1000 integrated amplifier, one of the finest amplifiers I've had the pleasure to review. Specifically, the "JENO Engine" in the SU-R1000 utilizes a 1-bit delta-sigma modulator in the signal procession leading from digital input to musical output. Technics says that this technology generates a perfect sinewave, greatly reducing vibrations in the coreless direct drive AC motor. "It is based on a signal-processing technique that uses noise shapers to reduce distortion and was developed by an amplifier signal processing engineer," wrote Tetsuya Itani, formerly Technics CTO and now a Technics technical expert. "This has a significant impact, especially on the frequency range where the motor vibrations overlap with the natural resonance of the tonearm/pickup cartridge combination. Thus, the tracking precision is drastically improved." That's from the Technics website.

"GR2 technology improves on our coreless story by removing even more micro vibrations and making way for improvements in the power supply," wrote Technics US Business Development Manager Bill Voss, by email. "The progression from the legacy models to the new coreless models, which utilize higher tech and materials like magnesium in the G-model tonearm, zinc and special gel in the footers, and higher-grade plinth designs and improvements in tonearm sensitivity and ease of cable connectivity, laid the groundwork for audiophiles and allowed us to develop the more affordable, deejay-specific 1200MK7 and mainstream 100C/1500C models based on that technology." As Voss mentioned, the GR2, which is built in Malaysia, features a new power supply, which the company calls "Multi-stage Silent"; it combines a "low-noise, high-speed power supply working at over 100kHz and a noise-canceling circuit inherited from our reference class SL-1000R turntable," according to the Technics website. "This circuit measures the level of minute noise in the regulator output and cancels the noise by adding its inverse component current to the output," Itani wrote. The website again: "By this method, a very low noise floor is achieved, enabling exceptional signal-to-noise ratio, improving the overall signal performance."

The improvements don't stop there. Apparently, Technics received complaints regarding the VTA dial set at the base of the bearing housing. It's very easy to use, but some found the range of adjustment too narrow for all possible cartridge and arm combinations. With the GR2, Technics supplies a 3mm die-cast aluminum cartridge spacer, which allows improved cartridge compatibility compared to the SL-1200GR and earlier Technics models.

Some elements of the earlier GR machine were retained from previous generations, including its two-layer plinth made from die-cast aluminum and BMC (bulk molding compound) to resist vibrations; the classic, S-shaped aluminum tonearm; the two-layer, 5lb aluminum platter damped by rubber applied to its rear surface; and four insulator feet consisting of a "metal housing with cylindrical tubes using microcell polymers, silicone rubber, and felt," Voss wrote.

The SL-1200GR2 comes in two color schemes, with model numbers redundantly indicating the color difference: the silver SL-1200GR2-S and the black SL-1210GR2-K. On both GR2s, more parts are said to match the color scheme than on the original GR, and the finish is said to have a "new body surface touch quality."

The GR2 weighs slightly more than 25lb—solid but easy to move—and it fit easily onto my IKEA bamboo platform atop my Salamander rack. The turntable is easy to use, with essentially the same user-friendly design Technics has used for the last 60 years.

That attitude of attentiveness and dedication is felt and seen in the GR2, from its smooth surface and ubiquitous large power button to the small details of the pitch slider, strobe, and stylus lights. From an audiophile perspective, those mechanical tools—really retro tchotchkes—mean little. But they reflect the Japanese design aesthetic of respect for the past while improving the technology of the present for the collective betterment of the future that certainly rings true in the GR2.

Following a current, welcome trend in the industry, Technics uses new packaging for the 1200GR2/1210GR2 to ensure their "products are fully protected throughout their journey to our consumers." The new packaging is Styrofoam-free; those hulking white inserts are bad for the environment and crumble and split if handled roughly. For packing up the GR2, Technics replaced Styrofoam with "smart shaped cardboard" ensconced in an outer cardboard box of adequate sturdiness. The internal cardboard sections fit the individual turntable parts like a glove and fill the box completely for extra rigidity.

The GR2 arrived with its tonearm premounted. I used three cartridges for this review: the EMT TSD 15N, the Dynavector DV-10X5 MKII, and the Kuzma CAR-30, using the headshell supplied by Technics and others from my personal collection. Easy cartridge swapping is one of the joys of Technics's SME-type bayonet headshell. Fit and finish of the GR2 could hardly be better at the price.

Footnote 1: Mine, I'm pretty sure—the one I remember best—was an SL-3200 semiautomatic.

Panasonic Corp. of North America
Two Riverfront Plaza
NJ 07102
(201) 348-7000

Glotz's picture

Though I do question your integrity when it comes to your claimed afro-haircut of the 1908's. I am sorry, but we will need to see this famed hairstyle, in a pic, on these pages, very shortly.

Technics really has come back with a vengeance! That SL1200G looks more attractive every day.

jimtavegia's picture

Love the table as I did not care about the variable speed and strobe. Using my Shure test LPs with 1khz and 10khz frequency bands I can tell you that the FFT display in my DAW of those forms are a sharp vertical spike with nearly no spreading at the base. Piano notes are dead on.

For the $1100 it is a great buy for me. Uisng a Shure M97 with a Jico stylus and have also used by AT-VM95 with the ML stylus, but the Shure 97 tracks all the CM/Sec bands on the LP.

moniker's picture

You gotta be joking. What a Laugh Riot.

Anton's picture

Direct drive, idler wheel, we care about the type of drive, or the result?

moniker's picture

I could care less. Listen to an idler drive, even a DUAL 1019. The proof is in the sound. The most simple solution is always the best. Unless you are dead or deaf.

Glotz's picture

Technology has come a long way in the last 50 years. Idler wheels have their own sets of virtues, where as direct drive and belts... yeah different virtues. Not even getting into carts, arms and stages. It's all good.

JohnnyThunder2.0's picture

the opinionated smug trolling d-ck in the comments section. I hope your stay here is a short one.

Glotz's picture

I would've appreciated a bit of explanation on why all other drive systems suck.

Anton's picture

Hand crank inertia drive is really the only way to go in order to avoid all these electrical motor issues, no matter how 'drive meets platter!'

I bet he has plenty of one arm horsepower for his hand crank.

Glotz's picture

Still laughing... Thanks Anton, you made my Saturday (outside of listening to Laurie Anderson)!

Indydan's picture

Is the proper expression.

moniker's picture

That’s a double negative. He eats shoots and leaves. And which Ivy League school did YOU attend? Marcello, I’m so bored. La spaghetti sono scotti. I’m outta here. All youze can stick it.

JohnnyThunder2.0's picture

the proper phrase is "couldn't care less" but "could care less" is used often enough that is sometimes permissible. But we want to know if the stick up your a-s is a congenital condition or was it developed over time because of some sustained audiophile wrongs. So see you pal. It wasn't nice knowing you.

Anton's picture

Not a double negative, either.

When we join this forum, is there a line for your posting name that says, "Type 'moniker' here?"

DJ FIX's picture

You mention the 1200 has a "direct drive motor with high torque". I realize this is an often repeated belief, but the motor is actually not high torque. That is part of why it works like it does. If it were high torque, there would be weird stability issues as the motor would always be over correcting itself. The "just high enough" torque allows the platter to spin up pretty quickly indeed, but then is weak enough to not interfere with its own flywheel effect. Source: I work on these things daily.

Ortofan's picture

... if you play "78 rpm" discs that were recorded at different speeds.

Also, if KM still has the Technics deck, try it with a Denon DL-103R cartridge.