Technics SL-1200G turntable

People tend to believe that things are what they appear to be. This turned out to be the case in 2016, when Panasonic introduced the limited-edition Technics SL-1200GAE turntable. It appeared almost identical to an SL-1200—arguably the best-selling and most loved record player series of all time, discontinued in 2010 after more than 30 years—but it cost a whopping $4000. The similar model designation didn't help stem the griping that Panasonic had made a "fancy" version of their legendary DJ turntable at six times the price of the original.

By the time the regular-production SL-1200G was released later in 2016—it was almost identical to the SL-1200GAE and cost the same—most people had realized that this was an entirely new design created for audiophiles, not a new version of the old 'table that had come to be used mainly by DJs. But similitude is a powerful thing; while auditioning the SL-1200G, with its familiar pitch slider, strobe light, and hinged dust cover, I couldn't not think about the SL-1200MK4 I had lived with and thoroughly enjoyed when I was in my 20s.

That deck had belonged to my friend M, who had lent it to me for what turned out to be almost a year. In late-1990s New York City, seemingly every coffee shop, hair salon, and picnic featured someone with two SL-1200s, a mixer, and a crate of records (a predicament immortalized by a DJ spinning graveside at a funeral in Zoolander). A member of the homegrown DJ brigade, M was taking a break from his gear for reasons I no longer recall. I had been playing LPs on a Rega Planar 3. One of the most recommendable turntables I can think of, the Rega imbued music with an excellent sense of rhythm, a decent amount of detail, and gobs of excitement and drama. The direct-drive Technics, though, went places the belt-drive Rega could not reach: Instead of the lighter 'table's dancing way with rhythm, the Technics produced an iron-fisted sense of drive and deeper, more physical bass. Powering thousands of dance floors worldwide, the seemingly unbreakable SL-1200 made music sound locked in and effortlessly propulsive, providing a different sort of drama from the lightweight Rega. But compared to the Rega, it sounded wooly and vague, and after a while I missed the British deck's better-defined, more-refined presentation. When the time came, I returned the Technics to M without a pang of regret.

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When I lifted the SL-1200G from its box this spring, the twinge in my upper arms told me this was not the DJ turntable of the Clinton years. Everything about this tanklike 39.7lb device feels different. Too much has already been written about the SL-1200G to require a full treatise on its construction, but some aspects are worth mentioning. The nearly 8lb platter is a sandwich of brass, aluminum, and rubber; it feels more precise, luxurious, and stable than any I've handled. (The balance of each deck is said to be adjusted at Technics's factory in Malaysia, on equipment used to evaluate bullet-train wheels.)

The coreless motor eliminates cogging, speed anomalies resulting from the interaction between rotor magnets and stator slots on standard electric motors. According to the RPM Pro app on my iPhone, the Technics spun at precisely 33 1/3 rpm and produced an impressive 0.014% wow/flutter measurement. The SL-1200's lamentable tonearm—easily the chintziest thing about that turntable—has been reimagined. The new armtube is made of cold-drawn magnesium, and the gimbal bearings reveal zero wiggle or twist.

The back of the SL-1200G offers two RCA jacks, a ground lug, and an IEC connector. (The substantial weight of the Technics enabled me to use the relatively thick and heavy AudioQuest Thunder power cable without affecting the turntable's balance.) Finally, to my delight, the SL-1200G is able to spin at 78rpm, which extends its utility as a music playback device by about a half-century.

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In use, the Technics makes most audiophile turntables seem a bit kludgy and crude. For one thing, it retains the high torque and nearly instant starts (spec'd at 0.7s) and stops that everyone loved about the original SL-1200 models. The precise-feeling cuing lever, large antiskate dial, lovely, polished-aluminum 45 insert (with its cutout housing on the chassis), and strobe light (changed from red to blue) appear perfectly machined and delight both the eye and hand. Even the action of the hinges in the dust cover is buttery smooth.

My favorite convenience, though, is the large, knurled disk under the tonearm base for setting VTA. Its grippiness and easy-to-read markings make dialing in tonearm height a pleasure and make the sliding pillar and grub-screw system on my Schick 12" arm seem rather medieval. Everything about the Technics feels considered, rational, and well-executed, with that Japanese consideration of tactility and knack for visual harmony. I bet an unglazed Bizen vase holding a single flower would look nice beside it.

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Dialing it in
I leveled the Technics on top of my Box Furniture Co. equipment stand by rotating its adjustable feet, then installed the Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua cartridge in its detachable headshell (using the heavier of the two supplied counterweights) and gave it a listen. In stock form, it sounded solid, agile, and impressively neutral, but also noticeably smaller, grayer, and more mechanical—with shorter note decay—than my Garrard 301/Schick/Box Furniture Co. record player. But as it happens—and as the internet will tell you at impressive length—the Technics is a tweaker's dream. In fact, modifications are mandatory to unlock its formidable performance; fortunately, they also happen to be easy and noninvasive.

COMPANY INFO
Panasonic Corporation
Imported by Panasonic Corporation of North America
Two Riverfront Plaza
Newark, NJ 07102
(201) 348-7000
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
JHL's picture

...of few lines of audio reviewing more apt than the first line of this one. It's right up there with the first few from "Flesh And Blood: The Reichert 300B".

MhtLion's picture

Visually they look very similar. Have anyone compared using the same cartridge? I'm sure SL-1200G is better, but I wonder by how much when using the same cartridge.

windansea's picture

other than DJs, who uses the pitch fader?

Herb Reichert's picture

is essential for getting the most out of 78rpm records; which were recorded at speeds generally between 74 and 81rpm.

78s rule!

hr

shstrang98's picture

So if Panasonic can do this, they can bring back the Isoloop series open reel machines.

volvic's picture

I have heard it many times and always wanted one. However, there appear to be some teething quality control issues, particularly the G. A member of my Facebook group had to return his four times because of wobbly platters and led lights burning out. He finally downgraded to the GR. Not sure if moving production to Malaysia has anything to do with it, as the wobbly platter issue also used to afflict the Japanese-made ones. Still, I want one.

Dodo's picture

1200G is made in Japan. Less expensive 1200GR is made in Maleysia.

Dodo's picture

I purchased the black one (SL-1210G) few moths ago based on good reviews and I’m very happy with it.
I see several record labels use it as reference for test pressings and quality control.

volvic's picture

Panasonic switched all production including if I am not mistaken, the top of the line SL-1000R. But I know for a fact that the 1200G is made in Malaysia.

Dodo's picture

I wish I could post photos. It’s says made in Japan on my 1210G and on the box it came in.

Dischord's picture

Both the 1200G and the 1200GR were made in Japan until the spring/summer of 2021 when Panasonic moved all of it's turntable production to Malaysia. So G's and GR's before that are made in Japan, and all after that are made in Malaysia.

volvic's picture

Enjoy!! I want the G but already have too many tables and no space. You are right, Abbey Road engineers play their records on 1200G’s, and they know a thing or two about quality.

Dodo's picture

I’ve checked it and it says made in Malaysia on mine and on the photos at Technics website. Thanks for pointing that out.
Nevertheless, I have zero issues with its quality. Looks and performs like a high quality instrument.

volvic's picture

I don’t think the issues are common, nonetheless, some issues have been reported by a few. Still, for $4000 it is all the turntable anyone will ever need. Enjoy!

avanti1960's picture

to test for the effective mass of the tonearm, something Technics does not publish for some reason.
While the accessory headshells work well with taller low compliance cartridges, shorter high compliance carts need the lighter stock headshell for more ideal system resonance and to let the cartridge level out. The stock headshell has a specific distance from tonearm center axis to headshell mounting surface. With most accessory headshells that distance is greater which makes the cartridge sit higher. The VTA dial can run out of travel and the arm will not be low enough when shorter cartridges sit higher with accessory headshells.
Also knowing the effective mass would be helpful when calculating system resonance and some fear that the actual value is not low enough to allow certain desirable high compliance cartridges.

avanti1960's picture

leaves the underside of the LP unsupported. I assume the resonance is supposed to drain through the (8) mini cones to the platter and chassis.
I hope the cones do not make contact with the LP grooves- no way I would let my LPs make contact with a few pointed cones no matter how blunt they may be.

call me Artie's picture

Review of platter mats and comments about the effects of platter mats tell us more about the sins of the turntable used than it does about the mat itself.
Mats can be highly-coupling (e.g. no mat, very thin mats) or highly damping (e.g. Sorbothane, soft flat rubber mats, foam mats) or highly de-coupling (e.g. the standard Technics ribbed rubber mat, the Trans-Fi Reso Mat mentioned, both of which which make minimal contact with the record under-surface). There are also middle-ground mat types which try to find a place in between (felt mats, cork mats).
The effect each type of mat has on the sound depends on what the predominant turntable noise issues are for that particular test. I think it's fairly easy to understand that if a turntable bearing, platter or drive is generating noise, then an isolating platter mat will deliver an improvement. On the contrary, if a turntable bearing, platter and drive unit is deadly silent, then a highly-coupled mat will deliver improvements by allowing self-vibration within the record (generated by the stylus tracking) to evacuate quickly into a mass sink. In the middle-ground are various types of mat and turntable combinations which may be some of one and some of the other, hence may sound better with a middle-ground damping type mat.
The fact that the Technics under test sounded better with a highly-isolating mat tells us that Techics has not delivered a really audiophile silent platter/drive/plinth combitation in this deck.

Dischord's picture

Or it is just one person's subjective opinion, and does not really say anything about the turntable. Fremer's preferred mat in his 1200G review was Stein's “The Perfect Interface”, and that is something like 1 mm of paper.

VAngelo's picture

Totally agree.

I use Resomat myself.
I have owned many turntables in my hifi life. Issue I had with the Direct Drive decks is the motor spins so slow, and in order to achieve speed stability they require a lot of electronics. The means the motor is constantly being corrected every microsecond, which leads to platter 'jitter'. This translates to a 'hardening' of the sound.
I found the Reso-mat reduced this hardening rendering the performance more musical.
Heavy belt drive decks don't suffer from this, but I find them in general undynamic.
The Idler drives sounded most dynamic, but also rumbled. Here again, the Reso-mat isolated and reduced this effect.

Please be aware these are my personal general findings. There may be exceptions and your mileage may vary....

Lazer's picture

And your hypothesis sounds logical Artie, but I currently have a Oracle Delphi TT paired with a SME Series IV tonearm. Table came with a felt mat. I then switched to a thicker “damping” mat that Mikey recommended half a dozen years ago. Now, I am using the Stein Perfect Interface, and it is light years ahead of the other mats but my thicker “damping” mat sounded better than the original thin felt mat.

Lazer's picture

I’ve been drooling over both the Technics 1200G and a vintage Gerarrd 301 for a couple years as replacements or maybe co-equals in my system with the Oracle. This review made me want the 301.

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