The Technics 1200 is a veritable legend amongst the DJ crowd. For decades, the deck has been the industry standard for DJ turntables. This means that if one was to DJ in a club and use the house decks, they would most probably be Technics 1200s.
Technics 1200/1210 MK X. What’s In A Name?
The Technics 1200 has multiple iterations, each slightly different. There is also the Technics 1210, which is the European release of the 1200. The beginning of the Technics 1200 as a DJ deck was the Technics 1200 mk2. The original version of the Technics 1200 lacked pitch control and was therefore unsuited to DJing. Interestingly, the mk II was never really intended as a DJ deck. At the time it was released in 1972, the early pioneers of hip hop were beginning to incorporate the turntable in to a band as an instrument (called ‘turntablism’). This probably had a big effect on the Technics 1200 becoming the legend it is today.
The most popular varieties of the Technics 1200 are the mk2 and mk5. The mk5 version comes with an additional pitch reset feature. A common criticism of the mk2 was that the pitch adjustment snaps in to 0% if you are close to it. This makes minor adjustments, which are often needed for beatmatching, difficult.
A DJ’s Dream
Although it was intended as a high fidelity deck, there are numerous reasons why the Technics 1200 mk II became adopted by DJs. Its incredible durability eclipsed other designs of the time, especially similar models that were coming out of Japan. Weighing in at a ridiculous 31 pounds, the Technics 1200 looks like it should be built by Scania or Boeing rather than a hi-fi company. This weight assists the deck in providing excellent sound quality by absorbing vibrations and minimising the resonance of the deck to be transferred back through the stylus to the detriment of sound quality. It also makes transporting a pair pretty damn difficult, particularly for those of us built like waifs. The plint is supported by four height adjustable feet. The Technics 1200 is nowhere near as beautiful as other tables of its era, but aesthetics do not matter to everyone.
One of the criticisms of the technics 1200 is the lack of pitch adjustment beyond 8%. It’s unclear why exactly Technics never moved it beyond 8%, when competitors were offering pitch adjustment of up to 50% (a little excessive yes, but 20% is sufficient). A real strength of the Technics 1200 though is its ability to stay right on the desired speed, a necessity for beatmatching. The torque is similarly excellent
Audiophile Capabilities of the Technics 1200
The Technics 1200 is clearly a capable DJ turntable. But is it able to compete with other audiophile turntables in the same price range.
Before the Technics 1200 was discontinued, the answer was a resounding yes. Even though the sound was a little ringy, the Technics 1200 pumped out enough balance and range to be considered an excellent value for money turntable for sound quality. Now that the prices have shot up though, the answer is less clear. Second hand Technics 1200s are going for more than an entry level audiophile turntable such as the Pro-ject Debut III. The Technics 1200’s direct drive motor is rare in a sea of belt drive audiophile turntables. Direct drive technology never progressed much further than the Technics 1200, as CD was invented not long after an much of the technological innovation shifted away from turntables. The belt vs direct vs idler debate is never ending and well outside the scope of this article, but there doesn’t appear to be any reason why direct drive is inherently worse for sound quality reasons. Sure, the motor is often less isolated when compared to a belt drive system, but the Technics 1200 does not suffer from any problems with rumble. If you think about it, it really couldn’t, since it would not be a suitable DJ deck if the heavy bass and vibration felt in clubs were transmitted through the stylus.
Is The Technics 1200 Still Good Value For Money?
Audiophiles interested in the Technics 1200 have DJs to thank for their continued cheapness. The Linn LP12s now cost multiple thousands of dollars, whereas the availability of parts and sheer number of Technics 1200 units has allowed the table to stay relatively cheap.
The Technics 1200 is considered by some to be an investment, since it is so sought after. However, to have a decent investment, you need to have scarcity. There are many thousands of Technics 1200s around the world today, so the scarcity is not quite there yet. If the Technics 1200 remains industry standard for DJs, the price could potentially go up seeing as the machines will gradually become more scarce through breakage or wear and tear.
For home use, the SL-1200 MK2 seems to make a little more sense, but only because hinges come included for a dust cover. The MK5 needs to have hinges added on via a kit, and the pitch adjustment feature really isn’t needed outside of a DJ set.
The Technics 1200 is quite simply the best DJ turntable around. Considering it has been industry standard for DJs for decades, you can’t go wrong if you’re wanting to get in to DJing. Even though they are a little more expensive when bought second hand compared to a cheaper clone, they are much more sturdily built and tend to last forever. When searching for a second hand Technics 1200, try and avoid ones that have been used by DJs, even if you are a DJ yourself, because they will inevitably be in better condition. A good clue will be the cartridge listed in the sale: look for lower compliance cartridges intended for fidelity and home use rather than a DJ cartridge. Audiophiles will find a lot to like in the SL-1200. It has excellent dynamic range, fantastic stability of pitch and a wonderfully quiet background. It lacks some musicality compared to authentic audiophile decks by Rega and others, but the Technics 1200 is an excellent value for money turntable that is truly one of the best turntables of all time.