Technics SL-1200 MKII DJ Turntable Review
Thanks for checking out our technics SL-1200 MKII DJ Turntable Review.Unfortunately this turntable has been discontinued and will be pretty hard to find. Try checking out eBay or searching Google for a used one (or two).
The Technics SL-1200 MKII was unveiled in 1972, way before hip-hop and disco became popular. To put this in perspective, in 1972 the Sugarhill Gang was in junior high school. Decades later, the machine is still in use, and this could explain why it raises two questions with many people,
- Why is it measured against other “established” analog gear?
- Does the Technics SL-1200 MKII merit all the positive hype built around it?
It is easy to answer the first question since the Technics SL-1200MKII was not initially built to be used as a DJ machine. Baptized the Wheel of Steel, it was intended to be a turntable for home use combining the performance of the armless SP-10 and having the convenience of an integrated tonearm.
The second question is a bit trickier to answer, but the following review should give the best perspective and leave you with the option to make your conclusion.
Many people believe The SL-1200MKII could never be any good considering its direct drive design. This could be a valid point. Many are familiar with how lousy the mass-market direct drive turntables built by Japanese companies were. Personally, I find the argument of direct vs. belt drive rather annoying since both designs have a couple of good and bad examples. To this day, I still respect some prized direct drive units that Denon, Technics, and Kenwood produce. For instance, Denon continues to provide highly competitive direct drive turntables such as the DP-500M.
Direct drive ‘tables tend to have a brighter sound in comparison to the belt drive models. This phenomenon is attributed to the fact that the circuit in Quartz controlled models such as the SL-1220MKII is continuously searching for the perfect speed without success. This results in jerky micro-variations in speed which imparts an edgy tone to the sound. Besides, there are motor vibrations which are transmitted to the platter via the spindle.
Belt drives have their setbacks. Speed variations are much slower and manifest themselves in pitch as annoying and audible warbles. Some critics even go further to point out that certain belt turntables run 1% fast which is enough to alter the timbre. Regas models are particularly guilty in this.
I would conclude on this issue by saying that the direct drive vs. belt drive is a matter of preference. As is the case with cars, some people prefer rear wheel drive while others prefer front wheel.
Quality and Design
The Technics SL-1200 weighs over 26 pounds and is built similar to a bank vault. The heavy gear does not necessarily mean that it sounds better; neither does lightweight gear mean it is useless. If anything, the SL-1200MKII may be the only turntable that may be handed down from generation to generation. Replacement parts for the turntable are widely available and at affordable prices meaning this machine is a perfect example of a lifetime investment. Creating such a well-constructed turntable has been made possible by the fact that the tooling is outsourced from third parties.
In this perspective, the Technics SL-1200MKII stands in a league of its own. First of all, every control (excluding the pitch slider which tends to have a “scratchy feel” as it moves) has an expensive feel to it with a positive vibe when scratching. Once you hit the ‘Start’ button the platter can get to speed in as little as 0.7 seconds. When touched again the platter stops just as fast. Should you feel that this speed is not enough for you, there is an adjustable electronic braking which brings the platter to a halt even more quickly.
As earlier mentioned, the platter is quite heavy weighing at five pounds. The platter’s bottom side is damped with hard rubber meaning it can be whacked with a baseball bat, and it won’t be shattered. The platter has a smooth rotation which means that it must have been very well designed. If you give the platter a single spin with your hand, it will continue spinning effortlessly for quite a long time like it is greased.
To adjust the VTA all you need to do is to give it a careful turn. There is a cueing lever that is located right above the VTA ring, and it feels just fine. However, it is not as smooth as that on the Rega RB250 for those that have used it. The only issue with the SL-1200MKII is the lift on the tonearm. This part is layered with a rubbery and sticky material and thus when you move it makes some bumpy steps which make cueing quite difficult. As the machine is put to use for a few weeks, this corrects itself as the parts start to wear.
Another feature which is quite amazing is the pop-up cueing lamp. This is an extra feature but will come in handy for people who like to play records in the night even in dim light. Pressing the button sends a small bulb skyward shedding some swanky light to help you continue playing your records late into the night.
Of all its features, this feels like the weak point for the Technics SL-1200MKII. The tonearm cannot be considered to be elegant but should be praised for its precision. This can be compared to the tonearm of the Pro-Ject, though the SL-1200MKII feels and looks more expensive. Since the VTA of the SL-1200MKII is fully adjustable, the tonearm offers flexibility that other turntables cannot match. The headshell is removable which means installing or changing the cartridge is done in a single snap. The Technics tonearm wires are assembled in a pathetic way and tend to break quite so often. To some extent, this is the same with most turntables, and a general improvement is needed for all turntables in this sector. A new tonearm costs just $70, and you might consider doing it yourself.
Given the pricing of the Technics SL-1200 MKII which is at $550 retail price, you will not find another better quality turntable. This is not to say that it is not let down by the tonearm and the cabling which really suck. However, its stability in speed, ease of operation and quiet background adequately compensate for the above shortcomings. It is a blast to use and offers the most amazing experience for any turntablist.