Technics SL 1200 by Dominic Baker

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This week Dominic Baker relives a favourite twenty-something experience and shares the joy of mixing on twin Technics decks – or Dads, if you prefer, turntables. 

Technics SL 1200 series were the definitive symbol of dance music in the 1990s. The choice of every DJ at any event where there was music. Whether it was hip hop, house, disco, rave, dub step or jungle the Technics’ decks were unparalleled. They were very heavy, robust, reliable and reassuringly expensive.

The SL-1200 was designed in 1971 by a team led by engineer Shuici Obata for the Osaka (Japan) based Matsushita (Technics’ parent company) and launched in 1972.  The SL 1200 Mark 2 were released in 1979 and quickly found favour with nightclubs as they integrated well with PA systems and mixing desks by virtue of their low resonance and quartz controlled high torque system.

As a result of its direct drive – as opposed to a belt drive as was usual on turntables at the time – you could stop the record with a finger and release it and the record would play the same speed and with no detrimental effect to the wow or flutter – returning to within 1% of the desired pitch within a seventh of a second from standstill. This was the instant movement delivered by Technics’ quartz high torque system.

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When Rap and Hip Hop were invented in the Bronx (New York, USA) in the early 1970’s where ‘scratching’ on a beat and parts of a “sampled” tune were added, the DJ could cue the record using the Technics. They also had a pitch shifter on the right hand side for speeding up and slowing down the tunes. The early 1200s had a matt silver finish, and was slightly heavier than the 1210s – satin black with silver trim – but were more durable for “scratching” DJs.

The boom in vinyl from 1973 to 1980, comprising mostly Hip Hop and Disco was killed off by tape in the 1980s. However, the newly emerging dance market of 1990’s meant there was demand again, Technics answered with the mighty 1210s Mk 2 with updated circuitry. These would be the decks of choice for European DJs – but were unavailable in the US. Later editions, up to the MK6 included anti-skate, self locking, pitch reset amongst other things.

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My favourite is the SL 1200 GLD released in 2004 with blue target lights and gold plated hardware. It was the hay day of Acid House and Rave Music and only 3000 were made. Other one-off’s were made as prizes for special events like the DMC Mixing World Championships.

Panasonic officially stopped making the SL series in 2010 but given the revival in vinyl sales they resumed production in 2016. Many have tried to copy the Technics format but all have failed. The Technics SL series are still the pinnacle of turntable/DJ industry.

I have been lucky enough to own both the 1200s and 1210s and learning to mix two records together on my own pair of Technics when House Music was at its height is one of my fondest memories of being in my 20s!

Technics ad

Images courtesy of Technics

 

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