Considered by many to be the best ever, the Technics SL-1200 and its dark side variant the SL-1210 have garnered a legendary reputation in DJ circles and beyond.
This awesome turntable is the Ford of the DJing industry and is the thing that popularized the modern DJing world today.
Initially very popular with radio DJs, the SL1200 had a direct drive turntable motor while also having a removed belt drive system. This gave a DJ a great amount of versatility at the time and allowed them to get started almost immediately.
The SL-1200 series was developed as a special project by Technics parent company Matsushita in an attempt to solve problems related to turntable design. The task included minimizing acoustic feedback, unwanted resonances, wow and flutter and speed errors.
When it first arrived on the market in 1972, the SL-1200 was heavy (27 pounds) but not unusually so for a mid-to-high-end turntable. The Thorens TD-125, an audiophile table beloved by legendary DJ Larry Levan, was roughly the same weight. But the Technics unit was unusually rugged for a turntable, able to play perfectly when subjected to heavy use by DJs in both a club or radio set. This was due to the high-torque motor, and that the deck’s quartz-locked speed was so consistent (the electromechanical properties of quartz, a common mineral, had been used to improve the accuracy of clocks and watches since the 1920s). The SL-1200 pairs a robust motor and heavy platter with a solid base of metal and heavy rubber, which further dampens vibration.
The SL-1200 Mark 2 was introduced in 1979 as an update to the SL-1200. The SL-1200MK2 was the first Hi-Fi turntable designed in consideration of use by disco and club DJs. Technics’ staff visited clubs in Chicago and saw with their own eyes DJs using the first-generation SL-1200 as a “musical instrument.” For the development of the MK2, DJs’ opinions were collected and necessary modifications were made to satisfy their needs. One big advancement made in this model was the use of the Quartz Lock system. This achieved more accurate rotation control. Furthermore, a fader controller was adopted to simplify pitch adjustment. The vibration absorbing cabinet with integrally molded upper aluminium die-cast and lower special rubber was also created at this time. The SL-1200MK2 successfully responded to DJs’ needs. It was the bona fide model that changed the turntable from a record player to a “musical instrument.”
The SL-1200MK3 debuted in 1989, ten years after the introduction of the epoch-making model of the SL-1200 Series, the SL-1200MK2.
The SL-1200MK3D released in 1997 was a minor-change version of the SL-1200MK3. One of the detailed changes was the discontinuation of the centre click of the pitch controller at the ±0% position.
For the SL-1200MK5, Technics strove to enhance the basic turntable performance and successfully reflected DJs’ needs to perform delicate operations. For example, the turntable brake speed could be adjusted through the hole in the platter, and a high-brightness, long-life white LED was installed as a stylus light.
The SL-1200MK5G was positioned as a higher-end model of the SL-1200MK5.
The SL-1200/1210MK7 is the newest model of the SL-1200 Series. For the development of this model, all that modern day DJs need and want were reviewed from the ground up.
Special models were limited edition versions, with 24 karat gold plated metal parts including tonearm and buttons. Many “non-official” special models of the SL-1200 and SL-1210 appeared over the years, mainly given away as prizes for turntablism, most notably the DMC World Championship, who awarded the winner a pair of 24K gold plated Technics turntables. Due to the customisation trend that has grown in the DJ community, many local events or competitions gave away custom coloured or finished units.
Since its release in 1979, SL-1200MK2 and its successors were the most common turntable for DJing and scratching. Producers, DJs and MCs refer to the Technics turntable as “the 1s and 2s” and the “Wheels of Steel”. Technics SL-1200 was manufactured from October 1972 until 2010, and resumed in 2016, by Matsushita Electric (now Panasonic Corporation) under the brand name of Technics.
Due to the increasing popularity of vinyl by DJs, a petition has been underway (and a petition page on Facebook.) for the re-launch of the Technics SL1200/SL1210 series turntables. As of September 2015 the petition had 27,000 supporters, while 35,000 is the target Panasonic requested. On January 5, 2016 Technics agreed to relaunch both the SL-1200G and the SL-1200GAE.
At the London Science Museum, a Technics SL-1210 is on display as one of the pieces of technology that have “shaped the world we live in”.
S means “Stereo”, L means “Player”.