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NYT on the SL-1200 saga

73.47.78.6

Posted on January 2, 2017 at 05:23:27
Steelhead Mike
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NT

 

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It's confusing to me..., posted on January 2, 2017 at 07:16:32
Bry
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Like it or not, the 1200 is best known as a DJ table and it was the professional market that kept it in production all these years. But, it's just one of many models that Technics could have updated and put back in production. Keeping the look exactly the same will score better with DJs than audiophiles who (I'm pretty sure) would have embraced an update.

The ideal solution to me would have been to update the 1200 at a reasonable cost and also release an audiophile version with less obvious gadgetry and a wood plinth... or something like that.

 

For non-DJ buyers..., posted on January 2, 2017 at 09:33:15
Mr. Dick Hertz
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...and audiophiles who aren't going to spend $3K for a turntable, maybe Technics should consider reviving the SL-1600 MkII series.


Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

 

RE: NYT on the SL-1200 saga, posted on January 2, 2017 at 09:38:14
Crazy Dave
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They only made 300 of them? No wonder they cost so much! If they can mass produce again that could spell a big price reduction. In the meantime, there is always the Pioneer. Personally, I haven't bought a new turntable since the 70's.

Dave

 

This article encapsulates what is wrong with the Hi End Industry, posted on January 2, 2017 at 11:53:35
Ross
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The industry should seek ways to attract mass attention, and then educate prospective buyers in why better equipment matters. Instead the objective is to be as exclusive and prissy as possible. Kids hear what's said on da' street. Suits think it is noise. The kids who know about 'Beats, also know about the original SL1200, and have the funds to purchase one at a reasonable price. Instead, Matsushita abandoned core supporters in an effort to move upmarket, believing the assumption that deep pockets will not open for something available to the masses. Unfortunately the new SL1200 will not be viewed as an object worthy of aspiration (like the original). Instead it will be viewed as an example of corporate greed. They missed an opportunity to own the TT market. They blew it.

 

RE: For non-DJ buyers..., posted on January 2, 2017 at 14:18:58
ivanj
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Should have offered the DJ TT and a SP-12 (LOL) that is an update of the SP 10 for audiophiles that doesn't cog. It would have an SME mount, no arm, or one purpose-built from SME like Oracle. Just my opinion.

The "new" electronics are supposed to be good but who the heck are their marketing people?

 

That actually would have been brilliant. -nt, posted on January 2, 2017 at 15:09:05
Bry
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nt

 

Lots of confusion about the 1200, posted on January 2, 2017 at 15:09:05
M3 lover
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and I'm afraid this NYT article doesn't help much.

Technics didn't design the SL-1200 as a DJ table. It was introduced in 1975 as a consumer audio product. As it happened, DJs discovered the sturdy build and advantages of the DD system before the decline in consumer interest (in general) in vinyl and so it was the DJ demand that kept the SL-1200 series in production after other Technics tables had been discontinued.

But as suggested in the link below, I was mystified why Technics chose to utilize the same model designation (now with a G) and such similar cosmetic appearance with their new model when they were seeking to appeal to a very different market? I think the introduction only confused everyone; both vinyl enthusiasts and DJs, thinking it was the old table simply reintroduced with a much higher price. However, reading the Technics information shows it is not the same table and there are multiple improvements, beginning with a new motor. So why not give it a new model designation and revise the appearance more to differentiate it?

only 300 made? I don't know production numbers but the initial run referred to was the SL-1200GAE. That did sell out quickly through Japanese dealers, likely to mainly collectors. After that regular production of the SL-1200G began and that is what is being sold today.

pricing? No idea where the writer got his pricing but every other reference I've seen quotes $4,000 US.

I saw/heard one at THE Show Newport but while I'll say it looked beautiful, because of a very crowded room and with a totally unfamiliar system I couldn't comment on the sonics.



"The piano ain't got no wrong notes." Thelonious Monk

 

RE: For non-DJ buyers..., posted on January 2, 2017 at 15:50:55
flood2
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That is the exact configuration I would have liked to have seen too - make the arm optional for those who want or already own an arm of their own choice.

Incidentally, there is no measurable evidence of cogging with the SL1200. The silent groove spectral analysis from my recordings shows no evidence of cogging. The only notable frequency components that pop through are plinth and arm resonance related with arm/headshell related resonances around 230Hz - the effect of which is more or less pronounced depending on cartridge compliance.

In fact the vintage non-quartz locked SL-150 reviewed in HFNRR (Oct 2015) had an extremely clean W/F spectrum with a very sharp clearly defined peak with a peak wow of 0.02% and peak flutter of 0.03% and Paul Miller noted "....there are no cogging artefacts to sully the rumble or W&F spectra." I don't know about the SP-10, but it appears that the Technics engineers had solved the cogging issue back in the late 70s.
Regards Anthony

"Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty.." Keats

 

There's a lot of competition at this price point...., posted on January 2, 2017 at 16:08:56
vinyl1
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....and audiophiles have always put down Japanese direct-drive tables as sonically inferior. For that money, you could have a Clearaudio Concept, a VPI Prime, a Pro-Ject RPM 10 Carbon, a Rega RP8, and many more. Why would you buy a Technics 1200?

I'm not saying nobody will, but I would imagine they will not be as successful as they hope.

 

RE: NYT on the SL-1200 saga, posted on January 2, 2017 at 20:12:08
Curious
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I don't think this article could possibly miss the mark more if it tried. I mean, it's completely wrong in virtually every sense of the word.

While the new 1200 looks like the old one to some extent, and the pitch control is still present, that's where the similarities end. Every other aspect of the table is different. The platter is digitally controlled to the point that it spins with the precision of any digital disc player. Want to hear "Kind of Blue" at the correct pitch with no drift? The new 1200 nails it. The arm is made from different materials and rests upon a much better and more expensive bearing. VTA on the fly is still available, but gone is the toy like fit and finish of the old arm. The platter is a multi layer affair that doesn't ring, but isn't over damped either. And the motor is magnificent, and certainly more quiet and more accurate than any other direct drive table I can think of and, not to brag, but I've owned most of them at this point. Without Panasonic's economies of scale, there isn't a turntable manufacturer I can think of that wouldn't have to charge twice the $4G's the SL-1200GAE and G sell for.

The thing about the new SL-1200GAE or G is that it offers almost no upgrade path. You can't really tweak it. You can tweak around it so to speak. I put a very nice Ortofon Wooden headshell with the 2M Black on it, and I'm using very nice Audioquest Leopard interconnects between it and the Integrated amp it's connected to. And a record weight. But no outboard speed controllers, outer rings, multiple arms etc. She sits atop a 3" slab of maple. And headshells do cost less than arm wands, so multiple carts is pretty simple to accommodate and very affordable too. Out of the box and rocking in about 45 minutes, give or take. What's wrong with that? After all, if it's really all about the music and the gear is just a vehicle to that end...

For the record, there were 1200 of the GAE's made. Japan got 600, Europe got 400 and America got 200. The serial numbers were released wildly out of numeric sequence so a collector could potentially get the first or the 1200th one regardless of geographic location. At its price point in my showroom, it competes well in terms of performance with the VPI Prime, although the two tables undoubtedly appeal to two different clients. The platter and the arm of the Prime are at an advantage to some extent over the new 1200. And VPI offers a deeper upgrade path. High precision playback as regards both the benefit of perfect pitch and extremely accurate bass reproduction is the Technics calling card, as is convenience and flexibility. Both tables manage to be reasonably impervious to acoustic feedback and inky black backgrounds are assured with each. You do have to throw another grand at the Prime for a speed controller, but boy does the Prime really benefit from that. Still, that is a grand less to spend on a cartridge/headshell or toward a finer phono preamp or SUT.

Yeah...I used to wonder why they didn't make the plinth somewhat different. More simple, less buttons but keep that undeniable Technics look. But then I got one and set it up on the showroom floor and put it through its paces. And I found myself so impressed with it that I didn't really care about any of that anymore. But, for shits and giggles, I bought a regular old 1200 and I put one of those on the floor for people to take apart and really open it up and compare it to the new one. And what everyone who has done that has said is that there really is no comparison. And the people who didn't do that? Well, they write articles for the New York Times.

"Hope is a good thing. Maybe, the best of things. And no good thing ever dies."

 

Guess Panasonic isn't much familiar with..., posted on January 2, 2017 at 20:36:47
musetap
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aa

"Once this was all Black Plasma and Imagination"-Michael McClure




 

RE: For non-DJ buyers..., posted on January 3, 2017 at 07:47:34
Lew
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For iron-core motors, like the ones Technics used back in the late 70s, it's all in the number of poles. The more poles, the less cogging would be detectable. Also, I suppose it depends upon the sensitivity of the instruments used to detect cogging. Anyway, I think that what some DD critics describe as "cogging" is actually due to the action of the servo to maintain exact speed. This is true of the SP10 Mk2. The SL1200G now uses a coreless motor, which IMO is a major upgrade over the old SL1200.

 

well said. nt, posted on January 3, 2017 at 10:51:45
3+4=5
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.

 

RE: DD tables, posted on January 3, 2017 at 10:57:15
M3 lover
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"audiophiles have always put down Japanese direct-drive tables as sonically inferior"

vinyl1, unless that was said in jest (I missed the smiley face) I'm surprised anyone with your experience and interest in vinyl would make such a statement.

Chapter 1: after Technics introduced their DD design in the mid-70s, most Japanese and a few European turntable manufacturers followed with their own versions, including multiple expensive models intended for "audiophiles".

Chapter 2: prior to the invasion of digital with CDs in the '80s, and even after, many "audiophiles" kept and continued enjoying their reference DD tables.

Chapter 3: If they were always put down, why did so many survive to remain in use today? Sometime around 2000 as the revitalized interest in LPs began there was a parallel resurgence of interest in idler and DD tables. Over the ensuing years many older DD tables have been restored or upgraded and are in use today in high end systems. Those tables were sold by Technics, Denon, Kenwood, Sony, JVC, Micro Seiki, Pioneer, Luxman and probably others, all Japanese brands, though not exclusive to the overall revived interest in DD tables.

So now at least one Japanese company decides it to be worthwhile to go to the trouble and expense of designing and introducing a new DD model. At $4K I can't believe they expect anyone other than audiophiles and serious music listeners to be their target market.

"The piano ain't got no wrong notes." Thelonious Monk

 

RE: This article encapsulates what is wrong with the Hi End Industry, posted on January 3, 2017 at 11:28:17
Posts: 208
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I don't know what to say, your logic escapes me. I owned a SL1200Mk2 with full KAB mods and always thought it was a superior TT. When the new SL1200G came out, I bought one. It takes everything that made the original so good and made it better. This was done without mucking up the things that make the original so nice. There is not one thing about the G not to like. It is a fabulous TT. For comparison I have a VPI Prime with Eagle and Roadrunner, which is also a very nice TT. So I think my standard of comparison is reasonable. I like the G better. Your condemnation is not warranted.

 

RE: For non-DJ buyers..., posted on January 3, 2017 at 11:43:54
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You are right on the money Anthony. The SL1200 didn't cog and the new version doesn't either. This bugabear has been around since the 1970s, but no proof of it exists. Not in measurements as you report and not in double blind testing. The biggest difference I hear with the new G is that the new arm is a BIG improvement over the original. Removable headshell and all. Another nuance is that a better headshell improves the sound too. I have been comparing the OEM Technics with KAB and LP Gear's Zupreme headshells and the latter sounds the best.

 

Second that on the headshells!, posted on January 3, 2017 at 13:00:21
flood2
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I got my deck in the mid 90s and started experimenting with the different headshells - back then the Sumiko HS12 was the name on that design and they were priced similarly to the Zupreme before gradually increasing in price to obsolescence. I standardised on that design because of the azimuth adjustment and also because the headshell slots are the longest I have found which enables alternative LP optimised geometries to be achieved.
The other reason I liked it was because the plug axis is set "lower" than the Technics design (for the cartridge mounting plane) so a tall cartridge like a Stanton (using the 1mm mounting plugs) drops down to the middle of the arm adjustment range (rather than pushing up to the 5.25 to 5.5 range). You've also probably noticed that the cartridge mounting plane is parallel to the plug, whereas the Technics headshell has a specific upward tilt - although manufacturing tolerances are so wide you'll find the tilt all over the place; I even have some with a downward tilt!! An upward tilt is actually correct and you will see the reference angle on the L-jig.

Incidentally, getting back to the New arm, is the arm base diameter the same as the old one? I was talking to Kevin about this as the new design is not (yet) compatible with his damping trough kit and he himself hadn't gotten hold of one last time we corresponded. I was asking if the mounting plate is the same in which case we could drop a new arm in an old 1200....or an old arm in the new deck...but given what you've suggested that probably isn't the best option!
Regards Anthony

"Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty.." Keats

 

RE: Second that on the headshells!, posted on January 3, 2017 at 14:33:03
Supercool!
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Just a thought...which evil do we prefer.... cogging that is not audible to some or perhaps many or incorrect speed that changes with belt use, temperature etc. and must be corrected by regulation (VPI etc.) and may or may not be audible to some or many... Please note that with speed changes so does pitch change, however minor.

I guess my point is that a general take away I've had recently is that neither is desireable but the thought of note pitch actually being varied by speed flaws is upsetting...

I have two 1200s, a VPI Scout and an AE2008 (w/ SME 309) among others. I am about to take two Denon 103Rs and place one on the 1200 to compare or attempt to perceive which is really the greater arbiter of sound the cart or the TT/Arm (the second is on the AE2008 already). It will be interesting to see how these sound w/ the same cartridge. I will tell you that if the 1200 stands up the sound of the 2008 which is quite good, I may be making up my mind to choose direct drive over belt...

I know this is controversial but I mean no ill intent to start flames... I've been hoping to figure this out for my own purposes...it just bugs me that the most fundamental purpose of a tt is to play at the right speed... It drives me crazy to read the BS excuses in some of the magazines justifying why a 10K+ tt runs slightly fast or slow....really?

I'm glad a refined 1200 is now available!

 

RE: For non-DJ buyers..., posted on January 3, 2017 at 15:06:09
Laila
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Does cogging really exist in a 3-phase motor?
(As the motor in the SL1200 used to be).

 

RE: Second that on the headshells!, posted on January 3, 2017 at 16:17:20
flood2
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"Please note that with speed changes so does pitch change"

Exactly!
For the benefit of anyone not already familiar with the term, in a motor, the cog (or detent) is defined as:
the point at which the center of the magnets perfectly line up with the ideal magnetic path through the poles.
The effect this has on the motor rotation depends on the pole construction.
With this in mind, it should therefore be clear that cogging isn't restricted to DD turntables....it applies to ANY motor. Therefore a belt driven turntable is vulnerable to cogging. The belt and the pulley ratio are what ameliorate the effect. However, the torque transmission changes with the belt tension which will be influenced by motor cogging. So motor cogging would manifest itself in higher wow and flutter figures.
Wow and flutter figures would therefore be the best measure to determine which was the turntable likely to give the best pitch stability.
When it comes absolute pitch stability, the SL1200 is certainly "up there" with the better decks. Absolute pitch level depends on how well the centre position of the pitch control pot was set initially (and can easily be reset - which I have done with mine), but the motor control does an excellent job.

Unless there is a fault in the motor drive somewhere, rest assured there is no cogging with the 1200! It hasn't been "solved" with the new model - it didn't exist before, but due to the popular misconception that all DD decks suffers from cogging, Technics would naturally draw attention to that as an "improvement" to encourage new sales. Certainly the wow and flutter figures given in the HFNRR review I saw show a small improvement over the original, but the original was already considerably better than the majority of belt driven decks that didn't have proper motor control.
Anyone in the press or elsewhere making claims of cogging with the 1200 is basing it on personal bias and not the facts. The HFNRR of the SL-150 I mentioned already showed that even without a quartz-lock based control system, the simpler drive control still didn't exhibit cogging.

However, if you ARE hearing pitch changes then I would point the finger first at an eccentric disc OR if the disc is a remaster or original analogue recording, then the pitch shift existed in either the recording itself or the playback of said recording during cutting...or even inherent to the lathe itself!

As I have mentioned before, there is zero evidence of cogging related artefacts in the spectral analysis of my recordings.


For me, the priority is consistency in performance and pitch stability. Any deck that is sensitive to temperature changes in the belt material etc is hopeless from the get go and the fact that the materials used are sensitive to the environment of use should already indicate that you are not going to be getting consistency over time.

Getting back to your experiment, remember that the DL103 is a lowish compliance cartridge and that the effective mass of the Technics arm (12g)is higher than the SM309 (9.5g) so would in principle be a slightly better match. The LF arm resonance value modulates the recovered signal so depending on how well damped the resonance is, you are going to get differing levels of colouration. The resonance of the 103 with the SME309 will be higher so the sidebands will be wider spaced around the central frequency/frequencies of the recovered signal. This will affect your perception and therefore is telling you more about the arm/cartridge match than the motor drive principle on the deck.

Regards Anthony

"Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty.." Keats

 

RE: Second that on the headshells!, posted on January 3, 2017 at 21:38:43
Supercool!
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I will bear that in mind...back to the 1200 in regard to this; maybe best bang for the buck in terms of an upgrade path would be to focus on a consistent and easy means of changing the arm or a service to do that at reasonable cost with differnt options. Maybe that's something that Kevin at KAB would consider.

 

RE: Second that on the headshells!, posted on January 3, 2017 at 21:44:29
flood2
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Last time I talked with Kevin, we spoke about that. He hadn't gotten hold of a 1200G at that stage. However, he already knew that the arm itself requires him to redesign his damping trough to accommodate the new shape.
You may have seen my post to Bill in another thread regarding the arm base dimensions. I had said to Kevin it would be cool to have the option of putting the new arm on the original deck and also asked him about the possibility of the PCB/motor as an upgrade, but Kevin said the internal space required is totally different so the arm is likely the only option for original owners.
Regards Anthony

"Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty.." Keats

 

RE: Second that on the headshells!, posted on January 4, 2017 at 04:55:44
Supercool!
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I haven't seem Kevin in a while but i guess I should touch base with him in the near future...KAB is a great resource to us for sure!

 

Wow!, posted on January 4, 2017 at 08:06:44
Lew
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I don't want to pile on behind M3 Lover's rebuke, but your statement assumes that it is obvious to any reader that the Clearaudio Concept, etc, etc, is going to be sonically superior to the new Technics SL1200G, at the same price point. Not true at all; I would expect the opposite, in fact. Funnily enough, I own a Denon DP80, Kenwood L07D, Lenco L75, and Victor TT101, any one of which can be purchased for $4000 or much less and any one of which, once properly refurbished, would outperform the belt-drives that you happen to name, and many more.

But this is just my opinion. I recognize that not everyone would agree with me, so I would tend to stay away from such blanket statements. We probably all should do that.

 

RE: NYT on the SL-1200 saga, posted on January 4, 2017 at 08:32:32
Posts: 208
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Curious,

I think your post is overall excellent and I agree with much of what you say. I own an SL1200GAE and a Prime with Eagle/Roadrunner, periphery ring, HRX pulley-double belted, and Counter Intuitive. For others, that means I have gone deeply into the mods that you refer to. The two turntables (at least as modified) are competitive with each other sonically. I like the Technics better overall. The DD provides a noticeable, albeit subtle, improvement in timing and impact compared to the belt drive Prime. I like the Technics arm better, it is significantly easier to set up, change cartridges and has a brighter sound and clarity in the upper range. The Prime arm sounds a little dull in direct comparison. Both have great bass definition. Both TTs are spot on speed (with Prime using the Eagle/Roadrunner) with no flutter or waver of any kind. For the Technics as far as upgrades are concerned, Timestep in the UK offers a more sophisticated external PSU and can fit an SME tonearm. This was tested by HiFi World a few months ago. It got a rave review. As far as the PSU is concerned, the OEM unit is internal and digital so in theory it could pick up noise that an external unit would miss. In fact the OEM unit is well shielded and quiet, so the need for this modification is questionable. The SME arm used was a Series IV, which has a fixed headshell. In theory it should be superior, but the OEM arm is so good and so easy to use that I don't feel tempted. YRMV. In summation, both the SL1200G and the Prime are superb TTs and they are competitive with each other in terms of performance. The Technics is ergonomically superior-much, much easier to set up and use. The Prime will appeal to the dedicate audiophile, the Technics to the dedicated record collector. You can't go wrong.

 

RE: Second that on the headshells!, posted on January 4, 2017 at 08:58:14
Posts: 208
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Anthony,

I have sold my old SL1200Mk2 so can't answer your question about the base diameter of the two arm mounting board dimensions. I had offered to send my GAE to Kevin for his evaluation, but he declined the offer. Timestep in the UK have developed mods for the new turntable with factory sanction in the form of an external PSU and the fitment of an SME Series IV arm. This was tested and reported on by Noel Keywood at HiFi World several months ago. It won rave revues although he made disparaging comments about the new arm without actually having one for comparison. Like I said, the new arm in impressive. It is brighter and has better articulation than the old one, but preserves the ease of setup and use of the original. To me the new arm is the big news and the reason to consider the new TT. BTW, the arm on the "G" was changed to magnesium just like the one on the "GAE."

With regard to the Zupreme headshell, your additional comments parallel my own observations. I would add that they are beautifully machined and equipped with double pins for mounting, which provides for a tighter fit of the headshell to the tonearm. The net effect of this can be observed on an "O" scope when playing certain test records. I use the Shure Era IV test disc. Using the Zupreme headshell provides performance similar to a fixed tonearm such as the one on my Prime with 3D arm.

 

RE: Second that on the headshells!, posted on January 4, 2017 at 11:16:15
Supercool!
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I haven't seem Kevin in a while but i guess I should touch base with him in the near future...KAB is a great resource to us for sure!

 

RE: Lots of confusion about the 1200, posted on January 4, 2017 at 11:16:30
Lew
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FWIW, I was in Tokyo in October, and I spent some time in Akihabara. Every audio store, small and large, had the 1200G on prominent display along with the other audio components that Technics introduced along with the 1200GAE. So, at least in Japan, the product sells well.

I think this is a case where the Japanese were out of touch with Western biases with regard to how to market their new DD tt, as so often is the case in audio and for other products. My son works for a large video game company in Tokyo, and a fair amount of his work time is spent adapting their new products to appeal to Western (read "US", mainly) audiences. HIs company is at least cognizant of this issue.

 

Thanks Bill!, posted on January 6, 2017 at 10:32:28
Curious
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"Hope is a good thing. Maybe, the best of things. And no good thing ever dies."

 

RE: There's a lot of competition at this price point...., posted on January 10, 2017 at 16:08:19
flood2
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It doesn't matter how expensive the deck is...the issue is whether the design is "sound" (pun intended!) and whether the package offered at the price (arm + motor unit) gives a combined value/performance score that puts it at least on par if not higher than the similarly priced competition. A poorly aligned turntable and/or badly matched arm/cartridge will always sound like s#$@ no matter the cost.
The SL1200 is now taken much more seriously in the press as a viable audiophile deck so I don't see your concern as being too serious anymore compared to the early 80s when Rega Planars and LP12s were the weapons of choice for the budget and well-heeled audiophiles respectively.

Rotational accuracy, w/f, low rumble are the fundamentals required of a motor unit. Technics have superb engineers and the original 1200 readily smashes similarly priced belt drive decks in all those metrics. In fact a vintage SL-150 measured very similarly to an SME15 in an issue of HFNRR. So why would one pay the premium for an SME15 if one attended to the basics of alignment and arm/cartridge match and the primary objective was good sound? If it was based on a prejudice that the SME MUST be better because it costs several times the Technics and is a belt drive, then more power to the marketing and accounting divisions! The purchaser is clearly putting ego and image ahead of the sound quality.

Now if you want to look at the arm, the Technics arm does have its limitations. The detachable headshell (whilst a wonderful convenience that I love), does affect the resonances (of which a significant one appears around 230Hz) and the arm mounting in the gimbal is not the most rigid. Then again, you could put your own choice of 9" arm in its place in which case you get the best of both worlds albeit at a new higher price point - a superior motor unit and the arm of your choice!
What's not to like? The only question is whether at the new elevated price, the combination still matches or exceeds the similarly priced competition.
I don't have the inclination or the money to do this experiment.... but I think THAT would be the test of success. If an SME309/1200GR combination (at the new price point) is a winner on the bench and in the press, I could see that making the 1200GR (original package) a successful product that could strike fear in the smaller firms who don't have the economy of scale and access to resources that a bigger corporation like Panasonic has.
Regards Anthony

"Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty.." Keats

 

Ping!, posted on January 10, 2017 at 16:12:16
flood2
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Joined: January 11, 2011
Hi Tim

Could you PM me with your email address please? I was going to send you a reply to your message but you don't accept unsolicited mail... ;)

Regards Anthony

"Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty.." Keats

 

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