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Technics Returns with a Turntable Prototype

It’s been a while since we heard anything from Technics, and there’s been even less news about its parent company Panasonic - as far as DJ gear is concerned, that is. Nevertheless, during the IFA 2015 convention, Technics proudly presented a new concept model. There it was, surrounded by heaps of Hi-Fi equipment: a new turntable.

A new turntable?

Before you get excited, grab your Traktor Scratch or Serato timecode gear, or start digging up your nineties record collection, however, there are a few things to consider about this new Technics turntable. Take a look at the image of the prototype below.

First of all, keep in mind that this model is a concept, so nothing’s set in stone yet. Secondly, just because Technics has come up with a new turntable, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s going to be an SL-1200 revival for vinyl-loving turntablists.

What does this first image tell us?

A quick glance at Technics’ new turntable is enough to obliterate our initial hope. By the looks of it, Technics is merely out to solidify its reputation in the Hi-Fi business, without catering to hopeful DJs. There’s no tonearm, there’s no pitch control, there aren’t any play/cue buttons, and we can’t see any connectors either. And what’s more, this model looks far from roadproof - its base doesn’t exactly look solid and even features free-standing feet. What on earth is Technics up to?

When they presented their new prototype, Technics described it as ‘a combination of the best features analogue and digital have to offer,’ probably referring to its hifi functionality. They mentioned vinyl sales and the addition of new turntables - inextricably linked to the Technics brand - to their line-up, without any word about the DJ trade. We’d love to be able to report differently, but sadly it doesn’t look like Technics will be producing new wheels of steel for DJs.

Why not?

In order to answer that question, it’s important to keep in mind where the Technics brand first originated. That’s right - in Hi-Fi land. In fact, Technics had nothing to do with the DJ business until they came up with the SL-1200, a turntable that was originally designed as a hifi device, but became immensely popular among DJs. Naturally Technics welcomed the success at the time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll choose to breathe new life into their DJ-related product range now - even though many DJs would hugely appreciate it. What exactly would the public expect from them? A brand new, redesigned SL-1200 might not be spectacular enough to warrant production on a grand scale, because even though many have requested its return, only a select group of people might actually be interested in shelling out for a pair of new models. Of course the price would play an essential part in that, as there are plenty of alternatives from other manufacturers that come close to - and sometimes even surpass - the original. We should also take into account that Technics has previously issued remarkable creations that weren’t a big hit with the general public. Take the SL-DZ1200, for instance, an SL1200-slash-DJ controller that can sometimes still be found on the second-hand market. The words ‘once bitten, twice shy’ come to mind.

After being acquired by parent company Panasonic - also not known for its DJ equipment - we can imagine that Technics might want to stick to what it knows best. To sum things up, world-wide sales potential for a new SL-1200 is questionable, and if Technics wants to come up with a brand new DJ turntable with digital functionality, their best bet would be to collaborate with another manufacturer.

Could Pioneer pull it off?

So why has Pioneer fully committed to the turntable market with their PLX-1000? First of all, they saw there was a need for one, and acted quickly to fill that gap. Pioneer is keen to drop external parties, that much is clear from their latest product launches and from the introduction of their own software solutions. By offering everything you need themselves, they are trying to reinforce their position as market leader.

Of course, right now the PLX-1000, which was purely designed for club use, is one of the best alternatives for the SL-1200 turntable. Don’t forget that Pioneer has years of experience under their belt, and knows how to apply that knowledge to their products. In itself the PLX-1000 isn’t a technological tour de force, but it does offer great technological potential. Take a look at the recently announced DJM-S9, for instance. By keeping the PLX-1000 neat and simple, Pioneer was able to fully focus on this beastly battle mixer, which boasts a good deal of digital functionality. Combine the PLX-1000 turntable with the DJM-S9 mixer, and you’ve got yourself a modern setup that functions seamlessly with your software. And not unimportantly, Pioneer is able to offer this outstanding total package all by itself.

Of course the trick with the digital battle mixer has been seen before. Native Instruments pulled it off to great effect with the Kontrol Z2. However, as Native Instruments’ great strength is their digital world of Traktor, the manufacturer is unlikely to start building its own turntables, which means it always has to present its own products in combination with multimedia players and turntables from other brands. Furthermore, as Native Instruments is now building hardware as well as software (they’re quite good at both), digital DJs will probably remain their main target audience.

What does the future hold for Technics?

From a DJ’s perspective, Technics certainly isn’t taking the desired steps in product development. Despite the pleas from many users and the great potential of the SL-1200, parent company Panasonic isn’t prepared to succumb just yet. By the looks of it, Technics’ main intent right now is establishing itself once again as a high-end Hi-Fi brand that is particularly favoured by audio purists. The way we see it, DJ gear seems to have been put on the back burner for now.


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