Word has been making its way around the internet that the legendary Technics SL-1200 turntable has been discontinued by parent company Panasonic. It's the most widely-used turntable among professional DJs, and every venue/club worth its salt has a pair of 'em on hand. With sales reportedly down 95% over the past ten years, Panasonic had no choice but to pull the plug. We reached out to Bret Winans of Brooklyn-based DJ equipment source Turntable Lab, who was kind enough to answer some questions about the whole thing.
First, could you just talk a little about the role these tables have played in the industry since their arrival?
The 1200 has been the go-to turntable for DJs, and nothing has really come along that can replace it. Its reliability, the feel of the direct drive motor and design aesthetic has not been matched. They have been central to the idea of DJing; other turntables have come and gone, but the 1200 remains the standard by which all other turntables are judged (at least from a DJ's perspective).
An article on Gizmodo states that annual sales of the turntables are currently 5% of what they were ten years ago. This number is surprising, given the extent to which vinyl has been said to be experiencing a resurgence in the past few years. In your experience, has that resurgence not been reflected in the DJ world, where people are increasingly relying on computers and iPods?
It seems like more people are DJing than ever these days. However, as you stated, more and more DJs are using computers and iPods. Obviously, this means less and less aspiring DJs are going out and purchasing a pair of turntables. The Achilles' heel of Technics may be their durability and lack of any built in obsolesce. While most people are replacing their computers every few years, it's rare that a DJ will need to purchase anything beyond their first pair of Technics. That being said, at least from our perspective, if Technics continue to stay on the market, there will always be someone out there looking for a pair.
These obviously aren't inexpensive items, selling new for nearly $900, so there's always been a demand for them in the used market — could you speculate about the effect this news will have in that area?
The rumor that Technics are going to be discontinued has been circulating for sometime; at least since the beginning of this year. It has definitely helped keep sales of new turntables fairly consistent even as we've seen the price rise exponentially. At the moment, if you look around on sites like Craigslist, you will see that there is a wide range in price for used Technics. My assumption is that we'll most likely see a leveling out of the price for used Technics, as well as an increase depending on what condition they are in.
What will this means for sales of new professional-grade turntables? Is there another turntable ready to step in and take its place? Or at least one that people will settle for?
I'm curious to see what will happen. The main competitors of Technics have been Stanton, Numark and Vestax. They have all made turntables to compete with Technics, and I think that Vestax was the most successful in creating a product that really took into account what DJs wanted. But their turntables never really caught on with a wider market like bars and clubs. Stanton and Numark continue to make DJ turntables that are aimed more at hitting a lower price point than trying to match Technics performance-wise as well as aesthetically. So I guess we're left to see what the future holds. Maybe
Technics will become more like boutique audio gear rather than the standard that you see everywhere.
They were obviously meant, first and foremost, for professional DJs, but a lot of people used them for listening at home, too. Could you offer some recommendations for people who are looking for something with the 1200's reputation as a solid performer that's built like a tank?
You'd be surprised, but Technics were originally intended as a high-fidelity consumer record player. At the moment there are a lot of great listening turntables out there. Some are not going to be as heavy as a Technics, but a lot of them will provide a better listening experience. We carry two brands that we are really satisfied with: Music Hall and Pro-Ject. They both make fantastic audiophile turntables and are available in a variety of different models.