Panasonic puts Technics back in the mix

The resurgence of vinyl has seen Panasonic revive a long gone hi-fi brand in Australia. Technics was a popular high-end audio brand from the mid 1960s. You could buy Technics turntables, amplifiers and speakers, and later tape decks and CD players.

The shift to digital streaming music saw Panasonic axe the Technics brand in most countries in 2002. It was finally discontinued in 2010.

The vinyl resurgence

However, the vinyl resurgence saw Panasonic revive the old brand which it did around five years ago in Japan. Now Technics is back in Australia after a nine-year absence with a series of turntables, including its legendary direct drive DJ Turntable, the SL-1210MK7. It’s part of the Technics 1200 series of direct drive turntables launched in 1972.

In those days you typically chose between belt driven turntables and direct drive ones. Belt driven turntables, as the name implies, had a motor to the side with a belt that slipped around a turntable to spin it. They were a less complex mechanism. However they wouldn’t get up to speed instantly and DJ’s couldn’t easily spin the platter to queue the next track.

Placing the motor underneath the turntable with a direct connection solved this. Records could be queued to the instant before the track began playing and were up-to-speed, and you could rotate the turntable backwards.

Technics SL-1200G black direct drive turntable

The new equipment comes as sales of vinyl records, turntables and allied audio gear continues to soar.

The Recording Industry Association of America in its annual music revenue report for 2018 cites vinyl as “the bright spot” of the physical audio market. While streaming comprises 75pc of industry revenue last year, vinyl revenue was up 8pc in the US to $US419 million, which the association says is its highest revenue level since 1988.

Streaming of course is still the booming area. The RIAA report says revenues from streaming music platforms grew 30pc year-on-year to reach $US7.4 billion, contributing 75pc of total revenues for 2018.

As expected, CDs continue to be on the way out due to streaming, with revenue falling 34pc to $US698 million. The RIAA says this is the first time annual CD revenue had fallen below $1 billion. The prediction is that revenue from vinyl sales will exceed CD sales by the end of next year.

Technics SL-1200GR

All of this is great news to audiophiles and lots of younger consumers imbued by the vinyl culture.

At its Australian Technics launch in Sydney last night, Panasonic says the SL-1200 that launched in 1972 became a best-selling model with cumulative sales of 3.5 million turntable units.

Panasonic says it was adopted by enthusiasts and DJs who helped unleash the DJ culture in areas such as electronic dance music. The new unit will run at 33 ⅓, 45 and 78 rpm and you can adjust the rotation speed to fine tune the pitch.

It also has reverse play, which was especially intriguing during The Beatles era with claims their vinyl records contained hidden messages when played backwards, such as in Strawberry Fields Forever. Those old memories are back.

Technics also is launching four hi-fi turntable models in Australia. They range from $1999 for the SL-1500C, which has a coreless direct drive motor and high-sensitivity arm. It has a built in phono equaliser amp that Panasonic says is compatible with MM cartridges, so that it can be connected to an audio product that does not have phono input terminals.

Next up are two models, the SL-1200GR/SL and the 1210GR costing $2749. They are the same but one is silver, the other is black. They include some modern innovation such as a single-rotor, surface-facing, coreless direct-drive motor that Panasonic says eliminates “cogging”, tiny motor vibrations and rotational speed fluctuations.

Technics SL-1500C

You’ll pay $6999 for the top-of-range SL-1200G which Panasonic says combines traditional analog technology with advanced digital technology. It says the SL-1200G offers the smoothest possible rotary control by using an encoder at the bottom of the motor which detects the precise rotating angle.

Yes, you might have thought that all the ins and outs of complex turntable technology designed to extract that extra morsel of quality had gone the way of the Dodo, but not so.

At its launch Panasonic showed a video which included the assembly of turntable motors. The video says that only 30 motors per day are assembled; a testament to the apparent exclusivity of the Technics brand.

Panasonic also launched the Technics Ottava range of high fidelity digital music speakers. It wasn’t an entirely turntable-dominated launch event. However in this case, digital took a back seat to the star attraction of new analog music equipment under an old, premium brand.

All will be available from as early as next week from StoreDJ online.

Published in The Australian newspaper

Posted in News.

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