Technics SL-1200GR review – and, come to that, SL-1210GR review – (radio edit): whether you're reliving your raving days or wanting to get more out of your vinyl collection, this battleship-like record player will never let you down.
The great vinyl revival of the past 10 years has perhaps been a bit overstated. As far as I am aware, CDs still outsell records, and streaming takes up probably 90% of the market for most listeners. However, there is no doubt that vinyl has gone from being essentially dead to being alive and well. Or, at least, alive.
Vinyl is much loved by music listeners because of its legendary – some would say mythical, admittedly – warmth. And it's much loved by music creators and record labels, because they can charge at least £20/$20 for 10-15 songs, rather than the fractions of a penny/cent that they get from streaming.
Now, a lot of the most popular record players being bought as part of this return to the vinyl frontier are by no means what you'd call the best record players. Mystifyingly, a lot of people are playing records that cost £30 a chuck on record players that cost less than £100.
Thankfully there are some excellent entry level record players starting at around £250, with Pro-ject Audio's T1 line being prime examples. The Technics SL-1200GR is not entry level for most people, price-wise. It's primarily aimed at wannabe DJs and ageing ravers who, if they are doing it properly, will need to buy two of them, and a mixer. Even one Technics SL-1200GR (silver) or SL-1210GR (black) – they are the same thing, other than their colours – is more than 4x the price of a Pro-ject T1.
However, if you want to get even more out of your long-treasured/newly acquired vinyl collection, this update of the all-time classic disco deck and rave record player has got to be worth considering.
Want to experience the joy of decks? Read on to find out why the Technics SL-1200GR or SL-1210GR should be at the top of your vinyl countdown.
Technics SL-1200GR: price and availability
I am just going to reiterate this point again, as a surprising number of people don't understand it: the Technics SL-1200GR and the Technics SL-1210GR are, in terms of functionality, the same product. For some reason, Technics has always given different model numbers to the silver and black versions of its DJ turntables. 1200 is silver, 1210 is black.
In both colours, the retail price is £1,299 in the UK, $1699 in the USA and from AUS$2,749 in Australia.
Please note that the price does not include a cartridge – the thing with the needle on it that pulls the music out of your vinyl's grooves. So you will need to factor in at least another £100 for that. I used an Audio-Technica VM740ML, which is £230 or about $330/AUS$420.
Technics SL-1200GR: design
The word 'iconic' is bandied around willy-nilly these days, to the point where it has lost all meaning. However the Technics SL-1200 is a genuine icon, and the updated Technics SL-1200GR looks, as you would expect, a great deal like it.
On the right there's a massive pitch slider plus a button that resets it to zero. As a non-DJ, I have never used this, but it seems to glide on its bearings in a suitably smooth manner.
On the left sits a strobe light. No, this is not to accompany your frenzied dancing to The Doors's The End or Joey Beltram's Energy Flash. It's so you can tell at a glance, from dots on the edge of the turntable, what speed your record is running at. 33rpm, 45rpm and 78rpm are all supported. Again, as a non-DJ, I have only used this as a fun thing to look at, rather than for any practical purpose.
The body of the deck is as heavy as some extremely heavy dub, and the curved tonearm is lightweight but unyielding. Once set up correctly, it drags your cartridge of choice thorough the valleys of your records without deviation or hesitation.
Around the back is a phono level output and an earthing terminal. Despite this being an ostensibly updated version of the classic Technics deck, there is no new-fangled nonsense like line level outputs or Bluetooth. You get a fat power cable going in, a fairly fat phono cable coming out and that is your lot.
For those of us more used to multi-functional gadgets with multiple connectivity options, this might all seem a little disappointing, but vinyl purists would not have it any other way.
Technics SL-1200GR: Set-up
Another thing that lovers of more modern tech may find quite problematic about the Technics SL-1200GR is that there is some set-up to be done, and none of it involves pairing with a router or smartphone.
Vinyl users tend to fall into two camps. First there are the vinyl veterans. These men – and they are all men – think nothing of procuring special platforms for their precious turntables to sit on, using precision-tooled pressure gauges to set up there tone arm, then rewiring their entire house to reduce hum from electrical interference.
Then there are the vinyl newbies, who panic when they realise they will have to fit the turntable onto the body of the record player, loop a length of rubber from the drive to the turntable, then balance the tone arm with a baffling combination of written charts, counterbalance weights and dials.
I've set up a few record players in my time. The amount of fun I've had doing it is about zero. The Technics continued this trend but it is actually quite simple in certain key respects. Yes, assembling the turntable onto the base is quite arduous, but because the SL-1200GR is a direct drive turntable, at least there are no lengths of rubber to fiddle about with.
Counterbalancing and setting the anti-skating control for the tonearm was also not exactly enjoyable, but it didn't drive me to drink either.
However, what made the whole experience a lot better than some record player assemblage projects I've been involved in is that once the parts were correctly assembled, there were no further hassles. I plonked it on a sideboard next to a Cambridge Audio Alva Solo phono pre-amp and… that was it. It sounded great straight away and there was no discernible electrical hum.
If your audio usually comes via a Bluetooth speaker or headphones that might sound like a pretty minor victory but for a record player, that 'it just works' feeling is as rare as that Beatles LP where they are chopping up dolls on the cover.
This should come as no surprise with the Technics SL-1200GR however. The original versions of this deck were designed to be used in clubs and at house parties. Often the conditions in which they were used would turn an audiophile's hair white. If it wasn't usually already white. Or sometimes they are bald, to be fair. I jest of course!
Technics SL-1200GR: Performance
Mmm-mm, yeah. This deck sounds gooooooood. Of course with dance music, it sounds awesome. Not just that new-fangled electronic dance music with all synthesisers on and that, either.
When you are playing the street funk of Isaac Hayes, deep and sensual reggae 12s, Sympathy for the Devil by the Stones, or absolutely spangled acid house anthems, the Technics SL-1200GR does exactly what you'd expect. It serves up huge bass, tight control over the mids and trebles and, with the most prime sides of dancefloor vinyl, an overwhelming feeling of excitement or, dare I say it, ecstasy.
However, you can't really sell a record player for over a grand and have it only able to bump and grind. This deck also makes rock music sound massive, but it can handle acoustic subtlety and the breathiest or folkiest of vocals. Clearly, I would not suggest you buy a Technics SL-1200GR specifically in order to listen to classical music, but it can do it justice if you're in the mood. In particular, more contemporary classical in the Glass/Reich/Nyman mould sounds fantastic.
SImilarly, while I wouldn't call the Technics SL-1200GR the most strictly 'accurate' of record players, it is consistently involving, revealing and exciting. It rocks, in short.
A fun thing to do with this deck, I have found, is to see how hard you can hit the body of it before the needle jumps. In fact, you can thwack it was a tablespoon and not hear any particular difference to the sound.
Technics SL-1200GR: Verdict
As you have probably gathered, I am a big fan of the Technics SL-1200GR. Have a look online and you'll find it also has very positive reviews both proper audiophiles, who would normally listen to vinyl on a Rega Planar, or some vintage edifice made in a shed by a master artisan.
What you won't find is many positive reviews of the SL-1200GR or 1210GR from DJs. That's because buying a deck for more than a grand and then using it to cut, scratch, mix, throw in a flight case and take to parties where people will bump into it and drop cigarette ash on it would be a bit mad. I can imagine whatever remaining super clubs there are might invest in a few pair, but the SL-1200GR is clearly more for home use, these days.
Whatever you're intended use for the deck, it is worth looking online for old Technics, from the SL-1200 Mk2 up to the short-lived Mk 5. They'll be a fraction of the price, and some of them will be in great condition. That's the problem Technics made for itself by creating a design icon that's built like a battleship. Sales inevitably went down over the years, because users seldom needed to buy a replacement.
It's a canny move, then, to relaunch the SL-1200 as more of a luxury product for ageing clubbers and ravers. It might also score with well-heeled younger users, 'nostalgic' for deliciously retro things that they never actually experienced.
The Technics SL-1200GR and Technics SL-1210GR look much as their forefathers did and sound better than ever. Yes, they're an indulgence… but you've earned it, haven't you?