Looks can be deceptive. Technics’ SL-1200G (€3499) isn’t your Father’s Technics SL-1200 turntable. The price tag is the give away that isn’t. The new version has been redesigned from the ground up by Panasonic’s engineering team. The aim? To tickle the audiophile’s fancy with a new quad layer chassis, a new triple-layer platter, a new core-less direct drive motor and a new
aluminium magnesium tonearm.
The SL-1200G’s niceties are probably wasted on all but the best club sound systems (Funktion One) and its price tag puts it out of reach of aspiring amateur DJs. For the latter we move from Japan to China…
In the years between the original SL-1200’s discontinuation (2010) and its rebirth (2016), a handful of rival manufacturers – Audio Technica, Dual, Lenco, Stanton, Reloop and more – have called upon Chinese manufacturer Hanpin to produce a (customised) SL-1200 clone. Each model arrives with brand-specific variations but the visual and functional DNA remain the same: a sturdy chassis; a direct drive motor; an S-bend tonearm with detachable head-shell; pop-up cue-ing light; a pitch slider; on-deck 33rpm/45rpm switching; oversized stop/start/cue buttons.
With engineering differences between any given Hanpin clone and the Technics SL-1200G not immediately obvious to the untrained eye – the motor lies beneath the chassis and the tonearm’s material and construction method is far from obvious – it might be tempting to see a level playing field; much of a muchness?
Besides, at ten times the price of, say, Pioneer’s PLX-500 (€349), another Hanpin clone, just how much better is the SL-1200G? The law of diminishing returns instantly removes a factor of ten from this performance comparison.
Previously on DAR, these two turntables were A/B-d as complete systems. The PLX-500 held onto its factory-fitted MM cartridge, make and model unknown, whilst a Zu-modded Denon DL-103r MC cartridge was fitted to the SL-1200G.
Needle-drops from each were taken at 24bit/96kHz in Audacity using a Devialet Expert 200’s bi-directional USB port, internal phono pre-amplifier (with settings applied by the French company’s on-line Configurator) and uploaded to the ‘net for readers to vote on their preference.
The results were interesting. Despite the audible delta between the two turntable systems being more substantial than I expected – more than I generally hear between DACs and streamers – reader preference also defied expectations. Of the 70 voters, 77% preferred sample 1 (the Technics + Zu) but 23% preferred the considerably less transparent Pioneer PLX-500 and its el-cheapo cart.
Perhaps the Denon’s top-end came across as too strident on the first cut’s fiddle? That’s not the cartridge but the song itself. From a sample of only two cuts, both from the same record, readers are not to know that this stridency is atypical of what I hear from the Technics/Zu combo here at the DARhaus.
Time to repeat the experiment but this time as a comparison between the two turntables themselves. This time out, the cartridge remains the same. The Denon/Zu cartridge (~US$500) was fitted to each table in turn, the VTA checked and the tracking force adjusted. Surely a stroke of luck to land 2.58g on both.
In the case of the Pioneer, unlikely that one would option a cartridge costing more than the ‘table itself but such are the demands of this experiment.
Again with the Devialet Expert 200, a pair of two minute needle-drops were created at 24bit/96kHz in Audacity; this time out from two different records. No normalisation was applied.
In line with my own tastes and that of the majority of DAR readers, a dose of American indie rock and some bouncy European techno. (If you’re looking for audiophile music, you’re reading the wrong publication). The first record used here a coloured vinyl pressings. You might be able to hear its extra dose of surface noise and how each turntable’s tonearm handles it.
With the cartridge the same, the audible difference between the SL-1200G and Pioneer narrows. From the needle-drops, I still find it reasonably easy to pick the Technics from the Pioneer. Here you are invited to DIY.
Download the two samples in a zip file
here and vote for your preference below. Readers are advised to listen on both headphones and loudspeaker systems where possible.
Which needle-drop do you prefer?
The download link and poll will live for a week. On-topic comments are welcomed below.