Technics SL-P1200 Review

The SL-P1200 was a (at the time) outmoded top-loading CD spinner with pitch control and a jog wheel for fine and accurate cueing control. The 1200, like the turntable with which it shared a model number (and indeed feet! ), was a ‘pro’ design meant for nightclub use, and it was quite firmly manufactured – even more so than the SL-1200, as it happened…

The concept was brilliant: put all of the internal components of the front-loading SL-P1000 into a huge, durable, top-loading chassis with a large angled display, making it suitable for ‘pro’ nightclub use. Technics’ parent company, Matsushita, had already discovered that adapting their vintage 1973 SL-120 turntable for professional use had proven profitable, so why not repeat the recipe for the digital generation?

The huge search dial, which, like the SL-P1000, was located on the top right of the case rather than the front left of the fascia, was a strong selling feature for the ‘P1200. This allowed quick access to all of the system’s advanced cueing features, such as A-B Repeat. Pitch control was practically unheard of at the time, and must have seemed incredible to those who were interested in such matters. The display is also a lot of fun, thanks to its size and abundance of flashing legends and figures — there’s a’music calendar,’ a track time display, and even a tenths and hundredths of seconds display for when you’re doing split second cueing.

The spiky headed eighties button pushers must have loved the button adorned top panel, but the real surprises were under the hood. The SL-P1200 is a well crafted computer by any measure, including today’s. Power, CD transport, control/servo, and digital to analogue conversion are the four primary elements on the inside. There are two distinct power transformers – one for digital electronics and the other for analogue portions – and separate power supply are employed throughout. There are two Burr Brown PCM54HP DACs in operation, as well as a headphone amp with its own volume control and extremely high-quality internal wiring.

By today’s standards, it sounds ‘fully lit’ across the midband, but proceed down the spectrum and you’ll be surprised, as the Technics offers a very powerful yet relaxing bass. In fact, the way it can pile-drive massive amounts of barrel-chested low frequencies into the listening space reminds me of a Meridian MCD Pro. The SL-P1200 never sounds out of breath while delivering that massive bass – rather the opposite, in fact…

The midband matches the bass’s enthusiasm and devotion. It shows a lot of excitement for playing music, and it really puts its heart and soul into the songs it performs. It’s eerily identical to its SL-1200 vinyl forebear in this and many other ways. It’s a little shabby, but it’s full of immense energy, amazing enthusiasm, and a genuine desire to make music seem magical. It has a harsh treble that, like the SL1200, isn’t going to win any awards for subtlety or decorum. Similarly, left-to-right stereo image is strong, but don’t expect a deep, spacious recorded sound.

The SL-P1200 didn’t arrive in the United States until 1988, and even then only in tiny numbers, so don’t expect to get one for free. It’s critical to get one in outstanding cosmetic shape, especially with a machine that may have been hauled around every wedding and sixth-form disco in town during the first half of the 1990s (as proof of light domestic use only).

The SL-P1200 and SL-P1200B are two different models. The latter, which includes balanced XLR outputs in addition to RCA phonos and a back panel IEC power connection rather than a captive flying power line, is unquestionably the better choice. Mint, boxed Bs are now selling for as much as £750, which isn’t unreasonable given the B’s excellent build quality, rarity, and the fact that replacement lasers are still available from Technics Europe. If you can find a tatty non-B, you can get one for as little as £250 — like with so many other hi-fi and non-hi-fi classics, condition is everything. In any case, there are few better ways to listen to your classic Beatmasters, Bomb the Bass, and Coldcut CD singles!