Shing02 + DJ $HIN's New Icon Series Dedicated to the Technics SL-1200 Turntable

Posted by Billyjam, May 21, 2013 08:21am | Post a Comment
"I think it's beautiful that we all contributed to this cultural movement of hip-hop, though some unwillingly, from the engineers to the marketing guys to the DJs, that's how instruments change history when they're taken out of the original context.. Just like how the Hammond organ was designed for church music and Leslie speakers came along to jazz things up, or when distortion was introduced to the electric guitar, and so on. The invention of mixing breaks and scratching transformed the idea of music as we know it, and it owed a great deal to Technics SL-1200s, which was only meant to be a high-end record player for audiophiles." - That's DJ/producer/musician and occasional contributor to the Amoeblog Shing02 talking to me recently on his clearly passionate feelings towards the Technics SL-1200 turntable and its importance to DJ and hip-hop culture. His admiration for the Technics turntable is so great that, along with fellow  SL-1200 fanatic DJ $HIN, Shing02 recently unveiled the webpage Wheels of Steel: Technics SL-1200 series folder icons dedicated exclusively to that  beloved DJ instrument that a few years ago, to the shock of many DJs, ceased being manufactured.

As both a fan and practitioner of hip-hop Shing02 says that he cannot but hold deep respect and love for the Technics SL-1200. It was this feeling of awe for the turntable as to why he and DJ $HIN decided to set up the the icon series dedicated to "one of the most impressive runs in modern design achievements." The icons in the image above were each assembled from dozens of pictures found online, and reflect every model upgrade including function, buttons, lights, and finish. The website also outlines the history of the model which began back in 1970 when Japan's Matsushita Electric (later to become Panasonic Corp.) introduced direct-drive turntables (SP-10), updating and upgrading the model throughout that decade. It was in 1972 when they introduced the SL-1200 MK1. The website notes how the 1210 series was the European counterpart to the 1200s as well as how the company continued to manufacture many direct drive models before the MK2 in 1979 which would go on to become "the de facto industry standard." The following three decades of models resulted in only minor alterations in design. The very last model would be the MK6 Technics SL-1200 model in 2008. Two years later, in October 2010, the company ceased all production of the beloved turntable. Below is my conversation with Shing02 about the turntable and the new icon series whose future updates will include interviews with some retired Technics engineers.

Amoeblog: What made you guys decide to do this icon series dedicated to the 1200's?

Shing02: It was a combination of things. First of all, just by virtue of being a hip-hop fan, you can't help but worship the significance of Technics SL-1200. The accuracy of the quartz-controlled direct drive motor and the quality of the tone arm assembly alone set itself apart from the other models, including various other
ones manufactured by Technics in the 1970's. In 1979 the MK2 model perfected key details such as strobe dots on the record platter, the sliding pitch control knob, the stylus illuminator (club lights), and they were all DJ-friendly. I know the turntable well because I used to repair dozens of them, at first just out of curiosity! There's really no surprise that it became the standard to all DJ's who wanted to have the best control over the records while mixing, and once you use a nice slip mat, scratching also. If you think about it, vinyl records were only recommended to be held by the edges and never to be touched on the surface, that is until hip-hop came along.

Secondly, I was recently fascinated by making icons, we just did a legend of hip-hop (beat machines) series. So when the idea came about me and DJ $hin - an expert on 1200s and we've just finished up an album called 1200 Ways - decided to put our heads together to create a resource for DJs around the world. We just thought it would be a great idea to make a visual dedication using a unified angle that I didn't see anywhere, even on the official site. It's also fitting that Technics as a brand of Panasonic Corporation came to an end in October of 2010, so it's been almost three years now.

Amoeblog: What is the ultimate goal of your series and what interesting or unexpected feedback have you received so far?

Shing02: I think the goal would be to celebrate the history but also learn from it. As a resource page, combined with great sites like Vinyl Engine, you can appreciate the evolution of the model changes and what you can expect from the difference. (although to a casual fan they might look the same!) For something to have lasted this long without a major overhaul, and still playing a huge role in DJing after being integrated with digital technology as a control surface, it's a true modern marvel. There needs to be a History Channel documentary about it! Even within the first few days the reaction was great! Some heavy Mac users never bother changing icons but it's a nice feature to dress your desktop, even if you just want to use the wallpaper. I even got a tip from a DJ that one of the labeling was wrong - so I was able to update that information as well. Also my boy Gim shouted us out on the DJ Premier blog twitter, that was nice.

Amoeblog: Is the fact that the 1200's are so extremely well manufactured, so sturdy and durable - unlike most products nowadays with inbuilt planned obsolescence - led to their own demise, do you think?

I don't think so, I believe it was strictly a business decision to shut down Technics as an audio brand of Panasonic, the parent company is in a huge debt now after falling behind in the consumer electronics world. They made untimely decisions to invest heavily to compete in the plasma TV market.

Amoeblog: How has price structure history of the 1200's been over the years - have they always held pretty much the same price? How much do they sell for now?

Shing02: I'm not an expert on the price points - but I think for new turntables they were like $800 a piece, and now used ones can cost anywhere from $500 to a $1000, if not more. For close to 35 years, they sold over 3.5 million units. You definitely have to look at the condition for used ones, some might be close to mint, if it was gigged around then it's probably beaten up! The tone-arms are definitely the most susceptible to damage.

Amoeblog: Are parts easy to get and will they always be do you think?

Shing02: "I'm not sure who's the authority on used and recycled parts now, but other than Ebay, I think some people are manufacturing replaceable parts on their own, and also there are bunch of custom upgrade services too.

Amoeblog: How much (or little) did the 1200's change over the years?

Shing02: There's a reason the 1200's didn't change that dramatically over the years - before
the MK2 came out the Technics engineers interviewed DJs in Europe and US, and the
overwhelming feedback was that they wanted to keep things the same. I think familiarity is important to a DJ, so that's why Technics never wanted to change the layout or the feel of the 1200 series
since the MK2.  Besides visible buttons and LED lights, the engineers have been tweaking the
performance aspect. For the MK6, they improved the accuracy of the pitch control and
designed for less resonance in the body so you can have better performance in the
low frequency range.

What is the longest the Technics 1200's could last do you think?

Shing02: I think if you take good care of them, and use them moderately, they can last for decades more! I really don't have an answer to that and I hope that
people can still replace electronic components down the line, because it's not that hard. Analog instruments will never become obsolete, as they don't need software updates!

Amoeblog: Do you think they will start making them again?

Shing02: I think it's unlikely that Panasonic will restart the brand in the near future, but if somebody else decides to pick it up, like AKAI was by NuMark, who knows?


For more go directly to of Steel: Technics SL-1200 series folder icons

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Dj $hin (1), Turntables (20), Hip-hop Dj (15), Turntablism (44), Dj (37), Panasonic Corporation (1), Technics 1200s (1), Wheels Of Steel (1), Shing02 (15)