“The Technics SL-1200 is like the Stradivarius (top string instrument maker) or Steinway (top piano maker) in hip-hop music,” says Professor Mark Katz, who specializes in hip-hop music research. hop. Initially positioned as a home use vinyl record player, it became DJ’s rhythm partner by accident, indirectly promoting the development of hip-hop culture. In between, it has also gone from glory to decline, and recovered from production suspension.
The SL-1200 is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Technics held an anniversary event for this, inviting DJs to perform live, and launched the new SL-1200M7L model in a variety of color schemes. Half a century has passed since the first Technics SL-1200 came out. Why has this legendary series of turntables continued for a long time, capturing the hearts of Hi-Fi enthusiasts, and becoming a DJ’s hand tool too?
The direct drive turntable makes the period
In the 1960s when vinyl records were common, the mainstream tape drive turntable used a belt drive to rotate the turntable. This drive method was prone to irregular rotation caused by the aging of the belt, resulting in pitch deviation. In response to this phenomenon, Shuichi Obata, then an engineer at audio equipment manufacturer Technics, innovatively abandoned the belt drive structure and used a low speed motor to directly rotate the turntable , which solved a series of problems such as noise and incompatibility due to unstable rotation speed caused problems. So in 1970, Technics introduced the SP-10, the world’s first direct drive turntable.
However, at the beginning of the market, the sales of SP-10 were not very good, because the performance of this machine did not show clear advantages for home scenarios. But for DJs who have suffered with turntables for a long time, the appearance of direct drive turntables is like a shooting star piercing the night sky. Because of its period significance, this turntable has also been installed as a permanent exhibit by New York’s MoMA Museum of Modern Art.
The SL-1100, introduced the following year, improved its external design, integrating the tonearm and turntable into the die-cast body. At the time of the rise of Disco and Club, DJs need to carry equipment to play music at parties. The portability and ease of use brought about by the all-in-one structure perfectly meets the needs of DJs.
The SL-1200, introduced in 1972, had a higher performance direct drive system in a compact and robust aluminum die-cast body. It only takes 1/2 turn to reach the rated speed, while the strong torque and the fixed speed. allowing manual adjustment of the speed. (Knowing that touching the record with your hands on a tape drive is very little, the belt could easily break or slip, not to mention turning the turntable by hand), while the enclosure that absorbs vibrations allows for the record player to play stably in noisy environments.
At this time, only 7 years have passed since Panasonic formed Technics, and Shuichi Obata did not realize that he had created a great product. But on the other side of the ocean, a new music culture is rapidly brewing because of this machine…
The vinyl record player becomes a musical instrument
In 1973 in the South Bronx, New York, a young Jamaican who had just come of age started hosting a music party at home. Unlike mainstream electronic dance music at the time, he mainly chose Soul, Jazz, Ska, Funk, etc. which was closer to the community, black music. With more and more visitors, the party was moved outdoors.
At that time, every time a song was played, the DJ would be stuck for a long time on the way to change the disc. In order to keep the party atmosphere uninterrupted, he played two identical records alternately on two turntables, and used a “Break Interlude” to connect the end of the song. He called this original DJ technique “The Merry-Go- Round”. Horse”, and this young man was DJ Kool Herc, later known as the “Father of Hip-Hop”. It is worth noting that the two turntables at the party were second-hand Technics SL-1000s which he got for low. It’s not that he didn’t praise the powerful performance of the Technics SL-1200, but the high price made many people discouraged.
Meanwhile, another young man who lives nearby, inspired by DJ Kool Herc, started tinkering with discarded electronic equipment, looking for something better than The Merry-Go-Round to mix records without- broken In the end, he found that the only way to do it was to hold his finger on the record and make it stop. This “Cutting” rhythm technique changed the way hip-hop was played, and turned the player vinyl record from playback device into playback instrument. This “hip-hop scientist” is Grandmaster Flash, who is one of the “three beginners of DJs” alongside DJ Kool Herc He established three DJ techniques that are still considered standard – Technique Backspin, Punch and Scratching phrasing.
Among them, Scratching is the most familiar “scratching” DJ technique. and he reprimanded the sound It was so loud that Theodore’s hand on the record accidentally rubbed it back and forth, giving rise to a wonderful sound. He later demonstrated this technique while serving as Grandmaster Flash’s assistant, and Grandmaster Flash was pleasantly surprised and perfected it.
With the birth of the SL-1200, a group of Geek-spirited music lovers emerged in New York in the 1970s, experimenting with new DJ techniques. Nobody expected the SL-1200, originally positioned as a home record player, to turn into a musical instrument in the hands of this group of DJs, and it also became the standard for DJ record players club at that time.
Intertwined with Turntablism
Between 1974 and 1975, the Technics SL-1200, which was cold in the country, introduced “spring” in the United States. Confused by the sudden surge in sales, Shuichi Obat asked the US sales department where the machines were being sold. But the other party’s answer made him even more perplexed – Disco Ballroom. So he led the team to fly to the United States to find out. They were shocked when they walked into a Chicago dance hall and saw a DJ scratching back and forth on a turntable he designed.
So the Xiaohata team gathered usage opinions from DJs, and designed it specifically for improving the DJ scene – using a quartz locking system to achieve more precise rotation control; use a fader control to simplify the pitch adjustment; the upper layer of die-casting aluminum, the lower layer of special rubber The one-piece box body greatly improves the vibration absorption performance. Technics launched the world’s first turntable with DJ functions SL-1200MK2 in 1979, which officially established the position of the SL-1200 series in the DJ circle.
At the same time, a DJ genre called “Turntablism” began to sprout. Unlike DJs who only play music, Turntablist insists on using vinyl record players as musical instruments and pays attention to DJing skills. It can be said that the existence of Turntablist is entirely due to the invention of Technics SL-1200.
The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel, released in 1981 by the legendary hip-hop group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, is considered an early classic of Turntablism. In this song recorded live, Grandmaster Flash used three SL-1200MK2, incorporating techniques such as scratching, mixing and recording, which had a profound effect on the development of hip-hop music in later generations Synonymous with SL-1200 Technics.
The Xiaobaa Shuichi team continued to communicate with many DJ artists, and made improvements based on their feedback, and launched several generations of SL-1200 models in a row. However, with the evolution of audio media, from the birth of CDs in the 1980s to the rise of digital audio files in the 1990s, DJs no longer need to lug heavy turntables and boxes of records to club performances, and vinyl records are being pulled back gradually. from the public eye. Panasonic eventually announced in 2010 that the phono line, which had sold 3.5 million units over the past three decades, was officially discontinued.
These days, vinyl records are having an unexpected revival. After Panasonic announced the re-establishment of the Technics brand in 2014, a large number of fans took to Panasonic’s Facebook to petition for the resurrection of the SL-1200 series. Panasonic did not break its promise, and released the Technics SL-1200G/AE in limited quantities in 2016, officially opening a new chapter for the SL-1200. As the brand statement says “The Legend Keeps Spinning”, the legend never stops.