In 1970, Panasonic introduced the world’s first direct-drive turntable, the SL-1200, which was superseded by the now-legendary SL-1200MK2–the “wheel of steel” as it’s affectionately called. The MK5, boasting an upgraded motor and cool features like increased anti-skate ability and a long-life que lamp, still offers one of the only motors capable of withstanding the high-torque starts and record-gripping stops you need for your “scratch.”
The SL-1200MK5, which features an anti-resonant die-cast aluminum chassis, grants non-“click” pitch control for smooth-sliding, quartz-locked, continuously variable pitch adjustment +/-8 and +/-16 percent. This is crucial for matching dance-music tempos and convenient for correcting the pitch on poorly mastered records.
And, it’s a simple matter to set the breaking speed to suit your style. After removing the slip mat, all it takes is a few twists of a screwdriver to go from a slow winding down to an instant halt, or anywhere in between.
Pitch reset instantly resets pitch to zero at the touch of a button, and the unit’s recessed power switch helps avoid accidental turn off. The MK5’s LED stylus light lasts longer than those of earlier models. Attached stereo analog (left/right) RCA outputs facilitate hookup with outboard phono amplifiers and phono inputs on integrated amps.
Review of the Technics SL-1200MK5
The SL-1200 MK5 turntable is Technics most recent update of the famed SL-1200 series of turntables. Although not much different than the SL-1200 M3D or MK2, the MK5 does have some noticeable ‘improvements’. Like the M3D, the SL-1200 MK5 has a recessed power knob and a pitch reset button (which the MK2 does not have). However, the Technics SL-1200 MK5 turntable sports a white LED popup light. This replaces the original incandescent bulb which often burned out. MK5’s have a superior speed control circuit; the MK5’s speed is quartz locked at all speeds whereas the MK2 is only quartz locked at 0%, hence the switch at zero. Another improvement is increased anti-skate adjustment. The SL-1200 MK5 also comes in both black and silver.
Although this turntable is usually ranked in the DJ section, it also stands tall as a “serious” audiophile/listening record player. After all, anyone who knows the history of the Technics 1200 series knows that this turntable has its roots in being first designed as an in-home playback system. If you’re looking for stability and versatility, then you should buy the Technics SL-1200 MK5. For some, it is even better than the similarly-priced Pro-Ject Debut and Music Hall MMF-2.2; compared to a lot of turntables, the SL-1200 MK5 isn’t flimsy, and has a legendary build quality, that will last you a lifetime. No worrying about vibration issues when you decide to crank it up a bit. You can literally jump up and down in your room, and it won’t skip a beat. The Frequency Generator Servo Control on the SL-1200 MK5 produces a distortionless sine wave, allowing a tightly controlled rotation with wow and flutter of 0.01%. Unlike most belt drive systems, it is completely immune to both static and dynamic stylus drag. By having the platter connected directly to the motor, the Technics will produce far more stable music than is possible on a belt-drive. This translates into stronger and deeper bass, a wider soundstage, and overall sharper sound.
The tonearm bearings feature very low friction of 0.007 grams and the turntable body is a 3-section constrained-layer non resonant affair. The cast 5 lbs. platter system is damped both underneath and by the 1 lbs. top mat.
The Technics SL-1200 MK5 is probably the only turntable you will ever need as a DJ or casual vinyl listener. The options and features a stripped down, basic, and to the point. The pitch adjust is spot on, and hardly needs any maintenance whatsoever to stay in great shape. Beyond what we’ve already said, what’s also really great (mainly for DJ’s) about this model as compared to the original Technics 1200 model is that the pitch adjust has no notch or lock at 0, which made beatmatching around 0 a real pain in the neck on the older models. Due to the elimination of the locking mechanism, you can now slide around wherever you wish and not have any more beatmatching wavering around the midpoint of the pitch.
Finally, the SL-1200MK5 can also be easily upgraded with a Shure M97x or AT-440MLa cartridge down the road; The Technics tonearm’s design allows for interchangeable headshells. This is a huge advantage if you want to swap cartridges regularly.
With the 1200 series of Technics turntable, you get what you pay for. The price is a bit steep, but it’s definitely worth it to invest in such good equipment. The Technics SL-1200MK5 is a sturdy, tireless turntable, with great old school looks. Unless you have the extra $2000-$3000 to best this Technics, then we recommend that you buy it.
Furthermore, Panasonic have confirmed that the production of all Technics turntables has been discontinued in 2010, after more than 35 years as the industry standard. So secure a pair of the legendary decks now before they are gone, you’ll be grateful for the rest of your life.
# Quartz Synthesizer Direct Drive
# Quartz locked +/- 8% pitch adjustment
# Aluminum Diecast cabinet
# Heavy Rubber base able to absorb vibrations
# wow & flutter 0.025% WRMS, +/- 0.035 & peak
# Rumble of -78dB
# High Torque motor (1.5kg(cm)) allows quick start-ups
# Low mass S-shaped tonearm with height adjustment
# Weight of 24lbs (11kg)
# Pitch Reset Button
# Sunken Power Switch
# Improved Anti-skate control
# White LED popup light