Face Off: The Best Turntable on a Budget Page 3



Key Features
$699 www.panasonic.com
• Two-speed quartz locked direct-drive
• Sliding pitch control with strobe speed indicator
• Pop-up stylus light
• Aluminum platter
• Adjustable-height tonearm with removable headshell


Beloved by club DJs worldwide, the SL-1200MK2 might seem like a strange choice for an audiophile listening test, but this veteran has plenty to like even if you never get the urge to spin your records backwards with your hand. Launched way back in 1979, this throwback to the pre-CD era boasts sales figures in the millions. Tipping the scales at 27 pounds — as much as the Rega and Music Hall ‘tables stacked together — the SL-1200MK2 offers a level of ruggedness and durability that would make an Abrams tank commander proud. Technics could sell the SL-1200MK2 for about double its current asking price, but since the company probably amortized the costs of development and tooling for this model some time back during the Reagan administration, it’s able to keep the price artificially low.

With such old-school features as quartz locked direct-drive (no drive belts are used; the platter is part of the motor), an S-shaped adjustable-height tonearm with a detachable headshell, and a variable pitch-control slider with a fancy strobe light to show the speed, the SL-1200MK2 is packed with the kind of bells and whistles that make audiophiles skeptical, but most such preconceptions have little real merit. Technics claims to have licked the problem of hunt and peck dynamic speed variations that plagued early direct-drives decades ago, and as long as you stick to suitable (mostly moving magnet) cartridges, you’ll find the arm to be surprisingly well-engineered, with decent bearings. The SL-1200MK2 doesn’t come with a cartridge, so to keep things consistent I installed the same Ortofon OM 5E that comes with the Rega, aligning it to Technics’ specs.