It's always a good day for us audiophiles when Technics releases a new turntable, but a new turntable generation from the well-regarded 1200GR range coupled with a unique new approach to direct drive motor design that uses digital innovations to improve analogue sound? We're more than intrigued by the new Technics SL-1200GR2 and SL-1210GR2 turntables.
The legendary Japanese brand invented the direct drive motor design in 1970 with the SP-10 turntable, and has since then evolved the technology ever since, refining it to improve rotational stability and signal-to-noise ratio, and reduce vibrations, all to deliver better overall sound with each iteration.
Now in its fourth generation, the new SL-1200GR2 and SL-1210GR2 turntables (the model names refer to the finish: one silver, one black) are the sequel to the SL-1200GR model that was launched back at CES 2017 – you can read our SL-1200GR hands-on review from the show launch.
The new deck continues Technics' use of an iron-coreless direct drive motor that gets rid of "cogging", which is sound degradation caused by the uneven rotational movement that is present in direct drive motors. To further refine this design and reduce the minute vibrations that were still being measured in the platter, Technics, in typically ambitious and complex fashion, looked to its in-house digital expertise and proprietary technology used in its fully digital product to fix this analogue product's motor control signal.
How does Technics do this? It uses delta-sigma (ΔΣ) modulation – a method of 1-bit D/A conversion, which here is achieved through Technics' proprietary full-digital amplifier technology, JENO Engine – to reduce motor vibrations and, ultimately, improve rotational accuracy. Technics is promising a "huge leap in performance" in the new turntable due to this more precise tracking. We've come across the JENO (Jitter Elimination and Noise-shaping Optimization) tech in various digital Technics products, from the highly ambitious, high-end SU-1000R amplifier to the more recently reviewed SU-GX70 system.
Using digital technology to improve analogue vinyl sound might sound contradictory, but Technics has form here and it's a process that the brand is clearly confident in.
“We looked at how we have improved signal precision in our digital audio components, especially at the reference amplifier SU-R1000, which optimises vinyl analogue signals using complex digital technology," said Frank Balzuweit, Senior Product Manager at Technics Europe.
"It’s been our goal to take our direct drive technology and take it to the next level in terms of precision. This was achievable by reducing motor vibration through optimising the driving sine waves via the PWM signal generation using Delta-Sigma(ΔΣ) Modulation, as employed in our full-digital amplifiers.”
The second big improvement Technics has made to the new turntables is to the power supply. The new model uses a multi-stage "silent" power supply combined with a noise cancelling circuit that's taken from the high-end SL-1000R record player – all to deliver a better signal-to-noise ratio.
In our briefing for this product, Technics said this new power supply was "more silent than any other analogue power supply", and this lowering of the noise floor is what made a "vast improvement" to the quality of sound, allowing the engineers to hear more detail than before with this new turntable. While Technics has a strong heritage in DJ turntables and the new deck has the rock-solid build quality it's known for, Technics emphasises that the new turntable isn't a DJ model, it is very much a hi-fi turntable.
As before, the SL-1200GR2/1210GR2 sports a two-layer platter (die-cast aluminium and heavy rubber for damping) and a two-layer chassis (die-cast aluminium and BMC – bulk moulding compound, a material used in the SL-1000R too). Combined, the different densities and resonance frequencies of the materials help to reduce vibration and improve damping. The S-shaped tonearm returns, while cosmetic touch-ups to make the silver and black finishes more unified and seamless are made throughout.
The innovations made to this direct drive design are fascinating and we're keen to hear for ourselves how Technics' efforts pan out when we get a production-ready sample into our listening rooms.
Technics has also indicated that it will be applying this technology to more turntable models in the coming years, another nod to the company's confidence in this new motor design.
The new Technics SL-1200GR/1210GR2 turntable will be available from October in silver or black finishes and cost £1800 / €2000 (US and AU$ prices pending).
Read our original hands-on review of the Technics SL-1200GR
Check out our guide to the best turntables across all budgets
Read our Award-winning Technics SL-1500C review