Technics SL-1200GR2 review

Terrific build quality and a joy to use Tested at £1799 / $2199.99 / AU$2999

Turntable: Technics SL-1200GR2
(Image: © What Hi-Fi?)

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

This Technics deck delivers an enjoyable sonic presentation, but its reassuringly robust build quality and easy-to-use operation are the true highlights

Pros

  • +

    Clean and composed sound

  • +

    Punchy, muscular and solid

  • +

    Excellent build quality

  • +

    Lovely to use

Cons

  • -

    Rivals are more insightful

  • -

    Could be more dynamic and rhythmically precise

  • -

    No cartridge included

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For most people, Technics’ name is synonymous with turntables, especially their direct drive DJ-style turntables. The renowned Japanese audio manufacturer pioneered the direct drive design we see today, and the new Technics SL-1200GR2 is the latest, fourth-generation model of one of Technics’ most iconic turntable ranges from the 1970s.

The SL-1200GR2 turntable is furnished with the brand’s latest innovations in direct drive motor technology (including using digital technology to improve this most analogue of mediums), along with refinements to a design that promises to deliver a better performance than before. 

Build & design

Turntable: Technics SL-1200GR2 turntable manual operation

Electronic speed change for 33.3, 45 and 78 RPM records. (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The deck is recognisably Technics, and looks lovely. Appealing aesthetics aside, it also comes with the rock-solid build quality we’ve come to associate with a Technics turntable. Plinth to platter, tonearm to bearings, the build quality feels reassuringly durable and is of a high quality for a turntable at this level. The SL-1200GR2 model we have here is in the silver finish, while a black finish is also available with the model number SL-1210GR2. 

The deck has an aluminium platter that's damped by heavy rubber applied to the underside, and a substantial two-layer chassis made out of die-cast aluminium and a bulk moulding compound material, which is also used in the high-end reference SL-1000R turntable. The combination of these different materials, with their different densities and resonance behaviours, is designed to further help with damping and minimising vibrations in the turntable structure. 

The deck comes equipped with an S-shaped tonearm, but there’s no cartridge included here. Technics leaves it up to the customer to choose their own cartridge, but they do offer a helping hand: in the box, you’ll find an easy to attach headshell, screws, fixings and instructions to set up and fit your desired cartridge. We would recommend a good cartridge between £200 to £700 for this deck. During our testing, we used both the Award-winning Sumiko Rainier and the excellent Vertere Sabre moving magnet cartridges, covering either end of the price spectrum. Technics also includes an extra auxiliary counterbalance weight to help cope with heavier cartridges, and you can adjust the height of the tonearm easily, too.

Turntable: Technics SL-1200GR2

We didn't experience any free play in the bearings, and found general fit and finish to be of excellent quality. (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)
Technics SL-1200GR2 tech specs

Turntable: Technics SL-1200GR2

(Image credit: Technics)

Type Direct drive

Operation Manual

Speeds 33⅓, 45, 78

Speed change Electronic

Cartridge included? No

Phono stage? No

Bluetooth? No

USB? No

Dimensions (hwd) 17.3 x 45.3 x 37.2 cm

Weight 11.5 kg

Finishes x 2 (black, silver)

We would take plenty of care in setting up the Technics deck; it’s fairly straightforward to assemble, but spending the extra time to ensure that it’s placed on a sturdy, flat surface and is level, and that the correct anti-skating and tracking weight is applied for your chosen cartridge, makes all the difference. Once it’s set up correctly, using the deck couldn’t be easier. 

The start-stop button works instantly and the motor and platter run so smoothly. There’s something that feels bulletproof about the way the SL-1200GR2 is made, and it’s an absolute pleasure to use. 

Our minor quibble is that the lifting mechanism for the tonearm could be more precise and smooth in its movement. It feels vague in use; but in every other regard, we have no complaints about the deck’s build.

While Technics has assured us that this is a hi-fi turntable, it still wears its DJ heritage proudly. You’ll see the pitch adjustment slider (with reset button) and the dual LED lights (one blue, one white) showing the speed of the record and guiding you to line up the stylus in the groove more precisely in the dark. Even if you’re not using it for DJ-ing purposes, you might want to leave the blue light show on for that iconic Technics look (we certainly did!), or you can turn both lights off entirely, too.

Features

Turntable: Technics SL-1200GR2 turntable pitch adjustment slider

The SL-1200GR2 direct drive turntable is now in its fourth generation. (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Similar to the previous iteration, the SL-1200GR2 uses a coreless motor to remove any instances of cogging – this is the slightly jagged motion caused by the uneven rotational movement normally present in direct drive designs. To further minimise the minute vibrations that affect the platter’s speed stability, Technics has introduced a piece of software that feeds a cleaner signal into the motor to help it spin more accurately. 

Calling it a “delta sigma drive”, Technics draws on its in-house digital expertise to implement this technology, which aims to improve rotational stability by “suppressing” these minute vibrations. Elements of the brand’s jitter-elimination noise reduction system found in the digital section of the high-end SU-R1000 amplifier and recently reviewed SU-GX70 system are used too, and Technics claims this leads to a more accurate and overall improved performance in the new deck.

Also new to this SL-1200GR2 model is a multi-stage switching power supply, which is reportedly “more silent” than an analogue power supply. Combined with a noise cancelling circuit taken from the SL-1000R and a low-voltage power supply, Technics says the lowering of the noise floor should deliver even greater detail. 

Turntable: Technics SL-1200GR2 with adjustable feet

Substantial dual-layer plinth and adjustable, damped feet. (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Other useful touches are the adjustable feet with special silicon rubber for further damping and isolation from external vibrations, and the phono cables included in the box to connect to your amp straightaway. Although, we would recommend upgrading to a better set of cables as an easy upgrade.

Sound

Turntable: Technics SL-1200GR2 with Sumiko Rainier cartridge

We used both Sumiko Rainier and Vertere Sabre MM cartridges during testing, while Technics supplies its own headshell but no cartridge in the box. (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

We plug the Technics deck into our reference Cyrus Phono Signature phono stage with the PMC Cor amplifier and Epos ES14N speakers, as well as a more high-end Burmester 088/911 MkII pre/power combination driving ATC SCM50 speakers during our testing. We also swapped between the Vertere and Sumiko cartridges in both systems, with the Technics playing nice with both models.

We start our listening with Pink Floyd’s The Wall and are struck by how stable the SL-1200GR2 sounds. Any improvements in rotational stability make themselves known in how composed, clear and steady each song on the album sounds.

It’s a smooth sound, too. From Floyd to Beethoven to Tom Waits, the Technics turntable spins through each record with admirable competence and a presentation that’s wonderfully easy to listen to. It’s a very clean and solid sound, but there’s punch too. There’s ample depth and thump to basslines, with clear and soaring highs that never bite or sound harsh.

Beethoven’s 5th Symphony is a big, bold breath of orchestral music and there is a great sense of solidity and composure to the complex, multi-faceted piece, with drama and delicacy both coming through the Technics. It’s a pleasing, entertaining listen; an extra ounce of rhythmic precision and dramatic nuance would make it even more stirring. 

We especially like how controlled and snappy its rhythmic talents are. Circling by Four Tet shows off the deck’s punch and agility, while Nick Cave’s Into My Arms shows off the Technics’ more contemplative side. Switch to Alice In Chain’s Unplugged album, and we’re struck by the crunch and whine that come through in Layne Staley’s rasping voice, while the grungy guitars have just enough sludge to them. The fuzzy, warm bass and impactful thud of drumsticks have a satisfying punch and muscularity to them, and it’s a neatly arranged performance through the Technics.

Turntable: Technics SL-1200GR2 turntable on wooden rack with Vertere Sabre cartridge

The SL-1200GR2 delivers a clean, composed and punchy sound. (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

There’s a good level of detail throughout, but it could sound more insightful. We wish the Technics deck had more willingness to dig deeper into subtleties and deliver more dynamic contrast between the levels of instruments. The rhythmic cohesion between the polyrhythms in the Four Tet album is more apparent in rival decks we’ve heard from the likes of Rega; the SL-1200GR2 has a slightly over-damped feel that can rob certain tracks of that liveliness. Alice In Chain’s Down In a Hole is a stunning, emotional track and while all the cards are laid out in perfect order, we think the Technics could convey that lightning-in-a-bottle quality of that singular live performance with more gusto. 

At this price level, the Technics has fierce competition from the five-star Rega Planar 6/Ania MC turntable (a multiple Award-winner that costs £1616 with cartridge included), whose superb handling of timing and dynamics will find its fans over the Technics’ gentler presentation. 

That doesn’t mean the Technics isn’t worth serious consideration. There’s plenty to enjoy and admire about that clean, stable and punchy performance. Partner it carefully with products that bring out the best of the SL-1200GR2’s talents, and we can imagine many being perfectly happy with their purchase. 

Verdict

Turntable: Technics SL-1200GR2 turntable on wooden rack

Easy and delightful to use thanks to robust build and smooth operation. (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Technics SL-1200GR2 is furnished with some clever technology but its true talent lies in just how beautifully and robustly made this turntable is, and how enjoyable it is to use as a result. There’s a pleasure in playing record after record and, coupled with its capable performance, that makes it a turntable worth putting on the shortlist.

SCORES

  • Sound 4
  • Build 5
  • Features 5

MORE:

Also consider the Rega Planar 6/Ania 

Best record players: best turntables for every budget

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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  • Corpus_Chain
    It's always slightly amusing to see a "hi-fi" review of a product clearly aimed at the DJ market, but it's interesting nonetheless to see how you perceive its audio quality. For me, the biggest problem with using a DJ turntable for hi-fi use is making sure the pitch control is set perfectly at 0, which isn't always easy.
    Reply
  • Gray
    Corpus_Chain said:
    For me, the biggest problem with using a DJ turntable for hi-fi use is making sure the pitch control is set perfectly at 0, which isn't always easy.
    I don't think you'd have too much problem setting / keeping the speed of this deck accurate - not least by using its 'reset' button.
    (And more accurate than many other (variable or fixed) speed decks).
    Reply
  • guycalledfrank
    Wow, thank you for this review! Feels very honest and unbiased with the pros & cons and the comparison with Rega. May I ask who wrote this review?
    Reply
  • manicm
    Corpus_Chain said:
    It's always slightly amusing to see a "hi-fi" review of a product clearly aimed at the DJ market, but it's interesting nonetheless to see how you perceive its audio quality. For me, the biggest problem with using a DJ turntable for hi-fi use is making sure the pitch control is set perfectly at 0, which isn't always easy.
    It's not aimed at the DJ market at all. Technics just retained the design. From what I understand the pitch is digitally controlled.
    Reply
  • Corpus_Chain
    manicm said:
    It's not aimed at the DJ market at all. Technics just retained the design. From what I understand the pitch is digitally controlled.
    The original design is a DJ oriented design, which is what I meant. That's why it has a pitch control; for beatmatching.
    Reply