When confirmation came last week of Pioneer’s PLX-1000 Turn Table, the first from a company best known for its extensive and ‘Industry Standard’ range of mixers and CD decks, certain sections of the peanut gallery went predictably mental. A clever move, they said, given the rising sales of vinyl and lack of any real competition in this specific section of the market since Panasonic stopped manufacturing their iconic Technics decks a couple of years ago. It would, the thinking went, lead to clubs across the land embracing real DJs playing real records once again. In one swift move Pioneer have probably sealed their dominance of the booth for the next decade.
They look exactly like you would expect: Like a Technic SL-1200. That is no bad thing of course, (although, lets face it, how different could it have been?) and the feature set is paired down to pure functionality: variable pitch speeds running from 8% through 10% up to 50% and a reset switch give it a slight advantage over Techies, and the removable cables (RCA, grounding and power) are an excellent move as is the concept of a rubber insulated tone arm to isolate and cut out problematic feedback and frequencies. Coupled with a strong magnetic engine, low wow and flutter (although at .1% compared to the .01% of a Technics deck) Pioneer have definitely come up with a nice looking and rather old school bit of kit albeit with a price point of £600 or so (although, at this time, I’m not sure the UK pricing has been confirmed.) Personally, I think I would have liked to see a USB cable in there too. A top quality turn table with a digital interface would have been very interesting, especially considering how many tables are used as part of a DVS system nowadays.
As a way for clubs to replace knackered old kit with something brand new and capable, I can partly understand Pioneers move, but aside of that I can’t help feel a little bit confused about who else is likely to be buying them. The much vaunted rise in vinyl sale is – however welcome – not entirely applicable to those of us primarily listening to electronic music. The bulk of all those new sales are to be found in audiophile, remastered pressings of classic albums and a bunch of contemporary big sellers. That is not to say that there hasn’t been a notable rise in the number of underground labels that deal all but exclusively in vinyl, but the numbers are still tiny in comparison, and the ranks of vinyl only DJs aren’t about to return to the levels of the mid nineties either. People have slowly begun to see advantages to playing with their music on a lap top or a memory stick (even CDs have benefits) and I wonder how willing any of them are going to be to spend £600 on a deck, even if it is just one for ripping vinyl from?
The fact is that on Ebay today you can pick up a second-hand Technics 1200 for £300 and as little as £100. Even taking into account the possibility that the unit will need a service it’s unlikely a pair of them are going to set you back anywhere near as much as a pair of Pio PLX-1000. Of course, One of Pioneers main advantages is it’s marketing and PR machinery, and the desirability that any bit of kit with the logo on it has over a large section in the market. No other company could get away with charging £1500 for a single CDJ 2000 Nexus no matter how good it is. But Pioneer have arrived at this point as Industry Leader, and to do it a time when – unlike in the days of Technics dominance when there really only was once real choice – clubs can furnish their booths with plenty of equipment that does the same job cheaper, better or both is a real achievement. It’s partly down to the gear, but it’s heavily down to the PR machinery too. The logo on the kit has a quality all of its own.
Even saying this stuff, I’ll be more than happy to see people snapping them up for use in clubs and at home. It’s indicative of a different approach to DJing and we should surely be happy to see as many different ways of doing the thing we love as possible. As for myself, I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to get to grips with a pair of CD decks and I realised what it is I really miss about vinyl DJing: The immediacy of it. CD decks there is the hassle of getting your music into the correct format and then onto a memory stick or CD. Even with software like Traktor there is the beat-gridding and all that rigmarole. How much better for creativity to drop a needle onto the wax and just go? Maybe there are a whole bunch of people out there who feel the same way. Maybe Pioneer do to. I guess we’ll find out in August.