Delayed Mutterings On The Shiny New Technics.

On the rare occasion I manage to get the time and space to set up my pair of Technics, I find myself getting into the mix far more than I do with either of the other DJing methods I have at my disposal. I know CD decks have been around for a long, long time, but they’re still new to me (I never owned a set until about 18 months ago) and I frequently end up gawking at the lights, scrunching my face up at the tiny screen, and playing with the hunners of buttons that coat the things until I get bored and wander away. Some day I’ll get over playing around with the tool itself long enough to build something with it, but for the time being they’re a couple of boxes of flashing distractions.

Traktor is quicker, easier (Aside from the hassle of getting the tunes ready to play on it – something it shares with the CD decks) and feels a slightly emptier experience. It’s great for checking out how different things go together, and for mucking around with when I need a quick fix. But I’m not sure I’d ever want it to be my go-to choice. It still has enough weirdness to throw me off my game. I’ve been using it for a few years now and I still find manual mixing on it to be a strange experience akin to DJing with belt drive turn tables, but with less sense of control. I know, in many ways, there shouldn’t be any difference between this and the CDs but there is.

The Technics feel like home. My ancient pair probably need a service, and definitely need a clean, but in every way that matters they’re still going strong 20 years after I bought them new for the sort of stupidly, ridiculously, insanely low price that still makes me question whether they were stolen goods. I can stick them on and just play without worrying about beatgrids, analyzing, and trying to work out what sort of effect ‘Zzzurp’ is (and why I would want to use it.) The speed and tactile connection encourages the spontaneity and improvisational nature DJs are supposed to have in spades. Other DJs, obviously. Not me. I’m rubbish on everything.

Like everyone else I was excited by Panasonic’s announcement that they were bringing Technics back. That it had all the surprise of another Status Quo comeback tour was beside the point. The resurgence of vinyl over the last five years made it a dead cert something would happen. There was surely no way Panasonic could stand back as a host of young pretenders thrust their own takes of the perfect turntable onto the market. The new tables looked great – exactly the same but, you know, shinier – oddly so if you compare them to the scuffed and manky look mine have. There was some bobbins about the new motor and the fact it had been designed to alleviate micro vibrations – something I can’t say I’ve ever had a problem with – and a couple of little modern touches such as the ability to double the pitch range. All in all it seemed like the return of the king.

The more I’ve thought about it though, the more disappointed I feel. The week the 1200G was announced both Sony and Audio-Technica introduced their own tables, with the Sony digital one in particular looking pretty tasty. The new 1200G will sound incredible, no doubt about that, but I feel a little cheated in the way Panasonic has essentially repackaged this all time great for a market that isn’t us.

The price alone makes that clear. Although I expect a number of big, successful clubs to invest in these, at about £5000 for a pair they’re going to be well out of the reach of most of the people who would grapple them, batter them, learn with them and love them the way Technics should be. That’s a shame, and while I can understand a bit of Panasonic’s decision to flog these in the direction of Hi-Fi nutters – sorry, Audiophiles – it grates a wee bit because that 1200 on that case gained its fame as a result of what mentalists were doing with it in clubs all over the world.

These are just the sentimental mutterings of an idiot and sentiment, as we know, has little place in these decisions. In actual fact, what troubles me more is the fact the deck is virtually unchanged. This isn’t a complaint for Panasonic alone, but I just wonder whether the world needs another 1200, even if it really is a 1200. I never expected any new Technics to be revolutionary, but offering something up to the god of progress would have shown a willingness to play to both ends of the market, something that takes into account the fact it’s not 1986 any more. Had they done that, the price point might start to look more interesting to a lot of DJs.

I suspect if the DJ market grows at the same rate as the rest of the vinyl market we might see real innovation and change that understands the way people – even DJs – listen to, use, and consume music these days. I’ve long had a feeling Native Instruments might take the plunge if the climate was right. A TT with digital controls, mapping straight to everyones favorite DJ software, replete with all that entails. Who knows, maybe even sync? Is there a market for such a thing? I think so – even if it was little more to start with than an even more integrated DVS. The problem with the new Technics is that it ignores all of the possibilities. They will sound brilliant, yes, and your friends shall be forever dazzled should you buy a pair, but you will always have the sneaking suspicion that you would have been happy with what you wanted, or what you needed, and that you got neither. We’ll see one way or another in a few months time. I hope I’m wrong.

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