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Technics Turntable Comparison
Technics SL-1500C vs. SL-1200GR Turntables
If you were into the world of home audio in the late 1960s and early 1970s you probably remember when Technics caused a big stir in the turntable world with the introduction of the SP-10 turntable in 1970. The SP-10 was the world’s first direct drive turntable. It was a massive turntable that did not come with a tonearm or even a base. Potential buyers had to fit it into a custom made base and add a tonearm. This did not hold people back though, as it was appreciated by consumers and professionals alike with the BBC and many other broadcast companies adopting the SP-10 and SP-10Mk2 for their studio reference.
Technics followed the SP-10 up two years later with the SL-1200 which went on to become one of the most popular turntable series in the world. The SL-1200 appealed to both music lovers and DJ’s who wanted a direct drive turntable with the feature set offered. The SL-1200MkII was introduced in 1979 and soon became legendary. From 1989-2010 there were small improvements made to the SL-1200 series as it went from MkII all the way to MkVI. Astonishingly, almost 4 million of these turntables were sold in its 38-year reign. Funny enough, just as the vinyl revolution was cranking up, Technics discontinued the SL-1200 in late 2010.
The SL-1200G was introduced in 2016, which had a very similar appearance to the last SL-1200 but with many performance enhancements. In 2017, a less expensive version, the SL-1200GR came on the market, followed by the SL-1500C in 2019.
The new SL-1200GR and SL-1500C became extremely popular and are the subject of this comparison overview. With the SL-1200GR selling for $1,699 and the SL-1500C for $1,199, we get a lot of questions from music lovers wondering which is best for their needs.
Since these two tables have a lot of similarities we will look at each part of the turntable and break down the differences. When we do these types of comparisons, we like to start at the bottom and work up, so let’s dive in.
We love the fact that both turntables have height adjustable isolation feet. You can simply screw them in or out to get your new turntable perfectly level.
While both models have a similar construction technique, the SL-1200GR does offer some improvements over the SL-1500C.
With the 1500C the isolation is done using a coiled spring inside the foot. The spring is tuned to minimize resonant frequencies that might degrade performance.
The SL-1200GR takes things a step further using some tech found in the much more expensive SL-1200G. A special silicon rubber compound is used along with cylindrical tubes using microcell polymers. These are almost identical to the ones in the SL-1200G and are tuned for the different chassis weight of the SL-1200GR.
As far as what you might hear, if you have a system capable of producing very deep bass or your turntable can not be very well isolated from your speakers, the better isolation on the SL-1200GR will give you cleaner sound at higher listening levels.
Many years ago, Technics developed a great chassis isolation system for their turntables. Today, they use an advanced combination of an aluminum die-cast chassis integrated with BMC for a two-layer plinth on the 1200GR and they use aluminum die-cast and blend ABS plastic with glass fibers on the 1500C. Both models are finished off with a top layer of high quality aluminum. This combination allows them to create a rigid chassis that has great vibration resistance respective to each model.
Both the SL-1500C and the SL-1200GR are made using this technique. You do get a heavier duty version of it in the SL-1200GR as it’s chassis weighs in at 25.3 pounds compared to the 21.2 pounds of the SL-1500C. But make no mistake, the SL-1500C still has a very well isolated chassis.
Both models come in either the classic Technics silver finish or black is an option as SL-1210GR or SL-1500C-K. The latter offers a black tonearm as well.
The differences you will hear due to the more robust chassis are similar to what you would experience with the better isolation feet. You’ll get cleaner sound at louder levels or if your table is close to your speakers, the SL-1200GR will help reduce resonances better.
Technics developed the direct drive motor decades ago for their turntables which led to their popularity. Both old and new models use a direct drive motor design. However, it is interesting to get into the tech they now use to see how it compares to their original direct drive in their earlier models.
Direct drive motors of the past had been plagued with minute micro-vibrations during rotation, which many people referred to as cogging. The new coreless direct drive system used by Technics eliminates cogging by removing the iron core from the motor yielding near-perfect rotational accuracy while preserving the quick stopping and starting direct drive tables are famous for.
The main improvement in the new models compared to the older ones is in the motor control system. The motor uses a generated sine wave signal to control its speed. As microprocessor power has improved, Technics is able to generate a sine wave that is much purer than in the past, giving us even more consistent speed.
Both the SL-1200GR and SL-1500C share a similar platter design. Technics uses a two layer construction method on both models. The main platter is die-cast aluminum with reinforcement ribs added to the backside. Most of the mass is along the perimeter of the platter to increase the inertial mass and minimize vibrations.
The backside of the platter gets treated with a rubber damping material designed to reduce both platter resonances and external vibrations.
Technics has done lots of computer modeling to come up with a platter design that works in tandem with the massive chassis and motor drive system to keep harmful external vibrations to a minimum.
When you compare the two, you’ll find it’s pretty similar to the difference in the chassis. The platter on the SL-1200GR is just beefier, weighing about a pound more at 5.51 vs 4.5 pounds on the SL-1500C.
This 20% improvement in mass does offer some audio improvements, although the difference you hear is more of a combination of the isolation feet, the heavier chassis, and the platter combined as a unit.
This is an area where there are substantial differences, but they may not mean anything to you, as they really have no impact on the sound.
The SL-1500C has two buttons for either 33 or 45 and by pushing them in tandem offers 78, which for most people is just fine. When you move up to the SL-1200GR, you get an adjustable pitch fader which can vary the speed +/-16% for DJ effects, and a nice strobe indicator that allows you to quickly get the speed back to 33/45/78. You might also appreciate the pop-up target light when cueing up your tracks in a dark environment.
Most DJ’s also like to tinker around with how fast the table starts and how quickly it stops. The SL-1200GR has torque and braking adjustments on the inner chassis which can be set without removing the platter.
If you ever plan to do a little DJ action at your home, you will want the features found on the SL-1200GR.
Both the SL-1200GR and SL-1500C have essentially the same tonearm. Technics has made the classic S-shaped arm with a detachable headshell famous and that tradition continues with these two models.
The tonearm pipe itself is made of a lightweight, super rigid aluminum. We have always been impressed with the tonearm bearings on Technics tables and we must say this arm has great bearings in its gimbal design.
These high precision bearings allow the arm to track your records really well.
Where you’ll find the difference between the two models is in how you adjust the VTA or vertical tracking angle. VTA is a source of debate among vinyl enthusiasts and basically refers to changing the height at the rear of the tonearm which then changes the angle your stylus sits in the record groove. Ideally, you want to try and get the top of your cartridge parallel to the record surface.
We love the fact both models have adjustable VTA which means you can fit a variety of cartridges on the tonearm. The SL-1200GR has a really great system where you can actually adjust VTA on the fly while the record is playing. That is pretty cool! The SL-1500C is like most turntables with adjustable VTA and you must do it when you are not playing a record.
We should also note both models come with an accessory weight you can add to the arm for heavier phono cartridges.
The SL-1500C does have one feature that may appeal to a lot of people though in that when the record ends, the arm will automatically lift up off the record surface. This feature can also be defeated for the purest who wants minimal interference in the path but is super convenient and desirable for a lot of people.
The manual calls out a different part number for the two headshells but we could not see there was any difference in them other than the SL-1500C headshell has “Technics” written across the top and the other is blank.
Connections and Cables
You’ll find RCA jacks on the rear of both models that accommodate a detachable tonearm cable. The cable included with the SL-1200GR is nicer and better made, as it’s actually the same one you get with the more expensive SL-1200G. You also get gold plated connection terminals with better internal shielding on the SL-1200GR. We still suggest you consider upgrading either one to better cables though.
The SL-1500C comes with a two-year parts and labor warranty.
The SL-1200GR comes with a three-year parts and labor warranty.
The audio comparison was a lot of fun to do and quite simple as well. With the two tables sharing essentially the same headshell, we just used the Ortofon 2M Red that comes with the SL-1500C and swapped it over to the SL-1200GR. Interestingly enough at the same time we were testing a new Technics integrated amp, the SU-R1000, their latest high end integrated. The amp was driving a pair of JBL 4367 studio monitors, connected up with Transparent MusicWave Plus speaker cables. We also cleaned each test record on the Audio Desk Vinyl Cleaner Pro.
Since these Technics tables reminded us of the golden days of rock and roll, we used some vintage vinyl for most of our testing. The first cut was “Holly Holy” from Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night on a Mobile Fidelity pressing. The big thing that jumped out here is the guitar that is centered in the soundstage right behind Neil Diamond in the mix. With the SL-1200GR you could hear each individual guitar string much better over the SL-1500C.
Next up was a 180g repressing of Joan Armatrading’s Joan Armatrading. We used the first cut “Down to Zero”. Here it was really clear the SL-1200GR had a better flow to the music presenting a much better sense of timing. One a good system, this cut will also extend outside the speakers and sound very open. The SL-1200GR gave us a wider stage with a much more effortless sound.
Last up was “Southern Cross” from Crosby, Stills & Nash Daylight Again. Here we once again heard better rhythm and pacing with that bigger sound, but we also felt the deep bass was better defined on the SL-1200GR.
These comparisons tell us the SL-1200GR is capable of supporting a very good cartridge. We would highly recommend if you get one, you look into a great cartridge. With all of the adjustments the tonearm offers, you will have a wide range of choices.
Which one is right for your system?
If you want a beautiful, solid turntable you can just plug right in and start enjoying vinyl, the SL-1500C is a great choice. It is built like a tank and does provide auto-lift at the end of the record which a lot of people will appreciate. The sound and feature set it offers up for $1200 is pretty hard to beat.
However, if you want better performance, the SL-1200GR does have lots of things that just flat out make it a better turntable. Sure, by the time you put a good phono cartridge on it, you might be pushing $2000 or more, but you’ll own a classic look you’ve seen in nightclubs for generations with a build quality that should last you for decades.
If you’re ready to select your next turntable, we encourage you to take advantage of our carefully curated selection to narrow down your search. Overwhelmed by all of the options? Check out our Turntable Buyer’s Guide — we’ve done all of the legwork for you in order to provide you with your perfect fit. If you have any other questions, give us a call 888.899.8776, chat with us, or stop by our Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina showrooms. Happy listening!
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