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Technics SL-1200GR2

The Technics SL-1200 is one of a tiny number of hi-fi products that has genuinely cut through to the real world. For many people, it’s the shape and form that they associate with the word ‘turntable.’ When Technics relaunched the design in 2016, it took the opportunity to beef up the materials and engineering involved - but the fundamental underpinnings remained similar to the original from the 1970s. The GR2 keeps that iconic shape but, underneath, something very important indeed has changed.

Like all preceding iterations, the 1200GR2 is a direct drive design where the motor is connected directly to the platter without an intervening belt or idler to transfer the power. For the first time, this process now has a digital phase. Technics calls it ‘Delta Sigma Drive’ and it is designed to reduce vibration and high harmonics which can otherwise make their way to the playing surface where they may be picked up by the cartridge. Technics says the result has improved pitch stability as well - although given how good the preceding model was in this regard, you’d need a mighty pair of ears (and probably a very good measuring rig) to determine that.

Technics has also ensured that the electrical feed for the Delta Sigma Drive to work with has a higher quality than before. A low-noise, high-speed switching supply is now used to deliver power that’s as clean and interference-free as possible. For good measure, an active noise-cancelling system is then employed to further improve the signal. Before the power ever hits the whopping coreless, direct drive motor, an enormous amount of effort has been expended on making it as quiet and well-behaved as possible.

As curators of such a recognisable design, Technics has done very little to the rest of the GR2 to put anyone’s hackles up. The ‘pro’ ancestry of the design means there is still a pitch control (how many owners will ever use this adjustment is a question I found myself asking during testing) with a cueing light and strobed platter to make checking speed accuracy a cinch. Something that feels intangibly different from the last time I tested an original GR is that, while Technics makes no mention of upgrading the arm, this example feels as nice an example as I can remember using. 

Unlike the more convenience-orientated SL-1500C, the 1200GR2 does not come with a cartridge and there is no option to have one pre-mounted. Therefore you will need to allow for one in your budget over and above the cost of the deck itself - but the good news is that the inclusion of a substantial counterweight (with an extra bolt-on one supplied too) and height adjustment means you effectively have free choice as to what cartridge you can fit. Everything else you could realistically want is in the box.

Sound Quality

In the same way that Technics has carefully ensured this new model springs no surprises in terms of how it looks, so it is with the way it sounds. There is a ‘fingerprint’ to the Technics sound that, while subtle, is ingrained into the way many of us spent a good night out in the past - and it means that some records simply snap into place when played on a Technics turntable.

This effect is absolutely present and correct here. There’s a perception of unburstable power and force behind the presentation which combines with the exceptional pitch stability to give the 1200GR2 a confidence and authority that many turntables struggle to match. The bass response is tremendous, too - the Technics doesn’t have ‘more’ bass than rivals (that would hardly be realistic), but it starts and stops with a definition and control that is hard to rival at this price point.

Some things have changed, though - and in quite surprising ways, given what it is that Technics has altered in the design. That feeling of momentum and drive remains, but it’s tempered with an articulation and delicacy that wasn’t always present before. The 1200GR2 will take records with which its predecessor sounded a little heavy-handed and leaden, and deliver them with a lighter touch. As to how this occurs, it’s possible that reducing vibrations and high harmonics is instrumental in achieving this result.

It is certainly easier to determine that the lower noise floor, while slight, also helps ensure this is the most spacious and 3D-sounding SL-1200 I’ve spent time with. This is a turntable that’s never struggled to sound big, but there is now a sense of extra space around that performance that wasn’t always present before. These improvements also reflect on the ability of the SL-1200GR2 to show the differences between whatever cartridges you choose to attach. Without undermining what we ‘expect’ a turntable like this to do, Technics has given it an articulation and refinement that’s hard not to be impressed by.

Living with

The greatest annoyance the Technics is likely to inflict on owners comes right at the start of their user experience. The location and orientation of the IEC mains socket is surely the result of a panel of sadists holding an extended meeting to decide upon the end result. It’s dreadful, and will invite swearing. The location of the RCA outs from the tonearm is barely less infuriating. The supplied headshell also has a peculiar sloped top which makes securing the cartridge harder than it should be.

Get these foibles out of the way, though, and the SL-1200GR2 will start to win you over. It’s beautifully made, and you get a real perception of the engineering involved in its construction. The way the platter leaps into life when you press the start/stop button is a revelation compared with most belt driven rivals and the operation inspires confidence. Everything about the Technics feels like it’s going to last a lifetime. It’s practical, too, thanks to the well-designed lid and the general ease of use from the logically laid-out controls.

And it's flexible. Being able to choose your cartridge allows you to tune the sound to your preferences, and you can further tweak the appeal by doing anything from changing the headshell and mat to sending it to one of a number of aftermarket companies for a wide selection of modifications. Very few rivals offer the ‘stretch’ this Technics does. 

And then there are the looks. The Technics is a design icon, and while it has plenty of, ahem… ‘flattering’ imitators it still looks and feels completely different from most traditional designs when it sits on a rack. A black SL-1210GR2 is also available but the silver is my favourite - the colour complements the design best. The Technics is cool in a way that most hi-fi, however competent in sound and design, can never be.  


While the idea of a digital phase in a turntable might upset a few purists, the changes in the GR2 have taken a capable and characterful turntable and made it an even more gifted all-rounder. This is a fuss-free and immaculately built device that delivers sparkling performance.

Listening notes

Fatboy Slim Better Living Through Chemistry
For many of us, the first time we heard these tracks was on an SL-1200 - and the GR2 version still delivers the beat-driven energy of this album to spectacular effect.

Poppy Ackroyd Pause
In times gone by, a 1200 might not have been the best choice for these gentle piano compositions - but the GR2 has the delicacy and articulation to make them sing, while that superb pitch stability keeps long notes sounding right.

Ibibio Sound Machine Electricity
If you have an album that combines epic funkiness with one of the best vocalists in the business, you have the perfect foil for the Technics to show off its traditional skills and new-found talents.

What the press say

Why you should buy it

If you fancy effortless pitch stability and an iconic design, the SL-1200GR2 is a super evolution of the Technics direct drive platform that does everything you’d expect (with some new tricks too).

Video review

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