The Technics brand was revived a decade ago and it wasn’t too long before the legendary SL-1200 turntable returned to production as part of the range. The SL-1200 originates from a requirement for a pro audio design so it has features such as pitch control and a strobe-compatible platter that are not strictly needed for domestic use. The SL-1500C is a blood relative of the SL-1200 but it is more clearly focused on home audio. It is still based around a version of Technics’ exactingly engineered direct drive motor system with fixed 33, 45 and 78rpm speeds and the platter has a conventional smooth finish in place of the strobe markings..
The SL-1500C uses an S-shaped tonearm with a detachable headshell that makes changing cartridges easy. It isn’t the most robust-feeling arm around but it is easy to use and – unusually for a modern turntable – has an auto lift for when it reaches the end of a record. As standard, the Technics is fitted with an Ortofon 2M Red moving magnet cartridge that offers respectable performance and is easily upgraded.
To make using the SL-1500C as simple as possible, it is fitted with an on-board phono stage that allows you to connect it directly to any amp input. However, the on-board electronics can be switched out if you want to use a separate phono stage of your choice. As a result, this turntable is extremely easy to set up and use – and one that can work with almost any existing equipment and is beautifully made as well. Yers, it’s simpler than the SL-1200 but this also makes it more elegant than its famous sibling.
Absolutely key to the appeal of the SL-1500C is the same fundamental qualities of the SL-1200 and the mighty SP10 flagship. The Technics is utterly pitch stable in a way that most rivals hint at but never really get near. This gives a solidity to its presentation that sets it apart from most turntables. It takes this stability and builds a consistently spacious and open presentation that manages to work well with small scale music as well as it does larger and more bombastic material. The Technics never feels congested or confused and it is an easy device to spend hours listening to.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the SL-1500C is that areas where you might consider it in some way lacking are areas where Technics has made it easy to apply corrections. The 2M Red cartridge is not the most refined device going and it can sound a little hard with less than perfect recordings. It is the work of a moment to change it for a 2M Blue stylus (or even change the cartridge altogether) and largely eliminate that. Likewise, the on board phono stage is a respectable performer but you can switch it out and unlock a little more detail and tonal richness out of it. It might be best to see both parts as something you use until you are in a position to upgrade them.
Even with them in place though, perhaps the greatest strength of the Technics is the sheer energy and fun it brings to music you play on it. For those of us who were regulars in clubs in the eighties and nineties, there is an element of quite a lot of material sounding ‘right’ on the Technics because that is the sound of those nights out. What the SL-1500C does is channel that energy brilliant while giving little to nothing away in more notionally ‘audiophile’ areas.
The SL-1500C is something of a bargain. For the asking price, you get a solidly built and immaculately finished turntable that offers genuine plug and play capability. It’s the quality of that playback that really sets it apart though. This is a slightly different take on vinyl replay but if it is one that appeals to you, very little else will do.
Cinematic Orchestra Man With a Movie Camera
Long, sustained piano and string notes can show up even very good turntables and this album is full of them. The imperious pitch stability of the Technics ensures that all of them sound perfect.
Editors In This Light and in the Evening
There’s a great record screaming to get out of this rather dense and congested pressing and the Technics does a superb job of unpicking all of them and letting the truly great body of music within show itself.
Fatboy Slim Better Living Through Chemistry
Play one of the most iconic sounds of the nineties on a turntable descended from the ones that played it to you originally and the results engage at an emotional level. The Technics doesn’t simply sound good with content like this, it sounds right too.
If you like the idea of listening to records but the slightly delicate nature of most belt drive designs leaves you cold, the Technics offers an utterly fuss free means of enjoying analogue on a superbly made and easy to use turntable.