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Technics SL-1210G

Technics SL-1210G

The Technics SL-1200/1210G is the latest version of the venerable SL-1200 series that dates from the 1970s. Decades ago, Technics split the SL-1200 series into models aimed at the DJ market and models aimed at the audiophile market, and the SL-1210G on review here comes from the audiophile branch of the family. The 1210G is the black model, while the 1200G is the silver model. Other than colour, there is no functional difference between the two. I will refer to the model I reviewed for brevity’s sake.

The SL-1210 G is priced in the US at $4,299 and at £3,999 in the UK. Those prices are for the turntable plus tone arm. Since there are turntables that are quite a bit less expensive (e.g. at under $1,000), and there are turntables that are much more expensive (e.g. at over $100,000), I reviewed this ‘table with the thought that it is “mid-priced”.

The SL-1210G has been around for about five or six years, and helped rebuild Technics’ audiophile credentials after the brand’s hiatus. For this version, Technics did a nearly complete redesign of the classic SL-1200 series turntable to bring it to a new level of technical refinement.


If you’re either old enough or a recent Technics devotee, you’ll know that these are direct drive turntables. That means the motor shaft also forms the spindle; the platter sits on a single assembly that includes the motor. This approach has certain disadvantages and advantages. Direct drive is a great way to have very tight control over the rotational speed of the platter and the stability of the platter. The main criticism historically that was levelled against direct drive turntables is something called ‘cogging’, which is a possible attribute of the motor assembly having windings and magnets.

Technics SL-1210G

For the SL-1210G, Technics essentially said “We’re tired of the cogging critique, valid or invalid. So, we’re going to redesign the motor assembly with a coreless (no iron) motor so that cogging is impossible.” Technics offer a variety of measurements of the results, which unsurprisingly show that the SL-1210G has lower noise than alternative technologies.

Technics has done a variety of other redesign work as well:

A relatively heavy platter in this class at about 8 pounds.

A very complex assembly for the feet and the base, to isolate the turntable from vibrations

The coreless motor that eliminates cogging has reduced torque, though compared to belt-drive turntables with super tiny motors, this is actually a pretty torquey assembly

An S-shaped tonearm made of magnesium, with medium mass

Technics has a white paper devoted to looking at the mass of the tonearm with real cartridges and how it affects the resonant frequency of the tonearm-cartridge combination. The company has gone through some pains to optimise the actual resonant frequency of the arm/cartridge in the real world, something the “low mass is better” crowd might profitably attend to.

The tonearm has a removable headshell (the included shell is quite low mass). This allows you to change headshells quite easily and also allows you to optimise the mass of the arm/cartridge system depending on cartridge compliance. This removable headshell design creates another electrical contact point, which is a possible drawback but is perhaps the only way to get easy cartridge interchangeability.

The level of engineering on offer and the quality of the parts, probably wouldn’t be impossible at this price point if Technics weren’t a very high-volume turntable manufacturer, able to share parts and leverage insights from developing a full line of turntables in two markets. Say thanks to your local DJ, the next time you see him.

The acid test

All of that is nice, but sound quality is the acid test.

When it comes to sound quality, the theory I would offer you is that the phono cartridge is the most error-prone element of the entire turntable system. Yes, everything matters, and small differences are musically important. In the record-playing system, the differences between cartridge to cartridge are vastly larger than the differences between turntable to turntable or tonearm to tonearm or phono preamp to preamp.

What that means to me is that a part of the joy and part of the approach I take to analogue is that I like to use several cartridges. Partially to change it up to encourage new musical discoveries, but more importantly, certain phono cartridges work especially well with certain kinds of music and certain discs. The interchangeable headshell element of the Technics turntables is quite valuable for this approach.

Technics SL-1210G

In addition, let’s talk about the setup because that is a second virtue of this turntable/tonearm. I love removable headshells because it is much easier to do the setup adjustments and much less nerve-racking to do them with a removable headshell. Note that this perspective is rooted in the observation that cartridge setup (e.g., overhang, zenith, azimuth, mass) drives ultimate sonic quality. The methods for setting these parameters are usually iterative, so anything that makes these changes easier tends toward greater setup optimisation.

You’ve also got to be able to adjust VTA. The VTA adjustment on the SL-1210G is a knurled knob at the base of the tonearm. It was straightforward to do by hand. I could do it while I was playing my test disc and see the impact on the computer screen of the output.

One final thing about setup. Technics provides several counterweights to help deal with different mass cartridge/headshells and control the system’s total mass.

In theory, you can control the polar moment of inertia by choosing the combination of counterweight and balance point you use with different cartridges.

Sound quality with turntables is tricky business. The big thing is that when you’re testing a turntable, you are inherently testing a system. You’re looking at the turntable itself, the tonearm, the cartridge, and the setup of that cartridge. That said, this is a very good-sounding turntable.

My first measure of that is what I will call the “analogue test”. The distinctiveness and the excellence of analogue when analogue is excellent, comes through loud and clear. Analogue has a lovely natural sound when the recording is good, and the SL-1210G reveals that beautifully.

There are, of course, other turntables and there are turntables at lower price points, that also, I believe do “the analogue thing”. So that’s not that exceptional. Nonetheless, this is a litmus test of turntables because if you can’t deliver the analogue magic, your raison d’etre is pretty much gone. And, I would say, the SL-1210G gets out of the way of the signal more than some lower-priced turntables, so the analogue magic is more in the forefront of its sonic profile.

Test number two that I used for the general excellence of the SL-1210G was whether I could immediately hear differences between the various cartridges I tried. The SL‑1210G made those stand out in stark relief. I think you want a turntable that reveals those differences because it’s not just a matter of bad and good, it is a matter of drilling down to the excellence of this cartridge versus the excellence of that cartridge.

The third thing that I liked about the SL-1210G is that it is a good performer on dynamics. ppp to fff is done well, but even more, the 1210G tracks low-level sounds to high-level sounds to create an excellent sense of dynamic contrast and a sense of transient accuracy without blur or edginess.

Technics SL-1210G

The fourth admirable quality of the SL-1210G is that it forms a very stable platform for musical delivery. In my view, this is almost a subconscious thing, but it delivered on that front. With the SL-1210G you feel like you are hearing primarily the signal without subtle noise and distortions.

Against the reference

Compared to my higher-end reference rig, which is about a $25,000 turntable/tonearm combination, I felt that the sense of dynamic and stability was even better on the reference system. With the SL-1210G, the cartridge sings from a black background with low noise or variation in character. My reference turntable did a better job in those areas.

Comparing the SL-1210G to lower price turntables, the SL-1210G had the same advantage over those less expensive turntables. At lower treble frequencies, more information was available from recordings with the SL-1210G than from lower-priced turntables. What more do you want?

Technical specifications

Type: Direct Drive Turntable and arm combination


  • Type: Direct Drive Manual Turntable
  • Turntable Speeds: 33-1/3, 45 and 78 rpm
  • Adjust Range: ±8 %, ±16 %
  • Starting Torque: 3.3 kg-cm
  • Build-up Characteristics: 0.7 s. from Standstill to 33-1/3 rpm
  • Wow And Flutter: 0.025 % W.R.M.S. (JIS C5521)
  • Rumble: 78 dB (IEC 98A weighted)
  • Turntable Platter: Brass and aluminium die-cast combined
  • Platter Diameter: 332mm
  • Platter Weight: Approx. 3.6 kg (including the supplied rubber mat)


  • Type: Universal Static Balance
  • Effective Length: 230 mm
  • Overhang: 15 mm
  • Tracking Error Angle: Within 2° 32’(at the outer groove of 30 cm (12””) record)
    Within 0° 32’(at the inner groove of 30 cm (12””) record)
  • Offset Angle: 22°
  • Arm-height Adjustment Range: 0–6 mm
  • Stylus Pressure Adjustment Range: 0–4 g (direct reading)
  • Head Shell Weight: Approx. 7.6 g
  • Applicable Cartridge Weight Range (Without the auxiliary weight): 5.6 to 12.0 g, 14.3 to 20.7 g (including the head shell)
  • Applicable Cartridge Weight Range (With small auxiliary weight): 10.0 to 16.4 g, 18.7 to 25.1 g (including the head shell)
  • Applicable Cartridge Weight Range (With large auxiliary weight): 14.3 to 19.8 g, 23.0 to 28.5 g (including headshell)
  • Cartridge Mounting Dimension: JIS 12.7 mm Interval
  • Head Shell Terminal Lug: 1.2 mm φ 4-pin Terminal Lug
  • Terminals: 2× RCA phono, earth terminal

Turntable + Tonearm (as package)

  • Finishes: black, aluminium
  • Dimensions (W×H×D):453 × 173 × 372 mm
  • Weight: Approx. 18 kg
  • Price: £3,999, $4,299




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