Thoughts from The Audio Beatnik: Down The Rabbit Hole to See the Technics SP-10R and SL-1000R

New Technics SP-10R turntable

What’s not to love about turntables? If you follow my show reports, you may know I do a “turntable eye candy” post at every show that’s pictures most of the striking turntables I see there. Last year’s Rocky Mountain show seemed to take the idea of turntable eye candy to a whole new level and inspired this set up by Garth Leerer of Musical Surroundings for Clearaudio.

Clearaudio

Clearaudio turntable display at RMAF

You can take a look back at the RMAF turntable eye candy posts. Yes, there were so many that were worthy of mention, I wrote three separate posts:

But let’s face it, turntables are the artwork of audio equipment with their beautiful plinths, platters, and suspensions. Some look functional, some look like they came out of the future, some look retro and some are just so overdone that they kind of overwhelm your senses. Tonearms and cartridges add additional bling, especially ones like the DS Audio DS 002 optical cartridge I reviewed recently.  But I have to admit, as much as audiophiles love turntables, who in their right mind likes setting overhang, VTA, VTF, azimuth, and anti-skating?

My Early Adventures with Turntables

Dual turntable like one I owned

Like many audiophiles my age, my first real turntable was a Dual. My second turntable was a Philips, and then I began to save for something better. I tried the little Rabco ST 4 table and arm, but that was a disaster. So I saved up enough to finally get my first high-end turntable.

I couldn’t afford a Panasonic SP-10, but there was a new audio magazine out, something called The Absolute Sound, and their writer said the big Sony direct-drive turntable was nearly as good as the Panasonic, so I got it with an SME 3009 Series II tonearm.

 

Sony turntable I wanted

Then the powers that be told us that direct-drive turntables were no good. We had to have a turntable that ran on a rubber band. Guess what, Hillcrest High Fidelity in Dallas had a Transcriptor, and it was calling out to me. Even by today’s standards, it was a great, futuristic, and dare I say it, sexy looking table. The folks at Hillcrest said it sounded as good as the Sony.

The Transcriptor had one problem though; no platter, just a center spindle and five chrome pucks with a little black rubber piece that touched the record. The total contact area with the record was about two square inches. It never sounded as good as the Sony even though it had the magic rubber band and looked incredible. Then, The Absolute Sound told us that it takes more than a rubber band; it also takes a floating suspension.

I just had to try one more futuristic looking table. It was a B&O Beogram 4004. It had a straight tracking arm, but you had to use a B&O cartridge. I was infatuated with it for a while, but in the end, I knew it wasn’t as good as the Sony either.

Linn Sondek SP 12

Well, when I was ready for my next turntable, Linn had convinced the powers that be that at least their floating, belt-drive table sounded better than direct drives. The problem was that by now I had lost a good bit of money trading tables, and I had gotten married, so I settled for a Linn look-alike, a used Ariston R 80. This was my table for several years. I did save enough Christmas money one year to put a Magnepan arm on it. I did this so that I could install one of my Decca cartridges again. It wasn’t a perfect match, but it was the best I had been able to acquire so far, and I was happy for a couple of more years.

I can’t remember where the money came from, but for my 25th birthday, I finally got a Linn. I went all out with a full Linn table, arm and cartridge, a little Naim amp and preamp and a pair of the original Linn Kans. Then my job moved me. Guess what, silly me, my new job came with a house, and I didn’t really check out the new house thoroughly enough. The floor wasn’t a slab, and the Linn bounced terribly. I tried everything, but no one could walk while I played records, and at thirty, I had two toddlers.

So then I tried the first VPI. It didn’t bounce, but it seemed to rob a lot of life out of the music. Then I tried the Mapleknoll air-bearing table and arm. This table sounded so wonderful, but it was so frustrating to use. First, you had to have a place for that noisy pump. I went with drilling a couple of holes in the floor for the tubing and putting the pump in the crawl space. Then, you had to adjust the platter and arm every time before you used it; I guess because of the humidity, though I admit there has never been an easier way to adjust VTA than by simply turning the valve on the air tube to the arm. The Mapleknoll came close to diving me insane.

Turntables I’ve Tried as a Reviewer

Shindo 301 I owned

So I had quite a turntable journey before I became a reviewer. As a reviewer, I have had the privilege of trying out some pretty fine and expensive turntables from Thales, TriangleART, Shindo, the Merrill-Scillia MS21, DaVinciAudio Labs, Clearaudio and Artisan Fidelity. With all these, I hadn’t heard anything that I thought reproduced a musical performance as well as a Garrard 301 in an Artisan Fidelity or Shindo reincarnation until I heard an AMG V12 sitting on its own  HRS platform. The AMG turntable with the 12-inch Turbo tonearm sitting on the HRS platform is simply the best overall turntable I have ever heard.

Still, in the back of my mind, I kept wondering about the Technics SP10. Many times I came close to asking Chris at Artisan Fidelity if he could send me one of his rebuilt ones for review. It’s hard to give up on a young man’s dream. So when I heard that Technics was introducing a new and improved version of the SP10, I purchased a couple of plane tickets to go see it in person at CES.

My CES 2018 Story, and I’m Sticking To It

Technics SL-1000R

I don’t like Las Vegas, and the only thing I have ever done worthwhile there was see The Beatles Love by Cirque do Soleil. So, I have never made it to CES, but I was planning to go this year. The reasons I wanted to go this year were threefold; first, I wanted to see the new version of the Technics renowned SP10 turntable; second, I wanted to see the debut of the DS Audio DS W2 Optical Cartridge and Phonostage and interview the cartridge designer, Mr. Tetsuaki (Aki) Aoyagi; and third, as at any show, I wanted to visit with people.

It’s only an hour and a half to Las Vegas from the Bay area, so my plan was to make the Wednesday of the show a long day by arriving in Las Vegas at 9 am and returning home late that evening. So, here’s what spoiled my plans. On Monday evening, I went over to the local OSH hardware store to buy some paint and supplies for my son to finish painting my listening room so that I could move back in after I returned from the show. As I got out of my car, I didn’t know it, but someone was robbing the store. Just as I approached the door, out runs the thief with four OSH employees following him yelling, “Stop! Stop!” The thief, running to his car, yells back over his shoulder, “Do you think I’m a fool?” Well, there seemed to be an obvious answer to that question as what is there in a hardware store to shoplift. I looked up the 10 most common items in America to shoplift, and none of them are sold at OSH.

Anyway, as I tried to get out of the way on the rain-slick pavement, I fell and twisted my back and knee and had cement burns on my arms like I haven’t had since my elementary school days. The result of this story is that I didn’t get to go to CES. The good news is that Bill Voss, Business Development Manager/US of Technics was kind enough to allow me a phone interview and sent me some wonderful photos.

I shared with Bill how much I wanted an SP10 when I was in college in the 70’s, but, of course, couldn’t afford one. In 1970, the SP10 was the first direct-drive turntable. Then in 1975, they released the table that many think of as the Technics SP10, the MK 2, and finally, in 1980, they brought out the Mk 3. These tables are still sought after, and people pay big money for modded ones in beautiful custom plinths. These tables were used in many radio stations and for other professional applications, and most still work perfectly to this day.

I asked Bill why after all these years Technics decided to bring it back into production? He said the real question was why they decided to start making turntable again a little over three years ago when they brought out the SL-1200GAE.

According to Bill, the main reason was their new ability to make a core-less direct-drive motor. Bill said as good as the old direct-drive turntables were when played in a world-class system, they could have problems caused by factors such as minute speed vibration during rotation and a rotation irregularity that is known as “cogging.”  They solved the cogging problem in their newly developed core-less direct-drive motors by eliminating the iron core, which is where the “cogging” occured. He said this is why they brought out the Sl-1200GEA at CES in 2016. Then at the 2017 CES, they brought out the SL-1200GR at the $2,000 price point or about half the price of the 1200GAE.

Over this time, they had also been working on bringing out a new version of the SP10. Bill said that there were so many original SP-10s being used that they made the decision to make the new turntable so that it would drop into any plinth built for an SP10. So whether it is a professional rack or table that has been built for the old SP10s or a beautiful plinth built by someone like Artisan Fidelity, you can move up to the new SP-10R without having to even adjust the tonearm.

Maybe you have been drooling over a beautiful SP10 but have not wanted to spend that much on a used turntable. Now you can have the plinth of your dreams built for your tonearm or tonearms and just drop in the new SP-10R. It is going to sell for approximately $10,000.

For those who had rather have a turntable that comes with a plinth, dust cover, and tonearm, they also introduced the SL-1000R. It sports a new 10-inch version of the Technics “S” shaped magnesium tonearm built into an aluminum base that looks bulletproof and allows you to use up to three arms. This is a stunningly modern looking turntable and will sell for approximately $20,000.

And, good news for me, Bill Voss will be visiting their San Francisco dealer, Audio Vision, in March as one of their stops on their pre-release tour leading up to the product release this summer, the Technics dealer in San Francisco will have this turntable. Check with Audio Vision or on the Technics website for exact dates. I plan to make an appointment to go over and meet him in person and hear this remarkable turntable that brings back so many audiophile memories for me. I look forward to that, and I will share more about the SP-10R then.

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