Technics SL-1200GR2 review: an iconic DJ deck design and sound for audiophiles

 The Technics SL-1200GR2 playing a vinyl .
The Technics SL-1200GR2 playing a vinyl .

Technics SL-1200GR2: Two-minute review

The Technics SL-100GR2 is the latest version of a design that the brand has been refining and finessing for over five decades now. The SL-1200 is an unarguable design classic – and while this SL-100GR2 version nods more than somewhat towards its lineage, it features one or two enhancements that are intended to keep it at the forefront of consumer’s minds – or, at least, those consumers with a couple of grand to drop on a new turntable.

So as well as the features familiar to anyone who’s ever hung around the DJ booth on a night out, the SL-100GR2 has a reworked direct drive motor arrangement and a new power supply. Unlike some of the best turntables, what it doesn’t have, though, is a cartridge – so be sure to factor that in when you’re working out your budget…

Once you’ve selected, purchased and fitted your cartridge, you’ll be treated to a sound of rare positivity and composure. The SL-1200GR2 is a direct, solid and properly organised listen, with proper talent for integrating the frequency range, establishing a persuasive soundstage and generally making your records sound clean and composed. It’s not the last word in dynamic potency, it’s true – but that trait needs to be balanced against all the things the Technics does beautifully.

Technics SL-1200GR2 review: Price and release date

The Technics SL-1200GR2
The Technics SL-1200GR2
  • Priced at $2190 / £1799 / AU$2999

  • Released in December 2023

The Technics SL-1200GR2 is on sale now. In the US, you’ll need to part with around $2199. For those in the UK, it sells for a maximum of £1799, while in Australia you’re looking at AU$2999 or something quite like it. That’s not the end of your spending, either – at the very least you’re going to need a cartridge…

And it’s not as if you’re short of choice if you’re fortunate enough to have this sort of money to spend on a record player. Two favourites immediately spring to mind: the aptX Bluetooth-equipped Cambridge Audio Alva TT v2 and the exquisite Clearaudio Concept. They sit either side of the Technics in terms of price – but each comes with a very acceptable cartridge attached.

Technics SL-1200GR2 review: Features

The Technics SL-1200GR2
The Technics SL-1200GR2
  • Hi-fi deck, DJ features

  • 230mm S-shaped tonearm 

  • Coreless motor 

Technics is adamant that the SL-1200GR2 is a hi-fi deck, rather than a piece of DJ equipment – users who need to be able to scratch, for instance, are directed towards the SL-1200mk7 instead. But get a look at the GR2 from above – it certainly seems to have one or two DJ credentials to me…

Just to the right of the 230mm S-shaped tonearm, for example, is a defeatable pitch control giving up to +/- 8 percent variation. At the front edge of the surface there’s a blue LED-lit stroboscope to indicate rotational accuracy, and a white LED target light for accurate cueing in the dark.

And, of course, the big ‘stop/start’ button produces nigh-on immediate results – the SL-1200GR2 comes up to speed in an instant, which is the sort of feature a DJ relies on. Admittedly, the ability to play at 78rpm – by pressing the ‘33.3’ and ‘45’ rpm button simultaneously, isn’t all that DJ-centric, but you nevertheless take my point…

As with some previous versions, the SL-1200GR2 uses a coreless direct drive motor in an effort to eliminate the dreaded ‘cogging’ – the less-than-perfectly-consistent rotation that can be evident in some direct drive designs. For this model, though, Technics has augmented this with something it calls ‘delta sigma drive’ - this software package delivers a cleaner signal to the motor to help it turn more consistently, eliminating those minute variations that can cause cogging.

There’s also a new multi-stage switching power supply, supposedly much quieter and less prone to electrical noise than a bog-standard analogue alternative. It works in conjunction with noise-cancellation circuitry first seen in the (horrifically expensive) SL-1000R turntable, and a low-voltage power supply, to keep the noise floor as low as is realistically possible.

Features score: 5 / 5 

Technics SL-1200GR2 review: Sound quality

The Technics SL-1200GR2
The Technics SL-1200GR2
  • Positive, direct presentation 

  • Cleanly informative and full-bodied sound

  • Not the most dynamic listen around

The headline – and this will come as no kind of spoiler to anyone who’s heard a Technics turntable over the past few decades – is that the SL-1200GR2 is a direct and unequivocal listen. When it comes to giving a complete, unambiguous and easy-to-understand account of recording, it’s money very well spent indeed.

A listen to a heavyweight reissue of Trans Fatty Acid (K&D Session) by Lamb illustrates the fact in some style. From the top of the frequency range to the bottom, the Technics presents a unified, coherent sound – each area of the frequency range gets precisely the correct amount of weighting, and despite the nature of the recording there’s no overstating or underplaying of any area. Low frequencies are deep and punchy, naturally – but they’re also rigorously controlled, straight-edged at the leading edges of sounds, and carry plenty of information regarding tone and texture along with out-and-out muscularity. Momentum is good, and rhythmic expression is natural and convincing.

It’s a similar story at the top of the frequency range, where substance is just as well-represented as speed, and there’s plenty of tonal variation to give proper colour and balance to the sound. Treble sounds attack with crisp determination, but any latent edginess or hardness remains just that: latent. Even if you like to listen at nightclub volumes, the SL-1200GR2 stays composed and unabrasive.

In between, smoothly integrated into the information above and below it, the midrange communicates easily. There’s more than enough detail available to give the vocal - somewhat buried in the mix and electronically treated around its edges - the chance to express itself, and the SL-1200GR2’s soundstaging abilities mean there’s plenty of space in what is quite a busy mix for the midrange to shine. The stage is wide and deep, and organised to the point that there’s no blurring of boundaries between one element of the recording and the next. Without sounding remote or estranged, each individual strand is secure in its own pocket of space.

Where the Technics is found slightly wanting against the best of its nominal rivals is with dynamic expression. The small dynamic variations of tone and timbre that are apparent in instruments or voices are identified and contextualised, most certainly – but when it comes to the big dynamic shifts that come in a switch from ‘quiet contemplation’ to ‘big charge into the final chorus’  (such as in Pixies’ Tame, for example) the SL-1200GR2 doesn’t quite breathe deeply enough. It doesn’t track changes in intensity as rigorously as it might, and the changes it does identify it struggles to express quite as fully as other turntables can manage. Which means you won’t be in for any sudden surprises, but also that you might not get quite as visceral an account of a recording as you might be after.

Sound quality: 4.5 / 5

Technics SL-1200GR2 review: Design

Technics SL-1200GR2
Technics SL-1200GR2
  • All-silver (or all-black)

  • Built to last

  • 11.5kg

You know what you’re getting here, don’t you? After all, this is a) a record player and b) a Technics SL-1200 record player – and while the original SL-1200 from 1972 looked a little different to this, by the launch of the SL-1200 mkII in 1979 the design was basically set in stone. Technics has tinkered around the edges of the design ever since, but fundamentally this looks like a turntable from over 40 years ago. I’m all for it.

So what you get is a 173 x 453 x 372mm (HxWxD) rectangle with a circle on it. The top of the chassis is made from cast aluminium, the bottom from a bulk moulding compound material - this combination is designed to minimise vibration and offer optimum damping, and it goes a long way to explaining the Technics’ 11.5kg weight. On top of this is a rubber-damped aluminium platter, and the whole thing is topped off by a hinged clear Perpsex dust-cover. Support comes in the shape of four adjustable silicone rubber feet that assist both with levelling the deck and rejection of external vibrations.

A small but effective design flourish for the GR2 is that the SL-1200 is now an all-silver design, while the corresponding SL-1210 is all-black. Previous models have been ‘mostly silver’ or ‘mostly black’, but this new, more rigorous approach to colour-coding the turntable’s accessories and peripherals makes for a cleaner, even more upmarket look.

Design score: 5 / 5 

Technics SL-1200GR2 review: Usability and setup

The Technics SL-1200GR2
The Technics SL-1200GR2
  • Iffy tonearm lift

  • Not as tricky to set up as the manual might suggest

  • Choose a cartridge 

Not every instruction manual advises you to be ‘tentative’ when setting up your new piece of equipment – but Technics has seemingly decided that putting the frighteners on new SL-1200GR2 owners when they first unbox their turntable is the best way to ensure accidents don’t happen.

In truth, the SL-1200GR2 is no more difficult to set up than any other high-end record player and actually a sight easier than some. Once you’ve adjusted its feet to make sure it’s sitting perfectly level, it’s really only a question of adjusting tracking and anti-skate controls and you’re basically in business.

Or, at least, you are once you’ve selected a cartridge. Technics supplies a simple-to-fit bayonet headshell with the GR2, but not a cartridge – so you’ll have to decide on what will suit you best and what you can realistically afford. I’d suggest budgeting around $500 / £500 / AU$650 in order to do some justice to the Technics’ abilities – for the majority of this test, I use an Ortofon Quintet Bronze moving-coil cartridge that sells for anywhere between $450—600 / £450—600 / AU$600—850.

Once that’s done, the SL-1200GR2 is simplicity itself to use. With the exception of the rather vague and relatively flimsy-feeling tonearm lift mechanism, all the control function with the sort of chunky precision this range of turntables has become famous for.

Usability and setup score: 4 / 5

Technics SL-1200GR2 review: Value

Technics SL-1200GR2
Technics SL-1200GR2
  • Not competitively priced

  • Plenty of competition 

Yes, it’s a design classic. Yes, it’s built to withstand even medium-sized detonations. Yes, it has plenty to recommend it where the sound it makes is concerned. But it’s not without competition at this price point. Also the fact that you’re looking at another $500 / £500 / AU$650 or so for a cartridge to do its engineering some justice, means the Technics SL-1200GR2 isn’t exactly nailed-on value for money.

Should you buy the Technics SL-1200GR2?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Technics SL-1200GR2 review: Also consider

How I tested the Technics SL-1200GR2

Technics SL-1200GR2
Technics SL-1200GR2
  • Tested with a Chord phonostage and a Naim amplifier

  • Hooked up to Bowers & Wilkins speakers

  • Fitted an Ortofon Quintet Bronze MC cartridge 

  • Using a lot of records for quite a long time 

Set up isn’t tricky – or, at least, no trickier than it ever is when a cartridge needs to be fitted. After that, the SL-1200GR2 played into a Chord Huei phonostage, which was attached to a Naim Uniti Star amplifier, which in turn was attached to a pair of 705 S3 loudspeakers by Bowers & Wilkins.

After that, I must admit I found it no hardship whatsoever to dig out dozens of my favourite records and listen to them under the guise of ‘work’. After having done this for well over a week, I had to admit to myself that I had probably finished testing…

  • First reviewed February 2024