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Technics 1210 MK5G Review - By ProfessorBX

“This type of s—t happens every day...”

It is not an uncommon practice in the DJ industry to essentially repackage an old product with a couple minor updates and sell it off as a new product. Sometimes these differences are actually fairly large (sk2-sk2f), while other times they are beyond minor (05pro-05pro2). One company that has pretty much bucked this trend though is Panasonic with their line of turntables, releasing only one (non Japanese exclusive) update to their sl-1200mk2 turntable, the only slightly updated 1200mk3d. So when news started to spread of the first major update to the 1200's design in 25 years, it made folks listen. So now the only question remains-are these changes enough to keep the 1200 competitive compared to newer turntables from Vestax, Numark, and others, or is this simply a last gasp on the part of Panasonic before they kill off their DJ cash cow?

Physical Overview

Ok, before I get into what is new, let me get into what is not new on the mk5g. First off, the motor has not been updated. This is not really a bad thing, as the 1200's motor still stands up quite well next to it's younger competitors, no matter what the paper spec says. As well, there have been no major changes to the layout or the body, though considering it's take like build there is no reason to complain. There is no reverse switch, and no DSP features such as key correct. Now, on to the differences.

The first thing one will notice is the sexy new paint job, which while not a real update, is still quite nice to look at. Somewhere in between the high gloss of the standard mk2 and mk2ltd finish, it is a black semi gloss with tiny gold colored specs within the paint. While personally I wish they went with the piano black of the mk2ltd, it is still a nice change. Moving to the pitch, there are two columns of illuminated numbers on the side of the pitch control, two new buttons below the pitch. One of the two buttons toggles between +-8/16% pitch, and the other is the quartz lock button. While most DJ's will first notice the pitch button, the movement of the quartz button from the odd placement of the mk3d's pitch reset to the bottom of the pitch control is a welcome change. Moving further up, one will notice a small knob on the side of the tonearm base which controls the new anti-skip system of the mk5g tonearm, no doubt designed to compete with the straight arm designs of newer DJ turntables. Finally, if one removes the slipmat and turns the platter so that the hole is in the correct position, or simply removes the platter, you will notice that the brake speed potentiometer has not only been labeled, but now has a small knob on the top of it as well to make adjustments without removing the plastic piece under the platter possible. All in all, while not the huge update that everyone expected, all of these changes are both welcome and have been some of the most demanded by 1200 owners.

In Use/Abuse

I have to admit, this review while short is probably the hardest review I have ever had to do. I mean, even with the new features, what does one say about the 1200 that has not already been said 1200 times over? After debating how to go about this, I finally settled on simply reviewing the new features on their own merit, and ignoring what has been left unchanged from previous versions. If you want a review of things such as the 1200's motor, etc, look at the hundreds of available 1200 reviews on the web, or in our own forums. Now on with the show.

Finish/Paint Job

I have to admit, compared to the silver/matte black finish of the 1200mk2 the mk5g is one sexy looking table. While not quite as smooth feeling or reflective as the finish of the mk2ltd, it is still quite attractive, and also looks to be high quality enough to avoid chipping while in transit which is a must.

Pitch Control

While not exactly the most exciting change, the addition of selectable +-8/16% pitch is incredibly welcome, and when you get right down to it is actually probably better in the long run than trying to compete with the huge pitch range of the Vestax pdx-2000 and the Numark ttx1. Having a 50% pitch range is all well and good on paper, but in the real world it has very little use mixing, and even doing tones it is sometimes hard to do accurate pitch changes live. By keeping it at a maximum range of 16% you are given just enough range to mix songs with high bpm differences while keeping the gimic factor low. As well, without good key correction built in, having 50% pitch is frankly pretty worthless for mixing.

Beside the pitch there are two columns of illuminated numbers to indicate which pitch range you are currently on, and below the pitch there are buttons for both pitch range selection and pitch reset. The rows of numbers to indicate pitch range are definitely good eye candy, but in truth they are a bit to gimmicky and actually look sort of cheap. I actually would have preferred a pitch led which indicated which range I was on, but I am sure that others will disagree. The placement of the two buttons is perfect, and a welcome change over the awkward placement of the mk3d's pitch reset button, though the size and quality of the buttons doesn't really match the other buttons of on the mk5g. This is not to say that they feel extra cheep, but compared to the feel of the mk3d's pitch reset button they leave a bit to be desired.

Brake adjust

I shouldn't even bother giving this it's own section, but considering it is an “official” change, I felt I should cover it. If one looks under the platter there is a small hole in the plastic under piece labeled “brake”. In reality this is simply marking the potentiometer that has been on the 1200 since the mk2, and in my opinion shouldn't be labeled as a new feature as it can't really be adjusted live like on the pdx2000/ttx1. I guess though that Technics has to sell itself by whatever means necessary so I won't fault them too much.

Tonearm

Alright, now on to the most interesting change for the scratch DJ, the new anti skipping tonearm system. Located towards the back of the base is a small metallic knob which lessens left/right movement of the tonearm during hard scratch play. Similar to when one tightens the bearing on the top of the tonearm, this is still slightly better as it can be adjusted on the fly, To test exactly how well this worked, I pulled out my trusty Shure 447 as well as my ancient Stanton 505sk needle which not only is at least 3 years old, but has not had a stylus replacement since purchase.

Using the 447 I noticed that on hard scratching with the hardest anti skip setting the infamous “wobble” of the 447 was almost non existent. I noticed that on lazers various record modulation scratches skipping was lessened, though using a 447 one doesn't have to worry much anyway so I could be reaching a little. The 505sk on the other hand was a huge difference. Not only did I not have to angle the needle like I usually would, but I actually noticed that I could do lazers and certain modulation scratches for the first time, though still with some skipping. I was not using a new record by any means either, but instead was using my beat to hell copy of Hee-Haw breaks that I purchased in 1999. The only time that I noticed any issue was when I pulled out my copy of Bully Breaks, and actually noticed that on a couple samples I actually experienced MORE skipping than on the normal setting, though this was something of an anomaly. All in all, I have to say that while I would prefer a straight arm from a record wear standpoint (tightening the l/r movement could potentially lead to extra record wear), but still though it is a welcome change. Also, considering the hi-fi roots of the 1200 it not surprising that they would stay away from the straight-arm design.

Overall

So, how in the hell does one rate a 1200? I guess that the first question would be are the changes really that big a deal? The answer here would be yes, as while they may seem minor at first, all of them are right off the top of the most requested changes to a 1200. And in the case of the tonearm, there is actually a real example of Panasonic throwing a bone to the scratch artists out there, something that I never thought I would say. On the other hand though, the price of the mk5g compared to the standard 1200 is quite ridiculous (between $599 and $700 depending on the store), and overall the changes are not worth the price hike. If the mk5g were being sold at $499 I would have no problem with calling this a solid buy, but at the current price I have to say that this is more of a purchase for the DJ that has it all than anything else. As well, while the changes are all welcome, they are not large enough to trade in your old 1200's for, unlike trading for pdx2000's/ttx1's which both could be considered a real upgrade. So all in all I give these a thumbs up, albeit a small one.

Rating - 8/10

 



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