Technics SL-1000R turntable/arm

hfnoutstanding.pngTwo years since the rebirth of the iconic SL-1200, Panasonic's high-end brand is back with its flagship direct-drive turntable. It had to be special, and so it proved

The vinyl market hit rock bottom in 2009, but has been growing ever since,' says Technics' Tetsuya Itani, adding that, 'we foresee this trend will last.' And that, in a nutshell, is why one of the world's most iconic turntables has been relaunched. Panasonic – the brand's parent company – is not in the business of being nostalgic, remembering the glory days of vinyl, flared trousers and disco dancing. Instead, the reappearance of the SP-10 family is all about the here and now.

Two years on from the launch of the superb SL-1200GAE [HFN Jun '16], the brand is back with a flagship broadcast-standard turntable worthy of the name. The SP-10R is the motor unit, and when supplied in its bespoke plinth with Technics' new tonearm, the package becomes the 'Reference Class' SL-1000R, and sells for a cool £20,000.

Respect The Deck
Any analogue aficionado will respect the SP-10 line, given that it set the reference standard for professional/broadcast applications for 15 years or so, before Compact Disc arrived [see The Legendary SP-10 sidebar]. With ten engineers working for two years on the SP-10 project, it's essential to understand that this isn't a simple restyle of the old deck, but a clean sheet design.

At its heart is the new coreless direct-drive motor, developed for the SL-1200G series and further improved here. A twin-rotor design, it employs coils on both sides for a 12-pole, 18-coil drive that delivers massive torque. Indeed, on the highest of its five user-selectable torque settings, you have to apply serious effort to the rim of the platter to slow it down at all.

Technics claims 0.015% wow and flutter [see PM's Lab Report], which is on the limit of measurement. The 7.9kg platter is a laminate of diecast aluminium, a 10mm-thick brass sheet and a rubber damping material that's applied underneath. Furthermore, a series of 12 tungsten cylinders are precision-fitted into the periphery of the platter, giving a claimed inertial mass of approximately 1 ton/cm.

The control unit offers an OLED digital display of the speed (33.33, 45 and 78rpm), but also the chosen playing speed expressed as a percentage (45.11%, when the pitch is increased, for example), in addition to the actual rpm (i.e.. 33.33). Rotational speed can be set to two decimal places, ±16%. Pressing the control unit's up/down speed buttons and the reset button brings you into the torque control menu, where – as per the SL-1200G – you can select the amount of grunt that the motor serves up to spin the platter.

Tetsuya Itani points out that, 'some users appreciate this facility, to tune the sound. It affects this and also the start-up speed, but doesn't affect speed stability.' The control unit also contains the deck's switchmode power supply, and was designed to be the same size as that of the earlier Technics SP-10s.

Stable Thinking
Technics says that the new motor unit's chassis is more rigid than in earlier versions, with a better main bearing arrangement. It offers a lower centre of gravity, thanks to two heavy stainless steel weights at the bottom of the chassis, and has a three-tier construction, including a 25mm aluminium top panel, diecast aluminium main section and carcass fashioned from Technics' Bulk Moulding Compound (BMC).

The plinth in which it sits is a two-layer design with a 30mm aluminium top panel and BMC base. The feet have a diecast zinc shell, inside which there is silicone rubber reinforced by cylindrical polymer tubes. Incidentally, the SP-10R's motor unit has also been designed as a direct fit into legacy SP-10MK2 and SP-10MK3 plinth systems, should users of these decks wish to upgrade. The deck can also take up to two more tonearm bases for a variety of arms and these are fitted via concealed panels in the side of the plinth.


Although it's not quite the star attraction of this package, the design team has still paid serious attention to the tonearm. It's a longer version of that fitted to the SL-1200G, being a universal S-shape type with 254mm (10in) effective length from the tonearm pivot to the stylus. It sports a beautifully finished lightweight magnesium tube, with gimbal suspension and precision bearings. It's hand-assembled and adjusted, and oxygen-free copper wiring is fitted internally. The knurled, cylindrical base rotates to offer an elegant system for height adjustment (0-15mm), and the counterweight and bias adjusters have a measured, high precision action. Auxiliary balance weights are supplied to support a cartridge/headshell weight range of 15.9 to 31g, no less.

As you would expect, the well-designed packaging is extremely sturdy. I rather like the fact that it is totally plain, the manufacturer having expended no effort trying to 'tart it up' to the elaborate standards of some high-end hi-fi brands – it's just like any other Panasonic consumer electronic product, and none the worse for it. The instruction manual is thorough, and gives concise step-by-step set-up instructions that make it very clear that removing the deck from its packing is a two-man job due to its 40.2kg weight.

The decision to recess the 5-pin arm socket quite deep into the rear of the plinth is annoying however, as it makes access difficult. Oddly, no arm cable or headshell is supplied, and Itani-san suggests this is because customers will already have their own favourite brands of these items. Frankly, I think it wiser to bundle starter versions all the same – you would think that at £20,000, the company could afford it...

In use, the deck is a pure joy, its large, sturdy plinth making hand cueing a pleasure. The tonearm feels silky and the motor unit is beautiful to see in action, but the control box can be fiddly to operate if you want to get to sub-menus like the torque setting, for example. There is no denying that this behemoth feels extremely solid, but I was surprised to find that the base is not totally silent when rapped by the knuckles in some positions.

sqnote.jpgOpen Sesame
Any great turntable gives you a certain frisson when you hear it. It's that old 'shivers down the spine' feeling, a sense of being let into a world to which you had previously not been privy. Auditioned with a Lyra Etna SL MC [HFN May '18] and a pristine Technics EPC205CMK3 MM, the SL-10/i00R does exactly this, giving a wide-open window on the recording and stepping back to let listeners hear for themselves precisely what's going on.

Panasonic Corporation
Osaka, Japan
Supplied by: Panasonic UK, Berks
0844 844 3899