2 years on: The post-Technics age


© All rights reserved by CenterfortheArtsEagleRock

Just about 2 years ago, the DJ world was rocked to its core with the news that the founding father, indeed the corner-stone of the DJ scene was shutting up shop. Panasonic had kept things going for as long as they could, but with the global economy being in the toilet, and the continuing onslaught of digital technology hammering nails in the coffin each day, the decision was taken to retire the mighty Technics brand.

After a flurry of online activity, with alleged confirmation coming from diverse sources all over the world, it was only after prompting Panasonic UK via Twitter that finally saw official confirmation appear on the Panasonic site. This was greeted with a wide range of responses – some emotional, some practical, and some knee jerk proclaiming the end of DJing. So what has really happened in this post-Technics world?

Why did Technics have to die?

Firstly, we need to understand the non-romantic hard-nosed business process behind the decision to close down Technics brand. If we look back 10 years, every DJ worth their salt was buying turntables. And then CDJs came along, thus turning the previously vinyl and turntable dominated DJ world on its head. Slowly but surely the hot release images in DJ Mag turned from record labels to CD covers, clearly indicating the way things were heading. And the sales of turntables reflected this too.

And then came controllers. Turntables were struggling to hold their own against CDJs, and the entry-level market had no reason to “keep it real”, especially as their whole life and music collection was in the modern form of a download. And while DVS systems kept turntable sales just about ticking over, it was clear that some cold hard decisions needed to be made. And that’s what Panasonic did. If even they couldn’t sell enough decks to be profitable, then nobody could.

So despite the iconic image, the heritage and outright cool factor of the Technics badge, at a time when people were losing jobs and more profitable divisions are being closed down, there was little business sense in keeping the brand going. It’s not like there’s a big Technics machine where you type in a number and out the other end comes another 1000 spanking new 1200s – there’s a whole world of production concerns such as renewing expensive tooling, setting up a production line to run another batch of decks, as well as making special orders for parts, and we also have to factor in the spiralling increases in raw materials and shipping around the world. And although many of you wouldn’t think so, the exchange rate makes a big difference as well.

There are no economies of scale when it comes to knocking out a the limited quantities that the market was wanting. So the advance of digital technology and the global economy meant that it simply wasn’t feasible to keep Technics going.

Where are we now?

Looking over a 5 year period, we can paint some broad strokes about trends. Despite the demise of the mighty 1200s, nobody has really picked up the slack. Sales figures for other brands look pretty consistent, but still a fraction of their heyday. From an all brand turntable perspective, over a 5 year period we’re talking about dropping to an estimated 3K units globally per year, and that includes all the USB types as well. So post-October 2010 (the alleged end of days), sales have dropped overall, but people are still buying turntables, just not in the quantities they used to.

Media players continue to sell well – again, not quite in the numbers that the original CDJs did, but good enough for companies to keep making them. I see this as users having dropped quite a lot of cash on the original ones, and not having a compelling reason to upgrade. Indeed, I’d say many are not even looking to upgrade their OG CDJs and are migrating to controllers.

And this is where the real eye opener is – sales figures for controllers are insane. Over a 5 year period (probably from the start of the Vestax VCI-100), sales have exploded by 500%, and currently outsell all other major product groups put together. It would be indiscreet of me to highlight brands and actual sales numbers, but it goes without saying that controllers are where its at these days.

What of Technics in the market place?

There are still some in the retail chain, albeit in single numbers, but selling for hugely inflated prices. I did come across a picture of pallets of Technics, and after some detective work contacted someone who knew about them, but the people allegedly in possession of the pile of raw turntable Gold didn’t seem keen to offer any more information. So I’m calling fake on that one to be honest.

What people thought would happen didn’t. It was expected that second-hand prices would boom, giving owners a nest egg and pension all in one. But when you consider that there are an estimated 3 million Technics decks in circulation, there’s more than enough to satisfy the ever falling demand, even if it is just to butcher to get spares. Indeed one retailer I spoke with has found that there’s more money in picking up cheap 1200s on eBay and refurbishing them than stocking new turntables.

And this prettying up of old gear has seen a number of individuals and small businesses pop up with the sole intention of keeping old Technics going, as well as taking a raw turntable and making into the JD equivalent of a hot rod custom car. There are some quite stunning examples of pimped decks out there, but you’ve got to have deep pockets to do some of the custom jobs available out there.

Where is the DJ scene now?

Despite the Mayan style prediction of the end of the DJ world as we know it, we’re all still here. DJs are still making people move every night of the week, and those who were using Technics before are almost certainly still using Technics now. I’d say that the DJ scene is more vibrant and exciting than ever before.

But I would say we’re in a state of flux at the moment though, where the walls between hardware styles are broken down, and all DJs are open to using all DJ gear. That said, controllers have all rapidly evolved to a point of parity, where they’re all coming out with much the same units, and it’s proving very hard to pick standout units anymore.

Bar some new products, I’d say that we’re in more or less the same place as we were 2 years when the news dropped, and I don’t see anything really changing from a turntable perspective either. There’s no financial incentive for any manufacturer to drop R&D into a product group that is shrinking each month. As a product, the turntable has reached its evolutionary pinnacle, and there’s nothing that could be done that will make them sell more.

For those who have used them, there is an undeniable and untouchable feeling about working with turntables. Perhaps the cyclical nature of life will see some people return to them, and others to discover them for the first time, and for them to continue to play a key part in not just the history but also the future of DJing.

So there really was no need for apocalyptic prophesies based on romantic notions of what the DJ scene is about. It’s about the music and the people – the gear is a part of it, but a tiny part in the whole scheme of things. And the DJ scene is most certainly bigger than any one brand.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511709777 Daniel Morse

    They are going dirt cheap second hand. Got a set for under £500…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1137292039 Ronald Edwards

      If you get them, get yourself a Vinyl recorder as well. Records are getting harder to find and new tunes rarely come out on LPs anymore.

      • CutSelekta

        not true, check hhv.de as an example, there is plenty of vinyl to choose from, ppl are just brainwashed and spoiled these days, its much easier to get vinyl than 10 years ago. And nothing beats the durabilty of a Technics, controllers are just toys. New ones are coming out every month so the value of these toys start to decrease drasticlty as soon as you purchased one. A 1200 is a good investment as the value stays healthy. Pioneer CDJs are kewl but none of them can come close to manipulating wax or DVS.

        • Apoplexia Music

          and let’s not forget how many labels release 12″ singles…just have a look at http://boomkat.com/vinyl

  • Ryan Supak

    Fantastic article, thanks.

    This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the quality of a DJ’s work (so noone should take offense), but one thing about 1200s that deserves celebration is that they are not disposable commodities like controllers are. What percentage of controllers purchased stay in a gigging rig for even 3 years, I wonder?

    rs

    • http://www.facebook.com/cpk1971 Charles Kincy

      Numark NS7s will probably make it to that 3 year point, but I can’t think of anything else. I got about 18 months out of a Numark NS6–but the Pioneer DDJ-SX was too compelling to ignore.

    • http://twitter.com/JayEfEm james marshall

      vci 100s maybe 400s, still see pics of paul van dyk and a vcm 600. skrillex used a trigger figger for how long? doesn’t help the argument i know…

    • http://www.facebook.com/JunkieDildo Carlos JunkieDildo Solis

      Tell you about mine in two years…

    • http://www.facebook.com/jacob.stadtfeld Jacob Lego Stadtfeld

      There definitely are some heavyweights, like the VCI’s, NS7, Denon DNMC6000, and some of the Pioneer line (and frankly, all the original RMX’s from Hercules that acquaintances own are still running, if a little outdated). If you’re speaking of the build quality, as someone who’s only ever used a controller, I’d be more worried about the delicate moving parts on a 1200, like the tone arm, than any piece of a well-built controller. But both situations necessitate the need to simply take good care of your gear.

      As far as the Apple syndrome, the industry is moving very quickly, with the hardware trying to keep up with the constantly-updated software. As I mentioned, the Hercules RMX is still a solid piece of kit, but there are later models from all manufacturers that I’d pick instead simply because they are built to utilize features on later versions of software. Each successive purchase is outdated within two years. 1200’s have simply reached the golden level of “classic,” something that very few controllers have achieved.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1137292039 Ronald Edwards

      I used to DJ on Vinyl and found it extremely limiting. CDs were a little better but lacked the tactile feedback… controllers have the best of both worlds and while the controller I use now might be different in 3 years, that’s the nature of the business, people are making new and wonderful things for controllers and that just wasn’t the case 15 years ago.

      • Ryan Supak

        I have a theory about this, and it might turn out to be dead wrong. But my theory is that they’ll refine and improve the controller concept until we end up with something almost exactly like…a 1200 with a Dicer on it. Only they will cost $1500 apiece and I won’t be able to play a Johnny Cash LP on it.

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  • http://twitter.com/SenjorFromJapan jaank

    Got a pair of nice MK2-s for 350£. No lack of 1200s in the UK.

  • lauti

    I think, after gold or silver, theres nothing better than to invest in a technics tt

  • Rev

    Agreed, awesome article. You can’t stop evolution but you can look back with tear of nostalgia in your eye. RIP Technics. So glad to have grown in a time when with vinyl was god.

  • TJP

    I really liked the SL-DZ1200. Such a great looking device. They should simplify it (remove the CD drive, transport controls, display, hot cues, sampler and effects), and re-release it as a controller. Keep it simple, let mixers like the Z2 and boxes like the X1 and F1 do the heavy stuff.

    • http://www.djbis.com Bis

      I would love that. So crazy to see that website. 2004 all the way.

  • mac

    250 – 300 euro as ever for a nice pair. And I got 2 LTD’s and 3 1200’s. Love them. Adore them. Will never part.

  • joshua

    I have a Vestax Controller 1 turntable in my collection of gear. Although it has midi in it does not have midi out. I think if this type of turntable was marketed it would fit more with current times and allow the turntable a more central part in recent times. Honestly if you have not seen a controller 1 check it out and then tell me it would not be the ultimate turntable if it had midi in .With all the buttons on this beast the possibilities would be endless.I love my turntables but it seems like they are slowly being choked out .If they marketed a turntable like the c1 they may have cashed in a little longer but who knows if the time and effort would have paid off we’ll never know . I do think that if turntables where marketed to work more with the latest products the use would not have declined so much in recent times.Like i said if the controller 1 had midi out I could have full control over so many things and still just work with two decks and a mixer oh well

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1137292039 Ronald Edwards

    I’m a little surprised that the big name Turntable makers just let the controller market sneak up on them and then take over. Sure, turntables can be nice for scratching, but they’re simply not as capable as controllers are with computers and that’s the honest truth. I would have figured that when the market started to slow down for turntables, Panasonic would have done SOME research to see where the DJ market is going and done something about it… like Pioneer did. Granted, you don’t have to have every bell and whistle on your controller, but if you’re the premiere manufacturer for turntables and you don’t see the writing on the wall and you don’t react to the changes in the industry, by obstinately not making a controller like your turntables and mixers, maybe you deserve to be obsoleted… oh and because Panasonic never made a Technics Controller, they basically gave their market to Pioneer. The marketing manger at Panasonic DJ gear needs to be FIRED and replaced with someone who is in touch with what people want. I think the Technics name alone would inspire people to buy a Controller with that name on it… but then those people would be expecting the BEST OF THE BEST Controller.

    • Ryan Supak

      If Technics made a controller, something like a 1200 with a Dicer in it that transmitted HID, I’d give it a serious look.

      • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

        1. Technics aren’t making anything ever again.

        2. The 1200 was adopted by DJs, but not made for them. It was tweaked to make it more suitable, but subsequent products were average at best. Their track record really wasn’t that good.

        • Ryan Supak

          If not Technics, then anybody with the manufacturing infrastructure and decades of electrical engineering background to make a thing that truly stands the test of time. I think, as of 2013, you could probably count the companies on one hand who could pull it off, sadly…

        • CutSelekta

          the technics MK2 and later models were made for DJ’s, the MK1 was a consumer/hifi deck. Get your facts straight and dont let the ignorant stories you read brainwash you. nuff said

          • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

            Ummm… didn’t I say that? My facts are quite straight. The 1200 was an audiophile deck that was adopted by DJs. It was never a DJ deck. Technics revised the MK2 to cater for the DJs who were using it and the rest is history. The subsequent products I speak of are the mixers and CD deck. I am neither ignorant nor brainwashed.

            • CutSelekta

              the initial 1200 from 1971 was a hifi deck. The 1979 version was a DJ deck meant for radio stations and clubs. Explain to me why an audiophile consumer would need a sliding pitch control? It doesn’t make any sense, that pitch slider was build cause the SL-1600/1700/1800 MK2s where already being used at radio stations and clubs in late 70s..so the MK2 was constructed to make mixing go easier and it had a wider pitch range than the +-6% on the earlier models. Also the heavy build construction was meant for reducing feedback noise in Clubs. So basicly the MK1 was hifi, the MK2 and later models were DJ decks but also accepted by audiophile comsumers.

  • Roo

    being in a situation like this http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204712904578091520438721316.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
    it makes sense for Panasonic to shut down divisions with risk.

  • Guest

    “From an all brand turntable perspective, over a 5 year period we’re
    talking about dropping to an estimated 3K units globally per year, and
    that includes all the USB types as well.”

    Gizmo, 3K must be a typo. You mean 3 mil, right?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=508322478 Justin James

      a later paragraph mentions there are currently an estimated 3 million technics in circulation, total. That would make selling an additional 3 million units per year unlikely.

      • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

        Yeah I meant to respond with exactly that. Turntable sales are minimal now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamflava Saqib Rasul

    As soon as I found out they stopped production, I bought 2 new ones. Some day my kids will thanks me :)

    • http://twitter.com/KoenBrinkerink Koen Brinkerink

      I would have been better off doing the same, though I haven’t. Instead I bought two used and abused ones. Whenever I get a decent job one of the first things I’m going to do is to get my sl’s completely refurbished, then I can have peace with my basic setup. Perhaps some day product can be started as a kickstarter project or similar (considering buying patents etc).

      Lol; I’m just checking out a major dj gear player in the Netherlands, they are selling the 1210 MK5 at 1200 euro’s a piece, and the MK5G for a stunning 1490. The F*ck. At the time being they costed about 550, right?

  • http://www.facebook.com/rhoades.kevin Kevin Rhoades

    Weird to see this website still up after all this time http://www.panasonic.com/consumer_electronics/technics_dj/flash.asp

  • maximillian

    The Pioneer CDJ was well-poised to be the takeover DJ tool after the 1200, and evolved from CDs to USB stix and beyond with the digital revolution… And perhaps it kind of did briefly when the first CDJs were coming out…but what I can’t understand is how Pioneer puts their CDJ 900/1000/2000 price points so high (in all honesty, the cheaper CDJs and models don’t cut it). $2k for a single CDJ-2000? Who the hell can afford that besides a club? They have put themselves out of reach for the normal ‘home’ DJ and start-up newcomer DJ. Only rich kids will get them. They are leaving a big hole in the market for cheaper controller solutions to sneak in. Heck, I can find 1200s for $300-$400 used online. Problem is, I don’t know of any controller that has the hands-on, physical hardware feel of the 1200 or CDJ (which came damn close to a 1200). Folks say it is exciting to have this myriad of DJ tool options. I just think it makes things too complicated. It was nice when there was one tool *that was affordable* with a box of records.

    • bas

      Yes, am thinking the same..pioneer should take the side (left or right ;-) from the ddj sx, and make that the perfect per deck hands on cdj style midi controller no cd slot, no soundcard, just midi/hid.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/Thebluebird1 Joe B Bluewiththebird

    Had my tech 1200’s for over 20 years, I love them, And they play every single record just fine. No Breaks, only cuts and scratches :-)

  • Jose Silva

    It sucks.

  • Guest

    Though the article piece stirs uo conversation within the dj culture…I have a problem with the coverage of this article. Where are and who are you referencing to back up your claims? Im shocked at the fact that this piece never quoted or spoek to anyone from PANASONIC or TECHNICS! I mean really? Aren’t these the that your reporting on? Im a DJ and have been a successful one at that for some time now and I’ve seen a lot of gadgets come and go but this article seem to be written of the perspective of some guys opinion and no facts! BACK YOUR FACTS! QUOTE WHERE YOUR GETTING YOUR INFO FROM!

    • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

      The article is obviously in part opinion, on market intelligence, but also a very generous serving of common sense. And the official Panasonic statement – http://www.panasonic.co.uk/html/en_GB/8290308/index.html – backs up anything I said about what Technics had to close.

      Is there anything in particular that has upset you that I can perhaps shed some light upon? Reading my article again, I can’t see anything that is contentious, inflammatory or otherwise likely to cause a reaction needing FULL CAPS.

      • 3insanity

        Jesus Mark, Ever since you converted this website to Dj Worx its just been a bunch of whiney bitch’s. Show some respect for your elders! Mark Settle is OG and knows his stuff!

        • W

          +1 zero respect. The guy can barely string together a legible sentence – I don’t think you should even give comments like this the time of day…

  • Laurie H.

    Panasonic just re-launched Technics headphones last month. The DH1250 and the DJ1200’s. Maybe this means that the turntables will be relaunched too??? One can only hope!

    • http://www.djbis.com Bis

      Those sneaky bastards!!! Can you imagine?!

  • alex

    all i have to say to this is that i bought my m5g’s at a perfect time,iv’e used cdj’s (shame to say) for i minute. Overall for_me_ there is no better than any technics,but again that is my personal preference. We all saw this coming at some point anywayz _

  • Chuck
  • http://twitter.com/Cleenest Steve

    I don’t know how people are saying they’re getting them second hand for great deals unless they need repair/refurbishing like the article has mentioned. In the states these things go for quite a bit, especially when in good condition.

  • Mutis Mayfield

    It is still possible to upgrade any turntable into a controller (far away the DVS side) without losing its vinyl cappabilities but… Techs are dead (from the POV of business) and still we have a lot of fanboys arguing and wondering poetry about old times… Wake up! Do something or continue in your bubble but if you argue, make it with common sense.

    jm2c

    pd: http://vimeo.com/26625989

    We are still working on it and any help will be appreciated…

  • sub-mission

    to be fair usb controllers an cdj’s are all well and good iv got pioneers cdj’s in white and the only reason i have them is because the music i want is hard to get on vinyl .. its records that are dead in most genres now…. drum&bass seems to be the only one still alive with vinyl its a shame really because the sound quality of vinyl is so much better…..iv sill got my technics 1210’s mk2 in white and im never getting shot of em ever….. usb controllers and cdj’s have sync buttons whats that about !!!! what happend to people wanting to be creative!!!!

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  • DJ Vanzetti

    1200s for life there will be nothing as great and longlasting thank God for serato !!!

    • TM

      Amen, bro

      • Dj smoke1

        I agree… I started on cds but always had a love for turntables. Once I got a pair of Technic 1200s I never looked back. Just adapted with serato and midi map. The Tables will stay!!!!

  • Paul EQDJ

    What a fantastic read – the custom Technics modding looks to be an interesting industry development…especially liking the look of the above.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/djstayinschool Martin Wilson

    I guess I gotta accept I’m a DJ dinosaur, but I”m still just not able to get on board with the feel of any controllers out there… I’m hoping that the Traktor Z2 plus some transport deal + my trigger finger or MIDI Fighter for effects / loops/ etc. will work out, but… which is the transport controller gonna be?

  • http://www.facebook.com/morris.webb.9 Morris Webb

    That picture of a concrete turntable is quite confusing/painful to look at. Hmm, I know it’s not a real table but damn lol

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  • Michael Warren

    I had one pair 1200 Mk2 that i bought in 1895 that lasted me until this very day, so i understand why Technics were not making any money on their turntable division. I still was very shocked and sadden when Technic decided to stop selling the iconic turntable. I also since then bought a new pair 1210 MK5’s and used pair of 1200 MD’s and i’m looking into the M5G’s or a custom pair… Long Live 1200’s.

    • sl1210

      Shit man didn’t know they sell the Mk2 in 1895!

  • SC

    I still have my Mk3D’s from when I first got them when I was 13.. Little different now though:

    http://sexualcastles.deviantart.com/art/1210-6-431769836

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  • richard

    The first change is learning peoples to remove their ancient onboard components for good once, same for tone arm and rca cable. Besides that is in fact normal maintence from a object, not really normal i have nodiced, so cleacing tone arm height adjustment + cleaning and replace the cables….. If peoples can do that themshleves , that would be such a progress and you need to know it. Spring 3 hours a day on virtual music makers and understanding that, then the whole technics is sich a easy table.