Yesterday will go down as quite a momentous day in the history of DJ turntables. After an eight year absence, legendary and iconic brand Technics brought forth their iterative take on what their audience wants in the shape of the SL-1210 MK7 (for that is its name in my hood), and immediately highlighted just how much the turntable market had changed in that time.
And on the same day (journalistically speaking), considerably lesser known German DJ manufacturer Reloop updated their revolutionary RP-8000 to a natural evolutionary MK2 status. The DJ world gasped, and the differences in products, prices, and tribes started to become quite apparent.
Indeed, Turntable Tuesday became the day that the polarising effects of technology, brands, and ultimately people were amplified with great clarity.
If I were to do an SL-1200 MK7 vs RP-8000 MK2 comparison based on published features and numbers alone, the 1200 would come up a poor second, especially when you factor in the confirmed UK price of £899 — that’s almost 60% more than the Reloop.
Oooh the gasps of dismay and subsequent keyboard hammering from yeah-butting Technics fans is palpable. How dare I say that a crappy Chinese superOEM is better than a decades-deep iconic Japanese brand. But do you really want me to make a marketing friendly chart that shows a column of green ticks under the 8000 MK2, and a disturbing number of red crosses against the SL-1210 MK7 in comparison? These are facts, backed up by numbers and words.
But that doesn’t make one better than the other, nor did I say that it did. Read this article for further explanation of the folly of “better”.
Instead, we need to think about why £899 is acceptable to some, and the lack of 50% pitch makes the MK7 a complete non-starter. So you have to look at the tribes supporting the products to understand that buying tech is often so much more than numbers and prices.
IT’S ABOUT THE PEOPLE
One thing that is becoming increasingly apparent with my advancing years is just how much human nature plays in seemingly arbitrary fact-based decisions. I read a good example many years ago about someone who so desperately wanted to buy a then-sexy Volvo 480 (it has not stood the test of time). At launch, it was one of the sexiest cars on the road, but the writer decided that a more informed decision needed to be made. So a list of potential models with features carefully measured was made. And from this, a short list of test drives was undertaken, leading the writer make the totally expected decision of buying the 480, because that’s what his heart wanted. Screw his brain and its stupid facts.
I’m just as guilty. Unless something turns up in the meantime, I’ll be throwing money in the direction of Sony for an A7R III* camera. There are arguably better cameras on the market with higher this and that, but I want the Sony. Specs be damned — I know what I want and my heart is set. Sorry Drew.
* What I really want is a Hasselblad. Maybe in a few years.
These decisions are driven by all kinds of factors. And it’s here where we find the key differences between potential Technics and Reloop buyers.
The main overwhelming reason for buying Technics is established quality that permeates the product and the brand. From the feel-good factor of the logo, to the bullet proof longevity, buying a 1200 means that you feel safe. Your needs are not complex or boundary pushing — it plays vinyl dependably each and every time for decades in a row.
A 1200 largely keeps its value, and in reality is a timeless heirloom. People will always want to play vinyl, and a 1200 will always deliver on that promise. It plays to established strengths and appeals to a particular type of person, and that person takes comfort in brands that they trust. It is a badge of honour that garners the nods of fellow Technics owners.
Thus a Technics 1200 is a safe and dependable purchase on a number of levels. It is the IBM of the DJ world. But safe is also…
The RP-8000 MK2 appeals to an entirely different demographic. To them, a 1200 is a woefully underspecced box deliberately trapped in the past and trading on heritage in the absence of features. Presented alongside the RP-8000 MK2 is the promise of excitement — of the ability to do so much more than just mixing tracks within a ridiculously limited 8% range. And you have to pay how much for it?
Indeed, the absence of ultra pitch was the first thing being thrown around at first sight of the MK7. And that was before the 8000 MK2 was even out there in their hearts and minds. 50% pitch, topped off with all those buttons and MIDI amongst others just emphasised the yawning gap between old and new turntables.
This demographic is not swayed by the persuasive point of quality and longevity. Indeed, these DJs are positively hoping that the RP-8000 MK2 is replaced in 3 years with yet another slice of nextlevelness. It is their expectation that £500+ on a turntable over a particular period of time is worth every penny for all the boundary pushing fun they’ll be able to get out of it.
Alternatively it could just fulfil a need to be an early adopter of the latest stuff. This demographic loves the thrill of the new — the game of working around issues, knowing that adaptation and change is good. The challenge that comes with progress is to them well worth it.
For them, it’s the features that count. That could be any logo on there. I’ve barely heard a noise about Reloop as the brand — the chatter has only been about the features being delivered on the RP-8000 MK2 and partnering Elite mixer. I imagine that this is because Reloop’s brand ID doesn’t instil the tribal movement that Technics does. Nobody is wearing a Reloop t-shirt as a badge of honour. Not yet anyway — yesterday may see that slowly change.
APPLES AND ORANGES — RELOOPS AND TECHNICS
Comparisons between brand new turntables, especially ones so visibly similar are natural. But the on-paper approach alone is flawed without looking at the customers. Both are outstanding turntables in their own ways, but equally useless to their opposing demographic.
Thus online rucks between opposing sides are doomed to be a pointless circular war of full caps words where nobody wins. If I positively need 50% pitch, why are you arguing with me that the 1200 is better? Equally if I require the established quality and brand fulfilment that the iconic Technic logo brings, why are you mad at me for not wanting your rebadged cookie cutter factory superOEM?
Summing up — it’s not about the numbers. It’s all about people, their perceptions, and their perspectives. It always has been, and always will be. And once you understand that, you can happily go about your DJing life and not give a crap about what other DJs use. Because in the scheme of things, it absolutely does not matter one little bit to your music choice and ability to do what DJs do.