Panasonic, the company that still owns the Technics name, is engineering what it says is an all-new direct drive turntable.
And it certainly looks beautiful. Looks are all we get, as a prototype shown at Berlin’s IFA electronics show is just a futuristic aluminum slab with a platter on it. But as far as aesthetics, the company isn’t messing around: this thing looks like something you’d find in the listening lounge of a flying saucer.
Also interesting: just as Pioneer has done with their (excellent, by the way) new turntables, with the Technics model there’s a whole lot of new engineering. Japan seems to prefer doing that to simply reissuing the legendary Technics 1200 – and in the case of the Pioneer model, at least, the results work.
But, while DJs ears ring the moment they hear Technics (okay, DJs’ ears are generally ringing all the time), that doesn’t necessarily mean this is really DJ news.
— Patrice Bouedibela (@PatriceBerlin) September 2, 2015
Remember, there are essentially two vinyl revivals happening at once: there’s the DJ enthusiasm for the format, but there’s also the consumer side. And by consumer side, it’s not so much the kids picking up reissues at Hot Topic and Urban Outfitters an electronics giant might want to target. Think, rather, high-end audiophile customers. These are the types of people who will be impressed by the repeated references to “analog” turntables in a preview by Wired, whereas the rest of us might note that a phonograph is the very definition of analog, and that’s sort of redundant. (I mean, it’s obviously not a LaserDisc player. Well… although the styling might match.)
Speaking through a translator, a Panasonic representative doesn’t say much, but he is quick to use the phrase “high-end.” And sure enough, the Technics turntable announcement accompanies Technics-branded “premium headphones,” networked amp, and Hi-Fi all in one.
We live in a world where some people increasingly have an awful lot of money, and as with the gold-plated Apple Watch, you can expect electronics makers will start to plot how to separate those Scrooge McDuck-style wads of cash from their owners. (For more evidence this might be Panasonic’s strategy, look no further than the 4G-quality security camera system they’re apparently also hawking at IFA. You know you’re rich when you start filming security on your grounds in IMAX 3D, I suspect.)
In the tried-and-true history of audiophile equipment, then, Technics is targeting that demographic – people willing to spend more for better sound (or certainly the impression of high-end, recognizing those two aren’t always one and the same). Technics’ lineup since last year’s reboot by Panasonic have been squarely in that category, with reference systems running into five-digit price points.
And the video from last year’s IFA neatly sums things up. The whole line is marketed, literally, to people getting older who remember this stuff (that’ll be my Generation X and up). In fact, the marketing, with pounding heartbeat in back and nostalgic references to dust, comes across as music as mid-life crisis, part Viagra ad, part car ad, just with warm and fuzzy record noises:
And I do mean Viagra ad:
“Time has gone by … you’ve grown older. But the passion still lives deep inside of you. Rediscover the passion.”
Yeah, shut up Technics; you’re making me feel $#&*(ing old just because I remember mix tapes. I know I’m not as young as I used to be. I don’t have to rediscover anything, damnit! Wait… what were we talking about again?
Oh yeah. For more nostalgia:
So, that’s the audiophile angle.
The question is whether Panasonic can successfully cater to both at once. After all, DJing is now inseparable from the definition of what a turntable is. And:
- It’s direct drive.
- Panasonic does say the legacy of the 1200 series is part of what they hope to reinvigorate.
- Patrice Bouedibela, the Berlin-based DJ who shot the pic above, is himself a DJ and tells me “more to be announced this winter!” via Twitter.
I’m intrigued. We’ll be watching. The turntable is due some time in 2016.
And if you want something out now, this is clearly the successor to the 1200s to watch: