New Limited Edition Technics SL-1210GAE Looks and Sounds Great

In the blink of a vinyl resurgence Technics went from retiring in 2010 the venerable SL-1200 turntable to resurrecting it six years later with two all new “Grand Class” 1200s aimed not at the DJ market as was the original 1200, but at audiophiles.

The limited to 1200 units SL-1200GAE quickly sold out. In 2017 we reviewed the SL-1200G, which other than having a different magnesium tone arm finish and minus a plaque was identical to the limited edition SL-1200GAE.

To celebrate the company’s 55th anniversary, Technics just introduced a new, limited to 1000 units worldwide, SL-1210GAE, with an American list price of $3999.99 not including a cartridge.

The differences between the new turntable and the original SL-1200GAE are for the most part cosmetic, though the footers have been changed to incorporate the silicon gel used in the 'flagship' SL-1000R. The SL-1210GAE’s top plate is a dramatic-looking anodized black brushed hairline finish. The operating buttons and the magnesium tone arm are also black-finished. Affixed to the top plate is a numbered 55th anniversary plaque.

The one new operating feature is the ability to extinguish the in some situations distracting strobe light. Some listeners claim that the strobe light’s operation produces noise so being able to extinguish it should make it possible to test that claim (I didn’t), Otherwise the new turntable’s statistics and features appear identical to the original’s and equally impressive but rather than repeat them here, click on the above hyperlink and read the 1200G review. Here are the new ‘table’s Platterspeed measurements, which theoretically should have been nearly identical to the 1200G’s extremely good ones and were:

Other Facts

Technics has changed its spec sheet to reflect that the “effective length” is the pivot to spindle distance (here, 215mm) plus the overhang (15mm), which is how most arm designers describe it. Previously Technics listed the pivot to spindle distance as the “effective length” and that produced confusion for some (like me!). That’s a worthwhile change.

Technics does not provide the arm’s effective mass but describes it as “lightweight” and gives the head shell mass as “approximately 7.6grams”. Generally speaking, a “low mass” arm would weigh 10 grams or less, a “medium mass” arm, 11-25 grams and an arm above 20 or 25 grams as a “high mass” arm.

So, if the Technics arm’s effective mass is, say, 8 grams plus 7.6 for the head shell that’s close to 15 grams, making the arm “medium mass”.

A Day’s Listen

I set up the SL-1210GAE for a single day’s listen just to refresh my memory using the high output (4 mV) version of Grado Labs’s new Timbre Series Opus3 moving iron cartridge ($275) driving the $999 Channel Island Audio < a href=https://www.analogplanet.com/content/ciaudios-punchy-pleasing-peq-mkii-dual-mono-mmmc-phono-preamplifier> PEQ MKII Dual Mono Phono Preamplifier also reviewed back in 2017, this time using the optional ($299) AC-15 MkII outboard power supply.

(I chose to do the set-up using Technics’ “not my idea of an accurate overhang” gauge and setting the VTF using the arm’s built in system. I also chose to use the standard mat: in other words, the “out of the box”, no accessories experience).

This brings the total cost to approximately $5573. I’m not here to tell you that’s “cheap”, but since you are reading this you know how high the price of a front end rig can go.

The Grado weighs 8 grams and compliance is 20µm/mN, so add 8 grams to the approximately 15 gram effective mass arm and the total is 23 grams. Based on the graph I have of effective mass versus compliance, that would put the arm/cartridge’s resonant frequency at around 7 or 8Hz—on the low end of acceptability or actually just outside the ideal 8-12Hz range. When I measured using the Hi-Fi News & Record Review Test Record (HFN001) I found the horizontal resonant frequency at 11Hz and the vertical at 9, both of which are acceptable. That means either the arm’s mass is lower than my estimate or the cartridge’s compliance is lower, or both. I’d bet on the arm’s mass being somewhat lower. In any case, the Grado Labs cartridge worked well and sounded really sweet and well-detailed. Have a listen to a minute of Ferit Odman’s all-analog Dameronia With Strings, which I hope is still in print! (EMLP0002).

File "1"

Conclusion

The SL-1210GAE is a limited edition with most going to Europe so if you want one, grab it while it’s available. When I think of what else is available at the price point, there is some good competition, but none built to this quality level. Built well, sounds and measures well and looks smart. Pair with an appropriate cartridge and you’re good to go.

COMMENTS
Anton D's picture

I got the bug and sprung for the prior 1200 GAE and love the magnesium arm.

Glad I don't have to face "upgrade-itis" with this baby.

I found the table to be worth the scratch. It is my MM table: Clearaudio V2 Ebony, an Acoustical Systems Fidelis, a vintage Empire 200Z with JICO stylus, a vintage Shure V15V-MR, and an Ortofon Concorde Century all take part....thanks to the best tonearm invention, ever: the detachable headshell.

Thanks you for taking the table seriously, it's a great 'toy!'

avanti1960's picture

Michael,
A HiFi News lab report of the SL 1200G's cheaper sibling the SL 1200GR listed the tonearm effective mass as "8 to 9g". Tonearm effective mass should include the stock headshell.
We would assume the new limited tonearm to be similar.
The vinyl audiophile public are clamoring for accurate information about the effective mass specification for these turntables. Can you please get to the bottom of this and request that the Technics representatives make this clear?

Tony
Chicago

Michael Fremer's picture
Since Technics lists the head shell mass as approximately 7.6 grams it's clear that their calculation is minus the head shell, which is like providing a car's weight minus the engine! Of course Hi-Fi News is a "sister publication" but "the bottom of it" is that HiFi News's calculation is mistaken and/or incomplete. The magnesium arm here doesn't weigh between .4g and 1.4g! On the other hand since Technics lists the head shell mass, why not also include the arm mass including head shell? One of life's great mysteries!
avanti1960's picture

effective mass and actual mass are related but not the same and in the case of tonearms apples to oranges.
effective mass for a tonearm would include a measure of its reactive mass, or how it responds to operational forces and and relating to inertia, counterweight mass and position, headshell mass and position and some degree of bearing friction.
in other words the effective system mass value of the arm and headshell can and most likely is less than the sum of the static mass values.

we nerdy audiophiles like to calculate system resonances to predict how a given cartridge will perform and the resultant resonant frequency to let us know if we are in the ball park- prior to cartridge purchase.

if you ever have the chance we would appreciate your additional follow up.

Michael Fremer's picture
I realize they are not identical and I've been advised that calculating "effective" mass is kind of difficult because the large mass hanging from the front end of the arm. I'm mathlexic and that's why I figured measuring the resonant frequency of the arm/mass system would provide better guidance.
avanti1960's picture

implore Technics to publish the spec like most other tonearm and turntable manufacturers.
there are serious audiophiles who are agonizing over cartridge selections because they cannot plug an authorized EM into the resonance calculations.
some believe the hifi news tests are not accurate either.
of course the other open variable is the compliance spec. many are also agonizing because Japanese cartridges publish the compliance spec at 100hz which cannot be linearly converted to the 10hz compliance spec that the resonant frequency formula requires.

Ortofan's picture

... on the Ortofon website
[ https://www.ortofon.com/media/14924/resonance-frequency.png?height=500&q... ]
and referring to the cartridge specifications on the Grado website
[ https://gradolabs.com/cartridges/timbre-series/item/122-opus3 ],
based on the 9Hz vertical resonance frequency observed by MF,
the effective mass of the tonearm (including the headshell) on this Technics turntable would appear to be about 7g - assuming the weight of the mounting hardware is negligible.

Technics used to specify the effective mass for the aluminum arms on the older SL-1200 models as 12g. One might reasonably expect that the magnesium arm on this turntable would be lighter and, therefore, have a lower effective mass.

Tom L's picture

That one did make me laugh. Your career as a comedian isn't over!

Michael Fremer's picture
It's important to both inform and entertain!
airdronian's picture

Will you have any more thoughts/comments regarding Grado's Opus 3 forthcoming Michael ?

tgif's picture

Very nicely presented.
I suspect that with the current economic circumstances, such products are causing headaches to the manufacturers of poorly designed and way more expensive DD turntables.

Jim Tavegia's picture

Excellent bass extension and a very nice piano sound.

Anton D's picture

It would have been way cool to add the "multi" spindle and make this like the venerable SL 1650.

arcman67's picture

Looks like a nice cartridge

Michael Fremer's picture
I will
vinyl listener's picture

... is welcome as is the uniform blue color of all the lamps.
Previous SL1200 have had a really distracting rainbow of red, blue and green lights.

Spindle Spinner's picture

What about the strobe dots on the mat? They almost look photoshoped-in, the elipses don't match.

Ken71's picture

What are your thoughts on outfitting this table with a MC cartridge?

Vitamasos's picture

Why Technics only sends this new turntable with the Nagaoka cartridge to Europe and other countries and not to the United States...someone has any explanation

Spindle Spinner's picture

The strobe dots on the mat are part of an animation on the Technics website. So in a way they are photoshopped in, not on the actual product and serve no purpose. It seems I was the only one losing sleep about it :)

my new username's picture

I won't disagree on the first impression from that one-minute sample of the Opus3 provided here. My worry is if the mid bass boom I'm hearing, not uncommon with lower-cost Grados, remains a calling card here. But I'm not familiar with this recording, so like everyone look forward to the published review.

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