With the SL-1500C Technics Cuts the Price But Not the Sound Quality

Technics follows up on its successful re-entry into the turntable business (SL-1200 series, SP10R, SL1000R) with the SL1500C, a lower cost ($1199) direct drive turntable that features a version of the sophisticated coreless, single rotor direct drive motor used on its more costly turntables.

Here, the 13 inch, 4.5 pound (including rubber mat) platter is of die-cast aluminum, with its back surface damped by a rubber compound. The chassis is a dual layer design consisting of die cast aluminum and a rigidly integrated layer of ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) mixed with glass fiber. The feet combine springs and rubbers to produce “optimal damping characteristics”.

Technics provides this platter and chassis blow up:

The “S”-shaped aluminum arm with removable head shell looks similar to those found on more expensive Technics ‘tables. It has an effective length of 230mm (9 1/16th inches), with an overhang of 15mm and features the same gimbal bearing construction and machined housing used on the more costly ‘tables, though it’s doubtful the bearing tolerances are equally low. That said, unlike the arm included on the recently reviewed similarly priced Thorens TD402DD turntable, on this arm, zero play could be felt.

To keep the costs down Technics chose to eliminate the variable pitch control and “DJ light” found on some more costly models. That made easy the decision to remove the then superfluous inscribed platter strobe.

The threaded VTA/SRA adjustment feature found on the more costly turntables was also purged to save money yet you can still easiy and accurately adjust VTA/SRA. The arm mounts to a platform that, like the ones found on more costly ‘tables, can be raised or lowered—just not by rotating a knurled ring. Instead, after unlocking the platform )as you would on the other arms), you have to manually lift and/or lower the friction-fit platform, which will remain at the set height. Height marks on the platform’s side let you adjust and return to a previous setting.

Added features include an Ortofon 2M Red, built-in defeatable MM phono preamp, and end-of-play arm auto-lift. Contrary to some misinformation posted by a reader on this website under the Thorens review, the auto-lift feature is also defeatable via a rear panel mounted switch so if a record does have grooves beyond the auto-lift’s preset and not adjustable lift position, you can still play the entire side without the arm prematurely lifting.

The fit’n’finish of this turntable is outstanding. Observing the gap between the platter periphery and the raised chassis showed that the platter machining is impressively low tolerance. The only manufacturing gaffe was the out of round rubber mat—hardly a disqulifier.

In case you’re still wondering how Technics got the price down from $4000 for the SL-1200G to $1199 for the SL-1500C, the 1500C is manufactured in Malaysia rather than in Japan.

Easy Set Up With One Hitch

Setting up the ‘table is easy thanks in part to the pre-mounted (in the removable head shell) Ortofon 2M Red. It’s so basic a set-up procedure I won’t detail it. However, the instructions for choosing either the built-in phono preamp or using an outboard one (or one built into an integrated amplifier and receiver) are so unnecessarily complex and confusing that even this turntable set-up veteran had trouble following and/or understanding them!

Fortunately, the instruction manual that came with the review sample is labeled in bold letter “TENTATIVE”. I could write these and make them so much easier to understand…but it’s not my job! One oddity: the arm on the rest sits oddly “low to the ground”. At first I thought it might have been damaged in shipping but no, it just sits “low to the ground”.

Speed Accuracy and Consistency

As you can see the SL-1500C runs precisely “on speed” and its speed variations are as minimal as you’d hope for from a direct drive turntable or any turntable, particularly at this price point. As with the other, more costly Technics ‘tables this one can spin as well at 78.

Solid Sound, Impressive ‘Rhythm’n’Pacing’

Chrissie Hynde’s recent jazz album Valve Bone Woe (V.B.W. 538504491 2 LPs) is a first class affair featuring a big band and lush string section recorded at AIR Studios. The spacious recording featuring generous amounts of microphone leakage that lets you really hear the big former church’s acoustics gets a solid “9” for sound. Marius de Vries and Eldad Guetta almost steal the show respectively, with their production and arrangements, but Hynde demonstrates that she can torch it up with the greats and is 100% comfortable singing in this genre—it’s easy enough if you have the resources to hire the best musicians, arrangers and recording venues. It’s another thing to deliver it sufficiently well to not have participated in a disaster of one’s own making!

Eric Boulanger mastered the double LP, gatefold packaged set at his The Bakery (located in a no longer used projection booth/screening room on the Columbia Pictures Culver City lot) using a seriously upgraded ½ speed lathe previously owned by the late Stan Ricker. Optimal pressed in Germany.

In other words, this is not a “let’s cash in on the vinyl ‘craze’” production. Hynde put in the money to produce a worthwhile record and what’s in the grooves is commensurate with the production and the packaging. (I’ll shortly include the last few paragraphs in a more detailed record review!).

The built-in phono preamp is of the “gets the job done okay” variety. It’s quiet, but harmonically drab and texturally cardboardy (through a system with which in the real world this turntable will never be used!). Switching to either the very soon to be reviewed ELAC PPA-2 ($1249.98) or Parasound Zphono XRM ($595) demonstrated two things: first off that the Ortofon 2M Red is stupidly good for the money and beyond and that this turntable plays way beyond its price point, especially on bottom. The bottom end of this turntable (with that $100 cartridge) is surprisingly well-extended, nimble and free of additive baggage. The midrange is clean, transparent and well-balanced and the top while limited by the cartridge is natural. Dynamics are punchy too. The sound jumps from the speakers in three-dimensions.

Conclusion

The SL-1500C is sonically everything the similarly priced Thorens TD402DD is not (by the way, the auto-lift feature, while a bit mechanically clunky, works well, plus you can turn it off if you don’t like it). And while the Thorens, with its glossy wood-rimmed plinth looks more refined, the Technics minus the “DJ stuff” is sleek and modern looking.

I’m playing now Jerome Sabbagh’s recent AAA album No Filter (SSC 1522 LP) and I’m quite sure people listening here would never guess the front end’s cost—especially its ability to deliver macrodynamic contrasts. I’m thinking Techics engineers took everything learned in the design and production of the more costly turntables and found squeeze most of into the SL-1500C at a far lower cost. That’s how good this ‘table is.

I wish I could sit here with every ‘table at this price point and steer you to the best, but I can’t do that. However, while there may be a few “as goods” out there, I really can’t imagine one better at $1199.99. Out of the box the sound impresses—even more so with a good outboard phono preamp. With a better cartridge I can only imagine.

COMMENTS
GAAudioLVR's picture

Given the MRSP is within a reasonable amount, how would you rate it compared to the stock RPM 3?

Michael Fremer's picture
I had the time to compare the two but I do not....
WaltonGoggins's picture

Pro-Ject X1, however. The Pro-Ject, while not as dead-on speedwise, appears to be equal in stability. Otherwise...

Thoughts?

Michael Fremer's picture
Impossible to compare when both are not simultaneously here. I was thinking it would have been useful to compare the Technics with the X2... but...
Tom L's picture

..for me in my current situation.
Nothing against the Ortofon Red, which I have owned, but this TT deserves a better included cartridge.

Ortofan's picture

... some "misinformation" suggesting that the auto-lift feature on this Technics model was not defeatable?
My post stated the the auto-lift can be enabled/disabled via a switch on the back panel.
Someone else posted a link to a Darko video which also mentioned that the auto-lift could (and should) be turned off.

The output connection instructions are neither complex or confusing.
The set of output jacks labeled 'phono out' is used to connect to either an external phono stage or an amp with its own built-in phono stage and the external output switch is set to 'off'.
The set of output jacks labeled 'line out' is used to connect to an amplifier's line-level (auxiliary) input and the external output switch is set to 'on'.
https://www.gcaudio.com/images/uploads/929/technics_sl1500c_rear_panel_s...

Michael Fremer's picture
The printed instructions are confusing. Yours are not.
StonedBeatles1's picture

Not so long ago these Technics tables were all manufactured in Japan and went for around $500-$600. I do wish this table didn't have the cart (call me crazy but I sure miss my Sure M91ED), the internal pre-amp and was manufactured in Japan. Wonder if turning off the pre-amp creates some distortion within the signal path?

Given the price of turntables these days my bet is that this is as solid/durable as one can get for the money. Never thought I'd see Rabbi Mikey praising Technics? My, how corporate we've become..

When's the give-a-way contest for the tested model?! :)

Snorker's picture

Regarding the switch, no it will not create any distortion. The switch is only there to keep the signal grounds isolated when the phono output is used. There are two separate sets of RCA's so the paths are completely separate. Pretty smart implementation actually.

Incidentally, KAB offers an upgrade package for these with a tonearm fluid damper, re-wire and a clamp, among other things. https://www.kabusa.com/frameset.htm?/SL1500CSE.htm. No affiliation.

StonedBeatles1's picture

Thanks for your input.

Michael Fremer's picture
Where have you been? I've reviewed many Technics turntables here and in Stereophile...
StonedBeatles1's picture

I know boychick. I know..
But now you're singing a different tune :)

arcman67's picture

Michael, nice review!! I came really close to ordering this. Instead I ordered a 1200GR. One can purchase an Ortofon BLUE stylus to upgrade things a bit. What I was thinking was purchasing a much nicer cartridge and use the RED with records in not so great condition. Lot's of options with the removable headshell. In fact if I were happy with the built in Pre, I was going to purchase one of the REK-O-KUT 78 rpm preamps to use on the phono outs (I believe there's a switch on the rear to select line out or phono) for my 78's (with a 78 rpm cartridge).

robert r dawson's picture

sounds like a great table...but there's sumthin about that "bubble" in the dustcover that bugs the shit outa me.

arcman67's picture

The bubble is on my 1200Gr as well. I believe it's there to allow for Tonearm height adjustment. I would think it would be more economical (plus easier to pack) to have a little higher, flat dustcover made than have a large bubble installed (maybe not).

BENEDICT's picture

Hi there,

As owner and user of both the GAE and MK7 (performance quite similar to 1500c according to Technics management staff ) and using them both with Ortofon 2M black and Cadenza Red, What I have noticed so far :
- Soundstage wider and deeper (GAE)
- More detail (GAE)
- same Pace rythm and timing
Due to mass difference (18kgs Gae vs 9.6kgs) the mk7 is more sensible to resonance ( therefore I Isolate it by placing it on concrete block)

But for the price in Belgium, 990 eur vs 3.000 eur I think the MK7 is a huge bargain.

shib's picture

As a 50 year-old who grew up with the 1200's, a 1500 ain't a 1200. They should have named the upscale models the 1500, then brought back the 1200 name with the "affordable" version. Ditch the phono stage. Bring back the pitch control and strobe light. Keep it real. The bubble on the dust cover has always been there, and it should stay. If you don't like it, then you shouldn't be using a 1200. I still have one SL1200 mk2. Since I am now an old fuddy duddy, I run a 2005 VPI Scout. Sure it sounds better, but the 1200 is so much more fun to use. I now refrain from scratchin'.

shib's picture

Hahaha. I forgot about the GR. Still, I feel the spirit of the 1200 was the DJ scene. In my dreams the prices of the 1500 and GR should be switched. I paid $300 for my SL 1200 mk2. $1200 is a perfect price for a 1200, right? Paying $500 more for the pitch and strobe is ridiculous, even if the motor is better.

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