REVIEW: TECHNICS SL-1210MK7 – When you ask the often older hi-fi adepts about a vinyl icon in audio land, chances are that the Linn LP12 or the Technics SL-1200 turntable is mentioned. The nice thing is that both record players were introduced in 1972 and are still in production. And although Technics stopped building the SL-1200 for a number of years in the meantime, it feels to me as if the player has never left. A feeling that is of course reinforced or actually confirmed when I include the brand new SL-1210MK7 in my set.
Both the Linn LP12 and the Technics SL1200 were originally marketed as audiophile turntables. The LP12 has always maintained that status and has remained up to date over the years thanks to major and minor upgrades. The SL-1200 was discovered by the DJ scene and acquired a solid cult status there. This has everything to do with the enormously powerful Direct Drive technology that Technics uses for their turntables. At that time, players often used a string or idlerwheel (idler wheel) drive, which makes them unsuitable for the scratch technique or the exact mixing of two records. The Wikipedia pages of both players are very extensive and in-depth, with that of the Technics SL-1200 really taking the cake. Nice reading for enthusiasts,
The SL-1210MK7 is a robust player, that much is apparent when I take over the box from the courier who delivers the turntable. Not only the size of the packaging, but also the weight is impressive. In net terms, the record player does not touch the scales just ten kilos. The MK7 version of this iconic turntable differs from the previous versions by the use of a so-called coreless motor that further eliminates cogging if necessary. Other additions to the previous versions are Reverse Play, the ability to adjust the startup and slowdown speed. Not really features for the music lover, but intended for (semi) professional DJs. Pitch Control and the stroboscope have remained, the color of the latter can be adjusted from blue to red.
The comprehensive manual clearly explains all the setting options. The anti-skating, needle power and arm height can be adjusted very easily and accurately. The characteristic S-shaped tonearm features a detachable head shell, which is very useful in practice. In order to accurately place the needle on the record in dark conditions, the player is equipped with a pop-up light.
At the rear is a set of cinch connections with a separate earth connection and an earthed mains entrance. Interlink and power cord are included as standard but can be upgraded as required. The SL-1210MK7 is completely finished in black. In contrast to the more expensive models, this 1210 partly used an ABS mix with Glass Fiber.
Because the player comes standard without an element, I called on Audio Technica. There they were happy to provide two elements, both already mounted in a head shell according to Technics specs so that I could easily switch during the review period. Building the player is relatively simple; Place the plateau, mount the head shell with cartridge and set the needle force and shear force compensation. Level the player with the four absorbent adjustable feet. Connect cables and play!
TECHNICS SL-1210MK7: Set up and connect
The Technics SL1210MK7 EG may take the place on the top shelf of my Quadraspire audio rack from my Funk Vector turntable. The contrast could hardly be greater. The Funk is a minimalist turntable with a design look. The SL1210MK7 is large and robust and covers almost the entire shelf. Yet the player certainly does not lack appearance in one way or another. The professional appearance radiates power.
To connect the TECHNICS SL-1210MK7 player to my Devialet 220 Expert Pro I use the standard supplied interlink and the loose ground wire. In the menu of the Devialet I set the correct values of the Audio Technica element. The detachable power cord is plugged into an Atlas EOS Modular junction box. Since both the interlink and the power cord are detachable, there is another option for fanatic users to upgrade or tweak if you want. Fixed reference speaker in my set is the Audiovector R3 Arreté which are connected to the amplifier with Atlas Ascent Grun speaker cables. The mains cables are Atlas Superior’s and the clean power comes directly from the meter box where an AHP sound module with copper fuse is placed. This replaces the standard automatic gearbox and provides a significant sound improvement.
And just spin …
Based on the appearance, I expect a certain rendering, solid, full and maybe a bit coarse. This is diametrically opposed to the Funk Vector that I normally use, which sounds light-footed, fast and rhythmic, but is incapable of laying down a really solid bass foundation. To immediately experience whether the prejudices are correct and how it is with the layer reproduction of this Technics SL1210MK7, I take the audiophile album Into The Labyrinth by Dead Can Dance from the record cabinet. The player easily fulfills a large part of my expectations.
The reproduction is indeed full and solid with a strong foundation in the bass. The music is played with a lot of authority. The stereo image is somewhat narrower compared to my Funk and Shelter combination, but it does come off well from the speakers. Brendan Perry’s voice is beautifully characterful and powerful in the song The Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove . The whiplashes left and right in the stereo image are sound less pronounced and recognizable. They also reach a little less far beyond the speakers than I’m used to. The different percussion instruments are very beautiful in timbre and lifelike.
The next black disc to be placed on the SL1210MK7 plateau is Alan Parson’s Eve. The subject of this record, the fight against inequality that women have to fight in a man’s world, is unfortunately still topical. The album opens with the instrumental Lucifer . What immediately stands out is the drive in the music that these Technics show. The stereo image is reasonably wide, the high reproduction is calm and transparent with beautiful details. The bass response is, just like with Dead Can Dance, solid and powerful.
What is also striking in the display is the ease and authority with which the player does his job. Is the SL1210 able to also show the subtler work? The song Rivier Van De Tijd by Stef Bos is a suitable track to judge that. The piano is rock solid, the percussion and cymbals subtly sound in the background. Stef’s voice sounds warm and full and vocal inflections are easy to follow. In terms of character and sound, it comes very close to the live experience that I experienced in the theater a while ago.
The great thing about the Technics and Audio Technica is that the reproduction is so fascinating and you have a great involvement with the music without it even leaning towards technical listening for a moment. The placement of the various instruments and Stef’s voice in the room is also perfectly fine.
From Stef Bos to Amy Winehouse is a huge step in terms of music. The agreement is that both have a special voice of their own. Her most famous album Back To Black features the song Me & Mr Jones . In that song, the drums dictate the rhythm of the music. The SL1210MK7 has no qualms whatsoever in transferring its drive to the listener. They also sound wonderfully solid and full. In addition to the drums, the horns play a prominent role in the track. They have a fraction less bite than I am used to from my reference player, it is a bit more rounded and quiet. The advantage is that any sharpness is completely lacking. Amy’s voice is unmistakable and again the musical message is effortlessly conveyed. The intelligibility is good, which makes it even easier to let the emotion in the music enter the listener. The treble is fairly quiet, but quite transparent, which means that cymbals lack some attack when playing but die out nicely.
Madonna’s The Immaculate Collection contains a large part of her hits until 1990. I start with side one of the double album and before I know it side four is over. The combi Technics SL1210MK7 and Audio Technica makes listening to music such a pleasant activity that you forget all audiophile parameters and only enjoyment remains. Addictive may be a big word but in fact it is. The reproduction does not have the mighty and powerful of my digital source, but it plays with great ease and suppleness, perhaps a fraction darker than my Funk and a bit less punchy and light-footed.
For the first time in ages I play record after record without going back to my digital setup. Bruce ‘s album Wrecking Ball carries a pretty heavy message and has been called by some critics the most “angry” album to date. The SL1210MK7, in combination with the AT element, has no problem conveying that anger. Toto’s album IV has almost been turned gray, but it is always fascinating. The drive in the bass is again excellent and horns sound realistic although with less bite than I am used to. In the track Africathe combination leaves some percussion details a bit underexposed and the cymbals also have less metal to them. However, everything is nicely balanced and in terms of rendering nice and round and sturdy. The SL1210MK7 almost seems to scream to look up records from my childhood. Wrap Your Arms Around Me, a solo album by ABBA singer Agnetha Fältskog is a bit of a guilty pleasure that I haven’t listened to for a long time. The Heat Is On brings summery atmospheres to the living room. The percussion instruments sound good and I am treated to a very pleasant relaxed reproduction. The background voices are easy to follow and excellent in terms of intelligibility, but a bit far into the background and small.
Simon and Garfunkel’s The Concert in Central Park is a top album. The reunion concert of both gentlemen was attended by, it is said, about 500,000 spectators. Mrs. Robinson swings the pan and the bass drum lays a wonderful foundation. The large group of horns chatter away nicely, but are missing some bite here. The stereo image is not very deep, and the audience is only really audible in the quieter passages. I miss some ambiance and spaciousness. The voices of Paul and Art sound very nice and blend beautifully, something that can be heard well in Homeward Bound. Since Audio Technica has included two elements that are both mounted in a head shell, I can easily switch to listen to which one suits the music best. With the VM530EN with elliptical needle, it sounds a bit more spacious and light-footed and the emphasis is more on the highs and the low reproduction slimmer. The S and T sounds are turned on a bit more, while the guitar has more character in the strings. It all gets a bit more nervous in terms of reproduction.
With the slightly more expensive VM540ML cartridge with Microlinear needle, Adele’s Rolling In The Deep sounds quieter and more controlled, which mainly benefits the voice and bass response. The background voices come out better and are very intelligible. It is of course also a matter of taste, the choice is yours. A big advantage of the arm with a separate head shell is the ease with which you can change elements. The Technics SL1210MK7 is capable enough to let you hear differences between elements, even if they are not very far apart from each other.
During the review period many records were played in all conceivable genres and the Sl-1210MK7 always convinced. Whether it’s Don Henley’s Boys Of Summer , where the Technics and Audio Technica combination perfectly shows that Don is a lot younger there than during the Hell Freezes Over recording, or for example an old LP by Frank Sinatra. Emotion drips off the latter. In I’ve Been To Town from the album A Man Alone the saxophone flows out of the speakers, and when Frank starts with the orchestra and piano it becomes a beautiful melancholic interplay with a wonderful flow. You hear the voice go from whisper quiet to powerful singing with great realism. The Audio Technica VM540ML element shows its best side and is preferred for me personally.
After just a few records it was clear that the Technics SL-1210MK7 can easily stand its ground as an audiophile record player. The player is built like a tank and continues to play stoically, even when I give a heavy tap on the shelf of the Quadraspire rack the player is standing on. A number of features that this turntable has will be superfluous for a non-DJ, but for example the pop-up light is extremely useful for lowering the needle at the right point on the record. The separate head shell is ideal when using different elements, especially in combination with the ease and accuracy with which the needle pressure, anti-skating and arm height can be adjusted.
The TECHNICS SL-1210MK7 player conjures up associations with a Swiss army knife, that’s how universal are the uses. For tweak enthusiasts it is possible to experiment with interlinks and power cords. To be honest, I fell a bit in love with the combination of tough appearance and the incredible ease with which this Technics SL-1210MK7 reproduces music. The player makes listening to music fun with a capital P and see him return to the importer with a heavy heart!
PLUS POINTS of TECHNICS SL-1210MK7
- Build quality
- Value for money
- Ease of use
MINUSES of TECHNICS SL-1210MK7
- Loose dust cover
- No audiophile appearance