Just days after Sony announced that the cassette Walkman is history, another all time icon of the audio world has been put out to pasture. After months of rumors and speculation, Panasonic officially announced the end of Technics SL-1200 production in a statement to the Tokyo Reporter.
Coincidentally, both the original Sony Walkman and the Technics SL-1200 MkII hit store shelves in 1979, but while the Walkman evolved and changed repeatedly, the SL-1200 MkII you could buy until today was virtually identical to the 1979 model.
Technics first made an SL-1200 in 1972, but it was 1979's MkII version that really caught the imagination of DJs, coinciding with the birth of hip hop and scratching. The sturdy 1200 was just about the only turntable rugged enough to withstand the abuse DJs would throw at it, and it soon became the only turntable any serious DJ would consider.
In the 31 years that followed, Technics introduced several subtle refinements of the original recipe, but is was the basic MkII that remained the most popular. A Panasonic representative was reluctant to put a number on it when I asked a few months ago, but rumors are that over 3 million SL-1200s have been built.
Some claim that the 1200 is being killed off because the tooling is starting to wear out, and the bean counters say that a new set would not be economically practical. In light of the numbers, that makes sense, especially when you consider that 1200 sales are now only around 5% of where they stood just 10 years ago.
As more and more DJs switch to using CDs, or even (gulp) iPods to play their music, those still spinning vinyl will be looking at brands like Stanton and Numark, or snapping up the few 1200s that remain in the various sales channels.