Think back for a moment to when you were a kid. You were just starting out and you had about 15 records and just spent several hours explaining to your mother why you needed not just one but two turntables for Christmas.
If your Jedi persuasion tactics were sharp enough to pull that off, you probably didn’t find a pair of Technics 1200s under the tree that year. In fact, I’m going to guess your first turntables were pretty cheap. You learned how to play on them and got good enough to where you could even tell the limitations of using bargain basement gear yourself.
It’s a fundamental law of product marketing that a company tries to maintain complimentary lines on both the high and low end. This doesn’t just mean “luxury” and “generic”: think of iPhone models that come with different storage capacities and capabilities. The idea is that you grab the young, price-conscious or simply skeptical customer on the low end, make them fall in love with your brand and sell them on the high end when they decide they need and want more of what they already have.
In the case of turntables, there is a legitimate issue here of interest to people beyond the board of directors. Without a solid but cheap set of turntables creating new customers among the young, the vinyl market is going to plateau and then decline, just like it did in the past.
It’s all gone wrong (among other things) with Panasonic’s flubbed release of the new Technics 1200s turntables. A company found itself with unprecedented brand loyalty and has thrown it away while releasing a product priced more than you probably paid for your first car ($4,000 for a single 1200, or $8,000 for a pair.)
Rival Pioneer has quickly moved in to capitalize on Panasonic’s loss. With the PLX-1000 turntables on the market for more than two years at this point, the company has announced the PLX-500 – a cheap, $349 entry-point model to fill the gap where the market is crying out for an affordable but quality turntable for beginners and people who simply want a quality turntable for home use.
These are not pro DJ tables. They’re entry-point. And that’s the entire point. At a time when the barrier to entry for production has been torn down to the ground thanks to DAWs, it’s counterproductive for vinyl tools to be priced on a level strictly for old people. Because those are the only people who will wind up playing vinyl: old people.
Coming in both black and white (the 1000s add a somewhat garish gold-colored model), the PLX-500 did not sacrifice style for price. There are some substantial differences: the 1000s feature detachable RCA cables (the 500s’ cables, as illustrated below, are built-in), a quartz lock direct drive and the ability to change the variable pitch fader length. It should be noted that the 500s do have a USB sound card and port, which the 1000s do not. This is being highlighted as a major selling point for DJs who want to quickly rip vinyl via the company’s Rekordbox, which was recently updated with a series of features for this purpose.
And the price places the PLX-500 right in the sweet spot: entry-level models from Stanton and Numark hover right around the $300 mark. Pioneer’s superior marketing and branding will seriously challenge these for the low-end vinyl DJ market.
Originally published in 5 Magazine Issue #136 featuring DJ Spen, Phil Kieran, Mateo & Matos, a DJ’s guide to music streaming and more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full access to everything House Music for just $1 an issue!