It’s the biggest vindication yet of the staying power of the vinyl market. It’s also a luxury that DJs may love but few are seriously in the market to buy for themselves.

That’s the industry verdict on the announcement that Technics is reintroducing the iconic Technics 1200 turntable series – long the industry standard and an even more singular symbol for its genre than Gibson is for rock.

Panasonic (which owns the Technics brand) has announced two separate products in the new 1200 line, the first of which arrives “this summer.” Consumers blanched when the new Technics special edition SL-1200GAE was introduced, mainly because of the price: $4000.

[ Update: The new Technics 1200s show up on eBay. Got $10k to spare? ]

Four thousand dollars is a lot of money for any sort of usable music gear, “special edition” or not. (Terrible reporting has lead to rumors that the SL-1200GAE has already sold out. It hasn’t. The first 300 units offered for pre-sale in Japan only sold out.)

But what surprised them more is that the price tag was not a premium for a limited edition product (only 1200 of the 1200GAEs will be made, numbered and such). $4000 is also the price for the ordinary, mass produced 1200G, now estimated to arrive in the Winter. And consider that vinyl DJs will need two…

Panasonic representatives have explained that the nearly $4000 suggested retail for even the “common” version of the new 1200s represents a sunk cost – the equipment for tooling the various unique parts of the 1200 had fallen into disrepair or even been destroyed, hence there were tremendous start-up costs involved in resurrecting the 1200.

This is cause for some consternation, too: typically a company would amortize the cost of equipment over the projected lifespan of the product. Lumping these no doubt considerable costs up front suggests that Technics is not at all confident about the long-term future of the 1200s.

Many DJs (pro or amateur) are quite willing to pay prices for gear or software (or vinyl itself) that many would consider absurd. That’s what it means to be a fanatic.

Yet Panasonic is in a strange place here, pricing a new product some 5 times the cost to DJs than the original 1200s, which are far from rare. Despite rumors that the depletion of the last Technics 1200 “deadstock” would soon drive prices for them upward, you can still find MKIIs in good condition for less than $600 each. Technics has been said to improve several aspects of the functioning motor of the 1200Gs, and the 1200GAE special edition features a titanium tone arm and heavier iron & silicate feet.

Obscure motor quirks and heavy feet don’t make a very persuasive argument for a $3400 premium. Without some sort of price cut – hinted, but only hinted, for the distant future – it appears that even the mass produced new 1200Gs are being targeted only at the very wealthy and – of course – speculators.

But Where Are the New Technics 1200s?

There have been rare sightings, grubby unboxings and demos at places like Abbey Road Studios. The early sale in Japan and possibly intentional/possibly accidental leak of sales links from Panasonic’s German affiliate suggests the company may be rolling out the special edition 1200s in regional markets one at a time.

But the demos don’t seem to be followed up by anything tangible. After months of anticipation, the official site for the new Technics 1200s has changed but the dates are still curiously vague and loose for a company shipping a $4000 product. Not to underestimate how difficult it must be re-creating a product like this after so many years, but the marketing for the new 1200s has been oddly out of sync.


I want to believe…!

People have touched it and photographed it. Some intrepid Japanese buyer even tried to put his special edition 1200 on eBay for $5000 (despite being widely shared, the auction ended with no bids). It appears to be real, but most people still can’t buy it, granted they have the $8,000 to spare at all.