The record player revival: Technics and Sony bring vinyl back at CES 2016

Record lovers rejoice – vinyl is staging its comeback in 2016. The vinyl industry has seen sales soar in recent years, with over 1.2 million records sold in 2014 and sales in the first half of 2015 at their highest point since 1995. Now, Technics and Sony are hoping to capitalise on the vinyl resurgence with both brands announcing new record players at CES 2016.

The SL-1200 is dead, long live the SL-1200G

“The Technics SL-1200 turntable holds legendary status.”

It’s fair to say that the Technics SL-1200 turntable holds legendary status. Since 1972, the nigh-on indestructible SL-1200 has been the record player of choice for any self-respecting DJ or turntablist, the standard in nightclubs worldwide, and has even found favour in the notoriously picky circles of hi-fi enthusiasts.

After parent company Panasonic announced that they were ceasing production in 2010, hopes for any turntable ever again bearing the iconic Technics badge were dashed – until now.

Last year’s relaunch of the Technics brand saw a new family of high-end audiophile products released under the classic marque, and now the company has announced the Grand Class SL-1200G and 50th anniversary limited edition Grand Class SL-1200GAE – a pair of record players that draw on the heritage of Technics’ iconic DJ decks.

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A newly designed direct-drive motor spins at the heart of both models, and as Technics has removed the iron core from the previous generation of motor, it claims that both vibration and speed fluctuations have been reduced. This works in tandem with a new microprocessor that works alongside “high-precision rotary positioning sensors” to maintain high torque and reduce vibrations even further. 

“The new models are set to weigh in at around 18kg each.”

Whichever you choose, the design of the new turntable harks back to its predecessors, but it’s had something of a heavyweight makeover: the top panel is now cast from 10mm-thick aluminium. While the original SL-1200 was no lightweight, the new models are set to weigh in at around 18kg each. You won’t want to carry a pair of these to your mate’s house party.

Meanwhile, splash out on the strictly limited SL-1200GAE, and the SL-1200G’s redesigned aluminium tonearm makes way for an upgraded magnesium version.

Fancy getting your hands on one of the 50th anniversary SL-1200GAE models? Good luck. Availability will be limited to 1,200 units worldwide. And if you were hoping that the rebirth of the SL-1200 was going to come with a similar price to the previous model (around £350), I suspect you’ll be disappointed – these audiophile versions of Technics’ classic turntable are sure to be equipped with suitably audiophile-class prices. Best get saving, vinyl fans.

The Sony PS-HX500 fuses vinyl with hi-res audio

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Not to be left out, Sony has announced its forthcoming “premium” turntable, the PS-HX500. Unlike Technics’ new record player, Sony’s new model isn’t one for the deep-pocketed DJ and money-no-object audiophile: instead, it’s all about converting your favourite vinyl records to hi-res audio files.

While the PS-HX500 outwardly looks like a standard record player, an internal DSD analogue-to-digital converter makes it possible to rip your vinyl records to high-resolution audio files on your PC, all via a USB connection. Software is provided to edit the recordings into individual tracks, or combine multiple recordings into single files, so everything you need to get started comes in the box.

The turntable itself is a fairly no-frills affair. It uses a more traditional belt-drive design rather than Technics’ more esoteric direct drive arrangement, and it comes with a moving magnet cartridge in the box. You don’t even need an external phono stage (or an amplifier with one built-in) to get started – the PS-HX500’s internal phono stage means that you can connect it to any hi-fi or audio device with a suitable analogue input.

The PS-HX500 will be available from April for around £400 – making it a reasonably affordable entry point into the realms of vinyl records.

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