Music News

Pickster One and Other DJs React to Panasonic's Axing of Influential Technics Turntables

If you happen to be hanging out at any of the Valley's dance events this coming weekend, be sure to listen closely. It might be hard to hear over the massive cacophony of beats getting slung, but you might just hear a few sobs coming from the DJ booth.

That's because home electronics manufacturer Panasonic has finally decided to cease production of its line of Technics turntables. I say "finally" due to the fact its been rumored for years that Panasonic was going to put the ax to the line, which have been in production for more than three decades.

"After more than 35 years as a leading manufacturer of analogue turntables, Panasonic has regretfully taken the decision to leave this market," the company stated in a press release from last week.

It certainly signifies yet another fundamental shift in the music world, as well as the end of an era for DJs both locally and around the globe. At one time, Technics (particularly the SL-1200 model) were the essential turntable for spinsters everywhere. These silver and black devices have been called the "gold standard" or "warhorse" of the DJ biz for decades and helped fuel hip-hop, particularly back in the day.

Local jocks like Anthony "Mastamonk" Biggers are a bit bummed by the news.

"I'm definitely kind of saddened to tell you the truth," Biggers says. "There are going to be a new generation of DJs that will never know the feeling or raw talent it takes to use Technics."

The folks over at The Economist provided a fitting epitaph for the turntables:

Without Technics decks, dance music and hip hop -- the two most innovative and vital strands of Western pop music over the past 30 years -- would not exist as we know them. Technics turntables are sturdy, reliable and extremely hard-wearing. They are fun and easy to use (your correspondent has whiled away many happy hours failing to learn how to beatmatch properly). The high-torque motor, which means records quickly accelerate to their playing speed, and the intuitive pitch-shift controls make it easy for DJs to mix tracks together. And they look extremely cool.

These days, however, true turntablists are a rarity as you're more likely than not to see DJs using a CD-Js, iPods, and a laptop instead of only the old-school wheels of steel.

"Before Serato, before lining up waveforms visually, before CD-Js, we had to be able to mix all by ear and manually without the use of any other program or machine. Vinyl and the use of turntables was -- and still is -- the truest form of DJing," Biggers says.

​Turntable fiend Dusty Hickman (a.k.a. Pickster One) says that while turntables will still be a big part of the DJ scene (especially since you pretty much need 'em to use Serato Scratch Live and other mixing programs), expect to see 'em less and less.

"Its gonna take along time to get the Technics weeded out of the DJ scene," he says. "Add there will be likely another turntable replacement that pops up that's close to a 1200 I'm sure. But this definitely marks the end of an era."

At the same time, he understands that Panasonic would discontinue manufacturing Technics (especially since sales of the unit have reportedly been down 95 percent over the last decade).

"When you really look at the business behind it, I can see why its not effective for them to continue making them," he says.

Hickman has used Technics (particularly the 1200s model) since his earliest efforts as a turntablist, and calls them "a staple of the DJ world."

"If you began DJ'ing before 2005, you used 1200s," he says. "Some newer cats that have started in the recent years probably have just used CD-J's and don't know how to mix with vinyl."

Hickman explains that the 1200s were a vital learning tool for any DJ worth mentioning.

"When you look at most of the best DJs in the world, they use 1200s or built their foundation off the skill of being able to mix off 1200s even though they use CD-Js now," he says. "If you never learn that foundation, you'll never make it to the top. But in the DJ scene now, there is a place for those kids that will never use a turntable, or appreciate the skill of vinyl mixing. Just walk down Mill Avenue or pop into some random Scottsdale bar. Those kind of DJs will never be the best of the best."

Biggers agrees with his beat-matching brethren.

"I feel like with Technics not being made anymore, everything will be even more oversimplified to the point where you'll soon be able to do the most technical of tricks with an 'easy button' on some futuristic new turntable replacement," Biggers says. "Kids these days don't appreciate how they did it in the old school."

Tommie Laurie (a.k.a. Tricky T) also had similar sentiments.

"The real DJs use turntables," he says. "I'm sure somewhere down the line, someone will restart production or take over the patent."

In the meantime, Hickman plans on buying up extra Technics now that they're gonna become extinct.

"I have four of them already. Two are from 1995 and they still work fine. I'll buy a couple new sets this year so I'll have a nice set to last me another 10 to 15 years."

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.