“From a rebel it’s final on black vinyl
Soul, rock and roll coming like a rhino
Tables turn – sucker burn to learn
They can’t disable the power of my label”
– Chuck D “Rebel Without A Pause”
I love my Technics turntables. I think they are the perfect instrument for what I do musically. The fact that I even consider them an instrument should tell you a lot about how I feel about what my parents used to refer to as “record players”. I’ve been a fan of the record and turntable way before I became a DJ. This is partly due to the fact that records were a common form of music distribution when I grew up. Even now, after the sharp decline of vinyl sales and the digital take over, I still prefer turntables over any other playback device. There is something about being able to put my hands on the record or control vinyl and manipulating it. It gives me the sensation of putting my hands in a pot of sound and stirring it up. Maybe that was a little to deep for some of you but those of you who know understand what I mean.
If I had to be honest my love for my decks is more sentimental than anything else. I’ve made money with them and traveled with them. I’ve had some great performances with them and I’ve made some great music with them. They were a coveted piece of equipment that were a sign of me finally paying my dues as a DJ. Once I got my first pair of Technics 1200s I felt validated. As a DJ, I liken my turntables to a Jedi’s lightsaber. To truly be efficient with one you have to construct or at least open up your own personal weapon. I’ve taken mine completely apart, modified them and rebuilt them to my liking. In fact I still have ideas for future improvments to my personal pair. I can truly say that I know my turntables inside out.
I think it’s safe to say that I am a true fan of the (now discontinued) Technics 1200 turntable line. I’m also open to new innovations in turntable technology. That’s right, I said “new innovations in turntable technology”. While most new age DJs and some older ones will often try to convince you that the turntable is old technology and past it’s prime, I have to disagree with them. In the past few months we’ve seen the introduction of a couple of new turntables to the market. The Reloop RP-8000 with MIDI capabilities has been making noise since it’s announcement. Pioneer’s new turntable is now making the rounds on the internet and getting a lot of interest. Currently we already have the Stanton, Numark , and Vestax turntables on the market. Each of these models have a lot of features in common and they each also offer some unique features such as MIDI, digital read outs, switchable tone arms, extended pitch range and replacable cables. Lots of innovation, lots of technology being used in the turntable arena.
There are some who question why anyone would still want to use a turntable in this day and age of CDJs and controller options. They say that replacing vinyl, and needles is an unneccesary, tedious maintenance cost that is a watse of time and money. There are some who argue that a turntable used with DVS is “just a big controller”. They say that they can do the same thing with a controller that I can do with a turntable. On both accounts, I would have to disagree again. Yes, some control vinyl can get expensive but those are the collectable kind. Regular control vinyl which can last for months on end, possibly years depending on the frequency of use is pretty inexpensive. Needles can get pricey but if you are using a DVS then you can get by with a decent pair of low end needles that can read the control signal. With regular needles and control vinyl your whole investment could be around $100 a year. Hopefully you DJs are making enough from your gigs to be able to invest $100 a year back into your craft. If you can’t handle that then I don’t know what to tell you.
There is also the school of thought that ALL new DJs only use controllers. This is just not true. As much as some new DJs may hate it, the fact remains that there IS a demand and interest in the art of turntablism. 2 turntables and a mixer is still the most commonly accepted image for a DJ. If there weren’t then how do you explain the fact that most DJ battles and competitions still use turntables as a standard set up? Why is the Scratch DJ academy expanding to new markets along with all of the other DJ schools poping up. Why are manufaturers investing time, money, research and devlopment into new turntable models? There are plenty of young DJs that respect the art and want to progress and grow in it. If that’s not your thing I can understand. This isn’t for everyone. I just wish the nay sayers would be more honest about their feelings on the subject. Just admit that they don’t like turntables because they are either too expensive compared to a $200 controller, or they just don’t understand or have the skills to use a turntables. And yes, we are more than familiar with the fact that people in clubs don’t dance to DJs scratching. But maybe, just maybe the DJs that are into scratching and turntablism aren’t trying to do that in the the club anyway. There are battles, competitions and performance DJs that can use appreciate the art of turntablism and use the turntable as an instrument.
I also have to take issue with the stictly Technics 1200 die hard fans out there. I’ve heard my fellow turntable DJs refer to anything other than a 1200 as being a toy. “Technics for life!” is the battle cry of some vinyl purists. While I can appreciate the nostalgia and sentimentality for the brand and specifically the model, I can’t roll with the Technics or nothing attitude. Before I got my first pair of 1200s I went through many makes and models of turntables. I had an Akai,Marantz, Kenwood, Sherwood, MCS, Pioneer and a non 1200 Technics brand turntable. In my early stages I would take anything I could get my hands on. I knew the Technics 1200 was the Holy Grail but until I got my own I had to make do with what I could find. I think that is what helped grow my love for turntables. Some of the tables I had were horrible, but they were great learning tools for me. I had to take them apart and try to put together mismatched parts to get a working unit. It was all one big engineering experiment. This is why I am so familiar with the advancement of DJ technology. I know what it used to be like and I have seen the progression. With all of that being said, I know that the Technics 1200 is not the end all be all of turntables. If they were, then why are there so many different versions of the 1200? As the years progressed the 1200 evolved; some of the changes were subtle or purely cosmetic but there is a difference between a 1200 MK2 and a 1200 MK5G. It only stands to reason that if Technics was able to improve upon it’s design then so can other turntable manufacturers. I’m not against testing out or even switching to another turntable brand if it will improve my performance. I’ll always have a set of Technics but maybe they will end up being my custom collectors edition. Kind of like a car collector that only brings his classic car out for car shows and special events but maintains a daily driver for everyday commutes.
In the end it’s all about you and your specific style of DJing.Hopefully DJs are choosing products based on practical usage and not following fads or looking for acceptance. I embrace all forms of technology when it comes to DJing but I have my preferences. I’ve owned an NS7 controller and I’ve owned Denon professional DJ CD players. In both instances I had the opportunity to do a side by side comparison with my Technics. I ultimately chose to roll with the Techs. As more and more turntables are introduced I can only hope that one day the turntable in some shape or form makes a return to the DJ booth as a standard piece of equipment and hopefully the other DJs can get along with it.