Panasonic killed off its Technics SL-1200 record player in 2010—just as the market for vinyl, small as it was, was starting to turn back up. Five years later, the resurgence of interest in the analog medium could no longer be ignored. Panasonic is resurrecting its legendary turntable.
The Japanese electronics manufacturer announced Jan. 5 that it would not only restart production of the decks, but that it has also made a series of improvements to their design.
The reborn 1200 will include a new motor that comes without an iron core, which is important because the core in old designs caused vibrations that interfered with playback, causing the dreaded “cogging” effect. The new machine is called the Grand Class Technics SL-1200G, and it’ll be available sometime in the second half of 2016. A special edition containing features like a tonearm made of magnesium will be available in the summer, although it’s restricted to a production run of 1,200 units.
The vinyl revival has been well documented. Vinyl music accounted for less than 0.8% of global recorded music in 2010, the year Panasonic stopped manufacturing the SL-1200’s most advanced model. It grew more than threefold to 2.4% of the global market in 2014.
The latest figures from Nielsen (pdf) show that vinyl’s rebound isn’t slowing. Record purchases reached 11.9 million units in the US in 2015, up nearly 30% year-on-year. That compares with an 11% drop in CD album sales and a 3% drop in digital album sales in 2015–although sales in those two formats are about 10 times larger than vinyl figures.
Even sales of individual digital tracks fell by nearly 13% last year. But meanwhile, it was the 10th straight year of vinyl sales growth, according to Nielsen.
The growth story in music media is in on-demand streaming. Streams exploded last year, with 93% growth on the back of 317 billion streams. In the face of numbers as large as those, it’s hard to see how even the mighty SL-1200 can compete. But Panasonic clearly sees a niche for it.