Stevio...LA LA Lovin' It?

I'm British-born Chinese from Bristol, UK. I’m LA-based. I’m a hip hop aficionado. After 15 years in London I moved to LA to pursue a new career and outlook on life.

Back in the 80s I was a DJ. In the 90s I contributed to the world's first street style exhibition at London's Victoria & Albert Museum. In 2011, I had my first interviews published. Today, I’m keeping busy with music, art, photos and writing.

Friday, November 12, 2010

R.I.P. Technics?

Like many, I saw the news that Panasonic, the maker of the legendary Technics SL-1200 range of turntables, was ceasing production. To be clear - the analog turntable is dead, but the brand is very much alive! A conversation last night with DJ/producer Burt Blackarach sparked this post.

Panasonic has seen a 95% drop in sales over the past decade. That's shocking. But, why do you think that is? Let's take a closer look.

Is it because of just about every professional DJ uses vinyl's arch-rival CDs? Nope! In fact, I don't a DJ who is exclusively CD-based.  Well, then is it because most DJs now use MP3s (via Serato or Final Scratch?) Yes, but think about still need a "real" turntable because the whole point is that your MP3s are manipulated like vinyl.

Here's a video of A-Trak showing us how Serato Scratch works - real vinyl manipulating MP3s.

Here's my conclusion. The reason behind Technics' sales falling is that competition has gnawed away at its initial monopoly position. Ever since the legendary Grandmaster Flash was filmed scratching on a pair of Technics "decks" (the 1800 is a predecessor of the SL-1200) in his kitchen in the film "Wild Style" every man and his dog has released a turntable: Vestex, Stanton, Numark...Some have even tried to replicate the iconic S-tone arm that made the Technics so special.

But, the main reason for Technics SL-1200's demise is an ironic one. The obsolescence expected in today's products (as explained in this "Story of Stuff" video) wasn't built into the SL-1200! This turntable was built like a tank. It was heavyweight - 24lbs - it was reliable, and since there were very little moving parts (no belts to replace) there was very little to wear out. It was like the engineers got their way, rather than the business men ruining the design for commercial reasons.

So, sad to say, but the Japanese reputation for design and reliability was really the death-nail to the Technics SL-1200. R.I.P!

"So what happened? In a way it's surprising that the analogue deck has survived this long.
The writing was probably just about visible on the wall when the compact disc became mainstream back in the mid-1980s. It took a while for the hardware to catch up, but in the last few years so-called "CDJs", which allow DJs to manipulate audio on CDs using physical control surfaces (which often bear a strong resemblance to vinyl turntables), have become sophisticated enough for widespread use. The advantages are clear; smaller and lighter than a record, a CD can also hold many times the number of tracks.
Another factor is the rise of the MP3. Now, rather than haul a crate of records (or CDs) around, a DJ can store an entire musical library on a laptop. In a similar fashion to CDJs, clever software applications such as Serato's Scratch Live allow DJs to manipulate digital music files by physical means. In today's clubs you are as likely to see a DJ hunched over the ubiquitous MacBook as manning the wheels of steel." The Economist blog

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