Technics SL-1300 Turntable

In fact, Matsushita Electric, who use the brand name Technics for their top line products, have been making direct-drive turntables since their original SP-10 in 1971 and this SL-1300 seems to have carried the principle to even higher standards, while adding a number of user features which make the unit very attractive indeed. On the technical side, the scheme of having the turntable platter resting directly on the rotor (which revolves at record speed) has been further developed; the SL-1300 platter actually is the rotor and the base, housing is itself the motor stator. This has made for greater compactness and of course great streamlining in terms of the electromagnetic design.

The DC brushless motor means that running speed is independent of mains voltage and the power consumption is a mere 0.1 watt, or about one hundredth of that of a conventional AC motor. This reduces the risk of hum effects due to stray electromagnetic fields. Total power consumption is only about 4 watts and so heat generation, and possible drying out of lubricants, can be forgotten. The aluminium diecast platter is dynamically balanced and measures 13 inches in diameter including the tapered outer edge which carries the four rows of raised dots for stroboscope indication at 33-1/3 and 45 rpm with 50 or 60 Hz mains lighting. The dots are illuminated by a plastic prism over the neon lamp, which is lit when the motor is switched on, to give a good visual check of the running speed from any angle. Alongside the speed selector switch are separate knobs giving about ± 5% fine speed control at each nominal speed setting. The turntable quickly reaches its proper speed, in about half a revolution from switching on, and the speed is then electronically stabilised so that drift is virtually zero.

The, main feature which sets the SL-1300 apart from earlier Technics direct-drive models is its automatic operation. There is a single start/stop lever which is the only control needed in normal use, once the speed and record diameter controls are set. Moving the lever to the 'start' position switches on the motor, causes the arm to lift from its rest, move over to the record and set down gently in the run-in groove. At the end of the record, the arm will lift, return to its rest and thereby switch off the motor. As an alternative, where manual operation is preferred, merely lifting the arm from its rest by hand will switch on the motor and the pickup may be lowered on to any desired part of the record either directly by hand or using the raise/lower cue lever which is at the base of the pickup pivot. As a novelty, there is also a memo-repeat facility which will cause a record to be played repeatedly for any chosen number of times up to 5, or indefinitely. There is an arm clamp on the pickup rest for security during transport and readily accessible presets for adjusting the set-down, return and lift height parameters.

The S-shaped pickup arm is a little longer than usual, at 9-1/16 inches, and consists of a statically balanced hollow tube. The gimbal suspended pivot uses four pairs of bearings and, while this gives the unit a large and ponderous appearance, it nevertheless results in very low friction and low inertia which are the things that matter. The diecast aluminium headshell weighs 9.5 grams, has the widely used 4-pin plug connector, gold plated contacts and a slotted spacer which allows accurate setting of the stylus/spindle overhang dimension for minimum tracking error distortion. Any cartridge weighing from 4.5 to 9 grams can be accommodated, extending up to 13 grams if the auxiliary counterbalance weight is added. The main counterbalance has a helical fitting so that playing weight can be set, by simply turning the weight itself, within the range 0-3 gram. There is a separate knob for setting the antiskating (bias compensation). The output leads are low capacitance types to suit CD-4 quadraphonic discs and there is a generous length of mains lead.

How it performed

The compact housing for this complex turntable is a neat silver and black finished aluminium case with shock absorbent feet and a tinted lid, which is hinged to stay open at any angle over about 30° or may be easily removed. The 4-language instructions booklet is clear and helpful and accessories include a choice of mains plugs, DIN to phono adaptor, screwdriver an phial of oil for the main motor shaft.

Installation of the Technics SL-1300 is simplicity itself. The unit arrives impeccably packed and, after removing the transit screws, the turntable platter and rubber mat are lowered into position. Fitting one's choice of cartridge into the headshell is at least as easy with this design as any other. The Technics headshell is an open-work construction and one fits the cartridge to a slotted spacer first, and then attaches the spacer to the shelf with a single screw. I went through the process with several cartridges, which I then auditioned. These included the Shure V15/III and Stanton 681EEE, and all performed well up to their excellent best, though perhaps needing about 0.1 gram more playing weight than on the best of universal arms. The overhang is checked by reference to the instruction diagram: however, using a Percy Wilson type alignment protractor to check for minimum- tracking error at the inner grooves, I found that I needed about 1 mm more overhang than the diagram seemed to suggest. This will vary slightly, of course, with the height of the individual cartridge body. Properly set, tracking angle error could be kept below 2° overall.

Playing weight calibration was dead accurate and the sidethrust adjustment dialed to the chosen weight setting gave good enough correspondence. Wow and flutter measured very low indeed at 0.025% total and rumble was virtually unmeasurable and certainly better than the maker quotes. Drift was negligible. The turntable does indeed run up to speed very rapidly, though not quite in the half revolution claimed. However, this feature cannot be put to use for quick start cueing. The normal start lever cycle takes a full 10 seconds to operate and any other disc jockey technique of spinning in from stationary is foiled by the fact that the motor is running at all times when the pickup arm is off its rest.

I was so impressed by the previous Technics SL-110 turntable that I was reduced to criticizing its lift-off lid. Here in the SL-1300 we have greater compactness, a splendid hinged lid and well conceived auto-play facilities. The machine is beautifully engineered and constructed: a real pleasure to inspect and use. The price, complete with a very respectable integrated pickup arm, is not very different from that of the SL-100 without arm and so should attract the interest of home music lovers who insist on the best. I would go further and suggest that professional users would do well to examine the strong credentials of this unit when planning for top quality record reproduction.

Technics SL-1300 Turntable photo