Registered: Mar 2003
Location: Wash DC 'burbs
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I'm going to quote Elektronkind since it's a really good review.
|Impressions of the Technics SL-DZ1200 CD turntable |
This afternoon I headed down to Chuck Levins Music Center in Wheaton on a whim to play with some synths and A/B some new studio monitors I'm thinking of getting. While in the Pro Audio shop I spied a Technics SL-DZ1200 CD turntable, and so I grabbed a CD from my car and took it for a spin.
Now, I've been a Pioneer CDJ user all my DJ life, starting with the CDJ-100s years ago and last year upgrading to the CDJ-1000Mk2 models. With this in mind, here are my impressions of Technic's first entry into the CDJ world:
The unit layout itself
The size of the SL-DZ12000 suprised me, it is actually a smaller form factor than I had envisioned from the pictures I've seen of it, it being thinner and of smaller dimension than the Pioneer CDJ-1000.
The top portion of the unit has two main clusters of buttons. The left side offers red back-lit sampler and hot cue buttons, and the right side offers memory management/recall buttons for samples, tracks, or stored cue points which are stored on the unit's removable Secure Digital media card.
The center of course is dominated by the approx 9" outside diameter faux turntable with the inner portion sports the main LCD readout, track selection and seach buttons, as well as the loop in, loop out, and reloop buttons (the former two are illuminated)
Next to the platter on the left side sports your traditional Technical red strobe which has its own on/off switch, and PLAY and CUE large rectangle buttons. The Bottom right side holds the pitch slider, slider lock button, pitch lock (aka MASTER TEMPO) button, and tempo width selection button offering 8%, 14%, 25% and 50% increments if I remember correctly.
The forward/reverse play switch is large and is positioned where the tone arm lock would be on your classic SL-1200 turntable.
The SL-DZ1200 has your two basic modes - CDJ and Vinyl. These modes are selectable by a small slide switch (awkwardly) located on the back of the unit. Unlike the CDJ-1000, switching between modes cannot be done on-the-fly, that is, if switched while a CD is in play, the CD stops playing and PLAY needs to be hit again to start it playing.
In VINYL mode, the faux turntable spins and its RPM is in accordance to where the pitch slider is. The turntable responds to downward pressure (braking) and pushing and pulling (scratching when done fast, rubber-banding when done slow.)
CDJ mode responds like your typical CDJ, with no response to downward pressure on the turntable and speeding up or down the track when the platter is pushed or pulled. The faux turntable DOES NOT spin when the unit is in CDJ mode.
The Looping functions worked as expected and I was able to scratch a loop I had playing. I didn't have a watch with me, so I don't now how long of a loop can be made.
The Sampler was a little fun. You put the unit into "record mode" and hit one of the numbered sampler buttons to begin recording a sample from the currently playing track. Hitting it again stops the recording. To play back the sample, you must turn the record mode off, and then hit the numbered sample button to play it back over top of the currently playing track.
Okay, be forewarned, here is where you'll see some of my years of using Pioneer gear come in, but I'm trying to be as objective as possible with an eye on overall practicality and ergonomics of the Technics SL-DZ1200.
All things considered, the SL-DZ1200 packs a lot of functionality into a small space. It's the first table-top CDJ that I know of which has a built-in sampler and uses industry standard Secure Digital media cards for storing information and (I believe) playing MP3s. Its styling is also an eye-catcher. My eye immediately picked it out among the other Pioneer, Gemini, and American DJ CDJs in the store.
The digitaly-effected scratching sounded pretty spot on, and there were no annyoing skips or gaps when triggering a sample or reversing the track.
But there were some cons, and unfortunately in my mind these are cons that made me appreciate my CDJ-1000s from Pioneer.
For one, the majority of the buttons were too closely positioned and many were without any sort of illumination. The track selection and search buttons irked me the most. Positioned along the inside of the turntable below the LCD, these buttons were butt up aginast each other and impossibly small. They looked more at home on a Walkman than a piece of DJ equipment. They were also not illuminated. The small black-on-silver labeling was hard to read even in the daylight.
The LCD was another major sore point with me. It is *small* and hard to read when looking at it at an angle. It was not very "eye friendly". This is why I prefer the active L*E*D display that Pioneer uses. There is a button to the right of the LCD display that allows you to rotate the orientation of the LCD contents in 90-degree increments. The value of this seemed dubious to me, since you don't necessarily have to play this CDJ "Battle style" and altering the orientation did not do anything to help readability at angles. Holding down the orientation button gave you access to contrast settings for the LCD, but adjusting that did nothing useful in the daylight.
Unlike the CDJ-1000 which allows you to adjust both the breaking and release speed with two prominent knobs, the SL-DZ1200 allows you to configure only the braking speed, and the knob for this is located next the the RCA outputs on the back of the unit. Obviously, it's not something that Technics thinks you should fool with while DJing.
If pressed, I would give Technics's first offering in the CDJ world 3 pointy fingers out of 5.
The SL-DZ1200 seems rather physically sturdy, and the digital features are great. But it seems Technics got too lost in the forest by making it look and feel like their traditional vinyl turntables. In going this route, they sacrificed usability and work-flow by focusing more on styling. Very unfortunate. I may be old-fashioned, but I like my tools accessable rather than any bling factor, which it seems that the latter is what Technics was after.
If you are in the market for a digital CD turntable, and especially if you are coming off of years of exclusive wheel of steel piloting, I really suggest you try the Pioneer CDJ-800 or 1000 models first before trying the SL-DZ1200. Perhaps the differences I detailed above will become apparent. Your patience in moving over to CDJ from vinyl may be relaxed as a result.
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