In April, we told you about a brand-new turntable that was being launched by Japanese audio expert Technics. The SL-100C, we explained, was a cheaper (£799/$899), streamlined version of the manufacturer's 'entry-level' SL-1500C (£899/$999), a semi-automatic, direct-drive record player that not only scooped a What Hi-Fi? Award last year, but also sits in third spot in our guide to the best record players, pipped only by the Rega Planar 3 Elys 2 and the Sony PS-HX500.
In this review, we'll be exploring why the SL-1500C warrants such plaudits, how it differs from its new kid brother, and whether it's worth you coughing up the steep asking price. And yes, you did read that right – the SL-1500C is indeed an entry-level turntable, due to the fact that other models in the Technics range cost thousands (14 grand for the SL-1000R, anybody?).
However, as you might expect from a record player costing this much, it far exceeds your average entry-level machine. Let us elaborate on that.
Technics SL-1500C review: Design
Here at Louder, we've always admired Technics' knack for making amazing looking, robust turntables, and the SL-1500C continues that tradition. Whether you choose the black or silver version, you're going to get a music player that appears both razor-sharp and reassuringly tough. That's not just skin-deep, either – with a plinth that's made out of aluminium, glass fibre and ABS polymer, this 9.9kg turntable is every bit as hard as the rock you'll probably play on it.
While the SL-1500C could be described as minimalist, it's not entirely barren like some modern decks. There's a cluster of buttons on the left-hand side of the plinth – on/off, start/stop and speed (33/45/78rpm); the rubber platter mat features a distinctive 'ripple' effect that might send you into a trance were it not for the fact that it'll be covered by records most of the time.
The turntable comes with a pre-mounted Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, which adds a splash of colour into the mix. (Note that on the new SL-1000R turntable, the Ortofon 2M Red is replaced by the Audio-Technica VM95C.)
Setting up the turntable is about as stress-free as it gets. Once it's out of the box, you'll need only to drop the platter on, connect the headshell (the cartridge is already attached) and set the tracking weight before you're ready to boom, shake the room.
Technics SL-1500C review: Features
We've waxed lyrical about how good-looking the SL-1500C is, but, of course, you want a turntable to sound good, too. Technics has a proud record in this particular area, and clearly has no desire to blight it here.
Everywhere you look (and in some places you won't), there's precision engineering designed to make your listening experience as enjoyable as possible – from the die-cast aluminium platter that's been damped underneath to keep resonance under control, to the inclusion of a brand-new coreless direct drive motor whose job it is to keep said platter rotating with the utmost stability.
If you've just spent £250 on a rare copy of The Beatles' White Album, you'll want to make sure that it stays in pristine condition. Recognising this, Technics has equipped the SL-1500C with an Auto Lifter function that raises the tonearm once the record has finished, protecting your precious vinyl from unnecessary wear and tear.
Something else this turntable possesses that the SL-100C doesn't is a built-in phono preamp. In case you'd prefer to use your own standalone device, though, Technics includes two sets of RCA outputs as part of the package.
Technics SL-1500C review: Sound
August 2021 marks the 40th anniversary of The Rolling Stones' Tattoo You album, so what better record to use for our sound test? Anyone who has this LP will know that it begins with the classic anthem Start Me Up. We didn't need any more incentive than that, and once the disc had been laid on the platter, start up the turntable we did.
As Keith Richards' guitar cranked through the speakers, our first impression was that the built-in phono stage sounded great – just as well, really, as the turntable is pricey enough without having to shell out on a standalone device. It wasn't long before the Stones were in full swagger, and the Technics SL-1500C was well up to the task, handling Mick Jagger and co's strutting stomper with punch and enthusiasm.
Flipping the record over, we tried something quieter: the mellow groove of Worried About You. The detail was crisp, every nuance of the music allowed to express itself. We often find with turntables that they excel at one genre but come unstuck when presented with another. Not so the Technics SL-1500C; composed throughout our test, it was undoubtedly one of the most versatile record players we've tried at this price point.
Technics SL-1500C review: The Alternatives
If you want to veer away from Technics (and save yourself some money in the process), then take a look at the Rega Planar 3 Elys 2. Number one in our guide to the best turntables, this £650 deck looks incredible (imagine a futuristic hotplate) and sounds even better. Bear in mind, though, that it's manually operated and doesn't come with a built-in phono preamp.
Feel like splashing out? At around £1300, the Clearaudio Concept will make your wallet feel like it's spent six months at Weight Watchers, but in your return for that hefty outlay you'll get a manual turntable that marries quirky looks with quality sound. Still no built-in phono preamp, though.