Why Pioneer is Making Turntables Now
Originally teased at this year's Musikmesse, Pioneer's new PLX-1000 turntable is a no-frills, but seemingly solid, analog unit which is clearly geared towards filling the Technics gap. Pioneer calls it a celebration of 20 years in the DJ industry.
The PLX is not something I've covered so far, but the comments on other blogs show quite a reactionary mixed bag.
While some people are stoked about the idea of a Pioneer-branded analog deck, an equally-sized market segment are skeptical at best. Reactions range from “thank god” to “Pioneer is for sheep”.
About The PLX-1000
If you're expecting innovation or features, Pioneer's new turntable is not going to be in your sights. The PLX-1000 is a Technics replacement, through-and-through; while obviously not outright stated by Pioneer, it's heavily hinted at in their promo video.
It's no secret what iconic deck is referred to by Q-bert and Shortkut when they say “coming home” to their “classic turntable”.
While not matching the iconic 1200's specs exactly, it's safe to say that the numbers point to a solid, direct-drive DJ turntable which will look and feel similar. The units appear to be somewhat based on the Hanpin “Super OEM” turntables: the template for other popular models released by companies like Reloop and Stanton.
However, the Pioneer does seem to build onto the Chinese company's template with some improvements. The most notable is probably the addition of rubber vibration dampening tech included in the tonearm and under the “hood”. Anyone who has played on tables in a loud club with big monitors will appreciate this skip-prevention measure.
The PLX-1000, while staying true to the “basic” DJ turntable elements, does add a few improvements over the Technics model it emulates. The RCA and power cords are now removable, for example… “replacing” the fixed cables with jacks. Even the most hardcore purist Technics fan will welcome this change. Nobody likes being stuck with the attached cables, which makes this one of the most common mods on the classic deck.
There are also new pitch-range options, quelling what is just about the only other complaint that you hear from avid users of 1200s. Perhaps surprisingly, there is no reverse.
Aesthetically, the new Pioneers are undeniably sexy. A familiar layout is met with a clean finish and blue LEDs. At a glance, you'd think they were modded and meticulously cared-for 1210s. The biggest design-stray is the replacement of the rectangular start/stop button in favor of Pioneer's now-iconic circular piece.
The new table will be available sometime in August, at a street price of $699 USD. Not the cheapest table on the market, but not insanely priced either. And you do get a dust lid included in the price, which does help make it feel more reasonable.
Who Is It For?
This is a valid question worth exploring.
On the one hand, there are still a plethora of vinyl-loving DJs and DVS users out there who will swear up-and-down by their trusty Technics. At a glance, the emulation is a wise choice… a “1200” with a Pioneer logo is the next-best thing to the real deal for a lot of people.
However, you could also make the argument that these Technics fanatics are going to settle for nothing less than Technics… so does it really cover that market?
The simple fact of the matter is that Panasonic has canned the Techs, whether we like it or not… and if there are still those of us out there clinging to our decades-old technology, there's a market opening for a replacement.
Overall, Pioneer is probably the most trusted name in DJ gear these days (for better or for worse). Reloop, Stanton, and Audio Technica are making fantastic tables these days… but they don't carry the same clout as Pioneer amongst the greater DJ community.
Having Pioneer gear does make a statement, and many DJs do care about image… whether they care to admit it or not.
Many people simply want a Pioneer turntable to go alongside their DJM and CDJs… simple as that. It makes sense for them to fill the gap, since they've got almost all the other bases covered.
The $699 USD tag has been a much-discussed topic. When you can buy similarly-priced tables, or cheaper, with lots of newer bells and whistles… it can be hard to justify paying the “Pioneer tax”.
But this clearly is not a bells and whistles mixer. Reloop is probably leading the charge on that one.
Pioneer is hedging their bets on people's willingness to trust them with solid, club-quality gear that stands the test of time. Unfortunately, nobody truly knows if that's the case. There are decades-old 1200s functioning all over the world without a single hiccup… even after years of rough club use.
But the fact remains that Pioneer is the current standard for everything except turntables. And Technics are resilient as can be, but they can still fail… and the more time passes, the harder (and more expensive) it's going to be to keep them running.
I honestly think that the price point makes a lot of sense. Is it the best value? Not likely. But in comparison to their CDJ and mixer lineup, the pricing is a lot more competitive. They seem to have a clear understanding of what their fan base is willing to pay for a solid, bare-bones analog turntable.
Is There A Need For A New Standard?
It's hard to say if Pioneer will help push turntables back into the DJ booth as a standard piece of equipment. Ironically, it was largely Pioneer that helped push them out in the first place.
But if anyone's going to make a new standard, it's clearly going to be Pioneer. They have the resources and the clout, if anyone does. (Imagine them sponsoring DMC events, for example.)
Pioneer is smart to realize that while more innovative turntables might have more to offer, they give off a feeling of being a niche product. And products like that rarely become standards.
It's also important to realize that, while we can read blog comments and social media posts all day about how they are simply re-branded or slightly modified “Super OEM” tables, or that Reloop's table has better features, or how Stanton has been making quality tables for years already… there is a huge market segment out there for people who want to buy something that just works and has a brand name they trust. They just aren't posting on DJ tech blogs about it. Not everyone does that sort of research, and we're always going to hear from the “squeaky wheels”.
The market still wants Technics, but Panasonic doesn't want to make Technics. The PLX-1000 is Pioneer's response to this need. They took the Technics formula, made it better, and are relying on their brand name for the rest.
Vinyl-toting DJs aren't going to be able to have their technical riders fulfilled by beaten-up 1200s forever. I'm certain that this model will start showing up on some big names' requirements list.
These aren't going to revolutionize anything, and they probably aren't going to sell boatloads of them. But they will sell, and they will likely be a good product… if an arguably mildly-overpriced one.
If I could sum it all up in one sentence: “Why wouldn't they?”