Picture of the Technics SL-1200 MK5 direct drive turntable system, top front view.

Technics SL-1200 MK5 Direct Drive Turntable System Review

The Technics SL-1200 MK5 Turntable System is quite versatile, because not only does it function quite well as a mobile disc jockey (DJ) record player, but also represents a veritable pinnacle of the best audio reproductions possible from LP discs, for the man cave of the most discriminating audiophiles.

You can’t do much better than this machine for that; not without spending a ton more money.  And even if you spent with abandon, the improvements to the sound that you’d get, would be at best marginal.

Picture of the Technics SL-1200 MK5 Turntable System, with power applied and featuring blue LED upgrades.
Technics SL-1200 MK5 Turntable System

The entire SL-1200 line serves readily as medium to high end audiophile turntables, and this version of the 1200, the Mark V, is no different.  It’s been around for years and has received many accolades for its low noise, military tank-like construction and craftsmanship, ease of operation, plethora of adjustments for both the novice record listener and the most advanced audiophile LP collector, and its overall performance.  We’ve owned this model for over five years and have digitized many records using this vinyl disc player.  Yet have we to find any serious inadequacies in the Mark 5, that prevented us from fully enjoying our vinyl-bound recordings.

While most anyone can easily nit pick and find legitimate gripes about any piece of technology, even the most curmudgeonly grumps would be hard pressed to come up with any serious limitations in this completely manual music, rugged DJ turntable.

Notable Specifications

  • Takes less than 3/4 of a second to spin up from a complete stop to 33 and 1/3 RPM. Great for those relentlessly record-cuing DJs.
  • Wow and flutter less than 0.01%.  Audiophiles appreciate hearing no jitters or perceptible speed changes in their music.
  • 13.5 watt power consumption MAX.
  • The unit weights 26.4 pounds.  HEAVY.

Technics MK5 Included Items

  • Solid construction, a thick metal console and platter, and a thick plastic underbelly along with shock-absorbing feet.
  • A plastic, transparent dust cover lid.
  • A 45 RPM or EP adapter and built-in holder for it.
  • Removable high grade S-shaped tone arm.  However, straight tone arms can be purchased to satisfy the most discerning audiophile.
  • Replaceable pitch slider control.
  • Thick aluminum die cast platter.  Very well balanced, for enhanced speed accuracy and reduced rumble.
  • Platter slip sheets.
  • Black rubber turntable mat.
  • Head shell with all necessary hardware for mounting cartridges that range in weight from 3 to 13 grams.
  • Low resonance cabinet for reduced feedback problems when operating this unit in close proximity to the speakers.

Features, Benefits. Advantages, and Pros of the Technics SL-1200 MK5 Direct Drive Turntable System 

Receives wide-spread, rave reviews, as this review is going to be as well.

Large, easy to operate controls. The buttons, knobs, and sliders are as follows: Two buttons establish the rotational speed of the platter (33 or 45 RPM).  A large, square start-stop button (simple to find in the dark).  A power on-off knob (which has been intentionally designed to be a little difficult to operate. Prevents accidental shutdowns).  There’s also a LONG variable pitch slider, reset button (which when engaged, locks the platter speed to a quartz reference frequency, regardless of where the pitch slider is positioned), and the stylus light is fashioned as a button that you press down to turn it off and retract it into the turntable body.  Another much smaller button close by releases the spring-loaded table light, which pops up and activates when you press this button.

The tonearm specific controls, though a bit more intricate than the others, are still quite useable.  They include a counter balance type stylus pressure adjustment, along with a cue lever (for raising and lowering the 1200 tonearm from and to the record), an anti-skating control, and a tone arm height setting.  About every parameter that affects how the tone arm and stylus play the record can be adjusted here, as well as at the service end of the tone arm, where the audio pickup cartridge is located.  Cartridge position is adjusted by loosening the screws that secure the cartridge to the shell, and sliding the cartridge to the correct position within the shell.

Other tone arms than this stock one can be bought and installed.

Swappable headshell, for quickly switching pickup cartridges.

Under the platter, there is also a braking adjustment that controls how quickly the platter slows down to a stop when the halt button is pressed.  Round holes in the platter allow access to this control.

Quartz synthesizer controlled direct drive operation, which means that the motor never rotates any faster than the platter is spinning, for lowest mechanical vibration.  It’s speed is about as accurate and stable as you can get.

Virtually no perceptible hum, rumble, or any other mechanical noises are transmitted to the record surface, and so, they do not appear in the audio output.  This is probably the first audiophile level DJ turntable we’ve seen that does not introduce its own “noise print.”

Virtually silent operation.  Unless you can hear the music playing, you won’t hear this device in operation.  It employs neither fast-turning fans or drive motors, nor loudly humming transformers.

Low power consumption at just 13.5 watts; the cost of a couple night lights running.

Premium grade internal wiring and well-shielded hi-fidelity audio cables connect the audio pickup cartridge to the outside world via two RCA-style male plugs, along with a separate ground wire.  These yield a near-transparent electrical conduit from the stylus pickup, all the way through the MK5 to the RCA male output plugs at the far end of the audio connecting cable.

Lots of lights (four to be exact), all LED, including a platter speed strobe, record surface light that makes spotting cue bands between each recording easy to locate, a pilot lamp located on the pitch slider control, and illuminated speed indicators.  The button corresponding to the current speed setting lights up.  None of the lamps in ours has ever burned out, and we’ve owned this unit for over six years.

Plays 33 and 1/3 as well as 45 RPM vinyl LP discs.

Lots of silent and smooth torque.  Even at the 45 RPM speed setting, the platter spins up from zero to 45 revolutions per minute (RPM) in well under a second when actuated.

Way ample adjustable electronic braking.  Pressing the start / stop button quickly halts the platter. And though this stop is quite abrupt, the playing record never skips. Starting it up is the same.  Rapid acceleration without noise or jerking.

The platter features strobe mirrors for correct speed adjustments.  There are four rows of them on the angled outer edge of the platter. While rotating, one of these each of these bands can be made to appear stationary, denoting various speeds.  The user’s guide, referenced below fully explains how to use the strobe.

A thick rubber mat is also included.  Other record beds, such as slip discs for scratching applications, are available too.

Parts are easily located and purchased online. And, many of these units have been manufactured over the past   So they can often be found at great prices in the used audio market for anywhere from $500 on up to over $2000.

Very rugged.  When properly cased, can be operated in a mobile disc jockey environment for years without failures.  That said, it also functions well as a top-of-the-line audiophile turntable too.  It seems that no compromises have been made between durability and performance in the MK5.

The acoustical isolating feet can be adjusted for platter leveling.

Disadvantages, Problems, Limitations, and Cons of the Technics SL-1200 MK5 Direct Drive Turntable System 

It’s heavy. Definitely has some solid mass; particularly in the metal platter.

Depending on the time of year, pricing for the Mk5 can rise well into the thousands of dollars.  However, often you’ll find them on eBay for less than a grand.

Would have liked the braking adjustment to be an easily accessed knob as it is on some other high-end turntables, and not a screw setting that you must remove the mat from the platter to get at.

Non removable audio connecting cables.  We like using top notch cables for this purpose that we select ourselves.  Some tables feature RCA jacks at the rear that allow you to plug in your own patch cords.  However, the cable quality used herein seems plenty adequate for our sensitive ears.  No loss of frequency response or coloration of the music on the records has been observed.

Must be partially disassembled if it is going to be moved or transported.  The manual recommends that the weights be removed as well as the platter.  Further, the tone arm should not only be locked into the retracted position, but also taped there too.

Though we’ve mentioned that this record playing system is built to last a very long time, still, remember that it is a delicate piece of electronics, with numerous adjustments that can be thrown out of kilter with too much rough handling.  So avoid unnecessary shocks and bumps, and be sure to disassemble according to the operations manual if you wish to move it.  This maximizes the platter’s spindle bearing life.

Product Rating

Our rating for this fine record player is 97 out of 100.  You’ve found a top notch turntable, that produces near CD quality audio from your well-maintained record collection.  We highly recommend it for this, as well as for everyday play of your vinyl.  Though Panasonic stopped manufacturing the SL-1200 line in 2010, this table, we predict, will be highly sought for decades to come; particularly with the resurgence of vinyl record albums.  Get yours before the purchase prices skyrocket.

Where to Buy the Technics SL-1200 MK5 Direct Drive Turntable System

The MK5 turntable by Technics (a Panasonic brand) is widely available for sale on eBay and Amazon.  However, we’ve not seen this product sold at any brick-and-mortar shops in our travels in recent years.

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Revision History

  • 2017-02-23: Revised the tags list.  Changed post name to: Technics SL-1200 MK5 Direct Drive Turntable System Review.
  • 2015-11-27: Added appropriate tags.
  • 2014-11-24: Adjusted ad placement and fixed some content issues.
  • 2014-09-19: Originally published.