This Bizarre CD Player Had A Turntable Built In

Musical tastes are uniquely personal things. Eminem may have once mocked those whose "parents still listen to Elvis," but in all seriousness, those who have an appreciation for the hip-swiveling crooner should go right ahead and continue to enjoy. From heavy metal to the most saccharine of pop, there's a musical genre for everybody. There is also, naturally, a method of consuming that music for everybody. 

Some are perfectly happy to listen on a pair of beat-up earbuds that were included with their device, while the audiophiles among us would rather opt for something offering better sound quality (Apple's beautiful new HomePod may fit the bill). For those who seek not only to listen but to create, too, the unique Technics SL-DZ1200 is a curious case study from yesteryear. A turntable and a CD player? Yes, this device combined the functionality of both. A niche prospect, certainly, and a curiosity that many music fans will never have heard of.

What was the Technics SL-DZ1200?

Creator Technics reports that the venerable SL-1200 brand dates back to 1970 when the SP-10 was introduced. This device was a historical first: a direct-drive turntable had never been released before. The very next year, the SL-1100 arrived on the scene. Through a series of incremental improvements and new models, Technics continued to adapt its SL series to the DJ market.

Being devices that were steadily specialized in this way, however, they weren't suited to simply passively listening to music. More importantly, as analog gave way to digital and newfangled Compact Discs became a musical standard, DJs found their needs transforming dramatically. The SL-DZ1200 launched in 2004 and was Technics' attempt to keep pace with this trend. A CD player/turntable seemed perfect for this new era for the demographic.

As the user manual proclaimed, via Panasonic, the system was "designed for DJs to play digital media ... giving an analogue-like feeling." It was clearly built with this aim in mind: beneath the platter on the front panel was a slot for inserting SD cards, and another for CDs. The platter was created to emulate the classic feeling of physical record manipulation, and the system was equipped with many convenient new functions that digital technology brought to the (turn)table. With four cue pads and four sample pads, as seen in a commercial demonstration from the time, it allowed users to set up cues and samples for easy access and implementation in beats from the deck.

What happened to this unique device?

Technics wasn't the first company to release a musical device like this. As Techmoan reports on YouTube, the Pioneer CDJ-1000 digital turntable was among the first to make waves for CD DJs, and Technics's SL-DZ1200 was its own gambit in that regard. The company's goal was to ensure the new model felt like a natural transition, easing DJs into the use of this new breed of media with familiar functionality and interface.

It didn't come cheap, though, the report goes on, with a recommended retail price of $1,199.95. Nor was it without its flaws. According to DJ Tech Tools, only 192 kbps MP3 functionality was available on release, and other crucial elements were limited, too: the positioning of the LCD screen meant that there was less access to the all-important platter, which limited the user's options and so the system's utility. For these reasons, the SL-DZ1200 was outperformed and outsold by competitors and lasted only four years before going out of production.

Perhaps the SL-DZ1200 would have been more successful if it had lived up to the solid legacy of the SL-1200 systems. It would certainly have been better served if the Panasonic transition hadn't affected Technics devices as much as it did. Nevertheless, the SL-1200 continues to be a major player — the last model, the SL-1200/1210MK7, released in 2019 with the goal of, per Technics, "set[ting] a new standard for DJ turntables" — and the SL-DZ1200 is a fascinating part of that legacy.