Under the Covers of the Technics SL 10 Turntable….
by Nick Seiflow
The beautifully easy-to-operate Technics SL10 is anything but simple under the smooth lines of its aluminum skin.
What follows is not a manual for disassembly and maintenance, but more of a tribute to the Golden Age of turntable design.
Such a table as the SL-10 could never be made again. Sad, but based on the economies of scale whomsoever tried to build and market such a machine would quickly find themselves selling pencils on the street corner. To design this table from scratch alone would involve massive amounts of R&D. let alone actually making and marketing it.
The photos give some idea of the electronic complexity, and it’s obvious that there is little or no spare space inside this tiny unit. Luckily, as with most electronic components (apart from capacitors) as long as the individual parts are conservatively specified then there will be little cause to worry about failure.
The one part that seems to require any attention is the thread drive for the travelling tangential arm. This is a mechanical feature and ultimately the thread itself may need replacing. Such was the case with the pictured example.
The actual mechanism, once revealed (and this involves removing covers and accumulating an impressive pile of screws) is really rather simple, involving a small motor, a couple of gears, and of course the waxed thread that actually pulls the arm across the record.
Replacing the thread is not as hard as it seems: it’s a typically fiddly operation requiring some concentration and a willingness not to drink too much espresso – steady hands are a help! Once done, reassembly is a mirror image of disassembly, with no need to wield the soldering iron: a screwdriver or two is all that’s needed.
What strikes you in this process is again a sense of respect for the utterly well thought-out design. No space is wasted; components are uniformly of high quality, and everything comes together just perfectly to produce a really rather marvelous device. Even the platter itself (which didn’t have to be removed, but curiosity got the better of me…) is an impressive piece: drilled for balance, superbly machined, surprisingly heavy, and damped with anti-resonance material, it is a highly confidence-inspiring piece.
To reflect on the SL-10 is a sobering process. In some ways it’s a guide to the last throes of the 20th century. it’s actually very hard to see how the machine could have been improved: the Matsushita Corporation was a mighty force with an enormous budget, and Japan showed no signs of the looming stagflation that was to come. The vinyl record reigned supreme as the listener’s choice, but something was happening in Europe…the letters CD were being uttered, and this was the beginning of the end for the LP.
Strangely enough, if one were to design a record player that offered most of the conveniences of the Compact Disc, even down to the size of the machine, then the Technics SL-10 would have been a logical result. It foreshadowed in some ways the insatiable desire for convenience that we have, and that produced the digital revolution.
And here we are now. The CD is ailing, possibly on its deathbed; downloads have trumped the little disc, and we are the iPod generation.
Looking at the Technics SL-10 is akin to a looking at a microcosmic snapshot. It will never return, and that makes me wistful. The minds and mindsets that produced it are gone and all we can do is admire from afar the wonders of mechanical and electronic progress that produced such a player.
One thing’s for sure: I’m keeping mine!