For nearly 25 years, the Technics SL-1200MK2 has remained the undisputed champion of professional DJ turntables. Many challengers have come and gone, but most DJs still cling to their Technics decks as though their lives depend upon them. The reason for such unabashed loyalty is simple: The 1200's performance, ruggedness and reliability have proven nearly impossible to beat. The Vestax PDX-2000 recently gained inroads with turntablists thanks to its high-torque motor and skip-resistant straight tonearm, but mix masters still look to Technics when they require a turntable with superior sound quality and the ability to perform dependably after years of abuse.
Perhaps for the first time since the SL-1200MK2's introduction, Technics faces some extremely serious competition: Numark's new TTX1 turntable. Numark finally figured out a way to make a turntable that transcends the SL-1200MK2 in every regard: features, performance and construction. Ideal for mix DJs and turntablists alike, the TTX1 may be the first turntable that's perfect for any DJing application because of its intelligent, customizable design features such as easily interchangeable S-shaped and straight tonearms, and removable pitch-fader and control-button modules that can be positioned for vertical or horizontal setups.
The TTX1 features a sleek, modern, asymmetrical design reminiscent of a luxurious Italian sports car. The large rounded Start/Stop controls are mounted in a curved, contoured surface on the left side while the tonearm, pitch fader and control buttons are placed along straight edges on the right side. Positioned in a standard horizontal mixing configuration with the tonearm on the right, this means that the left-hand turntable fits flush against a mixer or CD player, but the right-hand turntable has small open gaps at the top and bottom edges. Aesthetic purists won't be pleased by this inconsistency, but they can always configure the turntables in vertical battle positions with the tonearms at the top if they care about a flush fit and a balanced appearance.
The TTX1 features two Start/Stop controls, which are placed so that a control is always at the lower-left corner regardless of whether the turntable is set up in a horizontal or vertical arrangement. Above each Start/Stop control is a rotary dial for adjusting the braking time (lower control) and the startup time (upper control). Braking and startup time is continuously variable from 0 to 6 seconds, and the turntable's backlit circular blue display automatically shows the setting when the dials are adjusted. Between the two Start/Stop controls is a small button for engaging Reverse mode.
Thanks to the TTX1's incredibly powerful motor, which reaches full speed in about one-seventh of a rotation at 33 rpm, the record can start, brake and reverse direction almost instantaneously. If you regularly use a Technics, you have learned that you need to give the record a slight push when slip-cueing to get it up to speed immediately. With the TTX1, you simply need to lightly release the record to drop it into the mix on cue. This responsiveness takes a little while to get used to if you've gotten into the habit of nudging your records forward, but once you become accustomed to the TTX1's ultrafast pickup time, you won't want to go back. Now, you're less likely to encounter rhythmic train wrecks because you nudged the record too hard or not enough.
Unlike the SL-1200, the TTX1 features a removable cueing light (instead of a pop-up light) that doubles as a speed strobe, and the 33 and 45 rpm speed buttons (78 rpm is also available by pushing both buttons at once) are located near the tonearm instead of beside the Start/Stop control. The 33 and 45 rpm buttons are housed in a removable module along with the Key Lock and Quartz Lock buttons. Thanks to an ingenious modular design, you can swap the locations of the pitch fader and the control buttons to maintain the pitch fader's vertical orientation when the turntable is configured in battle positioning. The modules are held in place with small Phillips screws, and no special tools are required to remove them. When the modules are swapped, the turntable's circular display automatically shifts the orientation of its readout accordingly so you can view the settings clearly in either vertical or horizontal setups — very cool.
Whereas the SL-1200 only offers an adjustable pitch range of ±8 percent, the TTX1 offers four pitch-range settings: ±8, ±10, ±20 and ±50. The higher settings allow you to do things like beat-match a hip-hop record with a house tune, but keep in mind that even small fader adjustments at higher settings can vary the tempo significantly, making it more difficult to zero in on the exact tempo. To help you quickly determine a tune's general tempo, the TTX1 includes a built-in bpm counter. However, the counter doesn't break down the bpm into fractional increments, so you'll still need to rely on your ears to lock beats together tightly for long, smooth mixes. The Quartz Lock button automatically returns the tempo to the fader's “centered” speed regardless of where the fader is positioned.
KEYS TO CREATIVITY
One of the TTX1's coolest and most useful features is its Key Lock function, which makes it possible to mix any two records in any key. At ±50 percent, the pitch fader lets you transpose the key up a fifth or down an octave from the centered pitch. Once you've adjusted the fader to the desired key, you can lock it in by pressing the Key Lock button. Then, the pitch will remain the same no matter where you adjust the fader or set the pitch range. (However, the pitch will change if you select a different rotation speed.) For example, say you have a record that's in the key of A at 125 bpm, but you want the key to match a record you're already playing that's in the key of G at 135 bpm. All you need to do is slow the record down about 10 percent from the center position (so the key is G), hit the Key Lock button and adjust the fader above the center position about 8 percent (so the tempo is 135 bpm).
Key Lock is particularly useful for instant time stretching — ideal for remix applications in which you want to hear how a musical passage sounds in its original key at a different tempo in real time. If you have a record featuring an a cappella of a vocal that was recorded at 100 bpm, you can instantly speed it up to 150 bpm or slow it down to 50 bpm. Even at the ±50 percent pitch range, the sound quality remains good when a record is sped up almost to the fastest speed and slowed down about 25 percent below the original tempo. A tune can sound somewhat choppy at higher speeds, and the tone gets hollow and metallic at slower speeds, but in the right context, those flaws can be cool special effects, similar to extreme time-stretch settings on a computer. It's an absolute buzz to instantly create a “Zorba the Greek” — style buildup by adjusting a tune's tempo from a slow crawl to a manic rush while the key consistently remains the same.
BUILT FOR BUSINESS
Unlike the Technics SL-1200, which was initially designed for home hi-fi applications, the TTX1 is designed for use in nightclubs. The most obvious evidence of this is the white LED that illuminates the cavity where the power cable, the left and right RCA output jacks, the S/PDIF digital output and the phono/line output-level switch are located, allowing you to plug in cables or change the output level without fumbling for a flashlight. The turntable's circuitry is designed so that no ground wire is necessary — another welcome improvement upon the 1200.
Whereas some new turntables feel somewhat plastic and flimsy, the TTX1's heavy-duty construction almost shouts that it is built for business. The turntable weighs nearly 30 pounds and rests solidly on four rubber feet attached to a thick silicone rubber base to absorb shocks and minimize feedback and rumble. From the powder-coated trim to the sturdy-feeling controls, the TTX1 gives the impression that it will withstand many years of abuse in extreme conditions.
LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING TURNTABLES
Numark's TTX1 boasts so many improvements, enhancements and additions to the SL-1200MK2's design that it's hard to imagine going back to your Technics once you've tried the TTX1. Whether you're a turntablist who prefers the locked-to-the-groove tracking of a straight tonearm and a vertical battle setup, a mix DJ who is most comfortable with a traditional S-shaped tonearm and a horizontal setup, or a bipolar DJ who likes both, the TTX1's customizable setup provides pure record-spinning satisfaction. Because the turntable's most fragile components — such as the tonearm, the pitch fader and the control buttons — are easily replaceable, your TTX1 could conceivably never see any time in the repair shop even after years of constant use.
If you've been waiting to replace your 1200s and have had your eye on getting a pair of decks with modern features such as a wider pitch range, key lock and digital outputs, the TTX1 will fit your needs perfectly. Hopefully, more and more big-name DJs will demand these turntables on their riders so that TTX1s will become a common fixture in DJ booths around the world. With its modern features, professional functionality and bulletproof construction, the TTX1 sets a new standard for DJ turntables.
TTX1 Premium Turntable
Pros: Fully customizable setup for turntablist or mixing applications. Responsive high-torque motor. Versatile Key Lock feature. Durable construction. Digital output.
Cons: No fractional increments in bpm display. Current street price higher than the SL-1200MK2's.
Overall Rating: 5