The Technics SL-1900 turntable was introduced by Technics in 1977. It is a direct drive, fully automatic model with enough basic features to satisfy the budget turntable buyer. Quite a few were sold and they are fairly easy to find today.
The SL-1900 was at the low end of Technics’ direct drive offerings. Despite its higher model number, the SL-1900 was inferior to the SL-1000 MK2, SL-1300 MK2, SL-1400 MK2, SL-1500 MK2 and SL-1600, which were all on the market at roughly the same time. The SL-1000 MK2 was the top-of-the-line direct drive turntable offered by Technics at the time.
The SL-1900 retailed for about $180 which was very affordable. The lower price point allowed budget oriented consumers to experience the ease of using a fully automatic direct drive turntable. Here’s how Technics explained it:
Never before at this price has there been available a direct-drive turntable with these features. ‘One-Chip’ IC control means virtually absolute reliability, while the direct-drive motor provides turntable performance unbeatable in terms of low wow & flutter and speed stability. Fully automatic operation offers you tremendous convenience, and at the same time reduces possibilities of damaging your valuable cartridge. All in all an impressive package at a remarkably low price.
What features are incorporated into the SL-1900?
Ultra-Low-Speed Direct Drive Motor
The SL-1900 uses a direct-drive system that is different from conventional systems. It doesn’t require belts, wheels, or other drive elements that can cause problems like vibration and changes in speed. Instead, it has only one moving part, which helps eliminate these issues and ensures a very smooth and constant rotation of the platter.
Integral Rotor-Platter Structure
To make the turntable design even simpler, the platter and rotor are combined into one continuous unit. This means there’s no separate connection between them that could cause problems like looseness or misalignment, which might affect the performance of the turntable.
One-Chip IC, B-FG Servo Speed Control
The rotating speed of the direct drive motor is controlled by what Technics called a ‘Back-Electromotive-Force Frequency Generator’ (BF-G) servo system. Essentially, the turntable’s speed is continuously checked, and if there is even a tiny difference from the desired speed, it is immediately corrected. The main control system that handles this correction is a special kind of integrated chip. This was advanced technology at the time and ensured that the turntable’s speed was always very accurate and precise.
Quiet, Fully-Automatic Operation With Memo-Repeat
The SL-1900 turntable is designed for easy and convenient use. You can activate features like auto start, auto return, and auto stop by simply moving the auto start lever. If you want to listen to a record again, it can automatically repeat up to six times, or even indefinitely if you set the Memo-Repeat dial accordingly. When the record finishes playing, the tonearm is automatically moved back to its rest, and the turntable is turned off. Despite being fully automatic, the SL-1900 operates with very little noise, providing a quiet and enjoyable listening experience.
Sensitive Gimbal Suspension Tonearm
The SL-1900 is outfitted with a sensitive gimbal suspension tonearm, which allows you to use high-quality premium cartridges. The force needed to move the gimbal bearings smoothly is just 7 milligrams, which is incredibly low. Technics achieved this by making sure the bearings’ rolling elements were made with strict quality control in their own factory.
Composite Base Material
Technics utilized a new-at-the-time sturdy base made from materials like plastic and fiberglass. This combination of materials helps to reduce vibrations and makes the turntable stable. The base is well designed and looks slim and attractive. The composition of the base, along with the isolators in each of the turntable’s feet, also prevents feedback effects, even when playing music at very high volume levels.
Moving Magnet Cartridge
The SL-1900 came outfitted with the EPC-270C-II moving magnet cartridge. It featured a CKS magnetic material, a low effective mass, and high compliance matched with good stability and linearity, assuring accurate tracing. If you need to replace the cartridge many users have suggested one of the following:
- Nagaoka MP-110
- Ortofon 2m blue
The Audio-Technica AT95E is probably the most budget friendly.
The SL-1900 turntable has some other notable features:
- Strobe Lamp with Markings
- Pitch Control with 10% Variable Range
- Anti-Skating/Oil-Damped Cueing
- Hinged, Detachable Dust Cover
Some issues with the SL-1900
Some people have experienced issues with the cueing mechanism of the SL-1900. It’s a fairly common problem but fortunately can be fixed. The cueing mechanism is responsible for raising and lowering the tonearm gently onto the record.
The issue with the SL-1900’s cueing mechanism involves the damping of the tonearm’s descent. In some units, this damping can become weak or ineffective over time, causing the tonearm to drop too quickly or sometimes not descend smoothly onto the record surface. This sudden or improper cueing can potentially damage the stylus or even the record itself.
To address this problem, some SL-1900 owners have resorted to “redamping” the cueing mechanism. Redamping involves opening up the turntable and either replacing or modifying the damping material to restore proper control over the tonearm’s movement. However, depending on the serial number of the turntable, the process of redamping can vary in difficulty and may require a delicate touch.
If you’re considering purchasing a used SL-1900 or currently own one, it’s worth inspecting the cueing mechanism before you buy. You can find the correct damping oil on eBay.
Another common issue is that the feet tend to degrade over the years and come apart. There are a number of aftermarket alternatives to replace them including sorbothane feet that are very good at damping vibration. The general opinion is that the 2″ versions work the best for turntables.
While the SL-1900 is not at the same quality level of the SL-1600/1700/1800 line, and is considered a budget turntable, it’s still worth considering. It’s easy to work on and parts are readily available. There is a wide array of cartridges that can be used on the tonearm. Plus, it has that classic Technics look and, when it’s working properly, is a quiet, good performing turntable.