Technics SL-DZ1200 MKII Mod: Fixing A Flawed Design

Technics introduced the SL-DZ1200 direct drive digital turntable in 2004, hoping to stake a strong claim onto the then-burgeoning digital DJ market. The Technics ultimately lost the race to Pioneer and Denon due to a number of hardware and firmware issues that plagued the units. But now, an independent gear modifier out of the UK is bringing new life to the SL-DZ1200s with a hardware modification. Learn about the history of the turntable and the new modification inside.


The Dippin Dots of the turntablism world.

Anyone who was looking to buy a digital turntable at the advent of digital vinyl control systems in the early 2000s would have been initially excited at the prospect of Technics stepping in to create a modern version of the SL-1200 turntables. Technics delivered, but not without a number of major faults including:

  • Major digital distortion when using key lock and scratching
  • MP3 playback limited to 192kbps 
  • Slip/control discs fit poorly (too loose, allowing side-to-side movement)
  • Limited usable platter space because of the center LCD

Panasonic’s lack of attention to detail meant that Pioneer and Denon had no issues blowing the SL-DZ1200 out of the water. Watch this classic YouTube clip of each companies being compared on a basic scratch test:

Eventually an update was finally shipped for the firmware on the unit, version 2.3, that actually addressed many of the issues with the performance of the software – but the market had already shifted. Of course, the new firmware wasn’t able to fix physical issues with the unit but it meant that player worked pretty well with DVS systems, especially since you could load a SD card with timecode straight into the unit – no CD necessary. The SD slot only accepts up to 1GB cards, and require proprietary card readers and software to load compatible files onto the turntable, so it’s not reasonable to use for music.

Panasonic stopped manufacturing the SL-DZ1200 prior to 2008, but there continued to be an aftermarket demand for the digital turntable. Even now, used units of the SL-DZ1200 go for about $300-$400 per turntable.

A dedicated, active group of DZ1200 DJs on Facebook

There’s also a small-but-dedicated community of followers who share instructions on how to create custom colored slipmats for the unit, do simple repairs, and troubleshoot issues. It’s rare to see this strong of a following for an “abandoned” piece of DJ hardware, but not surprising considering how allegiant Technics users historically have been.


At DJ TechTools, we’ve got a soft spot for people who see manufacturer design flaws as an opportunity instead of a dead end. That’s how we got our start – replacing the plastic switches on the Vestax VCI-100 with high-quality arcade buttons. UK-based electrical engineer, DJ, producer, and promoter Stuart Littleford is very much of the same mindset, seeing the physical defects of the Technics digital turntable as a challenge worth taking on.

He’s launching his own new modification/conversion project that overhauls the center control disc, removes the LCD screen from the middle of the turntable, and makes a number of drastic performance and hardware enhancements:

  • Fixes side-to-side movement on the platter, reducing lag/drag on the unit
  • Removes the center display from the platter and makes it external to the turntable (optional mounting or stand)
  • Replaces the platter with a vinyl disc, attached with a central middle spindle and sealed to prevent dust getting into the sensor. The new platter also means the entire 10″ surface can be used for control instead of a limited 5″
  • Adds a new “slip disk part” to prevent platter sticking
  • Modifies the firmware to allow up to 210 kbps MP3s

According to Stuart, each conversion takes about 12 hours – with each part being done himself (including cabling, CNC milling, electrical mods, etc). He’s going to charge about $250 for someone to send in a unit and convert it (shipping not included), or $585 for a unit from his own stockpile. He also plans a DIY kit (~$140):

I will also be doing a conversion kit shortly which will be the cheapest way if you already own a unit (around £80) but it is a long conversion and will take many hours and will require many skills, and I can’t be held responsible if you damage your deck!

I’m in the process of making an instruction sheet, but this will take a while to complete as I have to document every step in detail. […] But you have to [be] good with a soldering iron!

Watch a MKII modification in action:

It’s pretty surprising that with such an active community on a “dead” product, Panasonic hasn’t allowed the community to take over development of the firmware and software. Stuart has his own feelings on the matter:

“My problem with Panasonic is probably the same as many others who brought the SL-DZ1200, they basically didn’t give a fuck about us. People paid a lot of money for those decks […] they should of cared a lot more for those who had brought them […] What they should have done (which I’ve tried many times) is let me have the software program or make it open source so we could upgraded it ourselves.”

Follow progress of this modification project on the official Facebook page. Know of other gear that deserves this type of treatment post-mortem? Let us know in the comments below.  

diy modssl-dz1200sl-dz1200 mk2stuart littlefordtechnics
Comments (58)
Add Comment
  • TheGDog

    So… WTF… this vid didn’t show whether or not he fixed the Pitch-Lock Scratching issue. Also… long ago I learned to NEVER trust playing CD’s which contained MP3’s as data files on this thing. If there is ANY data glitch/hiccup contained within the MP3 files data… while playing… when it hits that glitch… BAM!… playing stops completely… dead-cold. A horrifying event to have happen when you’re playing an event. I only use standard CD Redbook Audio CD’s in these puppies. Also I’ve got a couple of the cue buttons not working anymore. For improvement… I wish the decks would pull the platter away from your fingers the same way… with the same amount of force the traditional 12’s do. With the DZ’s ya gotta kinda learn to sorta “push” the platter back up to rotational speed at the end of your scratch manipulation. Also if they had a mechanism whereby you could fine tune the placement of the A-B loop points on the screen, so you could get it perfect before feeding it into the mix.

  • Jyve

    I wish Technics would come through and make a modern version of the SL-DZ1200… I think there’s a ton of room in the current market for moving digital-player platters!

  • Ryan

    F/s….Yamaha Motif XS8 88-Key Keyboard.

    Package Content .

    88-key workstation with balanced hammer-effect keyboard
    AWM2 Tone Generator with Expanded Articulation
    128-note polyphony
    741MB Wave ROM, 3,977 wave forms
    1,024 normal voices, 64 drum kits
    128 normal GM voices, one drum kit
    128 presets by four banks and 32 drum kit presets
    18 filter types
    Scores of effects
    Built-in sampling support and 128M SD RAM
    16-track, approximately 130,000-note sequencer
    5-scene memory per song
    USB host and device connections
    Ethernet computer connection
    L/R output, L/R assignable output, digital output
    Standard 1/4″ headphones jack
    MIDI I/O/T
    Slot for optional FW16E card.
    Skype Name….electronicss581

  • Richard Lungo

    Yamaha Tyros 5 76 Key Arranger Workstation Keyboard with stand speakers

    Accessories: Manual, AC Power Cable, Music Stand, CD-Rom

    Package Content :

    AC power cord

    Music rest and brackets


    Owner’s Manual

    Installation Guide

    User Registration Card

    Dimensions: 44.9 x 17.7 x 5.6 inches

    Weight 33 pounds

    We ship all items bought to any given destination required by buyer and deliver to doorstep

    within 3/5days.

    We ship through reliable courier services i.e FedEx/DHL shipping company for distribution of our goods worldwide.


    Skype: musicabetaltd.

    Phone + 447-0359-41197

    Many Thanks


  • ClassOneCanines

    I bought 2 of these at full retail price back in 2003 or 2004. I also paid $100 for the proprietary software and card reader. I found out that the files were just hidden on those cards… kind of like the old iPods used to be. Also the files had a strange file extension. All I had to do was change the file extension to mp3 and could be played on anything. I did the firmware update but still was not happy with them. For me it wasn’t ever a tissue with whether or not I could scratch. In general I found it much more difficult to control speed the way I could on a pioneer deck or a vinyl turntable… it always felt more like a toy to me. Needless to say it was one of the most disappointing purchases of my life. I gave those docs in pristine condition to my ex…. and some of my older equipment (mackie d4 mixe . And a technics 1210 MK5). In hindsight I should have kept one of the SL DZ decks…. they still were the coolest looking and CD decks… ponies……at least b4 modification.

  • djteste

    Sent my SL-dz1200’s to this guy no word for 2 weeks then excuses that he
    was busy…after 5 weeks he shipped back and 7 weeks in total my
    turntables arrived AND DIDN’T WORK! Turn on the units and get error
    signals nothing works these are good for the garbage now unbelievable!
    Don’t send your turntables to this guy!!! What kind of conspiracy is
    this DJ TECH TOOLS, you recommend these people and do such an article
    for them and don’t even know their credentials? Were you paid

  • djteste

    Bumping my comments down hey Dan you asshole.

  • djteste

    And Dan White you are such an imbecile this article is complete bollox and your an asshole who just because he pays for a fucking URL thinks he’s a gear reviewer. Assholes recommending assholes to mod your equipment. Nice one assholes.

  • Djteste

    Sent my SL-dz1200’s to this guy no word for 2 weeks then excuses that he was busy…after 5 weeks he shipped back and 7 weeks in total my turntables arrived AND DIDN’T WORK! Turn on the units and get error signals nothing works these are good for the garbage now unbelievable! Don’t send your turntables to this guy!!! What kind of conspiracy is this DJ TECH TOOLS, you recommend these people and do such an article for them and don’t even know their credentials? Were you paid assholes???

  • Rainy

    Question please – so with firmware update you can’t play 320 kbs mp3s ? Can you play Wavs/Aiffs etc with this cdj ? I use key lock all the time on Pioneer and sound is just ok, not great, apparently this Tecnhics CDJ sounds terrible, very tinny & digital, when using key lock, is this correct ? Please let me know your thoughts.

  • Peter

    Where can I buy this?

  • Djkenny Isglobal

    see a lot of haters in the forum .lmao
    com on guy yall got admit…. these sucked ass big time when they first came out.
    @ Greg Carollo im going to respect your opinion about 30 yrs in the game (granted im right there with you!) BUT … you say you bought the dz1200 & never had ANY OF THE SAME ISSUES like other have seen with the dz1200 (your a lie if you ever told one) NOW JUST STOP IT OK..LMAO you sound real silly right now….lmao!! look dude…. Thes were common problems PROVIN over & over & over… now all of sudden you the lucky one out the bunch huh (dude please!) sound to me like…. like your just trying to be heard but anyways…… if the conversion kit will save the dz1200 im down when a true dj takes risk on a product like…( i did) and its a total failure, to see someone take intrest in at least trying to correct the problem i think thats wonderful cause panasonic sure didint, they took the money… discontinued…& ran leaving us holding ( not 1 ) but.. 2 expensive pieces of junk
    cheers to the dz1200mk2 for caring & and time of corrections!!

  • WilliamThaKonqueror

    I had a pair!! I knocked over my Vodka drink and pretty much one was history. I for the longest didn’t want to sell it, however I sold my Vodka DZ12.
    I still have one more of these DZ Turntables, It sits on my computer desk as decor, after watching this and reading all the comments, maybe it is time to sell it!

  • calkutta

    yes,this is a brilliant hack….however,a numark HDX is midi,has an 80gig hard drive and effects…this is cool if you already have one,hate it,and wanna just skratch on it…but the HDX,not the CDX,the CDX has the CD slot problem,as does the HDX,but you dont need the CD slot when u can load it from your computer via USB or a Flash drive…plus the effects are great…you could show up atta party with a HDX and not need a computer,it has stand alone cue points,effects less thing to go wrong.or,u could use the DVS with it and go Bananas…this is cool,but not being MIDI and no hard drive seems…well wack…put a fader in it and i will buy the new super QFO…but regardless..its brilliant hack wise…

  • Greg Carollo

    I dont care what the world dj community has to say about this unit. I bought 2 and have NEVER had any problems. I have had no distortion or noise issues and at the place where I have had my gear worked on, the owner confided he constantly was repairing broken Pioneers for being built like shit. This guys mod looks unnecessary but if you want to be cool do it. After 30 years I honestly am embarrased to call myself a dj. It is NOT the art form it was requiring years of work and practice and has now become a joke celebrity attention grabber. When people get residencies at the biggest clubs after having djed a month. The only thing I look forward to now is owning my own private spot where I can set the rules and govern mentality. I wish all the old schoolers the BEST. I hope you guys feel the same…

    • Carl Malik Ismael

      Brother….So Well FUCCKING SAID……..Very same thing I’ve been saying for about 10years or So! So depressing & even more Disrespectful to longtime DJ’S like us…Shukran(Thank You)
      Carl Malik Ismael

  • marcus

    If all goes well with this maybe they will come out with a controller next.

    • Oddie O'Phyle

      this product is 10 years old and a cd deck. panasonic/technics aren’t known for controllers. i seriously doubt that they would pour cash into R&D for an already flooded controller based market to compete with pioneer. they lost momentum years ago in the dj subculture to the cdj. technics tend to be the standard when people think of turntables, but pioneer at this point has picked up the ball and hasn’t stopped running.

  • Dan Leach

    I can see why people want to revive them – they are a good-looking piece of gear!

  • Sensei Haus

    Check out the DJWORX site also to see our discussion there.

  • Sensei Haus

    Another “Dj review site that does no research”.

    Before you start “Hacking” a beautifully
    engineered machine think twice. The 2-3 major issues this person speaks
    about have been addressed by OUR product for almost a decade. The main
    factors to consider are the “minimization of play” of the
    disc and the optimal weight of the disc that replicates the feeling of
    an analog 1200. You cannot achieve this with some old records and just
    “guess & hope” to get the right weight you are at the will of
    whatever vinyl you’ve “found”. Back to the hacking of your turntable, no
    need to do such a modification when you can use a properly designed
    “interface” that is engineered with the two previous factors.

    These SL-DZ1200’s are not being made anymore you don’t need to do
    anything to increase it’s chances of having problems in the future.

    Lol and I have to say when you watch the video he is always using the
    “outer edge” of the record as MOST dj’s do so a screen wouldn’t be in
    the way anyways with his technique. That’s also why Panasonic designed
    it this way. It’s like having a “colostomy bag” attached to your body
    that you have to always find a pillow or stand to put it on. The DZ is
    such a beautiful machine why destroy it when you don’t have to?

    • feederz

      So what is YOUR mod?

  • kindawant

    Anyone know where I can get a loaded SD card compatible with the DZ with current serato timecode on it?

  • lawerds

    i’d trade/sell my 1210’s for a pair, 1210’s are super heeeeavy, and im not exploring the boundries of technical stratching when i play out so why would I NOT want these?

  • Simone

    I have one of these, bout ready to go ahead and sell it. Owning one of these things now has like having a Yugo or one of those other crap cars in the garage, kinda embarrassing. IF this could actually be pulled off (I hope that placement they show for the display ISN’T permanent, looks a bit weird), I might be inclined to be interested again.

    • DJ Hombre

      You can either have the display hooked up to the back of the unit or on a tether and place wherever you like…check their facebook page for the photos.

      • Simone Phoenix

        Ok, cool. Thanks for the info!

  • Nelson Mercado

    I own a pair of those Technics and what a waste of money the platter always got stuck I had to buy some lube in order to spin the platter back n forth and in time it only got worst. They only last me for like 5 months. $1800 down the drain.

    • Dan White

      Exactly part of what he fixes in the mod! 😉

    • Dan Leach

      Is that because the platter was too heavy? It always looked that way to me which is why I was put off…

      • Ed Spencer

        No, the platters ‘stick’ due to a build up and other issues. If you clean them thoroughly they don’t stick. Basically, there’s a ‘slipmat’ of sorts between the top piece you touch and the platter itself. You just need to clean this well and make sure it’s dry. I used a set of these for years and they were rock solid performers. ESPECIALLY when coupled with a DVS. I’ve used a set with Torq, Serato, and Traktor without issue. And I used an SD card for playback of a few samples that I recorded from a CD as well.

        And I’m loving the idea of a modified version of these… I just wish someone would hack the firmware and ‘fix’ the problems with the playback from the SD card. 😉 Perhaps in time… 🙂

  • Adam Seckel

    210kbps seems a bit of a hold up though

    • Dan White

      To clarify: 210 kbps is just if you use internal playback. that’s more than suitable for DVS timecode, which is what most people using these units recommend.

      • Oddie O'Phyle

        just picked up a Z2 from my local gear shop yesterday, starting to put some pennies aside for either a pair of turntables (again) or a pair cdj’s. saw this and my eyes light up… so cool. thnx dan.

        • JoeySuki

          dont get these, go calssic 1200s or cdjs, make thses last resort

          • Oddie O'Phyle

            i’ll probably be grabbing a pair of tech 12 mkII’s again, got rid of my last pair about 15yrs ago (baby food and diapers were more important at the time). the reason why my eyes light up about this is for the nostalgia and novelty. if this fix clears up a bunch of issues to make them usable, i can scrape up a used pair with coffin cases for about $400. the only thing i’d be using these for is at home with time code anyway.

          • Oddie O'Phyle

            just wondering… ever hear of a track called “disco makes me”?

      • Adam Seckel

        Didn’t even think of that! Good shout.

  • Oddie O'Phlye

    what a cool article, i hate the concept of living in a disposable society. i love the fact that this guy has fixed a flawed unit and is now retro-fitting.

    • djteste

      fucked my turntables! Yeah!

  • stefanhapper

    Interesting story about the DZ-1200 – If Panasonic had not ignored these issues back then, do you think we would have more DZ-1200 (mk5?) instead of CDJs in today’s clubs?

    • dj vinny

      I think so …..because technics had a hold on the turntable market most dj ‘s would have had some kind of loyalty especially since they dominated that market for almost 20 years. Pioneer would have not been so expensive with
      More proper competition .

    • Dan White

      Not unlikely. As Vinny mentions below, Technics had a foothold in the club market already (similar to Pioneer’s current state). That makes it much easier to be a trusted name for people who know less about DJ tech – like club owners, managers, etc.

  • Mutis Mayfield

    Maybe it is the new (secret leaked by Qbert) pioneer product?

    • Oddie O'Phyle

      doubt it, this is not a new product. it is a retro-fit fix by an independent third party. it is also not a pioneer product.

    • Mutis Mayfield

      I was kidding folks… But maybe Pioneer will came with something similar like this (and HID/Midi… For Serato)