Ears on with new high-end Technics C700 and R1 Hi-Fi systems

technics r1 topTechnics is back. I’ve never been so happy to see a brand return and when I walked in to Panasonic’s area at IFA and saw the legend “Rediscover Music – Technics” a big ol’ grin was slapped across my face.

You cannot over-emphasise how much impact Technics has had on the music scene. Almost every DJ and recording studio worth their salt has had at least one SL-1200 or some variant at some point. Chances are, if they have had one, they still own it or wish they hadn’t sold it.

It may be surprising then that Technics hasn’t really done Hi-Fi properly since the early ’80s and parent company, Panasonic, announced the death of the Technics turntable back in 2010.

I am pleased to say that the brand has returned with speakers, CD players and, bringing the brand bang back up-to-date, a music streamer.

Technics C700 and R1

There will be two versions, a ‘more affordable’ Premium Class C700 and a wallet whimper inducing, not to mention back-breaking, Reference Class R1 system.

For both, the company claims to be using “emotive music technology” and “accurate digital technology”.

Panasonic Technics R1The R1 series comprises three components: the Stereo Power Amplifier SE-R1, the Network Audio Control Player SU-R1, and the Speaker System SB-R1.

Technics C700Meanwhile, the C700 series, which Panasonic dubs a “premium class” array of gear, includes the Stereo Integrated Amplifier SU-C700, the Network Audio Player ST-C700, the Compact Disc Player SL-C700, and the Speaker System SB-C700.

Both systems will offer network playback, an amplifier and speakers, but the C700 will have a CD player included.

Sounds good

I had to get some ear time with these systems in one of the special listening rooms. These hold about a dozen people at a time who are treated to a mixture of jazz and classical tunes. These choices of test material should’ve been no surprise really as the new Technics project is led by Michiko Ogawa, a former Technics engineer and a well-known jazz pianist in Japan.

The C700 reproduced a lovely tone and my ears were drawn to the woody upright bass and clear cymbal strikes. The piano was expressive and all the instruments had their own space in the soundscape.

Technics listening roomThe first thing to hit me about the R1 was the atmosphere around the solo piano. It was literally one of those moments that had me closing my eyes and imagining that there was a big shiny grand piano and me in the room, not a bunch of tech and tech lovers. The resonance and character of the instrument was very impressive. The following piece of music had Diana Krall’s vocals front and centre in the soundstage and surrounded and supported, not enclosed, by her band.

Of course this was an impressive display and nothing less than what I’d expect from the kind of gear being used. I was slightly disappointed that other music genres weren’t put through the systems whether it have been some jazz rock or jazz funk fusion, electronica, pop, rock or dance. Any of these could have shown the versatility of the set-up and I am sure not all audiophiles lock themselves away and listen to Bluenote, Be-Bop and Brahms – that would be bonkers.

UK price

This new equipment will go on sale in Europe in December and will then eventually spread across to other regions.

The Reference Class R1 system is expected to have a price well north of £20,000. For that you’ll get the SU-R1 network music player/preamplifier, the SE-R1 stereo power amplifier, and the floorstanding SB-R1 speakers. I couldn’t find out if a CD or high-end multi-disc player will ever join the R1 line-up. Even so, this is a large system in every sense of the word.

Selling for rather less and therefore appears comparatively more affordable for those with an audiophile budget, the C700 series system price-tag will be around the £3000 mark. This gets you the ST-C700 network audio player, the SL-C700 CD player, the SU-C700 integrated amplifier and bookshelf/standmount SB-C700 speakers.

Technics SST-1It’s great to have Techics back but… can we have a new version of something as crazy bananas as the SST-1 too? Well, how many other speakers have appeared at the Museum of Modern Art?