Panasonic puts new spin on legendary turntable, shows off headphones at CES 2019

While it’s true that new TVs tend to get the most hype at CES — and this year is certainly no exception — it’s also home to the newest audio products. Case in point: Panasonic is debuting a series of devices including two new Technics turntables and six new headphones under the Panasonic and Technics brands.

Headphones

Panasonic has announced two new Bluetooth headphones under its own brand that focus on what the company calls the “athleisure” market, defined by its “effortless style that is a chic combination of streetwear and sportswear, enabling more comfort and versatility.”  Both models come in five colors: black, blue, red, green, and white, and both feature Panasonic’s XBS enhanced bass technology.

There’s a new on-ear, folding design RP-HF410B model that has an impressively long 24-hour battery life, 30mm drivers, and weighs only 130 grams. It’s compatible with both Siri and Google Assistant.

Its companion, the RP-NJ310B, is an in-ear model. The NJs feature what Panasonic calls an “Ergofit double-hold shape” for a stable wear. While not as impressive as the HF’s 24 hours, it still has a very respectable 6 hours of play time.

There are also two new step-up Bluetooth models, the over-the-ear RP-HTX90N and the in-ear RP-HTX20B. Both evoke a retro vibe, but have modern technology. The HTX90 boasts the same 24-hour battery life as the HF410, but has a set of 40mm drivers, noise cancellation, and a detachable cord.

The HTX20 is also a decent performer in the battery life department, with an 8.5-hour playing time between charges. It features the same Ergofit double-hold shape as the NJ310.

Audiophiles will want to hold out for the new Technics wireless EAH-F70N and EAH-F50B Bluetooth headphones. These two new models support LDAC and apt-X HD for wireless, high-res-equivalent sound. Though visually very similar, there are a few differences. The F70 feature hybrid active noise cancellation, with three available modes, and also has a wearing sensor that lets you pause the music when you remove them from your ears. Its ambient sound enhancer lets you listen to background sounds, such as announcements made on a train or in an airport, by simply touching the outside of the housing, without removing the headphones.

There’s no word yet on pricing or availability for these new Panasonic and Technics models.

Turntables

First up is an update to the legendary Technics SL-1200, now in it’s seventh iteration, and aptly named the SL-1200MK7. This is the first time in nine years that Technics has issued an update to its standard DJ turntable, a direct-drive platter spinner it’s been making without interruption since 1972. The MK7 adopts a lot of the features that were introduced a few years ago on the very limited-edition Grand Class SL-1200 turntables, including an all-new direct-drive motor featuring a coreless design. Panasonic claims that this virtually eliminates cogging of the motor, which has been known to plague certain direct-drive systems. The new, maintenance-free system delivers high torque and very smooth rotation at all speeds.

There’s a new stylus illumination system, which houses a bright, long-life LED and uses a push-button design. But we think that DJs will be most excited for the MK7’s reverse-play function. If you’re using a scratch-compatible stylus, simply press the Speed selector button and Start/Stop button simultaneously, and find out what all those lyrics sound like backwards.

Panasonic says it figured out how to improve its turntable motor controls after studying the lessons learned from making Blu-ray disc players. A microprocessor controls the rotation, which means the starting torque and brake speed can also be adjusted individually to suit the user’s preference.

Rounding out the changes are a new platter design with a two-layer structure and deadening rubber on the entire back surface to eliminate unwanted resonance in the aluminium die-cast platter, an improved high-rigidity aluminium tonearm, and a high-rigidity cabinet and high damping insulator for thorough shutout of all vibrations.

The the new SL-1500C premium class direct-drive turntable is a vinyl player for us mere mortals, yet it inherits many of the SL-1200MK7’s advancements, including the single rotor, coreless direct-drive motor, as well as the improved platter, tonearm, and cabinet. It has an auto-lift feature that picks up the tonearm at the end of a disc and can be disabled if desired. It’s a truly ready-to-play device: It ships with a supplied universal head shell, which is mounted with an Ortofon 2M RED cartridge. Best of all, the SL-1500C  has a built-in phono equalizer amp compatible with moving magnet cartridges so it can be connected to an audio product that does not have phono input terminals.

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