What’s the deal with “Super OEM” turntables?

What’s the deal with “Super OEM” turntables?

If you’ve done some browsing for a budget turntable, chances are you’ve heard this term before. OEM (Original Equipment Manufacture) products are mass-produced by one company for a low cost and sold to other companies that build upon them by adding their own features to complete a unique final product. To put it briefly, they are essentially core components to the product of another brand. In our case, Super OEMs are a clone of the classic Technics SL1200 and are made by a Taiwanese company called Hanpin, though they are re-badged and enter the market through the likes of Audio Technica, Stanton, Reloop and Pioneer. Frequently mentioned on online audio forums, they’re a somewhat divisive topic. Let’s have a look at the cases for and against them, and try to ascertain a conclusion that may aid the curious or confused shopper.

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Initially created to fill the gap in the market that Technics created once they ended production of the SL1200, the Super OEMs bear a similar set of specs from a glance – albeit with a much more appealing price tag. Both turntables have direct drive motors with a good amount of torque for DJing, and have similar S-shape tonearms. The Super OEMs do come with many more features (depending on the brand), such as wider pitch ranges, USB connectivity, line level output, 78 rpm playback etc.

Some of these features turn out to be a double edged sword though. For example, the turntables with line level outputs usually come with built-in preamps that fall below the standards of audiophiles, and many feel that an external one is needed, turning out to be a hidden cost. The biggest complaint against the Super OEMs found after trawling countless forums was mainly about build quality. Anybody who’s owned a pair of SL1200’s can attest to their sturdiness and durability – no question about it. When looking closely at the performance differences between the Hanpin and Technics turntables, the differences begin to arise. Based on user reports online, the tonearm on Super OEMs tend to come with some margin which may cause skipping, only to be further exacerbated when placed next to a full soundsystem stack in a club without proper isolation. Users who went so far as to perform wow/flutter tests also found that the Technics performed better in most, if not all cases.

But these differences aren’t huge. Sure, the Technics perform better, but these turntables are engineering marvels released almost 50 years ago that are still in widespread use today. They’ve carved out an entire legacy for themselves, DJing and music culture probably wouldn’t be what it is today without them. As such, it’s a little bit unfair to compare the two in the same context. Overall, much of the feedback from the Super OEM users was actually positive, and most of the dissatisfied reports came from serious audiophiles who were paying attention to every bit of detail. My advice to anyone considering buying Super OEMs vs second-hand SL1200’s would be to carefully consider what your use for them would be, and what you want out of them. If it’s just for spinning at home and you don’t want to empty the bank account, then Super OEM turntables are perfectly adequate. That said, if you can find a pair of Technics for cheap and you know a reliable place to get them maintained, you’ll most likely have a set of decks that you’ll never regret buying.

Check out a quick comparison done by DJ TechTools below:

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