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Pioneer PL-A35 Belt-Drive Turntable Repair

The Pioneer PL-A35 is one of those rare belt-driven Japanese decks that you don’t see very often. I’ve repaired a number of such unusual decks in the last 12 months or so, but this is definitely one of the nicest and in some ways, the most unusual.

According to Pioneer:

“The PL-A35 combines studio-quality performance with the operational ease of a fully automatic! Flick the function lever to the start position, and the tonearm will be automatically moved over and lowered onto the record and, at the end of the disc, will return to its rest. Cue and repeat features let you interrupt and repeat any record freely.”

Sounds good huh!

She’s a pretty striking deck overall.
Features

The platter is driven by a synchronous 4-pole motor of excellent stability independent from power voltage fluctuations. The factory belt drive is precision finished on both sides, a feature that helps reduce wow and flutter to an absolute minimum (the tonearm is moved by a separate, geared motor).

I found this Pioneer PL-A35 to be a real classic. It needed some repairs and a darn good service, but I was able to get her working again, albeit not fully automatic as she was from the factory. Unfortunately one of the rather fragile microswitches had at some point been forced, or broke of its own accord.

Here we can see the headshell, plus all other deck functions as controlled by little levers.

Part of the reason for this might have been that the mechanism was frozen by the time she came to me. The auto return mechanism was frozen so tightly together that it took some work, with oils, solvents and patience, to free the thing up. Its a shame I couldn’t fully repair this deck because she is a real beaut, with some features that mark the deck as a performer and built accordingly.

For example, there are two lubrication holes, one each for the top and bottom bearings of the motor. The sub-chassis also features and lovely black crinkle finish, reminiscent of premium lens finishes by Nikon or Zeiss. The chassis is a real-wood veneered piece, which looks especially nice against the crinkle-finish paint.

Still, after some TLC, the deck worked very well, albeit in semi auto or manual mode. This seems like a worthwhile tradeoff though to keep her going. The owner is going to get back to me if this proves to be too difficult for him. If that is the case I will try to source another switch for him.

Specifications

Type: fully automatic turntable
Drive method: belt drive
Motor: 4-pole synchronous
Speeds: 33 and 45rpm
Speed accuracy: 1%
Wow and flutter: 0.1% WRMS
Signal to noise ratio: 47dB
Platter: 300mm aluminium alloy
Tonearm: static balance type, pipe arm (s-shaped)
Effective length: 221mm
Usable cartridge weight: 4 to 10g
Dimensions: 480 x 415 x 183mm
Weight: 9kg

As yet uncleaned, we see the headshell and close up of deck controls here.
Speed selection is handled by another lever on the other side of the machine.
Nice machined aluminium platter, with a little weight to it.
Speed change lever operates this guide which moves the belt into one of two pulley positions.
View of deck, minus platter. here we can see the motor oiling holesnext to the ’50 Hz’ sign, motor and speed change lever bottom left, spindle in the middle and auto arm lift and other functions nearby.
Here are those motor oiling holes, with fresh oil installed! This deck was likely never oiled, never serviced, such was the dryness of these oilways and the amount of oil they took!
You can just see the two pulleys under the top of this pulley shaft. Nice motor on this deck..
You’ll see the felt oil-holder, under the top of the motor, through one of the two holes in the motor top-plate..
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This is the trouble with automatic decks – all sorts of problems lurk inside, waiting for oil or grease to dry out, or for careless fingers…
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This complex mechanism was completely seized. It took me some time to free it all up and relube everything.

Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts!