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Denon DP-30L Turntable Service & Review

I just serviced this lovely Denon DP-30L direct-drive turntable and want to spread the word about this great deck.

The Denon DP-30L is an excellent turntable with a good feature-set, quality motor, solid chassis and excellent speed control circuitry. The DP-30L weighs in at just under 10kg, much more than today’s lightweight decks. This deck also exhibits commendably low wow and flutter, in part due to Denon’s unique speed control methodology.

Technology

Unlike most other manufacturers who use hall sensors or printed circuit traces to generate the speed control signal, Denon chose to print a magnetic strip encoded with a waveform, on the underside of the platter. This strip is read back by a magnetic tape head, very similar to the type you’d find in a cassette deck.

As the platter spins, the tape head reads the signal from the strip and feeds it into a comparator. A reference frequency is also fed into the comparator. As its name suggests, the comparator ‘compares’ the two and speed adjustments are made based on the difference between reference and generated frequencies.

Denon utilised this method of speed control in all their direct drive decks from this period, and it works very well. In fact, it’s more reliable than some other methods of sensing rotational speed. Of course, speed control relies on the measured signal being precise. Nothing is perfectly machined or completely flat, so some wow and flutter is inevitably ‘built-in’. The result is still usually far better than belt-drive decks.

You can read more about the Denon DP-30L at the awesome website Vinyl Engine!

DP-30L Specifications

Drive system: AC servo motor, direct drive
Wow & flutter: 0.015% WRMS (servo)
Signal to noise ratio: 78dB
Tonearm: S-shaped (mk1), straight low mass (mk2)
Dimensions: 450 x 140 x 403mm
Weight: 9.5kg

The motor isn’t quite as hefty as the motors of older Denon decks like the SL-7D, but it’s still a decent design and should last for many years.

Servicing

The DP-30L is easy to work on, typical of most older Denon equipment. Everything is well laid out and the circuit board and parts are of good quality.

DP-30L
Typically Denon – neat and easy to work on
DP-30L
All control circuitry is on one large board. the heatsink is for the motor driver transistors.
DP-30L
It’s always worth opening and re-lubricating a direct drive motor of this age
DP-30L
Off comes the rotor, leaving the stator and ball-bearing behind
DP-30L
Close up of the rotor and shaft, note the concave end, where the ball bearing sits. Clean her up and then add a few drops of synthetic bearing oil.

The Bottom Line

The Denon DP-30L is a popular and easy to find deck if you are looking to buy one. The DP-30L would make a perfect deck for someone upgrading from a belt-drive deck, perhaps buying their first proper direct-drive. It would certainly make an excellent alternative to the plastic junk you can find new for similar prices.

You can expect dramatically improved pitch accuracy, lower rumble and more predictable operation from a quality direct-drive deck like the DP-30L. You’ll also get a nice tonearm and the ability to play with most medium compliance MM and MC cartridges.

Get a DP-30L serviced and set up properly with a decent cartridge and you’ll have an excellent vinyl spinner that will provide many more years of listening pleasure.

Denon DP-30L

$350 - $700AUD
7.7

Build / Finish

7.5/10

Features

8.5/10

Sound Quality

8.0/10

Scalability

7.0/10

Bang-Per-Buck

7.5/10

Pros

  • Low wow & flutter
  • Good tonearm
  • Excellent motor
  • Serviceable
  • Great performance

Cons

  • Plastic chassis

30 thoughts on “Denon DP-30L Turntable Service & Review”

  1. Just bought the DP-30L and it’s a great table…really like the auto lift feature. ..Solid sound and looks good on the stand…fyi my tone arm started to float one day and discovered the internal mechanism had passed it’s mechanical stop…a gentle push down on the lift arm positioned it….no issues now…thanks for the notes

  2. Gidday mate I have a denon DP 30L as I took it in for a hifi place to check it out and the guy broke the tonearm on it now I’m just wondering if you can still get a tonearm for it thank you

    1. Hi Gary, make sure they pay you in full for the damaged deck as it is a write off. Nothing like this is available now and parts have not been available for many years.

  3. Great revue Mike, thanks. I have a Denon DP 30L that I’m about to fire up again after a 25 year hiatus. Any advice and also any thoughts on cartridge/stylus upgrade. I’ve been told by the local store they cant source a replacement shure stylus.

    1. Hi Chris, thanks for that and yes, there are lots of options. If you like the Shure, you can go for a modern equivalent in the M97xE, an excellent entry level proper moving magnet cart. Otherwise there are always the usual Ortofon 2M Red and Blue. Much depends on your budget, and you want to make sure the compliance match between the arm and cart is good.

  4. Hi Mike, I have a Denon 30 L II which i’ve owned for many years and which has given great service (now with a Shure M97xE cartridge). Not that it is a real problem, but the dust cover now has a few cracks and is no longer crystal clear. Do you know where I could buy a replacement cover; either new or second-hand? Regards,

    1. Hi John, thanks for getting in touch. Given that these are long since out of production, your best bet would be to scour eBay for a spares unit or spare lid. You could also possibly get one made, several places in Aus are doing this now, including Plasfab. Hope this helps!

  5. I used auto polish on mine, its still not perfect but it did come up very nice with minor scuffing removed & clarity restored.
    it wont fix the cracks but will clean up very nicely & may hide the cracks some,
    cheaper than a replacement in the first instance

  6. I have a Denon turntable with a damaged magnetic coating. The turntable has an slight thunk in the playback audio. The turntable bounced against the magnetic reading head during a cross country truck move 20 years ago. The magnetic coating is a light brown color with a dark vertical line presumably where the reading head touched.

    Can you tell me a source of a magnetic particle recoating fluid?

    1. Hi, thanks for your comment. Firstly the head spacing has to be set precisely. The magnetic strip is encoded with a signal, so it’s not as simple as recoating the strip. Doing so will likely destroy the ability of the deck to control the speed of the platter. I’ve had lots of success fixing Denon decks like this with speed issues relating to the head, platter and circuitry. If you live locally I’d suggest bringing her in. If not, try to source an undamaged platter, they are fairly common.

      1. Hi Mike,

        Recently picked up a denon dp 30l,

        Really enjoy that solid retro aesthetic it has. Have it set up next to a modern audio technica lp 2x. When I bought the denon from my local marketplace the seller demod it for me it played fine (although it wasn’t a long demo) on getting it home I opened it up and cleaned and lubricated the bearing and spindle.

        On setting it up to play properly I’ve found that it will play properly for 3 – 4 minutes and then slow to a stop. And will not start again untill it has been powered down for a time.

        This problem disappearing after being powered down has me wondering if this is some kind of over heating issue. I’ll be taking it to a local audio repair specialist when time and budget allows but just wondering if you have any insight on this problem at all.

        1. Hi Daniel, thanks for writing and yes, these are a classic deck for sure. I’m guessing either a mistake was made during the process of opening it up and working on it, given that you say it worked well before, or the fault was there already and the seller didn’t play it for long enough for the fault to appear. Bad luck either way. I have a few thoughts on this but complex direct-drives are not really user-serviceable. I’d like to see what you did, how you did it, how you checked the sensor clearance etc. If you have the confidence and know what you are doing, start from scratch checking all mechanical and electronic adjustments. If you suspect overheating, look for parts getting too hot by running it up in a jig. Excess current flow reveals itself this way. You can even monitor power consumption with a meter. Failing this and ideally, you need to find a technician who has worked on and repaired these decks, amongst others.

          1. Thanks for the reply Mike.

            I only very carefully removed the top cover of the unit. Disconnected the motor cover and carefully cleaned the bearing and spindle with quips and isopropyl alcohol. Then applied a few drops of high quality synthetic lubricant.

            The information I was working off suggested that I go nowhere near touching the speed sensor reading head as it’s very unlikely to have come out of alignment other then by being fiddled with.

            I am more then likely at booking it in for with a technician as I’d definitely rather not do more damage than good. Was hoping there might have been something simple I could check before that but probably not worth fiddling with it too much.

            Thanks again for your response

            1. Hi Daniel, no worries, my pleasure, shame you aren’t local or you could drop her in. Even a tiny bit of lint from a q-tip caught in the wrong place can cause problems. A simple example: give three people a screw and a screwdriver and tell them to install and tighten the screw. It could be stripped, over-torqued, under-torqued, cross threaded, lost or just maybe installed correctly! This is the reality with something as simple as a screw, I see it every day. For most, it’s very sensible to take a complex turntable like this to someone who knows these machines. Forums can be a disaster for gear like this. The sensor is often set incorrectly BTW, worth checking.

  7. Hi, Mike:
    I have a Denon DP*55K installed with a SEAC 308N arm. I bought it new in 1981. After enjoying it ever since. Now, it has an issue: it spins for about one minute,then slows down and then spins correctly again and then slows down and finally comes to a stop. I switched it off and powered it on again but it does not spin at all. If I try again, maybe, a couple of days later, it repeats the same problem as I described earlier. Can you fix this problem and what is wrong with it? How much would be the cost to fix this problem? I live in San Francisco, USA. I have friends in the USA sometimes travelling to Australia. What is your address?
    Thansk.
    Kwok Cheng

    1. Hi Kwok, sorry to hear you are having problems with your turntable. To briefly answer your questions, it’s not possible to say exactly what’s wrong until properly inspecting the unit and tracing the fault. Likewise in terms of repair costs, there’s no way to know until we know exactly what has failed and how long the repair will take. Most of these sorts of faults are fixable, but each scenario is slightly different, so we must always inspect, test and go from there. Travelling a long way with a turntable is generally not advisable, but if we get to that point we can have a chat on the phone before booking her in. Alternatively, you might be able to find a competent local repairer who can resolve this issue for you.

      1. Hi Mike,

        Thanks for your reply. I have not had luck with audio repair service in San Francisco. I call Denon in the USA and it did not accept my table for service. I took it to a repair shop claimed to have 40-year experience but it didn’t fix it–fortunately the technician didn’t even open the bottom cover to try to repair it. Before this turntable, I had an Accuphase E303, which also was not fixed. I saw from your Facebook, you serviced quite some high end audio equipment–I saw a E202. Keep up the good work.

        1. Hi Kwok, thanks and yes I work on a ton of Accuphase, Krell and good old Pioneer, Sony, Technics, Kenwood etc! I’m sure this and the 303 are fixable, the key is to find the right repairer, it makes the difference between the experiences you’ve described and smooth running, reliable hi-fi gear.

    1. Hi Rick, yes I’m a specialist turntable repairer and have a range of synthetic lubricants for various types of bearings. A roughly 30 weight oil works well here and should be added after thoroughly cleaning the bearing well and spindle with a high flash-point solvent.

  8. I dragged mine out of the box after 15 years in storage and it wouldn’t light up. I’m not an electronics guy but am always ready to do some basic investigation.
    Opening it up, there was no obvious place where the ‘smoke escaped’, but looking at the basic configuration, I started testing for voltage. It turns out it failed at the initial power input – the on/off pushbutton DPST switch. With no likely source of a replacement with the same form factor, I’ll open the switch and see if I can clean it up.

  9. Justin McVicar

    Hi, just got a barely used DP-30L II from eBay, and I’m very happy with the condition it’s in. Only thing I found was that that auto arm lift is really slow. Like, it takes a 10 seconds to lower and 5 seconds to lift. Not sure why. I’m not exactly knowledgeable with this kind of stuff either.

    1. No worries Justin, good work there and that’s what we’re here for! If you live in WA, I’m happy to sort that out for you and complete the maintenance it obviously needs. Feel free to fill out the contact form if you’d like to make a booking.

      1. Justin McVicar

        More of a general question at this point as to what might be the issue, as I’ve already spent a fair bit on the turntable, so money is a bit tight at the moment, and I’m located in QLD, so it’ll be a bit expensive even getting it there. It’s already made a long trip up from Tassie.

        Alternatively, if you happen to know a good turntable repair service around Brisbane, that would be fantastic as well.

        1. You’re welcome and note that I generally don’t suggest sending turntables a long way, hence my offer to assist if you lived in WA. Your deck needs maintenance, no doubt a full service it’s never had, with attention paid to the arm lift/lower device. My advice is to save a little money and have your deck serviced and set up by the nearest specialist experienced with machines like yours. This is so important with older gear, especially turntables. I don’t know of anyone in Qld, but try contacting the best hi-fi store in Brisbane and see who they use for their turntable work.

Thanks for visiting, feel free to leave a comment. Advice is accessible via our contact page.

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