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Pioneer PL-514 Turntable Service & Review

The Pioneer PL-514 belt-drive turntable is an absolute classic. There’s really not much more to add, so come and find out why.

The Pioneer PL-514 is a high-quality, great-sounding belt-drive deck from one of the big Japanese manufacturers. In terms of build and performance, like so much other Japanese gear, it puts many other belt-drive decks to shame.

Check out my video, below, and read on for more details.

Description

The Pioneer PL-514 is a high-performance belt-driven turntable that employs an auto-return mechanism. Other features include an anti-skating force control, cueing device, detachable dust cover, insulator feet, plug-in type headshell and a 40mm thick particleboard cabinet.

For what you pay, you get a heck of a lot of turntable with the PL-514. I mean, this thing punches far above its weight, right up into decent direct drive territory and beyond. You could pay $2000 AUD for a new turntable and I promise you it won’t be as nicely made, nor will it sound as good or be as collectible later.

Pioneer PL-514 Specifications, courtesy of Vinyl Engine

Type: auto-return turntable
Drive method: belt drive
Motor: 4-pole synchronous
Speeds: 33 and 45 rpm
Wow and flutter: 0.055% WRMS
Signal to noise ratio: 65dB
Platter: 320mm aluminium alloy die-cast
Tonearm: static balance type, pipe arm (s-shaped)
Effective length: 221mm
Overhang: 15.5mm
Usable cartridge weight: 4 to 10g
Dimensions: 440 x 365 x 140mm
Weight: 7.5kg

Service

I serviced and upgraded this one for her owner. I installed a Jelco HS-25 magnesium headshell, Ortofon 2M Red moving magnet cartridge, new belt and cleaned and lubed the motor, deck mechanisms and bearing.

Doing all this work takes time but the results are well worth it. The deck’s noticeably quieter post-service and runs with less wow and flutter. It looks better too and the new Ortofon 2M Red cartridge and Jelco headshell really lift performance and freshen her up.

This Pioneer PL-514 runs perfectly now and plays a record very nicely. I highly recommend you look for one of these if you need a good, solid record player that will likely last for another 30 years!

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Dirty deck as it came to me
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Platter and chassis top-plate removed to reveal the auto-return mechanism, spindle bearing access and motor.
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Here you can see the oiling points on the motor, synthetic bearing oil is a good thing to use here or good mineral oil.
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I also lubricated key parts of the mechanism you see in this image
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One screw releases the retainer, allowing access to the spindle bearing for cleaning and re-lubing.
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Pioneer originally used grease here, but it is very dirty and oxidised. Best to replace this with a quality synthetic grease.
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You can see how dirty this bearing was and how oxidised the grease.
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Steel thrust ball sits in the bottom of the bearing. I removed this and cleaned everything with a solvent before re-lubing the bearing.
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Here she is all cleaned up and ready to go, with a new Jelco HS-25 headshell and Ortofon 2M Red moving magnet cartridge.

Performance

The Pioneer PL-514 is one of those classically under-rated turntables that many don’t seem to know about. Talk about solidly built, the PL-514 is so far ahead of decks like the Rega P1 and Pro-Ject Debut blah blah that frankly, it’s embarrassing.

The PL-514 has excellent speed accuracy, a lovely tonearm, super-solid chassis, motor, lid and is just generally such a loveable machine that I would honestly have one as a spare deck if I had the space for one. They really don’t make turntables like this anymore, certainly not that the average buyer can afford.

The PL-514 is the little belt-drive that could, offering a taste of high-end on a beer budget. Seriously, grab one, if you can.

Pioneer PL-514

$300 - $750 AUD
8.4

Build Quality

8.5/10

Features

7.5/10

Sound Quality

8.0/10

Scalability

8.0/10

Bang per Buck

10.0/10

Pros

  • Super-solid build for the price
  • Great motor, platter, arm
  • Really upgradeable

Cons

  • Zero. Seriously.

Liquid Mike

As a kid, I cherished my Tandy 200-in-1 electronics project lab, Dick Smith electronics kits, my Dad's hi-fi and my own first proper system. Later, I created Liquid Audio to help keep classic hi-fi gear alive and well. Our mission: to deliver TLC for classic Japanese, American and European hi-fi stereo equipment.

This Post Has 30 Comments

  1. Norm Bogdanovs

    Hi Mike
    Thanks for the great work on this turntable. It sounds amazing with the service plus new headshell and cartridge. Have owned this for close to 40 years so it was well overdue for a service. Looking forward to many more years of enjoyment.
    It’s nice to know there is someone who can service and fix these things rather than having to replace.
    Regards
    Norm

    1. Mike

      Wonderful feedback, thanks Norm. I’m thrilled that she is sounding so good now! Best, Mike.

  2. jacob moody

    Hey, could u point me in the right direction for finding lube for this and what brand?

    1. Mike

      Hi Jacob, lots of different lubricants are needed to work on turntables. I use a range of products, most of which aren’t available in retail stores, but are from commercial vendors. If you are looking for a bearing oil, one option is a roughly 30 weight mineral oil.

  3. Erkan

    Hello Mike thank you for showing reviewing this turntable I have one also I bought refurbished and after 5 just added a few drops of lubricant to it. The next step though for me is to change the photo rca cablevto an updated one as this has got the original and I think might make a difference. What do you think? Can you tell me how to do it? Thanks

    1. Mike

      Hi Erkan and thanks for writing! I suggest you stick with the original RCA cable on a deck like this. Japanese manufacturers used good quality cable and on a deck like this, the supplied cable provides a good balanced setup.

  4. Erkan

    Excellent, thanks for the reply mike! It’s cleared things up for me. One more question. I have bought 4 nickel plated damping cones/spikes, but now i have heard from forums that its a bad idea for turntables. What do you think if i change the original rubber feet to these? I find the original feet doesn’t isolate or dampen pretty well.

    1. Mike

      Hi Erkan, I agree and suggest you retain the original rubber feet. There are all sorts of vibration absorbent pads you can add to turntables to reduce transmission of ambient vibration, like Vibrapods for example. Perhaps look at these, and at the way your turntable is situated.

  5. Erkan

    So if I was to buy these vibrapods do I replace the original rubber feet or just sit turntable with original feet on the vibrapods?

    1. Mike

      You could do either, might be best to experiment with both methods.

  6. David Bonner

    This is awesome. Just rescued one from going to the dump. Needs some work and this page will help a lot!

  7. Robert Eye

    Nice job!! I have a PL-514 that I’m bringing back into service and it needs just a touch of TLC.

    What oil(s) do you recommend for lubricating the motor and the spindle on the PL-514? What do you use to lube the auto-return gearing? The queuing lever for the tonearm works ok, but I recall it being smoother; what do you recommend for re-lubricating it?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Robert, thanks for the comment! I use a range of greases and oils and don’t really want to get too far into that here as it’s an involved topic, varies from deck to deck and the service manual is usually the best place to look for more information on this. Pioneer use a grease bearing for the spindle on this deck, so it’s best to use grease here. In this case and others like it, I use a premium, lightweight synthetic grease and it works very well. Elsewhere, straight 10 weight and 30 weight oils are handy, along with the synthetic grease for gears, but only where specified. I would need to check, but I don’t recall there being any grease on the auto return gears – check the service manual. I also use silicone oils for certain applications, like some cueing levers, but not all – again, this varies greatly from deck to deck.

  8. Robert Eye

    Thanks! Sorry for the late reply …

    I managed to get my PL-514 running, including regreasing the bearing/spindle using one of the Super Lube silicone greases. Now very smooth and quiet. The auto-return mechanism works fine as well without any additional lubrication.

    The only issue is the cueing mechanism. It raises and lowers ok, but it’s a little noisy and seems to be a tad sticky. I was hoping you would suggest a proper viscosity range for replacing the silicone damping grease (I’ve seen anything in the range from 10,000 cSt to 300,000 cSt!), since you’ve already done this fix. I could always try trial an error, going from the most viscous to the least, cleaning in between, but I thought I’d see if you could suggest something (since I won’t be sending my ‘table from Texas to “down under”). There’s nothing in the service manual I found on-line. 🙁

    Thanks again!

    1. Good news so far and I suggest you try something in the middle of the range for the cueing lever. It varies from deck to deck, but give 80,000 – 100,000 a shot and see how that goes.

  9. Eugene

    Have one at my cottage and one of the guests damaged the head. It is not usable and I do not know where can I get a replacement. Willing to get a new headshell, but do not know which one. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    1. Hi Eugene, when you say head, this isn’t a standard term so do you mean the stylus, the whole cartridge or the headshell? Each is available separately and costs vary according to what you want to achieve. If you live locally, I’d suggest the best thing is to bring the deck in for a look.

  10. Fatima

    Mike! Thanks for this post – I got a Kenwood KD500 a while back on your rec and love it. I recently got a one of these tables as well. Everything seems to be fine motor-wise but I’ll do the cleaning and lubing. The only issue with the unit I got is that the auto-return function doesn’t work properly. The tonearm doesn’t make it back top the cradle but falls and rubs against the edge of the platter. I’m pretty good with mechanical things but since I screwed up working on a Technics SL-1900 I’m a little shy on working on this. Do you think this may be a job for a pro?

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hi Fatima, thanks for your comment and I’m glad the articles have been of some assistance. I’d say that this might be best taken to someone with experience working on these machines. It’s easy to damage things if you aren’t familiar with them and working on them all the time, so just be careful.

  11. Glenn P

    I have the slightly more humble PL 512X which is the manual version fitted with a Shure period MM cartridge . They sound terrific too. The build of them is astonishing , Enormous over engineering at it’s late 70s finest . I’ve had mine for over 33 years , a second-hand bargain that needed a cartridge and the mount had been lost from a general house clearance auction . I paid £28 for it as was and invested in a new Pioneer lid which in the late 80s you could still get as a new part from Pioneer. Still looks and sounds beautiful today and I don’t think I will ever sell it. Used as a secondary player to my modified Rega.3.

    1. Liquid Mike

      Great to see another happy Pioneer turntable owner out there, these are really great machines and I wholeheartedly agree regarding build and performance.

  12. Mike Frost

    Hey Mike! I just picked this turntable up in great condition and well maintained. I’m glad I found your post. I want to update the cartridge at an affordable price range. A Stanton 500 cartridge came on my Pioneer. The sound is very flat and boring. I’m looking for something more lively, but still rich and full. Do you think your combination of Jelco HS-25 magnesium headshell and Ortofon 2M Red will accomplish my sound requirements and out perform the Stanton 500? Also, feel free to make any other recommendations. I really appreciate any help or response. Thanks, Mike

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hey Mike, the 2M Red is basic, the Blue sounds much nicer so I’d suggest that one as a minimum for a nice turntable like this. You might struggle to find HS-25 headshells now that Jelco is no more. I have a couple of decent alternatives but I supply and fit as part of service done here.

  13. Derek Hersch

    I have this model turntable. I got from my dad after he upgraded. At that time you couldn’t find a replacement stylus for it so the repair guy re wired it, worked great for several years.
    Now it needs a new belt and a stylus.
    Can you tell me if i can get a stylus for it now and if so where would i find one?

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hi Derek, this depends on what cartridge is fitted as you need a stylus to suit that cartridge. The part that worries me is the ‘re-wiring’ as we don’t know what this means and actual re-wiring is never necessary to accommodate a cartridge. Maybe something else was done? Either way, the deck should be serviced and set up correctly with a good quality cartridge and stylus. Let me know what cartridge is fitted if you get a chance.

  14. Derek Hersch

    Funny side note about my dads turntable. The first album he played on it was Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.
    The way that album starts it sounds very lo fi and scratchy. He’d never heard it before.
    He said he was so mad about buying a peice of junk turntable he almost threw it in the trash then and there, lol.
    Im sure glad he kept listening.

    1. Liquid Mike

      Classic story and an epic album, very glad he kept the deck!

  15. Isaac Lim

    Hi Mike, I enjoyed your article. I have a similar Model Pioneer PL514. The speed is not consistent. Do I need to change the capacitors. If so where can I purchase them and what is the version of the capacitors?

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hi Isaac, glad you enjoyed the article! Your deck is very unlikely to need new capacitors and highly likely to need expert attention and maintenance. Feel free to get in touch via the contact page for personalised advice as noted and if you live anywhere near me, you are of course most welcome to bring her in.

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