I recently serviced a lovely old Pioneer PL-514 belt-drive turntable for a customer who lives in the wheat belt.
My customer has asked me to restore the deck so that he can present it to his father for his birthday. This was naturally a priority for me!
As I was working on the deck, it occurred to me that the older Pioneer belt-drive turntables from the ’70s and ’80s really were very good for the money, and represent an excellent entry-level deck for someone today. For example, the engineering of these old Japanese decks smokes entry-level Rega and Project decks.
For your money, you get a proper aluminium platter that is nicely balanced, as opposed to a horrible MDF platter. You get a decent-sized motor, nicely decoupled from the chassis. You get a basic but functional tonearm and you can fit a quality moving magnet cartridge of your choice, without worrying too much about compatibility. Plus, they don’t break – made in Japan back then meant made properly, in Japan. This is a badge of honour.
I suggest you keep an eye out for these older Japanese decks as there’s a lot to love about them and little not to like. I am very happy to fit a new belt, cartridge or stylus, service and lube your ‘table and have her playing records beautifully again for you.