The Pioneer PL-A35 is one of those rare belt-driven Japanese turntables that most have never seen.

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.

Pioneer

Sounds good huh!

Pioneer PL-A35
The Pioneer PL-A35 is a pretty striking deck overall.

Features

The PL-35A’s 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’ve found the Pioneer PL-A35 to be a real classic. This one 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 just failed, perhaps from fatigue.

Pioneer PL-A35
Here we can see the headshell, plus all other deck functions as controlled by little levers.

Part of the reason 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. It’s 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 in semi-auto or manual mode. For me, this is a worthwhile tradeoff though and the owner is going to get back to me if it bothers him. If so, I will try to source another switch for him.

UPDATE: He never did, so I am assuming he’s quite happy with the way the deck performs!

Pioneer PL-A35 Specifications

Type: fully automatic turntable
Drive method: belt
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

Pioneer PL-A35
As yet uncleaned, here we see the PL-A35 headshell and a close-up of the deck controls.
Pioneer PL-A35
Speed selection is handled by another lever on the other side of the machine.
Pioneer PL-A35
The PL-A35 has a nice machined aluminium platter, with a solid heft to it.
IMG 2752
The speed change lever operates this guide which moves the belt into one of two pulley positions.
Pioneer PL-A35
View of the Pioneer PL-A35, minus platter. Here we can see the motor oiling holes next to the ’50 Hz’ sign, the motor and speed change lever bottom left, spindle in the middle and auto arm lift and other functions nearby.
IMG 2754
Here are those motor oiling holes, with fresh synthetic oil installed! This deck was likely never oiled, never serviced, such was the dryness of these oilways! There are direct oil holes on the motor top and bottom bearings. I usually add oil directly to these and then add a little to the lubrication holes we see here as well.
IMG 2755
You can just see the drive pulley. A Nice motor on this deck and you can see one of the direct-application lubrication holes I mentioned.
IMG 2756
Here are those lubrication holes from another angle. You’ll see the felt oil holder, under the top of the motor, through these lubrication holes.
IMG_2757
This is the trouble with automatic decks. All sorts of problems lurk inside, waiting for the oil or grease to dry out, or for an ill-advised attempt at maintenance.
IMG_2758
This complex mechanism was completely seized, rock solid. It took me some time to free it all up and lube everything.

Results

After this long overdue maintenance, this lovely Pioneer PL-A35 ran surprisingly well. Actually, it’s not that surprising. The right approach to maintenance can literally transform a piece of equipment like this from a throw-away, to a functioning vintage classic. That’s what we do here at Liquid Audio.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you like me to look at your Pioneer PL-A35, or any other classic turntable for that matter!

6 thoughts on “Pioneer PL-A35 Belt-Drive Turntable Repair”

  1. Hi, I have one of these and the tone arm makes a slight noise when moving automatically back into its resting place. Is there a way to lubricate that motor/part?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Matias, and thanks for your question. These decks usually need new foam arm buffers as well as thorough cleaning and lubrication of the mech and motor. Describing how to do all this is beyond the scope of a reply here, but get the deck apart and have a good look at how it works. These machines are a classic design and careful attention to how everything moves will hopefully point you in the direction of what to lubricate and adjust.

  2. I have an old pl-A35 that I am trying to get up and going. Runs fine, but no sound. Both RCA plugs show short center post to outside ground at the plug and inside the TT. Muting switches seem to be fine, but top muting switch has resistance between the two leads when not on.

    1. Hi James, these are classic old decks, best of luck with the repair. If you get stuck and live anywhere nearby, you are of course welcome to book her in. Alternatively, if you aren’t nearby, you can utilise our advisory service, via the contact page.

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