I’ve just serviced a Sonab 85S belt-drive turntable. The Sonab 85S is an unusual belt-drive deck and very solidly built. This one should give many years more good service, after a major service.

The Sonab 85S is a high-quality 2-speed, belt-drive turntable with an integral tonearm. It came with a moving-magnet cartridge back in the day but these have mostly been replaced with newer designs by owners over the years.

Specifications, courtesy  Vinyl Engine:

Motor: AC synchronous
Speeds: 33 and 45rpm
Platter: 300mm, 1.2kg
Wow and flutter: 0.08%
Rumble: -60dB
Tonearm: static balance type
Stylus pressure: 0.5 to 3g
Cartridge weight: 5 to 12g
Cartridge: Ortofon F 15 EO
Stylus: 18 x 8um elliptical diamond
Frequency response: 20 to 20,000Hz
Recommended tracking force: 1.5g
Dimensions: 440 x 370 x 160mm

Service Work

This old girl needed a new belt, some cleaning and lubrication and a careful setup of the tonearm and cartridge. Once these jobs were done she worked perfectly and sounded really nice!

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You can see that this is a fairly nondescript black deck, well-made and sturdy, with a quality motor, platter and tonearm.
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Even quickly cleaning the chassis and lid makes a noticeable difference though.
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The layout is very straightforward – speed change on the left, arm lift on the right. The sturdy and well-made tonearm complements the rest of this unusual deck.
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In this case, the stylus was good to go and just needed careful cleaning.
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Quality bearing, spindle and mechanism needs a clean and some silicone grease, while the bearing needs synthetic bearing oil.
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The motor also needs lubrication after so long, in this case, light synthetic machine oil, run down through the motor oiling hole.
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You can see that better here. You should also carefully clean the pulley with alcohol to ensure all traces of the old rubber and oil are gone.
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Finished, polished Sonab looks a million bucks!

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25 thoughts on “Sonab 85S Belt-Drive Turntable Service”

  1. Mike, another question from the curious consumer… you seem to easily find a new belt for just about every ancient turntable that comes along, even very rare ones like this Sonab. I’ve always thought this was a real handicap of old belt-drive tables; that belts vary so much in diameter / thickness / geometry that spares would be a nightmare. So there’s not an endless variety, and it’s easy to find a suitable replacement for most tables? This makes a huge difference in the prospects for keeping classics running, if it’s true.

    1. Hi Selwyn, yes the good news is that almost any belt can still be easily obtained and with the nature of belt drive, there is always a little room to move. I haven’t come across a belt-drive deck yet that I couldn’t source a suitable belt for.

  2. Hi Mike.Love my old sonab 85s turntable. Unfortunatly the stylus broke. Where can I get another??I’m in Tasmania.

    1. Hi Max, it very much depends upon what cartridge is currently installed. Most stylii can be purchased online, try to determine the name of the model of cartridge and then search online or on eBay for a replacement stylus. Regards, Mike.

  3. Justin Burford

    Hi Mike
    What size belt did you use? Im trying to source a belt for my Yamaha CS-50P, which is an identical deck to the 85s

    1. Hi Justin, I can’t recall the belt size but we have them in stock for decks that come in for service. You want to make sure it isn’t too tight, that’s very important. Regards, Mike.

  4. I have just purchased a new belt for my Sonab 85s from a source in Germany – through eBay. The belt dimensions are 280mm diam.. 4mm width. I also still have my original Sonab AO12 speakers purchased at the same time as the deck (1974) and they are going strong – unfortunately my amp / tuner is long gone. They were all classic minimal design at the time – the deck and the unique top directional speakers still look good.

  5. Peter Harding Victoria

    Hi Mike,

    I have owned and still use my SONAB 85S turntable and have only replaced the belt once. I also have my cube SONAB omnidirectional speakers but they are in the shed as I can’t bring myself to off load them. They work but I did have the woofers replaced about 20 years ago. My amp is a Cambridge Audio P80 coup[led with a T55 tuner.
    Quality always lasts, hey?


    1. Hi Peter, yes indeed, that’s a great old system! It would be a very good idea to have your equipment properly serviced though at this point. This will help it last another 30 years and improve its performance.

  6. Just servicing two of these LOL!! Still unclear as to whether the arm raise lower mechanism is damped or not. I suspect not. Can’t see where the silicon would go.
    Motor is running about 1 rpm slow, I will run it for 12 hours with new lubrication to see if i can speed it up a bit, both drive belts are a bit flabby so I will probably replace those. The central spindle is a bit of a mystery….did get it apart and oiled it with turntable oil, but wonder if it should have been grease. Will replace one of them’s DIN cable…I’m missing a channel, and will test where it has gone soon….suspect it is in the DIN cable somewhere.
    But as you say a nice looking capable deck….sadly under rated i feel. Looks lovely! What is the plinth made of? Non ferric?

    1. Hi Terry, yes there are lovely decks, made by Yamaha in fact, not sure if many people know that. The plinth is very nicely finished wood, the coating is so thick it almost looks like plastic. Check the mute switching if you haven’t already, this can be a problem. I have one here to service also, must get onto that one!

  7. How does the Sonab 85 compare with the more costly turntables like the Linn LP12. Also do you know the iriginal cost of the Sonab.

    1. Hi William, the Sonab 85 is an excellent deck and the Linn is over-rated. Both can sound great, but for sensible money, the 85S plays a record very well and the arm can work with many good cartridges. In terms of build quality, the Sonab (Yamaha) beats the Linn. Can’t tell you an original sell price but you’ll find that by doing some research.

      1. Hi Liquid Audio-Admin, I owned a Linn deck many years ago with Ittok arm, Asak cartridge and the Lingo power supply but I didn’t think it was any better than the Thorens TD318 I owned. The total cost of the Linn at the time was over £3000 and the Thorens £339. Hence I agree with you they were overrated. I have not played an LP for Years and I can get a hold of a Sonab 85 for a good price which is why I asked you about it. At one time I had over 5000 Lp’s and 2000 singles. I gave them away and decided to go down the CD road. Anyhow, thank you for taking the time to answer.

    1. Hi Ben, are we talking USD or AUD because this makes quite a difference? I think $450 AUD is a good deal for a really nice one of these, $450 USD is quite a bit more, but keep in mind one has to factor in the cartridge included if there is one, and this can make a huge difference. Pricing also varies regionally. Is there a cartridge in the deal?

  8. Hi, Mike, I spoke to you on the phone about a month ago; I have a Sonab 85S turntable which I purchased some time in 1975; it has given me great service and great sound. When I first bought it, it had a Shure cartridge and stylus (not sure whether the stylus was elliptical or not, but has been replaced several times, as has the cartridge) I will be honest with you, I’m not so discerning with my music nowadays and have moved to CDs. I have a new Yamaha amplifier and am looking to transfer some of my vinyl albums to CD (even now getting old-fashioned), as I have already converted about three-quarters of my about 140 vinyl records. I live in Balcatta (just down the road from you in Carine) and am looking to have my turntable serviced. Despite its age, it has been looked after and shouldn’t need too much work. If you could email me your address and contact details along with a (ball park) estimate of the cost I would be very grateful.
    Sincerely, Frank Finn

    1. Hi Frank, yes I remember our chat, we discussed cost estimates and various other things. Unfortunately I’m currently fully booked but keep an eye on my contact page for my booking status. I will be open for bookings again before too long. Feel free to call to discuss, I’m open from 10 am to 5 pm, Tuesday to Friday and Saturday 10 – 1.

  9. Thank you for this. I inherited an 85S a couple of years ago. It has been great, but a few months ago stopped spinning. I finally got around to taking it apart yesterday, and found that when pressing and releasing the small red switch, the motor looks like it briefly attempts to run, before immediately stopping. This has led me to suspect it is the switch (made by Matsushita) or the capacitor(made by Nichicon).
    Does this sound likely to you? The capacitor seems to be rated at 2500V, can that be correct?!

    1. Hi David, could be, these switches can be serviced and I keep a couple in stock as many machines use them. Great turntables the 85S, good luck getting it sorted.

  10. Hi everyone. I have just obtained an 85S (to complement my C500 and P4000). Still looking for a pair of Sonab speakers to complete a vintage system. Anyway, my question is: what modern cartridge might I fit, to get the best from my 85S?

    1. Hi Doug and thanks for your enquiry. I’d be happy to assist but I’ll need to know a bit more about your budget, experience with vinyl, current headshell (it impacts on what will fit and weight considerations) and musical preferences to offer the best advice. You’ll also need to consider the installation and alignment of your cartridge: https://liquidaudio.com.au/faq/what-are-the-important-adjustments-to-make-when-setting-up-a-cartridge/. If you’d like to continue the conversation, head over to the contact page and send a few additional details in an advice request!

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