The Technics SL-23 is an affordable and very cool belt-drive turntable from the late ’70s. I highly recommend the SL-23, ahead of many other budget decks, for someone looking for their first ‘proper’ turntable.
Technics is perhaps best known for the SL-1200 range of direct-drive turntables, but they built a huge range of machines, at varying price-points. The SL-23 is a belt-driven turntable with an FG (frequency generator) servo-controlled DC motor with IC drive.
Technics took the basic belt-drive concept and added Japanese engineering, bringing the quality and refinement to the next level. The SL-23 features low rumble and wow & flutter, an S-shaped tonearm and automatic return/shut-off. The deck comes with a combined moving magnet cartridge and head-shell and it’s a good combination, though only a plastic headshell, unfortunately.
This eliminates the need for cartridge alignment in two of the three critical axes, but limits you in terms of what you can do with the standard combo. In cases like this, where the user wants to install a better cartridge, it’s quite easy to fit a Jelco HS-25, HS-50 or Ortofon SH-4 headshell and medium to high compliance cartridge of your choice.
The deck also features a strobe and vernier adjustment of both 33 and 45 rpm speeds, a very nice touch. The SL-23 was available as the SL-23K variant, with a black colourway.
Specifications, courtesy of Vinyl Engine:
Type: frequency generator servo turntable
Drive method: belt drive
Motor: DC motor
Turntable platter: aluminium die-cast
Speeds: 33 and 45rpm
Speed change: electronic
Pitch control: 6%
Wow and flutter: 0.05% WRMS
Tonearm: s-shaped tubular arm
Effective length: 220mm
Offset angle: 22 degrees
Stylus pressure range: 0 to 4g
Cartridge weight range: 3 to 8.5g
Dimensions: 135 x 428 x 348mm
The SL-23 is easy to work on and doesn’t need much to keep it running well. Be aware that there are two different belts for the SL-23, so it’s not a one size fits all situation. You’ll find belts on eBay, most of which are the wrong size. I fit premium rubber drive belts of the correct size for the deck, based on the serial number.
The other Issue with these decks is the speed/power control switch. The contacts become intermittent as resistance rises and they have tom be pulled apart to properly service them. If you haven’t pulled one apart before and don’t own the precision tools needed, leave it alone. You’ll likely lose the microscopic switch elements if you are not careful, so be warned!
The Technics SL-23 is best summed up as a great little deck that performs incredibly well for the money. There aren’t too many decks selling for $200 – $300 that I could recommend and you’d need to spend around $1000 on something new to compete.
Pitch accuracy is very good for a belt drive machine, due to the servo-controlled drive motor and precision motor and platter. Bass is suitable weighty for a budget machine and sound staging is again very good for what you pay for one of these.
As usual, the Technics EPC-270ED cartridge is a great sounding transducer, really worth keeping in my opinion. I fit premium Japanese stylii when I can get them and these always sound lovely, easily as good as an Ortofon 2M Red for example.
The Technics SL-23 is a lovely turntable and I highly recommend you keep an eye out for one if you want a good, affordable and well-engineered deck. A secondhand SL-23 is a far better option, for far less money than a new machine at say $500 – $750, plus you get a vintage hi-fi classic, some Japanese hi-fi heritage and it’s a Technics, so you know it’s good!