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Technics SL-23 Belt-Drive Turntable Service & Review

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.

Features

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
Rumble: -65dB
Tonearm:  s-shaped tubular arm
Effective length: 220mm
Overhang: 14mm
Offset angle: 22 degrees
Stylus pressure range: 0 to 4g
Cartridge weight range: 3 to 8.5g
Dimensions: 135 x 428 x 348mm
Weight: 6.5kg

Service

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!

This SL-23 is a little dirty, needs a correct belt, oil and attention to the speed control verniers.
Note the integral cartridge and head-shell. This is not an ‘ordinary’ belt-drive deck, it features an FG servo-controlled motor, unusual in a belt-driven machine.

Here we see the arm return mechanism, motor and bearing with the deck partially disassembled for service. It’s very important to use the correct weight and grades of oil and grease.
Tiny motor, but a good one. I’ve applied a drop of oil to the top bearing and cleaned the drive pulley.
It’s worth oiling the pivot point the large gear revolves around and the spindle bearing of course.
Here we see the vernier speed controls, a typical Japanese touch. I gain access to these and apply a little premium potentiometer cleaner.
This speed selector switch is often an issue and needs very careful attention. 
The only way to cure the problems is to disassemble, clean and service the switch.

Performance

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.

The strobe is a very nice touch on a budget deck. This SL-23 is clean and running beautifully again after a major service.

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.

Bottom Line

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!

Technics SL-23 Belt-Drive Turntable

$200 - $500 AUD
7.8

Chassis / Build-Quality

7.0/10

Features

8.5/10

Sound Quality

7.0/10

Scalability

6.5/10

Bang-Per-Buck

10.0/10

Pros

  • Solid build
  • Generally very reliable
  • Great performance for the money
  • Vintage hi-fi classic

Cons

  • Expert service needed to resolve switch issues
  • Basic deck so not particularly scalable

14 thoughts on “Technics SL-23 Belt-Drive Turntable Service & Review”

  1. Thanks for sharing. What grade oil do you recommend for the motor and where to find it? My motor develops a squeal sometimes especially when just starting up and I hope it is just in need of oil?

    1. Hi Peter, no problem and thanks for your comment. If your motor is squealing and you live locally, I suggest bringing the deck in for a service. I can service the motor, spindle bearing and turntable set-up at the same time, as well as address the speed controls which always need service. Belts sold on eBay for example are often too tight and can place excessive strain on the motor top bearing. The motor likely will need oil but be careful if applying oil yourself. The correct way is to use an oiler to place the tiniest drop of synthetic bearing oil right where it’s needed and not get any on the drive pulley. I use various synthetic oils but you could use a light machine or motor oil if you aren’t able to bring the deck in. Watch that belt though!

  2. Very nice! I have one of these a friend gave he no longer was using it. He bought it new. He was a heavy smoker and I could not get the Deck cleaned it had a yellow hue. I tore it aprt and veenered it with Walnut. I don’t usally finish things in Gloss but I did with this and it came out smokin hot. Very nice turntable.

  3. I recently pulled my SL 23 out of storage needed new stylus and speed was off, took to have serviced they tried a used stylus before I left it and only one channel worked, I left it they worked on it and speed is dead on, I picked up put a replacement stylus on it and only one channel, took it back, they replaced the audio cords said it was fixed, got home still one channel, took it back they called and said fixed, got it home and it worked for awhile but then sometimes only getting one channel, don’t know why, still has the original shure M91ED cart. could cart have degraded, been in storage many years
    Thanks

    1. Hi Gordon, thanks for commenting and sorry to hear you are having SL-23 troubles! I’d love to take a look and sort her out properly for you, but I’m guessing you are not local or you would have already brought her to me. I’d definitely try to find a competent repairer though, someone who is able to troubleshoot vinyl systems. Easier said than done I know, good luck getting her sorted.

  4. Hi Mike, after looking online i’m a little confused about the right belt. Some places have the belt at 5mm and some at 4mm. Which belt did you use?
    Cheers,
    Rod.

    1. Hi Rod, I believe there are actually model variations with the SL-23 which mean that there are two different belts available – 4mm and 5 mm. This is where I would investigate and supply and fit the correct belt if you brought her to me for a service. I’m guessing you are not local? If not, your best option is to find a reputable supplier and give them the serial number of your unit, to be sure you get the correct part. Having said this, you will likely find that both belts will fit and work, so I wouldn’t sweat this.

      1. Thanks for the info Mike. I’m on the eastern seaboard, otherwise would bring it in. Once again, thanks for your help.
        Rod.

  5. This was very helpful. my records aren’t sounding as good as they should be. I have narrowed it down to the turntable being the problem. I have no idea if it’s ever been serviced and will definitely do so. I want to get a new belt and stylus but am having trouble finding out what exactly I should get.

    Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Brad, glad this helped! My suggestion is to definitively bring her in for service. I will check out the entire deck and lubricate and adjust everything. I’ve not had a deck come in that doesn’t sound better after I’ve serviced it! Let me know if you’d like to book her in. Cheers, Mike.

      1. I’d love to have you tune it up but I live in Canada. Just looking for the specific stylus and belt you’d recommend.

        1. Hi Brad – OK, this makes it tricky. You need the standard replacement belt for the SL-23, available from many online sellers and the stylus will depend on what cartridge you have installed. Just choose a replacement for what you have, unless you want to install a better cart. If so, I suggest looking at the Ortofon 2M range as a starting point. Proper service and setup are critically important in all of this, as is matching a different cart to the tonearm’s mechanical characteristics. Cheers, Mike.

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