You are currently viewing Technics SL-23 Belt-Drive Turntable Service & Review

Technics SL-23 Belt-Drive Turntable Service & Review

The Technics SL-23 is an affordable and very loveable belt-drive turntable from the late ’70s. I highly recommend the SL-23 for those looking for their first proper turntable.

Technics is perhaps best known for the SL-1200 series of direct-drive turntables and the lovely SL-10 linear tracker. They actually manufactured a huge range of machines at varying price-points though, many of them fantastic decks. The SL-23 is one of them, a belt-driven turntable with an FG (frequency generator) servo-controlled DC motor with IC drive.

Features

Technics took belt-drive, added Japanese engineering, quality and refinement, catapulting the affordable belt-drive sector to the next level. The SL-23 features an S-shaped tonearm, automatic arm return and shut-off and much better performance than many similarly priced belt-drive decks of the time.

The deck comes with a combined moving magnet cartridge and head-shell and it’s a very decent sounding combination. The Sl-23 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.

The combined cartridge/headshell eliminates the need for alignment in two of three axes, but limits what can be done with this combination. When owners want a better cartridge, I often fit a Jelco HS-25, HS-50 or Ortofon SH-4 headshell and a suitable cartridge, better than the Technics EPC-270ED.

It’s also possible to fit an AT-style cartridge to the factory plastic headshell. This requires the correct hardware and this is a nice way to go where owners want to retain the original look.

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 relatively straightforward 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 based on the serial number, so it’s not a one size fits all situation. Most are not aware of this, including those who service these machines.

You’ll find belts on eBay, most of which are low quality and the wrong size. Premium rubber drive belts of the correct size prevent excessive pull on the motor bearing, eliminating damage and poor running that the wrong belt can cause. It’s amazing how each little thing done right makes a difference to how a turntable runs and sounds.

The other Issue with the SL-23 is the speed selector/power switch and this one isn’t trivial to resolve. The contacts become dirty and intermittent over time. The switch must be disassembled, cleaned and serviced with the correct cleaners and lubricants to eliminate this problem. Beware of anyone claiming that deoxit alone will cure this – it will not. Any guesses as to how I know..?

The speed switch may initially work well after deoxit, and if that’s the extent of your engagement with that deck, one might well assume that this is all you need. 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 ‘Jesus’ switch contacts and if you do, the switch can NEVER work again. The first time you drop one you’ll know why they are called Jesus contacts. You’ve been 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 headshell. 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. The spindle bearing comes factory filled with a molybdenum disulphide type grease. I have this grease in the workshop but prefer to use a Teflon based clear synthetic grease these days. I have previously used synthetic bearing oil and this also works well.
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.
Here’s the speed selector switch up close. These switches suffer from problems that require they be carefully disassembled, cleaned and serviced. This should go to someone who knows what they are doing and has the right tools for the job. It’s not worth killing the deck to save a few dollars, that’s for sure.

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 recommend and you’d need to spend around $1000 on something new to compete.

Pitch accuracy is very good for a belt-drive machine. This is due to the servo-controlled drive motor and precision motor and platter. Bass is suitable weighty for a budget deck and sound staging is again very good for what you pay for one of these. Regas can’t hope to compete in terms of speed-accuracy with a deck like this SL-23.

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, worth keeping in my opinion. I fit premium Japanese styli when I can get them and these always sound lovely, easily beating the 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’re in the market for an affordable and well-engineered deck. A secondhand SL-23 is a better option, for less money than a new machine at say $500 – $750. The bonus is that you get a proper 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

Liquid Mike

As a kid, I cherished my Tandy 200-in-1 electronics project lab and Dick Smith Funway electronics kits. I had my own little hi-fi at 16. Later, I started Liquid Audio, a specialist hi-fi equipment repair business. Keeping classic hi-fi gear alive and well is what we do. Our mission: to deliver TLC for classic Japanese, American and European hi-fi stereo equipment. In my spare time, I cook, ride, listen to music and research interesting topics.

This Post Has 41 Comments

  1. Brad

    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. Mike

      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. Brad McTeer

        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. Mike

          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.

          1. Brad McTeer

            Thanks Mike I really appreciate your expertise.

  2. Rod

    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. Mike

      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. Rod

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

  3. Gordon

    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. Mark Davis

    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.

    1. Great work Mark, gear that’s been owned by smokers can be really difficult to work with. Glad this one turned out well.

  5. Peter Koppes

    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. Liquid Mike

      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!

  6. Brendan

    Gday Mike. Glad I found your post about this unit. I’ve got my mum’s unit with me to tinker with as a Melbourne lockdown project. Glad she hadn’t got rid of it as from what you’re saying it’s a very solid unit!
    Other than needing a new belt and a bit of oil, the sound output is very soft. Have to turn the stereo up to full volume to get anything out of it.
    It’s the same stereo unit we’ve always used so I’m a bit confused.
    Any guidance on where to look or what the issue could be would be great.

    Cheers

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hi Brendan, sounds like we need to check the cartridge for any physical damage, especially to the cantilever and stylus and then measure its output to make sure all is working well there. We also need to make sure you are feeding the signal into a phono input, not a regular line-level input. Unless it says ‘Phono’ somewhere on the front and where you are connecting the deck, the amplifier will need a phono preamp to hear signals at the correct level.

  7. Brendan

    Hi Mike, thanks for getting back to me and pointing me in the right direction. We had a few issues here. Faulty phono inputs on the amplifier was a big one. Got it working with a cheap pre-amp into a different amplifier.
    Also had a few issues with some buildup on the connection between the headshell and tonearm which had to be cleaned with some alcohol.
    Just need a new belt and possibly a new cartridge and stylus to get it sounding like new.
    Thanks again.

    1. Liquid Mike

      No problem Brendan, good to hear you are making progress there!

  8. Bill Steinke

    Mike, found your website while looking for info on my Technics SL-23 I purchased probably around 1975? I’m having issues with severe speed variations, it comes and goes intermittently. Also sometimes I hear a bit of squeal when starting the platter. I don’t think it’s the belt, could it be just lubrication? I’ve never put any lubricant on the motor or bearing. Any help would be appreciated!

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hi Bill, yes these are classic signs she needs service. Lubrication is just a part of that, the main switch will need disassembly and cleaning and there are various other things that should be done at this time. If you are anywhere near Perth, I’m happy to assist.

      1. Bill Steinke

        Mike, thanks for your reply, unfortunately I live in the US, Washington state actually. I was just hoping you would have words of wisdom and you did, you seem quite familiar with this turntable. I tried a drop of oil on the top bearing but that didn’t seem to cure the ill. I can be listening to an LP and the speed with just drop down, speed up etc. all very random. Sometimes it seems to clear up if I’ve had the table running for 45 min. or so. That’s why I don’t think it’s the belt, but…I suppose it could be? It is old and I guess the next logical step will be to replace it. I don’t know what length to get however? Thanks again!

        1. Liquid Mike

          Hi Bill, no problem and no it’s definitely not the belt, or the motor, though service should include attention to both. There are two sizes of belt, determined for your deck by serial number. Again, someone with the right experience should be aware of this, hopefully you can find someone good locally.

  9. Bruce

    Love watching the quality you do, attention to detail and your honesty.

    1. Liquid Mike

      Thanks Bruce, that’s great and glad you are enjoying the content!

  10. Alain

    Hi Mike. I’m french. I’ve got my turntable Technics SL23 A in 1976. It works great since these many years ! Today it works with an AT 96E after an Shure M97 XE. I have only a little problem concerning the tonearm : It drops too fast. I’ve tried to pour damping oil 300.000 cst but the problem is still there. Have you any idea how to do ? Tha,ks a lot if you can answer ! Cheers and sorry for my bas english !!! Alain from France.

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hi Alain, thanks for your comment and glad you are still enjoying your SL-23! This is a technical question and therefore better addressed via our contact form, but in this case, the arm lift mechanism will need to be disassembled and serviced. I could do that for you, but distance precludes this. It’s time-consuming, fiddly work, the arm-lift device was not considered a serviceable item, so we’ve developed techniques for working with these and other parts like this across many makes and models.

  11. Alain

    Hi Mike, thanks for your answer for my problem of tonerarm of turntable Technics SL 23 A. Obviously i can’t send you my turntable in Australia. Do you know if the system is working with oil or another manner like mechanical spring to lower the toenarm slowly ? Because the oil 300.000 cst that i have poured has disappeared into the body of the device. Cheers.

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hi Alain, no problem and no you cannot just pour in damping fluid, this will create a mess and definitely won’t solve the problem. The mechanism needs to be disassembled and serviced, it uses both a spring and damping fluid.

      1. Alain

        Hi Mike thanks for your advice. For thé moment I will let the tonearm as it Is. It Is not a great problem. I have only to take Care when I put thé needle manualy on thé record. Thanks for all . Alain.

  12. Brian

    Gday Mike from Canada! I’m lucky enough to have recently purchased 2 Sl-23’s for $175 (for both). One is immaculate, having recently been serviced by a dude who does it for a hobby, but doesn’t like to get more jobs than he wants to do. The other was a bit rough, but I’ve cleaned it and de oxited it, but I’m getting sound only from the right channel. Any suggestions that I may try myself before bothering the “crotchety” repair dude?? Thanks, love your website. Brian

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hi Brian, great work on the SL-23s! The thing to do first is to check signal integrity from the cartridge through to the RCA connectors. You can do this with a multimeter if you have one and know how to use it. Problems like this can be caused by broken cables, damaged cartridges and styli, dirty headshell connectors and so on. Beyond that, both should really go to someone who knows how to service and set them up with good cartridges, new styli where needed, correct overhang, tracking force, antiskate etc. Also, the mechanisms need service beyond using deoxit, so keep this in mind.

  13. Adam

    I’m surprised there’s been no mention of capacitors needing changing. I changed mine about 10 years ago after I first got my SL-23. I cleaned the speed select/off switch first with contact cleaner that got the motor spinning again. Had to buy a belt as it didn’t have one. They cleaned the pitch adjust pots and still got a fair amount of speed drift. It started drifting slightly off speed again a few years ago. Thought about changing capacitors again but it came good and more or less has been since. Probably because I’ve playing a lot more records since then being home a lot more and not having parents or a partner complain about the music. I worked for repairs for a record shop that had an SL-23 that drifted sometimes. The boss was going to get me to recap that one but it seemed to come good too. It got used all day, every day that the shop was open. Another work horse like mine that just keeps spinning records. Apparently capacitors can be like that and it was common on flat panel TVs. Probably caps staying cold and eventually discharged too long can cause problems when powered up again. My SL-23 has had more use in the last 5 years or so than it had in the previous 5 years I’ve owned it. Possibly an explanation when some things won’t even power up after being in storage.

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hi Adam and thanks for your comment/query. I’ve not mentioned capacitors in this article because, having worked on dozens of SL-23s, capacitors haven’t been the cause or even related to the issues these decks commonly present with. Briefly, capacitor replacement is a poorly understood topic, fuelled by misinformation in forums and a non-technical approach to service and repair. People often treat capacitor replacement as a shotgun cure-all, when it may be completely unnecessary. That being said, in some circumstances, caps can absolutely be the cause of problems. I love relacing caps with better parts when necessary or when a customer requests it. The trick IMO is to determine the cause of a fault and work from there. Capacitors can be tested with the right equipment, and this informs the service and repair process. Anyway, thanks again for reading and keep enjoying that SL-23!

  14. Art Barnes

    Mike, My SL-23 Speed adjust can’t get turntable rotating fast enough (just slightly too slow) not quite enough speed control to stabilize 33RPM .
    Will a new belt help? I have a feeling the motor might be the problem?
    Art

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hi Art, thanks for your question! These decks generally need various service aspects attended to at this age. The correct belt (of two options) is a requirement for sure, as are the other aspects of service. At this age, these machines need specialist intervention and definitely not a recap as someone suggested in the comments.

  15. Michael

    Hi – though I’d just also mention an issue I have had with this deck which initially presented as unreliable speed issues but later developed into a complete breakdown. The IC chip used in the motor – UPC1003 – is (according to other forums) the weakest link in quite a few turntables from the 70s made by some of the big Japanese companies including Technics. It’s a chip that degrades over time and, in my case, it had blown completely. I’ve had this deck with a repair shop for a long time now as I’ve been trying to source the IC chip which is almost impossible to find now. There is another variation – UPC1003C2- that some in other forums claim works on the sl23 and is easily available refurbished, online , for about $20. Have ordered 2 of these from different suppliers so far and both have been poorly refurbished and not useable. Am now waiting for the 3rd one to arrive and if that doesn’t work will sadly have to say farewell to the SL23 which, in the brief period I had it before the issues begun, was a lovely turntable (and I reckon the native cartridge with a nagaoka elliptical stylus replacement produces a great warm sound with generous bass and wide soundstage). Anyway, just though I’d advise that, along with the issues mentioned above, speed issues on this deck could also be a sign of a IC chip that is about to die. On

    Cheers,
    Michael.

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hi Michael, thanks for sharing your story! That’s a very interesting one, I have to moderate here from a technical perspective and add a few comments for everyone’s benefit, so I hope you don’t mind. You’ve got to be careful with forums. So much of what you’ll read is really just hearsay in that it’s spread from a source of unknown validity and passed around as fact by people who don’t know any better. That’s nobody’s fault, it’s just how these things work and why they can be problematic. From a specialist turntable repairer’s perspective, I’ve seen I think one of these chips die, over maybe 1000 turntables, mostly ’70s and ’80s classics, some with really tricky problems. That doesn’t mean they don’t fail, but it does mean failure is rare. In a case like this, rather than replace the chip, I would source a good motor from a donor deck and save a ton of time and money. Thanks again for sharing, it’s useful information but I wouldn’t want readers thinking this is a common problem as it definitely isn’t. The vast majority of speed issues with the SL-23 are switch related. Most techs aren’t even aware of this or how to solve it!

  16. Michael

    Thanks Mike. Looks like I may have just got unlucky then especially as the speed started to fluctuate within a week of me purchasing this refurbished gem in otherwise good nick. It was a good week of playing vinyl ! Agree that forums can be problematic and your suggestion of the motor replacement is perhaps one I will look at if this final IC chip attempt fails, however as I only paid $300 or so for the deck it would seem odd to pay too much on repairs. Fingers crossed I have it home again soon spinning the black wax.
    Cheers,
    Michael.

    1. Liquid Mike

      No problem and worth considering this: you can replace the chip as many times as you like, but if the speed issue relates to the switch, as is common, the problem will remain. See where I’m going with this..? That chip may be a complete red herring, so don’t spend too much time and money on it. I strongly suggest a second opinion from a turntable specialist. The SL-23 is a very common, very affordable machine and there are tens of thousands of them out there. Best of luck getting it sorted!

  17. Gordon

    My SL23 has been sitting for too many years unused (10+), The belt melted and now I’ve replaced the belt, the motor wont turn. It is getting power to the unit. Is it worth repairing?

    1. Liquid Mike

      Hi Gordon, a deck like an SL-23 is almost always worth repairing. A modern deck with similar performance would cost at least $1000 and it won’t be a golden age vintage SL-23! I suggest taking this to an expert who should be able to sort it out for you.

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