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.
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
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 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.
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. The Rega turntables all the cool kids think are so good can’t hope to compete in terms of speed-accuracy with a deck like this SL-23.
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.
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!