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, but they manufactured 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 belt-drive and added Japanese engineering, quality and refinement, taking the affordable belt-drive concept to the next level. The SL-23 features low rumble and wow & flutter, an S-shaped tonearm and automatic arm return and shut-off.
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. In cases where users want a better cartridge, I often fit a Jelco HS-25, HS-50 or Ortofon SH-4 headshell and medium compliance cartridge better than the Technics EPC-270ED. It’s also possible to fit an AT-style cartridge to the factory headshell, with the right fasteners and this is a nice way to go.
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 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 based on the serial number, 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 your deck, which makes a difference to how it runs, as all the little things do.
The other Issue with the SL-23 is the speed selector/power switch. The contacts become dirty and intermittent over time and the switch must be disassembled and properly serviced with the correct cleaners and lubricants. 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 elements and the switch can NEVER work again, 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 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 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!