The Pioneer PL-518 is a fairly common turntable but is still in pretty high demand today. It’s a two speed, DC Servo, direct drive turntable that incorporates an S shaped tonearm. It is not a quartz controlled motor. It is also technically, a manual, single play table but has a couple features that make it a little more convenient than other manual tables. First, the Quick Start mechanism only starts spinning the platter after you’ve lifted the tonearm and moved it towards the edge of the record. You can then engage the oil damped cue lever which will lower the tonearm down onto the record smoothly.
Another feature is the Auto Return function. Once the stylus reaches the lead out groove of the record a ‘special Pioneer developed device’ detects the increased lateral speed of the tonearm and triggers the auto-return mechanism. So, the tonearm with lift, return to it’s rest and the turntable will shut down. The Pioneer PL-518 has the usual turntable controls such as anti-skate, arm elevation, speed selection of 33 or 45, and fine pitch control (speed adj: + / – 2%). On the right side of the platter is a built in strobe that allows for easy assessment of speed accuracy.
While the PL-518 isn’t the best looking turntable around there are a few who like the Sunrise Silver color of the base accentuated by the die cast aluminum control base plate. Unfortunately they tend to become discolored over time. I’ve seen quite a few PL-518’s that have been re-veneered and they are beautiful. One drawback to the turntable is that the original feet can deteriorate over the years and require replacement. However, it’s usually just the inside rubber insulator that deteriorates. Sets of new polyurethane insulators and feet can be found on eBay HERE.
- Type: direct drive
- Motor: 16-pole, 24-slot, DC servo motor
- Platter: 320mm aluminium alloy diecast
- Speeds: 33 and 45rpm
- Speed control range: +-2%
- Wow and flutter: 0.03%
- Rumble: 73dB
- Tonearm: static-balanced type, s-shaped pipe arm
- Effective length: 221mm
- Overhang: 15.5mm
- Cartridge weight range: 4 to 10g
- Dimensions: 440 x 145 x 365mm
- Weight: 9.5kg
The PL-518 does lack tonearm height and azimuth adjustments but this issue can be resolved with the correct cartridge choice. Some have had good luck with the Ortofon 2M Red, 2M Blue or AT440mlb.
The 16-pole, 24 slot, DC Servo Motor in the PL-518 is a quality motor and it’s rare to have any issues with it. It’s the same motor Pioneer used in the higher end PL-520. Both the Rumble and Wow and Flutter measurements are very good. Occasional speed problems are usually due to the speed adjustment potentiometer becoming dirty.
The platter is die-cast aluminum and is a little wider than normal at 12 5/8 inches in diameter. Pioneer also engineered it so that a large portion of the mass of the platter is at the outer edge to give it more inertial stability.
Pioneer utilized precision ground, super hard, carbon-chromium steel bearings in the vertical plane of the S-shaped tone arm and the arm pipe is isolated with a special rubber acoustic absorbent material to lower resonance. Even the stock head shell is made of a special resin mixed with glass fiber to lower resonance.
The base of the PL-518 is made of a single slab of hard, 40mm thick particle board and the bottom plate is made of steel. The feet are specially designed as well but as most PL-518 owners know those feet have most likely long since deteriorated.
The Pioneer PL-518 turntable also came in black.
The Pioneer PL-518 is a good solid turntable. It’s very well built and performs admirably. With a re-veneer you can make them look great. If you want quality built, high performing turntable at a reasonable price then the Pioneer PL-518 is a good choice.