Pioneer PL-518

Pioneer PL-518 Open

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 is the Quick Start mechanism that only starts spinning the platter after you’ve lifted the tonearm and moved it towards the edge of the record. You can engage the oil damped cue lever as well which will allow you to lower the tonearm down onto the record smoothly.

Pioneer PL-518 Dust Cvoer

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). A built in strobe is also on the right side of the platter and allows for easy assessment of speed accuracy.

Pioneer PL-518 Tonearm

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 can often be found on eBay.

If you’re looking to rebuild your PL-518 then check out this thread on AudioKarma for some great details.

Pioneer PL-518 Counter Weight

The Pioneer PL-518 is a good solid turntable. It’s well built and performs admirably. With a re-veneer you can even make them look great. Pricing is all over the place depending upon what you want. Want one that’s already been fully restored and re-veneered? Well, that could run you up to $800. If you want one in it’s original state but really clean and fully serviced then around $350 will do the trick. For an average working PL-518 though you can expect to spend about $200.

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16 thoughts on “Pioneer PL-518

  1. Had two of these now and they’re my favorite. Great TT at a low price and looks good. Feet rot off fairly often so look for one with a good set.

    1. It is a turntable, not a record player. What this means is that you need a seperate amplification system (receiver) and speakers. You may also need a Phono pre-amp as many modern receivers do not have RIAA Phono pre-amps built in. A record player has everything built in (like the Crosley models).

  2. I have had this unit since purchase on 10-6-1979 for $118 from Churchill Audio in Brooklyn, NY. Mine has a Shure M95HE cartridge and still functions perfectly. Almost forty years old. This PL-518 is an excellent value. What more can I say??

  3. I’ve had the Pioneer PL518 for about 5 months and it was having speed control issues. Since then I’ve had it serviced and cleaned and it’s running perfectly. Great turntable with lots of weight which reduces playback errors.

  4. Bought this turntable in 1979. Recently replaced a broken Audio Technica sylus. Cleaned a couple of albums, and went into a fog listening to Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs”. Aren’t albums great?

  5. I just found one of these for 12$ at my local thrift store! It needs a tone arm head and needle and a new tone arm rest! Does anyone know where I can find these?

    1. The best bet would be to check eBay. they have everything. Otherwise, search the internet something will pop up. That probably the best was to find parts.

  6. My wife decided to get back into vinyl records out of nowhere and I came home to the PL-518. Fabulous turntable and was well maintained. I now have a stereo guy as we needed one to clean and tune to rush of new vintage stereo equipment coming into our home. This TT is incredible, the sound and the mechanics are spot on. Works as intended without issues. She bought it pre-pandemic when prices were good and don’t think she could have pick a better TT. Looking forward to listening to records for years to come, because as they say “They don’t make them like that anymore”.

  7. I’ve had my PL-518X since 1979 and I love it. It was a dept. store model that was on display. They took $30 off because the strobe is chipped on one corner, but it functions ok. It has an Audio-Technica cartridge that works fine.

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