Pioneer PL-518

Pioneer PL-518 Platter

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.

Pioneer PL-518 Dustcover

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.

Pioneer PL-518 Tone Arm

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.

Pioneer PL-518 Counter Weight

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.

Pioneer PL-518 Black

If you need parts for your PL-518 you can try eBay HERE. If you’re looking to rebuild your PL-518 then check out this thread on AudioKarma for some great details.

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.

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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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