Realistic Lab-400

Realistic was a brand sold by Radio Shack that many people tend to consider cheap and lacking in quality. But, that is not always the case. Realistic, which was a division of Tandy, contracted out the construction of their turntables to other companies including Hitachi, CEC and others. The Realistic Lab-400 is a well made and good functioning table. Is it high end? No. But, if you’re looking to get into vinyl and don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a top end turntable then a vintage Lab-400 can do the job just fine.

The Lab-400 retailed for $199.95 in 1978 and was advertised by Realistic as the ‘Finest turntable we’ve ever offered.’ It has a dynamically balanced, 3.1 lb, aluminum platter, automatic record repeat, individual speed controls, 2 motors, and a statically balanced S-shaped tonearm. When purchased new it came with a Realistic-by-Shure cartridge which at the time was a $39.95 value. I believe it was the Realistic R1000ED cartridge which is an equivalent to the Shure M75ED cart.

The Lab-400 is a fully automatic direct drive turntable. You never have to touch the tonearm. Just pick the correct record size and push the start switch. The 16 pole brushless DC servomotor does the job with ratings of 0.03% wow and flutter and better than 63dB rumble.

The tonearm actually has its own DC motor as well so it’s completely independent of the platter drive. The arm is 8 11/16″ long and will track well down to 1/2 a gram.

The Realistic Lab-400 was made in 1978 and features:

  • direct drive automatic turntable
  • 33 1/3 45 RPM
  • start & stop damped cue/pause – viscous (liquid) cueing
  • automatic return
  • single play/repeat controls
  • Adjustable anti-skate and tracking force
  • 45 adapter
  • Walnut finish

The base is a attractive walnut veneer and has a slim design. It measures just 5 5/8 x 17 11/16 x 13 31/32 inches.

As I mentioned above a good Realistic turntable can be found for a very reasonable price. Many times a quick servicing is enough to get them up and running. So, if you want a good looking, good performing and fully automatic turntable then you should definitely consider the Realistic Lab-400.

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32 thoughts on “Realistic Lab-400

  1. Does anyone know where I can buy parts for a Realistic Lab 395,New. Motor,and a raid manual for all vintage turntables?

  2. Repair manual for vintage turntables, Sony,Realistic,, Panasonic, no one repairs in my world, I’ll give it a try if I can get the books or manuals,e mail me

  3. I’m sorry to say but. The person who wrote this review of the Realistic Lab 400 TT could not be any more incorrect. The Lab 400 is actually a very good TT and is high end in all ways. It was not built by Tandy but Tandy designed it. Micro Seki was the contractor who built it. They only ever built this one TT for realistic. It may not compete with some of the better tt’s of the day but for its price point. It soars my friends. Second to none in its price point snd category and actually can out sound many higher end TT,s. A very good turntable that people look down because of the radio shack parallels. Don’t be fooled.

    1. Which were “some of the better turntables” of it’s day? I just bought a Realistic Lab 400 and it does sound better than the other turntables I have owned….. How much better can it possibly get??

    2. I picked up my realistic lab-400 at a goodwill store in the atlanta area over 15 years ago for 75 bucks. I knew of the lab-400 as a high school friend’s dad had one, along with a pioneer sx-780 receiver, a pioneer h-r99 8 track recorder and some sort of cassette deck. and some huge speaker lab speakers and in 1979 i thought that was the best sound i had ever heard at the time. So now at 52 years of age i have a lab-400 tt, a h-r99 pioneer 8 track, a teac ad-800 cd, cassette, usb combi with usb record capable. A brand new 5 disc yamaha changer, all feeding into a adcom preamp, rane eq, then to a gfa555 adcom amp along with middle 80’s vintage klipsch heresy’s paired with newer klipsch towers in the rear when the gfa 555 kicks in the lights in the house fluxuate 320 watts per channel at 4 ohms can get up to around 130 db and leave your ears hurting or ringing. How does she sound well to my ears fantastic at normal levels. my pioneer 8 track deck gets the most use since it’s fresh re-cap which cleaned that baby up nicely. As for the lab-400 it fits the bill and has never failed me,, all turntables with a metal platter needs a cork mat and i have found that about 3 grams stylus weight makes her sing her best.. Note this a marantz 6300 carries the exact motor as the lab-400 and one sansui model .. who built it, micro seki, cec ??????

    3. That is amazing info. Explains why the Lab-400 has a greater resale value as compared to other ‘Lab’ TT’s. I think I will keep mine. Bought it brand new back in the day. Spun a lot of vinyl on that olde gurl.

  4. I bought my Lab 400 at an estate sale about 25 years ago. It’s been a faithful companion for all these years. After about eight years of retirement I took it back out and set it up and began playing vinyl again. Best decision I ever made.
    About a year into resetting it up,it started to have some problems,so took it in for repair in Oct 2108. $125 bucks later it’s like new again! Hoping to be buried with it,love it so much.
    You see one buy it,you will not be sorry!

  5. I recently bought one at a local garage sale $20.00. Lucky me! Brought it home, set it up and WOW… it works and sounds great. I cleaned and polished the lid, plinth, etc and it looks Great! I agree with the comment above, this is a very highly underrated TT. I have 2 Duals that although in good condition do not age well. If you cannot repair Duals yourself it can be expensive. These will go to a new home.

    Love the LAB-400

  6. Hi All
    I just bought one on ebay for $400 it just need a little bit of TLC and she was up and running.
    Great sound they don’t build them like that any more.

  7. I bought mine originally new at Radio Shack in 1980? It was a HUGE purchase for me (I was like 13) at $199 and I scraped up every penny. It went into storage for a couple of decades and I recently brought it out, cleaned it up, got a new cartridge and bam! – good as new (well, almost!) – This was a totem object for me growing up (I had a radio shack in my neighborhood – all the Technics and Sonys of the day were out of my league and unreachable) but you gotta have an s-tonearm if you are going to spin the Cars or Cheap Trick. Just saying. Happy to find other fans.

  8. Please advise the replacement needle for a Pioneer Realistic LAB-400 Direct Drive Turntable. And, if you have one for sale, please advise the cost. Reply to

    Thank You !


  9. I just got one of these turn tables and plugged it into my receiver and it is not working. Does this turntable need a grounding wire? Does anyone have a good recommendation for a great receiver that works well with this turn table?

    1. My LAB-400 has a grounding wire permanently attached to the back. It should work without it, so maybe something else is wrong with your unit.


  11. The LAB-400 was manufactured by Toshiba according to Radio Shack’s buyer in Japan, Hiroshi Tom Tomininga. Advertised as the best TT “we’ve ever offered”, it wasn’t even the best TT in their 1978 catalog. The best would be the belt driven LAB-300, built by CEC. Lower rumble and a superior tonearm make the 300 a slam dunk over the 400. I compared both tables using the same headshell and Grado Signature cartridge and the 400 has been in storage ever since.

    1. Hi Ed240 want to sell your stored LAB 400?? For a reasonable price and shipping I’d be interested. Trying to put together the system i had in the late 70’s. Sold it because of moving. What a FOOL i was. Thanks Art Stadler

  12. The lab 400 is very underrated, I looked for a year before i found one at a great price. Does anyone know what kind of fluid\oil\grease should be used for the cueing mechanism ? Mine drops a little fast.

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