The great thing about vintage Pioneer turntables is that if you’re fortunate enough to land one, you know you’re investing in a quality product (despite its age). Of course Pioneer made a wide range of old turntables, but even going with a unit on the lower end of the price totem pole is still going to provide you with a satisfying listening experience.
So without further delay, here are my picks for the top vintage turntables by Pioneer!
Vintage Pioneer Turntable You’ll Love
Let’s begin by discussing the Pioneer PL-12D.
The Pioneer PL-12D
This Pioneer turntable came out around the early to mid 1970s and is a manual turntable. It’s perhaps on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to vintage Pioneer record players, and was eventually replaced by the likes of the Pioneer PL-15D and PL-117D (which were semi automatic and fully automatic turntables respectively).
It comes with a nice wood chassis, plays records at 33 RPM and 45 RPM speeds, and features an S-shaped tonearm. There’s even an overhang checker knob, so you can be as precise as possible when it comes to tonearm and cartridge alignment.
The Pioneer PL-117D
Now, if you’re someone that really wants to be able to enjoy vintage gear, but doesn’t really want to deal with the traditional hassle or maintenance of a record player, then perhaps the Pioneer PL-117D is perfect for your needs.
With this turntable, you’re going to get the great benefits of a vintage belt drive turntable from Pioneer, but you also get to listen to the music with a lot less stress. That’s because the Pioneer PL-117D has fully automatic functionality built into it.
So now, instead of manually picking up the tonearm and pushing down on the cue lever to get the stylus into the groove, just push the “Start” button on the PL-117D and watch this vintage table do all of the work.
The turntable also comes with a “Stop” button (in case you have to go to the bathroom, for example), and you can even push the “Repeat” button (like on a CD player) if you want to listen to your record over and over again.
This record plays at 33 and 45 RPM speed, has the ability to adjust Anti-Skate, and comes with a dust cover.
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Modern Pioneer Turntable Alternative: Pioneer PL-30K
If you’re unable to find either the Pioneer PL-12D or the Pioneer PL-117D, might I suggest you go with a modern day Pioneer turntable like the Pioneer PL-30K?
This is a belt drive turntable with automatic functionality, but unlike the vintage gear, you don’t have to be terribly worried that if something goes wrong with the internal mechanism of your record player, your entire table is useless.
Here, you get modern, fresh mechanisms built into your turntable, including a built in phono preamp (which makes this turntable a “plug and play” record player). It also comes with an Audio-Technica AT-3600L Cartridge, which will be mounted on a removable head shell (perfectly designed so that you can upgrade to a better cartridge in the future if you so choose).
Looking for a good Japanese vintage linear tracking turntable? Well, Pioneer has one for you. This turntable dates back to the late 1970s and is a fully automatic, direct drive player.
The big selling point here is the linear tracking capabilities, which is going to be a big improvement over the average offset tonearms you’re probably used to. Essentially, you’re not going to have to deal with tracking error here, which dramatically cuts down the dreaded distortion audiophiles and turntables lovers despise.
With a linear tracking record player such as this, what you’re going to notice is that the entire tonearm moves horizontally on a rail or track—almost like a train or monorail. As the record continues to play, the tonearm will continue to move from right to left, as it further tracks the groove of your continuously playing record. Considering this is vintage gear, you’re going to love how futuristic this looks and feels!
And although belt drive turntables are great, this table uses direct drive functionality. So you don’t have to worry about keeping spare drive belts on hand as replacements, either.
As for the motor on the PL-L1000, you’re looking at a Quartz PLL hall motor here, as well as a record player that can play at 33 and 45 RPM speeds.
If you’re looking for one of the best vintage turntables from the peak of the original vinyl era, definitely consider getting a used record player like the Pioneer PL-1000.
Listen, if you’re looking for one of the best turntables ever made, you just may have found it in the Pioneer P3a. I don’t know what else I can say, or more superlatives I can give, to showcase just how awesome this beauty is.
The Pioneer P3a is built like a tank—and is, ironically enough, absolutely beautiful to look at and enjoy at the exact same time. This turntable dates back between the late 1970s to about 1983 and (if you check out the video below), it’s clear that Pioneer spared no expense making it.
This turntable, which was exclusive to Japan and therefore makes it quite hard to find, features a linear torque motor along with quartz PLL control. On top of that, this is a THICK turntable—you’re almost never going to have to worry that your tonearm and stylus won’t track properly because of unwanted resonance or footfall traffic or vibrations from speakers. This is a high fidelity, manual direct drive turntable that, last I checked, sold for $7,000.
Wrapping It Up
As you can see, when it comes to the best vintage Pioneer turntables, there’s a wide range of options. Those looking for a good list of Pioneer turntables models can now see that there’s an amazing amount of vintage tables available on the used market.
Whether it’s something like the Pioneer PL-12D (which you can probably snag for about $150.00 on the open market), or a beast of a turntable like the Pioneer P3a (which was a high end Japan release, thus making it quite rare), there are no doubt tons of options depending on what your budget is and how much you care about having a precise audiophile experience in your home.
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