Come Gather 'Round All Ye Pioneer PL-518 Owners!

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May 9, 2005 (Updated May 2, 2007)


The Bottom Line Even with the spellbinding world of digitally recorded music...be aware that as a PL-518 owner you have the power to prove just how superior Analog can be!

I have owned many turntables over the years but have never owned the likes of a solid direct drive unit that could equal the playback accuracy of my somewhat recent Classic find...The Pioneer PL-518 Direct Drive Turntable! I purchased the unit for the grand sum of $4.25 from this very nice gal who apparently thought the unit was primed for the trash due to its rotting feet and uncontrollable "pitch" problem. When someone accidentally clipped her Shure M92E/Pro4 cartridge that was mounted in the unit...I surmise that the incident quickly became the final straw!

I recently was tempted to sell the unit in order to obtain some very much needed cold hard cash only to discover that it just was not worth risking the loss of the level of detailed open sound reproduction that I have tweaked this turntable to...and yes...you can do the same! Thank God for the power of good judgment!

Upkeep of this great classic analog masterpiece can be kept quite simple...if you know how. Since the unit is direct drive...there are no belts and pulleys to worry about. The only problem you are really likely to encounter is with the Pitch Control which can become dirty or oxidized over a period of time. If this is the case...simply apply a good dose of Isopropyl Alcohol into the control and work it continuously back and forth. Then let it sit overnight. Applying a drop or two of oil on the bottom of the center spindle beneath the platter {which can be removed quite easily} will also ensure a lifetime of listening pleasure only few can enjoy!

Another quirk or problem that can occur with this classic model is that the heavy duty rubber spring loaded feet can become separated from the base over a period of time. Okay...don't get ready to ditch the masterpiece yet as you can simply opt to live with the fact that the massive 30 lb. TT can be just placed over the spring loaded feet or you can opt for aftermarket high-end HD feet of which several types at various price points are available.

We can all also live with the fact that the magnificent PL-518 tonearm has a momentary hesitation when automatically journeying back to its arm rest at the end of an LP. Still...it is a very quiet smooth performer indeed!

You Have Something Really Special...And Maybe You're Not Aware Of It!

Take a long good hard look at the Pioneer PL-518's S-Shaped Tonearm. It is my opinion that this is just about the most advanced tonearm that has ever been produced by Japan and as much as I respect Technics...they just cannot or could not equal it! It is a most precision-like instrument and is largely responsible for the PL-518's ability to reproduce all of the emotion along with subtleties the best of vinyl has to offer.

At first glance...the arm seems to have the usual marked counterweight that we have come to expect in some form from all hi-fi turntables. However...upon closer scrutiny...you will notice a little side barrel-type of weight that has been strategically placed toward the left rear of the arm by the manufacturer. It is permanently positioned in a slotted bracket that is an integral part of the tonearm. Do not mess with it!

This little piece of omitted crafstmanship by other competing table makers is known as a static lateral balance weight for aiding the anti-skate compensation in attaining dead accuracy along with assuring us of absolute stability of the tonearm's interaction with the selected phono cartridge and the given record. It also functions to prevent the tonearm swinging inward or outward at zero balance.

The tonearm also sports some of the lowest bearing friction I've ever seen as it zero balances more like a precision doctor's office scale...without hanging up at any point along the vertical or horizontal plane. This indicates to me superior tonearm behavior. And how about that great cuing lever? Is it not one of the smoothest cuing devices ever made? Does it not handle the lowering of the tonearm in perfect gentle drift-free fashion? Silky smooth!

Don't Worry About The Snobbish Purists Rolling Their Eyes And Shaking Their Heads!

You've got something good and I have found out the hard way over and over again...when you've got something good...hang on to it! All you need to really optimize your Pioneer PL-518 gear is a great magnetic phono cartridge. Forget your old Shures, A-T's and Signets from yesteryear! Mount a modern-day Ortofon OM5E cartridge http://www.epinions.com/content_326180703876 with its gold-plated terminals in this baby and align it to perfection with a simple two-point stylus protractor that can be downloaded from www.enjoythemusic.com and now you're really cookin'!

No...the modern low cost Grados cannot equal the Ortofon's level of performance in this arm. The Ortofon OM5E is the bomb and mounting it in the Pioneer's headshell is so much easier than mounting the Grado...Black Green Blue or Red! Yes...I have indeed tested the Grado Blue in mine and although the hum level was unusually low...it wasn't quite as good as the Ortofon...which surpasses the Grado Blue in all other aspects.

Please note that perfect alignment seems to be at the original satin finished headshell's halfway/midpoint in the hardware slots when mounting the OM5E. Wait til you hear the great stereo separation and low inner groove distortion...not to mention absolutely a total lack of even the slightest hum!

This low cost cart will make your PL-518 sing better than just about any high-fellootin' high end turntable with its hand crafted moving coil contraption one is likely to encounter! The PL-518 tonearm/OM5E combo hugs the record groove like no other. Even severe warps will be played with little side effect.

Eventually I plan to replace the rotted feet on mine with audiophile grade ones at a decent price and will give a full EPINION when this great feat {Ha Ha...I made a funny!} is accomplished.

Update:3/9/2005:

Instead of replacing the rubber feet, I decided to just replace the one missing spring. This was accomplished by purchasing Handyman part # SP-9711 from Home Depot which contains two 4" long springs. The cost of the spring kit will be under $3.

Each Pioneer PL-518 foot contains one spring approximately one inch in length. The exact proper length can be obtained by placing one old Pioneer spring against the new longer one and then cutting the new spring at that point with a wire cutters. If you are missing all of the original springs...simply cut precisely 1/4 off one of the two new springs and repeat the process for the other three.

Then each cup with the spring placed inside of it can be then attached to the plinth by lifting the turntable up and placing the plastic cup/foot with spring attached directly over the remaining rubber grommet and screw and then gently lowering the turntable. The heavy weight of the turntable should then keep the four feet w/springs in place. A permanent solution might be to add epoxy clay to each foot.

Yes...Pioneer PL-518 owners...you really do have something quite special! I'd love to hear from ya!...Peter


Special Update:1/4/07

I hope I haven't caused too much confusion by raving about the A-T "Red Ed" cartridge. This is a great low cost cartridge and will sound good in the PL-518 but the Ortofon OM5E still performs best in this tonearm and doesn't bottom out like the A-T might {if forces higher than two grams are used} in the PL-518's arm. The OM5E is better focused and next time I compare something to my OM5E I'll be sure the Ortofon's stylus is in good shape. It seems that there was more wear on the OM5E's stylus than I was aware of. I have since replaced the defective stylus. This of course makes all the difference in the world when making such judgements!

Update:5/2/07

The Shure M97xE is now mounted in the Pio's tonearm using a low mass black $10 after market headshell with no shims added and the sound is flawless! The M97xE is a bargain and now reigns supreme in the Pioneer PL-518 or the PL-518x. Phono cartridges are transducers and each transducer has its own sound...like it or not. This is what gives Analog its special appeal...the artist {being the turntable and cartridge in this case} recreates the same picture with their own interpretation. You just cannot experience this kind of fun with Digital!

At this point in time...the three best modern performance per dollar phono cartridges for the PL-518 are the Shure M97xE {$50-$70}, Ortofon OM10 Super {$50-$60} and Ortofon OM5E {$45-$57}. These are the the three best of the modern-pickins.


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