Saturday, September 3, 2022

Japanese Idler-Driven Turntable Part 1: Pioneer PL6U

Ever since I discovered the Shield MO19 (aka Neat P58H) and Realistic MkVII at the turn of the new millennium, I've become fascinated by, and in the process have collected a few Japanese idler-driven turntables. To my ears, none of them measure up to the Garrard 301, 401 or Thorens TD124. However, the models I'll be covering in this series, IMHO, offer great musical value for money when properly sorted.

For this initial installment, I'm featuring the Pioneer PL6U, which I used as an interim turntable when I returned to the US in 2016. It's the little brother of the Pioneer PL7, which was built to much higher specifications.

With a 100V AC motor fitted, the PL6U was a 3-speed turntable made for the Japanese domestic market. Both 50Hz and 60Hz pulleys are supplied since both AC frequencies are used in Japan, depending on which part of the country you're in. As pictured, the 60Hz pulley is installed since that's the AC frequency in the US. I use a 100W step up/step down transformer to make sure the motor is fed exactly with 100VAC.

The 4-pole AC synchronous motor + switch linkage are on a sub-chassis that's mounted beneath the stamped steel main chassis.

Removing the bottom cover revealed a box. Originally, this box would have contained the tonearm, auxiliary tonearm weight, head shell, an oil vial, 45 rpm adapter, 50 or 60 Hz pulley, stylus pressure gauge and screw driver. I got the turntable with the tonearm mounted sans head shell but the 50Hz pulley + screw driver were inside the box. Sadly, all the other accessories were gone...😔    

The cast aluminum platter is quite hefty at almost 2 lbs. 

It's undersized at 10" (25mm) diameter but it spins on a finely machined 3/8" (10mm) spindle.

The tonearm is a very simple static gimbal type and thus, a tracking force gauge is necessary to set proper VTF. Other cartridges that match well with the relatively massive (albeit also undersized) tonearm include the Pickering V15/Stanton 500Shure M3D + 7DSC35C, etc. Practically any magnetic cartridge with a conical stylus that tracks over 2 grams will work well. In fact, the bearings are good enough to even handle a Denon DL103 moving coil! Watch and listen below.

Except for perished motor mounts, the unit is in excellent condition. After fitting a fresh set of rubber motor mounts, a thorough cleaning + lubrication, the unit played beautifully on its original idler wheel!

Let's hear some tunes!

Pioneer PL6U + Shure SC35C
Phono Preamp = Shure M65
Line stage = JEL Loctal
Amp = SE71A

Pioneer PL6U + Shure M44
Preamp = JEL Loctal

Pioneer PL6U + Denon DL103
MC step up = Altec 4722
Phono preamp = Shure M65
Line stage = JEL Loctal
Amp = SE71A

Collectors of 45 rpm vinyl, take note!😊👍

It can also be the heart of a mono hi-fi set up!👍😊

Pioneer PL6U + GE VRII mono cartridge
Amp = JEL SE2A3

Despite the solid engineering that went into this record player, it was and still is an entry-level unit. It portrays the musical energy idler-driven turntables are known for, but not quite up to the refined standards of the Realistic MKVII or Shield MO19. That said, the videos show how much fun I had with this unit!

More information about the almost identical Pioneer PL6A can be found at

Hopefully this vinyl feature from NHK-World will tide you over while I prepare for the next installment.😉

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