Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pioneer PL-70 II

I want this turntable! When's my next paycheck?

Ever since my week with the (Radio Shack) Realistic LAB-420, a 1970's Direct Drive turntable that just trounced my Belt Drive Pro-Ject Debut III, I've been educating myself on the classic Japanese DD turntables from a generation ago. Back in the peak days of vinyl lp's, Japanese engineers were creating some of the greatest audio gear known to man. With the arrival of CD in the early '80s, turntables were left by the wayside, and in many ways, the Japanese turntable classics have never been surpassed.

Today, you'll have to spend a couple thousand dollars to match the performance of these giants. Not to knock our modern BD designs, but they are horribly expensive, really playthings for the wealthy. You likely won't find a turntable that's worth your salt for under $1,000. And when dealing with the belts, you'll need some sort of speed-control device to keep 'em remotely stable.

Meanwhile, we can score the old DD classics for a song. The only caveat is that 30 years have passed, and maintainence may become an issue. The more careful music lovers too good care of their tables; far too many, sadly, foolishly dumped their turntables in a dusty basement somewhere. So finding one of these tables may involve a certain degree of restoration.

Fortunately, I've found a couple vintage shops online that cater to the vintage Japanese tables. Which leads us to this beauty...

This is Pioneer's PL-70 II, circa 1985. It's based upon their audio masterpiece, 1980's Exclusive P3. That table is remembered as Japan's most successful high-end turntable. An enormous box, the P3 sells for well over $3,000 today, and likely more if the bidding becomes fierce. Fortunately, Pioneer created a series of more affordable tables, for those of us who don't have money to burn. These include the PL-30, PL-50, and PL-70 series.

This table in question is available right now at Hi Fi Do, a Japanese import shop that's loaded with classic DD tables. The price? A mere $750 or so, depending on the currency rate. The smaller and more compact PL-30 II sells for around $250. The two tables appear to be roughly the same, although the PL-70 is much bigger (duh!) and the tonearm appears to be beefier. I have no doubts either one would be spectacular.

You would be amazed at how many fantastic DD tables can be found for under $300. It's enough to turn me into a collector. Today's audiophiles hold a very poor attitude towards DD, in favor of the BD's that dominate, but I think this is due to the flood of cheap, plastic toy turntables that swamped the audio market in the '80s. Ugh, those are terrible. No wonder everyone switched to CD. If everyone had a turntable like this...well, things would likely have been very different.

After my next payday, it's time to score a new turntable. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping this beauty is still available when the time comes. If not...ehh, there are a dozen other contenders that each look amazing. I'll score one of these monsters either way.

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