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Digitise your vinyl with Pioneer’s PLX-500 turntable

  • Pioneer – the Japanese giant makes DJ gear that occasionally crosses over into the domestic market. Case in point: their direct-drive PLX-1000 DJ turntable, by any other name a Technics SL-1200 clone that ultimately proved to be a wallet-saver for those couldn’t (or wouldn’t) stump up the US$4K for Technics’ high-end audiophile SL-1200 reissue.

    The PLX-1000 is also one of the best ‘Super OEMs’ out there. I bought one from my local DJ store and lived with it for almost nine months with my experience aligning closely with that of Steve Guttenberg over at CNET. On build quality alone, the weighty Pioneer makes it extra-tough to return to entry-level offerings from Rega or Pro-Ject.

    One possible challenge for the PLX-1000 in selling REALLY big numbers is that at its price point – US$699 – it lacks the bells and whistles expected by your average mainstreamer or DJ: no cartridge, no phono pre-amplifier and no in-built ADC for digitising your vinyl records over USB.

    Enter the PLX-500. Pioneer’s all new US$350 direct-drive turntable that comes with factory installed cartridge (make/model unknown), defeatable phono pre-amplifier and USB-funnelling ADC for committing your vinyl collection to a hard-drive.

    Check out the promo video for the new model right here:

    What’s the catch from a strictly audiophile perspective? The PLX-500’s motor isn’t “Quartz locked” as per the PLX-1000, it’s servo-controlled, and its RCA cables aren’t detachable.

    At US$349, who’s complaining? (Maybe the sales managers over at Audio Technica and Stanton who offer similarly priced/spec-d units).

    Worth a side note is the sound quality of the PLX-500’s needle-drops; they will not only depend on the quality of the cartridge (which can be swapped out) but also the in-built phono-pre-amplifier and ADC. The irony is that many a modern vinyl release is pressed to wax from a hi-res digital file for which we’re not always guaranteed a master with lower dynamic range compression.

    No mind. Even if a large portion of records are pressed from a digital source, at least it’s lossless.

    The PLX-500’s finest feature is its colour optioning: black or white – a sound aesthetic match for the Devialet Phantom when Pioneer begin shipping the PLX-500 in September.

    Further information: Pioneer DJ



    DAR 750 x 290


    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. Hi John,

      Question -would this one rival / best the Sony Hi-Res one that came out (approximately) in April?


    2. “Worth a side note is the sound quality of the PLX-500’s needle-drops; they will not only depend on the quality of the cartridge (which can be swapped out) but also the in-built phono-pre-amplifier and ADC.”

      I’d be willing to bet that the included cart is something on the order of the A-T 3600L, ie – not good. If somebody is simply looking to archive their old records, this will do the job just fine, as will any number of other similar products. They pretty much all come from the same place, after all.

      However, if you’re looking to make a high quality, as good or better than the CD drop (depending on the vinyl mastering) this simply will not cut it. That’s not to say that you need to drop $10K to get good needle drops because you definitely don’t, but $350 won’t even get you in the door.

      To start off, in order to get a clean rip, you MUST wash and vacuum your records. The more deep cleaning, the better. Something like ClickRepair is NOT a fix all for surface noise. An Okki Nokki will work great, but there are much less expensive options where you spin the record by hand and hook up a regular floor vac. An anti-static brushing is also a very good idea.

      If you’re going to use a DD table, you’re going to want a quartz lock. Servo control (which went out of fashion in the early 1970s) is far too inaccurate. If I had to guess, the W&F specs on this guy probably ain’t great. A used SL-1200 will do a decent job, or you could go for an old Denon, Pioneer, or Yamaha which are likely to cost less and have much higher quality arms than what the MKII had.

      Another route is to get an AC synchronous belt drive and an outboard motor controller. If you want to buy new, this is probably the most cost effective route. You can still buy the older Music Hall MMF-2.2 for example which is AC synch for $299. The new MMF-2.3’s DC synchronous motor is very slightly more accurate out of the box, but the old 2.2 can be slaved to Music Hall’s Cruise Control or the superior Phoenix Engineering controller, and the 2.3 can’t.

      Then you’re going to need a real phono preamp. Something with a built in rumble filter would be a big plus. And you’re going to need a real ADC. A used studio model with USB or FireWire, or something like a used RME card would provide the most bang\buck.

      So you can absolutely get very good sounding drops without breaking the bank, but expect to spend about $1K *minimum* if you want remotely serious results.

    3. I loved everything until I saw the non-detachable cables. Ouch. Hopefully a relatively easy mod. If only they would update the PLX-1000 to do 78s.

    4. No that we have just learned that the RP1 turntable is a waste of time and money; it is hard to welcome the PLX-500. If all you need is a good ADC and a good DAC who needs a rotating platter and a lot of plastic around it? I can imagine so people here have a decent DAC, why should they buy a cheap ADC to archive their LP’s. Probably better to buy a $350 pure ADC. I don’t get the logic here.

    5. Essentially this is an AT LP120USB, but with an inferior cartridge, no quartz, and a higher price. Can’t think of any reason to choose this over the LP120. Pioneer is simply taking advantage of people who have heard good things about the PLX-1000 but can’t afford one.

    $$$omething for everyone at HMV Hong Kong

    Standing room only at Hong Kong High-End 2016