Technics SL-1200G vs. Pioneer PLX-500 results

  • Two to one — the ratio in which listeners specified their preference for needledrops made by yours truly with two different vinyl LPs on two different turntables – the high/er-end Technics SL-1200G (€3499) and the entry-level Pioneer PLX-500 (€329) – each fitted in turn with the same Zu Denon DL-103r, their output fired through a Devialet Expert 200 and captured with Audacity running on a Macbook Air.

    For each vote for the Pioneer-based needledrop, two votes gave the Technics the nod. The 2-jtg.flac file came from the Technics, the other the Pioneer. By no means a clear cut victory for the more expensive ‘table.

    What we cautiously take away from this second experiment is that the quality of the cartridge appears to matter more than the (direct drive) ‘table itself.

    This conclusion is supported by the first experiment in which the differences between the Technics SL-1200G w/ Zu DL-103r and the Pioneer PLX-500 with its stock MM cart in place (origin unknown) were considerably more pronounced.

    Perhaps the cartridge should see a greater proportion of our vinyl front end dollars?

    Perhaps the ‘SL-1200’ buyer’s bang/$ sweet spot sits with the more affordable Technics SL-1200GR (€1499) or the Pioneer PLX-1000 (€729). 

    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. Comparing the Pioneer to the SL-1200G does not make much sense. Hardly anyone who is in the market for a new turntable would be considering a purchasing decision between these two tables. A more useful comparison would be between the Pioneer PLX-1000 and the Technics SL-1200GR. They are much, much closer in price.

      • This is useful if you want to know what ten times the spend will get you with the same cart. That was the intent here. Makes sense to me.

        • It’s not a useful test for comparison shoppers, though. Will you test a PLX-1000 directly against an SL-1200GR so that readers who are contemplating both tables can get a taste of their similarities/differences?

          • The first test shows one example of what you get from spending ten times the cash (but with different carts). The second puts the same cart on both tables to show the delta between those same two ‘tables. These were two experiments to show the differences between a high-end direct drive and a cheaper one. The question being asked: is the short cut of the Pioneer worth taking over the Technics?
            The digital angle was to use the Devialet to create the needledrops.

            Not everything on DAR is aimed at the consumer buying in a specific price range. Neither is everything on DAR trying to channel Consumer Reports. I’ll only being doing this needledrop thing as time allows – and time is tight – so it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be conducting the comparison you seek.

    2. I think the technics/zu sounds great and chose file 2 to be superior when listening over headphones. Now I’m interested to hear these on my speakers. I agree is fairly easy to hear the difference between the two tracks. I currently use a Zu/DL and really love the cart. Guess it comes down to how much the “improvement” in sound between the two tables is worth to the individual.

    3. “Perhaps the SL-1200 buyer’s bang/$ sweet spot sits with the more affordable Technics SL-1200GR (€1499)?”

      Or the Pioneer PLX 1000 ( ‎€729.00)?

    4. “What we cautiously take away from this second experiment is that the quality of the cartridge appears to matter more than the ‘table itself.” I can believe that. Perhaps we should also add the caveat “…when comparing two specific direct drive turntables.” That should be evident, but many don’t think about these things. People like different flavors, you know–idlers, belt, etc. I enjoyed my dl103 on my lenco more than my 1210mkii: more depth and soundstage, fuller sound, and more base.

      As long as you’re havin’ fun, John, keep the experiments comin’. Thanks…

    5. What about the influence of the tonearm? I would recommend to compare the quality of turntable drives using a reference cartridge-tonearm combination.

      • Sure – we *could* get even more granular. This was an investigation into two direct drivers whose scope was, as always, determined by the time available. And now that time is up, it’s time to move on to something else.

    6. I’d also note the bass definition and impact on both tables (Technics and Pioneer) are really good. Is this a well known aspect of both tables?

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