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‘80s Plastic Base Turntables

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by versionsound, Oct 24, 2021.

  1. versionsound

    versionsound The six strings that drew blood Thread Starter

    So, here’s the deal, my daughter is 11, and unlike most of her generation, she is actually becoming interested in physical media. She has a few records and a few CDs, and now she wants a stereo set-up for Christmas. Spending $300 or more on an entry level turntable is not in the budget. My question is would an ‘80s plastic base TT at least be serviceable? By “serviceable” I basically mean “not destroy her records.” I had an Onkyo in the ‘80s, and while it was not audiophile, it sounded decent and did not wreck my vinyl. I feel like the tracking force was fairly reasonable. If she has continued interest, maybe I will upgrade her in the future, but right now I’m just looking for something that works and doesn’t put undue wear on her records.
  2. RogerE

    RogerE Rambo, the world famous squirrel, says yeah!

    Frankfurt, Germany
    Yamaha TT-400 could be an option.
    That's basically a Technics SL-BD3 .
    Which is also an option...
    versionsound likes this.
  3. Slick Willie

    Slick Willie Decisively Indecisive

    sweet VA.
    A lot of the Technics tables would have a plastic 'based, but a metal frame.
    What I would not want is a plastic arm.
    Even the cheaper P monts would make a nice starter table.
    Much simpler with adjustments mostly built in and super easy cart swaps.
    Plus there were auto and semi auto choices available.
  4. vwestlife

    vwestlife Forum Resident

    New Jersey, USA
    Even a Crosley/Victrola/etc. suitcase player won't ruin your records in normal use, so any chance of damage will more likely be due to how well your daughter stores, handles, and cares for her records than what she plays them on.

    The problem with entry-level 1980s turntables is not so much their plastic construction, but rather that most of them use P-Mount cartridges, of which only a few new ones are still available today, and were a product of the ultra light tracking, ultra low mass tonearm fad of the late '70s/early '80s, and thus don't track well when commonly equipped with a conical or elliptical stylus. They really need a hyperelliptical or Shibata stylus to sound good, whose cost would exceed the entire value of the turntable.

    I have a Technics SL-QD33, which was their top-of-the-line direct-drive P-Mount turntable, and even with a Grado Green cartridge on it, whose stylus costs $60 to replace, my new $99 AT-LP60X turntable does better than it on the Shure Audio Obstacle Course test tracks -- and the stylus on it costs only about $13 to replace.
  5. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Katy, TX
    I'm just going to say the any mechanically based format, whether tape or vinyl degrades the media to some extent with each use. A single use should be negligible. But prolonging use adds up. The material composition of the plinth will have little effect on wear. I would be more concerned about the stylus than anything if wear is the biggest concern. If I were looking at things, I would look at the value of the media versus the amount you're willing to spend. If the records are old hand me downs that already have wear, you could be less concerned. But consider that she may want to play some of your records. Of your records what are you willing to allow to be played on her turntable? It would seem hypocritical if you wouldn't allow all of your records to be played on her turntable if you were the one that bought it. Maybe the timing isn't right for you to buy this. Until then allow her to use your system.
  6. yamfan

    yamfan Forum Resident

    Look on ebay for a '70s belt drive TT from companies like sanyo, hitachi, and kenwood. You'll be able to find something within your budget.
  7. RogerE

    RogerE Rambo, the world famous squirrel, says yeah!

    Frankfurt, Germany
    AFAIK, you can use the Audio Technica ATN91 (spherical) for the Yamaha TT-400 for no money.
    Not high end, but not too bad either.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2021
  8. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    JVC JL-A40 is what I bought my daughter when she was 15 and wanted to listen to records. It seemed like a very solid performer for the few months she used it.
  9. Slick Willie

    Slick Willie Decisively Indecisive

    sweet VA.
    Did she give up on the format, or did the table?
  10. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Seattle, WA
    I don't think that there is anything wrong with a plastic plinth on a lower-end 80s turntable. But it absolutely MUST have a metal arm, and a metal platter. I'm deliberately ignoring glass and ceramic platters, and 3d printed arms in this answer, because these are not found on BOTL turntables, especially in the 80s.
  11. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    Like a lot of teens with the latest fad, she moved on once she got bored with it. The turntable was fine through the entire time. I have no idea where that turntable went.

    That was 15 years ago. Today I have a perfectly running JL A20.
  12. versionsound

    versionsound The six strings that drew blood Thread Starter

    Thanks for all the replies, they have been very helpful. To clarify, I don’t think these tables are (potentially) bad because of the plastic bases, I just use that term to signify a specific TT type of the ‘80s. I was very happy with my Onkyo. It was a solid player, and adjusted for inflation, it was actually more expensive than something like a basic U-Turn TT is today. My qualm isn’t so much making the investment as much as doing it, then watching my daughter lose interest and move on (like it seems that timind’s daughter did).
    timind likes this.
  13. RogerE

    RogerE Rambo, the world famous squirrel, says yeah!

    Frankfurt, Germany
    That's what my son did also. I bought him a Thorens TD 115 with some nice records and only after 2 month he lost interest.
    I revised the Thorens and sold it with a newly mounted AT VM95E for 150 Euros.
    timind likes this.
  14. patient_ot

    patient_ot Senior Member

    Sometimes the plastic base is actually some type of reinforced plastic like BMC and isn't bad at all. What you can do to set these up better is isolate with something like a wood cutting board and inexpensive isolation feet. I've seen folks use racquet balls, industrial anti-vibration pads, vibrapods, etc.

    There are loads of decent TTs from the 70s and 80s that fly under the radar and will sell cheaply on the used market. Basically anything Japanese that doesn't have the Technics brand name on it and was a consumer level TT.

    Now, as far as whether your daughter will lose interest, that's not something we can predict. A friend of mine put together a system for his teenage son - he's a huge record nut and has thousands of records. But his son just wasn't into records like his dad and lost interest after a few months. No big deal because the investment was small. If he changes his mind and gets into records later, the gear will still be there.
  15. JohnO

    JohnO Senior Member

    Washington, DC

    Do you have a receiver or amp with integrated phono preamp for her? And speakers?

    P-mount turntables from the major Japanese brands are ok.
    The only ones to avoid would be a very few that have an integrated cartridge where the cart cannot be replaced with a different cartridge (Sony made a few in its LX series, and Kenwood, that I know of).
    They all came with dust covers, but for many the dust covers are gone now. Also be sure it has its original rubber mat.
    Three types: belt drive, direct drive, quartz-locked direct drive.
    Then, some are fully manual, some are semi-automatic (auto-return) and some are full automatic. I suggest getting at least auto-return - many of those were still called "automatic" but were not fully automatic.

    Right here, just for testing and playing around, I have a Kenwood belt drive P-mount auto-return from a thrift shop, no dust cover, with Kenwood branded version of the current AT81P (conical) cart, a little beat up so was incredibly dirt cheap, and it is surprisingly good, although it runs a tiny bit fast. I'll try to adjust that someday.
  16. Simoon

    Simoon Forum Resident

    Los Angeles
    Not sure you have to worry about a vintage TT destroying records, as long as it is set up correctly. Just get a budget elliptical cartridge.

    One easy tweak you can do to get a bit more fidelity out of those TT's, is to line as many of the internal plastic panels with a layer of Plastilina clay (hobby and art stores have it). You'd be surprised at the improvement in bass and midbass.
    dlokazip likes this.
  17. dlokazip

    dlokazip Forum Transient

    Austin, TX, USA
    My Pioneer PL-S30 has been going strong for 35 years.

    Put an Audio-Technica AT-VM95E on it and you're good to go.
    timind likes this.
  18. bdfin

    bdfin Forum Resident

    Washington State
    For your particular situation not knowing how long your daughters interest will last there would be nothing wrong with one of those Onkyo tables you described. I see them on CL for 75 to 100 bucks semi often. I owned one for several years, sold it to a friend who is still using it.
    dlokazip and timind like this.
  19. mexipike

    mexipike Well-Known Member

    Brooklyn, NY
    I feel that I was lucky that when I was a teen in the late 90s early 2000s, you could pickup a decent deck from Phillips or Technics etc. for like $20 any given Saturday at a garage sale. I wish I would have bought one every weekend and sold them all back now!
    timind likes this.
  20. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    Maybe my response seemed a bit dour. I should've mentioned my grandson who bought himself a super cheap new turntable while he was in college. After graduation he bought an all-in-one unit off Amazon and asked me how to get it to stop skipping. I told him to send it back to Amazon and I'd get him a working turntable. I bought him a Realistic direct drive that looked, and ran great. With a decent Shure cartridge, it sounds great. It's been close to two years now and he still uses it regularly. He asked me for a copy of Business As Usual, by Men A Work for his birthday. He is a regular at his local record store. There is hope.
    Slick Willie likes this.
  21. Boltman92124

    Boltman92124 Fish tacos.

    San Diego
    I know it's viewed as cheaply made but the newest version of the Audio Technica LP60x ($129) has been improved and works nicely with a pair of powered speakers (pick your budget). There are even some stylus upgrades available for it. My sister did this exact thing and couldn't be happier!
    timind and vwestlife like this.
  22. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    This is awesome. It looks like AT copied one of the cheapest turntables Radio Shack sold.
  23. edd2b

    edd2b Forum Resident

    Southsea UK
    There was the Pioneer PL120, which sounded quite a bit better than the average ‘plastic fantastic’ in its day. Just add a good budget MM cartridge. ;)

    Remember though that the earlier Dual 505-2 had a plastic ‘tray’ base with sprung metal top sat inside. Very good if you can find one then change the belts. Small Auto On off switch on side of electronics box inside gets sticky when left unused making the deck appear to be broken, but is easily fixed by lifting out top and pushing switch in and out several times. I got a complete deck for free due to this minor glitch. :cool:

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