Pioneer PL-41 just... a... little... slow...

John Frum

Secret Society Member
The PL-41 was Pioneer’s top-of-the-line turntable in 1969-1970. It was, at least to the marketing department, a transcription deck suitable for broadcast use, and was equipped with a heavy tonearm (likely sourced from Jelco) and a low-compliance spherical MM cart (likely sourced from Audio Technica). Diverging from previous top efforts that used idlers, the PL-41 is a belt drive table with a beastly hysteresis motor. The table was one of last gasps of the “old” Pioneer, whose stock in trade was high quality “interpretations” of American products. In this case, the inspiration was the Empire 208.

Combining “Golden Age of Hi-Fi” looks and build quality with the ubiquity that came from being purchased en masse at Vietnam-era PXs, LOTS of hi-fi enthusiasts have experience with the PL-41, and it’s a perennial favorite.

I found one a few weeks ago, and dutifully bought a new belt and thrust plate, both of which had succumbed to age.

At this point, the bearing has been cleaned, the new thrust plate installed, the oil replaced with Technics’, and the new L35.1 belt from eBay seller vintageaudioforyoutoo fitted.

It’s running a little slow, according to RPM, at 33.1 rpm with a 0.27% wow & flutter. Pretty unimpressive. Any ideas on how to bring the speed up? Do I need to perform any service on the motor? Should I try a different belt?
 
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BillWojo

Junior Member
Huge 4 pole ac motor on that beautiful table. There are 2 copper oil tubes to feed oil to the motor bearings. I use light hydraulic oil (DTE 32) for both spindle and motor. Proper belt must be used for correct speed. Lots of info on AK about these units. With belt off, platter spin down time is just short of 3 minutes! One of the best bearings in the business.
Typing from my phone, will add more later.
Oh, congrats on a really great table.

BillWojo
 
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Try1256

Very Special Member
I have a PL-50. Looks identical but has auto return. Not sure about the motor and such. First check to see where the belt is riding on the capstan, It should be in the middle, if it is high or low, it will affect your speed. The capstan height can be adjusted it is kid of a pain though. If that is set right, your speed problem is most likely the belt. None of the current crop of belts seem to be the exact size and the speed shows it. The thickness of the belt is usually where the speed problem comes in. I have had good luck with belts for other tables from here
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He has 2 different 35.1's they are different widths. See how the thickness compares to what you have. IIRC, thicker would speed it up but check on that. As was mentioned, lots of info on AK about that. Might be worth a try.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
On the Empire 208 that its kind of similar to, you can vary the speed a bit with one of the nuts holding the motor on... it changes where the belt rides on the capstan...perhaps there's something similar on the PL-41 to alter where the belt rides on the capstan? I agree, though, its probably the belt thickness.
 

Dan ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ

Bear Without A Care
A friend of mine had belt problems with his Thorens. 33 was slightly slow....but 45 was insanely slow! I bought him a genuine replacement belt....problem solved!
 

BillWojo

Junior Member
Did a quick search on AK on PL-41 belts and found this post.
As you can see after reading it finding the correct belt is hit or miss. There are several other post as well. The belt thickness is the most important thing to watch, should be 0.6mm. If that makes no sense, than remember, it's not just the pulley diameter that sets the ratio it's also the neutral axis of the belt and that varies with the belt thickness. Neutral axis? What the hell is a neutral axis? Well as a belt travels around a small pulley (motor pulley) the rubber belt stretches on the outside and is compressed on the inside. The neutral axis is where no change takes place. This will change also depending on the diameter of the pulley.
Maybe a new post on AK would help in finding a current supplier of the correct belt. I bought mine about six years ago and don't even remember where from. Using a strobe disc it was about spot on.
When you took your spindle apart did you notice how nicely it was made? Precision ground spindle with almost no play in the bronze bearings that were precisely honed for clearance. Yea, no cheap oil lite bushings used in this unit, top quality all the way.
The platter is a 4.5 lb aluminum diecasting and the plinth is a heavily ribbed aluminum diecasting as well. The wood base is made of walnut plywood and quite substantial. Heck, the table weighs around 23 lbs and I bet there isn't 2 ounces of plastic in it except for the dustcover.
My tonearm is a bit different than yours as my PL-41D was built around 1972 or so. Most folks think that Jelco built the arms but I have heard Micro Seiki as well. It's really hard to tell who built what back than as the Japanese did a lot of cross business in the heyday of TT manufacturing.
I would put one of these tables in good condition up against a Thorens or AR belt drive table, quality of build it's already in a higher league.
One of these days I'll mount my Denon DL-103 on it, I've been told it's a great match.

BillWojo
 

John Frum

Secret Society Member
Update: I have still not improved on W&F number, but additional work has brought speed up to 33.27 rpm or better.

To get there, I took a Scotch Brite pad to the platter and took off anything of the petrified old belt that I could still feel. I also played around with the positioning of the bearing - the screws allow for some adjustment. And I’ve started oiling the motor, even if at the moment I suspect I’m just oiling the wicks.

Settling in so far with Sergio Mendes - The Beat of Brazil (1967) and David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972).

Aside from more surface noise than I’m used to from the current Technics/Supex rig, and my still needing to fiddle with the height on the arm lift, I can’t think of a single bad thing to say about the presentation. It’s lively, textured, and not at all lacking in detail despite putting up a conical stylus MM against a line contact MC. The difference is akin to comparing high sensitivity speakers to competent stand mounts, if that makes any sense.

I’m not yet sure, but this might be another one of those paradigm-shifting moments for me. As somebody who considers himself well on his way to an end-game stereo, who bought what he considered his permanent table/cartridge only in November 2020, I hate that.
 
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John Frum

Secret Society Member
Calamity!

5 sides in, I decided to put the dust cover on.

I accidentally hit the counterweight with the cover. Fairly hard.

Of course the arm went skipping across the record. Stylus looks okay.

But now, lowering the arm onto the record results in the stylus quickly slides across the record, past the runoff grooves, and onto the label.

Uh... I think I broke it. I’m not sure if something’s bent, or if I did in a bearing. Any ideas?
 

Try1256

Very Special Member
Calamity!

5 sides in, I decided to put the dust cover on.

I accidentally hit the counterweight with the cover. Fairly hard.

Of course the arm went skipping across the record. Stylus looks okay.

But now, lowering the arm onto the record results in the stylus quickly slides across the record, past the runoff grooves, and onto the label.

Uh... I think I broke it. I’m not sure if something’s bent, or if I did in a bearing. Any ideas

Stylus. Probably. Not that what you did is harmless but it shouldn't break that arm.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Calamity!

5 sides in, I decided to put the dust cover on.

I accidentally hit the counterweight with the cover. Fairly hard.

Of course the arm went skipping across the record. Stylus looks okay.

But now, lowering the arm onto the record results in the stylus quickly slides across the record, past the runoff grooves, and onto the label.

Uh... I think I broke it. I’m not sure if something’s bent, or if I did in a bearing. Any ideas?
Last time I had that happen it was from the diamond coming off the cantilever.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Good thought, but the stylus looks okay. It positively drives across the record, though.
So the tip is for sure on there? And you are getting downforce? With my stylus you really really had to look to notice the diamond had fallen off. FWIW the stylus fell off from hitting the arm, the (damned) unipivot on the VPI Classic I had. I sold the table right after as this was the 2nd cart I killed with that wobbly-goblin arm....
 

John Frum

Secret Society Member
I put on a GE VR-1000, and while it doesn’t sound as good as the Pioneer PL-C9, it does track, and I am able to continue to enjoy the table.

I ordered a couple of generic Japanese Pioneer stylii.
 

Try1256

Very Special Member
I put on a GE VR-1000, and while it doesn’t sound as good as the Pioneer PL-C9, it does track, and I am able to continue to enjoy the table.

I ordered a couple of generic Japanese Pioneer stylii.
I have the original cart with my PL-50. I had several different carts on it when I was using it regularly. Not long ago, I put the original cart back on just for grins and giggles. It has a modern replacement stylus, not sure which one, with a conical tip, Truthfully, I enjoyed listening to records with that cartridge mounted more than any of the other cartridges I had on that table. Something about it just worked. By no means the last word in detail, but just pleasant to listen to.
 

John Frum

Secret Society Member
eBay seller rivertone.stylus set me up with two new stylii that they say are made in Japan. They were in my hands in less than 48 hours after payment, and the total came to less than $20. Can’t beat that.

Not sure if the new stylus is bowling me over like the original, but it is acquitting itself nicely and embarrassing the GE VR1000. It’s only two sides in, so we’ll see what break-in does.

3C71AC0F-9E0D-432F-83B6-D7ACFC8FC8BD.jpeg
 
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