When someone mentions Pioneer turntables, the first thing that comes to mind is most likely their professional DJ turntables. And there’s a reason for that.

Pioneer turntables may not be the most obvious choice, but they are certainly some of the longest-lasting and reliable models available. Even though there are a limited number of models, Pioneer turntables come in a wide enough range with enough variety of features they cover every need and price range. Choose from entry-level models like the PL-500 to fully-loaded professional DJ turntables such as the PLX-1000.

When Nozomu Matsumoto began his small home-business in 1938, he had no idea that it would eventually grow into an internationally respected giant of the electronics industry.

Pioneer has always been at the forefront of innovation, available features, and, certainly, style. I have trusted Pioneer turntables since my first model, (a PL-400 purchased in 1980). Since that time, there have been many models and many versions — both in my home audio systems and as DJ turntables — and one thing has remained consistent throughout their lines and throughout the years: dependability.

So, let’s take a look at the Pioneer turntables catalog and determine which one will suit both your needs and your price range.

Home Stereo Pioneer Turntables: PL-990

The Pioneer PL-990 has an MSRP under $200, but it is not a stripped-down model by any means. It is a fully automatic turntable with a built-in phono equalizer that will allow you to connect it directly into an aux or line input without the need for an additional pre-amp. This can be a very convenient feature for transferring your precious vinyl directly into your studio computer for conversion into various digital formats. Also, the moving-magnet diamond stylus cartridge (usually lacking in lesser direct-connect type turntables) will do justice to your collection’s rich, full, analog range of sound.

The classic yet elegant design of the PL-990 is in the mode of the straight-forward and timeless Pioneer turntable designs of times past. The sleek, low-profile design enhances its stylish all-black appearance with easy-to-operate controls located outside the lid of the front of the case. While not as rugged as DJ turntables, the PL-990 isn’t meant to be. It’s a basic and affordable unit that provides everything you need in your home system with reliability, ease of use, and style.

It is a belt-driven turntable which, as I mentioned earlier, does not make it ideal as a DJ turntable for cueing or scratching. The time lag in achieving desired and consistent RPM make direct drives more suitable as DJ turntables. Though, the PL-995, as a belt-driven system, has the benefit of much lower vibration levels than direct drive.

The preamp is very clean and makes connecting this unit to your existing sound system, computer, or powered speakers, simple and quick. (Note: Remember, this system connects to aux inputs and cannot connect to traditional turntable inputs on a receiver or amplifier.

Pros of the Pioneer PL990 Turntable

  • Quality Pioneer PZP1001 cartridge
  • Excellent sound quality (especially for the price)
  • Has substantial aluminum (not plastic) turntable platter
  • Has accurate strobe light pitch control
  • Fully automatic tone-arm and platter
  • Built-in preamp
  • Easy to use

Cons of the Pioneer PL990 Turntable

  • Cartridge cannot be upgraded
  • Cannot play 78 RPM records
  • Made from plastic and feels a bit flimsy
  • Susceptible to outside shock and vibration
  • Short RCA cable, built into the player

Audiophile Pioneer Turntables: PL-30-K

Costing around $300, the PL-30-K is an upgraded version of the Pioneer PL-990 with a few more features and better sound. It’s a fully automatic, belt-driven turntable, with 33/45 RPM capability. However, in the PL-30-K, the preamp can be bypassed for access to your turntable inputs in your amp or receiver.

Another improvement over its less expensive cousin is a “dual-layered chassis” with a thicker (and thus more stable) metal plate that provides more stability and smoother tracking. It also has a thicker rubber mat than most similarly priced turntables — some of which offer nothing more than a plastic platter with rubber pads to prevent disc slippage during play.

The cartridge is above average, but this model allows for an upgrade, so you can switch from the stock cartridge to something better if you like.

So, if you’re a bit more serious than the casual record collector, but still want to stay in the budget, the PL-30-K may be the machine you’re looking for.

  • Full-Automatic Operation; Dual-Layered Chassis with 4 mm-Thick Metal Plate and Low Center of GravityProvides Stable...
  • Built-in Phono Equalizer with On/Through Selector: On for Connecting Amps without Phono Terminal, Through When Using...
  • High-Performance MM Cartridge Included.Drive Method: Belt Drive System

Pros of the Pioneer

PL-30-K Turntable

  • Full-automatic operation
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Has substantial rubber turntable pad
  • Dual-layered chassis with 4 mm-thick metal plate
  • Low center of gravity
  • Built-in (but bypassable) preamp
  • Easy to use.


  • Cannot play 78 RPM records
  • No USB capability

DJ Pioneer Turntables: PLX-500

The Pioneer PLX-500 might just be the very best budget buy of all the DJ turntables on the market.

Normal “home-type” turntables (like the PL-990 and the PL-30-K) are fine for home audio use, but not really suited for the rigors and abuse expected by DJ turntables.

While not costing a fortune, the PLX-500 is surprisingly rugged and will stand up to the most move-intensive club DJ who just can’t resist “scratching,” “tearing,” “wobbling,” and “hydroplaning” during their performances. It also comes with a slipmat to make those little tricks possible.

The PLX-500’s doesn’t have the heaviest platter available, but it is very serviceable and like any DJ turntables, as you get used to it, it begins to feel like an extension of your own body.

Other extra features include a +/- pitch control, a USB port for transferring your precious vinyl to computer formats (or DJ software), as well as 33 RPM, 45 RPM, and (unlike previously mentioned models) a 78RPM option — because you never know!

The tone-arm looks a bit weak but performs very under pressure, and you can adjust the weight, height, and anti-skipping to compliment your cartridge, should you choose to change it.

  • Excellent sound design, just like the PLX-1000 the PLX-500 is built to produce a high-quality vinyl sound
  • Easy digital recording by connecting the turntable to your PC or MAC via the USB out
  • Use the PLX-500 to mix and scratch your vinyl record or combine the turntable with rekordbox dvs, a compatible DJ mixer...

Pros of the Pioneer PLX-500 Turntable

  • USB Port
  • Great build quality and construction
  • 78 RPM capability
  • +/- pitch controlLow price

Cons of the Pioneer PLX-500 Turntable

  • Moderate weight platter
  • Non-detachable RCA cables
  • Tonearm not particularly sturdy
  • No built-in preamp

DJ Pioneer Turntables: PLX-1000

This two-speed, manually controlled, direct-drive turntable is the “top of the line,” not just for Pioneer, but for all DJ turntables. The Pioneer PLX-1000 has solid construction, easily removable headshell, and +/-50% pitch-control slider — making this one a popular choice for the working disc jockey.

It is as solid as a rock — probably more stable than the platform you are going to set it on while you are working. As the saying goes, “You can play Mozart during an earthquake and never miss a note.”

This model has a high-torque direct-drive motor that immediately comes up to speed and hits your cues “right on the post.”

There are more bonuses here, such as a removable power cord as well as removable — and, therefore upgradable — RCA cables. There is also an LED on the table that will help you cue tracks in the often-dark DJ environment (and would be equally handy if used as a home unit.)

The Pioneer PLX-1000 does not have a built-in preamp, but if you are in the market for this much turntable, that probably isn’t an issue.

The Pioneer PLX-1000 is obviously a top of the line unit, and to find a turntable this sturdy and this stable with this level of performance at an MSRP under $1000, will give you one less thing to be concerned about so you can focus on your performance.

  • The high-torque direct drive ensures stable rotation and exceptional control
  • Heavy-mass, die-cast chassis prevents resonance and vibrations
  • Multi-tempo control lets you instantly Pick up or slow down the track to +/-8%, +/-16%, while a simple reset button...

Pros of the Pioneer PLX-1000 Turntable

  • Removable power cord
  • Removable RCA cables
  • Great build quality and construction
  • Very strong motor
  • LED cueing light
  • +/- 50% pitch control

Cons of the Pioneer PLX-1000 Turntable

  • Manual only
  • Basic turntable features
  • No built-in preamp

The Pioneer PL-990 turntable is a fully automatic turntable suitable for home use. For more flexibility in your home sound system, you may want to consider the Pioneer PL-30-K. However, if you’re in the market for professional DJ turntables, and on a limited budget, the PXL-500 is a great starter unit. The PLX-500 is a quality DJ unit that is rugged, inexpensive, and loaded with all the features you need, including the ability to play 78s. The Pioneer PLX-1000 is a superior and reliable DJ machine with removable cords, 50 percent speed control, a very strong direct-drive motor, and an LED cueing light just for good measure.

Pioneer Keeps You Rocking

Pioneer is still, as it always has been, a source of high-quality home and DJ turntables for every need and in a wide price range. If you want to be able to say, “Vinyl Never Sounded So Good!” Pioneer is the way to go. Whether you are simply mixing for your own enjoyment, or make your living with them, the quality, selection, and reliablity of these models are perfect for you.

Which is your favorite model? Let us know down in the comments.

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