Pioneer PL-30 Review

by crackler01

For the first time, I will review a Pioneer turntable in my new Pioneer PL-30 review article.

The cheap PL-990 is already on offer, but it was difficult to recommend a model for less than $150 to lovers of analog sound. The situation is completely different with the newest PL-30, which, as the manufacturer advertises, is supposed to guarantee “the most satisfying audio experience”.

Pioneer PL-30 Review – Technical Description and Installation

The Pioneer PL-30 is the second automatic turntable on this website (next to the Denon). Anyway, when you look closely, both designs have a lot in common.

With all its “sophistication”, the PL-30 is not to be deterred by the complicated installation and start-up procedure, as well as everyday use. For transport safety reasons, the PL-30 is not folded up to be used right out of the box, but it is close to being ready.

A few simple movements are enough, the most complicated of which is screwing in the headshell, counterweights, and the installation of the platter.


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The main chassis of the turntable is plastic, although the Pioneer PL-30 is not a lightweight one. This was achieved by adding additional weight to the structure from the bottom with an additional metal plate. All elements were installed on one frame.

An automation system is attached to the base, which must include all systems responsible for additional functions, and which are not present in manual models. As the PL-30 does not come with a platter mounted, you can take a look at the inside.

The turntable has a belt drive hidden under the platter. There is a DC motor that allows you to easily change the rotational speed (the button that is used for this is located in the lower-left corner).

The platter itself is quite thin and light, made of aluminum, with an integrated sub-platter on which we put a flat section drive belt. An interesting element is a very thick (up to 5 mm) rubber mat, the large mass of which additionally stabilizes the rotation.


The basic MM Audio-Technica cartridge for a good start

Tighten the headshell to the tonearm. The manufacturer has pre-prepared and calibrated everything, the tonearm can work with a maximum tracking force of 4g, the adjustment is typical, it is done by a rotating counterweight wheel with a notched scale.

To start with, all you need is a manual and a little practice. A convenient, magnetic anti-skating system is also integrated into the arm.

Pioneer PL-30 Specifications

  • Drive Method: Belt Drive System
  • Wow and Flutter: 0.1% or Less WRMS (JIS WTD)
  • Motor: DC Servo Motor
  • S/N Ratio: 60 dB (DIN-B)
  • Rotation Speed: 33 1/3 rpm, 45 rpm
  • Arm Type: Static Balance Straight Type Tone Arm
  • Effective Length: 221.5 mm
  • Overhang: 19 mm
  • Stylus Pressure Variable Range: 0 g to 4.0 g (1 scale 0.1 g)
  • Proper Cartridge Weight: 4.5 g to 9.5 g (Single Cartridge)
  • Cartridge Type: MM Type
  • Headshell Weight: 10.0 g (Including Screws and Nuts)

You can download the manual here->Pioneer PL-30 Manual

Pioneer PL-30 Review – The Design

For the first, factory assembly, Pioneer chose the MM cartridge by Audio-Technica. Everything indicates that this is a model from a large family of inexpensive AT3600 cartridges. The cover of the PL-30 was “smoked” a dark blue with purple.

We discover some “surprises” on the back of the turntable; a typical, large power socket has been installed (will anyone experiment with a DIY power cable?), and the interconnect is already been permanently installed. Depending on the position of a small switch, the signal will flow directly from the cartridge or through the built-in phono preamplifier.

Pioneer PL-30 Back Side View

The interconnect is permanently installed and you can not remove it. You can choose between two operating modes, with and without an internal phono preamplifier

The operation of the device is simple: just put the record on the platter (you can even close the lid) and press the ‘Start’ button. The turntable does the rest, stopping playback when it reaches the end of the record.

You can also use the manual mode. There is no typical rotation switch here, but you don’t need it because the motor starts automatically when you raise the arm and place the needle over the initial grooves of the record.

Pioneer PL-30 Sound Test

With Pioneer, we can easily and safely sail into an analog world full of the most appropriate atmosphere for a black disc. Precision, detail, or even balance are not the most important here, analyzing the drawing and position of each sound does not make sense, because only the whole and the final effect counts – either the Pioneer PL-30 can charm us, or at least convince us, or not.

The turntable has its drawbacks and clear limitations, but they fit into the concept and laws of a low-budget analog. Dynamics and transparency are at an average level.

If we pay attention to it, the PL-30 quite skilfully draws our perception towards a musical presentation, in which coherence is more important – even without the richness of colors and details, the Pioneer PL-30 sounds convincing.

Low tones are a bit fuzzy, but they don’t spill out uncontrollably and don’t dominate as they are generally rather half a step behind, don’t have a lot of mass, and don’t reach low, but rather in the upper sub-range, where the bass is also not particularly powerful.

Pioneer PL-30 Sound Test


In fact, it is difficult to compliment this turntable, but there is nothing to complain about – it does not cause any problems. The whole sound is not thin at all, and the bass accompanies the music smoothly and without whims. The treble is also not particularly active, it focuses on smoothness and rounding, typical for analog sound, although there is muffling and limited resolution in the background.

There will also be midrange – well saturated, although soft and also slightly “muddy”, which we can accept painlessly because the Pioneer PL-30 is a turntable for listening “at ease”, it will not irritate with any sudden jumps.

Pioneer PL-30 Video Review

Final Verdict

Pioneer PL-30 can certainly make your free time more enjoyable, provide background music, and recall the atmosphere of long-forgotten records that may have been lying somewhere in the attic. By replacing the built-in preamplifier of a higher class with an external one, we can notice some progress, but making the sound brighter and more dynamic must be our goal. This can be achieved by the change of the cartridge for some of the higher class, like, for example, an Audio Technica AT120e.

Pioneer PL-30 Pro & Cons


  • Fully automatic
  • Thick metal plate base
  • Easy to set up
  • Great sound performance
  • Anti-skate dial


  • Heavy 3.5g tracking force
  • Lack of tone arm clip
Pioneer’s PL-30-K is not intended for the “serious” audiophile, yet the company has produced a well-designed and built automatic turntable that will produce pleasing sound. Mechanical infrastructure is also solid. There’s a well-defined constituency for an automatic turntable so while this might not be for you, it is definitely for those people who don't want to bother with additional adjustments. However, I highly recommend the stylus upgrade for the better sound and a gram lower tracking force.
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