Pioneer PLX-500 Review

by Bruno Brozovic

The Pioneer PLX-500 is a versatile, mid-range turntable for beginner DJs and casual listeners. It features a direct drive system, a built-in phono preamplifier, and USB output for digitizing vinyl. The factory-fitted cartridge offers a stable, rich sound but lacks depth and finesse. Upgrading to a better cartridge can significantly improve performance. While it mirrors higher-end models in design, the sound from the stock cartridge may not satisfy audiophiles.

Pioneer PLX-500 Review – Intro

The Pioneer DJ series made its debut on the turntable market relatively recently but immediately won recognition and a place on shelves with the PLX-1000 model. In 2016 the company presented a new, cheaper turntable marked as PLX -500. With this turntable Pioneer is trying to conquer two groups of recipients – one group is DJs, especially the beginners, and the other group is casual record listeners.

Pioneer PLX-500 Review


What’s In The Box?

The PLX-500 is therefore a very versatile model. In the box, apart from the turntable itself, we also find a slipmat, a cover, and the entire system (headshell + stylus). So we can start using the turntable right away without any additional accessories. We do not need to buy anything else that we find in the package – and this is a rarity in turntables intended for the DJ market. However, it should be remembered that while the cartridge supplied in the set for listening to records will be ok, for playing DJs it is worth having a second, dedicated stylus (i.e. the classic Shure M44-7 or one of the Ortofon Concorde). We move on to general impressions and practical application, and the complete “What’s in the box” list is here:

  • PLX-500
  • Power cord
  • USB cable
  • Slip mat
  • Dust cover
  • Adapter for EP records
  • Headshell (with cartridge)
  • Balance and shell weights
  • Audio adaptor cable: 1 Stereo pin plug (female), 1 Stereo mini plug (male)
  • Operating instructions

Construction & Design

Pioneer PLX-500 QualityThe PLX-500 looks good at first glance – above all, it does not reveal that it is (by DJ standards ) a mid-range turntable. Visually, it does not differ significantly from the more than twice as expensive PLX-1000. Nice metal start buttons, platter speed changes, or pitch attachments are pleasing to the eye. They all look confident.

The turntable is much lighter than the PLX-1000, probably due to the plastic casing. The tonearm used is also different than in the more expensive model. However, this is nothing that disqualifies our PLX -500, quite the opposite. The whole thing, against the background of the similarly priced competition, is exceptionally good.

The aluminum platter looks impressive thanks to the “spotted” outer flange, which is part of the classic strobe rotation control system.

Watching the platter was a necessity when manually correcting the rotation, electronics are responsible for everything here, precisely setting 33, 45, and even 78 rpm (buttons), additionally, the rotation can be changed at the pace of +/- 8% (using the slider).

One can, for example, listen to “She Loves You” by the Beatles at “natural” speed (on official releases, apart from some Japanese releases, the track is sped up by a few percent, of course consciously, by George Martin’s decision in 1963).

Pioneer PLX-500 White

The tonearm belongs to the 9-inch category, and it is S-shaped. The headshell is fitted with screws (the possibility of replacing it increases the turntable’s tolerance for various types of cartridges). The design of the strut and gimbal suspension system, with a large frame and bearing system, also refers to the SL-1200 scheme.

Pioneer PLX-500 Tonearm

The base of the column is equipped with a large ring, with which (after releasing the latch) we can conveniently adjust its height. This is one of the best solutions of this type and unique in this price range (it is not easy to find VTA regulation here at all).

The classic, rotating counterweight is used to adjust the needle pressure, and a convenient knob with a scale is provided for anti-skating.

Pioneer PLX-500 Review – Cartridge

The Pioneer PLX-500 has a corrective preamplifier for MM cartridges installed, as well as a simple analog-to-digital converter (16 bit/48 kHz) and a USB output (thanks to which we can download music from vinyl to a computer).

The turntable comes with an installed and calibrated MM cartridge, there are no markings on it, and in the company materials, I found only a mention that Pioneer offers (under its name) new needles. Based on the appearance, I suspect that this is some variation of the AT-91 model from Audio-Technica, prepared especially for Pioneer.

Pioneer DJ PLX-500 Direct Drive Turntable
  • Headshell with Cartridge and Stylus
  • Turntable with Direct-drive Motor
  • USB Output - Black
  • Preamplifier

Sound Test

I listened to the PLX-500 with a factory-fitted cartridge (most likely the Audio-Technica AT-91), with the Ortofon 2M Black, as well as with the advanced Ortofon Quintet Black S MC cartridge. Phono preamplifiers include Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL, ADL Stratos by Furutech, and Primare R32. Comparative turntables are the Pioneer PLX-1000 and the Nottingham Analogue Horizon. All accompanying equipment is listed at the end of this text.

The Pioneer PLX-500 is a Direct Drive turntable, i.e. the motor mounted under the platter immediately drives it, rotates the platter, and not like in the case of a belt drive, where it is mediated by a belt stretched over the motor shaft and the platter. As a result, Direct Drive is considered by many audiophiles to be less “kosher”. However, many turntables, often from a very high price level, are now equipped with a direct drive, because a lot of technological progress has been made in this area. The Pioneer PLX-1000 received a lot of recognition from the audiophile world (especially with a good cartridge installed), so it’s time to listen to the PLX-500.

Pioneer PLX-500 Cartridge

I will write right away that the PLX-500 with the proprietary cartridge (Audio-Technica AT-91) does not sound too fancy. Yes, it is a healthy and rich sound, stable and juicy, but devoid of further depth and wider space, with a lack of some sonic subtleties or finesse in reflecting the analog climate. The overall sound, however, is pleasant, non-fatiguing, attractive, and harmonious. But it is not a sophisticated, deepened, or saturated sound. I think that it is worth replacing the cartridge with one from $100 up, then the sound should improve logarithmically. Of course, this remark does not apply to DJs. The AT-91 is quite enough for scratching.

Optimally, I would see cartridges such as Shure M-44, Ortofon 2M Red, Sumiko Black Pearl, or even the slightly more expensive Goldring 2100 or Nagaoka MP-110 in the PLX-500. As a test, I installed my standard MM Ortofon 2M Black cartridge in the title turntable. It’s a completely different sound than the factory-installed one. In short – fuller, more dynamic, with visible further depth, with cleaner space, and with better detail and clearer selectivity. There is still no such order, tonality, or saturation with music, but in general, it is not bad. Or at least decently. It is a lush, passionate, and powerful sound, with a good bass foundation and great analytics.

The internal phono preamplifier seems to be more decent with a preinstalled factory cartridge. It sounds even and clean, though here and there it can sometimes lack sophistication. It should be enough for cartridges up to $100, then it is worth considering replacing it with a better external one.

Pioneer PLX-500 Video Review

Pioneer-PLX500 Specifications

  • Drive Method: Servo-type direct drive
  • Platter: Aluminium, die-casting diameter: 332 mm
  • Motor: 3-phase, brushless DC motor
  • Braking System: Electronic brake
  • Rotation Speed: 33⅓, 45, 78 rpm
  • Rotation Adjustment Range: ±8 %
  • Wow and Flutter: < 0.15% WRMS
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: 50 dB
  • Starting Torque: > 1.6 kgf・cm
  • Start Time: Within 1 sec (at 33⅓ rpm)
  • Tonearm Type: Universal type S-shape tone arm, Gimbal-supported type bearing structure, Static balance type
  • Overhang: 0.63 in
  • Effective Length: 9.07 in
  • Tracking Error: Within 3°
  • Height Adjustment Range: 0.24 in
  • Stylus Pressure Variable Range: 0-4 g (1 scale 0.1 g)
  • Cartridge Weight Single: < 9.5 g
  • Cartridge type: VM
  • Terminals: USB B port, PHONO/LINE (RCA) output
  • Width: 17.72 in
  • Height: 6.26 in
  • Depth: 14.49 in
  • Weight: 23.59 lb

You can download & view the manual here->Pioneer PLX-500 Manual

Final Verdict

Certainly, the PLX-500 is a very dangerous competitor to such budget turntables as the Rega RP-1 or Pro-Ject of the Debut and Elemental series, because it is more solid, more massive, and more advanced in terms of construction – and what can I say – simply playing better. And this is despite the direct drive, not the belt drive! You can get even better sound if you replace the factory cartridge with a higher-class one.

I would recommend Pioneer PLX-500 to beginner DJs who want to learn how to play, plus have the pleasure of listening to vinyl records from time to time. For people who have already decided on a DJ career, the PLX -1000 will certainly be more recommended.

Pioneer DJ PLX -500 is also a great, stylish, and nice piece of equipment for every fan of sound from black records, which will find its place in many living rooms. With this model, Pioneer DJ may not have made any revolution, but it has very neatly supplemented its assortment with an interesting product that will certainly find its fans.

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