The Technics SL-10 Direct Drive Turntable

by Nick Seiflow

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Here’s one for the Gipper; the Technics SL-10 linear-tracking direct drive turntable. It’s odd how some tables just get to you – and for me, this is one of those tables. Yes, it’s just a Technics (SP10 Mk III anyone?), but it’s extremely capable.

Wee it may be: light is is not. The first reaction picking it up is surprise; at 14lbs it is much heavier than expected. Exactly the same size as an LP cover, and only 3.5 inches tall this turntable will fit just about anywhere. In these days of ‘efficient’ living spaces this is a real bonus.The sprung feet have excellent compliance (Technics used to do a very good foot when they wanted) and when this little puppy plants itself on the table it doesn’t move. These feet are actually very effective at not transmitting vibration, and repeated banging on the table next to the table did next to nothing to disturb its composure.

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

The exterior is typical Technics: simple silver-grey painted aluminum, a few brushed chrome buttons, dark plexiglass lid and that’s that. Minimalistic and highly attractive, it makes a refreshing change from the bright colours and blinginess of many of today’s offerings. In fact, it doesn’t look like a turntable, and for this fact alone it deserves a design award.

Opening the well weighted lid reveals a few switches; speed, on/off, auto/manual selector, manual rotation switch (for cleaning the record) and a nicely articulated clamp with built-in strobe markings. Inside the lid itself there is the arm – all four inches of it – and the necessary tracks and guides for moving the arm across the disc. The simple black cover on the lid hides quite a bit of business; a motor, gears, thread drive for moving the arm, and a large circuit board. Of course, if you don’t take the table apart most of this will forever be invisible. Closing the lid feels solid and authoritative: all that’s left is to switch on, select play (I chose auto, so didn’t have to use the cue button), select repeat, or not, and sit back. The table makes little or no noise in operation, and there are couple of glowing red lights to indicate status and stylus position (including one for the strobe) and the general feeling is that this is not a cheap vinyl spinner. The Play and Stop switches on the top deck are multi-function: and deserve a brief mention. Pressing Play lightly advances the arm slowly; further pressure increases the speed. Pressing the Stop switch likewise will perform these functions in reverse. The cueing button mutes the output momentarily; another pleasant feature.

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

The platter is solid and damped underneath with a non-resonant compound. The 45rpm single adapter is built in and captive. Looking closely at the thick rubber mat reveals three radial apertures: these are for automatic record sensing. Technics supplied two paper mats to place over the rubber for playing transparent discs; no doubt these will have wandered far away by now, but wouldn’t be hard to recreate if needed.

Looking at the back reveals a socket for a power cord, RCA jacks, and more.

There is also a 12V input – a great option, and intended for use in the car (!) There is also a switch labelled MC/MM. Indeed; the SL10 originally came equipped with a fine moving-coil cartridge, the EPC 310, a cartridge which still stands comparison to modern high priced  devices (now sadly virtual unobtanium) For this cartridge the built-in moving coil amplifier would be used: no need for external boxes and all those annoying umbilicals. Just fabulous. For anyone that values convenience the self-contained SL-10 is a godsend.

The table is named with the number ten; this is significant. Created exactly ten years after the legendary SP10, Technics was making a statement. It is hard to believe just what a stir this tiny table made in its debut.A host of cheaper imitations flooded the market, but the 10 still stands as the Statement turntable. Actually there were later iterations, the 5 and the 7, but the 10 is the purist’s choice.

It’s a linear tracker. Properly executed, this method offers the lowest tracking distortion as the stylus is always perfectly perpendicular to the groove. Linear tracking arms can be massive and extremely complicated. Price tags can easily run into multiple thousands of dollars. They are the logical answer to sorting out the problem of tracking anomalies and have many devotees in auddiophile-land. The Technics SL-10 version, by comparison, is really quite simple, with no need for complicated set up – but here’s the minor rub. The cartridge attaches via a P-mount. The ultimate plug and play. Usually no need to even adjust the tracking weight. Plug-and-play. For the tweakers this is a minor disaster. Nothing to adjust; just switch on and enjoy. Indeed? Audiophiles can thrive on the how-can-I-make it better if I-can’t-spend-hours-on-VTA-and-azimuth kind of activities? One sometimes wonders. I actually approve of the P-mount system. Rube Goldberg wouldn’t, and there’s a little Rube G. in many audiophiles: overt complexity isn’t always necessary but of course the pursuit of perfection can lead to some wondrous devices….

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

I love simple-to-use machinery, and I love this turntable. Even with a simple and cheapish P-mount MM cartridge from Audio Technica the SL-10 dealt with every record I could throw at it with aplomb. A rarer cartridge in the collection, the Azden (with line-contact stylus) elevated the performance higher, but the differences were not huge. I have a few torture discs, mostly classical, recorded on the ‘hot’ side, and mistracking was never on the audio horizon. Imaging was stable and wide throughout, and I would have had to do rigorous AB comparisons with other tables to see if bass extension was suffering – bearing in mind this would be as much a test of cartridge as anything else. But extension seems just fine….and the top end is no slouch either. I imagine the current crop of uber-tables would show the deficiencies in terms of absolute sound quality, but the sounds from the SL-10 needed no apology. At a used price of around $500 for an excellent example I would have no hesitation in preferring this to the current entry-level tables of the same price. To market such a unit in today’s money would necessitate a price tag of around five times this amount, so the SL-10 deserves a place in the Bargain category.

All in all this is a tremendously satisfying player. It gets out of the way beautifully, needs little or no attention, and takes up a tiny amount of space. Automatic turntables are somewhat looked down upon, but there are occasions that automatic (and repeat) are simply wonderful  features to be able to choose. Simply feed the SL-10 with records and enjoy the sound. It’s like great software: one is aware that behind the ultra-simple facade there is some exceedingly clever thinking, and I for one like this approach very much. One could argue that the very best engineering can appear self-effacing, and this is certainly the case with this turntable.

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

Technics SL-10 Turntable

The Technics SL-10. Perhaps rather overlooked, and maybe somewhat looked down upon. But it really shouldn’t be. This modest looking turntable, concealing under its simple exterior an electronic and engineering marvel, firmly deserves a place in the Hall of Fame. An iconic design, powerfully capable, and to be respected, its like will not return soon; sadly, the laws of supply and demand will ensure that. It’s the ideal player for those of us who simply want to listen to music on vinyl. If space is limited, and fussing with the music-maker isn’t your idea of good times I couldn’t imagine a better choice. Sonically, top-notch, despite the lack of huge choice of cartridges. And, did I mention, it plays upside-down? A perfect choice for our Australian cousins…

PS There will be a part 2 to this ode to the SL-10, with some internal pictures: I had the unexpected task of re-installing the thread drive to one machine. Keep your dials tuned to the Turntable Shop, and all will be revealed. Simple on the outside, sure. Not quite so simple under the covers….

31 thoughts on “The Technics SL-10 Direct Drive Turntable

  1. Hi,
    Amazing post!!!
    I just got one SL-10 from a friend as a gift. It seems to work but I haven’t connected to my stereo system. It has its original cartridge but my phono pre amp is for MM. I read in your post: “For this cartridge the built-in moving coil amplifier would be used: no need for external boxes ” That means that I don’t need a phono pre amp at all?
    Your SL-10 looks just fantastic and new. I want mine to look as yours!
    Another thing, I saw a picture of the original wire (rca+ground wire) I don’t have it. Any ideas where can I find one?

    • Hi, and thanks for your kind comments!

      MC or MM, you will always need a phono preamp to boost and equalise the tiny signals coming from the cartridge; the fact that you can use the built-in step-up preamp in the SL10 is a great feature – but this must be connected to a regular phono preamp.
      The ground cable is a simple pin and lead: you may not even have to use this if your are getting no audible hum from your system. Try it without first and see.
      Enjoy your SL10 – I certainly love mine!
      Nick

  2. Question;I refurb vintage Technic linears and I have a SL-10 that starts and plays great but it will just cue up and shut off at any point on the record never the same spot.New tonearm belt,deoxitized.and modern lube applied.All functions work as advertised,but it quits.Any ideas?Motor controls?Problem on board?Still has the 310MC cart and the original RCA/ground wire cables.Thanks. Bob

    • Hi Bob,

      I’m puzzled – and can’t diagnose from a distance – all I would do is ensure that the switchgear (both panel and internal) is absolutely clean, and I would re-examine the belts for tension. Let me know if you figure this out!

      Best,
      Nick

      • The only belt a 10 has is the tonearm and it could not return to the beginning of the record if it was bad,but it’s new.I’m still researching it.Plays perfect but shuts off so it has to be in the motor controls somewhere.Thanks for the reply Nick. Bob

      • Only 1 belt Nick,on the tonearm and it’s new.I did find the cause,it had a faulty power switch.Changed it out and now works as advertised.

      • No I haven’t and all the so called vintage turntable repairers have no clue.Not shipping it away to have someone disect it and maybe determine the cause.If you find out let me know as I’ve done all I can.Sometimes it’ll play the entire side without a hitch.Strange.Dunno…….

        • I have been dealing with the same problem and after trips to two other repair shops finally found a guy who fixed it. He told me all he did was take the unit apart check all internal conections, jacks and clean it. There were a couple connections that were re-soldered and on internal plug that was partially out. It plays all the way through the records now with no problem. Not saying this is your issue but it sure looks like it was mine and I had the same problem.

  3. Hi ….I have had my SL10 from new, but have not used it for 15 years at least. There are a few issues with it, no output, retaining clip on left missing. Any offers for spares or enthusiast who could get it pulsing again…. please let me know

  4. I have another 10 I just picked up.It plays perfect except the tonearm drops way too fast.It needs new dampening fluid I know as that controls the drop speed.Does anyone know where I might obtain a video showing the correct way to add it to a LINEAR?I find videos showing how to do it on a 1200,etc but no linear info.Thanks for any help/

  5. Hi
    i have a sl 10.. bought new in 1981.. after years in storage, moves and, kids and life in general i have finally renewed my love with vinyl . alas my sl 10 starts and seems fine but after 20 seconds or less it skips .. i assume it must be a tone arm belt problem .. do you repair/diagnose problems.. i would ship it to you prepaid return ..or perhaps deliver as i do make it to vancouver a bit.

  6. Since finding an SL-7 (sibling of the SL-10) on garbage night five years ago, I have stopped using my Thorens altogether. I listen to music while I work, and I love the convenience of being able to press a button and have the LP start, then anytime I need to pause the music, I just press another button. Plus I never have to worry about doing something clutzy and damaging an LP or a cartridge. I found a NOS stylus for the AT 132EP that was on it. The AT is an excellent tracker, and very agile. Then found a NOS Sonus pmount with a line contact stylus that was not quite as snappy as the AT but was a better all-arounder, so I bought two. I’m really enjoying this combo.

    • Hi Kurt,
      I hear you! Sometimes I wonder just how expensive this turntable would be if a company like Technics were to make it again, in Japan.
      I doubt if I could afford it…
      You got a great find, and may it spin for many years to come:-)

      Best regards,
      Nick

  7. I had a new one of those…got it when they first came out. Great turntable and great description of what it can do, but you left out the best part — it will play records standing on its side and even upside down! was great fun at parties!

  8. Hi. I just bought a second hand a Technics SL10. It looks as new, has all the original manuals, cables, even the original box and the two paper mats to place over the rubber.
    The problem is that the platter is not spinning. All the leds and lights light up and i can see that the tonearm reacts to the comands but does not move.
    I’ll have to replace the cartridge because the needle is broken.
    I’ve tested the PCB fuses.
    I tested it with a record in the turntable (yes, i did took off the turntable retain pins). Even when i try to spin it in the cleaning mode with the lid open, it won’t spin… Any ideia why ?

    • Hi Sandra,

      With the SL10 there is often a problem with a small drive belt which can loosen or corrode. If you’re not in Vancouver please let me know and I’ll see if I can suggest a course of action.

      Best regards,
      Nick

      • Hi Nick,

        Thanks for your reply. I’m very far from Vancouver, I live in the azores.

        I’ve opened the uper cover, unblocked the tone arm motor, replaced the tone arm belt, and replaced the cartridge. Tested the tone arm motor e tone arm with a 9V batttery, and it runs smoothly.
        When i test the player with a record, it simply just won’t spin, even in the cleaning mode. The transformer is ok, i have the 12V in the coils of the indution motor and none of the components in the board apears damaged. It’s as if some protection is activated and the platter won’t spin. Don’t quite no what to try now…

        • Hi Sandra,

          There are some safety switches indeed; have you completely and correctly reassembled the top lid and cover before final testing?

          Nick

  9. I NEED THE TRANSIT SCREWS AND SLEEVES TO SHIP (REPAIR-SELL) tHE TURNTABLE)
    DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE I CAN GET THEM?
    THERE ARE TRACKING PROBLEMS ON INNER BANDS OF LP’S WITH SHURE M104 NOS
    SEE: NO SCREWS=NO REPAIR
    ALSO, THE OLD TECHNICS CARTRIDGE MC WAS PEAKY AND A POOR TRACKER BECA– USE OF THE BORON CANTLIVER — USED.

    • Paul, I am curious about your comments on the original Technics MC cartridge. I have one in my SL-10 and it’s a smooth, refined performer that tracks amazingly. I can’t see why the boron cantilever would be a problem. A cantilever is just a rigid pipe, so doesn’t affect compliance at all. I suspect the problem is simply tracking force.

      Do you still have the old 310 MC?

      • I have an SL-10 from new.. And found the original mc cart not the best choice at all for me… Listener fatigue would set in.. I had great luck with the Shure V15 LT for years, and then have had the BEST sound by far with the Grado Prestige Gold.. The absolute best P-mount on the market.. Cant understand what the hype about the 310 MC is all about.. It is just typical internet hype from people who are maybe biased and /or havent heard other carts….

  10. Regarding this comment:
    I refurb vintage Technic linears and I have a SL-10 that starts and plays great but it will just cue up and shut off at any point on the record never the same spot.New tonearm belt,deoxitized.and modern lube applied.All functions work as advertised,but it quits.Any ideas?Motor controls?Problem on board?Still has the 310MC cart and the original RCA/ground wire cables.

    Yes, I have diagnosed the same issue where the tonearm ejects or shuts off at different places on the record. The wiring going from the back of the cartridge thru the system is old and the wiring insulation is brittle. As the tone arm moves to the center of the record, the wiring must be flexible enough and pliable to fold with minimal resistance. Since it is brittle it does not, and causes tracking to hick-up and eject. I put some lubricant on the wires and had moderate success, but a yr later same issue.

    Tom

  11. My son found an Technics SL-10 in the garbage (?!?!?!) without the power cord. It looks like a non-traditional rectangular shaped input, not like the notched style we commonly find today. Anyone know where to buy power cables or other accessories for this vintage TT?

  12. I just recently resurrected my SL-10 that was bought new when it first appeared. I wanted to learn how it would sound played through my recent acquisition of a McIntosh MX 115 AV Control Centre. It sounded “brittle” and I was wondering whether a new cartridge would be the answer, but I now see that the hopes of finding one at this late date would be very slim indeed. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

  13. I HAVE AN SL 10 THAT NEEDS AN OVERHAUL SERVICE.
    WOULD YOU BE ABLE TO DO THAT IF I SEND IT TO YOU?
    OR DO YOU KNOW OF SOMEONE THAT WILL DO THIS IN NEW YORK?
    PLEASE LET ME KNOW.
    THANK YOU!

    • Hi Philip,

      Certainly, yes: before going further with this it would be essential to know that problems you are experiencing with your SL10. Please let me know and we can go from there.

      Best regards,
      Nick,
      The Turntable Shop

  14. hey, i have one of these – pretty near, if not the first one sold in vancouver; traded out the cartridge for a premium audiotechica, but probably still the original one stashed somewheres. always has been a very nice little turntable

  15. I bought one of the first SL 10’s to enter Australia from JB hi fi in Sydney & they were very hard to come by back then. I didn’t live in Sydney at that time but tried it out at a friends house where I was staying before heading home to my recording studio up the north coast. That little SL 10 sounded just fantastic through the Luxman & the 15 inch Tannoy SRM’s. I put it back in it’s box ready for it’s journey but that was the last I saw of it as the house was robbed the following day. I couldn’t get my hands on another one at the time but happened to find one in a mall in Singapore a few weeks later & I still have it today. It has played thousands of records over the years and still works perfectly well with one exception. Half way through an LP the left channel fades out abruptly. I have tracked the fault down to the MM/MC switch and cleaned it with electrical component spray cleaner & it worked perfectly for about a month before the fault reemerged. The switch is soldered directly to a circuit board and even if I was a tech I would find it hard to replace if I could source a new switch. I have heard it can be bypassed leaving it as either mc or mm permanently. Dose anyone have any comments on this problem?
    I still have the origional 310 MC though the stylus has broken off. Can this be repaired?

    • Hello from the Turntable Shop!

      Of course, we share your enthusiasm for this marvelous table. We’ll never see a turntable like it again, and I treasure the surviving examples.

      This anomaly with the switch does disturb me somewhat: yes, bypassing the switch will doubtless work, but if the problem is intermittent my guess is that there is a mechanical cause, and this may be fixable without having to resort to radical solutions. Impossible to say, of course, without seeing the Beast, but it’s a thought…

      The 310 is justifiably highly regarded and in my opinion is worth saving. Broken tips seem to
      be commonplace with this cartridge, but Peter at Soundsmith (New York) will be well able to repair the cartridge and put it back into perfect condition.

      I wish you many more happy years with the SL10!

      Nick, for The Turntable Shop

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