Effective, affordable, user-friendly and durable. Those are the kind of attributes you want for your intermediate record player, aren’t they? Well, you’ll be glad to know that we have a candidate that ticks all the boxes. Meet the Sony PSLX300USB USB Stereo Turntable, one of the best vinyl players you will find for less than $200.
You can’t help but notice the irony in Sony offering the world a record player. As you might recall, Sony is the brand that made compact discs — the medium that would kill vinyl LPs — go mainstream. And now they’re seeking to capitalize on the resurgence of vinyls? Well…
Let’s get back to the subject, though: The PS-LX300 is a digital record player with USB connectivity and stereo output. It sports a simple, elegant design on the surface and playback operation is fully automated, so there’s not much that can go wrong with it. And with a price tag of just $130, this turntable presents little risk of burning a hole in your pocket.
If anything, it comes across as a pretty good deal once you take a look at the key specs:
-Belt-drive turntable with 2 speeds (33 1/3 and 45 rpm).
-Static balance tonearm with diamond stylus
-Built-in phono preamp
-USB port for vinyl-to-MP3 ripping using the included software.
Breaking Down the Features
The PS-LX300 is a belt-driven turntable, as you’ve just seen above. Belt-driven, for the uninitiated, means the motor spins the platter via a belt connecting the two (as opposed to direct-drive unit where motor and platter sit side-by-side). Belt-drive turntables have the advantage of protecting the vinyl/tonearm from vibration during playback. But there’s a catch: the slightest slippage/stretch of the belt will cause speed irregularities between the platter and motor. This would then create pitch variations known as wow and flutter.
Sony have equipped the PS-LX300 with a stepped-drive pulley and silicone belt to keep wow and flutter below 25 percent. This acceptable for a $130 turntable, and smooth enough to keep pitch variations out of most people’s notice. But then again, these issues can arise from improper installation of the belt, or due to warped vinyls. You will thus want to follow the manual carefully when setting up the unit. Otherwise, try playing your records on a different machine and look out for inconsistencies.
Elsewhere, you might have heard that dynamic-balance tonearms are superior to static-balance arms (like the one on this turntable). Such claims are based on nothing more than opinion. While each mechanism is unique, seasoned turntablists will agree that the differences are negligible. According to one Katsuaki Ishiyama, a veteran tonearm designer and developer, what really matters is that the arm has “appropriate inertia and mass.”
And Sony have done a rather good job in that regard. Measuring 7.5 inches in length, the PS-LX300’s tonearm has a tracking weight of 3.0 grams. That’s enough to capture all those faint details in your vinyls with no risk of ripping or wearing them down.
A few users have decried the lack of a counterweight on the tonearm, but this turntable doesn’t really require one. That’s because it comes with the tonearm assembly (i.e arm plus magnetic cartridge and stylus) already balanced; no tricky balancing acts will be involved in the setup. Beyond that, you’d only need a counterweight to re-balance the mechanism after changing the cartridge. The PS-LX300 does not allow for that.
You still get a bit of room for tinkering, though. The N-6516 stylus on this turntable can be swapped for a compatible upgrade; Audio Technica’s ATN-91 is often recommended as a worthwhile candidate. Again, this isn’t something you’ll want to consider right out-of-the-box. Upgrades, besides being pricey, are best reserved for the technically-proficient. And for what it’s worth, the stock stylus is pretty decent itself, packing a conical diamond with a 500-hour life expectancy. That’s about as good as you can get at the PS-LX300’s range.
Now, it must be highlighted that this unit doesn’t come with onboard speakers. Sony don’t declare this explicitly on their catalog, and neither do retailers in product descriptions. Don’t make the mistake of returning your turntable because it lacks speakers (like some buyers reportedly have). The built-in pre-amp will come in handy when connecting to external amplifiers and powered speakers. You will find a PHONO/LINE switch on the back of the unit to specify the output.
Also note that the inbuilt RCA cables are very short — be sure to get extension cables if you plan to place the speakers away from your turntable. Additionally, the PS-LX300 doesn’t have an internal volume control function. The other notable omission is a 3.5 mm jack; you don’t even get RCA-to-3.5mm adapters. Again, you might want to get these if your speakers only have 3.5mm AUX inputs.
Let’s start with the PS-LX300’s biggest selling point: Plug and play operation. The unit comes with an automatic cueing function which allows you play records at the push of a button. The tonearm has a finger-lift and pull-lever for easy handling, plus an automatic retrieve function to return the arm once playback ends. Be warned that this might happen a few seconds before the last track finishes.
This turntable compares rather favorably to other similarly-priced units. However, the Audio-Technica AT-LP120BK-USB is said to be significantly better when it comes to ripping MP3s from vinyl. It also offers 3-speed playback, with the additional option to play 78 RPM records. The Fluance RT81 also beats the Sony when it comes to vibration isolation. That could be due to the PS-LX300’s use of plastic and lightweight metal; you can’t really expect much solidity from this recipe.
PROs & CONs Listing
-Great value for money
-Has a built-in preamp
-Comes with a high quality stylus which can be swapped out easily
-Decent sound quality for the price
-The included ripping software is cumbersome and rather limited in function.
-Build quality is less than stellar.
-Lacks a 3.5 mm jack
The Sony PS-LX300 makes a pretty compelling case for a beginner- and intermediate turntable. A fully-automatic cueing function and well-balanced tonearm means there’s little –if any — risk of damaging those precious vinyls you’ve just bought (or inherited from family). And if you want to bring your record collection into the 21st century, the unit’s USB record function will come in handy. Just be ready to spend some time getting accustomed to the software.