The return of the turntable was quite a surprise to many. A lot of people thought that was it and it would be all CD and MP3s from now on. But just as it was being consigned formally to the museums, 2007 arrived, and it started a comeback. Suddenly we realized that music would not be all digital after all. It simply sounded better to hear it on vinyl, in a way that an MP3 never could.
But there was another reason. Vinyl avoided the ‘volume wars’. On digital, you can make a track sound louder than it would naturally. Vinyl never had any of that posturing. By 2010 sales of vinyl records were increasing. Now even the record companies who had produced digital-only albums were releasing them on vinyl.
All the major manufacturers and a few newer ones got their products out. Some brilliant, some OK, others, not so good at all. Now we have a choice at whatever level we want in terms of quality. And of course, price. Let’s have a look at one such turntable, in our comprehensive Sony PSLX300 USB Stereo Turntable review.
But first just in case you have arrived from another Galaxy, a brief word about…
Founded in Tokyo in 1946, Sony is now more than just one entity. Sony Computer Entertainment, Sony Music, Sony Pictures, and even Sony Financial with its own Insurance company and Bank. They pull in around $80 billion a year.
There is no other business in the world, quite like Sony. They have achieved this by always seeming to be one step ahead of what is current. New innovations are their forte. That way, they stay ahead of anyone who dares compete with them.
In audio, they produce some of the world’s best headphones found in studios all around the world. But, they also produce budget versions. And, they produce turntables that have been in the ‘best of’ lists since lists were invented. But they also produce entry-level, basic versions.
This is what we’ll be looking at in this review. A turntable designed to be a cost-effective entry to the world of vinyl, but this turntable has just that little bit extra.
This is not a physically large turntable. It has what might be seen as an average size measuring 15.7 by 13.5 inches by 3.9 inches. It has a mostly plastic build which firstly keeps it lightweight and secondly, keeps costs down. Sony is not worried by that. This is a cost-effective product. It will be produced as such.
Not for them the pretend posturing of some companies who portray their products as being better than they are. This is a plain and simple turntable. Plain and simple in design and in operation. As such, it sits perfectly in the entry-level market whilst also offering Sony quality.
The PSLX300 is a fully automatic stereo turntable. This will appeal to a lot of people who prefer automation as against manual operation. For many, automation means they can simply push a button. More on this later…
It is a belt-drive operation with two speeds, 33 ⅓, and 45 rpm, and there is an adapter for playing 45 rpm. It has a built-in phono preamp.
There is a straight arm static balance tonearm that is made from aluminum, and there are no anti-skate controls. It has a rest for the tonearm when it is not in use. However, the tonearm does feel a little lightweight and flimsy when compared with other turntables. Nevertheless, it is quite stable in use and does its job, despite the lack of any significant weighting control.
The platter is also aluminum but is actually quite heavy and has a rubber mat. The solid build and the rubber help to reduce vibrations that may occur from the belt drive. The platter has to be installed before use.
As we said earlier, there is a lot of plastic in the build; for example, the dust cover is plastic and is removable. This does give the turntable a slightly weak feel when compared with some of its competitors. But once it is in position, it operates fine. There are feet situated at the front.
There is a cartridge included which is made by Sony, but is very basic. It is, therefore, not the best quality, but it does provide an acceptable sound. Some may want to upgrade, and we would recommend it to be honest, and it is easy to do that. For example, check out our review of the Nagaoka MP 110 Cartridge.
Being a belt-drive turntable, there is a bit of setting up to do. It is worth noting that the belt is not attached when you take it out of the box. Therefore, this is going to take some preparation. Once you have worked out how to do that, then it is easy to use.
However, there are some positives, because it means that the belt will not be under stress while it sits in the box. It should, therefore, give it extra longevity.
Other controls are neatly placed and blend in with the general black decor of the body. There are sockets for RCA phono and a USB output for connecting up to a laptop. We shall discuss that connection a little later.
Sony’s design of this turntable might be considered a bit low key. But they have ensured that the important features work well. One area you might expect them to pay attention to is the sound reproduction. The cartridge, as we have said, is not the apex of what they have available. However, they have installed a diamond stylus to make sure the sound is as good as it can be.
This turntable has a USB port. There may be a situation where you want to preserve your vinyl albums by downloading them to a computer. This probably won’t improve the sound of the album, but it may be that you just want to keep them safe. They may be irreplaceable. You can use the USB to connect up to a Windows computer and use the software provided to transfer the files to your laptop.
Sony provides its Sound Forge Studio software to achieve this. It has some nice features allowing you to clean up any background noises so that the finished product is sharp and clean. As it comes with the turntable, it is the software Sony presumably wants you to use.
However, it has a reputation of not being that easy to use and takes a little bit of understanding. It will take a bit of ‘learning time’. If you prefer, there are other software transfer programs available.
We mentioned earlier that this is a fully automatic turntable. There are those that consider automatic turntables better equipped to protect your precious vinyl. And there is a good reason for this, in that, once the tonearm is set up properly, it will start and stop very precisely. Manual turntables require you to place and remove the stylus yourself. This could mean potential scratching if you are not careful.
We just mentioned downloading your vinyl albums to a computer. This is where the automatic turntable will come into its own. The push of one button starts the tonearm on to the record, and it plays to the end and then returns to the rest. You can, therefore, convert that album to MP3 without the need to be constantly monitoring or waiting for its completion.
If you are considering performing this function, then an automatic turntable has to be the choice.
The design then addresses the important areas. Produces the potential for a very good sound and gives you a little bit extra with the USB options.
Considering this is an entry-level turntable, the clarity is very good. It cannot, of course, compete with the sounds that define high-end turntables. If you are expecting that, then you are off the mark.
The dynamic range is acceptable if a little narrow, especially with tracks that have a range of volume levels, such as classical music. Also, you won’t pick up some of the subtle nuances that you can hear on vinyl with high-quality turntables.
As we said, you shouldn’t be expecting too much. If you want more, then you need to spend quite a bit more than this price point.
We think the performance is generally good and good value for money spent.
Sony PSLX300 USB Stereo Turntable Pros & Cons
- Very affordable.
- Fully automatic cueing.
- Excellent sound, especially for the price.
- Plastic-y feel and look.
- Lack of a tracking force adjustment.
- Limited dynamic range.
More Superb Options
If you’re looking for a budget turntable and are not 100% convinced about the Sony PSLX300, then check out our reviews of the Best Turntables under 100 Dollars, or the Best Turntables under 200 Dollars or how about the Best Turntables under 300 Dollars currently available.
You may also be interested in the Best Record Player Stands to keep everything neat and tidy.
Let us deal with the negative points first. Being mostly plastic, the turntable doesn’t feel the strongest, and it certainly doesn’t look expensive either. Would you expect it to? The design is plain and simple, nothing fancy, and it looks like what it is – a budget-level product. Nothing wrong with that, it’s what it’s supposed to be.
However, once in place, you won’t be worried if it feels a little bit lightweight. The dust cover is also plastic and quite a thin material. This will be susceptible to scratching. And adding an anti-skate device might have been useful. But there are a lot of turntables that don’t include them now.
Really those are the only things we feel deserve a mention on the negative side. And to be honest, we don’t see those as deal breakers as it is what you should be expecting, considering the brand and the price.
The sound quality is quite good and would be significantly upgraded if you install a quality cartridge. But with the cartridge supplied, the sound is more than acceptable. It will also improve the slightly limited dynamic range significantly.
It has a few nice features, and it must be remembered it has the USB download facility if you want it. This alone might be a reason for buying it if you want to download your albums.
We think for an entry-level turntable it is a good buy. Not perfect by any means, but very good value for the money you will pay. Sony knows what they are doing, and on that, you can rely.