Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sony PS-X5 and Harman/Kardon 330c

A look at the current stereo system in the apartment living room (I moving out after next month, btw).  The stereo receiver is a Harman/Kardon 330c, an excellent 1970s vintage unit that I bought for $12.50.  It's a compact unit, but offers strong bass, and sharp, clear musical tones.  The phono stage sounds better to my ears than the one on my Marantz 2235b, and I'm enjoying the music more than ever before.

The main turntable continues to be our venerable Sony PS-X5.  It's a solid, dependable workhorse from the golden age of Japanese direct-drive tables, and continues to impress.  It's sounding better than ever, thanks to some aggressive use of modeling clay (Claytoons) underneath and inside the chassis.  Oil-based modeling clay is a remarkable damping tool for vintage turntables; as far as I'm concerned, it's essential for classic direct-drives.

Another improvement was to the tonearm, the one real weak point on the PS-X5.  I covered the tonearm with heat shrink tubing, which cuts down on resonances that interfere with the music.  One interesting side-effect is that this has increased the weight of the tonearm, which made balancing rather difficult.  But this was fixed with judicious use of Claytoons on the rear end of the tonearm, next to the counterweight.

My final alteration was to replace the Sony's stock rubber mat with a Funk Achromat.  This also yielded impressive gains in the clarity and focus of the sound.  This is an easy upgrade for any turntable, and one that you can immediately hear.  I began tweaking turntables when I made some cork mats for the Pro-Ject Debut III last year.

My PS-X5 is sounding remarkably more nuanced, refined, and more dynamic than ever.  The Ortofon 2M cart has never sounded better.  The only remaining tweaks I can think of at this point would be replacing the stock RCA cables, and swapping the gel-filled feet with brass cones, something like Tenderfoot.  After that, finis.  I have squeezed nearly every drop of music out of this turntable, and I'm enjoying the results.

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