Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Sony PS-X75 Turntable
Sony's PS-X75 represented the third generation from their golden age of turntable design. The PS-X5/6/7 series began the peak, it then continued with the X50/60/70 series, and then the great X65/75 tables. They continued to refine this design well into the early '80s, when Compact Disc arrived and sent all the engineers scurrying away to master the new format.
This PS-X75 features Sony's unique tonearm, dubbed the "Biotracer." It began on an earlier model and was pretty much perfected here. The Biotracer uses magnets and electronic parts for its automated movements, promising shiny touch controls. Just press a button and Biotracer takes care of everything - you never have to lay a finger on the tonearm.
The Biotracer design also tackles tonearm resonance, one of the oldest engineering challenges in turntables. Most tonearms must be matched properly with the tonearm, so resonances do no interfere with the musical signal. Sony's design essentially eliminates this problem. In theory, you should be able to play any kind of phono cartridge on the Biotracer, regardless of its mass or compliance.
Can you see that light near the back of the turntable? It's not just for looks. This is a sensor that reads the record, and tells the Biotracer where to move when beginning and ending. There are holes cut into the thick rubber mat (a smooth, almost plastic feel to the touch), that tell PS-X75 were the record is. Just push a button to play '45 singles, and the table does the rest.
One great touch. If you press the start button when no record is on the mat, the Biotracer moves out, then darts back into place, and the table stops. Very nice...very nice!
The PS-X75 represents the pinnacle of Sony's turntable aesthetic. You can see how gorgeous it looks, with the reflective black surface, lightly sparkled, and the shiny metal buttons. A red LED light displays the functions in front. And it might be hard to tell from photos, but this table is huge. It's very big and very heavy. My old Pro-Ject Debut III belt-drive would just get swallowed up.
All the brilliant technical innovations (many actually stolen from Sony's rival Denon) from the earlier PS-X tables are present here, and this is where I really find myself becoming a devoted Sony fan. The BSL (brushless-slotless) motor provides very strong torque, yet remains extremely quiet. Magnedisc and X-Tal Lock delivers an astonishly smooth and stable speed. The chassis is made of non-resonant composite materials, mostly - believe if or not! - polyester and fiberglass. If you grew up around hockey sticks, you'll recognize the feel.
Oh, and in case I haven't mentioned it yet - the music is spectacular on the PS-X75. Can you tell how much I loved this turntable? I still have a PS-X5, which contains most of the same features, but it's smaller, less attractive, and the tonearm is just a cheap aluminum tube, standard-issue '70s model. Sony quickly developed far better arms. It's good and occasionally great, but really not in the same league.
The one down side to the PS-X75 is the same with all vintage audio gear: time. This machine was released in 1979, and I highly doubt that any of its engineers believed record lovers would still be playing 30 years later. And this table uses computers and electronic velocity sensors. If the Biotracer goes senile in its old age, you're going to be in trouble. In my experience, vintage audio gear can still work like new, if it was treated carefully over the years. As in all things, be careful and examine thoroughly when buying vintage.
Back when I bought my Sony tables, they were rushing through Ebay in waves. Now, the current has dried up, but that should change sooner or later. The PS-X75 and PSX-65 (same table, but with Sony's more traditional PUA-7 tonearm) are fairly expensive, anywhere from $200 to $500. If that sounds expensive, then pay a visit to Needle Doctor and see what today's new turntables are selling for. Five Benjammins are nothing but chump change in this game, kids.
Here are a few stats to impress you, if that sort of thing rocks your world:
Speed accuracy: 0.015%
150g load speed drift: 0%
Wow & flutter: 78dB
Full speed ahead: 1/2 rotation