What ever happened to the Sony PS-X60?
by Nick Seiflow
There are dozens if not hundreds of classic turntables that seem to have faded from the public consciousness; I’m largely speaking of the casualties from The Great Turntable Wars of the 1970s here, but our time span could be from 1965 to 1985 – and we’d still miss some worthy contenders.
Case in point – the Sony PS-X60. Made in the late 70s, just before the advent of the little plastic disc that was to spell doom for the vinyl industry. This particular example appeared on my repair bench a little the worse for wear. It appeared to have been used as a painters drop sheet and glue-mixing platform, as well as a home for some spiders and other assorted beasties. The nerve! After a few hours of rather pleasurable work it is like new again; all the controls work just as they should, and the thing gleams with pride. This beauty may have come close to death, but not any more…
In some ways just another table, but this one deserves a close look. And the more we look the more there is to admire. At first sight it seems to be a somewhat typical automatic unit, although more substantial than many (well over 20lbs soaking wet), with all the control functions outside the lid – a nice touch for the white glove set. This includes the rocker switch for raising and lowering the arm, a model of sureness and accurate operation. The only inboard control is a rotary switch to select automatic and manual functions; really it’s just where it should be.
The first thing that catches attention is the platter itself. It’s a substantial piece of work, slightly oversized, with a good thick rubber mat; very little resonance here. The oversizing makes removing records a breeze. Removing the platter reveals a very interesting feature: a la Denon the inner rim is imprinted with a magnetic strip and there is a tape head on the table base which reads the strip, this being part of the Xtal speed control system. Does it work? Well, this example is flawless. Through the usual window we can see the stroboscopic pattern; speed is achieved in just over a second, and doesn’t waver. Listening to piano music reinforces the impression of rock-steady speed. The Xtal quartz-lock system works!
The arm is also an unusually fine thing: again substantial and with extremely low levels of friction, there are one or two features worth commenting on. Firstly, arm height is beautifully and easily adjustable via a locking lever on the right side. Setting the height takes no more than a second or two during playing: I wonder sometimes where we have gone in the last few decades – it’s a long time since I’ve operated such a nice and friendly arm. The engineers at Sony obviously believed that normal humans were going to use this turntable. The same is true for the anti-skating mechanism: adjustable during play with a beautifully executed engraved ring, there is no fear that you might give up on getting the best from your cartridge – it’s just so easy that it’s a delight to make all the necessary adjustments. It puts me in mind of many of the very expensive arms out there that make adjustments difficult if not downright impossible.
OK, so nothing’s perfect. The plinth tap test reveals that there is a low frequency resonance, but to be honest I could hear no evidence of this during playback even at very high volume. One would think that there must be some correlation between this inherent resonance and the potential for airborne feedback, but try as I might I couldn’t detect any.
Fitting an (obviously) old Stanton EEE cartridge and dialling in the necessary parameters (about one minute’s work) I sat back to listen. Astonishing. This baby plays, and I mean it really plays! I threw everything I could at it, from Emerson Lake and Palmer through to 13th century plainsong, and the results were sublime. The imaging was wide and deep, vocals being perfectly rendered; speed was perfect, and there wasn’t the slightest sense of instability or frequency anomalies – and the whole experience was deeply unsettling.
Why? Well, this is just another table from Japan, albeit a cut or two above the average, but nothing prepared me for the utter musicality of the thing. A real plug-and-play design, this would be all the turntable 99% of us would ever need. The thing is, it just gets out of the way, and you just listen to the music.
And all this makes me think yet again: where have we come to? A table like this, in the used market, probably could never be ‘worth’ more than around $400. This is just nonsense in my humble opinion; a triumph of consumerism and the insatiable desire to get rid of the old and buy the new. I can’t think of any new turntable for less than a good bite into the four-figure mark that I have heard that would make me even think of getting rid of the PS-X60. And none of the new tables would offer even a fraction of the convenience of operation.
Yet, this is an ‘old’ thing, so obviously it can’t be worth that much. Hmmm. Really. If some magic manufacturer started producing this turntable for $450, new, then the entire industry would collapse. Sure, it’s 40 years old, and the fear that it might just give up the ghost one day must be a factor. But, properly serviced, I have the teeniest suspicion that it might just outlast me…
The Sony PS-X60. In its own quiet way a simply superb turntable, and one that deserves a bit more in the way of street-cred.
PS. Sony made many thousands of the PS-X series – I wonder where they all are. Time to raid the basements across the land!