Review: Is the Sony PS-HX500 the ripping turntable we have been waiting for?

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The Sony PS-HX500’s all black exterior will have you hearing in colour.

Recording your vinyl records (lps, 12″s, 45s) to digital files can be a costly, precarious, time consuming task, where the results can often be underwhelming. I am by no means an audiophile, but a dj who has collected thousands of records over the years, and I know enough that the better it sounds, the better it is for djing and listening. Now that digital djing has become so much apart of what I do, I still long for digital copies of those records in my collection that are unavailable elsewhere or, in some cases, they are not decent rips (Youtube rips, illegal sites, 128kb rips of yesteryear). So, my review is going to be looking at what many of the other reviewers of the Sony PS-HX500 don’t cover, while focusing on the Sony PS-HX500’s ripping capabilities (not its phono stage or sound replication in a stereo set up, maybe for a latter post). I am going to be asking:

  1. How do “natural” recordings from the Sony PS-HX500 sound?
  2. Does the Sony PS-HX500 rip club records well?
  3. Is the Sony PS-HX500 kind to scratchy records?
  4. Does the Sony PS-HX500 rip 45s / 7″ records well?
  5. How does the Sony PS-HX500 compare to my current dj set up for ripping records?

  1. How do “natural” recordings from the Sony PS-HX500 sound?

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I found many of the other reviews focused on the Rock and Jazz LPs, which because they have that nuance of live instruments seems like a reasonable first approach. For that, I decided to begin with a reissue Alice Coltrane ‎– “Journey In Satchidananda”. Not only does it have live instrumentation but the harp is a very vibrant instrument with sweeping highs and mids (probably hard to capture digitally I figure). For rock I used another reissue, here Black Sabbath’s Self titled debut.

The results across the board were excellent for the recordings. Alice’s harp rings through with great clarity, the double bass bumps, Cymbals glisten. You could here the room reverberation that they were playing. Black Sabbath sounded great. The rainy intro of did expose a little surface crackle in my copy but as soon as the thunder kicks in it sounded great. The instruments (bass, guitar, vocals & drums) were allowed to play their respective roles and were easily accessible.

2. Does the Sony PS-HX500 rip club records well?

In contrast, with the more “natural” sounds of microphoned instruments, I wanted to compare it with more modern recordings with some bump, ie some “club” records. For this example I used Jay-Z’s  ‎– “Vol. 3… Life And Times Of S. Carter” .  The results In comparison to a digital copy I had, “Big Pimpin'” sounded remarkably close, taking in consideration the limitations of a 33 1/3 record with 3 songs on the one side. The recording had good low-end with the kicks coming through as they should without detracting from the vocals. The vocals coasted on top with good clarity. The stereo spectrum was a bit more narrow but I think that has more to do with the medium itself more than a fault with the turntable.

3. Is the Sony PS-HX500 kind to scratchy records?

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If your ghettohouse records don’t have the wrong sleeves send them back, “they ain’t ghetto enough”

For my scratchy record (which could also arguably double as another “club” record) I used a Dance Mania test of DJ Chip – “Ghettoslide” . The condition of the vinyl is probably VG with lots of scratches. It was well loved soldier of the clubs, hence the wrong sleeve. Furthermore, Dance Mania records are NOT world renown because of their quality pressings and I can’t imagine their white labels faired better. However, the results of the recordings made on the Sony PS-HX500 were relatively kind. Surface noise from the scratches were heard but ultimately the music came through with good balance (lows, mids & highs). One thing that was remarkable, the vocals although manically stacked,were more discernible. I could here all the nasty words clearly. With a little bit of post-production finesse you could definitely get a good usable digital file I think. Something like the Izotope RX7 editor software (which I will do a review of shortly).

4. Does the Sony PS-HX500 rip 45s / 7″ records well?

I am a 45 fanatic. In fact my lp/12″ collecting has more or less subsided. Whereas I still have to look when I see some 45s. However, 45s are more often then not the greatest fidelity. When you dj them they often need a lot of eq to get them right. But needless to say I still wanted to be able to rip those impossible to find cuts. So I tried various 45s of varying condition: High Rollers – “Place Your Bets” a Canadian disco cut; Fuji – “Revalations” a psych blues funk cut; Errol Scorcher ‎– “Roach In De Corner” a Jamaican pressing (not exactly a quality pressing or condition); Bobby Marchan ‎– “Rockin’ Pneumonia” a rock n roll romp.

Across the board really good results. A little tininess you would expect from a 45 and little crackle. But really good clarity, and good lows particularly from the “Roach In De Corner”

5. How does the Sony PS-HX500 compare to my current dj set up for ripping records?

Compared to my other set ups (and many djs will have the same equipment): a Technics 1200, various carts (Shure N44-7, Jico N44-7, Ortofon S-120), various mixers (Pioneer S9, Rane TTM-57sl and Roland DJ-505 controller) using the Serato software (Scratch Live & Serato DJ), the recordings of the same records didn’t even compare, I would say 40% better or more. Every single time the Sony PS-HX500 out did these set ups. The clarity was not only apparent to my ears but when I load the files in Serato (without any tinkering), you didn’t get these “all one colour” waveforms, like with Serato’s all red waveform vinyl rips. Suggesting a wider spectrum of sound. The only thing I think would be required to make excellent “ready for the club” rips, would be an ounce of preparation (clean your records) and a bit of post production (gain, eq). The gain on the Sony recordings were really low, but this could be seen as a positive in the sense that you can add more and it give you ample wiggle room to do so.

Conclusion

I would highly recommend the Sony PS-HX500 as a usb turntable for ripping records. I got really good results that surpassed all the other popular DJ set ups I had . I think I will definitely change the cart it came with (something that I will cover in another review) to hopefully yield even better results. The cartridge it comes with is supposedly an unmarked $50 Audio-technica cart and needle. Because of this I am ripping my really scratchy records first before purchasing another cartridge. The cartridges are not easily swappable and needs to be installed with a bit of finesse and wired.

Pros:

  • All in one belt-drive turntable with phono stage & usb that doesn’t actually suck.
  • Good price and value
  • Recordings are excellent and are kind to all genres.
  • 33/45 switch on top means no belt adjustment required to play at different speeds.
  • Comes with recording software that is easy to use, available here.
  • Records 16/24 bit .wav files but can also record using Sony’s propriety DSD format.

Cons:

  • the stock needle it comes with is just ok.
  • Needle replacement may be difficult (I will find out later)
  • No height adjustment for the arm means only particular carts of a certain height will work.
  • Legs are not adjustable,
  • Arm is not automatic (I am going to look to see if an automatic lift can be installed).
  • For the best results you will probably need a better audio software editor to do a little bit of post tinkering, but there are free ones (e.g. Audacity).

 

 

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Can you teach an old dog new Technics with the new SL-1200MK7?

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The new Technics SL-1200MK7, don’t ask how much…no one knows.

UPDATE: the Technics 1200 will be coincidentally priced at $1200 US dollars.

For many the Technics SL-1200 is synonymous with djing. What made it so appealing to djs was its rock-solid build, allowing it to be dragged out to block parties, installed at clubs; and its pitch control making it possible to mix records together with precision. Not to mention that its direct drive technology allowed for scratching and manipulation of the record. However, for a long period the Technics SL-1200 model was discontinued making it a much coveted (& heavily sold) item on the secondhand market. However, I digress though, because this not a history lesson. What we want to discuss is what does the Technics 1200 mean now with its new incarnation the Technics SL-1200MK7?

I first heard about the news from buddies Skratch Bastid & Pat Drastik (Thugli), both having previewed and contributed input into this new design. Both DJs are insanely good in their own right, so it makes me think that Panasonic (who own Technics) have the best of intentions in mind for djs and the new features included seem to confirm this: detachable rca’s and ac power, as featured on the rival turntables like the Pioneer; 2x speed button allowing you to double the pitch  to +16 / -16. As usual though, there are detractors, people already don’t like that its digital pitching instead of analog pitch; that the classic 1200 torque will not be the same; and most confusingly, that people won’t see it in the club because it is the black model and not the silver model.

However, what most are really concerned about is (always) the price point, something Technics is being candid about. A previous boutique model introduced in 2016 came out at a laughable $4000 US. If its not competitively priced with other models like the Pioneer DJ PLX-1000, I think it will not be considered by most as a viable option . They will either get second-hand 1200s, and since they are practically indestructible and Technics has sold 3.5 million historically they can be found.  Or most will go to a competitor or instead choose an entirely different path.

Its true, that for many years there was no competition in the analog dj turntable market  but ultimately music and djing is about expression. With the advent of dj controllers and midi controllers, I wonder if this generation will find it too limited and this is coming from someone who loves both digital and analog djing (still have my 1200s MK2’s). Its true things like doubling the pitch and allowing reverse play (another new feature) can allow for more expression but is it enough, when other turntable style controllers like the Rane Twelve have midi buttons for cueing or whatever (its midi)? I understand, however, purists would probably see the addition of buttons as a blight on the 1200s. Ultimately, Technics is calling the bluff on those who have longed to have new 1200s. Will those who have always wanted Technics 1200s and those who have older models splurge for this new model remains to be seen and heard.

Update: the Technics 1200 will be coincidentally priced at $1200 US dollars. Which makes me think there is definitely something psychological about making things a little too expensive (I see you Apple & Pioneer).  It is meant to set it apart from other companies. Usually, the outcome is that the company wins and people will splurge. However, I personally would have this way down on my list, since I already own MK2’s. Its true the addition of detachable (replaceable) rca and power is compelling, particularly for being mobile. Businesses, such as bars, restaurants and clubs, should definitely take note however. If you are in the business of having DJs play, who use turntables, this could definitely be what you need: A hopefully more easily maintainable, industry standard turntable with a warranty.