Your Vinyl Records Are Filthy. Review of The Record Doctor VI 20th Anniversary Vacuum Record Cleaner

For cleaning your dirty records is the Panagea Record Doctor IV 20the Anniversary Edition what the doctor ordered?

A record cleaning machine has always been on my wantlist, but (like many) because of the price and lack of surface space for a dedicated unit I put it off. Ok, it may have also been because I was buying records instead. Now that I am trying to record my records digitally, having clean records is paramount. With the Record Doctor VI, I feel I was able to get the best sound out of my records possible at an affordable price. Cleaner records = better recordings.


More DJ / Stereo equipment reviews:
PRESONUS ERIS E3.5 SPEAKERS FOR A HOME DJ SET UP (REVIEW)
REVIEW: QSC CP8 SPEAKER – A DJ’S LIL BEST BUD?
REVIEW: IS THE SONY PS-HX500 THE USB RIPPING TURNTABLE WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR?


Personally, I have been in the process of ripping my records to digital copies for listening and DJing. During the process I have purchased a turntable specifically for this, changed its needle to something a little more respectable, and have tried various mats with varying degrees of success. However, the crackle created by deeply embedded dust always bothered me. Even records that seemingly looked brand new would have that intro / outro crackle and also intermittently throughout, especially in quite parts. Obviously this is the life you choose if you play records. It is not a CD, mp3, flac or wav file.

So, I did a little research and found that Panagea had recently released an updated version of their Record Doctor series. The previous version Record Doctor V had received a lot of good reviews, but the newest Record Doctor VI boasted notable improvements:

  • New sturdier aluminum chasis that is easier to clean.
  • New mold-injected turning knob, which is bigger than the Doctor V. Easier to grip and covers the whole label, protecting it from solution.
  • New fan and venting to keep it quieter and cooler during operation (now also on the V)

However, in Canada it was not so readily available during the summer, probably due to Covid. However, it has finally become available in Canada again, after a hiccup in production and distribution. Finally, I received the new Record Doctor VI, purchased at PC Audio from London, Ontario for $439.95 CAD.

Manual Cleaning on The Record Doctor IV “First Hand”

Like the monolith from Kubrick’s 2001.

My first impressions were good! There are two different versions, the ‘Carbon Fibre’ and the ‘Gloss Black’ (which I chose) has a sleek look, that would be easy to clean (with solution mishaps) and dust. The sides are a glossy black but the top is a black brushed aluminum (nice texture). It has good solid weight to it and was a good size.


All-vinyl mixes by Dougie Boom:
NEW JACK SCHWWWWWING (A NEW JACK SWING 45 MIX)
THE BEST OF WAX TRAX! ON WAX – A LABEL TRIBUTE MIX


Now, first hand, the process of manually cleaning records on the Doctor VI, is not that tasking in the slightest. You simply take your LP or 45 record, place it on the machine on the spindle (at first, the side up that you want to clean), put on the turning clasp. You put a couple of drops of cleaning solution on the record surface. Then, using your application brush you spread the solution on your record (running circular in the direction of the groove). You may be tempted to spin the record and hold the brush but Record Doctor warns not to spin records without solution. So, taking in consideration for the bottom side of the record, that is close to the vacuum strip, instead I do a 12-6 o’clock spreading of the solution followed by a light rotation of the record and another 12 to 6 to spread the solution to the other side. Being careful not to add too much solution, but maybe more for dirtier records.

“Let’s go crazy, let’s get dust…” on this Prince 45 using the Record Doctor VI.

The Record Doctor V includes Panagea’s own Record Doctor Clean Sweep Brush to apply the solution. I have always been weary of these types of micro fiber brushes, preferring the 70s-style velvet brushes. However, the Clean Sweep Brush with its 260,000 ultra-fine nylon bristles when used in conjunction with the solution feels more more like a squeegee, smoothly going over the surface of records and gets all that gunk in the grooves. Very effective and feels smooth.

I “choke” the vacuum strip with my thumb to make up for absent vinyl space when doing 45s.

Then, after the solution is applied, you flip over record, apply the clamp and turn on the vacuum. Next, you rotate the record, turning the clamp, as the vacuum strip sucks the solution off the record and takes all the dirt and grime with it. The speed and direction at which you turn the record is essentially up to you. That is the good thing about manual record cleaners. You can focus on problem areas of records or areas that have a lot of solution. Also, you can go either direction clockwise or counter clockwise, back and forth at will. The vacuuming process shouldn’t take much longer than 30 seconds or so. Remove and inspect the record and if it still looks saturated, repeat on problem areas.

After cleaning: Prince would approve. He could see his own reflection in these.

Although their quick manual does not include the extra step, I give the record a rinse after with some distilled water and then use the Record Doctor again to dry the record.

The REAL dirt on The Record Doctor IV (Verdict)

Hats off to the Record Doctor VI. Highly recommended.

If you have always wanted a cleaning vacuum machine for your records but haven’t because of price, Panagea’s Record Doctor VI may be for you. Because of its price point and functionality it is definitely your entry level cleaner, however I couldn’t see how it can get much better than this. It sucks and that’s a good thing. Sure, automatic record cleaners offer there own conveniences but ones that change the direction of rotation are more expensive. This you can manipulate the record to your heart’s content, much like the Nitty Gritty Record Cleaner but $400-$1200 cheaper.

I was really blown away by how clean the results were. Better than any other cleaning record method or solution than I have ever tried. You could see the individual grooves of the records come to life and appear more defined just by visually inspecting the record. Of course the records sounded better. It is hard to quantify but I would say dirty records were improved 15-25% and records I thought were clean were 10-15% better.

As far as the unit itself, the Record Doctor VI aesthetically looks good, takes up very little space and can be easily placed aside and brought out when needed. It was easy to operate. Panagea boasts since the Doctor V, they have improved the loudness of the vacuum and overheating with the inclusion of a new vent and fan (located at the bottom). This may be so but it is still pretty loud and can get pretty hot. This wasn’t so much of a problem as it changed my workflow of how I cleaned my records. I would clean one side using the Doctor, rinse with distilled water, vacuum the water off, then let the record air dry for a bit. After about 10 records I would stop, as the unit seemed hot to the touch and ready for a cool down. I would then record the newly cleaned records and do the reverse and

One thing that is odd is that I haven’t had to empty it of any liquid from the Record Doctor. It has a plug at the bottom which you remove to let the vacuumed solution and water drain, which they recommend after 20 -25 records. I have done at least a 100. I don’t know whether it is the dry Ontario fall/winter climate or the heat from the machine itself but there is never any access solution / water to empty. hmmmm?

Although, there is included solution you may want to get more solution (if you don’t have any). Panagea also offers concentrated solution, you simply add water to (distilled water over regular tap is probably a good idea). Also, the Record Doctor VI does not come with a cover, which is sold separately. If you have the skills you could probably even sew one with pockets yourself.

I’M A Doctor, Jim, Not A MAGICIAN…

As magical as result can be on the Record Doctor VI (it should be clear) it cannot completely alter what has already been done regarding the condition of your record. That is to say, don’t expect the Doctor to remove deep scratches. As far as I know there is no technique to repair a record. What you will get is the cleanest possible record with the dust and dirt removed. So, set realistic expectations, if your record is trashed you may just have to buy a new copy. And that copy the Doctor will keep as clean as possible for a long time.

REcord Doctor VI – Pros

  • More affordable manual vacuum record cleaner.
  • Sleek look that looks good and feels solid.
  • Comes with brush for application and a small amount of cleaning fluid.

RECORD DOCTOR VI – Cons

  • Despite the newly added vent, it is still pretty loud and hot, so you should moderate use. Think 70s vacuum more than hair dryer loud.

dougieboom.com

How to Replace the Sony PS-HX500 stock cartridge with the Nagaoka MP-110

Replacing the Sony PS-HX500 stock cartridge with the Nagaoka MP-110
Difficulty: Medium
Time duration: 30 minutes to an hour

After my favourable reviews of the Sony PS-HX500 more than a year ago, and with idle time during self-isolation, I decided it was time to replace the factory needle on the Sony PS-HX500. My first decision was which cartridge?



More Audio Tech Reviews:
REVIEW: IS THE SONY PS-HX500 THE USB RIPPING TURNTABLE WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR?
PRESONUS ERIS E3.5 SPEAKERS FOR A HOME DJ SET UP (REVIEW)


Which Cart for the Sony PS-HX500?

There are many things to consider when replacing your needle on the Sony PS-HX500. Firstly, it needs to be a moving magnet cartridge. Also, on the Sony PS-HX500 there is no height calibration for the arm, that means the needle needs to be the same height as the stock needle. If it isn’t you will need to get a shorter or taller mat to compensate. Also, most importantly for the Sony PS-HX500, it does not have a removable headshell, instead the wire leads are straight from the tone arm. Only the cartridge is removable. So, there is even more to consider for your needle purchase. Depending on the height of the needle you may have to get a new mat for the difference in height.

So, scouring the internet high and low I narrowed it down to:

  • Ortofon 2M Bronze: pricey but I hear performs well. Maybe the next one. [UPDATE: reader KDV commented below that the Ortofon is too big for the headshell. May want to reconsider]
  • Goldring 1006: I heard it also performs well on the Sony PS-HX500, but a little pricey in Canada compared to its cost in Britain and Europe.
  • Sumiko Pearl: my first choice initially. I worried about replacement needles for the future, as it was not widely available in Canada.

However, everywhere I turned the Nagaoka MP-110 was continually mentioned. Some enjoy the sound, while others think that for its deep bass and crisp highs, it sacrifices the mids. I considered it and thought if my primary use for the Sony is to mostly rip DJ records for digital copies, then good emphasis on the bass is probably a plus. I am not a fan of too much bass reproduction but sometimes you get better results dialing back the bass later, then adding bass to the recording.

I found the cheapest Nagaoka MP-110 in Canada (at the time) at Hifipro.ca and decided to make the purchase. Best case scenario: I like the results. Worst case scenario: I know it is probably going to be better than the stock cartridge that the Sony comes with.

Replacing The Cartridge On The Sony PS-HX500

Disclaimer: replacing the cartridge on the Sony PS-HX500 is notoriously difficult. Again, it doesn’t have a detachable headshell like many turntables you may or may not be familiar with. I thought I was prepared, having replaced cartridges with headshells in the past with ease. The wires however are very thin and very delicate, so proceed with caution. If you have any hesitation you may want to enquire with a stereo repair place to see how much they would charge to do it. Either way I am not responsible, you have been warned.

THings You WIll NEed

  • replacement cartridge (here a Nagaoka MP-110)
  • a clean surface
  • angled needle nose pliers (1 mm)
  • small phillips screwdriver (1 mm)
  • cartridge stylus alignment protractor
  • digital turntable stylus force scale gauge
  1. Place turntable on a clean, flat surface.
  2. Remove the lid from its hinges if attached.
  3. Clamp down the turntable arm, so it doesn’t move.

  4. Keep the cartridge attached, do not remove the screws from the cartridge yet.
  5. Remove the wires from old cartridge first, grabbing only the metal part with your angled needle nose pliers, apply pressure. Do not grip or touch the black rubber insulation nor the coloured wire itself.


  6. With light force pull the wire back off of the needle by the metal clasp. You must be careful not to grip too hard or the metal brackets will be squeezed and grip the pins. But also make sure not to lose grip or pull to hard. Doing so may separate the wire from the metal attachment. I almost broke one wire myself.
  7. Once all the wires are removed then you can detach the old cartridge by unscrewing the tiny screws on top of the headshell.
  8. Take off the cartridge, save all the screws and washers and replace the plastic cover for the needle (hopefully you kept it, always keep the cover).
  9. Remove new Nagaoka cartridge from its package.
  10. To install the The Nagaoka cartridge (in this scenario) it requires you to use the old washers that came with the turntable.
  11. Simply repeat the steps backwards: attach the needle to the headshell with the screws, then attach the wires to their perspective colours. Taking care to be gentle with the wires.
  12. Once the cartridge is attached, use your cartridge stylus alignment protractor to make sure needle is properly aligned outside and inside of the center of the platter.
  13. Finally use your digital turntable stylus force scale gauge to figure how much weight your needle weighs and how much counter weight and tracking you should use.
  14. Adjust cartridge, weight and tracking where needed.

Results / Reviews

So, far the Nagaoka MP-110 has been a great replacement needle for the Sony PS-HX500. Not only is of the relative same height, so I didn’t need to replace my mat, it also sonically sounds great. Delivering nice bass and good highs and much better staging than the previous needle. It should be noted that once your needle is installed you should give it 50 hours or so of listening to get optimal sound out of your new needle.

dougieboom.com

PreSonus Eris E3.5 Speakers For A Home DJ Set Up (Review)

A cheap (and cheerful) DJ booth monitor for your home DJ set up, the PreSonus Eris E3.5 Speaker.

Last year I was looking for a speaker monitor solution for my home DJ booth set up. I wanted a pair of small lightweight speaker monitors that offered relative good clarity for a small price. My intention was to hang the speakers over my DJ booth which sits close to a wall. So, I didn’t want huge speakers that jutted out too far (as to be too close to my ears), nor did I want the speakers to obstruct my DJ space. Furthermore, I didn’t want the speakers to be too heavy, as it would be harder to mount and didn’t want big heavy speakers precariously hanging over my gear. (I know, try mounting them properly). I do have a pair of QSC CP8 but even these for their small size seemed like overkill for this purpose, if I am just DJing in my small studio/dj room. Also, I didn’t want to have to dismantle the CP8 speakers every time I needed them for a gig. I was looking for in situ speakers that would be ready anytime I wanted to DJ or listen to records.


More DJ Tech reviews:
REVIEW: QSC CP8 SPEAKER – A DJ’S LIL BEST BUD?
TRACK FREEZE PROBLEM WITH ROLAND DJ-505 & REVIEW


For years, I would practice DJing or listening to records in my headphones almost exclusively. I still do often but you are really limiting your experience by not listening to music or DJing on speakers. There is something magical and sound altering that happens once music is played through the air. So, it is really important to experience both for perspective. Also, I realized that once I wanted to start making DJ mixes on vinyl again (without computers or screens), you need speakers to do “old school” cueing: previewing the next track in your headphones before you drop it into the main mix. This makes only using headphones problematic. So, that is when I decided I needed speakers to make analog DJ mixes.


Listen to Dougie Boom’s All-Vinyl Mixes!


Alternatively, for speakers I looked at the Pioneer DJ DM-40BT DJ Studio Monitors (only RCA inputs), the Mackie CR Series CR3-3-Inch (wow, that’s some green colour) and the KRK Rokit 4 (that’s a lot of bass). However, after much consideration I went with the PreSonus Eris E3.5 Professional Multimedia Reference Monitors. Now, after a year of use I can say that I am happy with the purchase. The Eris E3.5 sound great! Good clarity and flexibility. I was worried that these speakers would not be much better than your conventional computer speakers. However, I was wrong and they have exceeded my expectations.

PreSonus Eris E3.5 Features

First off, these are not a bass heavy type of speaker. For that I would consider the KRK Rokits with its front ports are known to be a bassier speaker. If you are mostly listening to bass heavy music then you may prefer those instead. For me I was looking for something more neutral sounding. I own Yamaha Monitors for my studio and they are extremely flat but clear in their response (what you hear is what you get). That is not to say that the bass on these Eris do not meet my expectations. A smoother more subtle bass is delivered by the E3.5’s 3″ woven composite woofers. A 1″ silk dome tweeter offers clear highs that aren’t too harsh. The speakers are plenty loud at 25 watt/side power amplifier. Its more than enough volume, considering my use and its proximity. The E3.5’s are active (powered) so they don’t require an external mixer or a power amp.

The speakers have a low profile with a width of 5.6″ (141 mm), a depth of 6.4″ (162 mm) and a height 8.3″ (210 mm). The speaker cabinets themselves (I thought were plastic) are actually medium-density fiberboard with vinyl-laminate, so some of the sound is preserved.

The speaker with all the connections is powered and feeds to the other through speaker wire.

On the back it includes a stereo RCA input (unbalanced) but the real kicker is the inclusion of 1/4″ balanced inputs! A little bit unusual for a speaker of its size, most would use 1/8″ or RCA, but the choice to include them is so appreciated. I would say 60-70% of the DJ mixers or controllers out there have a 1/4″ outputs (for the booth outputs or otherwise), so hooking a DJ mixer with a stereo 1/4″ cable sounds great and is seamless. It includes two EQ controls on the back for highs and lows (-6dbs to + 6dbs). The AC port is a female C7 2-Pin style port, which is easily replaceable and non-proprietary.

On the front, we have the volume and power switch conveniently placed, making it easy to access. Most monitors usually have these controls on the back, but this works especially for our purpose of being wall-mounted. Also on the front there is the inclusion of a 1/8″ headphone jack and aux in jack, which both sound pretty good as well. The ‘on’ light, although not adjustable in brightness, is a soft blue and will not burn holes in your eyes.

Your all I need to get by…..The Eris speakers more than o-blige for your DJ room set up.

Presonus Eris E3.5 Conclusion

The Presonus Eris E3.5 have become more useful to me than expected! I use them now all the time: listening to my DJ blends, previewing finished mixes and songs, preparing for gigs, and listening and grading 45 records. Yes the Eris E3.5 are that discriminating in sound! You will hear vinyl records with pops and all. But most importantly I hear great balanced sound coming from my Pioneer S9’s booth outs. Once you get the eq-ing right (from its controls on the back), taking in consideration the room and how far they are placed from the wall, just as you would normal studio monitors.

I was worried that the speakers would not be able to take the signal from my mixer without overloading or sounding terrible, but I was and still am really happy with them. Some critiques complained that the rear ports allow the bass to be absorbed by nearby walls. However, mounting them away from the wall with speaker mounts, gave them adequate space from the wall and eliminated that problem for me.

For mounting them, I used Primecables Speaker Wall Mounts, which are another bargain and are easy to set up. Plus they are Canadian company. You can tilt them to almost any specification and they hold up to 55 lbs, easy for the Eris’ 3.5 lbs each.

Lastly, it should be noted I would never consider the PreSonus Eris E3.5 as “gig” worthy speakers. These are more so for home/personal use, as inexpensive but great sounding studio monitors. However, they make a great powered speaker solution for your home DJ set up. It should be noted these do not have bluetooth, which keeps these lower in cost. Instead, you get great sounding speaker for your money and, alternatively, you could easily attach a bluetooth receiver instead, and let’s face it, wireless technology will always get better.

PreSonus Eris E3.5 – Pros

  • Powered small speaker solution, which will work for most home DJ set ups.
  • Excellent sound (no glaring highs and nice smooth bass)
  • Great value at $150 CAD price well worth it.
  • Proper 1/4″ inputs (which suits most DJ mixer’s booth outputs) but also has 1/8″ and RCA inputs as well.
  • Speakers this good could ultimately be used somewhere else if you upgrade (e.g. portable studio monitors).

PreSonus Eris E3.5 – Cons

  • The supplied stereo speaker wire to connect between speakers could be longer (depending on your set up). I had to get a longer one.
  • EQ controls (pots) on the back feel cheap.
  • Not an overtly bass-y pair of speakers, if you are going for a more club-heavy feel. Possible these could be paired with a subwoofer. However, it should be noted there are NO Subwoofer out ports.

dougieboom.com

Step Into The New Year! with a New Jack Swing Mix by Dougie Boom

Happy New Year everybody! Now, between making plans for a new Cottage Country mix series and locking down dates for the rest of the new year. I thought I would put this mix together before the hits of 2020 start rolling and rewind it a bit. So let’s go back…back into time…back to the late 80’s early 90′ for this. I always wanted to do an ALL 45 / 7″ New Jack Swing mix.

What is New Jack Swing? New Jack Swing is a style of music that existed from about 1986 to 1992 that blended black R&B, pop and Hip Hop (with its origins in groups like New Edition and songs like Doug E Fresh’s “The Show” & Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story”). The name ‘New Jack Swing’ was chosen because the beats characteristically swung with almost a DC Go-Go feel (another musical form at the time). The sound became hugely popular with songs like “Poison” by Bel Biv Devoe and Boys II Men “Motownphilly” (which starts this mix) crossing over to broader audiences. Even across the world the sound was popular, in fact a lot of the 45s used in this mix were from Europe. In fact, a lot of New Jack Swing 45s are European only releases (as the US market began to move towards digital media).

Some of the defining producers of the genre are Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (particularly early on) and of course super producer Teddy Riley, who would eventually come “full swing” and define 90’s hip hop (pushing that genre into the pop stratosphere). So, whether you like it or not, we live in a post -New Jack Swing world (at least in terms of pop music and culture). Gangster rap would turn out to dominate New Jack Swing as hip hop’s wimpier cousin but pop music has never quite gotten over New Jack Swing. You can hear it into the late 90’s with “Backstreet’s Back” sounding exactly like Prince’s “My Name Is Prince” and more obviously Britney Spears’ 2004 cover of “My Prerogative”. I can remember Bobby Brown’s original being a favourite of my older sister and, in contrast, my Dad thinking it was hilarious (a sort of generational cry for independence).

So here it is Dougie Boom X New Jack Swing X 45s vinyl = NEW JACK SCHWING!

New Jack Schwing Mix by Dougie Boom

Tracklisting:

Boys II Men – Motownphilly
Another Bad Creation – Iesha
Joe Public – Live & Learn
TLC ‎– What About Your Friends
Wrecks-N-Effect ‎– New Jack Swing
Bel Biv Devoe – Do Me!
Redhead Kingpin And The F.B.I. ‎– Do The Right Thing
Bobby Brown ‎– My Prerogative
Father MC – Lisa Baby
Janet Jackson – Nasty Boys
Levert – Pull Over
Johnny Gill ‎– Rub You The Right Way
Tony! Toni! Toné! ‎– Feels Good
Jane Child ‎– Don’t Wanna Fall In Love
Cameo – Candy

New Dougie Boom Megamix Names Names…His-self


Recently, I celebrated my birthday and thought it would be a good time to invite all my friends: DMX, Will Smith, Shaggy, etc and make a mix with my name all over it. I also added some classic movie clips with “Doug”: 21 Jump Street, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, The Hangover, etc. Hear the results at here at dougieboom.com .

Dougie Boom MEgamix

John Lee Hooker – “Boom Boom”
Lil’ Will – “My Dougie”
Young Problemz & Mike Jones – “Boi!”
General Degree –  “Boom Boom”
Spice – “So Mi Like It”
DMX feat. Mr. Vegas & Sean Paul – “Top Shotter”
P.O.D. “Boom”
Doug E Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew – “The Show”
LL Cool J – “Mama Said Knock You Out”
Shaquille O’Neal – “Boom!”
Fresh Prince – “Boom! Shake The Room”
Charli XCX – “Boom Clap”
Snoop Dogg feat. T-Pain – “Boom”
L’Trimm – “Cars That Go Boom”
The Egyptian Lover – “And My Beat Goes Boom”
Soundmaster T – “2 Much Booty In The Pants (Boom Shaka Mix)”
The Outhere Brothers x Kastra x Martin Garrix – “Boom Boom Proxy (Kastra Bootleg)”
Paul Lekakis – “Boom Boom (Let’s Go Back To My Room)”
Just A Band & Octa Push – “Boom Boom Boom”
The Boys From The Bottom – “Boom I Got Your Girlfriend”
California Swag District – “Teach Me How To Dougie (Promo Only Clean Edit)”
SBTRKT – “Ready Set Loop”
Addison Groove – “I Go Boom (DJ Rashad Remix)”
Shaggy – “Mr. Boombastic”
Prince – “Musicology”

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

IMG_4778
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 the recording sounds, the better it is for DJing and listening. Now that digital DJing has become so much a part 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 (e.g. YouTube rips, illegal sites, 128kb rips of yesteryear). So, my review is going to be looking at what many of the other reviews 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?

Screen Shot 2019-03-01 at 11.16.04 AM.png

First, I started with a “natural” recording. 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 figured). For rock and amplified instrumentation, 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 hear the reverberation from the room that they were playing, so there was great depth of sound. Black Sabbath sounded great as well. The rainy intro 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 to my ears.

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

In contrast, with the more “natural” sounds of real instruments, I wanted to compare it with more modern recordings with some bump, i.e. 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?

IMG_4768

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 a well-loved soldier of the clubs, hence the wrong sleeve. Furthermore, Dance Mania records are NOT world renowned for their quality pressings and I can’t imagine their white labels fair much 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 maniacally stacked, were more discernible. I could hear 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 often not the greatest in fidelity. When you DJ them they often need a lot of EQ-ing to get them right. However, 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 tinniness you would expect from a 45/7″ 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 mkII; various cartidges (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 outdid these setups. The clarity was not only apparent to my ears but when I would 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 gives you ample wiggle room to do so.

Conclusion

I would highly recommend the Sony PS-HX500 as an USB turntable for ripping records. I got really good results that surpassed all the other popular DJ set ups I have. I think I will definitely change the cartridge 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 cartridge and needle. Because of this I am ripping my really scratchy records first before purchasing another cartridge. However, cartridges are not easily swappable on this unit and needs to be installed and wired with a bit of finesse.

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 cartridge 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).