For many music lovers, the prospect of shelling out for various bits of highly involved and potentially incompatible kit can turn the happy notion of Sundays spent chilling with vinyl into a headache. Cartridge, phono stage, alignment gauge, tracking weight scales, long-nosed pliers, set of allen keys? It’s a daunting technological assault course.
And yet, having done little more than plug Sony’s PS-LX310BT turntable into the wall socket, we are listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run through Bluetooth headphones as it spins in front of us. The whole set-up process takes about the time it takes to make a pot of coffee; from box to The Boss in under five minutes.
For a while now, decks housing both a phono stage and Bluetooth have been offering a fuss-free, space-saving wireless set-up. Some even come in at under £200, such as Sony’s cheapest turntable, the PS-LX310BT.
The PS-LX310BT is a no-nonsense design. It feels lightweight, consider all the extras going on under the black plastic casework and the build is perfectly acceptable for the price.
And it feels user-friendly – no running through all four gaming categories of The Crystal Maze to see if you have what it takes to enjoy vinyl. And you can forget scouring YouTube tutorials to work out how to calibrate the tonearm; there is nothing to preset there. The buttons that operate the fully automatic arm might feel slightly clunky, but they are sufficient at this price.
The bigger question is, do you really need them? For vinyl veterans, the physical act of lifting the tonearm up, hovering over the LP and lowering it onto the record is often a ritualistic component of the experience. But those who just want to spin a tune quickly and easily will doubtless find these buttons a bonus.
When it comes to set-up, apart from setting the belt to drive the platter, there’s nothing to do. No need to fit and align a cartridge, set the tracking force, set the correct anti-skate or use a test LP to fine tune before you get to play music.
Provided you’ve fitted the belt around the motor pulley and placed the platter on the main bearing, the PS-LX310BT simply requires you to remove the cover from the stylus and press ‘start’.
Take care when you first remove that stylus cover – the delicate assembly came away in our hands, though the way it’s mounted means it goes back on easily. Also bear in mind that the design of the arms means there’s little scope for upgrading the cartridge should you want to at a later date.
You can pair the PS-LX310BT with up to eight Bluetooth devices and, in our tests using headphones, the connection was strong enough to walk into another room, close the door and even wander outside – at least 15 metres.
Sony has given us a ‘plug and play’ fully automatic deck, included a phono stage, thrown in Bluetooth and priced it at the low end of the market. It could only score more highly for usability if it somehow took the LPs from their covers. Surely the compromise must be on sound performance?
We place the PS-LX310BT on a flat, low-resonance support stand – imperative with any deck, thus making the stylus tip’s delicate journey through its intricate and ever-decreasing circle easier.
Using the Sony’s built-in phono stage, we run the turntable through our reference system of a GamuT D3i/D200i amplifier combination and ATC SCM50 loudspeakers for some of the test. However, more price-compatible partners would be the Onkyo A-9010 stereo amp (£199) and Dali Spektor 1 standmount speakers (£159).
We lower INXS’s 1987 album Kick on to the platter mat, push ‘start’ and let the PS-LX310BT do the rest. Michael Hutchence’s vocal on Mediate retains its emotion, with the accompanying percussive bass kept clear, tight and in check. There’s a healthy dose of drive and attack, with rhythmic flourishes handled competently.
Speeds 33⅓, 45rpm
Dimensions (hwd) 11 x 43 x 37cm
Phono amp Yes
Automatic operation Yes
Tonearm included Yes
Cartridge included Yes
Belt drive Yes
USB port No
Changing to a 45rpm record, David Bowie’s Starman retains its petulant zeal, with each musical strand handled deftly and methodically. However, compared to purist, fully manual decks, such as Rega’s Planar 1, there is an accompanying woolliness to the dynamic; a loss of clarity over where one note ends and another begins. The song is limited in terms of intensity too, as we miss an injection of dynamic punch.
We switch to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and it’s a pleasing sound. There’s emotion and a decent dynamic build when the strings and horns rise out of the dark, rumbling percussion.
The upper echelons of detailing and stereo imaging aren’t reached – we cannot locate exactly where sections of the orchestra are sitting – but that level of detail often costs thousands, not hundreds.
That said, you can improve the PS-LX310BT without much investment. If you already own an integrated amp or dedicated phono preamp, we’d recommend flipping the Sony PS-LX310BT’s line out switch to ‘phono’ and using it.
The PS-LX310BT is more than just an excellent ‘my first turntable’ option. For those wanting a fully automatic deck with built-in phono stage, it’s one of the best we’ve heard.
Players such as the 2018 Award-winning Rega Planar 1 (£250), might offer a superior sound, but the manually-operated Rega lacks a built-in phono stage or Bluetooth.
What the Sony lacks in terms of top-quality sound, it makes up for by being fun, ridiculously user-friendly and resoundingly listenable.
- Sound 5
- Features 5
- Build 4
Read our Rega Planar 1 review