Turntables priced below $200—entry-level turntables and record players—don’t typically stand out. They’ll do the job of playing records, but most are designed to offer the basics at a price that makes them almost an impulse buy. Sony’s new PS-LX310BT turntable, which was announced at CES 2019, stands out from the entry-level pack. It was introduced at an MSRP of just $199.99 yet looks sleek and modern. It has a built-in preamp, USB output, and Bluetooth support, so it can be connected to virtually anything. It’s fully automatic. And it sounds pretty good, too.
First Impressions and Setup
Sony always does a great job with visual design, and the PS-LX310BT turntable is no exception. Its minimalist look and modern tonearm and headshell make it look like a much more expensive piece of equipment.
The platter and tonearm are aluminum, but many other components and the plinth are plastic. That being said, it doesn’t feel cheap.
The (removable) dust cover is thick plastic. The round switches (for choosing record size and either 33-1/3 or 45rpm speed) have no play. Pushing the “Up/Down” button doesn’t cause the tonearm to jump as often happens with entry-level turntables—there’s a bit of damping there. The custom headshell and tonearm limit upgrade options, but the turntable is equipped with a moving magnet (MM) cartridge.
Setup is simple and should take no more than several minutes. The headshell and cartridge are pre-mounted and there’s no counterweight or tracking force to adjust. The only assembly required is putting the platter on the spindle, installing the belt (made easier with a ribbon for stretching the belt and cutouts in the platter), then adding the platter mat and dust cover.
Connect to Virtually Anything Including a Bluetooth Speaker
Sony offers every conceivable connectivity option you might want on a modern turntable.
There is a standard PHONO output, for connecting to an amplifier with a PHONO input. This offers the highest quality audio. There is also a built-in preamplifier that lets you connect to any music player with an AUX input (if connecting to a standard 3.5mm AUX jack, you’ll need to buy a dual RCA to 3.5mm adapter cable). Sony includes an uncommon feature as part of that pre-amplifier: a three-way switch that lets you adjust the gain level so you can optimize sound for records that were recorded at higher or lower audio levels. There is also USB output for connecting to a PC.
The big one for many record fans is Bluetooth connectivity, an option that may be “cheating” in terms of the whole analog vinyl experience, but one that makes a turntable a practical option for a lot more people. No wires required—just push the Bluetooth button to connect to up to eight different Bluetooth speakers or headphones and stream your records. While Sony would obviously love you to stream to one of its products, I had no trouble at all connecting to third-party Bluetooth speakers.
Full Automatic Operation
For some vinyl fans, the process of starting the platter spinning, cuieng up a track, then lowering the stylus is a ritual—part of the listening experience. The PS-LX310BT goes in the opposite direction and automates the process as much as possible. Push the “Start” button and walk away. The record plays and at the end of the side, the tonearm automatically returns. If you want to go manual, you still have the option to do so, but this is one of the better fully automatic implementations I’ve used.
So how does the Sony PS-LX310BT sound? Actually, I was pleasantly surprised. I really wasn’t anticipating much at this price point, but the turntable outputs audio that’s quite enjoyable to listen to. High notes, low end, detail, and separation aren’t what you are going to get from a more expensive turntable, but records played on the PS-LX310BT sound better than you might expect, with lots of energy.
For best results, using the PHONO output bypasses the internal amplification and lets your (presumably more capable) amplifier do the heavy lifting. But even music streamed to a single Bluetooth speaker sounded good.
This is an entry-level turntable, and that means some compromises compared to more expensive versions. Plastic is used for many components, it’s quite light, RCA cables are hardwired, and you can’t upgrade the cartridge. In addition, audio purists will point out that the auto-return mechanism can introduce noise.
However, so long as you aren’t looking for audiophile-level music playback, there isn’t much to dislike about this turntable.
If you’re looking for an entry-level turntable, or an elegant solution for streaming your vinyl wirelessly, the Sony PS-LX310BT is a gem. It has a modern, minimalist design that makes it look much more expensive. It’s simple to set up and operate. It sounds pretty good, no matter how you choose to listen to the records it plays. You really can’t ask for much more for its $199.99 price.
Actually, at time of writing, Sony had reduced that price to $179.99 (and it’s going for $178 on Amazon), so you have enough for a first album and still come in under $200…
Disclosure: Sony provided a turntable for evaluation but had no input into this review.