I still miss my Sony PS-X75 turntable. It had just the perfect combination of awesome performance and stylish looks. To my eyes, this is what a great turntable looks like. Today’s designs are far more stripped down and basic, since vinyl records are a small niche. But back in the 1970s, when millions of turntables were sold, Japanese manufacturers were able to devote their considerable engineering skills to the craft.
Sony’s PS-X75 represented the third generation from their golden age of turntable design. The PS-X5/6/7 series began the peak, it then continued with the X50/60/70 series, and then the great X65/75 tables. They continued to refine this design well into the early 1980s, when Compact Disc arrived and sent all the engineers scurrying away to master the new format.
This PS-X75 features Sony’s unique tonearm, dubbed the “Biotracer.” It began on an earlier model (PS-B80 in 1978) and was nearly perfected here. The Biotracer uses magnets and electronic parts for its automated movements, promising shiny touch controls. Just press a button and Biotracer takes care of everything; you never have to lay a finger on the tonearm.
The Biotracer design also tackles tonearm resonance, one of the oldest engineering challenges in turntables. Most tonearms must be matched properly with the tonearm, so resonances do not interfere with the musical signal. Sony’s design essentially eliminates this problem. In theory, you should be able to play any kind of phono cartridge on the Biotracer, regardless of its mass or compliance (the adjustable Vertical Tracking Adjustment helps greatly).
Can you see that light near the back of the turntable? It’s not just for looks. This is a sensor that reads the record, and tells the Biotracer where to move when beginning and ending. There are holes cut into the thick rubber mat (a smooth, almost plastic feel to the touch), that tell PS-X75 were the record is. Just push a button to play 45-RPM singles, and the table does the rest.
One great touch: if you press the start button when no record is on the mat, the Biotracer moves out, then darts back into place, and the table stops. Nice…very nice! This feature alone has saved my phono carts from certain doom.
The PS-X75 represents the pinnacle of Sony’s turntable aesthetic. You can see how gorgeous it looks, with the reflective black surface, lightly sparkled, and the shiny metal buttons. A red LED light displays the functions in front. And it might be hard to tell from photos, but this table is enormous. It’s very large and very heavy; my old Pro-Ject Debut III belt-drive would just get swallowed up.
All the brilliant technical innovations from the earlier PS-X tables are present here, and this is where I really find myself becoming a devoted Sony fan. The BSL (brushless-slotless) motor provides very strong torque, yet remains extremely quiet. Magnedisc and X-Tal Lock delivers an astonishingly smooth and stable speed. The chassis is made of non-resonant composite material dubbed SBMC, for Sony Bulk Mold Compound; a non-resonant combination of calcium carbonate, fiberglass and a polyester binder.
Oh, and in case I haven’t mentioned it yet: the music is spectacular on the PS-X75. Can you tell how much I loved this turntable? I also once owned a PS-X5, which contains most of the same features, but it was smaller, less attractive, and the tonearm was just a standard ‘70s aluminum model sans VTA. Sony quickly developed far better arms on later models.
The one downside to the PS-X75 is the same with all vintage audio gear: time. This machine was released in 1979, and I highly doubt that any of its engineers believed record lovers would still be playing 30 years later. And this table uses computers and electronic velocity sensors. If the Biotracer goes senile in its old age, you’re going to be in trouble. In my experience, vintage audio gear can still work like new, if it was treated carefully over the years. Be careful and examine thoroughly when buying vintage.
Back when I bought my Sony tables, they were flowing through Ebay in waves. Now, the supply has dried up, and the best models have become increasingly rare. The PS-X75 can be expensive; $500 to $1,000 easily. If that sounds expensive, then pay a visit to Needle Doctor and see what today’s new turntables are selling for. You have to spend real money to play this game, where Ten Benjamins are considered “a good starting point.” But it’s worth the effort. All the Biotracer decks are worth it. What a great, glorious battleship!