The vinyl resurgence is real and the big electronic companies are trying to cash in on the recent boom. In the last year there have been new turntables to hit the market from known players like Onkyo, Pioneer, Technics, and recently Sony has entered the fray introducing the new PS-HX500 USB turntable. Now while there are other USB turntables out there the majority of them that I have tested yielded terrible sound quality when converting vinyl to a portable audio format like WAV or MP3. Sony’s PS-HX500 is one of the first USB turntables that touts hi-res audio that especially caters to vinyl conversion.
The PS-HX500 comes equipped with analog and hi-res digital outputs and boasts a built-in phono preamp but all that goodness doesn’t come cheaply as it sports a hefty $600 price tag. Still it’s the first USB turntable on the market that can handle both high-resolution Direct Stream Digital (DSD) and PCM digital signals. When comparing the current setup I have at the crib for vinyl conversion to the PS-HX500’s setup, Sony’s turntable is the clear winner. My setup consists of my Technics 1200 connected to my mixer which in turn is connected to my computer, but the PS-HX500’s hookup is virtually plug and play. It’s also versatile as you can connect to your home system in several ways. The easiest way to hook it up is via the USB output which can be connected to your PC or MAC and then you’ll need to download the companion Hi-Res Audio Recorder software that is needed to convert your files. The actual process of conversion is very easy: place a record on the turntable, load up the software, start playing and recording the record. That is the beauty of Sony’s turntable, you don’t need to have an advanced knowledge of technology as it’s geared to be user friendly. The software records at a PCM rate anywhere from 16/44.1 to 24/192 or DSD at 2.8 (64x) and 5.6 (128x). As of now, there are no other USB turntables available out there that can covert vinyl at those hi-res rates. Now with hi-res audio we are talking about files that are pretty large and one of the few downsides of recording in high quality. You can either record in Sony’s own DSD format (which is supported by Sony’s line of Hi-Res Audio Walkmans or any other player that handles these type of files) or 24-bit WAV files. The sheer size of a single song recorded in WAV format won’t allow you to take as many songs with you on the go, as you would if it were compressed to the smaller MP3 format. What I wound up doing is saving the master file in the 24-bit WAV format, then converting a MP3 version of it to take with me. I should also note that the PS-HX500’s digital output is specifically designed to work with only Sony’s software (Hi-Res Audio Recorder), so if you want to edit files in other third party programs like Audacity, you will need to save the files first. So you’ll need to record the PCM files using Sony’s application before exporting.
As I mentioned there are a few ways you can hook up the PS-HX500. To utilize the turntable’s internal phono preamplifier, you can connect it to your own home receiver like any standard analog source. Finally, you can also turn off the PS-HX500’s internal preamplifier’s RIAA EQ and connect the turntable to a dedicated phono input on your preamp or receiver. If you want to record your files to your PC or MAC while listening to your records simultaneously, you can connect both digital and analog outputs to achieve this. The cartridge that the PS-HX500 comes equipped with is an Audio Technica moving magnet model that was specifically designed for the PS-HX500. Performance wise the Techinca is pretty good but fortunately Sony designed the slotted headshell to work with your cartridge of choice. I swapped out the default cartridge for my Ortofon Concorde Pros and the uptick in sound quality was noticed immediately. If you decide to spring for this turntable I would recommend using a higher quality cartridge if you’re afforded that option. Style wise, Sony’s deck won’t win any design awards as it is a pretty basic, all black rig. The controls are in line with what you’d expect of a high-end turntable as on the left side there’s a dial with four settings – Standby, On, 33 1/3, 45 RPM (record speeds). On the right side is a manual tonearm with a lever lift.
BMR Bottom Line
If you’re a DJ or just a vinyl collector in general any device that can preserve the warmth and integrity of your wax is good money. The PS-HX500 not only offers you the option of ripping and converting your coveted record collection, it also operates as a pretty decent stand alone player. While I’d like to see Sony come down off the hefty price tag to a mid-level entry price, the PS-HX500 is a great solution for bridging the gap from analog LPs to digital files. written by DJRhude (@DJRhude)
BMR Rating: 9.3 (Excellent)