With the possible exception of crust punk, listening to music isn't meant to be difficult. Turntables that look and sound great are all well and good, but if you need a masters in engineering to operate them, it can be a tad off-putting to say the least.
Sony appear to have taken this on board with its PS-LX310BT (£230/$325), a super-simple, fully automatic, belt-drive turntable that's designed for instant gratification. This low-priced deck also gives you the freedom to hear your music wirelessly, and featured in our guide to the best Bluetooth turntables.
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Sony PS-LX310BT review: Design
As seems to be the case with most modern turntables, the PS-LX310BT's looks can best be described as minimalist. Remove the dust cover and it's little more than a black, plastic plinth with a platter, a tonearm and a few simple controls. Those include, on the left, a button for activating the Bluetooth (along with a light to indicate that the turntable is paired), and, on the right, dials for choosing the size of the record and the speed (33 1/3 or 45rpm).
The buttons for starting and stopping the turntable, and lifting the tonearm up and down, are positioned on the front of the plinth. These are a little on the chunky side, but they do the job effectively.
The PS-LX310BT is a lightweight device at around 3.5kg, but feels reasonably sturdy. That said, we found the stylus cover to be a little fragile, and it came off unexpectedly more than once during our initial examination of the turntable. It's attached to a newly designed, straight aluminium tonearm that, according to Sony, “boosts traceability for stable playback, rich, clear sound and powerful bass."
As for the platter, it's a robust, aluminium die-cast number that's easy to fit and remains assuredly stable when playing records.
Sony PS-LX310BT review: Features
Of all the turntables we've reviewed, the Sony PS-LX310BT is one of the simplest to set up and use. To get up and running, all you need to do is place the platter on the spindle and position the belt (you'll notice before placing the platter that there's a micro-USB port tucked away in the cavity underneath – this is for connecting the turntable to your PC or Mac when you want to install updates). With nothing to calibrate, and a Sony-branded Audio-Technica AT3600 cartridge already installed, you'll be ready to rumble in less than 10 minutes.
Being fully automatic, the PS-LX310BT requires next to no effort to play records (warning: you will have to take them out of their sleeves yourself). With a quick press of the start button on the front, the tonearm will smoothly and swiftly find the groove and get the party started. Then, once your single or album has finished, it'll return silently to its home.
One of the key features of this Sony turntable is its Bluetooth capability. The PS-LX310BT will pair with up to eight devices at once, enabling you to hear your beloved vinyl via your wireless headphones, speakers or soundbar (we found the range to be around 10-15 metres). The PS-LX310BT has a phono stage pre-installed, but if you want to use your own, there's also a line output round the back.
Just along from that, you'll notice there's a switch enabling you to choose low, middle or high gain. The idea is that you can calibrate it to the music you're playing to minimise distortion, but we found it a little gimmicky to be honest.
Sony PS-LX310BT review: Sound
We weren't expecting miracles from this turntable in terms of sound quality. Yes, Sony has a great pedigree, but the P3-LX310BT just seemed too... simple to deliver a truly authentic listening experience.
However, we were pleasantly surprised, then, when we dropped our copy of Van Halen's 1984 album on to the platter and hit that start button. Yes, there were moments when the detail got lost in the mix (you could say that about most turntables in this price range), and yes, we were occasionally underwhelmed by the dynamic punch. But on the whole the P3-LX310BT delivered a lively, entertaining listen, performing competently across all ranges.
Sony PS-LX310BT review: The competition
If you're looking for an automatic turntable that's even cheaper than the PS-LX310BT, the Audio-Technica AT-LP3 (£199/$280) is a solid choice. An entry in our list of the best turntables, this belt-drive deck is easy to use and offers a balanced, natural sound – though there's no Bluetooth compatibility.
Slightly more expensive than the PS-LX310BT is the Denon DP-300F (£299/£423). Again, you'll have to do without Bluetooth, but what you will get is a fully automatic belt-drive turntable that sounds great and looks stunning to boot.