I’ve had a resurgent interest in vintage music formats of late, from cassette tape formulations and Walkmans to MiniDiscs and re-imagined 1980s headphones. It has the advantage of generally being cheaper than new gear during these fiscally tough times, and is infinitely more fascinating.

On the weekend I finally fulfilled another dream: to own my own fully-serviced linear tracking turntable. And here it is:

Photo of the turntable from the user manual

Okay that’s just a graphic from the user manual, it’s not in my hands yet. Not that it would matter, it’d be hard for me to take a picture of one while having it in my hands. Eventually when it arrives I’ll take a picture while sitting on a cabinet or table surface. The turntable I mean, there’d be no point me sitting on those. Which one am I?

The Technics SL-J300R arguably represents the pinnacle of Technics turntable technology and design before vinyl finally succumbed to the CD in the early 1990s. The current vinyl resurgence is fun to see, though most modern tables barely have any of the features of this one:

  • Linear tracking, meaning the tonearm doesn’t pivot. The theory goes that it’s gentler to records, and picks up more audio detail, because it mirrors how the initial vinyl was first cut. I question the latter on a consumer-grade device, but I’m more interested in the former anyway, given I’ve inherited some albums from my late mum. ♡

  • Quartz locked, to maintain optimal platter speed. It uses a reference frequency generated by a quartz oscillator to make fine adjustments to the motor speed.

  • Track selection, using an optical pickup. Yes! The surface of the record is scanned for track gaps, and buttons on the front panel are populated allowing you to choose which tracks to play, and in what order. Even in the MP3 era I mostly collected albums over songs—a topic for another post— but being able to easily skip one song I don’t like will be great.

  • Size detection, using the same optical pickup to locate the record edge. It also assumes the speed based on the size, though this can be overridden.

  • Automatic operation. My hands shake, so having this lower the tonearm will be helpful.

  • Friendly to studio apartments. It’s the depth of a record cover, barely wider, and the linear tracking means the lid has a thinner profile to fit on smaller shelves while still being able to open the lid. The cable connections are also recessed into the back which further reduces its profile.

  • Late 1980s design aesthetic. The black lines, keys, and sharp angles will fit perfectly with my Yamaha cassette deck, Kenwood LaserDisc/CD player, and Yamaha receiver with the required pre-amp.

I’ve had this and a few other Sony, Technics, and Pioneer tables budgeted for and on eBay saved search lists since 2018, and Techmoan’s review only strengthened my resolve. Despite eBay’s best efforts at emailing me junk and spamming search results, I was overjoyed to finally snap one up minutes after it went live over the weekend. It’s overengineered, completely pointless, and I can’t wait to play with it.