I spent most of the weekend working on a Yamaha PX-3 linear tracker, a recent addition to my LT collection. This is my first Yamaha TT, and I was pleasantly surprised by the overall impression of quality. In the specifications, the plinth is described as being made from “ BMC (Bulk Mounding Compound)” so I was expecting some sort of medium or high density wood fiber material. It is actually a complex aluminum alloy casting painted matt-black and is very substantial. In fact, much of the turntable is made from aluminum castings or stamped steel. There is no particle-board or wood products used in the build of the PX-3, and very little plastic.
The Yamaha arrived in beautiful condition (except for the dust cover) with all shipping clamps in place, and the seller included all of the accessories but there is only one headshell. The turntable was fairly dusty and it clearly wasn’t used in quite a while. The wide transport belt exhibited the usual slippage issues, most of the control buttons weren’t working, and the cueing was very stiff. Since all of the mechanisms and electronics are accessible only from the bottom, I went out to the garage and made some wood supports that allowed me to turn the turntable upside down without the cover. When I removed the heavy steel bottom cover, I saw how thoughtful and well laid out the inside was. High praise to Yamaha for making the arm-transport a complete and separate assembly as it made cleaning, repairing and testing all of the arm’s functions soooo much easier. Without going into a lot of detail, here is a list of tasks completed; removed, cleaned and re-tensioned the flat transport belt, cleaned the three small drive belts and ridged drive shaft, deoxit-ed all pushbutton contacts, removed, cleaned and re-lubed the cueing damping cylinder, cleaned the guide rails and wheels and adjusted the micro sensors that control arm movement. All this can be done and tested with the arm transport assembly separated from the upside-down turntable.
Once I was satisfied with the results, I reassembled the turntable and plugged it into my system. I installed a headshell with a Shure V15 Type IV cartridge that I use on my Mitsubishi LT-5V as the overhang for both turntables is the same. The Yamaha is a very attractive turntable, and the arm movement is very smooth and precise. I think I overdid the sluggish cueing, as it is now a bit to fast on the drop. Another minor annoyance is there doesn’t seem to be any muting, so the stylus drop and lift are clearly audible. I’m surprised that muting is not built into the cueing function of the PX-3 as it is on all of my other LT turntables. If you know there is indeed a mute function, please let me know where to find it so I can correct it.
I find the layout and labeling of the buttons is a bit odd, and I’m certain that my wife will be confused and intimidated by them. The power button is unlit and inboard of the speed selection button which is lit. I have pushed the lit speed button a number of times trying to turn off the power. There is no button labeled “start”, instead you need to push either the “30” or “17” button to start the player. Instead of “stop” or “return”, there is a button labeled “cut” that performs this function. There is one “down” button but two “up” buttons, each also controlling manual arm movement left or right. These buttons have two “speeds”. Push either of them in lightly and they move the arm slowly in the chosen direction, push harder and the arm speeds up, a very nice feature.
Other than these relatively minor issues, the Yamaha PX-3 left a very positive first impression with its substantial build and use of quality materials. It is beautifully designed, precise in its functions and sounds wonderful with the installed Shure cartridge. The PX-3 seems to be readily available for reasonable prices, and except for the seemingly chronic belt-slipping issue, it appears to be a very reliable player.
Addendum: My PX-3 arrived in virtually mint condition, except for the dust cover which was damaged during shipping. A large piece near the left rear corner broke off and was rattling around in the packing. It is a very clean break, with no spider-webbing or missing bits. Too bad, because the cover is crystal clear and scratch free. Has anyone had success repairing this type of damage? I’m planning to take it to a plastic specialty shop to get their opinion on the type of glue to use, but someone here may have more experience repairing acrylic turntable covers.