The ST-J55 (£200), ST-J60 (£295), and flagship ST-J75 (£375) were the top of Sony’s radical new 1978 tuner series. These were a stylistically bold departure for the Japanese consumer electronics giant, with slimline proportions that contrasted sharply with the enormous models that came before them. The build quality and finish were outstanding, albeit the new tuner series was unavoidably lighter than prior Sonys due to the smaller chassis and heavy use of integrated circuits while previous Sonys had relied on more discrete componentry.
Four gangs, four ceramic filters with a broad 280kHz bandwidth, and three IF amp sections make up the FM-only ST-J60. In manual tuning mode, the front end adjusts in 0.2MHz steps and includes autoscan and eight presets. The option to slide station labels into the region right above the buttons is an intriguing feature. The RF performance is mixed; noise is low, but selectivity could be improved. The LED meter alternates between signal strength and multipath, and a record calibration tone is installed. It’s rather sensitive by today’s standards, but it still benefits from a good FM aerial.
From a sonic standpoint, this tuner is a mixed bag. It’s stable in terms of pulling in and locking on to signals in ways that people could only dream of five years ago. However, the audio quality is harmed by the 4558 op-amp output stage, which may be improved to expose a highly capable – if not quite top-flight – design. It doesn’t have the same level of genuine sound as Japanese classics like Yamaha’s CT-7000, but it can sound sharp and lively with good depth and breadth. The best thing about this tuner is its simple, retro-futuristic style, excellent ergonomics, and the fact that this long-lost, once-high-end design is now available for pennies.