This beautiful electronic stylus pressure gauge was originally designed to be bundled with Technics’ EPA-500 tonearm, itself made to match the SP-10mkII transcription turntable. It was also made available separately however, and by 1978 most of the world’s hi-fi magazines had a chance to review it. The praise was universal.
It’s hard to appreciate now, when we can buy Chinese-made digital stylus balances for just a few dollars, but any vinylista in the nineteen seventies didn’t have recourse to highly accurate stylus pressure measurement. There were a few mechanical stylus balances on sale – many used the Shure SFG-2 – but it was still an approximate art rather than a science. The arrival of the Technics, which used sophisticated electronics and a clear, easily readable analogue meter, was a revelation.
The SH-50P1 is an electronic, semiconductor strain gauge-type design. It comes supplied with a reference weight which you place on the pad, and then calibrate the meter to exactly 1.5g. This done, the gauge is set up and you only need to recalibrate it after long periods of non-use. Running at 3V DC, it needs two SR44 silver oxide batteries, but these last a very long time – literally years. The unit is beautifully built and feels like the precision measuring instrument that it is. Vital statistics are 147x52x24mm and 125g.
The Technics was expensive when new – around £30 when a Shure stylus balance cost £6. It was a superb long term investment for many though, and prices are now steep secondhand – between £100 and £250. This is despite the fact that there are now gauges out there that are more accurate available new for a fraction of the price; the Technics is now a cult accessory for the analogue addict who has everything.