The radical new 1978 range of Sony tuners was topped by the ST-J55 (£200), ST-J60 (£295) and flagship ST-J75 (£375). Stylistically these were a radical departure for the Japanese consumer electronics giant, with slimline proportions that were a marked contrast to the oversized models that preceded it. Build and finish were excellent, although necessarily this new tuner range was far lighter than before – thanks to the smaller cases and extensive use of integrated circuits where previous Sonys had used more discrete componentry.
The FM-only ST-J60 has four gangs, four ceramic filters with a wide 280kHz bandwidth and three IF amp sections. The front end tunes in 0.2MHz steps in manual tuning mode, and sports autoscan and eight presets. An interesting feature is the ability to slide station labels into the section immediately above the buttons. RF performance is mixed; noise is extremely low but selectivity could be better. A record calibration tone is fitted, and the LED meter switches between signal strength and multipath. It’s pretty sensitive by the standards of the day, but still benefits from a decent FM aerial.
Sonically, this tuner is a mixed bag. In terms of pulling in and locking on to signals, it’s stable in a way that people could only dream about five years earlier. Yet the audio quality is spoiled by the nasty, thin sounding 4558 op-amp output stage; this can usefully be upgraded to reveal a highly capable – if not quite top-flight – design. It doesn’t approach the superbly natural sound of Japanese classics like Yamaha’s CT-7000, but can sound crisp and bouncy with a good degree of breadth and depth. The best thing about this tuner is its clean, retro-futuristic styling, fine ergonomics and the fact that this long-lost, once-high end design can be picked up for pennies now.