Yamaha TT-S303

After visiting the High-End show in Munich, one might suspect that new turntables are unaffordable gadgets. But the new Yamaha TT-S303 is really good. Tested at $499.95.

Alexander Rose-Fehling

For $, the trusted dealer would hand over the Yamaha TT-S303 to you. That’s a reasonable amount and essentially the lower limit for the price of a quality turntable. Sure, you might get five devices from some online retailers or coffee shop vendors for this price. But it’s important to remember that a turntable always involves intricate mechanics that can only run smoothly with minimal investment.

Yamaha TT-S303 with speaker on table

In the realm of high fidelity, no other component’s metrics are as critical as those of a turntable. If the speed is off, meaning the platter spins too fast or too slow, or if the speed fluctuates, it ruins the joy of music and gives a distorted impression of vinyl playback. Yamaha has done its homework here. Additionally, the turntable impresses with its sleek black design, build quality, and sound.

Built-in Phono Preamp

For the $, you get a turntable with a black lacquered MDF plinth, tonearm, cartridge, dust cover, and all necessary cables. A special feature is the switchable and completely bypassable built-in MM phono preamp. This allows you to connect the Yamaha to a line input of an amplifier or to active speakers with adjustable volume.

If you already have a phono preamp, you can set the rear switch to “Thru,” bypassing the built-in preamp. These built-in preamps have two advantages: you save a cable compared to an external preamp, and the internal cable paths are extremely short, which reduces susceptibility to interference. If the developers also achieve a “perfect match” between the cartridge and preamp, the result can be outstanding. Spoiler alert: that’s exactly what happened here.

Big Brother

If the S303 seems familiar, it’s because we reviewed the TT-N503, a very similar turntable but with Bluetooth, streaming, and app control. The components are identical except for the phono preamp, which has been further improved. The cartridge is the same simple Audio-Technica model, the AT3600L. If you ever want to upgrade to a higher-quality cartridge, it’s practical that you can unscrew the headshell from the arm, making installation of a new cartridge much easier.

Yamaha TT-S303, Well-Damped: The Aluminum Die-Cast Platter. The aluminum die-cast platter is stabilized with a felt mat. It's worth trying cork-rubber mats as well.
Well-Damped: The Aluminum Die-Cast Platter. The aluminum die-cast platter is stabilized with a felt mat. It’s worth trying cork-rubber mats as well.

The die-cast platter is belt-driven, and the arm lift works very well. The tonearm may not look impressive, but it is solid and has play-free bearings. Tracking force and anti-skating can be adjusted, so you can start playing records fairly quickly after unboxing.

The vocal reproduction: The Yamaha does a really great job with vocal reproduction, and the atmosphere is spot on.

Listening Test

After a tough day, you might want to clear your head with some powerful music. “Davidian” from Machine Head’s debut album “Burn My Eyes” is a perfect choice, especially if you like to crank up the volume. This track is a challenge for any turntable, but the Yamaha, paired with a high-end Luxman phono stage, handles it superbly, keeping the chaos in check.

Simply Successful: The proportions of the Yamaha TT-S303 are nearly perfect.
Simply Successful: The proportions of the Yamaha TT-S303 are nearly perfect.

PJ Harvey’s album “To Bring You My Love” (1995) features many great songs produced by Flood with excellent sound quality, and “Down By The Water” is no exception. The Yamaha excels at vocal reproduction, capturing the atmosphere beautifully. While there’s plenty of impact, the low end can feel a bit full and woolly, perhaps revealing too much through the Luxman.

Yamaha TT-S303: The small Audio-Technica system really outdoes itself here.
SUPER: The small Audio-Technica system really outdoes itself here.

Switching to the internal phono stage proves to be a revelation. It’s not only more forgiving but also excellent in its own right. The change doesn’t leave you disappointed but rather amazed. The cartridge and phono stage seem made for each other, delivering a fresh and clear sound. This little budget cartridge has never performed better. “Pomp And Circumstance,” played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Georg Solti, immediately showed that speed and pitch were spot on. The orchestra played broadly and dynamically, with a great sense of movement.

TWO BUTTONS of Yamaha TT-S303: One button on the plinth selects the platter speed, the other starts and stops the platter. The power switch is on the back.
TWO BUTTONS: One button on the plinth selects the platter speed, the other starts and stops the platter. The power switch is on the back.

“She Caught The Katy” from the Blues Brothers soundtrack showcased snappy horns, more dynamics than expected, and excellent vocal reproduction, all wrapped in a believable soundstage. Superb!

Measurements

  • Channel Separation: High and consistent at 30 dB.
  • Tracking Distortion: Low at 0.08% (left) and 0.05% (right).
  • Speed Accuracy: Very precise, with a deviation of just -0.19%, which translates to 3/100 of a semitone.
  • Wow and Flutter: Measured at 0.16%, within the manufacturer’s specification of 0.2%.
  • Rumble: Evaluated rumble-to-noise ratio is 71 dB with a record and 74 dB with a coupler.
  • Power Consumption: 0.4 W in standby mode and 1 W during operation.
Yamaha TT-S303 frequency response
Yamaha TT-S303 speed stability test

Yamaha TT-S303 Tech Specs

Official site
Warranty Period: 2 years
Dimensions (W x H x D): 45 x 13.6 x 37 cm
Weight: 5 kg
Drive: Belt drive
Speeds: 33 & 45 RPM
Speed Switch: Yes
Arm Height Adjustment: No
Height Adjustable Feet: No
Pitch Control: No
Fully Automatic/End of Play Shutoff: No/No
Special Features: Built-in phono preamp

Test Result

Sound via RCA: 123
Features: Very good
Handling: Good
Workmanship: Good

Audio Benchmark

Overall Rating: 123 points
Price/Performance: Outstanding

Verdict

For anyone considering getting a turntable, the Yamaha TT-S303 is definitely worth checking out and listening to. At $, it’s a tempting offer with good features and excellent sound. Plus, it’s attractive and easy to use.

8 Total Score
Yamaha TT-S303

PROS
  • Very good sound for the price
  • Internal phono preamp matches perfectly with the cartridge
  • Clean workmanship
  • Pleasant to use
CONS
  • Power switch on the back
User Rating: Be the first one!
Yamaha TT-S303: Price Comparison

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YAMAHA TT-S303 Hi-Fi Vinyl Belt Drive Turntable – Piano Black
4 used from $387.45 1 new from $499.95
in stock
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Last Amazon price update was: July 12, 2024 10:00 pm
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