Realistic was a brand sold by Radio Shack that many people tend to consider cheap and lacking in quality. But, that is not always the case. Realistic, which was a division of Tandy, contracted out the construction of their turntables to other companies including Hitachi, CEC and others. The Realistic Lab-400 is a well made and good functioning table. Is it high end? No. But, if you’re looking to get into vinyl and don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a top end turntable then a vintage Lab-400 can do the job just fine.
The Lab-400 retailed for $199.95 in 1978 and was advertised by Realistic as the ‘Finest turntable we’ve ever offered.’ It has a dynamically balanced, 3.1 lb, aluminum platter, automatic record repeat, individual speed controls, 2 motors, and a statically balanced S-shaped tonearm. When purchased new it came with a Realistic-by-Shure cartridge which at the time was a $39.95 value. I believe it was the Realistic R1000ED cartridge which is an equivalent to the Shure M75ED cart.
The Lab-400 is a fully automatic direct drive turntable. You never have to touch the tonearm. Just pick the correct record size and push the start switch. The 16 pole brushless DC servomotor does the job with ratings of 0.03% wow and flutter and better than 63dB rumble.
The tonearm actually has its own DC motor as well so it’s completely independent of the platter drive. The arm is 8 11/16″ long and will track well down to 1/2 a gram.
The Realistic Lab-400 was made in 1978 and features:
- direct drive automatic turntable
- 33 1/3 45 RPM
- start & stop damped cue/pause – viscous (liquid) cueing
- automatic return
- single play/repeat controls
- Adjustable anti-skate and tracking force
- 45 adapter
- Walnut finish
The base is a attractive walnut veneer and has a slim design. It measures just 5 5/8 x 17 11/16 x 13 31/32 inches.
As I mentioned above a good Realistic turntable can be found for a very reasonable price. Many times a quick servicing is enough to get them up and running. So, if you want a good looking, good performing and fully automatic turntable then you should definitely consider the Realistic Lab-400.