August 8, 2014
Having addressed the question of your home turntables, whether budget, vintage or high-end, as well as chosen the best DJ decks that prove there are alternatives to Technics, Paul Rigby heads for the open road with a selection of the 8 best portable turntables, perfect for serious flea market diggers and debonair travellers alike.
Words: Paul Rigby
Vinyl holds sway in terms of sound quality, no matter what format you care to throw up in comparison. There has always been a major drawback when considering vinyl as a playback of your favourite music, though. One that vinyl itself never quite managed to solve. It’s size and the nature of its playback system.
Vinyl has always been a sensitive beast. The turntable needle might be exerting tremendous forces upon the groove of a vinyl disc but, if that turntable is resting on a suspended floor of wooden planks, for example, one wrong step will risk a needle jump. Vinyl playback is hardly robust.
Then there’s the size of the ‘software’. The disc spans 12”. Hardly pocket-sized, is it? Not just that, it weighs a bit too. In fact modern day vinyl editions actually brag that each disc weighs in at 180gm each. Add the packaging and then bundle that together with, say, a dozen others, and you start thinking less about analogue reproduction and more about your back.
The very idea of portable vinyl record play is, hence, an absurd one. Or is it? It seems not. For while vinyl playback, while on the move, is too much trouble too contemplate, creating a portable playback system (one that can be moved with relative ease from location to location) does have its adherents.
In fact, throughout the history of the vinyl disc, portable playback has been a subject that has continuously fascinated inventors, designers and manufacturers. To such an extent, we can offer you our Top 8 portable vinyl systems for your delectation. Eight that you can still buy too… although most will require a visit to eBay and a little patience.
DANSETTE RECORD PLAYER
The most well known and, arguably, still the most popular record player in the business. Features the amplifier and speaker within the chassis. It sports a carry handle but weighs quite a bit. Many models feature the low cost BSR turntable. Be careful when you buy. Cheapo models, that you might pick up at a car boot, may be caked with grime, solidified grease and noisy capacitors while reconditioned models are expensive.
HACKER RECORD PLAYER
‘Hacker’ is but one brand, actually. There are, in fact, several manufacturers in the ‘Dansette’ mode of design that look, to all intents and purposes, exactly like other Dansette record players but differ in one important aspect. Open the lid and peer inside. If the label on the bottom right corner of the turntable chassis says ‘Garrard’, then you have a superior design. Be prepared to pay for the privilege, though.
An obvious competitor to the Vestax, the PT01 is a battery-powered portable record player with a 12V adaptor and USB port. It comes complete with a built-in amp and a mono speaker plus a carry handle and the facility to play 78s. It’s now discontinued but can still be found on the Internet from places like Amazon.
VESTAX HANDY TRAX USB
Don’t expect audiophile sound but this light and portable deck features a basic amplifier and mono speaker. The whole thing runs on batteries with a reported life span of 65 hours. It also comes with a USB port (and software) to transfer analogue files to a computer. Like the Dansette designs, it can also tackle 78s, if required.
AUDIO TECHNICA SOUND BURGER
A most impressive piece of technology. Why, on earth, did Audio Technica stop making them? Why hasn’t it reintroduced the design? Avoid the poorly made Crosley-built imitation, the twin speed, battery or mains-powered Audio Technica design ‘clamps’ your vinyl in its jaws and plays vinyl via a high quality cartridge. Includes ports for two sets of headphones and connections for powered speakers. A brilliant piece of equipment.
A surprisingly capable machine, the PS-Q7 is a dinky, direct drive, machine that handles two speeds and features a headphone socket. Failing that, you could hook up a pair of powered speakers. These decks are pretty rare but they do still pop up on eBay now and again.
BANG & OLUFSEN BEOCENTER 7700
Basically, an old fashioned music centre but one that packs in superb design and drop dead gorgeous looks. It features a record player, 40W amplifier, radio, cassette player plus remote control. It also auto-senses the size of your record and the necessary speed to play it. Second hand models often come with speakers included.
BRAUN PCV 4
Rather than just a record player, how about buying a piece of art? Early products from famed German company, Braun, especially those products designed by Dieter Rams, are not only desirable but highly sought after by collectors of industrial design. The PCV 4 features a built-in amplifier and speakers. The whole lot combines to form a suitcase of sorts.
Aside from his ongoing technology column for The Vinyl Factory, you can read more of Paul Rigby’s scribblings at The Audiophile Man.