Last year all-in-one turntable manufacturer Crosley announced the release of two new decks, among the first in their extensive range not to be built into a retro suitcase. Marketed at “true vinyl lovers”, the decks have sought to redress the brand’s reputation for entry-level gear. We asked Paul Rigby to give them the once over and assess whether Crosley have finally made a turntable worth buying.
Words: Paul Rigby
Pros: The cartridge, the price, and it’s not in a suitcase.
Cons: Plastic chassis, thin sound and useless pitch-slider.
Verdict: I would quickly discount the C-100 as a serious proposition for vinyl users. This is a nice sounding toy, nothing more.
First up is the twin-speed Crosley C-100. Obviously designed to attract budding Technics SL-1200 owners, the belt-driven C-100 arrives as a tough plastic chassis, lightweight metal platter and arm (including a removable headshell) and a decent Audio-Technica AT3600L cartridge. Apart from the latter, the C-100 looks and feels like a toy, with its useless pitch slider. Around the back, you can hook up your cables to a phono amp (flick the accompanying switch to ‘Phono’) or an alternative output source using the Line Out switch. Oddly, the instructions don’t really explain this option.
I used the post punk outfit, Joy Division and the vocal jazz lady, Edie Gorme, as musical sources. In sonic terms, the C-100’s vocals sounded thin, rather weedy and one-dimensional while the subtle varieties in sound exhibited by the backing instruments appeared to be wiped clean by the C-100, producing a much simpler, rather stripped, soundstage which lacked both richness and maturity. There was an almost digital flavour to the upper mids as they moved towards a strident presentation while bass had little form or character. It made a pleasant enough noise, nothing more.
Pros: Solid build, great sound and good value for money.
Cons: Crosley haven’t had an awful lot to do with making it.
Verdict: It’s a great sounding deck, well built and cracking value for money. If you do buy a C-10, you can buy with confidence.
The C-10 was a different matter, though. When I heard that this turntable had been constructed in Pro-Ject’s factory I was shocked! (I still have the chest burns where I spilt my coffee.) Then light quickly dawned. What we have here is not a Crosley. That is, Crosley has not manufactured or has had any design input in this deck. This is a badged Pro-Ject Debut III: its structure, the supportive feet, under-slung electronics, the belt system, the 8.6D arm (still proudly displaying the badge ‘Pro-Ject’) and the Ortofon OM5e cartridge all say Debut III.
Sound quality was excellent across all frequencies. Upper mids exhibited clarity, being open and airy for the price. The C-10’s bass was meaty too while the soundstage was wide and epic in size.
Why did Crosley have to go to Pro-Ject to build the C-10? According to a Crosley spokesman, “…because their factories possess capabilities our other factories do not.” Which says everything you need to know about Crosley and its limitations, although it may score in terms of marketing and distribution. Why buy the Crosley badged version and not Pro-Ject’s original Debut III? The only reason could be price. You might possibly find the Crosley C-10 version at a cheaper price (although, that’s still to be proven). Nevertheless, I would highly recommend the C-10.