December 16, 2016
Since it was originally published in August 2014, our guide to the 8 best portable turntables has been one of the most visited tech pieces on the site.
But two years in audio is a long time. Not only are more new turntables being unveiled than in recent memory, but attitudes to vintage decks also have the potential to shift. With that in mind we’re going to be updating several of our tech guides over the coming months, starting with the most mobile of the lot.
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.
It just might be launched…but then again. Included here really to show you just what the portable turntable is capable of doing, this USB-configured Yanko Design portable drops the full platter approach asking you, instead, to load the record onto the spindle. You push the power icon and the arm is released to play then connect to a computer to listen.
NACO TRPH 99 SUPER MIDGET
Might take a bit of finding and I’d recommend the US variant of eBay to begin your search but it’s well worth the effort. This battery-powered gadget runs both singles and LPs. One for those handy with a soldering iron because most of the samples I’ve seen required a bit of work to get to flying again.
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.
DIETER RAMS P1 PORTABLE
From 1959, a combination of a 7” single-only portable record player and a FM radio. When the record player half of the unit is in operation, the cartridge actually emerges from below. You play your record so that the current side in play, as it where, is the underside. It’s also seen as collectable industrial art. An example of which is on display in the V&A museum.
Aside from his ongoing technology column for The Vinyl Factory, you can read more of Paul Rigby’s scribblings at The Audiophile Man.