Bluetooth Record Players Mix Modern and Retro

Old-timey looks and modern specs

Key Takeaways

  • New Victrola record players offer old school vinyl abilities and a Bluetooth connection.
  • Priced at less than $100, the new record players look great.
  • Playing records can be a more satisfying experience than streaming music.
The Victrola Canvas Bluetooth Suitcase Record Player unpacked on a table
Victrola

For music fans nostalgic for yesteryear, Victrola is releasing an intriguing pair of record players that offer Bluetooth connectivity.

The Eastwood Hybrid Turntable ($99) and The Canvas ($79) look, well, cool. However, despite their vintage looks these turntables don’t give up all modern conveniences. They spin 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM discs, but also allow you to stream music from your smart device, or play your records through any external Bluetooth speaker.

Twee? Perhaps, but there’s something enormously appealing in this backward-looking tech. In an age where nearly every song ever recorded can be downloaded or streamed with a click, using physical records could be the antidote to music fatigue.

Retro Style

The new turntables walk a fine line between modern and retro. The Eastwood boasts a stylish bamboo finish that would be right at home in a SoHo loft or an Ikea showroom. On the sound side, this model has an Audio-Technica AT-3600LA cartridge and stereo speakers.

The Canvas allows you to customize its look with a white finish that can be decorated with the included stickers. It’s got a carrying handle for portability, while Victrola boasts that the turntable will have a ceramic stylus that provides increased bass and sound clarity.

The Eastwood Hybrid Turntable open and sitting on a table
Victrola

Victrola’s latest models face stiff competition in the Bluetooth record player market. Victrola’s own The Navigator model ($140) comes in a variety of different finishes and can also play CDs, cassettes and has a radio tuner. On the higher end, Sony’s PS-LX310BT ($199) is sleek, modern-looking, and produces "natural sound," the company says.

For big spenders, there’s also the Cambridge Audio Alva TT ($1200), which looks like a metal statue and has a tonearm designed to "retrieve the maximum amount of sonic detail from the cartridge and therefore your records," according to the company’s website.

The wide array of turntables out there proves there’s still a market for vinyl. These days, music feels less valuable because it’s so readily available. Between all the streaming services from Apple Music to Pandora, we live in a golden age of tunes where never has so much music been available to so many for so little.

"I’m excited to try one of these gadgets out because they bring us a little closer to our musical past."

But at what price? It’s a conundrum, but with all the music available, sometimes I feel like the music has been diminished. The sheer availability of music devalues the discovery and listening experience.

Once, like a hunter-gatherer of old, music fans had to stalk the latest tunes. They caught the scent of new albums in a magazine or by hearing a snatch of music on the radio. Then, there was the hunt through a record store for cassettes or CDs before the final thrill as the physical object was inserted into a music player. Half the pleasure was in the chase and that has vanished.

Better Sound Through Vinyl?

Beyond the indefinable satisfaction of owning your music on physical media, some people claim that digital media are of inferior quality.

"There has been an ongoing debate about the audio quality of music since CDs first hit the market," writes audiophile Mark Starlin. "When CDs were first introduced they were hyped as being a better sounding medium than vinyl. One that would never wear out. But that wasn’t always the case. People quickly discovered that completely digital recordings could sound harsh."

Some argue that streaming music captures less information than CDs or records. "We live in the digital age, and unfortunately it’s degrading our music, not improving," Neil Young once said. Some streaming services, such as Tidal, try to boost quality by offering "high fidelity" music.

No one could claim that Victrola’s latest record players produce sound matching high-end systems. At under $100, that’s clearly not the company’s goal. But for their modest price tag, they do provide a physical connection to music that can’t be matched by streaming.

Victrola’s latest record players might not be cutting edge technology, but that’s ok. I’m excited to try one of these gadgets out because they bring us a little closer to our musical past.