I do travel. A bit.
An iPod or portable device is a great, convenient yet soulless asset to have. It fits your music collection into your pocket and the capability is amazing.
However, with the resurgence of vinyl and with emitting vinyl records via my projects, the necessity has arisen to own a record player to enable me to approve test presses, if nothing else. Due to the time spent on the road, a portable one fit the picture.
Vinyl is a beautifully tangible yet hardly pocket sized, weighty, sensitive animal that is hardly robust. A portable player might not exactly sound like the best idea for the full blown experience and authentic vinyl playback and consistency, and turntables are not as portable in the same sense that laptops are, yet they are affordable and they have been a fascinating subject for designers ever since the inception of vinyl as a sound carrying medium –- and a compact one that can be moved without breaking your back.
Designed like suitcases, portable record players might not provide the high-end listening experience you have grown used to from the listening sessions in your arm chair in your distinguished music library, but they can get the job done and can be used practically anywhere –- given that they are not just meant to be ornaments for retro enthusiasts and hipsters to lend their apartments at least a bit of character and credibility.
Plus if you are mesmerized by the pop and crackle, portable turntables tend to give you some extra bang for your buck, even if it is not intended.
Over the years I have used different makes and different models.
I started out with a basic 3-speed Crosley Cruiser, which is widely available in the US and other parts of the world due to it being distributed by Urban Outfitters (If my memory serves me well; I think I purchased it on a whim at Urban Outfitters in Hawaii).
It is Crosley’s most popular turntable. It comes in different colours and has its speakers at the front. Audio output requires an RCA cable (not included). An aux-in jack connects mp3 players using a 3.5mm mini pin cable. Yup, it is light. The workmanship is good but not great, with a suitcase-style shell poorly connected leatherette. Summa summarum: it is still a good starting point for the first-time record buyer to be eased into the world of vinyl pleasures as you basically plug it in and you are good to go. You can also spin records ant-clockwise, which is ideal to listen to those satanic messages you could not quite get. “Blut-wurst! Blut-durst!”
Let’s move on to the mbeat retro 1960s handmade suitcase styled turntable.
A stylish little thang, it blends vintage retro style has a few extra features compared to the Crosley: It offers USB mode and digital conversion technology via an audio line-in function so you can play mp3 files and record mode for recording records to USB. The speakers are on its side, which is a feature that has its benefits -– one that I have come to prefer for a number of reasons -- as well as an external speaker interface allowing options for add-in high quality speakers to amplify sound quality and make it more of a traditional stationary kind of listening experience.
Enter Rockit, an Australian company whose credo is to build turntables for a more authentic music experience compared to digital.
The 3-speed GPO Attache GO Turntable comes with a built-in rechargeable battery lasting up to 2-3 hours without power, RCA output and cable to allow for easy connection to external Westwood speakers. I find it more solidly built than the previous two models and it has become my go-to player. Rockit has bundle deals external speakers and vinyl record cases as well as models with removable legs.
And, yes, I actually have taken it to remote locations. One of the more exotic ones was a Taoist monastery close to West Lake, Hangzhou in China’s Zhejiang province where I did not fail to impress the monastic Daoshi by serenading them with the psychedelic sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators.
Crosley, mbeat, and Rockit sell a variety of turntables available at their respective websites: