Powell Crosley, Jr. was an American inventor and entrepreneur who developed a line of auto parts in the early part of the 20th century. Finding success in business, Crosley diversified, developing a range of consumer products and appliances under his family name, including a line of radios. Crosley eventually sold off his business, and his brand name was gradually subsumed into the products of other companies.
Since 1984, however, a revived Crosley Radio has become an in-demand seller of radios and turntables, especially in recent years, with a line of all-in-one record players attracting a new generation of vinyl listeners to the audio fidelity and artefactual nature of the vinyl format. In fact, Crosley has become synonymous with the reemergence of vinyl in music sales, selling affordable vintage reproductions of classic portable suitcase hi-fi systems to Millennials and older generations who got rid of their own hi-fis long ago.
Below, please take a look at some of the most popular portable record players available on today’s market, and see how they compare to the Crosley record players we discuss in this article.
|ION Audio Mustang LP||$||Vinyl, Radio, USB and AUX input|
|Victrola VSC-550BT||$||Built-in Bluetooth|
|Numark PT01USB||$||USB Functionality|
|Ion Audio Archive LP||$||Converts Vinyl to Digital|
|Denon DP-450USB||$$$||Built-In Phono Equalizer|
|Audio Technica AT-LP120XUSB||$$||USB Direct Drive|
In this article, we’ll talk about five of Crosley’s top record players available, according to affordability, usability, and portability. Here are the turntables we’ll be discussing in-depth today:
- Bonus pick: Snap
If you want a vintage hi-fi experience that won’t break your bank, perhaps one of these models will fit the bill.
The most basic Crosley record player available, the Messenger is exactly what its name implies – a turntable tucked inside of a messenger bag. It’s also battery powered, meaning you could set this thing on your lap and listen to it on your train commute to work. It plays the full range of record sizes and speeds, and comes with a diamond stylus.
The drawback here, of course, is sound. Lost audio fidelity is a theme with many Crosley models, because many of them come with built-in speakers, which is usually an indication of a lack of sound quality. With most turntables, audio can’t be heard from the apparatus itself. Turntables need to connect to speakers through a stereo receiver in order to hear sound. Crosley cuts out the middle man with built-in speakers, sacrificing sound quality for portability, ease of use, and price.
The Messenger is barebones—the epitome of that philosophy. It also has cheaper parts than higher end turntables (as in, the tone arm and various knobs and switches are entirely made of plastic). For many this won’t matter, but higher quality parts mean durability. Turntables like the Messenger probably won’t last as long as more stationary turntables, but for someone on a budget and on the go who wants a solid preview of the vinyl-listening experience, it’ll certainly do the job.
The Cruiser is the workhorse of the Crosley fleet. It’s affordable, compact, and has decent sound. Designed in the mode of the portable Victrola players of yesteryear, the Cruiser has style too. It comes in a wide array of colors yet defies ostentation, opening and closing in a simple suitcase shell with a handle and compact frame so you can carry it and place it basically anywhere.
Audio fidelity is the biggest issue with the Cruiser, as its portability, simple design, and low price point keep it from plugging into the higher end of audio quality. While the Cruiser does come with an RCA out jack, the turntable itself is not equipped to offer high end audio, no matter how good your cables are, and sound is only delivered through the player’s small onboard speakers. The compact size of the turntable itself can also lead to skipping problems with larger 33 rpm records.
Chances are, though, you’re buying the Cruiser for its style and easy plug-and-play capability, not its audio quality. In that case, the suitcase with the record player inside is your best bet.
The Traveler is the non-carry-on version of the Cruiser, the true suitcase version of the portable record player that would probably have to ride in baggage rather than at your side. It’s bigger and sturdier, but still made to be moved to your next destination. It includes many of the same features as the Cruiser.
In fact, the biggest difference about the Traveler is simply that it’s, well, bigger, and when it comes to playing vinyl records, the sturdier the device, the better the sound quality. Pick this one up if you’re in the market for something heavier in weight and price, but also overall sound quality.
The Keepsake is a step up in both price and quality for Crosley’s portable range. This suitcase turntable still has portability, but with a more substantial frame and higher quality parts, the Keepsake lives up to its name as a sturdier, more dependable, and longer-lasting option for those willing to go up a notch in price.
Plus, the Keepsake has a wider range of bells and whistles. USB connectivity allows the listener to rip audio from vinyl to digital files on a computer or even a portable mp3 player. The tone arm is fully automatic and tone can be adjusted for optimal audio quality.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Keepsake line, however, are the many colors and patterns it comes in, from soft multicolor tones to floral patterns to standard black. For a new generation of vinyl lovers, records and record players are just as much about fashion as they are about music.
Crosley are experts in this area, striking deals with outlets like Urban Outfitters to offer their turntables as fashionable apartment accessories for music-loving 20-somethings. The Keepsake is the best balance of Crosley offers for portability, usability, overall quality, style, and price.
Bonus: Crosley Snap Turntable
The Crosley portable line is great for a stylish, pick-up-and-go lifestyle. But the one major drawback of these players is sound quality. No matter what version of portable you’re looking for, they all run into the same problem: built-in speakers. It’s not an important feature to everyone, since many people today are used to listening to tinny mp3s through low-quality earbuds.
But vinyl is a different story. Many people seek out vinyl records because of the improved quality of sound, the sense that you’re in the room with the musicians, not listening outside a locked door through a keyhole. It behooves one to seek out a quality audio setup in order to get the room, not the keyhole. But how to find that balance without breaking the bank, and while still offering portability and style?
Enter the Snap. This turntable is a suitcase too, but with an important added feature: two separate, higher quality speakers that unsnap and fold out from the sides of the player. The entire full range dynamics of the vinyl listening experience in one easy-to-open-and-close case. We include it here as a bonus because it is a more expensive and cumbersome version of portable, positioning it a little outside our five affordable portables. But if you want to fill your whole apartment or house with music, and not just your living room, then you may want to pony up for this snappy set.
Modern vinyl listening is, to many, a vintage experience – a bygone pastime replicated in an age when it has long been outdated. But acknowledging the historicity of something does not exclude it from being a part of our present lives. Indeed, new generations of music listeners can make elements of the past new again through the many choices that time has afforded them.
Crosley Radio is a company from a bygone era, but its new incarnation is that of a vintage company planted firmly in the now. Harkening back to styles of the past, it positions itself firmly in our most modern habits of listening, offering a range of features and accessories that help each new/old hi-fi engage with an old/new generation of listeners.
Crosley also knows that people live on the go, and that vinyl records, despite their larger profile, can go with us. It’s line of compact, portable models prove that, even if portability sometimes sacrifices sound quality. For new seekers of vinyl, though, fidelity is often less important than cost and usability. Crosley players position themselves far up that scale, and offer a stylish and lifestyle accommodating way into the world of vinyl.
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