In this article, I’m going to example the concept of bluetooth record players, why I think they are a great option for those that want to player records with a bit of added convenience, and recommend a handful of bluetooth capable turntables I think are worth considering.
And, to better help illustrate this, please take a look at the interactive table below which features a variety of bluetooth (and non-bluetooth) record players compared against one another based on price, special features and more.
|Audio Technica AT-LP60X-BT||$||Fully Automatic & Wireless Bluetooth|
|Yamaha MusicCast Vinyl 500||$$$||Stream music services with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, airplay or Spotify connect|
|Pro-Ject T1 BT||$$||Built-in Bluetooth|
Why Consider Bluetooth a Player?
Vinyl was the go to format for music listening for most of the 20th century. Then, in the 1980s, the CD came along, and by the early 90s record sales were in a death spiral.
In the late 90s, the MP3 audio codec made audio files on the computer small but still listenable. This marked the beginning of the end for the CD.
Nowadays, it seems that the MP3 is declared dead due to new codecs better adapted to wirelessly stream music over bluetooth and wifi. And so, following this timeline of events, you might well be asking yourself, what the heck does bluetooth have to do with turntables? How does it all work and is it really worth my time and investment?
|Best Selling Turntables|
|1) Audio-Technica AT-LP60X|
|2) Fluance RT81|
|3) Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB|
Why Bluetooth is Great for Record Players
First, it’s important to know that bluetooth devices wirelessly connect to one another and give you the ability to stream digital audio from a source to a component, like your phone to a bluetooth-enabled speaker. This stream is not sound but simply a representation of sound.
In order to use bluetooth with a record player or turntable, you first have to take that analog waveform, convert it to a digital signal, send it wirelessly over bluetooth and then turn it back to analog. It sounds like a huge mess but it actually has some really cool benefits.
Some bluetooth speakers have an AUX input, which allows you to plug a source like a turntable directly into it—but many do not. Sometimes, the only option you have is to stream, which until recently meant you couldn’t plug a record player in at all.
Even if you do have an AUX input, your turntable may not be anywhere near your speaker. Placement has always been an issue in the audio industry and you may not want to choose between running a twenty foot cable across your room and completely rearranging your furniture.
Bluetooth turntables are here and more are coming. With the ability to listen to records in multiple rooms of your home to streaming Spotify to a record player with built in speakers there are plenty of options.
Be Careful About Quality
One thing I want to warn you about bluetooth turntables is this: Bluetooth allows for a lot of convenience, but you also have to remember that you’re still listening to a record—and records are fragile.
If you’re getting a record player with bluetooth, there’s a great chance it’s an automatic turntable. Meaning, you push a button, the tonearm automatically moves over to the first track on the record, drops the needle on the record and begins playing. At the end of Side A or B of the album, the tonearm then lifts up and returns to rest—you don’t have to do anything.
Just know that, for the ease of using a turntable that connects to speakers via bluetooth—and for it’s automatic start and stop features—the turntable itself is going to be made of lower quality parts and materials.
In other words, you’re going to be getting a lot of plastic in your turntable.
If you’re a turntable beginner, or think you’ll only casually listen to records, then don’t worry about this. But, if you expect to stick with record players over the long haul, just know that you’ll probably want to upgrade your record player at some point.
Getting a Bluetooth Record Player
And now, without further delay, here are a few turntables that have bluetooth capability and allow you to connect to your bluetooth-ready speakers.
One of the newer kids on the block is the Yamaha MusicCast Vinyl 500 record player. This is a bluetooth record player, and one of the only ones on the market (in my opinion) that offer both the aesthetic of a higher quality record player and the inclusion of modern technology that allows your vinyl to play through speakers–all without wires.
I think one of the more important options when it comes to affordable turntables is their ability to be flexible, and the MusicCast Vinyl 500 does that pretty well. Not only can you stream music through your Wifi or Bluetooth connection, but also via Airplay and Spotify Connect, as well.
You can also enjoy your music using the Yamaha MusicCast 20 bluetooth speakers, and you can control virtually everything via the MusicCast app.
It’s about time vinyl caught up with our modern day living experiences, and it seems the MusicCast Vinyl 500 does it in both a high class and affordable way.
You can read our read our review of the Yamaha MusicCast Vinyl 500 turntable here.
Adding bluetooth to their incredibly popular AT-LP60 turntable, AudioTechnica was not the first bluetooth table to arrive on the market but it’s certainly a good one. It’s an automatic belt drive table that can play both 33 and 45 rpm’s at the push of a button.
It is available in three colors including black, white and navy, a richer take on the traditional primary blue colors typical of turntables. With it’s attached dust cover and small footprint it’s sleek and cool.
The AT-LP60 BT still gives you RCA audio outputs with a built-in phono preamp so you can hardwire the table in one room while streaming to others. Whether you’re using bluetooth speakers or headphones this AudioTechinca turntable can store up to eight of your devices in it’s memory.
The LP60 BT also uses AudioTechnica’s Dual Magnet cartridge and stylus, a definite upgrade to less expensive options. With a retail price of $179, it’s not the cheapest option but nowhere near the top and it’s available today.
Similar in features to the Audio-Technica, it’s a belt drive turntable that can play at 33, 45 and even 78 rpm’s. It also includes a USB output and software so you can transfer all your favorite records to your computer.
It has standard RCA outputs with a built-in phono preamp, however the preamp is not defeatable, so you are forced to plug it into a line level input. It’s also a semi-automatic turntable, so the tonearm will return to its rest when a record is done. It does not, however, have auto-start, so you will need to drop the needle on the record manually. To be fair, it does have an auto stop feature.
At its price point, it’s hard to argue against the Air LP. If ripping vinyl to your laptop is a function you may use, I would even recommend it over the AT-LP60 BT. However, its use of a stock Crosely cartridge, lack of auto-start and phono preamp only output may be a deal breaker for those looking for better sound and more flexibility.
Pink Donut – RokBlok
Bluetooth record players are still pretty new and there nothing revolutionary has really hit the market yet. Pink Donut is pushing the envelope adding new technology to a quirky old favorite. Originally introduced through a KickStarter campaign, the Pink Donut RokBlock is reminiscent of the old Tampco SoundWagon.
This cool record player can fit in your pocket. Just set the record you want to play on any flat surface, put the RokBlock on top of it and it’ll zoom around the record like it’s on a Nascar track. With the press of a button you can connect to any bluetooth speaker for portable sound anywhere.
This option is great for people that don’t mind waiting for production to be complete. While it seems a little gimmicky, it’s sure to impress with it’s truly unique design. Your bluetooth speaker is probably portable so why shouldn’t your record player be too.
Akai – BT-100
With it’s wide plinth and overall dimensions, the Akai BT-100 looks like a traditional turntable. It’s over 2 inches wider than the Audio-Technica and $30 less in cost. This does give it a more substantial look and larger footprint. It also weighs more, which helps with dampening vibration.
While it does incorporate a slightly more substantial tonearm, the fixed headshell and cartridge is more akin to the $99 ION turntable. This means that while it looks like your father’s turntable, you won’t be able to upgrade the cartridge and, since it can’t be upgraded, there is no option to adjust the tonearm.
This dichotomy fits nicely with its price point. It gives you all the usual features—a built-in phono preamp, audio outputs and bluetooth streaming.
But looks can be deceiving. The larger plinth is still made out of plastic, as is the platter. Denser materials would provide improved dampening and more support.
Akai – BT-500
Save for some intriguing vaporware, there aren’t a lot of examples of really good bluetooth turntables. The high end turntable community has largely shied away from digital streaming of their analog sources. Purists will tell you that it’s a gimmick, that it will compress and corrupt the signal.
Besides, why mess with a good thing?
Well, sometimes an impressive piece of analog tech will come by and impress you. And that’s the case with Akai, which has already delivered with the BT-500. It’s a significant upgrade from the previously reviewed BT-100 in several ways.
First, it’s all about build quality. While there are plenty of examples of turntables that will stream a bluetooth signal just fine, due to their relatively low price point, it’s difficult to find one that doesn’t feel like the light pieces of plastic they really are.
The BT-500 has a dense plinth wrapped in a walnut finish. Couple that with its heavy die-cast aluminum platter, and it weighs in at 14 lbs—more than twice as heavy as any turntable on this list. Speaking of the finish, the BT-500’s dark, rich walnut is beautiful and a far cry from its injection molded counterparts.
The tonearm and cartridge are also a significant strength in comparison to other bluetooth turntables on the market. It has an adjustable counterweight and a removable headshell. It comes pre-mounted with an Audio-Techinca AT-95e cartridge, a $65 value. And, because the headshell can accommodate any standard mount phono cartridge, this turntable is truly upgradeable, giving it the ability to grow with you.
Additional features include adjustable feet with a bubble level, so even if your surface isn’t completely even, you’ll be able to make the necessary adjustments. It also has a belt drive DC motor that’s decoupled from the plinth ensuring less interference and a lower signal to noise ratio.
The Akai BT-500 is definitely the best looking and the best sounding turntable in this review. It’s build quality, cartridge and sound quality are without a doubt superior—so what’s the catch? At $399, it’s by far the most expensive turntable on this list. That’s not to say it isn’t worth it—you’re getting a lot for your money—but obviously, cost is always a factor.
Like most things in life, if you want the best, you have to pay more for it.
VNYL – TRNTBL – $429
VNYL may have a real problem with vowels but they have no problem pushing the envelope when it comes to making a high end turntable with built-in bluetooth. Like the RokBlock, the TRNTBL began it’s life as a KickStarter. Luckily VNYL has already been down this road when they launched their subscription LP delivery service two years ago.
This turntable has some bling with it’s jet black case and gold tonearm. It’s not all just form however, it has a removable headshell and the ability to upgrade your cartridge. It also has a dense acrylic platter and dampening feet to reduce unwanted vibration.
You’ll have to wait a little while before the VNYL TRNTBL hits the market but rest assured that you will have one of the coolest looking turntables on the market.
With this upgrade to the original Cruiser, Crosley is dipping its toe into the bluetooth market. Rather than transmit audio through bluetooth, it receives it. With it’s built-in amplifier and speakers you’ve always been able to plug in portable devices such as an iPhone to stream any music service to which you subscribe.
With the Cruiser Deluxe they add a bluetooth receiver to the mix so you can now wirelessly stream music from any compatible device. Sound quality is far from stellar but if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution to play records and stream music without any additional speakers you may want to give it a shot.
Companies as still trying to figure out how to integrate bluetooth into turntables and record players. The technology is here but, as often is the case, we haven’t quite figured out how we want to use it. Purists will say we’re sacrificing quality for convenience but we’ve been doing that now for decades.
I’m not sure what the future holds for streaming vinyl. There are decent options out there now with more on the way. In a world where the turntable outlasted the CD player, anything is possible.
MeeAudio – Connect Wireless Audio Adapter
Ok, you caught me. The MeeAudio connect is not a turntable. It is however a powerful transmitter that supports bluetooth 4.0 with aptX. At $60, it seems like it’s the least expensive option but keep in mind you still need to add the turntable and a phono preamp to get everything up and running.
Let’s face it, bluetooth turntables, while pretty good, are still an entry level record player. They usually light, made of plastic and while feature rich lack the sound quality of players at just slightly higher price points.
The MeeAduio Connects has low latency, which means less lag from your turntable to your bluetooth receiver. Also, because it supports bluetooth 4.0 with aptX, the sound will not be compromised nearly as much as with other bluetooth transmitters.
For those of you that already have a turntable or for those looking for something better than current offerings this is going to be your best choice. Pair it up with a turntable like the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC and a decent phono preamp, and you’ll have a powerful, flexible and great sounding sound system without all those pesky wires.
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