best portable record player

Have Tunes, Will Travel: Five Best Portable Record Player Candidates

Have tunes, will travel. Who would think that totally portable records player built into suitcases would be such a big thing? Well, they are. Finding the best portable record player is not focused on money. These devices are not too expansive and, in many cases, put style and looks above high fidelity. That’s a polite way of saying that these are not units that will appeal to audiophiles — unless they are looking for a gift for their grand kids. 

This is a popular way to play music, judging from the number of reviews in the category at Amazon. For instance, the Victrola Journey, one of the units described below, has more than 25,000 reviews and comments. Amazon reviews (which, by the way, are extremely useful for shopping, especially when taken in the aggregate) accrue over time and perhaps that unit has been for sale for a while. But that certainly is a lot of interest no matter what the time frame.  Clearly, people are searching for the best portable record player. 

A couple of notes, which the cool kids call a “level set:” There are two branches to the lower end record player family. One is desktop record players that are meant to more or less stay in one place. We cover those here. The other — the subject of this article — are portable devices that literally are built to travel while playing a person’s vinyl collection.

Click here for capsules on portable record players from Victrola, Crosley, Byron Statics, DIGITNOW! and Popsky

Mindset is important. The best portable record player is not necessarily the one that sound bests. Of course, the ability to play music well is a factor. But keep in mind that portable record players (also are called suitcase record players) are aimed at starters who likely either are young, folks with a lot of old albums but no overriding interest in technology or older folks who like things that look like they did back in the day. Fidelity varies and is but one of many factors. Others are style, weight, whether the suitcase record player can be battery operated and others. The bottom line simply is that folks buying these units thinking they are getting fine audio equipment is the same as a weekend warrior at the neighborhood basketball court thinking that can play with LeBron.

These units — especially the best portable record players that do provide some bells and whistles — can be useful to more sophisticated consumers, however. These folks may just want a simple unit for digitizing their records or just a way to play them with reasonable fidelity at a second home or on vacation. In other words, even great chefs pop into Burger King when nobody is looking.  

Let’s dispense with the portability issue first: The best portable record player you choose no doubt will tip the scales at well under 10 pounds.

Looks seem to be a bigger competitive issue. Some units are available in a single color while others are a veritable rainbow.

It’s actually fun to look at the clever designs and color options that are available. The Crosley Cruiser Deluxe, for instance, comes in 24 different colors or patterns — including such all time color favorites as chalkboard, Havana, leopard and quiet jungle. A lot of these units are very creative and attractive. If sure seems that the designers had fun, while the engineers napped in the break room. The variety is evidence that young folks — teens and younger — are a target demographics for record players. In fact that makes the whole thing a bit of fun. 

Even if the record player is a secondary source for your system, pay attention to how the unit integrates into the broader and now almost fully digitized world of modern consumer technology. A portable record player likely is not the most important element of your system, but it is part of the team. 



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The integration goes both ways. Bluetooth speakers enable the unit to accept inputs and play music from smartphones and other devices, while RCA jacks enable the record player to pump the sound through different and presumably better speakers.

A look at various reader comments show that people in general get it. These folks are not that interested in better sound and understand that they won’t get it. They want to enjoy their old records and, in a surprising number of cases, are looking for gifts for kids and grand kids with whom they want share their joy of vinyl. Of course, a non-portable record player would be good for this purpose. But if the child is young, the carrying case aspect may be especially appealing.

5 Tip on Finding the Best Portable Record Player
– Make sure it is light enough to be truly portable
– How good does the sound need to be? And how loud? 
– Make sure the record player has the connectivity options that fit your needs
– Some portable record players have only one speaker. Make sure that’s sufficient. Two is better than one, even if they all are bad
– There is no shortage of cool designs. Don’t settle. Find something that suits you
An important feature is analog to digital conversion capabilities. This enables content transfer from vinyl into their digital domains for storage, playlists and so forth. A USB port is the easiest way to do this. Experts say it is not the best, but it will be enough for many folks. Make sure that the unit can be battery operated. It seems silly for a portable device not to take batteries, but it pays to check. You don’t know when you will want to play music without access to a wall socket.

Beyond that, finding the best portable record player is pretty straight forward. Units generally come with a 45 RPM adapter that in some way can be stored on the device.

Make sure that the unit can be battery operated. It seems silly for a portable device not to take batteries, but it pays to check. You don’t know when you will want to play music without access to a wall socket.

Beyond that, finding the best portable record player is pretty straight forward. Units generally come with a 45 RPM adapter that in some way can be stored on the device. 

Below are some short capsules that aim to find the best portable record player — or at least the one that meets your needs. The bottom line is these are fairly close to commodity items. For this reason, the comments cover a relatively narrow range of concerns. Features do vary to a degree, however. Look for analog to digital conversion capabilities, connectivity options, whether it supports rechargeable batteries and the style. Indeed, the most interesting thing to me about this category is how cool and creative many of these record players look.

Looking for the Best Portable Record Player: Units from Victrola, Crosley, Byron Statics, DIGITNOW! and Popsky

Note: All images are courtesy of the manufacturer. Hover over images for a closer view (in most cases). Vendors have unique short hands for specifications. I’ve more or less left these unchanged, so the capsules are a bit inconsistent.  The paraphrased comments are subjective (and, indeed, sometimes contradictory). Folks sometimes use equipment incorrectly and then complain. Problems mentioned may have been addressed by the manufacturer. Amazon has a tremendous amount of information and feedback on the what it sells and is a recommended element of your shopping research. If you do shop and potentially buy from Amazon, please link to there from HiFi and Vinyl Now. If you are kind enough to do so we’ll get a small commission. The price you pay will remain the same. (Thanks!)

The Journey from Victrola

Victrola’s entry for best portable record player is the VSC-550BT-ML, which is available in 35 colors and patterns — from tie-die to camo-to masala — and offers wired and wireless connections. Users can stream content from their smartphones through the unit’s speakers via Bluetooth. External speakers can be connected via RCA cables and CD players and other devices can be connected via the line input. There is a headphone jack as well. Along the lines of its portability, the Maybe, in that context, the suitcase design motif is symbolic. The VSC-550BT-ML of course, also is capable of playing new records.

What People are Saying about The Journey
Pros
+ Intuitive features
+ Good value for the price
+ High enough volume for multi-room use
Cons
– Speakers not great
– Sapphire needles should be replaced with diamond
– Bluetooth could be improved

 

Crosley Cruiser Deluxe

The Crosley Cruiser Deluxe Vintage 3-Speed Bluetooth Suitcase Turntable is available in 24 colors and patterns. It features built-in stereo speakers that receive signals via Bluetooth. The unit has RCA and headphone jack outputs. The Cruiser Deluxe measures 10.24″ x 13.78″ x 4.72″ and weighs 5.50 lbs. 

What People are Saying about The Crosley Cruiser Deluxe
Pros
+ Easy set up
+ Color selection good
+ Sound fairly good
Cons
– Distorted, crackling sound
– More a toy than a record player
– Turntable speed off

Byron Statics KCT-601

Byron Statics’ three speed portable record player weighs in at 5.46 pounds. The wired unit, which is constructed of black vinyl, operates at the typical three speeds. (Side note: it’s interesting that 78 RPMs still is standard so many years after such records stopped being manufactured.)

The tone arm is put in place over the record and only then does the turntable begin to spin. That feature may help more accurate placement over the desired spot on the record. The device has RCA jacks on the back and a fuse adapter protects the player when a short circuit occurs. The record player dimensions are 13.66″ x 10″ x 4.6″.

What People are Saying about Byron Statics KCT-601
Pros
+ Easy to use
+ No distortion at high volume
+ Fair value for the money
Cons
– Pitch is too high
– Cheaply built
– Poor quality speakers

DIGITNOW! Three Speed Record Player

digitalnow

DIGITNOW!’s 3 speed record player has a vintage look. It connects via a USB cable and uses software that is included to convert vinyl to MP3 or WAV.  It features a dynamic, balanced tone arm with soft damping control.

The DIGITNOW! 3 speed record player weighs 5.62 pounds. It is made of vinyl and comes in white. Its dimensions are 13.78″ x 11.02″ x 4.92″.

What People are Saying about the DIGITNOW! 3 Speed Turntable
Pros
+ Good sound
+ Analog to digital feature useful
+ Compact and stylish
Cons
– Doesn’t hold records stable
– Sound acceptable if expectations low
– Damaged records

Popsky 3 Speed Vintage Style Record Player

Popsky

The Popsky 3 speed vintage record player includes a 45 RPM adapter and features two built-in full range speakers, 3 elastic plugs under the belt-driven platter to reduce vibration and Bluetooth connectivity.

The record player’s menu of connectors and access points includes 3.5mm AUX-IN, RCA, USB and headphone jacks. Set up for easy vinyl to MP3 or WAV transfer.

What People are Saying about The Popsky 3 Speed Vintage Record Player
Pros
+ Analog to digital transfer worked well
+ Good volume
+ Wood case is good
Cons
– Records consistently skip
– Inconsistent turntable speed
– Sound quality poor

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