Are you a vinyl junkie who frequents markets, garage sales or used record stores searching for those hidden vinyl gems? Perhaps you want to take your records to the park, a friends house or, maybe you just want the freedom to play your favorite vinyl records where ever you go. Perhaps you want to take your records to the park, a friends house or, maybe you just want the freedom to play your favorite vinyl records where ever you go. Lucky for you, portable record players are easy to come by these days. There are loads of portable record players out there but, there is also a lot of junk. In this article, I look at the best portable record player with some useful tips when buying.
Why a Portable Record Player?
If you are expecting incredible sound quality from a portable record player, you will be disappointed.
Before you buy a portable record player, you need to consider the application. Portable record players are convenient but, they aren’t renowned for sound quality. Their primary function is being able to play records when you’re out record hunting or for a bit of fun. The technology is improving, but portable record players do not come close to the sound quality of a fixed turntable or record player.
Why Portable Record Players Sound Bad
There are a couple of reasons portable record players have poor sound. Firstly, the speakers are small. Too small to produce low frequencies which is why the sound is often described as “thin” or “tinny”.
Modern portable record players are built cheap.
If you are looking for a record player for home listening, I would strongly recommend going with something better suited for this application. I have other articles on choosing a record player or turntable for home use. You may find one of these articles interesting.
Portable Record Player Features
Before purchasing your portable record player, you need to consider a few features. Modern-day portable record players come with loads of features, most of which are unnecessary.
Speakers and Headphones
If you’re at a market or garage sale, you’re not going to set up an amplifier and speakers to listen to a few records. Ideally, you want a headphone out. This way you can start, stop and skip through records without bothering those around you, or being told to keep it down. You want to listen to records in peace without bothering or being bothered.
If your intention is to play music at a picnic, the office or other get together, then built-in speakers are necessary. Keep in mind that most portable record players, even the high-end models with built-in speakers, are not going to sound impressive or loud. More than 4-6 people talking will probably drown out a portable record players speakers.
Aside from the headphone output, there are a few outputs to consider depending on your application.
An RCA output is useful if you intend connecting to external speakers or a HiFi. On portable record players, this can be a line out or phono out. If it is a phono out, make sure you are going to a phono input or through a phono preamp.
⅛ inch (3.5mm) Jack Output
Most portable record players don’t have a ⅛ inch output but do have a headphone out. This can be connected using an AUX cable to speakers or a HiFi. Because it is line level, you don’t need a phono preamp.
You can connect the headphone output directly to speakers but, the signal is often weak which means you’re boosting the signal too much. If you boost the signal too much, you also boost any noise. It’s not recommended to use the headphone output for speakers or a HiFi however, it can be done.
USB is the best output to connect your portable record player to your PC. You must make sure it’s USB B output. Normal USB A is for a flash drive and you can’t connect to a PC. Some brands will include free software for recording your vinyl into the PC.
Bluetooth allows you to connect wirelessly to your speakers, HiFi or other Bluetooth enabled device. While Bluetooth is convenient and can save on cables, it does have a negative effect on sound quality.
In some circumstances, you won’t be access to a power socket. Having a battery operated portable record player is essential in these situations. A rechargeable unit is better when considering long term cost.
Turntable Platter Speeds
33⅓, 45 and 78 RPM are the three speeds records are recorded at. Most of the records you buy nowadays are 33⅓ or 45 RPM. 78 RPM was the first playback speed of vinyl records but was phased out in the late 1950s. So, most records you come across will be 33⅓ or 45 RPM.
Bluetooth is a new technology for record players. Most portable record players are Bluetooth receiving only. This means you can connect your Bluetooth device to the record player but you can’t transmit to speakers or a HiFi.
Portable Record Player Accessories
It’s a good habit to clean any record before playing. Dust or debris on the record may damage your needles or the record itself. An anti-static vinyl cloth is perfect and it can fit inside the lid of your portable record player.
Direct sunlight or heat will warp your records. A record case will prevent both physical and sun damage. A hard shell record case is your best bet to protect against the elements when traveling.
The Goodnew is a quality portable record player. You can listen to vinyl records through headphones, speakers or connect to external speakers through the RCA output. If you have a Bluetooth device, you can connect to the Goodnew and playback through the speakers. USB and SD cards can also be inserted for playback but don’t allow you to record. The Goodnew also comes with a 1800mAh rechargeable battery.
The Musitrend is half the price of the Goodnew with many of the same features. Record vinyl-to-MP3 via the USB or SD cards. You can choose to playback through built-in speakers, connect to external speakers through RCA output or headphones via the 3.5mm jack output. The Musitrend has a 2100mAh rechargeable battery.
NOTE: Users report the Musitrend has a loud voice announcement when changing between modes like vinyl or MP3.
The Crosley CR8005D and Victrola share similar features and aesthetics. Available in eight stylish color options, three of which are fabric covers.
The ClearClick’s round shape with a mix of wood and leather looks like something out of the 50’s or 60’s. RCA and 3.5mm headphone outputs as well as built-in speakers.
The CMC portable record player is a good budget option.
The Laurson CL503 is the cheapest portable record player on this list. Similar features and quality to Laurson’s higher priced competitors.
Portable record players have their uses. If you are simply want to listen to records, I would recommend purchasing a turntable over a record player, especially over a portable record player.
Be careful of being swayed by an avalanche of “features”. A great turntable is a simple, analog piece of equipment. If you are serious about your vinyl collection, forget the “features” and focus on purchasing the best product you can afford.
Vinyl is an investment, you want to protect that investment with a turntable that isn’t going to damage your records.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you have found this article useful or you have a question or suggestion, please feel free to leave a comment below.