Portable record players are a great way to introduce children to vinyl records or to hunt through record collections at garage sales and thrift stores to find unique selections. They are compact enough to be carried around easily and can, in many cases, be folded up to become ultra-portable. Regardless of how you choose to use it, a portable record player can be extremely useful to the right person.
A compact portable record player that can be used with batteries or AC power. A great little option for crate diggers or beginner vinyl enthusiasts on a budget.
Best For Crate Digging
The Numark PT01USB is a great record player for crate digging due to its compact size and minimalist design. It offers everything you need in a vinyl hunting companion, including headphone jacks with both 3.5mm and 6.5mm connections.
The Most Portable
The RetroLife vinyl player has a suitcase-style design that makes it extremely easy to fold up in a matter of seconds and carry to your destination. At 5.5 lbs, it’s also lightweight and can be carried without effort.
Best Battery Power
The Jorlai stands out in this category with its built-in 2100 mAH rechargeable lithium battery. While the Numark also offers a completely viable battery option, it doesn’t come with batteries included.
The Victrola Nostalgic stands out both visually and in terms of its features. If you’re looking for something other media like CD and radio, but still want something you can move between locations around the house without dragging speakers along, the Nostalgic has much to offer.
Why a Portable Record Player?
Portable record players are great for throwing on a vinyl record at any location quickly. However, it is worth noting that, unlike portable Bluetooth speakers, portable record players will still typically require a powered connection and are not run on batteries. There are a few worthwhile battery-operated models on the market, which we’ve included in this list.
A portable record player’s most effective use tends to be for record hunters looking for that special gem in a thrift store or garage sale, but they are also great options for young vinyl enthusiasts in your family, where you may not wish to invest much into a high-quality player just yet. They can also be useful for showing off your latest vinyl pickups to friends who may not have their own record player at their home.
The first thing one must understand about portable record players is that they are not associated with high-quality audio but instead focus on portability and connectivity. If you focus on aspects such as the soundstage or how balanced the audio is, you’ll want to invest in a higher-quality vinyl player.
Portable record players can be thought of similarly to a portable CD players. Instead of requiring additional speakers, these players have them built into them. This comes with its own benefits and drawbacks, as the smaller speaker size and focus on portability leave audio quality lacking compared to even small, traditional bookshelf speakers.
These shortcomings are no secret; the prices reflect the typical quality one can expect. That’s not to put all portable vinyl players into the same category, as each product is unique in some sense or another and performs differently in each department.
The 5 Best Portable Record Players
The following products are among what we’d consider some of the best portable record players on the consumer market. All products on this list are also relatively affordable and available for under $150.
1. Numark PT01USB
The Numark portable vinyl player is a simple yet effective approach to vinyl players. As with all products on this list, it features a built-in speaker, which is located just above the controls. This differs from most other portable record players on the market, which tend to place their speakers on the front side of the player. The turntable can also be easily closed up into a sealed case which makes it even better for carrying around.
The design is also more toned down than many alternatives in this space, which is neither a pro nor a con but rather down to stylistic choice. I have found it challenging in the past to find portable vinyl players that can blend into a room with a mature yet still modern aesthetic. The Numark does extremely well in this regard.
We also see more features offered with this option, over some of the slightly more gimmicky models on the market, with both pitch and tone control available. A stand-out feature of this record player is the capability to use batteries for a truly wireless experience. This is a feature we’ve wanted to see for a long time, as it really changes the game for those who enjoy digging through crates to find that special something.
In terms of outputs, this record player offers two headphone connections in both 6.5mm and 3.5mm options. There is also an RCA output for speakers. The result is a record player that has a lot of versatility and can easily be used as both a vinyl-hunting tool and a home vinyl player.
Why We Recommend It
The Numark is a standout portable record player if you’re a vinyl hunter. The addition of a 6.5mm headphone jack is a unique feature that few other portable record players offer. We also love the clean design that doesn’t try and be anything other than what it is.
2. Retrolife R609 Vinyl Player
The Retrolife vinyl player is another suitcase-style design that closely resembles the Kedok but has its own distinct differences. One of the most immediate differences is the placement of the controls, with the Retrolife having a line-in control on the top right of the player. The Retrolife is also available in different color variations, everything from a standard, clean black/gray design to bright pink camouflage.
As with so many of these designs, you’re not going to find premium quality and excellent sound quality – but this is another great option for a beginner vinyl player that has its focus on portability. It also suits younger listeners and is commonly bought as a gift for kids. This vinyl player is typically available for around $60, making it an affordable choice.
In terms of features, the Retrolife has four total connection options. There is a Bluetooth connection that can be used to stream digital media from your source device, which is always a great function to have on a portable device. As with most of the other portable record players on this list, there is no battery support, and you’ll need to ensure a wired connection is available.
This player supports three different vinyl sizes (7, 10, and 12 inches) as well as offers three variations of speed (33, 45, and 78 RPM). Another feature this player offers, which can prove very useful, is an auto-stop ability that will stop spinning the record once it is done playing.
Why We Recommend It
The Retrolife is a lightweight suitcase-style record player that focuses on portability. It features a 3.5mm headphone jack and Bluetooth connectivity. You get good versatility with Bluetooth capabilities, but this is mostly a simple design.
3. Kedok Portable Vinyl Player
The Kedok portable vinyl player follows a design similar to what we see across much of the consumer vinyl player market. It’s essentially a suitcase design that can easily fold up and be carried by the built-in handle. These vinyl players are popular because of how easy and portable they are, as well as the affordable price tag that they tend to come with. The design style is found across multiple brands, as it is primarily a white-label design.
Similar to some of the other vinyl players on this list, this player does more than just play vinyl. While you won’t find a CD player or AM/FM radio with this player, it does still come with Bluetooth function, so you can easily play music from your phone. In terms of vinyl compatibility, the Kedok can play 33, 45, and 78 RPM speeds and can cater to 7”, 10”, and 12” vinyl records.
The Kedok is available in three different color variations, allowing you to pick one that best suits your own personal style or your room decor. These vinyl players are great for children, too, serving as a great introduction to vinyl music. With vinyl popularity picking up again in recent years, products like this are a viable way for the younger generation to enjoy a unique listening experience.
It’s also possible to improve the audio quality of this vinyl player by attaching some standalone speakers using the RCA connectors. This will allow you to use the player as a limited-sound portable option or a dedicated vinyl player with high-quality stereo speakers.
Why We Recommend It
The Kedok portable record player is similar in its design to the Retrolife but offers a more vibrant solution that can blend into more colorful home aesthetics or suit younger listeners. This is a good choice for getting your kids into vinyl at an affordable price.
4. JORLAI Record Player
Despite the Jorlai record player looking similar to other products on this list, it is one of the few that also offer battery power, utilizing a rechargeable 2100 mAH lithium battery that can provide up to 5 hours of playtime. It features two different color variations, a clean white design with washed-gold accents and then a light purple variant.
Like other record players on this list, it does more than just play vinyl. The Jorlai comes with Bluetooth connectivity, so you can easily play your own digital media through this player as well. It is also worth noting that it doesn’t offer CD support or AM/FM radio like some of the models. The way it’s designed lends itself to crate-digging or dedicated vinyl listening, but if you’re looking for something that’s more of an all-in-one system as well, take a look at the Victrola Nostalgic below.
One of the cool features of the Jorlai is the addition of a vinyl-to-MP3 recording feature that lets you record your vinyl records in digital format, a feature that holds a lot of merit in itself. In terms of other features and connectivity options, you’ll get an RCA connection so you can attach your own speakers to increase the integrity of the audio. There is also a headphone jack and an aux line-in.
Why We Recommend It
The Jorlai is another excellent crate-digging vinyl player that comes with some unique features, the highlight of which has to be the vinyl-to-MP3 recording feature that lets you digitally convert your vinyl. The rechargeable battery is another great selling point for this player.
5. Victrola Nostalgic
If you’re looking for a vintage feel, the Victrola Nostalgic features a classic old-school design that brings back the early 20th-century feel. This one is less well suited for crate digging but better suited as an affordable choice for a record player that you can easily move around the house without the need to carry additional speakers.
This particular design is seen in a number of portable vinyl player companies, and for a good reason. It tends to look good in most decor environments thanks to the ability to select from multiple color variants. The classic wood finishes work well in lighter room colors, while the grey color option is better suited toward darker decor.
Because this unit is a bit larger than others, it’s not quite as highly portable, but this has its own benefits, too, as the larger sized design allows for larger speaker drivers to be used and offers a foot up over some of the smaller portable record players with its 30W of output.
In terms of features, the Victrola Nostalgic is a 6-in-1 system that doesn’t just offer vinyl playing capabilities but can also play CDs and cassettes. Additionally, it offers both AM and FM radio and Bluetooth connectivity. It also offers the ability to attach better speakers to the turntable using the RCA connections. There is also a headphone jack for those who prefer to keep their listening experience more on the personal side of things. Digging deeper into the turntable technology, the Victrola Nostalgic features a 3-speed belt that plays 33 ⅓, 45, and 78 RPM records.
Why We Recommend It
The Victrola Nostalgic stands out from others on this list, with less focus on portability and more focus on features. This record player is better suited as a home speaker that can be moved between your patio and your bedroom rather than for vinyl hunting.
Portable Record Player Features
Before purchasing your portable record player, you need to consider a few things. Modern-day portable record players may come barebones or with loads of features.
Speakers and Headphones
If you’re at a market or garage sale, you won’t set up an amplifier and vinyl 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 them 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 another 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 player’s speakers.
Aside from the headphone output, there are a few outputs to consider depending on your application.
An RCA output is useful to connect to external speakers or a HiFi. This can be a line out or phono out on portable record players. 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 has come a long way in recent years, where we’ve seen audio quality improve along with the supported range and overall efficacy of the codecs involved. Having Bluetooth connectivity on your portable record player is just a nice-to-have feature, which is especially useful if you’re looking to use your vinyl player outside of just vinyl hunting.
While not every portable record player is battery-operated, having a battery-powered option will be important if you’re planning to use it in areas without any power sources. Some vinyl players offer a rechargeable battery, which is often an ideal solution.
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.
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.
Portable record players have their uses. If you just want to listen to records, I recommend purchasing a turntable over a record player, especially a portable one.
Be careful of being swayed by an avalanche of “features” unless you require them. A great turntable can be a simple, analog piece of equipment. If you are serious about your vinyl collection, you don’t need to give too much weight to “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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What speed vinyl player do I need?
Vinyl comes in three different speeds. There are 33 1/3, 45, or 78 RPM vinyl. We recommend getting a record player that supports all three formats. Otherwise, you will be limited on the vinyl you can play.
Do all portable record players have batteries?
Not all portable record players have battery-powered capabilities. A record player can still be easily portable but still require an AC power connection.
Can I attach external speakers to my record player?
Most portable record players do offer RCA connections, so you can easily improve the audio quality. This is great for someone who would prefer higher quality audio at home but, when crate digging, can rely on the built-in speakers.
Do portable record players have headphone jacks?
In many cases, you will find a headphone jack option on your record player. This isn’t a standard across all record players, though, and will come down to the model.
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