A short and honest review of the Crosley T100 turntable.
Updated: Jan 4, 2021
The internet is full of misinformation and advertising crap, that's nothing new. What is also new is the resurgence of interest in Vinyl. A new generation is rediscovering vinyl for all it's good and bad, and they need turntables. But good turntables are belt driven and those rubber belts for the old ones are hard to find. So this new generation needs new turntables and with that comes some of the best audio equipment in the history of mankind. But with great listening comes great cost. The TECHNICS SL-1200G turntable retails at a a jaw dropping $4,520.00 on Amazon.
Look I'm sure its great, and I know there are some decent turntables for between $250 and $450 on Amazon. But we're in a recession. Money is tight and Christmas gifts are going to need to be a bit more realistic this year. And that's exactly why this turntable is worth reviewing. It'd make a great gift if it's any good and it'd be an affordable way to get into vinyl for a first timer. It's priced right too. We picked this one up at Ollie's for only $70.
The Crosley T100 here was sold as part of a "stereo turntable system." What that actually means is that you aren't just getting a turntable when you buy this. You're getting a turntable and some speakers, but you're actually getting a few other things. For one you're getting a turntable with a built in amplifier for better or worse. See to those of you who aren't audiophiles and are in the market for something like this you may need an explanation here on what that means for you.
Most turntables output unpowered, unamplified audio. It's basically the exact same thing as a microphone or guitar pickup in terms of voltage. You need an amplifier to "amplify" the voltage and pass that greater voltage and amperage on to the speakers so that they can vibrate to the frequencies that the record player is sending to the amplifier. But an amp is a separate piece of equipment you'll need with a high quality turntable which only adds to the cost. This unit has a built in amp for better or worse so you can power your speakers directly from the player. The package also includes a pair of speakers which means that this package includes everything you'll need to start listening to vinyl except the records themselves. But Crosley went a step further including a Bluetooth receiver in this amplifier. Now this is sort of interesting because it adds yet more value to this kit. If you have some nice speakers attached you should be able to pipe streaming music from your phone to them. That's just a real nice feature.
Speaking of the speakers, you'll want to upgrade from these right away for sure. They don't even have any numbers anywhere on them describing their performance. They get the job done when it comes to audio quality, but everything about them is bad. They are made of very shiny black plastic that smudged instantly. The plastic is soft and will scratch easily so to keep them looking pristine they came with plastic wrap taped to them. As soon as I took the plastic wrap off the speakers became static charged and every bit of dirt and dust around me would jump and cling to the speakers. Not a good looking experience at all. They sounded alright enough to test the player but I'd upgrade as soon as possible and throw these in the trash. The good news is that the record player itself has standard speaker wire as the amplified output so any set of speakers will work. That's great news because you can get a decent old pair of nice speakers for under $30.
The player itself is all the same shiny plastic and it shows dirt and dust like crazy. The packaging of the box clung to the turntable leaving little bits of cardboard and foam dust all over everything. On the plus side though the turntable comes with an adjustable stylus cartridge holder which is great. The stylus itself is a sapphire which is rated for about 50 hours. For about $10 you can upgrade to a diamond stylus which is rated for about 1000 hours.
While looking at other reviews and seeing hatred of this record player by audiophiles I kept seeing claims that the tracking force of this player would ruin records. That's just not true. The tone arm on my unit has a tracking force of 5.6 grams. This falls right where it should be. If you can afford records expensive enough to worry about ruining them with this record player then you can afford a decent record player. Me, I've been throwing $0.25 records at this thing that I bought at the thrift store. They can't get much worse than they are now.
As to the sound of this thing. Eh, it sounds like a record player. This thing isn't anything to write home about as far as audio quality. There's a noticeable delay from the amp. Does it sound warm or cold? Who cares? It's a way to play records, that's all. I swapped out the stock speakers within the first day and noticed a nice improvement to sound. In fact that's all I'd say about how this record player sounds, it sounds nice enough. In regards to build quality this player leaves a lot to be desired. But for $70 you can start listening to your old vinyl collection again.
I played this record player quite a bit leading up to Christmas and that's when its problems began to rear their ugly head. My first real problem began when the record player began playing at the wrong speed and could not be compensated for with the pitch adjustment. I was listening to an album for the first time and things just felt off as far as the speed. The voices sounded too high and the tempo was a bit too fast. After finding the album on Youtube I was now sure that the problem was the turntable. I soon found that the belt had slipped down the motor shaft and was at the wrong gear ratio. What followed was over an hour of taking the belt off of the platter, putting everything together again, spinning the platter by hand until the belt popped off the platter again. You see, there's no lip on the underside of the platter to prevent it from sliding off.
Problems continued when analyzing the sound from this record player on a computer and seeing why it seemed to sound strange sometimes and proof soon arose as to the yucky sound being a problem in the turntable itself.
In an attempt to save what could only be a few pennies. Crosley decided in their infinite wisdom to use only the cheapest plastic cartridge that money can buy. Despite the cost of this turntable they went with the worst possible cartridge choice that they could despite the cartridge being the weak link in any turntable when it comes to sound output. To add insult to injury they have third party sellers offering diamond or metal cartridges for less than replacement plastic cartridges thanks to third party sellers.
The fact that Crosley decided to cut a corner like this is indicative of their idea of how to sell record players to people jumping back on the vinyl bandwagon. its sleazy and I hope this company pays for it in time given that there are lots of companies getting back into the vinyl market.
That said I can't rag on Crosley too much for $70. The record player did let me listen to vinyl and in the end I did get to keep listening to my records. I have a better record player and I'll keep using it. The fact is that I can't really justify getting rid of this thing. I upgraded my stylus to a diamond one for $10 off Amazon and all is well again. I did put this record player in another room so we can still listen to vinyl while reading a book because I like the music I can listen to only on vinyl. The fact is I can't tell how bad the music sounds from a distance.
Speaking of listening to vinyl. This is a decent gift idea for your teenager. You can get them started in a new hobby of collecting vinyl and yet give them something else they'd enjoy, a Bluetooth speaker with the ability to be cheaply upgraded to sound even better. The fact is, this thing is priced right. If you use an aux cord you can digitize your vinyl album on your PC with it. If you give it to a teenager they'll be able to use it with their cell phone like they already do with those little pill speakers. Plus it just looks kinda nice under the Christmas tree.
If you have the budget for something nicer then please for the sake of your ears and records buy something nicer, this isn't good quality at all. But if the choice is between listening to wonderful records on this or listening to no records at all, then this is a perfectly serviceable option. There's a lot of great records that can be had for pennies at the thrift store and it's a decent entry point for those who are just getting started in collecting vinyl albums.