Do Bluetooth Turntables Sound Good?
Are Bluetooth turntables and record players any good? Or does Bluetooth ruin the sound quality of a vinyl records?
To answer those questions, I just spent an afternoon listening to records on my Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT turntable using its Bluetooth functionality.
And, to be honest, I think it sounds quite good.
Bluetooth will not reduce the sound quality of an entry-level turntable that much.
In audiophile vinyl setups, Bluetooth may reduce the sound quality of the system noticeably.
In a stereo with high levels of sonic performance, the limitations of the Bluetooth protocol may become the Achilles heel of the system.
Because of this, the leading turntable manufacturers only equip their entry-level turntables with Bluetooth. Audiophile turntables do rarely come with Bluetooth functionality.
If you are happy with how an entry-level turntable sounds in general, then you shouldn’t worry about Bluetooth ruining the sound.
In every major city, we can see people walking around with Bluetooth headphones and earphones all day. And I don’t think many of them are concerned with Bluetooth ruining the sound.
Bluetooth does a good job for most people’s everyday music listening.
If you, on the other hand, are a passionate music listener that value audiophile sound, then it is best to use a turntable with traditional cabled connections.
Many vinyl enthusiasts will also be quite passionate about keeping their vinyl setup fully analog. Which might make the digital nature of Bluetooth a no-go for that reason alone.
In the sections below, I will go deeper into the theory of Bluetooth sound quality.
I will also test and compare the sound quality of my AT-LP60XBT turntable when using traditional cables compared to Bluetooth wireless streaming.
And I will highlight what I think are the best Bluetooth turntables on the market today.
Bluetooth Turntables – The Theory
Before we move on to the actual sound test, let’s take a technical look at Bluetooth turntables.
Bluetooth is a digital wireless protocol.
The Bluetooth module in a turntable digitize and compresses the analog music signal from the turntable so that it can be transmitted through the air.
The Bluetooth module (or circuitry) in a Bluetooth turntable consists of an analog to digital converter (DAC) that digitize and compresses the music signal. Behind the DAC there is a radio transmitter that sends the digitized signal out into the air.
On the receiver end, which might be wireless headphones, wireless speakers, or a receiver with Bluetooth, the signal is captured from the air, decompressed and converted back to an analog music signal.
In the process of converting the signal from analog to digital and then back to analog again, some of the fine details in the music signal will be lost.
So, Bluetooth will reduce the quality of the music to a certain extent. There is no way around that.
However, in a setup that costs sensible money (not audiophile or high-end) there will be other limitations to the sound quality as well. So the limitations of Bluetooth doesn’t come into play that much. And may not become the Achilles heel of the system.
Other popular wireless protocols like Tidal, Sonos, Appel Airplay doesn’t compress the sound as much as Bluetooth. And are therefore more suitable than Bluetooth for audiophile and high-end applications.
For an in-depth read on Bluetooth turntables and how they work, please check out my What is a Bluetooth Turntable and How to Connect It article.
Bluetooth Turntables – My Testing
In my testing, I used my Beats Studio wireless headphones and my Edifier R1280DB Bluetooth speakers to get a feel for the sound quality of the Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT when it is used as a Bluetooth turntable.
With the wireless headphones, the sound is quite good in my opinion. Definitely above what I would expect from a very affordable turntable with Bluetooth.
It doesn’t have the details and snap of my $6000 vinyl setup, but that isn’t to be expected either. The sound quality is definitely at a level where I can fully enjoy the music. The music sounds clear and the bass is nice and punchy.
What about the speakers?
The very affordable Edifier powered speakers don’t offer the same sound quality as my Beats wireless headphones. Which I didn’t expect since the headphones cost about three times more than these cheap speakers.
The Edifiers are great affordable speakers. I often recommend them to people that want so get into vinyl as cheaply as possible. But being super affordable, they naturally have clear limitations to how they sound.
That said, there is no noticeable difference between connecting the speakers to the turntable with cables compared to using the Bluetooth functionality.
The sound from the speakers are absolutely the same when using cables and Bluetooth.
So, in this setup, the speakers are clearly the limiting factor, and not the Bluetooth protocol. I would need much more expensive wireless speakers to potentially to hear the limitations of the Bluetooth protocol.
As a vinyl and stereo geek, I have both higher quality powered speakers and an audiophile rated traditional stereo setup. But, unfortunately, none of those currently have Bluetooth connectivity. So I can’t use that gear in this test.
But I think we have learned that Bluetooth will not run the sound of a sensible priced system. Quite the opposite, it sounds good. Especially with decent wireless headphones.
Recommended Bluetooth Turntables
I bought the Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT myself because I have heard and read so many good things about it through all my research and writing about turntables. And it is a very impressive package for an affordable price.
The Sony PS-LX310BT usually cost a tiny bit more than the Audio-Technica above, but it offers a more traditional layout and design and USB functionality. It is very highly rated by Hi-Fi critics. The leading publication What Hi-Fi gave it a very good review.
What do you need with a Bluetooth turntable?
First and foremost, Bluetooth turntables can be connected with traditional RCA signal cables just like any other turntable. The Bluetooth functionality is just an extra feature.
To use the Bluetooth functionality on a Bluetooth turntable, you will need wireless headphones, wireless Bluetooth speakers or a stereo receiver with Bluetooth functionality.
In an affordable turntable setup, Bluetooth will not have a noticeable impact on sound quality. The sound will only be noticeably negatively affected in expensive high-quality systems where the limitations of the Bluetooth protocol becomes the Achilles heel of the entire system.
How to make a regular turntable Bluetooth?
You can use a Bluetooth adapter to make a regular turntable Bluetooth.
You can read more about this in my How to Make a Turntable Wireless? article.
What does a Bluetooth turntable do?
A Bluetooth turntable is a regular turntable that has Bluetooth functionality as an extra feature.
With Bluetooth functionality it is possible to play vinyl records to wireless headphones, wireless speakers or a wireless stereo system at a distance up to 30 feet.
What is the difference between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi?
Bluetooth compress the music signal more than Wi-Fi so the sound quality can, in high-quality systems, be noticeably compromised with Bluetooth.
Wi-Fi has higher bandwidth than Bluetooth and doesn’t compress the music as much as Bluetooth. Therefore, the sound quality will be better with Wi-Fi.
Higher quality streaming applications like Apple Airplay, Sonos and Tidal use Wi-Fi technology.