I finally bought a Victrola vintage suitcase turntable to test and review.
The one I got is the Victrola Journey VSC-550BT Portable Turntable with Bluetooth.
It is undoubtably cool looking.
And it costs less than many audiophile-graded records.
So. The big question. Is the Victrola suitcase turntable good?
I found the Victrola suitcase Bluetooth turntable to be both impressive and disappointing.
I was impressed by the super cool vibe the Victrola turntable offers for so little money. After spending more time with it, I started to understand why so many love this little machine. It can do a lot of things. Play records, connect to speakers, connect to headphones and work as a Bluetooth speaker for your phone or PC. It is easy to carry around and it looks really cool in your room.
The disappointing part of the Victrola turntable is the poor quality of the sound through the speakers. It is honestly not great. It lacks volume, bass and clarity. It doesn’t provide enough punch to create any form of groove. The poor sound was disappointing, but also half-expected. The tiny built-in speakers would have to break the laws of physics to sound great. It is just not possible.
The good thing is that the sound quality improved dramatically when I hooked it up to budget powered speakers. I tested my Victrola turntable a lot with my Edifier R1280DB powered speakers, and that combo honestly sounded better than I had expected.
I wrote most of this article while playing records in the background with the Victrola hooked up to the Edifier speakers. Sounded just fine for that purpose. Even for a hardcore audiophile like myself.
Who is it for?
For someone that wants a cheap and cool looking turntable and don’t care much about sound quality, I think the Victrola turntable is an impressive record player for the money.
But if you fancy decent sound, I am afraid the Victrola won’t do it or you. At least not without external speakers.
Victrola: Pros and Cons
- Cool looking
- Easy to set up
- Easy to use
- Sounds ok with external speakers
- Sounds ok with headphones
- Poor sound when using built-in speakers
- High tracking force adds wear on records
- Not many options to upgrade
How does Victrola compare to Crosley?
I also bought a Crosley Cruiser to compare with the Victrola Journey. I found them to be very similar in looks, feel and performance, but there were a few small details I liked better with the Victrola than with the Crosley.
- The Victrola sounds a fraction better through the speakers
- The Victrola suitcase has a better lock latch (doesn’t open accidentally)
- The buttons/dials are nicer on the Victrola
- The speaker grills have a slightly nicer finish on the Victrola
Note that these are tiny details. The Victrola and Crosley are very similar. I had to spend quite a bit of time with them to discover these nuances. But if I were to keep only one of them, I would choose the Victrola.
Check out my Victrola Vs. Crosley – Suitcase Turntable Comparison article for an in-depth comparison between the Victrola Journey and the Crosley Cruiser.
Victrola: Setting up
Setting up the Victrola Journey is very easy. Honestly, there isn’t really anything to set up at all.
All you need to do is unbox the turntable, remove the transportation protection inside the suitcase and connect the turntable to power.
After that simple procedure, you are ready to spin records.
Everything you need to play records is included in the box.
It can hardly be any easier.
The sound is the major weak point of the Victrola Journey, in my experience. The sound is honestly not great.
To give you a perspective, the sound quality from my laptop PC is better. My laptop has deeper bass and clearer sound. The volume might however be a bit higher on the Victrola when cranked up to full.
I think it is fair to compare the sound from the Victrola Journey to the sound of a small portable radio. Many people are happy with listening to portable radios all day long. So, the poor sound might not be a major issue to you. But it will still be wrong to state that it sounds good.
The biggest problem with the sound is the lack of bass. The part of the music that forms the rhythm and beat is absent. Drums and bass guitars are more or less deleted from the soundstage. You hear a lot of vocals, but many instruments are simply not part of the sound.
The poor sound is an inevitable consequence of the tiny built-in speakers. Their size and quality are insufficient to produce a decent groove.
The good news is that the sound improves a lot if you hook up the Victrola to budget powered speakers. This can be a nice option when you are not on the go. More on this later.
Whereas the sound is the Victrolas biggest weakness, I think the design is its biggest strength.
It simply looks cool. It creates a nice vibe. I can fully understand why these are so popular. The concept is amazing.
The suitcase itself looks and feels more expensive than it is. The surface material has a nice texture and the metal protection in the corners protects nicely against wear.
I give it top score on design. Without question.
Victrola: Specs and Features
Another thing that impressed me with the Victrola is how many things it can do. How versatile it is. It has a lot of handy features.
Key specs and features
- Built-in speakers. No external speakers needed.
- Ultra-portable. Take it anywhere.
- RCA output. Connect powered speakers or a stereo system for better sound.
- Bluetooth functionality. Connect your phone or PC wirelessly and use the record player as a Bluetooth speaker.
- Headphone output. Connect wired headphones.
- 3-Speeds. 33, 45 and 78 rpm.
- Autostop. Stops spinning when the record ends.
- Colors. Many color options to choose from.
One thing to be aware of is that it has Bluetooth receiver functionality only.
It doesn’t send the music from the records wirelessly to Bluetooth speakers.
It rather works as a Bluetooth speaker itself and lets you connect a music source like a phone or PC.
I think this could be clearer in the marketing material. I also see many reviews online stating that it can connect to Bluetooth speakers. But that is not correct. It is Bluetooth in. Not Bluetooth out.
Victrola: Tech and Internals
The suitcase is made of wood that is wrapped in a material that gives it its nice color and texture. Most of the tonearm assembly and platter are made of plastic. The tonearm itself is however made of metal.
The cartridge is fixed (not upgradeable) but the stylus can easily be undone from the cartridge and replaced.
When I opened up the Victrola to look inside, I saw that is uses a YD3412 amplifier circuit to drive its speakers. This is an all-in-one amplifier circuit that can output 3 Watt. The speakers are marked 3 Watt and 4 Ohms. So, both the amplifier circuitry and the speakers are designed to operate with quite low power output.
The RCA outputs that are used to connect the turntable to powered speakers or a Hi-Fi system outputs a signal at all times. This signal outputted by the RCA outputs is fixed, not adjusted with the volume knob. When connecting powered speakers, the volume has to be adjusted on the speakers. Which is to be expected.
On a high-quality turntable there is usually possible to upgrade many of the parts to enhance the performance of the turntable. It is often possible to upgrade the stylus, cartridge, tonearm, platter, mat, preamp, etc.
On the Victrola Journey, there isn’t really any options for upgrades. Most of the parts are fixed and you will have to be a real scientist and techie to perform any upgrades. In my research on forums, I didn’t really find any popular upgrades to the Victrola at all.
It seems to be a turntable you buy and keep as it is. If you want better performance, you’ll simply have to invest in a new and better turntable.
Victrola: Connecting Speakers
External powered speakers are easily connected to the Victrola turntable using the RCA outputs on the back of the suitcase. The RCA outputs can also be used to connect it to an amplifier, receiver or a mini Hi-Fi system.
When I connect the Victrola to my Edifier R1280DB budget powered speakers, the quality of the sound increases dramatically.
The sound becomes clearer with a lot more volume, bass and punch.
If you fancy decent sound, I think using external speakers for most of your vinyl spinning with the Victrola is a must. It is a very nice option when you spin records at home. I highly recommend investing in external speakers.
You can read more about this in my good powered speakers for Victrola article.
Victrola: Connecting Headphones
Headphones are easily connected using the 3.5mm headphones output on the top of the turntable. When you connect headphones, the speakers turn off and you can use the volume knob to adjust the volume in the headphones.
Using decent headphones is another great way to enhance the sonic experience from the Victrola. The music sounds much better with decent headphones than with the tiny built-in speakers.
Victrola: Using Bluetooth
The Victrola comes with Bluetooth receiver functionality. This means that it can be used as powered speakers for your phone, PC, etc.
You can connect your phone or PC to the Victrola turntable wirelessly and stream the music you have on your phone or PC through the speakers in the Victrola turntable.
When you put the Victrola in Bluetooth mode it, shows up as ‘Vintage Turntable’ in the list of Bluetooth devices on your phone and PC. Then you simply click on ‘Vintage Turntable’ and your phone or PC will connect to the turntable. You can then stream music from your phone or PC to the Turntable.
I think this would have been a nice feature if the sound of the Victrola’s built-in speakers had been bit better. But being of quite poor quality I won’t give the Victrola a great score as a Bluetooth speaker. It connects easily and it works well, but the sound honestly isn’t great.
Victrola: Tracking Force (Does it break records?)
Cheap record players are often accused of damaging records because of their high tracking force. I might even be guilty of making that accusation a few times in older articles here on Vinyl Restart.
When I tried to measure the tacking force on my Victrola it actually overloaded my tracking force gauge. My stylus tracking force gouge can measure tracking force up to 5.0 grams, so the Victrola has higher tracking force than that. In my research I found that the tacking force is around 6.0 grams.
A 6.0 grams tracking force is frankly quite high. Most decent turntables have a tracking force around 2.0 grams.
It is actually proven that the high tracking force of these inexpensive record players put more wear and tear on records than better turntables over time. This is inevitable because the higher tracking force will result in higher friction. And friction causes wear and tear.
It is however not correct to claim that these record players destroy records. That is to take it too far. You’ll have to play a record tens or hundreds of times before any excessive wear on the record can be seen. So, I don’t think you should be afraid to put your records on the Victrola, in general.
However, if you have a record collection of high value that you want to keep in mint condition, it is probably best to not play them on a cheap suitcase-style record player. To be on the safe side.
What are the best alternatives to a vintage Victrola suitcase turntable?
Well, the obvious alternative is the Crosley Cruiser. Which is almost the exact same turntable. Please check out my Crosley Cruiser Review to learn more about the Crosley.
There are also many other all-in-one record players to choose from. They will have quite similar price and performance. Visit our 10 Best Record Players with Speakers article to find our top recommendations.
If you want to go one step up in price, quality and performance, I think the best option is to invest in a standalone turntable and separate powered speakers.
A decent standalone turntable will have a better motor, drive, tonearm and cartridge than the Victrola. And sound better than the Victrola when using the same external speakers.
My top recommendation for an entry-level standalone turntable is the super-popular Audio-Technica AT-LP60X. It is a very good entry-level turntable that is considered best in its class by many Hi-Fi critics and journalists. I own one myself and it has impressed me in many ways. As you can read more about it in my AT-LP60XBT Review.
Great powered speakers to pair with the AT-LP60X is the Edifier R1280DB that I have mentioned a few times in this article already. It is grad budget powered speakers, and they are very popular companions to the AT-LP60X.
Please check out my 10 Best Turntables and 10 Best Powered Speakers articles to see what I think is the absolute best gear at different price points.
I hope my honest review has given you a good overview of the Victrola Vintage Suitcase Turntable.
I think it is an amazing piece of kit for the money.
But it also has big downsides compared to more expensive turntables that it is good to be aware of.
Thank you or reading.
And enjoy your vinyl spinning!