I have recently spent a lot of time testing and comparing my Crosley Cruiser and Victrola Journey vintage suitcase turntables.
How do these vintage suitcase-style record players perform and match up? What are their similarities and differences?
I found the Victrola and the Crosley record players to be very similar in design, performance, features and user friendliness. One difference I found between the two is that the Victrola sounds slightly clearer through the speakers. The biggest downside with both of them is a lack of deep bass, which is inevitable with such small speakers.
There are few minor details I like better with the Victrola on top of the better sound. The lock latch for the suitcase looks nicer on the Victrola in my opinion, and the suitcase doesn’t open accidentally as it has done a few times on the Crosley. I also think the speaker grills have a nicer finish on the Victrola. These differences are however minor details. The two turntables are almost identical.
Common for both of them is that their sound quality is dramatically enhanced when I hook them up to affordable powered speakers. They actually sound far better than I had expected when I connect them to my Edifier R1280DB powered speakers. Using external speakers is a nice option when you spin records at home. If you fancy better sound.
They both look super cool, and I have to give them credit for their designs and for introducing vinyl records to lots of new people every year.
The Victrola and the Crosley are usually similarly priced.
Alright, enough intro, let’s dig into the details.
When I swap between listening to the Crosley and the Victrola, I find that the sound is a tiny bit clearer on the Victrola. Both voices and instruments sound better on the Victrola. I hadn’t really expected this difference, but it is definitely there.
When I opened up the cabinets, I found that the Victrola have slightly beefier speakers. Bigger driver magnets. This might explain the difference in sound quality. More on this later.
The overall sound quality is however not great from any of them, if I am totally honest. This is to be expected due to their small speakers and low price. They would have to bend the laws of physics to sound fantastic.
The good thing is that hooking up even very affordable powered speakers increases the sound quality a lot. And honestly make them sound quite decent, considering their low price.
Connecting External Speakers
Connecting separate speakers to the Victrola and Crosley is very easy.
On both the Victrola and Crosley there are two RCA connectors at the back that output a line-level signal that is compatible with powered speakers as well as amplifiers and receivers.
When testing with my budget Edifier R1280BT powered speakers, I cannot hear any difference to the sound between the Crosley and the Victrola. The Victrola sounds best of the two when using their built-in speakers, but with external speakers the two turntables sound exactly the same in my ears.
NB! They will not work with Bluetooth speakers. Their Bluetooth functionality is to connect music sources (smartphone, PC, etc.) and not to connect Bluetooth headphones or speakers. So external speakers must be connected with a signal cable.
(Update: The new Plus versions has Bluetooth output and connects wireless to Bluetooth speakers.)
These record players are definitely the cheapest and cutest record players I own. It is easy to understand why they are loved by so many.
The Crosley and Victrola designs are very similar. You’ll have to look carefully to find small details that convey that these are not the exact same product.
They have the same size, many of the same color options and the layout is almost identical. The texture of the suitcase materials is also very similar.
The buttons and knobs on the Victrola which is a little bit bigger and better marked than the Crosley. But this is tiny details.
The grills that cover the speakers are a fraction nicer looking on the Victrola in my eyes.
I also like the turquoise color of my Victrola better than the purple color of the Corsley. But that is just a coincidence. Both of these can be had in a trillion different colors.
The Crosley and Victrola come with exactly the same key features. There is no reason to favor one over the other based on features.
Their key features include:
- 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.
Internals and Tech
Let’s take a look on the inside. Do they use the same parts and tech?
Both the Crosley and Victrola use a YD3412 amplifier circuit to drive their speakers. This is an all-in-one amplifier circuit that can output 3 Watt.
The speakers in both units are marked 3 Watt and 4 Ohms.
The speakers in the Victrola do however look a bit beefier than the speakers in the Crosley. They have a noticeably bigger magnet. This might explain why I found that the Victrola sounds a bit better than the Crosley.
They use the exact same motor to drive the tonearm assembly units looks exactly the same in both units. But they seem to use different platters. Their patters are very similar, but not exactly the same.
In sum, there are no major differences in their design, tech or materials. They are clearly built based on the exact same design philosophy. You have to look very carefully to see the differences.
It is not possible to favor either of them when it comes to perceived build-quality. Just as with the design, the materials and mechanics are very similar between the two. More or less identical.
I guess I have to wait and see to find out which one that breaks down first.
We have to keep in mind that these are highly affordable turntables. More or less the cheapest you will find. And the build quality will inevitable be compromised compare to more expensive products.
A good midrange or high-end turntable will often last for decades. I am not sure if we can expect that form these highly affordable models. They are definitely cheaply built. Which they have to be to sell so cheaply.
I also have to give them the same score on user friendliness. Being so similar products, there are no real difference in how to use them.
They are both super-easy to use, and the included user guides explain everything you’ll need to know to use them in a good way.
The unboxing and setup process are also extremely simple. You can more or less remove the box, connect to power, and start spinning records. The box includes absolutely everything you need to start playing records.
When I tried to measure the tracking force of the Victrola and Corsley, I got the result that I was expecting to see.
Both of them overloaded my stylus tracking force gouge which can measure tracking force up to 5.0 grams.
That means that their tracking force is higher than 5 grams. From research, I found that their tracking force is actually 6 grams. One gram more than my gauge can measure.
In layman terms, this means that they put significantly more force on the records than what higher quality record players do. More expensive record players usually have a tracking force around 2.0 grams.
The high tracking force means that the needle pushes harder on the record and causes more friction. Which again is reported to create more wear and tear on records over time.
For the casual vinyl spinner, this is probably nothing to worry that much about. You will have to play a record many times before there is a noticeable difference in wear and tear.
But if you have a record collection of high value that you want to keep in mint condition, it is probably best to not invest in a cheap suitcase-style record player. To be on the safe side.
Both the Victrola and the Crosley have a 3.5mm jack output to connect wired headphones. I found this to work well on both of them.
When connected to headphones, the speakers are deactivated, and you can use the volume knob to control the volume in the headphones.
They will however not work with Bluetooth headphones. The Bluetooth functionality is to connect music sources (smartphone, PC, etc.) and not to connect Bluetooth headphones or speakers. So only wired headphones will work.
(Update: The new Plus version has Bluetooth output and connects wireless to Bluetooth headphones.)
When testing with headphones, I experienced a huge step up in bass response. Decent headphones deliver much deeper bass than the speakers that are built in.
Use as Bluetooth speaker
Both the Victrola and Closely come with a Bluetooth feature. Note that this is Bluetooth input, Not Bluetooth output. It enables you to connect a smartphone or PC wirelessly and use the record player as a wireless speaker.
(Update: The new Plus version has Bluetooth output and connects wireless to Bluetooth speakers.)
It is a nice feature and both of them are easy to pair with my smartphone.
Suitcase-style record players get a lot of stick from vinyl enthusiasts and audiophiles for sounding bad and being of low quality. I am even guilty of being a bit harsh in some of my other blog posts here at Vinyl Restart.
After spending a decent amount of time with these super-cute record players, I do however think that the critic might be a bit unfear.
These record players deserve a lot of credit for getting many new people into vinyl each year. And for someone that fancy their cute looks and charming vibe over sound quality, they might very well be perfect.
That said, what is the best alternative to suitcase-style record players if you want better sound quality on a budget?
In my opinion, that is clearly to buy an entry-level standalone turntable and entry-level powered speakers. My favorite combo, which I personally own, is to pair the fantastic Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBK with the amazing Edifier R1280Ts powered speakers. You can read more about this in my How To play Vinyl Records on a Budget article.
This setup will cost about three times as much as a suitcase-style record player. But it will also sound a lot better and give you a feel of being of higher quality every time you use it.
The Crosley and Victrola suitcase-stye record players are extremely similar products. If I had to pick a favorite, I would probably go for the Victrola due to the slightly better sound. But there is not a big difference between the two.
There are mainly four things I like a tiny bit better with the Victrola:
- It sounds a bit clearer
- The lock latch secures better on Victrola
- I think the dials on the Victrola is a bit nicer done
- The finish of the grills that covers the speakers looks nicer or the Victrola
After spending a lot of time with these record players I have started to understand why they are so popular.
I think they are amazing for their price and purpose. They sound far worse than I would personally prefer. But that doesn’t stop thousands of people from loving them. And some of the poor sound can be fixed with external powered speakers.
These are not audiophile products. And must be reviewed for what they are.