To start off my vinyl journey (read my first vinyl post), I decided to start at the very bottom: getting a cheap “toy” turntable.
It took me days of comparing all the suitcase turntables and portable versions that were on sale at Carousell before I settled on Gadhouse Brad Black Edition. It looked more premium than the rest and there were not much negative reviews compared to Crosley. This Carousell seller I bought from was a trader and had this unused unit, albeit without warranty.
Compared to the rest of portable turntables I came across at the price range of below S$100 (pre-owned price), the Gadhouse Brad has more features like Bluetooth output to speakers (most other models only support Bluetooth input to the turntable speakers), and pitch control.
Sound Improvement: Replace The Stylus
One of the first things that most vinyl hobbyists recommend is to replace the stylus – also known as the needle – to a better quality. This YouTube video shared a few products that could improve the sound. Instead of buying the “original” and to keep my costs down, I browsed in Shopee to find a couple of identical ones. I found a seller who listed the stylus as “diamond-tipped”, but when it arrived, I looked closely and it appeared to be of same colour as the Gadhouse one. They cost me S$5 a pair.
I managed to find the “flip” stylus which the video claimed to be good. At just S$6, I was very skeptical about the results.
Replacing the red stylus to the gold one is easy, just detach from the same cartridge and snap it back. Replacing the entire cartridge requires some care, as the rear connectors appear to be very fragile.
As it turns out, the flip stylus sounded less bright, narrow imaging, more warmth, less sibilant, probably a poor copy. The gold stylus sounded slightly better than the original red, with less distortion at the upper frequencies, but sonically similar. No massive improvement that I would want to expect.
I also ordered a digital dynamometer to measure the tracking force and made sure it’s not too heavy. As it turns out, the tracking force of the original stylus fluctuates from 4 to 6 grams. I realised that this fluctuation is due to the tonearm being supported by the cue lever: as it swivels from the outer record to the inner record, the tonearm gets further away from the cue lever support mechanism and so the tracking force increases.
RPM Speed Issue
After a few days, I realised a serious flaw: the turntable speed is not consistent. This used to happen for a short while, then the speed got back to normal. As the days went by, the speed issue occurred more frequently, to a point that it caused a bit of an embarrassment as I wanted to demonstrate to my family how cool it was to play vinyl records. It appears it’s not a belt issue, but rather the motor is faulty.
In view of this mechanical defect, I did not want to continue investing more money on this turntable. I am not confident that the next Crosley-type turntable will be free of these issues, so at the back of my head, I was wondering if I should move on to get a “proper” turntable.
Audio-Technica S.E.A. has graciously supported my vinyl interest by loaning me their latest range of turntables, so I will be reviewing them over the coming weeks. I will also discuss whether there are any noticeable difference in the various models.
Portable turntables is a great way to get the uninitiated users to be interested in vinyl, because they look fun, does not take up space, and are self-containing with built-in speakers and some with built-in battery. As it turns out, swapping cartridges are part of the vinyl experience, even for the top-end turntables. So what I did on the Gadhouse Brad is like a practice session before I move on to the expensive stuff.
While the Gadhouse turntable exhibits flaws commonly found on portable turntables, I am still glad I got it to get my hands dirty. It’s inexpensive so I won’t feel the pinch. I didn’t really mind the flat sound quality from the built-in speakers, though. It evokes nostalgia of the 80s when my source of music entertainment is from a cheap radio player.
- Fun to play records with
- All-in-one player
- Portable, compact and easy to store
- Poor audio quality
- Poor build quality
- Increases wear and tear on vinyl records