Are Victrola Record Players Good?
Victrola record players have been around for over 100 years. Today’s models are more streamlined, with several versions meant to appeal to those on the go. However, if you are looking to buy a new record player, you may wonder if the Victrola brand is worth the investment. Below, we take a look at the history of the Victrola record player and whether or not their current units are worth the investment.
Victrola: Over a Century of Music
Eldridge Johnson founded the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1901. During the early years, the company focused on producing improved phonographs. This included features like tapered tonearms, quieter spring motors, and improved sound boxes.
Through creative advertising, Johnson was able to increase profits quickly. Surviving fierce competition and legal mayhem, Johnson started to experiment with the phonograph in 1905 due to common complaints.
The horn, which many people felt was too big and too easily damaged, was Johnson’s primary concern. Most complaints were made regarding the size and unattractive nature of the large horn, which converted the vinyl dents and ridges into audible sound. To fix this, Johnson folded the horn downward and encased it in a cabinet. In 1906, this wildly popular concept was patented under the copyright name “Victor-Victrola”.
Over the years, different models of the Victor Victrola were produced, each ranging in prices to ensure every family could own one. However, as the electronic radio gained traction, the phonograph and Victrola began to decrease in popularity. Additionally, wartime efforts reduced the economy and impacted production lines across all non-military essential items. The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) bought the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1929 when Johnson grew tired of the industry and decided to retire. At this point, the Victor-Victrola became known as the RCA Victor.
The economic hardships experienced during the Great Depression effectively killed off the phonograph market. However, the RCA Victor began to regain popularity once the economy started to recover. RCA continued to sell the RCA Victor through the late 1960s.
Today, the Victrola has been making yet another comeback. Now owned by Innovative Technology, the modern Victrola is a combination of vintage looks and current technology. Often including Bluetooth technology, compact disc (CD) functionality, and built-in speakers – the Innovative Technology Victrola models combine the past and the present.
A Victrola for Every Budget & Style Preference
Innovative Technology markets their Victrola as a modern version of a retro classic. Whether you are new to vinyl records or an enthusiast, there is a Victrola model fit for you. Below, we take a look at the top three units to help us determine the top praises and complaints from Victrola users around the world.
This is the most budget friendly model that Victrola currently makes. That makes it ideal for anyone new to vinyl or who dabbles in it occasionally. Will you use it to drop sick beats at the next disc jockey (DJ) event? No, not at all. However, if you are looking for something you can tote around or tuck away quickly when not in use – this compact unit comes highly recommended. This lightweight unit receives a lot of praise for the all-inclusive features, like Bluetooth compatibility, three-speed turntable, and built-in speaker. It also comes in quite a few different colors and designs so it can match any persona or décor. The primary complaint, however, does criticize the sound quality coming from the built-in speaker. Built to be lightweight, budget-friendly and easy to use – the speaker took a back seat to providing everything else. It is not a top of the line feature, although the overall quality appears to be “acceptable”. For those who are looking for something with better quality sound, this Victrola may not be for you.
Slightly more expensive, the Victrola Modern gives you a more contemporary look. In keeping with modern technology, this Victrola comes with Bluetooth connectivity. Unlike the Vintage, the Modern comes with detached, rechargeable speakers that can be easily replaced and upgraded. Also unlike the other Victrola models, the Modern is only a two-speed turntable. This version does not come with a dust cover, so if you plan on just listening occasionally, you will likely need to clean the platter to keep your vinyl records safe from dust and dirt particles. A word of caution, however. While this Victrola model looks more in line with the latest DJ set up, these record players are not meant for heavy scratching.
The Victrola Nostalgic Aviator comes in 6-in-1, 7-in-1 and 8-in-1 variants. Heavier than the portable Vintage, these record players are truly reminiscent of the retro design. Like several other models, the Nostalgic Aviator is a three-speed turntable. Modern features, like Bluetooth technology, CD players, cassette players and an AM/FM radio, all make an appearance within the walls of the Nostalgic. This model is a bit on the pricy side, but for those who want something that looks like it came right out of the 20’s – this will do the job beautifully. As with the Vintage, the Nostalgic Aviator is an all-in-one unit. The speakers, again, are amongst the top complaints, although there seem to be issues with the CD functionality for some as well.
Other Victrola Honorable Mentions
While the Vintage, Modern and Nostalgic Aviators seem to be the most popular, there are a few other Victrola models worth mentioning due to their unique looks.
The Victrola 5-in-1 Vintage Tabletop record player gives you that 20’s aviator retro style with a few modern improvements. Lighter in weight that the Nostalgic Aviator models, it is still heavier than the streamlined Vintage. As with the other all-in-one units, the speakers for the Vintage Tabletop are acceptable, but not stellar. The Vintage Tabletop incorporates Bluetooth, CD and a three-speed turntable for a multipurpose unit everyone can use.
The Victrola Wall Mount is another option for those looking for something a little different. (These tend to, again, be a bit on the pricey side for a hobbyist.) More reminiscent of a grandfather clock, this unit comes with protective split doors that open wide to allow you access to a vertically suspended platter. The Bluetooth, CD, and three-speed features including in other Victrola models make yet another appearance in the Wall Mount. Perfect for those tight spaces, the Wall Mount save space while still providing the same functionality of the other all-in-one Victrola products. Again, expect acceptable sound quality only. (If you like the look but do not want to mount it on the wall, this model can also stand on a flat surface.)
A Word of Caution Regarding Innovative Technology’s Customer Service
While the majority of all users seem to be happy with their purchase, those that contact customer service repeatedly report issues with them. According to several buyers across multiple online stores, the customer service leaves much to be desired. If your unit is faulty, Innovative Technology does not issue refunds, even if you have proof of your purchase. (If you received a faulty unit as a gift – you are completely out of luck with Innovative Technology. The proof of purchase is a must!) Instead of the refund, they will agree to ship you a new, replacement unit. However, you must pay for all shipping and handling, including the return of your original purchase in exchange for the new one. Because of the weight of most of these units, you are looking at hefty shipping charges. (For many, this meant they spend more money attempting to get a “replacement” unit than they would just buying a completely new one.)
Victrola Record Player: Final Assessment
As previously stated, the majority of Victrola record player owners are happy with their purchase. While the speakers are not top of the line, they are of an acceptable quality. Will the Victrola be good enough for DJ-ing? No, not by a long shot. Nevertheless, are they good enough for a vinyl hobbyist? Absolutely!
The retro-looking Victrola models make for great bonding memories between the old and young. After all, it is an older technology grandparents can teach the younger generation, with the additional benefits of modern technology incorporations. They are neat gifts for anyone interested in learning more about vinyl, interested in retro décor with a bit of functionality, or into eclectic things. (Just make sure you get a gift receipt!)
Victrola record players have undergone decades of evolutions. From the early days as a Victor Victrola to the new Innovative Technology Victrola, there is a model to fit any budget. For those looking to for serious usage, however, the Victrola will likely disappoint. When used regularly, the lifespan of the Victrola is shortened. While Innovative Technology does sell replacement needles, most complaints regarding faulty CD players or blown speakers occurred within a few months. With a full range of prices, designs, and styles – we recommend the Victrola for hobbyists only.