Victrola has been fashioning decks for 115 years now but far from resting on its laurels, the Denver Colorado firm wants to lead the high-fidelity turntable revolution via a new lineup of 'hi-res' turntables boasting Qualcomm aptX Adaptive support.
Regular readers will remember our recent Victrola Stream Carbon review (the Sonos-compatible deck I raved about because it makes tangible music so accessible to the vinyl-curious) and the two new Victrola decks look relatively similar to this as well as the Stream Carbon. But despite the similar aesthetics and naming strategies, they are quite different beasts.
Hi-Res Carbon and Hi-Res Onyx expand Victrola’s 'more premium' turntable offerings (although MSRPs of $599 for the Hi-Res Carbon $399 for the Hi-Res Onyx are still very much entry-level figures for the analog audiophile) to promise high-fidelity wired and wireless vinyl experiences, including Bluetooth 5.4 (yes, you read that correctly), Bluetooth LE Audio and aptX Adaptive support.
To clarify, this means the vinyl you're spinning on the Victrola (up hiiiigh) can be pinged to your nearest best Bluetooth speaker – and you could even use the company's own Victrola ME1 or ME2 (which are my pick for a retro-style setup. Yes, even over a Marshall Bluetooth speaker). This solution is unlike the Lenco LS-410, for example, in that the Lenco deck includes a Bluetooth speaker within its build – so the Lenco proposition can receive a Bluetooth signal from an external device such as your phone, the Victrola can transmit the vinyl playing on its platter to your Bluetooth device, which could also be a set of the best wireless headphones (ideally aptX Adaptive enabled ones to get the goods).
Opnion: Victrola adds versatility to vinyl – and I applaud it
For those seeking a more traditional analog listening experience, the Hi-Res models also feature gold-plated RCA outputs for active or powered wired speakers, or integration into component-based systems (eg. a more traditional pre- and power amp combination, hooked up to a set of passive speakers – see our best stereo speakers guide for examples of each).
Victrola tells us that the combination of advanced tech, high-quality materials and an approachable set-up to vinyl was paramount in the development of its Hi-Res turntables.
So let's dig into those! Both the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon and Victrola Hi-Res Onyx feature a low-resonance veneered MDF plinth as well as premium metal turntable components and platter. User-friendly features also include a switchable pre-amp with traditional analog RCA outputs, an auto-stop sensor to prevent stylus wear in addition to custom-designed, removable headshells.
And the differences go beyond the finishes! Additional Hi-Res Carbon Features include a two-tone black and silver body with a metal front plate, vibration dampening carbon-fiber tonearm that places minimal weight on the record and an Ortofon 2M Red moving magnetic cartridge.
Additional Hi-Res Onyx Features aside from the all-black signature Onyx design reminiscent of its name include an aluminum tonearm (a sturdy yet light component) and an Audio-Technica AT-VM95E cartridge.
Victrola Hi-Res Carbon (MSRP: $599) and Hi-Res Onyx (MSRP: $399) are now available for purchase, which means prices start from around £320 or AU$625, although availability and official pricing for these regions is not yet known.
So, is one of these new Hi-Res decks about to feature in our best turntables roundup? Time will tell, but on paper there's an awful lot to like. Having listened at length to the Stream Carbon (which I maintain is the turntable Sonos would make, if only Sonos made such things) I am thrilled to see the design being carried over.
Given the versatility of analog listening plus better quality Bluetooth streaming on offer, if the sound is good, I think Victrola's Hi-Res decks represent excellent value.
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Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.