Want to get into vinyl and buy that top turntable, but don't have the necessary passive speakers, cartridge knowledge, pre-amp and power amp plus all of the cabling (and potentially a phono stage) ready to go at home?
It's OK. How about a deck that'll come with everything you need to hook up wirelessly to your existing Sonos system and play warm, smooth analog records anywhere you've got a Sonos speaker? That is what we have here, and it's a gorgeous little Victrola. The keen eyed will note that we covered the official launch of the Victrola Stream Carbon, Victrola's wi-fi ready turntable, in the US.
But dear reader, when I heard about it, my vinyl-loving ears pricked up. I promptly begged for a review sample to be sent across the pond to me, because I have a Sonos Five ready to go and a stack of vinyl yearning to be taken out for a spin.
OK, that part wasn't easy – the deck got held up in customs and a TestFlight version of the Victrola Stream app had to be sent to me since said app is not currently available on these cold shores – but once this simple system is singing, it's a joy.
Victrola is a name synonymous not only with Alanna Myles, Elvis and Jimmy Rodgers (on the Victrola up high!) historically, but with likeable and forward-thinking record players more recently – look to the Revolution Go, the Premiere V1 and the Re-Spin for examples.
However, this model is the 115-year-plus-old company’s first Wi-Fi capable turntable, and the first deck designed specifically to work with existing Sonos speaker systems.
And I'm happy to report that the Victrola Stream Carbon is one of the easiest turntables I've ever set up. Get it out of the box, put the platter on the plinth. Remove a little bit of ribbon you can see through the window – essentially that's the two-speed belt sorted. Add the slip-mat.
Now, slide the bundled Ortofon 2M Red cartridge on the tip of the winsome carbon fiber tonearm and set the counter-weight on the other end – this is easy too since Victrola has given you a placement line. Tighten that up, plug it in and the green light halo on the smooth volume knob will start blinking. And that is your cue to fire up the Victrola Stream app, add your Wi-Fi credentials and see it ready to play on your Sonos system.
I never usually fit the dust cover to my turntables (vibrations incurred by such additional fripperies are the enemy of a needle tracking in wax) but this one is a good-looking thing, if you like them.
What you really need to know though, is that as well as being incredibly easy to set up and use, the Victrola Steam Carbon sounds good. David Bowie's Heroes (the 2017 remaster) was my first port of call, and the keys, synths and boisterous intro in Beauty and the Beast had me jumping up out of my chair to dance. Joe the Lion is smooth, warm, textured and raucous, with Bowie's central vocal just as far back and enveloped in sound as he wanted it to be back in 1977. The "It's Monday" segment, which should be more upfront and central, doesn't disappoint either – far from it.
All in all, I'm loving this simple sound system.
At some point across the course of a glorious afternoon of listening to random flea market vinyl, we needed to use the Sonos to stream an alternative track. No problem. Cue up Tidal on your phone and the Sonos Five obeys. When we're ready, we simply re-set the needle and get back to our records.
Space is at a premium where I live in London, but it probably is in most fledgling vinyl enthusiast's bedrooms – which is why the Victrola Stream Carbon is such a great idea. You don't need to choose between a wireless phone-friendly setup and analog audio, and this should be celebrated.
My prediction is that competing turntable manufacturers will be desperate to gain similar Sonos certification – and rightfully so. But the Victrola Stream Carbon is a window to older, classic hi-fi beautifully merged with Sonos' talented speaker lineup (see the Sonos One or Sonos One SL for other potential partnerships – especially if you want a small stereo setup) and with a few simple taps of an app, the audio from your deck can join you around your home or wherever you've got a Sonos speaker.
To paraphrase the Thin White Duke, this can be my hero, for ever and ever. What d'you say?
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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.