You’ll probably have seen the Crosley name at your local millennial-focused clothing store (cough, Urban Outfitters), which carry the company’s entry-level turntables. While these suitcase-shaped turntables look funky and don't cost much, they leave a lot to be desired when it came to audio quality.
But Crosley seems bound and determined to change that appearance: With the $400 (£350, about AU$449) Crosley C10, the company shows that it's serious about appealing to those of us with hi-fi aspirations.
That said, from the specs, the Crosley C10 is a real contender in the entry-level audiophile turntable category: The C10 is belt driven for reduced vibration, features a stiff aluminum tonearm to fight resonance and features an aluminum platter to further fight unwanted vibration.
After spending over a week with the turntable, we came away very impressed with Crosley has to offer. Our takeaway? While the Crosley C10 is by no means the last word in resolution, detail, or imaging, it offers a hell of a lot of sound for the money and is one of the best entry-level hi-fi turntables you can buy today.
If the Crosley C10 looks familiar to you, that’s because it’s basically a rebranded Pro-Ject Debut III turntable. In fact, Pro-Ject builds the turntable and has its name featured prominently on the tonearm. However, the rest of the turntable is Crosley branded, including the belt, which you’ll have to remove the platter to get to for speed changes.
Our review unit came in a nice “natural” wood color that looks like birch. The plinth itself isn’t made of birch though, but MDF with a wood-like look on the outside. As mentioned previously, the Crosley C10 is belt driven, which helps to separate the turntable motor vibration from being heard through the platter and picked up by the needle.
The tonearm is made of aluminum and features a weight for anti-skate, which is the force required to combat the needle’s natural inclination to move toward the center of the record. There are 3 settings for anti-sake and it’s dead-simple to adjust. The counterweight is equally easy to adjust by leveling the tonearm, setting the dial to zero and turning the weight to desired tracking force, which is 1.75g for the included Ortofon OM 5E cartridge.
Around the back of the turntable you’ll find a power outlet for the included wall-wart power supply and your RCA and ground leads. You won’t find an included phono preamp here, however, so you’ll have to provide your own. This is a little annoying if you were expecting one in the box but a cheap phono preamp can be added for relatively little money.
The Crosley C10 sounds really good out of the box, thanks to the excellent Pro-Ject tonearm, vibration control and Ortofon OM 5E cartridge. Sound is full, balanced, and relaxed. The OM 5E is by no means the last word in resolution but it’s a great introduction of what good sound should sound like.
Likewise, imaging is good but a lot of the sound quality will also depend on the phono preamp you pair with the Crosley C10. Our Vincent Audio PHO-8 did a good job of quieting record noise and providing a spacious sound.
While overall sound quality may be dependent on your phono preamp, the foundation here is very good. Damping is quite solid, though we found the Fluance RT81 better at cancelling out footfalls. However, Pro-Ject’s excellent motor isolation means you won’t hear any hum from through the platter.
The tonearm and Ortofon cartridge are very good at tracking records though it’ll have trouble tracking less than perfectly pressed records at times.
The Crosley C10 turntable is an excellent beginner turntable for those who are serious about sound. Although it’s a rebranded Pro-Ject Debut III, the Crosley C10 remains an excellent value for those looking to get into hi-fi sound for the least amount of money possible. While the Fluance RT81 offers a built-in preamp for around the same price, the Crosley C10 sounds better because of the included Ortofon OM 5E cartridge. Additionally, the Crosley C10 will scale better with modifications down the line compared to the Fluance.
For the money, you get a solid foundation for a record player and can easily scale up its performance with modifications like a heavier acrylic platter (which Pro-Ject sells), better phono cartridge and phono preamp. It’s easy to set up and it’s build quality will last for years.
Overall, we feel the Fluance RT81 is a more complete package out of the box thanks to its included phono preamp. Or, if you can only find the Crosley C10 at its $400 (£360, around AU$500) list price, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is a better buy thanks to its carbon fiber tonearm and Ortofon 2M Red cartridge.