If you walked among the many audio vendors here at CES this week, you’d see that most have at least one vinyl turntable. It’s enough to make you feel like you've been transported back in time to the late 1970s or early 1980s—instead of the usual CES effect of being thrust forward in time to some futuristic tech dream world.
There’s a reason for this explosion of record players: According to a recent Nielsen report on the U.S. music market, Americans are falling in love with vinyl LPs again. “Vinyl stayed strong,” says Neilsen, “as sales of LPs hit a new record in 2015—nearly 12 million units. This marks the 10th straight year of vinyl sales growth.” Earlier this year, the Recording Industry Association of America revealed that vinyl showed a 52 percent increase year-over-year (while the streaming business climbed just 27 percent).
Those kinds of numbers are driving many manufacturers, from start-ups to established brands like Sony, to bring new turntables to the market. However, the new models are not entirely like the old ones.
For example, the new Sony PS-HX500 (no price yet, but it’s expected to be available this spring) has audio outputs that let you connect (via a wired connection) to speakers and play your vinyl the way you normally would in back in the good old days. But Sony is also marketing this product as a premium Hi-Res audio product, which means there’s some higher end, new technology involved, as well. The new record player comes with a built-in A/D converter, which Sony says, “supports hi-res digital transfers in either native DSD (up to 5.6 MHz) or WAV files (up to 192 KHz/24-bit resolution).” What this means is that users can digitally convert their music via included software from vinyl by hooking up the turntable to a computer. Once the audio has been captured on the computer, consumers can then play the files on most of Sony's compatible Hi-Res Audio devices...which, of course, cost extra.
And Sony’s not alone. Panasonic, which owns the Technics brand, has announced that the SL-1200G, a high-end, direct-drive turntable, will come to market this summer. It echoes a classic Technics model long loved by DJs and hardcore music lovers. According to the company, the turntable will consist “of three layers of brass, aluminum die-cast and deadening rubber, which have improved rigidity and realized highly stable rotation.” Like Sony, Panasonic had a prototype of this model in its Technics showroom on the CES show floor, and it was an impressive looking piece of hardware. There’s no price on this model yet, but it’s expected to be expensive.
As I mentioned, smaller companies are manufacturing turntables, too. Flexson (see the photo at the top of this article) has introduced two VinylPlay turntables—a higher-end turntable (VP3) and a more affordable version (VP1). Pricing and release date are still pending for both, but they’ll probably be priced around several hundred dollars.What makes these turntables unique is that they’re meant to work with the Sonos wireless speaker system.
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