Victrola Stream Onyx turntable overview: A spin on WiFi hi-fi

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I began testing the Victrola Stream Onyx Works with Sonos turntable the identical means I consider each turntable: selecting an album I do know very properly, choosing my favourite monitor, clearing my head, and listening. This time, nevertheless, issues took a special flip and an atypical flight of stairs. Seconds after the Stream Onyx’s needle hit decades-old wax on the platter in my basement, I heard music taking part in from a very completely different flooring. “I Went to Sleep,” a short breezy waltz the Seashore Boys launched in 1969 on the album 20/20, began taking part in on a sensible speaker above me in the lounge. I used to be stunned, not as a result of I used to be unaware of this function’s existence, however as a result of Victrola’s spin on wi-fi vinyl playback labored so effortlessly and expressively … if you meet particular necessities indicated within the product’s title and delivered in its efficiency.

The construct

For essentially the most half, the $599 Victrola Stream Onyx appears like all commonplace turntable, simply with edges a bit extra rounded off. Its matte black plinth appears glossy, its fashionable aesthetic complemented by a silicone slipmat and aluminum tonearm. It’s a solid-feeling 12.13 kilos. And the included mud cowl is a custom-shaped defend that matches straight above the platter and tonearm quite than an oblong cover clipping to the again and hovering over the whole document participant.

Victrola opted to outfit the Stream Onyx with the Audio-Technica AT-VM95E cartridge. That is completely high-quality, although we’d have preferred to see them go for or supply the Ortofon 2M Purple as an alternative. That cartridge, which I’ve auditioned in previous critiques, gives wonderful sonic and monitoring efficiency. It additionally gives a transparent improve path to the higher-end Ortofon 2M Blue by letting you swap out the Elliptical diamond for a Nude Elliptical diamond stylus, increasing the high-frequency response from 20,000 Hz to 25,000 Hz with a single half quite than having to spend extra to exchange a complete cartridge. Nonetheless, the Audio-Technica gives a extremely competent, low-distortion, entry-level Elliptical diamond stylus and you’ll at all times experiment with the six interchangeable styli within the A-T household or get a completely completely different transferring magnet cartridge later for those who need.

Victrola Stream Onyx turntable review: A spin on WiFi hi-fi
The Stream Onyx’s tone arm and cartridge held of their pure resting place.

A 2-speed, belt-driven, semi-automatic turntable, the Stream Onyx will start spinning a document whenever you transfer its tonearm—with its simply adjustable counterweight—over a document. And it’ll cease the document from spinning when you’ve reached the tip of a facet. Nevertheless, this turntable doesn’t have auto-return, which means the tonearm is not going to return to its authentic resting place as soon as the music is completed. You’ll have to boost, decrease, and transfer the tonearm by your self, which is made simpler by the turntable’s cue lever, which raises the needle above the album so you’ll be able to decrease it down on the suitable spot with precision. A dial on high of the turntable helps you to change between 45 and 33 1/3 RPM data, and Victrola contains an adapter so you’ll be able to play classic 7 inches with no drawback.

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Flip the turntable round and also you’ll see commonplace RCA (pink and white) outputs and a grounding peg. There’s additionally a common “figure-eight” energy port. We respect that Victrola opted for this strategy quite than an influence twine soldered in as a result of you’ll be able to swap out the cable for simply over $5 if yours will get by chance broken.

Up to now, the whole lot appears fairly commonplace … till you discover the Ethernet jack, the primary indication that this turntable is designed to be networked, whether or not through cable or WiFi. That’s additionally associated to the turntable’s different eye-catching factor: the illuminated management knob on its entrance panel, with a white LED ring that enhances the “Victrola” brand, which lets you change the quantity and output zone as a result of the Stream Onyx is meant to combine seamlessly with Sonos linked audio system. Sure, you may already broadcast these black circles by wedging a Sonos Port into an current stereo system, however the Stream Onyx is a way more elegant resolution.

The setup

Victrola has been within the enterprise of creating audio tools since 1901, and it’s used the previous 122 years to streamline its turntable setup course of. The Stream Onyx solely took a few half-hour from unboxing to establishing my first document, together with connecting it to your Sonos ecosystem by way of the Victrola app. Victrola gives written directions, however for those who’re a visible learner like myself, you need to reference the corporate’s unboxing and setup video on the backside of the web page for the Stream Carbon, the Onyx’s extra luxe $799 sibling (which incorporates that covetable Ortofon 2M Purple talked about above). The Stream Onyx comes nearly fully assembled out of the field, with solely a handful of simple steps wanted to finish the job.

First, I positioned the turntable’s platter on high of its deck, aligning the spindle under with a cutout within the platter. Subsequent, I connected a belt that was taped to the highest of the platter onto a spindle under. Then I positioned a silicone placemat on high of the platter and connected an adjustable counterweight to the tonearm. The counterweight was the proper weight for this tonearm, so it was pointless to regulate it as soon as it was securely in place.

Lastly, I eliminated the headshell from its packaging and plugged it into the entrance of the tonearm. From there, it was solely a matter of plugging the Stream Onyx into an outlet utilizing the included cable and inserting the 45 adapter instead subsequent to the pace choice knob. All of those steps are just like those you’d observe when establishing any belt-driven turntable, though the truth that the belt was already on the platter saved quite a lot of time and frustration.

Victrola Stream Onyx turntable review: A spin on WiFi hi-fi
Victrola’s cell app helps you to route your audio output to a Sonos speaker. Brandt Ranj / Well-liked Science

With the bodily a part of the Stream Onyx all discovered, I moved on to establishing its digital element. It’s price mentioning that, at this level, the turntable was absolutely useful and, with its built-in preamp, could possibly be linked to a receiver or powered audio system with none points. If you happen to like the concept of getting a document participant that would play music wirelessly to a number of audio system in several rooms, however haven’t picked up any Sonos gear, the Stream Onyx remains to be price contemplating as a way of futureproofing your audio setup and providing you with extra connectivity choices down the road.

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Connecting the turntable to a Sonos speaker already on my community was simpler than I initially thought, because of Victrola’s easy—albeit sterile-looking—app, which is obtainable on each iOS and Android. (The turntable additionally integrates with the Sonos app.) The app immediately acknowledged my turntable and requested me to offer my WiFi password to attach it to my wi-fi community (the Victrola Stream Onyx and your Sonos audio system have to be on the identical community to speak).

As soon as my turntable was added to the community, I may choose the default Sonos speaker it ought to play music from. Each within the app and by urgent the quantity knob in, you’ll be able to select a bunch of Sonos audio system to play music concurrently in several elements of your own home or in true stereo. I chosen my Sonos Period 100, and the app let me know my turntable was paired to the speaker so I may instantly begin to play data. The Victrola app additionally means that you can replace the Stream Onyx’s firmware, to see its sign energy to a speaker, and it’ll allow you to regulate the latency (lag) between the 2 gadgets. Decrease latency means much less time will elapse between whenever you drop the needle and whenever you hear music. Nonetheless, if the connection between the turntable and speaker is weak, it might lower out, which is why including a multi-second buffer could possibly be helpful.

I by no means skilled any technical difficulties throughout my testing, however my multi-router Eero community helps speeds of as much as 1Gbps, because of my web plan. If you happen to usually get slower throughput, your greatest wager could also be to arrange the Stream Onyx beside your cable supplier’s modem and join these two gadgets with an Ethernet cable.

Victrola Stream Onyx turntable review: A spin on WiFi hi-fi
The Victrola Stream Onyx turntable in a extra conventional stereo setup with Fluance Ai61 audio system. Brandt Ranj / Well-liked Science

The sound

Judging the sound of a turntable might be troublesome as a result of so many variables can impression it. The album you’re listening to, the actual urgent, its situation, your stereo receiver, your cartridge, the situation of your needle, the floor and damping the place you set your turntable, your audio system, their positioning, and even the scale and form of your room all should be thought of. All that being mentioned, I had a good time throughout my testing interval with the Victrola Stream Onyx. I listened to a range album, from the aforementioned authentic urgent of the Seashore Boys album to the current reissue of the Fountains of Wayne compilation Out-of-State Plates.

Victrola’s counterweight offered sufficient pressure to maintain the needle from skating off a groove even throughout the occasional pop, however by no means dug in so deeply as to break the LP. Analog recordings I listened to sounded higher than newer ones recorded digitally and transferred to tape after the blending and mastering phases. I puzzled whether or not the area Victrola devoted to wi-fi elements contained in the Stream Onyx would impression its efficiency, however that didn’t appear to matter very a lot.

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The most important check was how the identical album sounded when it streamed to the Sonos Period 100 in comparison with when it was straight linked to a pair of bookshelf audio system, on this case Fluance’s Ai61s. Victrola’s app means that you can flip between two modes: “Switching” will solely play music by way of a Sonos speaker even when the turntable is hardwired to an audio system, whereas “Simultaneous” will route audio to each on the identical time. I listened to the identical music on each programs individually and concurrently (the latter was admittedly a cacophonous expertise).

The powered speaker system ended up successful out, however the struggle wasn’t completely honest. The Sonos Period 100 can play music in true stereo because of its twin angled tweeter array, nevertheless it couldn’t beat the true separation of separate left and proper audio system positioned a few ft other than each other. The drivers on the Ai61s are additionally fairly a bit greater, which allowed me to listen to a bit of extra low and high-end. Whereas this matchup deprived the Period 100, the variations in efficiency weren’t as nice as I might have anticipated. There was some element loss when listening by way of a Sonos speaker, however that will likely be true when streaming music to any Bluetooth or wi-fi audio tools. Victrola doesn’t present the Stream Onyx’s most bitrate, however the Period 100 can play 16-bit audio at as much as a 48 kHz pattern price—a constancy WiFi can simply accommodate.

Total, the sound popping out of the Sonos Period 100 was extremely pleasing. There was nonetheless a few of that analog “heat” that has extra to do with the best way the albums I listened to have been recorded and mastered than anyone factor within the sign chain. It’s attention-grabbing how the outcomes of this check will change over time have been I to attempt the bigger multidirectional Sonos Period 300 or future Sonos upgrades (the 5 is beginning to look a bit lengthy within the tooth). The variations between listening to music by way of a standard audio system vs. wirelessly will solely get narrower.

Victrola Stream Onyx turntable review: A spin on WiFi hi-fi
Victrola’s Stream Onyx with its mud cowl on. Brandt Ranj / Well-liked Science

The conclusion

With the introduction of the Victrola Stream Onyx, wi-fi audio has taken one other Borg-like step to assimilate items of the audiophile world—by way of headphones and good audio system and now turntables. Resistance is futile certainly. The transfer from Bluetooth, an inherently restricted wi-fi streaming commonplace, to WiFi, which gives much better constancy and stability over a better vary, is a big sea change.

Sure, the Stream Onyx is just suitable wirelessly with Sonos audio system, that are costlier than your common Bluetooth occasion audio system, however this choice ensures a baseline of audio constancy. Quite than worrying about how the Stream Onyx would possibly sound on 1000’s of audio system, Victrola solely has to check it with a handful. And the Sonos dedication to sound high quality underscores the validity of this strategy. If you happen to’re open to a closed system and have an LPs listening station however need the liberty to take pleasure in data all through your own home, it’s onerous to not see the Victrola Stream Onyx Works with Sonos turntable as the most suitable choice for you proper now.