Many, many decades ago when I was a university student funds were in very short supply. As a leaving present, my parents have very kindly bought me a beautiful stereo system, with speakers and a turntable. I vividly remember listening to all my records (mostly Stevie Wonder) in the confines of my student digs. Even though my room was damp, cold and particularly small, I still look back at this period of my life fondly. Years later (2000) Nick Hornby’s acclaimed ‘High Fidelity’ novel was translated into movie form. John Cusack skilfully plays the owner of an old fashioned Chicago record store, which is declining due to an emerging digital age. At the end of the film (as the credits roll) the protagonist plays Stevie Wonder’s amazing ‘I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)’ from the 1972 album ‘Talking Book’. Literally, you could hear every crackle, which at that precise moment epitomized why I love vinyl.
Recently record players are experiencing a renaissance period and there are many exciting models available on the market. However, to experience the warmth of vinyl requires a lot of space because normally you require additional hardware like amplifiers and speakers. That is why I was highly intrigued to discover a revolutionary new all in one system called ‘The+Record Player’ by Plus Audio. The media has been exceptionally positive and reviewers constantly mention the general high quality of sound. Therefore, I was delighted to get the opportunity to test this magnificent product.
In my opinion, the key to great design is overall simplicity and ‘The+Record Player’ certainly conforms to this philosophy. Essentially, Plus Audio have employed world-class product designer Alexander Åhnebrink to create this innovative all in one system. His credentials are highly impressive and he has created products for companies like Paul Smith, Walter Knoll, Thonet, JVC, Samsung etc. Alexander also worked as a senior product/furniture designer (7-years) for Bellini. This expertise was crucial in the development as he has responded to the brief intuitively.
Aesthetically the ‘The+Record Player’ delicately combines timeless retro styling with minimalistic contemporary chic. This isn’t just another generic box by any means. Alexander Åhnebrink has designed a beautifully formed high-performance stereo speaker system that will compliment any home. What makes this product so special is the choice of materials like real wood veneers and brushed aluminium. On the special edition models, consumers are treated to a Carbon Fiber Tonearm by Pro-Ject Audio Systems and a high-end cartridge manufactured by Ortofon of Denmark. For a device of this calibre, the layout is incredibly uncluttered and the front panel only has six buttons.
Certainly ‘The+Record Player’ isn’t a case of style over substance and has been designed especially for discerning audiophiles. The device features an innovative wrap-around 270- degree speaker, that delivers a wonderful rich warm sound quality. The stereo system features a (patent-pending) technology developed by Chief Engineer Bob Hazelwood. Ultimately allows for powerful, low-frequency reproduction (down to 50hz) which eliminates distortions normally due to acoustic feedback. Considering the size and compact nature of this product it definitely is a very enticing prospect indeed.
The model I chose to review was the The+Record Player Special Edition Walnut. I feel the darker tones of the wood veneers are more in keeping with the overall design concept. What amazed me was how easy the stereo was incredibly easy to install. Literally, 30-minutes after it arrived I had unboxed and had paired (via Bluetooth) to my iPhone. Ironically most of the songs on my playlist date back to the 1970s and have been digitally remastered from vinyl. Nevertheless, the sound quality (via 2-way bi-amplified speaker) is really refined and there is a rich depth normally found in much more expensive systems.
There are many high quality, all in one stereo systems on the market but none with an integrated turntable. This is what really separates The+Record Player from its competitors. Certainly, I had heard all the hype about the quality of the turntable and how it was created for audiophiles. Now I had the opportunity to judge for myself and went out immediately to buy a record. As mentioned previously most the of the time I am immersed in a 1970s popular music bubble. My playlist normally comprises, ELO, Jackson Five, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder etc. Therefore, to comprehensively test the capabilities of The+Record Player I wanted to opt for an entirely different genre of music. My final selection was Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30.
As soon as the stylus connected to the vinyl it transported me to a different world. It reminded me of a non-digital era that has almost disappeared. Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30. is a beautiful piece of work that is perfectly showcased on The+Record Player. Every subtle key change is delicately delivered through the innovative speaker system. In fact, if you close your eyes it really feels like you are experiencing a live performance in the confines of your living room. There is something beautiful about removing a record from its sleeve that is similar to winding a mechanical timepiece. Certainly, the record player has had an impact on modern culture in classic movie and TV show. Normally it is featured to illustrate that the protagonist is an appreciator in the finer things in life.
To give a final summary I truly believe The+Record Player really is as good (if not better) than the critics are saying. Ultimately, this product delivers on all fronts. I love the retro styling, superlative sound quality and simplicity of this audio device. For vinyl purists, this is a great device because you can copy your cherished records (via USB) onto your Mac or PC.