Now that more people are getting back into playing records, a batch of new companies like U-Turn, Rega and Pro-ject have turned up to introduce their take on the modern turntable.
Add Flexson to that list. The UK-based manufacturer of Sonos accessories has its own turntable called the VinylPlay. Priced at $499 in the US (£330 in the UK, AU$999 in Australia), it has a few tricks up its sleeve that set it apart from your dusty old hi-fi unit: there's a integrated phono stage -- so, unlike many turntables, there's no need to buy an external preamplifier in order to connect it to your standard audio equipment -- and a USB port on the side lets you digitize your old records so you can listen to your archived music on your smartphone.
Flexson isn't the first manufacturer to come up with the idea, though the price suggests it wants customers to believe it did. For example, you can save a lot of money buying the $250 Teac, Pro-Ject and Music Hall all have their own models that have the same deal for around $400 or less.that does all the same things (USB connectivity, and a built in phono preamp), but without the modern design and foolproof setup. In fact,
Still, that doesn't change the fact that the Flexson VinylPlay is generally a well-built turntable that looks great and performs at a standard that both seasoned audiophiles and casual listeners will appreciate. If and when Flexson drops the price somewhat, it'll be much easier to make a case for the VinylPlay against those competitors.
Our first thought when seeing the VinylPlay is that it bears a very strong resemblance to the popular Rega RP1 turntable, borrowing from its minimal design qualities and bearing a very similar tone arm.
When we Flexson to comment on the similarity, the company told CNET that the "VinylPlay is built in the UK by a very reputable turntable manufacturer. That being said, Flexson's design and manufacturing information is proprietary and can't be disclosed."
Regardless, everything about the Flexson VinylPlay is obviously tuned for simplicity. Anyone that has experienced issues with counterweights, grounding buzzes and tracking force misalignments on an older turntable will be supremely thankful that the Flexson doesn't require any of it.
In true plug-and-play fashion, the turntable comes shipped with the location of the counter weight's stopping point clearly labeled on the tone arm, so all you have to do after unpacking the box is push the balance weight as close to that point as possible, then set the bias slider to "2."
It shouldn't take more than 10 minutes to get the whole thing set up if you're using the Audio-Technica cartridge that also comes preinstalled on the unit. You can also upgrade later if you like, but Flexson tells me that you'll forfeit the VinylPlay's one-year warranty if any modifications are done to it within the first year -- that includes replacing the cartridge.
And of course, you'll have to fuss with the counterweight and anti-skate yourself if you do. As it comes, the generic AT cartridge works fine for playing records and I wouldn't have an issue using it for at least a year before upgrading.
The tone arm itself mirrors Rega's classic black three-point cartridge mounting system that extends off the aluminum tube straight down to the bonded headshell. Its cueing platform is ample size and feels comfortable setting the needle down with precision along various parts of a record, and you'll also find a cueing lever next to it along with a small plastic switch that locks the tone arm down into resting position.