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Crosley’s flagship turntable wows the Audiophiliac

If you’re thinking about getting into vinyl in a serious way with limited funds, the Crosley C10 turntable is a good place to start.

Call me an audio snob, but I never thought Crosley turntables were in the same league as Audio Technica, Music Hall, Pro-Ject, Rega or U Turn turntables. Crosley's seemed to come from a different, less audiophile oriented mindset, so when I heard they were getting serious about competing in that market I was curious. I kept putting off getting one in for review, but now's the time to spin a few LPs on the $399 Crosley C10 turntable, and a quick price check at Amazon found them selling it for $299 with free shipping for Prime customers.

The Crosley C10 turntable.

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Build quality is very respectable for a turntable in this price class. The C10 is a two speed, belt-drive design that plays LPs and 45 rpm singles. My sample's medium-density fiberboard base is finished with a light real-wood veneer, but the C10 is also available in mahogany. The turntable's aluminum tonearm, which is marked "Pro-Ject" on the arm tube, comes with a premounted Ortofon OM5e moving-magnet phono cartridge. The C10 also features a metal platter, which is a cut above the particle board platters I see on some budget turntables. The platter spins on a stainless steel and bronze bearing with a Teflon bottom plate. The turntable is topped off with a clear plastic dust cover.

The C10 is manufactured by Pro-Ject for Crosley, so it's no surprise this turntable is similar to Pro-Ject's Debut III turntable. I think the C10's real wood finishes look more upscale than the gloss or satin color finished Debut IIIs, but I never heard the 'III, so I can't comment about any sound differences between the two 'tables. I doubt there is one.

The C10 is a manual turntable, so after you put a record on the platter you have to start the motor, position the tonearm over the LP, lower the tonearm, and at the end of the side, raise the arm and return it to its rest. "Automatic" turntables like the Audio Technica AT LP60 do the arm raising and lowering stuff automatically. To change platter speeds from 33.3 to 45 rpm you'll need to remove the platter, which takes literally just a few seconds, and move the drive belt to a different position on the motor pulley. Like I said, it's a manual turntable.

The Crosley C10 turntable, shown with the Pro-Ject Acryl-It platter.

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The C10 is the first turntable I've reviewed in the new CNET listening room, and the sheer analogness of the sound made me smile. Up to that very moment I had only heard digital audio at CNET, now with the C10 hooked up to a Rotel RA-1592 amplifier and ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 speakers music was more engaging and more fun to listen to than CDs and files. I usually, but not always, prefer analog over digital sound quality -- a sentiment has been expressed by lots of other turntable owners.

Playing vinyl is a more hands-on experience than streaming music where hours-long playlists take music choices literally out of your hands. When I play vinyl I'm usually thinking about the next record I'll play, and what makes sense musically. 

One of the first LPs I played was the recently released Frightnrs album, "Nothing More To Say." They're a young reggae band with a vintage rocksteady beat, and their grooves ran deep with vocals that sounded downright soulful. 

With "Too Much Love" from "LCD Soundsystem" the sound was lively and clear, but bass definition was a little soft, so I experimented with using a Pro-Ject Acryl-It platter ($129) on the C10. It's sold separately, and definitely not officially a C10 part, it's for Pro-Ject's Debut line of turntables. No matter, the Acryl-It fit perfectly on the C10 and the overall sound was better and bass definition firmed up, compared with what I heard with the metal platter.

Summing up, the Crosley C10 turntable was pretty good from the get-go, but if you ever get the urge to improve the sound go ahead and upgrade the phono cartridge or get the Acryl-It Platter. Then again, if you can splurge for even better sound the $675 Rega Planar 2 turntable would be worth considering.