I don’t consider myself an enthusiast. For many years, my main headset was just the wired earbuds that came with the phone. It is difficult for me to tell the difference between MP3 and FLAC.But I bought one recently U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus Turntable, a pair Kanto YU4 Speakers and a few vinyl records on eBay. How did this happen?
It all started almost ten years ago, when I joined their fan club that might be the Giants. For the annual fee, the band will not only send bumper stickers and T-shirts to members, but also send members a few 7-inch singles and occasional 12-inch LPs. Two years later, I accumulated some mini vinyl records that I couldn’t play.
Not wanting to spend a lot of money, I decided to see what the fuss was about and buy a cheap Crosley Cruiser Deluxe (you know, every millennial hipster bought it in his suitcase a few years ago) . My expectations of $50 were not high, but somehow it was still far below those expectations, even in my untrained ears, it sounded thin and flat, and it sounded terrible.
But this experience is surprisingly fascinating: setting a record on a plate, watching it spin and witnessing the pointer turning its grooves into sound is a kind of hypnosis. Playing records also reminds me of my childhood, when I would spend a few hours in the bedroom listening to cassette tapes and CDs and reading liner notes. I get lost in the music in a way that the random playlist on Spotify cannot be fully copied.
I looked around for higher quality turntables, but the only thing I could find at the time was far beyond my price range. I am also unwilling to spend more money on additional equipment such as amplifiers, preamps, and speakers. In addition, I am not entirely convinced that my non-enthusiast ears can tell the difference between vinyl records and digital records. It doesn’t seem worth it.
But as time passed, I secretly yearned for one. I know it sounds superficial, but to me the turntable looks pretty cool. In addition, Vinyl has experienced a resurgence Today, it is not uncommon for artists to release special edition LPs with album illustrations and bonus tracks, and these albums are not available elsewhere. To say that I am pretentious, but have some tangible and beautiful things, and at the same time support the idea of the artist I love, really attracts me.
Then in 2020, amidst the frenzy caused by isolation, I decided it was time to finally succumb to the desire for vinyl that had been forming for years. After a lot of research (including reading reviews and watching YouTube videos), I chose a setting that can provide a combination of affordability, design, and quality, at least in line with my taste and budget.
I knew right away that I wanted U-Turn Audio’s Orbit Plus ($309) as a turntable. It is not as cheap as the company’s own Orbit Basic ($200), but it is still relatively affordable compared to some high-end turntables on the market. Of course, one of the main reasons I chose U-Turn Audio is the sleek and minimalist design of the company’s hardware. I choose Plus instead of Basic because its acrylic platter can achieve a more consistent speed. It is also equipped with an Ortofon OM5E cartridge, which I have read can provide a more neutral and balanced sound.
As someone who has never set up a turntable before, I was impressed by how easy it is to assemble U-Turn Audio. When I received it, the tonearm and cartridge were already in place. All I have to do is place the plates, mats and belts, connect the appropriate plugs, and then I can start working in a little more than five minutes. In addition, changing the speed between 33 rpm and 45 rpm is as easy as sliding a belt into another pulley groove.
Another thing I like about Orbit Plus is its customizability. It has a variety of different eye-catching colors, if I want, I can choose to replace the ink cartridges in exchange for better quality things. I can also add a built-in phono preamp (needed to amplify the signal from the cartridge to your amplifier or speakers) or include a cue bar that lowers and raises the tonearm. Keep in mind that adding these different options (except for color changes) will cost extra. For example, after adding a preamplifier, the price of Orbit Plus will increase to $379.
I did not use the preamplifier on the Orbit Plus because the speaker I chose was Kanto YU4, which has one built-in. I decided not to use separate components, such as amplifiers or separate phono preamps, because I wanted to keep the setup simple and use as few equipment as possible. Active speakers like YU4 allow me to do it. In fact, the versatility of YU4 is one of the reasons I like it so much. It has RCA and AUX input, optical input, USB charging port, subwoofer output and Bluetooth function. Because of the latter function, I also often use YU4 as a computer speaker.
More importantly, YU4s is so good-looking. It has a modern and minimalist design, and I think it works perfectly with Orbit Plus. I currently place YU4 on both sides of it, and I am very satisfied with the way they are put together. Most importantly, I found that the price of YU4 ($370) is also very reasonable, especially for all its features.
As a self-proclaimed non-enthusiast, I found the audio quality of the entire setup to be very satisfactory. The treble is crisp, and the volume is enough to fill the entire room. One problem I would complain about is that Kanto YU4’s bass is a bit lacking. It’s there, but it’s not as heavy as I want it to be. Kanto does sell a separate subwoofer for extra bass, but for $300, I think I can do without it.
Since I bought the turntable, I have spent many nights sitting in my room listening to the entire album without interference from the phone or computer. I even like the ritual of cleaning each record and putting them back in the sleeves. For me, this has become a form of self-care of meditation. Is it too precious? Will this make me a fashionable person? I will not pretend that it is at least a bit boring. But now, in a pandemic, I will take whatever self-care I can get.
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