Victrola vs Crosley Turntables (or Neither?) – My Honest Take!

Author: Brian Campbell | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Having vinyl records without a turntable is like having a car with no wheels. While they make for great decorations, to get any functional use out of them, you need something to play them … obviously!

Personally, I collected records long before I ever got a turntable. They were fun to decorate with, but I knew I was saving money to get a turntable someday (because I was a college student, which equals broke!)

When I finally did buy a turntable, most of my options boiled down to two companies: Victrola and Crosley. Not only are they famous for turntables, but both companies have been influential in the music industry for over a century.

But we all know fame doesn’t always equal quality. In this article, I’ll look at each company’s legacy and their products. Additionally, I’ll discuss what to look for in a quality turntable, and several models worth considering.

Victor Talking Machine Company, and the Beginnings of Victrola

We’ll begin with Victrola since they started first.

Victrola began as a gramophone company in New Jersey in 1906. At the time, they were called the “Victor Talking Machine Company.”

Considering the first vinyl records were produced in 1887, and audio equipment remained expensive to make, the Victor Talking Machine Company helped establish the vanguard of music production. In fact, the gramophone itself was invented by their company.

If you don’t know what a gramophone is by name, you’ll probably recognize it by description: it’s a small wooden box with a crank arm attached, and the sound blares out of a giant metal cone. For it to work, you have to manually crank the arm. Chances are, you’d recognize pictures of it from movies and RCA’s famous dog logo.

Immediately, we can see Victrola’s huge impact on music technology and history. The iconic gramophone was invented by them, and they’re so old that they were there before “turntable” or “record player” were even terms (I mean, they called themselves a “talking machine” company, for crying out loud!)

Besides that, the first blues and jazz records (textbook-worthy recordings) were recorded by VTMC for the gramophone.

Although we could talk about them for a long time, there’s more to this article than dry history. The most important thing to know is that they merged with RCA in 1929 to produce the turntables we know today, and changed their name to Victrola.

Crosley Radio and Furniture

Crosley has a much different history from Victrola – and dare I say, more interesting!

Crosley is named after Powel Crosley, who was a prolific inventor, entrepreneur, and businessman in his day. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, he helped define an era with several of his interests.

Crosley first became famous via his car company and special “Crosmobiles.” With that success to support him, he advanced into the radio industry in 1921.

Much like Henry Ford did with the car, Crosley helped make radios affordable for the average family by reducing their cost by more than 50%. Using mass production and his knowledge of radio engineering, he changed the face of radio entertainment in his day.

In fact, it’s rumored that Crosley created the world’s strongest radio station in history. Based in Cincinnati, his WLW station emitted waves at 500,000 watts – enough power for faraway houses to play his broadcasts OUT LOUD through the metal in their gutters!

For context, radio stations nowadays are only allowed to emit at 50,000 watts. Ever the patriot, Crosley used WLW to broadcast the radio show “Voice of America” during World War II.

In terms of turntables, Crosley was quick to change gears once vinyl grew in popularity in the 50s and 60s (although technically, they still retain their “Crosley Radio” name). Around the same time, and for the same reasons, he ventured into television as well.

So … are Victrola and Crosley Turntables Any Good??

With both companies boasting formidable pasts, it would be easy to assume they’re still making top-notch turntables and gear. But is this really the case?

As it turns out, the answer is both yes and no.

And no, I’m not trying to be clever or smug. Really, it comes down to the market and purpose.

If we’re honest, neither company makes stellar turntables today. If you’re an audiophile who knows the ins and outs of a state-of-the-art sound system, you will be sorely disappointed.

But the thing is, this isn’t really a bad thing. Plus, neither company is trying to swindle you. There are several reasons for this.

First, both Victrola and Crosley are catering primarily to beginners in the vinyl market and casual listeners. Furthermore, they are aiming to be affordable across a wide cross-section of people.

For casual listeners who want to up their game without spending a fortune, both companies create fantastic products. With a $50 turntable, you shouldn’t be expecting world-class audio. But for a $50 value, they accomplish their goals quite well!

From a historical perspective, this makes total sense. Back in the day turntables and radio were THE way to listen to music. Nowadays, we have the Internet and digital media.

Back then they had to develop exceptional gear to have an edge in the market. Nowadays, they just need to appeal to a niche audience with limited budgets.

It might not be as idealistic or rose-tinted as we want, but these reasons are perfectly valid. After all, isn’t it great they’re trying to make vinyl accessible on a broad spectrum?

Do Victrola and Crosley Turntables Ruin Records?

While Victrola and Crosley turntables make great products for beginners due to price and functionality, you might be wondering if they cause any negative effects on the records they play. After all, good sound might not equal good materials.

Unfortunately, they do have some negative effects you should know about. While Victrola and Crosley turntables will not destroy your records or make them unlistenable, they can have negative effects over time.

The most important, and therefore expensive, component of a turntable is its needle and cartridge. Technically they’re two parts, but they work in tandem.

The needle is the metal that actually comes in contact with the vinyl grooves. The cartridge is the little box (often red) that sits between the needle and the arm.

Inside it there are electric cords that translate the physical movement into electro-acoustic signals for the speakers. Without going into a lot of detail, the best needles are extremely thin and sharp, and the best cartridges are physically light yet sophisticated.

Cheaper turntables in general (not just Victrola and Crosley models) have fatter needles and heavier cartridges. This means they wear out vinyl grooves faster than normal. The needle points wear out the grooves while the cartridge puts extra weight on the disc as a whole.

If I’m completely honest, this isn’t an end-of-the-world situation for your average vinyl disc. It will still sound good for several years. However, cheaper models will definitely wear out your disc’s sound and overall condition faster than normal.

As I mentioned earlier, this won’t destroy your discs completely, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying your discs will sound good forever. They just won’t.

My suggestion? Consider how much you value your records as a long-term investment and go from there.

For many listeners, a $20 record that sounds pretty good for several years is acceptable. But for any legitimate vintage records you have, that have actual value, save them for a better turntable down the road.

Similarities and Differences Between Victrola and Crosley Turntables

So, you’ve decided on your budget, and you’re ready to buy a turntable from Victrola or Crosley. The only question is, what are the differences between them – or are they pretty much the same?

Well, first things first. Obviously, audio quality trumps all other criteria. And thankfully for you, both companies’ turntables sound pretty much the same.

That means you don’t have to deliberate over, or compromise, the sound you want. Instead, you can use other factors to decide. Keeping the chill factor going, these factors make for easy decisions as well.

But before listing their differences, here are several more similarities between models from both companies. Not only are these features similar, but they are tremendously helpful with making the turntables accessible for beginners:

— 3 Speeds (records can come in different sizes, which means they must spin at different speeds – specifically, 33, 45, or 78 RPMs, or “rotations per minute”)

— Built-in speakers (when you get used to using your turntable, do yourself a favor and get real speakers to play through 😛 The built-in speakers aren’t anything fancy. However, for beginners, they’re a great way to hit the ground running without much prep time)

— RCA outputs (these are the plugs you use to connect with legit speakers, like surround sound or stereo)

— Both companies make easily portable turntables

Sweet – now on to the differences!

Victrola Specs

Victrola turntables are known for their beefy, tough builds. Their walls are solid wood and metal, and they often put metal plates over the corners. If you’re anything like me and tend to bump things one time too many, Victrola models can withstand more wear and tear.

Additionally, Victrola turntables automatically come with one extra stylus. I will explain later why styluses are important, but it’s always a nice idea to have an extra one lying around.

Besides durability, many people say Victrolas have the better sound of the two. As mentioned earlier, I personally don’t notice much of a difference.

However, Victrola did pack in a few features for sound optimization, which I appreciate.

First, the boxes are raised on small feet. These “isolation feet” help minimize unneeded vibrations and let the sound “breathe.” Also, their built-in speakers do sound a tad better. But when they’re plugged into external speakers (as they should be, eventually), both sound the same.

Lastly, Victrola likes to make their products look like vintage models of older turntables. This means that they pack their beefed-up hardware in bulky-but-endearing cases, emulating radios of the 40s and gramophones.

Crosley Specs

Just like Powel Crosley himself, Crosley enjoys diversifying their interests. In 2009, Crosley expanded their brand to include “Crosley Furniture” alongside their analog equipment.

Crosley aims to match modern-day technology with sleek, minimalist, throwback aesthetics. Personally, I think they do a fantastic job of combining modern minimalism with authentic-looking vintage looks (especially 1950s looks) – something I didn’t think was possible!

What does this mean for buyers trying to pick between companies?

It’s simple. Given that their sound quality is the same with external speakers, most decisions come down to aesthetic choice. If you like the soft, classy look of Crosley furniture, go for it!!

When you branch out into more expensive gear and hobbies, looks often take a backseat to practicality and quality. In our case though, we can have fun choosing the looks we want, since we’re not expecting world-class equipment 🙂

Recommended Models

Now that we’ve established the pros and cons of Victrola and Crosley, let’s look at some of their products that I’d recommend for debutants dipping their toes into the world of vinyl and turntables.

For Victrola, it’s hard to ignore the classic Victrola VSC-550BT-BK. Shaped like a suitcase, and ultra-portable, the VSC is a modern take on ‘suitcase turntables’ that were popular in the 1950s.

Victrola took a concept that was almost obsolete, renewed its best parts, and updated it for the 21st century. It has all the features mentioned earlier in my “similarities” section.

In addition to this, it comes in seventeen colors and doubles as Bluetooth speakers. This means that you can connect it wirelessly to your phone and use it as portable speakers for most of your mobile devices.

Also worth noting is its “auto-stop” function. This simply means that the player will stop spinning the record when the needle gets to the end of the disc. This contrasts with original turntables, where you had to manually stop it.

Interestingly, if you are well-versed in the Beatle’s Sergeant Pepper album, you know about the avant-garde gibberish they stuck at the end of “A Day in the Life.” They did this specifically to exploit the continuous spinning of turntables, making a joke out of a repetitive loop that listeners had to stop themselves.

If you’re looking for something of higher quality, you can get the Victrola V1. Minimalist by design, it’s meant to stay in one place.

Its unique feature lies in its internal speakers; in addition to the usual ones, it houses a soundbar and subwoofers. Simply put, this means it’s got a pretty high-grade sound.

Pair its deep sound with every input/output imaginable, and the V1 becomes more than a turntable; it becomes a permanent fixture of your home entertainment system. You can use it for your television, computer, or anything else.

As for Crosley, they have several models reminiscent of the Victrola VSC-550BT-BK, each with its own special flair. Most famously, there is the Crosley Cruiser. Very similar to the VSC, I have to say that I personally think it looks more stylish.

However, the Cruiser’s internal speakers can get maxed out pretty easily. As alternatives, Crosley also has the Spinnerette and Bound models.

The Spinnerette is my personal favorite, a delightfully wonky take on 1950s radio cabinet speakers. And while it might not look as stylish as the other two, the Bound is the mightiest sounding of them all.

Lastly, as iconic as both companies’ suitcase models, Crosley is the proud manufacturer of the Crosley CR42D. The CR42D is built with stunning wood and is very large. While it’s definitely not portable, it doubles as a CD player and cassette player as well. For a sub-$200 product, it’s a tempting option.

Other Companies to Consider

As mentioned, Crosley and Victrola turntables are stylish and fun, but not top-notch quality. If you’re a beginner but are willing to fork out a little more money than the average joe, there are several other quality companies to know.

First, there is Audio-Technica. Audio-Technica has some pretty slick designs, but they are known for focusing all their attention on ensuring build quality.

Their priorities lie in hacking the few features that make the biggest impact on sound. My first turntable was an Audio-Technica AT-LP60X (one of their most popular models, still), and I still use it to this day!

Second, there is Pro-Ject. Started in the 1980s as an audiophile alternative to CDs, Pro-Ject caters to audiophile geeks on a budget. If you are willing to do a little more research on specific features you want, Pro-Ject makes them both accessible and affordable.

Among their most popular models right now is the Debut Carbon EVO. It’s costlier than the Audio-Technica that I’ve mentioned above, but definitely packs enough to justify that price increase.

Lastly, there is Sony. A company that needs no introduction, Sony turntables are great for integration with other entertainment technologies. While they may not focus on audio as much as the other companies featured, they still produce stellar products that are designed with 21st-century technology in mind.

For a budget of around $200, you might consider the Sony PS-LX310BT, which comes with Bluetooth support.

While all three of these companies make products that are at least $50-100 more than Victrola or Crosley, you won’t be disappointed with them if you purchase one of their products.

Conclusion

If you are a casual music consumer or a beginning vinyl enthusiast, Victrola and Crosley create great budget-friendly turntables for you to get started. However, their sound quality will not be as great as more expensive companies.

Still, both companies make solid products with integrity and features equal to their price points. If you’re looking for more quality and are willing to spend more money, check out Audio-Technica, Pro-Ject, and Sony turntables.

Whatever you choose, your adventure into the world of vinyl will be an exciting one! Take care of them, enjoy the experiences, and always, ALWAYS have fun!

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About Brian Campbell

Brian has been playing piano since elementary school and started learning guitar in 7th grade. He teaches K-8 students in Columbus, Ohio, and writes lessons covering a broad spectrum of genres. As a child, he moved back and forth between Colorado and West Africa. He credits those experiences with opening his eyes to the cultural and artistic diversity he appreciates today. Several of his favorite musicians include J.S. Bach, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Radiohead. When not doing music and teaching, you can find Brian reading, hiking, traveling, or making just one more shot of espresso.

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