Of all the ways to enjoy the outdoors, relaxing to music on a nice day is a simple and undeniable pleasure. There’s something novel about lying in a hammock on a sunny Sunday afternoon or listening to a vinyl record with friends at the park. While it might be easier to pack a small Bluetooth speaker and play tunes off your phone, dusting off a stack of hand-me-down records and reveling in some old-school charm is more about the experience. Victrola’s Revolution Go ($200) lets you have that anywhere you want. While there are other record players that let you listen to vinyl outside, most only work if you’ve got access to an outlet. The Revolution’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery makes it truly portable. It has enough power for 12 hours of continuous tunes, which is more than enough for a backyard barbecue or an evening around the campfire.
I’ve had a couple of suitcase-style turntables before (two different versions of the Crosley Cruiser, which you can now find used for around $59); they’re kitschy, fun, and allow you to listen to vinyl anywhere, but they don’t sound that great, so I was surprised when the Go hit me with rich, warm music that’s not usually found in an all-in-one unit. The built-in Bluetooth speaker isn’t meant to deliver the audio quality of a hi-fi home-stereo system, but it does sound pretty damn good, especially for a unit you can pack anywhere.
The Revolution Go is a belt-driven turntable with three speeds—33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM—and three modes—vinyl, vinyl stream, and Bluetooth, allowing you to pair it to your phone and play music through the built-in speaker, have your vinyl stream through a better-sounding setup, or pair it with your earbuds. An RCA jack in back lets you hook it up to external speakers the traditional way, the dial has a satisfying feel, and an Alexa-sounding voice announces the battery level and mode as you cycle through the functions.
One of the nicest things to see on the Revolution Go is the Audio-Technica magnetic moving cartridge, which has a ubiquitous stylus (the needle that reads the grooves in the record) that’s easily replaced for around $25. The moving magnetic cartridge is a step up in quality from the ceramic cartridges found on most of the entry-level portable record players I’ve seen, including my older Crosley turntable. If you’re unfamiliar with record components, think of a ceramic cartridge like a pair of hiking boots: rugged and a little heavy. A moving magnetic cartridge is more like a pair of trail runners: light and nimble. Both get the job done, but ceramic cartridges generally wear out records faster because they have a greater tracking force, and they don’t sound as good as magnetic ones, because they read fewer details in the grooves.
I’ve mainly inherited my record collection from family or bought it at thrift stores and garage sales (though I will buy the occasional new album on vinyl, and Chris Stapleton’s double LP, Traveller, is the first record I tested on the Go), so I’m not too precious about it, but I still don’t want it unnecessary damaged. Some of my albums have gnarly scratches from improperly lowering the tonearm on my older record player, but I’m not worried about that with the Go; the cueing lever is foolproof and lowers the tonearm slowly and safely, so even my young son can use it without causing any real harm.
The plastic turntable platter (the spinning surface that the record sits on) does feel a little flimsy, but that’s pretty standard with portable players, which trade off some component quality in favor of packability. However, the platter is spring mounted, to help dampen vibrations, and a silicone slip mat absorbs shock and minimizes skipping. The record player has a folding handle that tucks away and a removable guitar strap for hands-free carrying. The lid’s design gives the Go a retro vibe and pops off to double as a record holder once you’re at your destination. I do wish the plastic dustcover was made with a more durable material; mine already has a few noticeable scratches just from setting it on the picnic table.
The $200 price tag is a jump from most suitcase players, which run closer to the hundred-dollar mark, but it’s an equal leap in audio quality and portability. Given how easy it is to carry (it weighs less than seven pounds), the Go has earned a spot in my 1980 Boler trailer for road trips, family car camping, and simply hanging out with friends outside. Just don’t take it to a beach party—it can’t get wet and shouldn’t be used in direct sunlight.
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