Back in the day, it wasn’t unusual for people to rock up at parties wielding their own record player. While it sounds bizarre now, turning up with your own deck was seen as a surefire way to woo potential love interests. It also guaranteed you got to listen to your own music all evening.
If you want to recreate those heady days – and you don’t fancy carrying your vinyl spinner around in a carrier bag – then you might wish to consider a suitcase turntable. As the name suggests, these are record players contained within a transportable case making it easy for the owner to haul their groove machine from A to B.
On this page, we’ll be focusing on the aptly named Victrola Journey. Marrying vintage looks with modern technology, this Bluetooth-enabled deck appears on the surface to be a real bargain. To find out if that’s the case, we’ll be paying close attention to its design, features and, of course, sound quality to help you make the right buying choice.
Before we start, one thing worth mentioning is that Victrola has a long and proud history. The US manufacturer has been making record players since 1906, and such is the company’s prestige, the Grammy award statuette is modelled on an early Victrola phonograph.
Victrola Journey review: Design
As previously stated, the Victrola Journey is classed as a suitcase turntable – though it should probably be called a briefcase turntable, since it comes in a hard, compact case with a carry handle. While black is an option you can also choose one of the more vibrant styles, which include turquoise, a UK flag design, a vintage map print and tie-dye.
Though the faux leather cladding looks a bit cheap the overall build quality is good – which is just as well if you’re planning to take it to parties. The Victrola Journey is also a cinch to operate. Simply open the lid, pop the plug into the wall and you’re good to go. You don’t have to connect any speakers as there are stereo ones built into the front of the system. However, if you want more than the 2 x 3W of power that they offer, you can easily hook up your own speakers via a set of RCA leads.
The Victrola Journey is essentially a manual turntable, meaning you’ll need to lift the needle across to the record by hand, thus setting the platter in motion. However, you can choose whether you want the platter to stop manually or automatically at the end of your listening session using a switch that sits atop the plinth.
Other controls that can be found on the surface of the deck include an on/off/volume knob and a three-speed selector. You’ll also find a headphone jack, which is a nice thing to have although we’d rather it had been located at the back of the machine as you could end up with cables trailing all over your vinyl as it’s playing.
Victrola Journey review: Features
The fact you’re reading a turntable review suggests you’re fond of vinyl music. But that doesn't necessarily mean you don’t enjoy playing tunes on your phone or tablet, too. Happily, thanks to the Victrola Journey’s Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity you can wirelessly pair your device (from up to 10m away) and stream music from any of the best music streaming services straight to the turntable’s speakers. Disappointingly, though, the Bluetooth only works in one direction, meaning you won’t be able to wirelessly pair the record player to external speakers - you’ll need to use the aforementioned RCA leads for that.
You can also use those RCA leads to connect a non-Bluetooth device to this suitcase turntable, which could be useful if you have an old cassette deck or radio that you want to integrate into an all-in-one music system.
Victrola Journey review: Sound
Here's the most obvious sentence you’ll read all year: the Victrola Journey will not appeal to audiophiles. Of course it won’t – there are records that cost more than this thing. But what about everyone else? In all honesty, most discerning music fans would probably baulk at the sound that comes out of the Journey’s built-in speakers; tinny and lacking in detail, it’ll hardly do justice to those classic Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin albums.
While the turntable sounds noticeably better when hooked up to a pair of decent external speakers, it still doesn’t come close to the quality you’d get from one of the decks in our best budget turntables guide – and understandably so, seeing as they tend to cost a lot more. We can’t help feeling that hooking the turntable up to external speakers defeats the purpose of it being in a suitcase, anyway, as you’d have to lug those speakers around, too, somehow.
That’s not to say that the Victrola Journey is a complete non-starter and for kids or people taking their first steps into the world of vinyl, particularly those on a tight budget, it’s a perfectly adequate record deck.
Victrola Journey review: The alternatives
If you’re looking for an entry-level turntable but don’t like the suitcase style, we wholly recommend the Rega Planar 1 – the top choice in our best budget turntables guide. Yes, it’s more expensive than the Victrola Journey and no doesn’t come with speakers built in, but it looks and sounds the business.
As we mentioned further up the page, the Victrola Journey's Bluetooth capability only works in one direction – i.e. it’ll let you stream music from your phone or tablet, but it won’t allow you to connect wirelessly to an external speaker. One turntable that does enable the latter is the ION Audio Air LP. Only slightly more expensive than the Journey, this stylish deck also offers USB recording, not to mention presentable sound quality.
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