Crosley Keep­sake

FOR At­trac­tive, unique de­sign; all-in-one deck AGAINST Thin and re­strained sound; heavy track­ing weight

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“The Crosley is to plug ’n’ play what Mc­don­alds is to food – quick and easy. Ev­ery­thing is pre-fit­ted, in­clud­ing the ton­earm, car­tridge and plat­ter”

We’ve seen it time and time again in films: a char­ac­ter opens the suit­case at the al­lo­cated han­dover point, but in­stead of the small for­tune in ran­som money they ex­pect to be in­side, they’re faced with rocks or blank pa­per. The en­su­ing dis­ap­point­ment some­what mir­rors our own upon en­coun­ter­ing the suit­cas­es­tyle Crosley Keep­sake turntable.

Per­haps our reve­la­tion shouldn’t have come as a sur­prise. Af­ter all, our pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence with the com­pany was its two-star Crosley Cruiser (£80). Its per­for­mance left much to be de­sired, and due to its car­tridge’s un­usu­ally heavy track­ing weight (more than 7g when around 2g is more typ­i­cal), we felt it might ac­tively dam­age your record col­lec­tion.

Here we have its big brother, the Keep­sake, which un­for­tu­nately is guilty of the same crimes. It’s a shame that per­for­mance is a let down, con­sid­er­ing it gets thumbs up for both its de­sign and its fea­tures.

A hard bar­gain

In­deed, without fur­ther scru­tiny, you may be for­given for look­ing at the Keep­sake’s spec sheet and cry­ing out ‘bar­gain’ with glee. For one, it has a built-in am­pli­fier and speak­ers, so all you re­ally need for this all-in-one deck is a record and a mains socket.

Of course, as is more cus­tom­ary, a pair of line-level out­puts al­low it to also sit within a hi-fi sys­tem or be hooked up to pow­ered speak­ers. A 3.5mm in­put al­lows a por­ta­ble source to play through the Crosley’s speak­ers, and there’s a head­phone jack for pri­vate lis­ten­ing plus tone con­trols to mess about with.

It can play at three speeds (33⅓, 45 and 78rpm), caters for 7, 10 and 12in records and has the abil­ity to record vinyl to MP3 and WAV files. All that’s re­quired is to down­load the Au­dac­ity software from the sup­plied disc.

Feel the pres­sure

The Crosley is to plug ’n’ play what Mc­don­alds is to food – quick and easy. Ev­ery­thing comes pre-fit­ted, in­clud­ing the ton­earm, car­tridge and plat­ter, and there’s noth­ing to the set-up process bar put­ting the deck in place.

Sim­ply fas­ten down the tran­sit screw, re­move the ton­earm clasp and car­tridge cover, and you’re away. When a record fin­ishes, the ton­earm will even re­turn it­self to its rest­ing place so you don’t have to worry about leav­ing the room to make a cup of tea.

There’s no ton­earm ad­just­ment to worry about – although that brings its own set of prob­lems. While most turntable track­ing weights are around 1.5g to 2.5g, the Crosley mea­sures in at more than 9g. That means its sty­lus is put­ting three to four times as much pres­sure on records than is typ­i­cal. As with the Cruiser, we wouldn’t leave your most cher­ished al­bums in its hands.

Our im­pres­sion of the Keep­sake nose­dives from there. The side-fir­ing in­te­grated speak­ers go loud enough to be heard across a de­cent-sized room and man­age to avoid sound­ing tinny, but ul­ti­mately the pre­sen­ta­tion is woolly. It lacks clar­ity and de­tail, and ev­ery el­e­ment of the sound seems squeezed down to a con­fined midrange.

Back­ground mur­mur

Lis­ten­ing through a ded­i­cated amp and speak­ers (turn the Crosley’s on-board vol­ume dial right down) isn’t much more in­spir­ing. Though it’s much clearer – the pre­sen­ta­tion doesn’t sound murky and sur­face noise is thank­fully kept low – and happy to chug along tune­fully to what­ever we place on its plat­ter, the Keep­sake sounds thin and re­strained com­pared to the cheaper Au­dio Tech­nica AT-LP60-USB and Lenco L-85.

Nei­ther de­tailed nor en­gag­ing, it strug­gles to make even David Bowie’s ge­nius The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Star­dust and the Spi­ders from Mars al­bum sound

any­thing more than back­ground mur­mur. His vi­brato vo­cal sounds clear and un­mis­tak­able, though not par­tic­u­larly ex­pres­sive, but due to the Crosley’s lack of in­sight and dy­nam­ics the in­stru­ments around it sound lack­lus­tre and clut­tered.

That shouldn’t put you off rip­ping al­bums though, as files are no less clear or bal­anced than a Spo­tify stream. We’d sim­ply be wary of when you hit that record but­ton as, as with lot of USB turnta­bles we’ve heard, silent pe­ri­ods be­fore or af­ter a track are of­ten con­tam­i­nated by faint hum.

Off its trol­ley

Aside from its loose lid and cheap­look­ing plas­tic di­als, how­ever, we have no qualms with the deck’s gen­eral con­struc­tion and build. The Keep­sake is smart, well built for the money and prac­ti­cally por­ta­ble.

Un­for­tu­nately for Crosley, no amount of at­trac­tive (and well ap­plied) leatherette vinyl wrap­ping – not even the most in­ter­est­ing fin­ishes of the six avail­able, in our opin­ion: ‘kilim pat­tern’ or ‘flower man­dala’ – can di­vert at­ten­tion away from the below-aver­age qual­ity of the turntable’s sound .

It’s al­most as if the deck’s name car­ries a hid­den mes­sage: keep this Crosley out of your shop­ping trol­ley for the sake of your al­bums. In other words, you’re bet­ter off look­ing else­where.

“The sty­lus is put­ting three to four times as much pres­sure on records than is typ­i­cal. We wouldn’t leave our most cher­ished al­bums in its hands”

The Keep­sake is smart, well built for the money and por­ta­ble too, but is let down by its sound qual­ity

The Crosley Keep­sake looks like a suit­case, but it won’t keep your vinyl safe

The di­als look pla­s­ticky, but oth­er­wise we have no qualms about the build qual­ity The Crosley Keep­sake is por­ta­ble too, so you can take your vinyl out and about

The sty­lus puts three to four times as much pres­sure on records than a typ­i­cal deck

Line-level out­puts al­low it to sit within a hi-fi sys­tem or be hooked up to speak­ers

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