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