We’ve come a long way from the gramophone. A lot of today’s turntables aim to please contemporary listeners who are all about convenience – they’re more all-rounders than painfully specific contraptions used to EXCLUSIVELY play Slavic funk records in reverse. The Victrola Stream Carbon takes that convenience even further.
Sure, it’s designed to deliver great audio quality and style, but is also Wi-Fi-enabled and the first record player officially certified by the Works with Sonos program. That means you can play your vinyl through your Sonos speakers, wire-free. At £899, the Stream Carbon is a higher-end turntable for those who’ve already invested in Sonos. But is it any good? Let’s scr-scr-scriggedy scratch through the surface and find out.
Design: Back to the future
The Victrola Stream Carbon is perhaps modelled on what people in the 1970s thought the future of home audio would look like. There’s an air of 2001: A Space Odyssey to it. It’s minimal, ditches the pitch shift, and has a large volume knob that emanates a glowing, white hue.
Rounded edges and a slick front panel help it to seamlessly fit in with my decor. The die-cast aluminium platter is finished with a silver matte material, and at just under 11cm tall, the whole thing sits pretty snugly on a shelf. It also comes with a dust guard and protector, which we feel needs to be designed a little better: it doesn’t attach to the turntable, so we mostly ended up plonking it on the floor or in the record crate.
Each element of the turntable feels strong and with a reassuring weight to it. A low-resonance, veneered MDF plinth is sturdy, and passes the trusted ‘doesn’t skip when we bash the table’ test. Overall, it very much looks the part.
Set up: Spinning around
Victrola’s in-app instructions walk you through the basics. The only fiddly bit comes after attaching the platter: attaching the belt to the motor spindle. It took us a few attempts (and the assistance of a chopstick). Next it’s the slipmat, which is made from a silicone material about 5mm thick. It’s rubbery to the touch, and extra grippy.
A lot of turntables don’t come with a headshell and needle, and if they do they’re often ones you should think about replacing almost immediately. A dodgy needle will have no problem ripping your records to smithereens, after all. But with the Victrola comes with an Ortofon 2M Red, which is a solid in-the-box cartridge. The engine provides an output of 5.5mV and optimised sound reproduction, with an elliptical diamond stylus.
The counterweight has no numbers etched on to it. Rather, it’s simply a silver block, which is a plus for us. It’s perhaps a personal gripe, but we feel the counterweight number dial should have evolved over the years. The carbon fiber tonearm moves with firmness, and clips into its holder with a satisfying click. From there, all there is to do is pop the included 45RPM adapter in its holder – certainly an upgrade from the 20p plastic ones – plug it in and watch it boot up automatically.
Setting up Sonos integration is only slightly more complicated than playing a record: you can do that by simply popping the needle on the vinyl, by the way. After connecting the turntable to your Wi-Fi through the companion app, it’ll automatically search and connect to any Sonos speakers on the same network. You can then choose which speaker or room to send your audio to.
Features and sound quality: Trust the process
We tested the Victrola Stream Carbon using a Sonos One, which usually streams music and podcasts from a smartphone. Our first record, Thundercat’s album Drunk, comes through perfectly, with more depth and clarity than an MP3 or streamed version. Piano keys played by Japanese house musician Shinichi Atobe shimmer through the speaker, yet are incredibly complimentary with a punchy kick.
This is a relief, as the Stream Carbon’s EQ customisation starts and ends with the Sonos app. A volume knob and 33/45RPM dial are the only twistable items, so you’re trusting Victrola to know its stuff – it very much does, just for clarity. The limited settings in the Victrola app only let you tinker with the wireless audio delay, enable or disable the RCA signal, and adjust RCA delay. There’s greater customisation in the Sonos app, with slidable markers for bass and treble, and a Trueplay function that allows you to tune your Sonos to your room.
Streaming from turntable to Sonos also has a 3ish second delay. That’s not a problem for most listeners, but it means the Victrola won’t double as a DJ-friendly turntable. There’s likely very few DJs who’d opt for a Victrola over a Technics or Pioneer turntable, though.
It is possible to hook the Victrola up to an external amp or mixer though, thanks to an added RCA output, although there’s no phono output. Our usual Stanton direct drive turntable (actually our first one ever, and owned for almost two decades) was swapped for the Stream Carbon, and wired into an Omnitronic TRM-202 MK3, two-channel mixer. It worked well enough, but you can’t play records through a mixer and then to your Sonos speaker.
Victrola Stream Carbon verdict
At £899, the Victrola Stream Carbon is a premium turntable, but given real high-end turntables are a bottomless money pit, it actually sits on the lower end of the price spectrum. Its USP will really only appeal to those with an existing Sonos system, rather than those looking to start from scratch, and those with an existing wired setup might be better looking elsewhere.
For the already converted, though, there’s no denying the Stream Carbon’s wireless convenience.
The Victrola Stream Carbon is a fantastic home listening turntable that should please both amateur audiophiles after a (relative) bargain turntable and casual listeners alike.
So very convenient
Built-in EQing delivers great range of sound
Sonos compatibility may deter the anoraks