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Audio

Which? tests uncover turntables to avoid this Christmas

As the popularity of vinyl continues, there are bound to be a few records on people’s Christmas lists as well as devices to play them on. Our latest test results help you choose the record players and turntables that won’t disappoint. GPO is hoping to capitalise on the popularity by releasing two new record players – the GPO Stylo II and the GPO Flight.

The GPO Stylo II is cheap enough to be an extra surprise on Christmas morning, while the GPO Flight is more of a main gift. But are either of them worth your money? We’ve also tested the RT100 from Roberts.

The minimalist record player looks the part, but does it sound good enough to justify GBP250? At other end of the design spectrum is the extremely busy Ion Mustang LP, which is made to look like – you guessed it – a Ford Mustang. We put this glossy, retro turntable to the test.

Best Buy record players[1] – let your favourite LPs shine with a top-rated turntable. You can rely on our expert knowledge of turntables, but how’s your music knowledge? Find out if you are a true vinyl fan by seeing if you recognise the 10 album covers in our quiz.

Can’t see it? Click here[2].

GPO Flight – GBP140

The Flight is the pricier of the two GPO turntables we’ve tested, and you get good value for money if you like a player with plenty of buttons and dials. There’s no shortage of features on this turntable, including music equalisation, Bluetooth for connecting speakers, and a USB port that lets you archive vinyl and cassettes onto your computer.

It’s portable, too. With the lid closed, the whole thing resembles something a roadie pulls from the back of a tour van. GPO reckons you’ll get four hours of playback before it needs charging again.

A list of features as long as a tonearm doesn’t make a Best Buy – sound quality does. Head to our GPO Flight review[3] to find out if it will make your favourite songs soar, or fall flat.

Roberts RT100 – GBP250

The clean beech finish of the RT100 is a far cry from the busy fascia on the GPO Flight. Only one button adorns the wooden base and it adjusts the speed from 33 to 45rpm and back again.

It may look basic, but the RT100 actually has some modern features. You can transfer music from vinyl onto a computer through the USB port and, while it doesn’t have Bluetooth, there’s an aux port to connect speakers. Still, these are features we see on turntables less than half the price of this one – so what does the RT100 have to justify the price tag?

It has a moving magnet cartridge rather than a ceramic one, and the sturdy construction means it shouldn’t suffer from external vibrations in the way a turntable with lighter components would. Ultimately, it’s sound quality that defines a Best Buy record player. See if this one has what it takes in our Roberts RT100 review.[4]

GPO Stylo II – GBP55

Next to the GPO Flight, the Stylo II looks a little bare-boned.

But it is only a third of the price of its high-flying cousin. While there’s no USB connection for transferring vinyl to a computer, it is an all-in-one system with built-in speakers. As such, you won’t need to buy any extras.

Also, it can play 78rpm records – something some of the pricier turntables can’t. Do the internal speakers do the business, or is this a turntable to steer clear of? Read out GPO Stylo II review[5] to find out.

Ion Mustang LP – GBP170

With its speedometer control dials and 1960s radio slider, the Mustang LP certainly looks authentic.

It even has the horse logo under the lid. The radio slider isn’t just for show either. There’s an AM/FM radio built in, which is unusual for a record player.

You can listen to the radio – or records, of course – through the built-in speakers. Or you can always connect some external ones. Other features include the ability to rip vinyl onto a computer through the USB.

And it can play 78rpm records as well as the usual 33 and 45rpm ones. The features and striking design don’t come cheap. At GBP170, it’s definitely at the pricier end of the spectrum.

We would expect Ion to have given the same level of care capturing that retro vinyl sound as it has the retro 60s look.

Read our Ion Mustang LP review[6] to see if it’s a matter of style over substance.

References

  1. ^ Best Buy record players (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ here (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ GPO Flight review (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ Roberts RT100 review. (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ GPO Stylo II review (www.which.co.uk)
  6. ^ Ion Mustang LP review (www.which.co.uk)

Which? reveals five new Best Buy headphones for Black Friday

October was a stellar month in our headphones lab. We tested 10 pairs and half of them were good enough to be Best Buys. Our exhaustive tests use an expert listening panel to pick out exemplary headphones that will impress even the most discerning listener.

Whatever style you prefer, we’ve got you covered with in-ear, on-ear, over-ear and wireless headphones running our testing gauntlet. And Sony fans will have lots of options to pore over, with no less than six new reviews. Read on to see which ones came out on top and which ones you should leave alone even if you spy them with a reduced sticker on Black Friday.

Best Buy headphones – see which models we recommend.[1]

Sony WH-1000XM2

A flagship Sony pair of over-ear headphones packed to the brim with features, these aim to provide the ultimate wireless headphone experience. In the search for perfection, they even sense the atmospheric pressure around you and optimise their sound settings accordingly, whether you’re on a plane or in your living room. Sporting noise cancelling, microphone, NFC (near-field communication) and the ability to tweak the soundscape through a smartphone app, these headphones desire to please even the most demanding audiophile.

Can’t hear the announcement at the train station? Just hold your hand to one of the touch-sensitive cups to let in sound from around you. Can Sony really pull all this off and send you to audio heaven?

Find out in our Sony WH-1000XM2 review[2].

Sony WH-H800 h.ear on 2 Mini

For those who don’t want the bulk of over-ear headphones, Sony’s also got you covered with this on-ear pair. Part of the h.ear 2 range with great looks, you’ll be able to fit these in your bag more easily. They also have the same ability to tweak the sound profile through a smartphone app, so there’s no need to worry about whether they will be too bassy out of the box.

NFC support and a built-in microphone are here too, plus the claim of a highly respectable 24-hour battery life. But do they have a good seal to block out background noise? Our experts give their verdict in the Sony WH-H800 h.ear on 2 Mini review[3].

Sony WI-H700 h.ear in 2 Wireless

If you want a listening experience on the move, Sony gives you this feature-packed in-ear experience.

Available in a wide range of vibrant colours, the WI-H700’s neckband packs in the electronics. But Sony has aimed not to compromise on flexibility with the lightweight design. This model has the ability to play high-end digital music files, NFC and, again, it can adjust the sound profile via Sony’s smartphone app for headphones.

Sony says the battery lasts seven hours but this is nowhere near the impressive 24 hours it claims for its WI-C400[4] headphones, also just tested. The WI-H700 is just one of six new Sony headphones in our latest tests. Can Sony maintain a high standard across so many different sets?

Check out the Sony WI-H700 h.ear in 2 Wireless review[5] to find out.

JVC HA-FX38M

At only GBP10, these are one of the cheapest pairs of earbuds we’ve ever tested. They have a simple, lightweight design for those who just want to plug in and listen. JVC claims the earbuds are like a ‘spongy marshmallow’ for maximum comfort.

They’re aimed at anyone on a tight budget who wants a pair to carry around all day without having to worry about charging a battery. There’s no microphone or in-line controls, but if you only listen rarely or frequently lose your headphones, could this be the way to go? See what we thought in our JVC HA-FX38M review[6].

Skullcandy Hesh 3 Wireless

Skullcandy typically aims at the lower end of the market, but at GBP100 this pair is priced at the serious end.

Brimming with bass, this over-ear pair claims to have a battery life to last throughout the day, with fast-charging technology to minimise any downtime. Is this pair a good alternative to more expensive headphones from bigger brands? The Hesh 3 Wireless has some strong competition in this price bracket.

See how it measures up in our Skullcandy Hesh 3 Wireless review[7].

Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT

Aiming to please audiophiles, Audio-Technica has the ambition to provide crystal-clear sound to even the most discerning ear. This wireless Bluetooth pair’s signature feature is sending the digital music directly to its speakers without converting it to an analogue signal first. Audio-Technica says this gives the pair pure sound that is a cut above the rest.

With a top-end price of GBP295 and a surprisingly middling 15-hour battery life, does this pair deliver a new level of audio design?

Read what we found when we put it through its paces in our Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT review[8].

Even more headphones tested

As well as the models featured above, you can also read new reviews of the following:

References

  1. ^ Best Buy headphones (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ Sony WH-1000XM2 review (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ Sony WH-H800 h.ear on 2 Mini review (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ WI-C400 (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ Sony WI-H700 h.ear in 2 Wireless review (www.which.co.uk)
  6. ^ JVC HA-FX38M review (www.which.co.uk)
  7. ^ Skullcandy Hesh 3 Wireless review (www.which.co.uk)
  8. ^ Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT review (www.which.co.uk)

Which? tests reveal two Don’t Buy wireless speakers

Bose’s latest Bluetooth speaker, the SoundLink Micro, can fit in the palm of your hand – but it will still set you back GBP100. Is Bose’s audio prowess enough to give you stellar sound from such a small speaker, and is it worth the money? If GBP100 sounds too steep for a speaker no bigger than a crumpet, the Jam Blaze may be more up your street.

It’s GBP40 and has built-in lights, so you can throw your own miniature disco. Elsewhere, JVC has expanded its portable range with the SP-AD80. It’s clearly designed with festivals in mind, as it includes a torch to illuminate your way through dingy fields and poorly erected tents.

Some of the greatest guitarists of all time have played on Fenders – and now you can play your music through a Fender speaker. Has the brand’s knack for tremendous-sounding guitars translated into its Bluetooth speaker? Wireless and Bluetooth speaker reviews[1] – get great sound at home or on the go.

Bose SoundLink Micro

This hockey-puck-sized speaker is the smallest Bose has ever produced and it’s absolutely designed for the outdoors.

A clip means you can fasten it to a bag strap or a bike, plus it’s made of silicone rubber, which will do a better job of surviving a fall unscathed than hard plastic. It’s waterproof too, with an IPX7 rating, so it can be submerged in water up to a metre deep for half an hour. It doesn’t float, though, so don’t drop it in any lakes.

The built-in microphone means you can use it for calls without disconnecting your phone. But that’s not all it can do. Bose has worked with Google and Apple to bring Siri and Google Assistant to the device.

The voice commands don’t control the speaker, but control your phone instead. You could ask your speaker to put a call into one of your friends and it will trigger your phone to do so. Bose is renowned for getting great sound from small packages, but is the SoundLink Micro a step too far?

Our expert listening panel has listened to an array of genres to see how well the Micro copes with a variety of styles. You can see the results of our in-depth tests in our Bose SoundLink Micro review[2].

Fender Newport

It looks like an amp, but you shouldn’t plug a Stratocaster into it. It’s a Bluetooth speaker, so you shouldn’t really need to plug anything into it.

It looks terrific, with authentic dials and a metal grill, but the tech inside is much more modern than the retro exterior would suggest. You can alter the bass and treble with the dials on top and charge your phone using the speaker’s battery, and it can be linked with other speakers to create a multi-room system. There’s no need to disconnect if a call comes through either, as you can use the built-in microphone as a mouthpiece.

It’s heftier than most Bluetooth speakers, tipping the scales at 1.5kg, but the claimed 12-hour battery life should last you the whole day. Still, it could become an unwelcome bulk in your backpack and might be better suited if you’re driving to your destination rather than walking. Can Fender tune its guitar audio excellence to the portable speaker market?

Head to our Fender Newport review[3] for our expert verdict.

Jam Blaze HX-P265

The Blaze is a tiny speaker that grabs attention by putting on a mini light show. The ring of lights inside the clear plastic case pulses in time with the music and reflects off the mirrored interior. It’s a pleasant effect that makes the Blaze stand out.

At 220g, the Blaze is certainly portable and the five-hour battery life claimed by Jam should be enough to see you through an evening of listening. It automatically searches for phones to connect with when you turn it on, and you can use the aux input to connect a device that doesn’t use Bluetooth. Is the addition of lights a gimmick to hide poor sound, or is the Blaze a fun little speaker that sounds as good as it looks?

Visit our Jam Blaze HX-P265 review[4] to find out.

JVC SP-AD80

The light show on the SP-AD80 isn’t as exciting as the Blaze, but the torch on this speaker could be handy if you’re camping, or at a festival. The water-resistant case and light-up buttons only add to this speaker’s usefulness outdoors. If you do most of your listening inside instead, you can add more speakers to create a multi-room system or get stereo sound.

Connection is a breeze thanks to NFC (near-field communication), which means you only need to hold your smartphone close to the speaker to connect it. If you don’t have NFC, or even Bluetooth, you can use a 3.5mm cable to wire up anything from an MP3 player to a laptop. The GBP60 price is a lot for a torch, so it’s imperative that the speaker sounds good and is easy to use.

See what we thought of this portable speaker in our JVC SP-AD80 review[5].

References

  1. ^ Wireless and Bluetooth speaker reviews (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ Bose SoundLink Micro review (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ Fender Newport review (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ Jam Blaze HX-P265 review (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ JVC SP-AD80 review (www.which.co.uk)

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