By Dave Thompson
It wasn’t always like this, you know. There was a time when turntable designers paid as much attention to aesthetics as they did to functionality. When shopping for a record player was about more than finding the box that actually complemented your decor, as opposed to the one that looked the least ugly.
Remember (or Google if you don’t) the mid-‘70s-ish Rosita Stereo Commander, resembling a consul from the Starship Enterprise? The Toshiba Music Center 3200, perched on what might have once been a revolving bar stool? And, best of all, the range of domed space age concoctions produced by the likes of Electrohome and Sanyo? You knew you were dancing with the big boys when you fired up your very own Phonosphere.
Now? “Yeah, I’ve got a turntable. It looks like doo-doos.”
Enter Rock ‘N’ Rolla’s UFO, the latest in the company’s line of budget-priced portable turntables, the piece de resistance for the series so far, and the most inventive thing that’s happened in its price range for years.
It’s not necessarily as portable as its predecessors. Though it weighs in at under 10 pounds, its 17-inch diameter demands more than a stack of books to sit on. But its name could scarcely be more appropriate. The UFO is not completely circular in shape, but it certainly sits on the table like some kind of extra-terrestrial visitor. If they’d only added some flashing lights, both allusion and illusion would have been complete.
In terms of bells and whistles, the UFO follows what seems to be the Rock ‘N’ Rolla template. It’s bluetooth compatible, although only for feeding your own sounds into it; you still can’t pair its output with another speaker (and you will want to). Sound reproduction has improved from past Rock ‘N’ Rollas, but you’ll probably still be glad for the line-out jack in the back.
Playback from other sources via a USB port and an auxiliary jack is easy, and you can record direct to USB too, although the bit rate remains low at 64kps. (For comparison, 320 is now considered the norm.) Other negatives include the absence of tone controls, and the continued refusal of the auto-stop control to acknowledge that some records are longer than others, which means you still won’t hear “Hey Jude” in its entirety until you switch that feature off. Or, in that instance, maybe you’ll want to leave it on.
But it’s a nicely chunky piece of hardware — the tone arm feels safely stable, and the control panel is markedly less fiddly than before.
And to prove Goldmine’s approval, everything in this month’s column in the August 2018 print issue was reviewed via the UFO portable, beginning with what has to be the most essential 7-inch box set of the year so far. Pick up the August issue of Goldmine Magazine (shown at left) to find out more. The August issue will be on the newsstand in select Barnes and Noble, Books a Million (July 10 -August 6, 2018) and indie record stores.
Enter to win a UFO, all you have to do is put your email address in the box below by July 31 11:59 p.m. You will immediately be entered in the Giveaway and as a bonus you will receive Goldmine’s informative weekly eNewsletter (collecting news/tips and exclusive articles and interviews with your favorite classic artists). We will randomly draw winners from the entrants. We have one UFO portable turntable to give away. If you are lucky enough to win, please let us know which color you prefer: red, white or black. If you are not lucky enough to win, no worries. You can go to www.myrocknrolla.com to purchase one.