Some time ago I purchased a GPO Stylo to offer some evidence that many of the cheap turntables on today’s market will cause excessive record damage and aren’t worth their low price, not to mention the value of your records. At approximately £35, the GPO was at the time one of the cheapest turntables on the market besides a couple of USB models on eBay shipped directly from China. It turns out that there is in fact a step below the GPO, this one courtesy of the UK homeware catalogue brand House of Bath, owned by JD Williams. This turntable normally sells for £19.95, was reduced to £13.97, and with a quick search and use of the resulting discount code could be purchased for a grand total of £12.57, delivery included. Delays in publishing this article have seen it rise in price to £29.95, but it still remains one of the cheapest models in production.
Manufactured by Shenzhen Jiayin King Technology Holding Company Ltd in China, the turntable follows the same form as most similar models do. It can play three speeds (33.3, 45 and 78), though doesn’t include a suitable stylus for the latter. Its wooden case comes in mahogany and oak finishes and contains an amplifier and a pair of front-mounted speakers along with a plastic dustcover with cutouts to allow a 12” LP to protrude from the sides, front and back during playback.
The model number of this particular example is JW-210GPA, though there appear to be a number of units under the same model number with slight variations in features.
Its platter is barely larger than a 7” single and is driven by a belt and a DC motor beneath. It does feature a switchable automatic start/stop function whereby moving the arm into position will start the motor, and the motor will stop when the arm reaches the end of the record.
The front hosts a volume knob lit by an LED which had come unglued on my example and was freely floating around inside the dial housing. The back hosts a fixed power cable and, surprisingly, a pair of RCA line output jacks. The jacks are directly fed by the outputs of the cartridge and can be used to feed an external amplifier, not that you’d want to do so.
Two screws on the back are the key to the ‘table’s internals. Its MDF enclosure is surprisingly well made with the unfused mains transformer and amplifier circuitry contained within along with the speakers which are protected by cloth grills. THere’s not much to see beneath the deck itself, besides the microswitch used to control the automatic start and stop function, the motor with speed adjustment pots, and the bearings of both the platter and the arm. The speed on my example was as good as it was going to get and I didn’t make any adjustments. The platter was hopelessly loose, spinning at an angle with the edges rising and falling as it went.
The sound is pretty much as you’d imagine. It’s tinny with a complete absence of bass and there’s little volume produced by such a small amplifier. The wow and flutter – variations in speed stability caused by the weak motor, poor mechanics and drag of the heavy cartridge was painfully obvious on anything but the lightest 7” single. This isn’t a deck you’d want to listen to for any extended period of time, nor is it a player on which you’d want to play any record of any value at all. The damage it will cause is immediate and irreversible, worse even than the likes of the popular Crosley and GPO alternatives which are already bad enough.
You likely wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want to know what it sounds like. The below clip was recorded via the turntable’s internal speakers. The video below features music recorded directly from the RCA line outputs for a comparison.
This wouldn’t be a cheap Chinese turntable if it didn’t, at some point in its life, suffer a catastrophic failure of some form. Fortunately after a few 45s it continued this long-standing tradition, coming to a grinding holt. Dropping a bit of penetrating oil into the motor brought it back to life – long enough at least to suffer a fitting end.
You can’t blame those who look at these ‘turntables’ and consider them as a viable option. After all they look nice – tacky, but decent enough. They’re small and convenient, and you might be persuaded to think the sound was adequate if you didn’t know better. After all, vinyl is an old format, and many who grew up in its heyday never heard it at its best. To the untrained eye, these players don’t suggest record damage, though the poor quality of their build and the fragility of the vinyl format should at least serve as an indication.
Nevertheless, it goes without saying that these products are not in any way worth owning. Think you’ll get to experience the claimed ‘warm’ sound of vinyl through one of these? You won’t, and that’s a fact. I guarantee the smartphone in your pocket sounds better by a considerable margin even through its built-in speaker, and by using it you won’t be damaging often hundreds, if not thousands of pounds worth of investment in a music format. If there was ever a product deserving of its place at the bottom of a landfill, this is it. Of course I expected no different, and you shouldn’t either. You really do get what you pay for.