Crosley Grows A Pair (Of Serious Turntables)

News at this past year’s International Consumer Electronics Show that “novelty” turntable manufacturer Crosley was introducing a pair of quality turntables built for the company by Pro-Ject drew me to the “ZOO” to check them out.

Turns out it’s a single model available in Arctic Birch for $399 and Mahogany for an additional $30.00. Essentially, the C10 is a Pro-Ject Debut III

According to a Crosley spokesperson, they cautiously entered the market, setting a “realistic” annual sales projection that was broken the first month. Customers opted more for the extra-cost Mahogany model.

When a review sample was offered we bit. Of course, for a veteran turntable reviewer, there were no surprises: this was a fairly standard Pro-Ject offering at the lower end of the company’s extensive turntable line-up.

However, thanks to solid sales growth over the past few decades, Pro-Ject has been able to seriously upgrade their products, while keeping the prices relatively low.

Not that long ago, this product would have been fitted with a lower quality two-piece arm tube, a less massive bearing housing, lower quality cabling and cheaper, less sturdy RCA plugs.

Easy Set Up?

Yes, the C10 sets up easily with an asterisk. Ortofon’s “bread and butter” OM5E cartridge comes pre-installed. All the buyer has to do is screw on the counterweight and follow the instructions for setting VTF (vertical tracking force). However, Pro-Ject insists on mN instead of grams so the counterweight wheel marks omit the decimal point, which can be confusing, particularly to “newbies”. So, “10” is 1.0 grams, “15” is 1.5 grams etc. I think Crosley ought to clarify this in their instructions.

Otherwise, set-up is straight-forward. The instructions include Pro-Ject’s two-point alignment protractor that I’m not sure C10 buyers will understand how to use. I suggested to Crosley that I could excerpt the Pro-Ject turntable set up section of my “21st Century Vinyl” DVD that they could throw into the box, but so far, no word on that.

The C10’s arm certainly can do justice to a wide range of cartridge upgrades, though the supplied Ortofon is surprisingly listenable. The arm even allows for azimuth adjustment.The ‘table sits on three isolating feet that based on some knuckle wraps work pretty well.

A “Wal-Wart” powers the A.C. synchronous motor to which is fitted a two step machined aluminum pulley. The stainless steel bearing assemblage is of modest size, as expected give the ‘table’s price, but here again, Pro-Ject has been producing these in its factory for so long now, it has the process down.Changing speed requires easy removal of the approximately three pound + steel platter and moving the belt to the larger pulley step.

The supplied standard felt mat was missing from the review sample, which didn’t appear to have been previously unpacked. That’s unusual for Pro-Ject in my experience but it’s also possible that someone at Crosley did an unusually excellent job of re-packing and simply left the felt mat out of the box. I happily used a Funk Firm Achromat for muc of my listening, though I also used some of the thinner mats used a few years ago for the mat comparison story.

Job one is to run at the correct speed. The Crosley C10 does:

Speed consistency and stability were also commendable, especially given the price:

Sound

Of course the final sound is somewhat limited by the budget cartridge, but the sound is basically reminiscent of Pro-Ject’s own Debut III, which we reviewed a few years ago in its Carbon fiber arm upgraded edition that costs around the same as this C10.

I realize that give some readers pause: why this and not that? Well that is not the point! Crosley has its own “install base” of who knows how many customers—probably a million or more (just guessing)? They are selling to a different market segment not normally associated with the audiophile market. Get one of these ‘tables in the hands of those used to the usual plastic fare and you have the potential for tens of thousands of new audiophiles. That is what is so exciting about this development.

The YouTube channel video below includes a few minutes of a Gearbox release called Applewood Road. It was recorded directly to ¼” tape at Nashville’s Welcome to 1979 Studios using a single microphone without edits or overdubs. The three women harmonize seamlessly with minimal accompaniment.

I chose the record both because it’s worth exposing and because it demonstrates the ‘table’s quiet backgrounds and its pleasing overall rhythm’n’pacing as well as the reasonably clean bass lines. Regardless of your turntable’s cost and/or sophistication, I think you’ll find the sound pleasing. Please read the Debut Carbon III review via the link above and you’ll get a general idea of how this turntable sounds. I have always liked the sonic performance of Pro-Ject’s lower priced ‘tables, especially considering their reasonable cost and this Crosley is no exception. I wish I could witness an owner of an older plastic Crosley moving up to a C10 and playing his or her first record!

A U-Turn Pluto MM phono preamp would be a recommended electronics upgrade for many Crosley customers.

COMMENTS
Glotz's picture

THAT is what I wanna see from LP sales in the next 5 years!

And Mikey is sooo right- Crosley owners are gonna help do it!

Bob Levin's picture

Is this basically the same, sacrificing the carbon fiber arm and better cartridge in place of an admittedly (much) nicer looking plinth?
Either way, "I wouldn't kick it out of bed for eating crackers", as they say. ;-)

Michael Fremer's picture
I'd say yes.
Bob Levin's picture

I'd upgrade from my gloss black plinth to Baltic birch.
Heck, I would probably do that before the move to the 'Acryl-It' that I had planned!

Daniel Emerson's picture

I'm a little surprised Crosley didn't do a turntable with a built-in phono stage, as a lot of their customers will be moving up from all-in-one-box setups.

Still, those first-month sales beating Crosley's annual estimate is good news.

Grant M's picture

It's hard not to be a critic, but it seems to me like these products offer all the the drawbacks of playing modern vinyl - warped, dished, non-fill crappy digital mass produced reissues as well as the dollar bin scratched to crap worn out stuff, played back on mediocre gear - those are pretty much the options for people who don't have money for audiophile quality or now crazy priced collectible vinyl. Maybe these customers should stick to the consistency and quality of digital, it seems like the market prices for really getting the advantages of vinyl are almost completely lost on the low end newbie trying to 'get into' vinyl.

Bob Levin's picture

My fortune in scouring the used record bins hasn't been all that bad.
I throw my finds in the Spin Clean and end up with quite a few goodies.
A couple of weeks ago, a three record set of Bruckner's 5th. Haitink W/ the Concertgebouw. The box is pretty much a loss. The discs themselves are VG+. On the same day, thanks to people who dump their collections en masse, volumes 1 and 2 of the Chicago Symphony "Kubelik Legacy" boxed sets. Again, the previous owners weren't very good with box preservation. The records sound nearly untouched.
I've found many other Pop Jazz and the unclassifiable (Industrial Musicals. Strange Lounge and spoken word.) records in fantastic shape and cheaper than dirt.
People just need to develop the necessary crate digging skills. No real luck required.

Paul Boudreau's picture

Some apparently think that scratched, dirty records are the norm and that the resulting noisy playback is cool & "retro." Amazing! That's just a lack of information on their part, though.

Consoleman's picture

I find used vinyl treasures practically on a weekly basis in various local used record stores. You can build a nice collection for little money, in fact, used vinyl is the best value in old (80s and before) music.

Paul Boudreau's picture

That's good news. Presumably the available upgrades to the Debut III would work on these 'tables: Acrylic platter, OM10-OM40 styli, silver interconnects, record weight & speed box. Handy to do it gradually if cash flow is an issue. If so, I wonder whether Crosley is mentioning such things to customers?

PAR's picture

"I wonder whether Crosley is mentioning such things to customers?"

I hope not. Yes, to us commited vinylphiles all of those add-ons are desirable. To Crosley cusomers at the entry level such stuff just adds confusion and expense and will surely serve to put them off the whole idea.

Believe me I have been in this hobby for 50 years and have been asked for advice on numerous occasions. One thing that I learned fairly quickly was that if I started spouting the "audiophile book of rules" to civilians I would get a pleasant smile and a thank you. The person would then either go on to do absolutely nothing or to buy a 200 g.b.p everything in one box system from the local general electrical goods store.

Newbies want support from the "expert" that they have bought the right thing, not that they should have bought something else or something additional. They will discover by themselves over the coming months whether they want to go further. Most will not, I have to say.

Paul Boudreau's picture

Yes, I agree. Most people think it's normal to pay $20k-$30k USD for a vehicle but recoil in horror at the idea of paying $500 USD for a turntable. I was thinking more along the lines of a mention in the manual that the Crosley was identical to a Pro-Ject 'table and that incremental upgrades are available if desired. I don't think that would frighten too many off, would it? It would indicate that if they want to go further, here's how to do it.

PAR's picture

"recoil in horror at the idea of paying $500 USD for a turntable"

Yes, over here too. My friend used to be a b&m hifi dealer. Years ago I was in his shop when a guy came in and said he would like to play his old vinyl records. My friend pointed out the cheapest LP spinner he had. 95 gbp, the equivalent of about $135 at the time. The guy: " What? I've got to pay 95 quid to play f...ing records?" And walked out.

I like the user's manual idea for subtly suggesting some simple upgrades but unfortunately it strikes me that there wouldn't be much financial incentive for Crossley to do it. Still, good idea.

thomoz's picture

I ran a small independent record store for almost four years. Customers came to me looking for stylus replacements. Wholly impractical to carry a zillion styli, I simply carried AT carts priced $22-35 depending on the model and time of year. Some people walked out, $25 or so was "too much" for that needle, which I would install for free.

Here in Atlanta you throw away a car after 6-7 years, as the roads and long commutes destroy your car. But, of course, the speakers and amplification I bought 20 years ago still work just fine. The next time I spend $15k on anything you can bet it won't be a car.

Michael Fremer's picture
I think they are considering offering upgrades but not immediately.
Dman's picture

While reading this, I had to pause, especially with a line like, "Get one of these ‘tables in the hands of those used to the usual plastic fare..."
I too, hope that "regular" (or as D-wife says, "plain vanilla") people will finally get it...
Let's hope that those "plain vanilla" people upgrading from "plastic fare" haven't chewed the crap out of their rekkids by then, or this whole exercise will be for nothing!

Rudy's picture

Let's hope that those "plain vanilla" people upgrading from "plastic fare" haven't chewed the crap out of their rekkids by then, or this whole exercise will be for nothing!

That could indeed be a concern. After shredding them on the plastic record players, the records will already be destroyed. Jeez, these sound even worse! Vinyl sucks!! (Have you seen the replacement stylus for the novelty Crosleys and others? It has a frickin' PLASTIC cantilever!)

(Smacks head...)

DanaMck's picture

Any attempt a company makes to improve their line up of products is to be applauded. Think about those first time buyers who might be persuaded to step up to this model and the fact that they will have a much better analog experience. And all the vinyl that will be saved from abuse in the process!

Rudy's picture

One other advantage is that these will sell through more traditional retail channels. Many will balk at the price, but hey, it's their loss. You can't build a quality turntable for $100 these days. And given traditional retail channels, I would not be surprised to see these discounted.

It would be interesting to find out which of the available Pro-Ject upgrades would work on this turntable.

No evidence of the hum/motor mount problem that plagued the Debut Carbon?

By the way, are you sure it's not a DC motor? I don't see a reason for a wall wart since with an AC motor, speed is a function of the line frequency, not the voltage. The Debut Carbon DC has gone to the DC motor, as have many of their upper-end tables.

PAR's picture

Well I guess that although the speed of the AC motor is synchronous to the mains frequency it won't be a 110v (or 230V in my country) device. It will likely be 12v. That's why it needs a power supply be it a wall wart or other.

Daniel Emerson's picture

I have a NAD 533, which is essentially a Rega P2 with different badges, and all the Rega upgrades I have applied (bearing, counterweight stub etc.) fit and work just fine. From the look of the Crosley, I'd say that they just badge-engineered a Pro-Ject the same way. The tonearm even has "Pro-Ject" on the side.

So you can amost certainly upgrade if that's your thing, and if that is your thing, you'd probably do a little Googling and if any shop or website selling Pro-ject upgrades isn't smart enough to mention that these tweaks will also work on a market behemoth brand like Crosley, they are missing a massive opportunity.

Upgrading the Ortofon OM without even needing a tool is dead simple, too. You can pull out one stylus and push in another in seconds.

OldschoolE's picture

While perhaps I myself would not purchase this table, I'm not of the same demographic being courted. That said, I like this...a lot! You dropped the needle perfectly in talking about the reason behind it all Mikey. (See what I did there)?
Getting folks interested in listening to music in good sound quality (via vinyl in this case)is the bottom line. $400 is a lot to some folks and I for one take my hat off to them for being willing to save up to purchase a turntable like this. I also give cred to Crosley for making it available. Some folks may be nervous walking into a typical Hi-Fi shop even if they carry $400 tables. Crosley (brilliantly teaming up with Pro-Ject) can put tables in other places such as big box stores and such making them more available.
One has to also think that this would be a start. Eventually, if some folks get a bit more ability or what have you, they will want to step up a notch.
Last but not least, I really hope you hear back from Crosley Michael on your kind offer to them. They would be fools not to take you up on it!

WaltonGoggins's picture

with acrylic platter and Grado Black on hand for comparison. I guess the big question (or not) would be how the U-Turn tone arm would compare to the C10's tone arm. (Sentimentally, I root for the boys from Boston.)

Would you hazard a guess, Michael?

Michael Fremer's picture
This Pro-Ject arm is superior to U-Turn's. I root for the boys from Boston as well....
michaelhigh's picture

Isn't the aforementioned tt the same as Pro-Ject Debut Carbon III?

If so, I just bought a Pro-Ject knockoff without the stigma of the Crapley name.

WaltonGoggins's picture

But it seems more substantial. The arm sits down in the "well", as opposed to being flush up on the plinth like the Debut and Essential lines. The Pro-Ject Expression and Experience line have the "well" also. (Or whatever they call it.) I assume that the blue cart is basically an OM5. (?)

Seems like a great deal at $299.

khenegar's picture

What's the name of the group singing in this Crowley demo?

khenegar's picture

I meant the Crosley demo music not crowley

Jakobean613's picture

Pro-Ject and Music Hall just added another name . I agree with everyone,in respect to the idea of getting analog technology to the hoi polloi.
Wonderful news.
But there was something missing. Everyone was taking upgrades to this very nice entry level table,but there was no mention of the pre amp,power amp or speakers .
Crosley has made an inferior product for quite some time. This is a huge upgrade .
I've noticed in the past few years,this idea of high quality turntables being made in Eastern Europe and of course Rega in the UK.
In the sixties or seventies,I doubt you could have bought a table of this quality for $400. with cartridge .
The idea of naming everything manually manipulated,gets the audiophile engaged .
This is all great news.
Then the buyer must ask the salesperson,the obvious question.
What else do I need with this turntable,do I may actually listen to vinyl records ?
Well,we have an integrated amplifier ,that has both the pre amp ( tone controls ,or in today's parlance ,EQ ) and a power amplifier ,to power the signal to the speakers .
This way,you now only have to buy two more components. ( I know,speakers come in pairs :) the integrated amplifier and a pair of speakers .
" Well,how much more money are you talking about "?
Actually ,you could just buy a pre amp and a pair of powered speakers . This is another " inversion " the speakers will have the power amp built in,so you just need a preamp and powered speakers .
" How much would this cost " ?
" Listen sir or Madame.it used to be for audiophiles that you would have four components . The pre amp,and a separate power amp ,that would go to the speakers . We have taken out that antiquated idea . It was much too complicated "
Needless to say,the reality still is ,for a true audiophile ,you are going to have separate amps,possibly two monos etc. A very costly enterprise .
Now the buyer is not looking at $400.00 ,he's looking at around $1000.00 for a thirty - five watts a channel system,which by most people's standards that live in apartments,still leaves you a little headroom,depending on how efficient your speakers are.
This is going to be an interesting marketing campaign. People may feel it's a bait and switch tactic .
My advice,and I'm sure ill get pushback on this. Look for a seventies Bang and Olufsen integrated amp. Like the one with the slide rule controls for the receiver . I think they were around thirty watts a channel ,and they could feed a two or three way 10 inch driver,very well.
Speakers ? Don't have a clue . Every pair of Chinese made Mackies sound like hell to me .
Near field Tannoys ,would be my go to for this system. B&O amp,passive Tannoys and this new table.
What are you looking at in terms of money .
I'm asking,I honestly don't know.
The B&O amps on e bay ,possibly $200. ?
Tannoys eight inch driver monitors $500. ?
I'm sure others have ideas here .
As we are all here for the same perverted reason,I would think we would want to help this cause on a pro bono basis .
Here is an idea . As mentioned,this idea of a high quality table for an affordable price,is something relatively new. Agreed ? How about someone with some inside knowledge ( Mikey ) and has an in with some electrical engineers . Come up with an affordable integrated amp,sans the receiver .
Then the idea of a two way ten inch driver ,also affordable .
It could be done,that I'm certain of .
Fact is,a table without the aforementioned "add-ons " is useless,unless you want a small preamp going into phones with a five way splitter,so you and your friends can all listen together with no interaction ...
Ideas folks.
This is important and there is an opportunity to start a business here . I'm a marketing ,product development guy ... Some one get the money for R&D,someone make the necessary contacts within the industry and leave the rest to me .

Newscot44's picture