Big News At Crosley!

Seeing Crosley's C10 turntable at last fall's WAX event in the Capitol Tower parking lot, was a highlight of that record fair. Built for the company by Pro-Ject, the C10 appeared to demonstrate Crosley's commitment to higher quality vinyl playback.

Shortly before CES 2016 I received an email from Ty Mattheu Crosley's Director of Product Development asking if I'd want to meet with him at the show. Of course I did. Mattheu met me at the Venetian and we took a ride to "the Zoo" (the main convention center) where Crosley exhibits in a large, attractive display.

On the ride over he explained the company's history and specifically its move into vinyl, which began around the year 2000. The company basically built novelty radios and other fanciful products built as much, of not more for looks than performance. Someone at the company (I forget who) decided a record player might be a good "novelty" item and the form factor he chose was the old Caliphone record player found in most '50's and '60's public schools.

Crosley brought the sample to CES 2001 and put it on a shelf along with the rest of the company's extensive line of fanciful electronics. A buyer from Restoration Hardware took a fancy to it, ordered a bunch and it became a best-seller. All of a sudden Crosley was a record player manufacturer and as the vinyl resurgence intensified, the company rode the wave.

Yes, the company has become a "punching bag" in the high performance audio community and I've thrown many punches over the years, which makes Mr. Mattheu's reach-out all the more significant and generous.

The company's move towards higher quality is the result of a combination of factors. One is the realization that today, vinyl is far more than a novelty within the mainstream where record buyers want to play and enjoy them on players that can produce good sound and take better care of their records.

But there's another factor at play and that is that other companies offering even cheaper record players want in on the action just as Crosley's engineers (yes they have them) were working to improve the quality of even the least expensive turntables in the line.

Given the company's enormous install base, there's a tremendous opportunity to reach hundreds of thousands of customers with the quality message. Mr. Mattheu told me the company was paying attention to critics, including me, and rather than starting from the ground up with a totally new turntable, it turned to Pro-Ject.

Why would Pro-Ject get involved? Crosley reaches and operates in an entirely different market from Pro-Ject's main business. Here was an opportunity to reach a new, non-audiophile audience.

Pro-Ject built for Crosley two quality turntables in the approximate Debut class and the company began their "high end" experiment.

The C10, fitted with an OM5E Ortofon cartridge, has an MSRP of $399 with a 'street price' of $349. A similar model with a mahogany plinth instead of the C10's Arctic Birch costs somewhat more. Considering the cost of the rest of Crosley's turntable line, these represent a huge price jump. How would they sell?

Crosley made a fairly conservative year-long projection and goal for the number of these turntables it might sell in a year. According to Mr. Mattheu, that projection was met and surpassed within the first month!

And, he said, the more expensive mahogany model was outselling the Arctic Birch model. Now the company wants to further enhance the experience by offering cartridge upgrades and other "tweaks". Customers moving up to the C10 from their far lower performing turntables are of course having the experiences with which we are all familiar.

This development can only be great for the future of vinyl and of high performance audio. These vinyl enthusiasts are "on their way"! Mattheu told me that a large percentage of their young customers are girls—this is something I've been hearing from others so I'm not surprised.

Yes, much of what you will see in this video are novelty turntables, but the CES display demonstrates the Louisville, KY based company's commitment to promoting the "vinyl culture" because they see it as a growing business with better quality leading the way.

They've got an enormous "install base" it thinks are hungry for a better vinyl experience. Of course I offered to help as I can. I walked away from the booth invigorated by everything i heard from Mr. Mattheu and at least some of what I saw there.

Consoleman's picture

Mike should play a sacrificial record 100 times on a low-end crosley and do needle drops on the Caliburn before and after. Personally I don't think there would be much difference.

Cobion's picture

Seriously, if we consider market penetration of young people who have never been exposed to vinyl or album format music, how else can you hook them? On a $500 turntable?, no a $100 turntable.
My 14 year old daughter has never shown an interest in my massive vinyl collection or my music tastes, until this past christmas. During our shopping trips, she started flipping through a record store, looking at vinyl, and even started buying her own collection, why? Because her girlfriend has a Crosley!
Now she's setup with a nice old Dual/Ortofon combo, and the envy of her Crosley owning GF!
Honda entered the US market in the early 70's with a piece of junk, look at them now!

Buzz Goddard's picture

Obviously Crosley brings enormous exposure and additional marketing muscle to the category. And it is great that Crosley purchasers have a good sounding option that will be gentle on their vinyl.

I should point out that this model is based on the Pro-Ject Elemental and Essential models. It has little in common with the Debut Carbon line..

Buzz Goddard
Brand Director
Sumiko/Pro-Ject USA

Michael Fremer's picture
The arm is definitely not from the Elemental or of similar quality. It is aluminum but more like the one found on the original Debut...
cement_head's picture

Everyone that I know who has gotten into vinyl and started with an AudioTechnica LP-60, or similar has upgraded within a couple of years. So, I think that Crosley making a jump into the $350 market is excellent. A $350 turntable is probably exactly what most people need & want.

isaacrivera's picture

If Crosley can have this table made by project and sell it $350 at a profit, then Project could deliver the same directly for much less. Why haven't any of the quality TT makers come up with a $200 option?

goldencalves's picture

This is apparently as good as it gets at that price point:

Crosley has a $200 model, the CS100, which looks like a sl-1200 knock off and has some basic adjustments, probably competitive with those cheap AT and numark decks.

JohnnyB53's picture

Nope. Don't confuse consmetics with mechanics. The product description specifically states that the C100 is belt drive. Crosley's DD turntable is the C200. When are you guys going to quit making authoritarian declarations based on a picture on your computer screen? Until you see, touch, and play one you simply can't draw any such conclusion, especially when the mfr's own product description says otherwise.

Rudy's picture

I see it simply as a branding move, and a brilliant one at that, perhaps unintentionally for the whole vinyl industry.

Think about it. The people who buy a Crosley are not the ones who shop for a Pro-Ject, a Rega, or even a U-Turn. But that same brand name which they already know on a higher-quality turntable will make them take notice. Even if they don't buy Crosley's better turntable in the end, they are at least aware of it, and when shopping for upgrades they will start looking at any turntable in its price range. Even if they do go with the Crosley, they are now aware of what "real" turntables are actually out there. And if they catch our audiophile "illness" they could step up to a pricier Pro-Ject, a Rega RP6, Clearaudio, VPI, Sota, etc.

Even today, many consumers are very brand loyal, so there's that also.

Kirby's picture

As For Crosby, about friggin time....
Michael I'm sure your on it right now, but please write something about your time with Bowie,such a good story. As for me, Bowie's music is the music that I would really call my own. Not my older brother's influence, not my parents, my own. I can still remember the first time I heard Space Oddity at 12 years old, than Ziggy later on....Fuck I'm Bummed...RIP Starman. Thanks for spending some time on earth with us!!!!

OldschoolE's picture

Wow, very interesting. I too have beat up Crosley and others similar over time and I'm not a reviewer or anything. Reading this article, I sort of feel bad about it now, but I think at the same time, it was justified. I mean, ruining records is not on anyone's bucket list I would think.

We will see what develops and if it turns out to be good (I sure hope so) it will mean more folks able to get into records and learn and do it all properly. What's not to like about that?

tube dog's picture

You say that Crosley has been a punching bag in the high end community over the years. I don't understand how taking someone else's turntable and putting their name on it and then acting like they're doing the industry a public service accomplishes anything. Why don't they build their own high end turntable and impress us that way?

my new username's picture

Taking a same or similar machine into new markets. It's why and how American car makers had several car lines for example. It gives Pro-Ject more reach. It will provide more places to buy a decent turntable.

All products must be marketed in order to reach the mass market and expand the platform. Crosley has this. You will see the occasional Pro-Ject in a record store and in several audio stores. Crosley's potential reach is far greater, should they actually decide to push these machines and under the right circumstances.

tube dog's picture

Turntables in this price range are already widely available from people like Pro-ject, Music Hall, Rega, U-Turn etc. Almost everyone has access to a computer and can order online. Are you telling me that we need Crosley
to keep the vinyl resurgence going? Please.

JohnnyB53's picture

Have you ever heard of brand exposure and brand loyalty? People who buy Crosleys barely know that Pro-Ject, Music Hall, and Rega even exist if at all. People stick with what they know. In the mainstream, people know Crosley, so if Crosley starts offering decent all-manual turntables, it's a win for everyone: Crosley buyers get a better taste of how good vinyl can sound, demand for good vinyl grows among the mainstream, more vinyl is pressed and available for everyone. Win-win. At some point if you want to snag a Crosley enthusiast and point him/her to a higher value Pro-Ject or U-turn, also good for everyone.

likegoodaudio's picture

It's about reaching a potentially much larger vinyl user base. I can count on 1 hand the number of people I know who have heard of Pro-Ject or Music Hall, a few more know Rega because of CD players. Of those who know the names, none can say where they would go to go to look at them. However, many many more have noticed the Crosley turntable in Target and similar and have asked "do you suppose it's any good?" Looks like now the answer can be "yes".

Electrical Radio's picture

After bumping into a friend's daughter in the LP section of a Pasadena record store, I recommended she check out the inexpensive U-Turn phono. Later I realized that a lot of people wanting to listen to LPs may not even have a stereo to plug a turntable into! (Her mom does some DJ-ing, so she'll probably figure it all out.)

I'm swearing off dismissing Crosley's all-in-one approach. After all, I grew up listening to a GE "Trimline" record player in the '70's & my older brother had a Voice of Music to play his 45s.