Victrola Hi-Res Carbon Turntable Reviewed

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The Hi-Res Carbon (buy at Crutchfield) is the latest turntable from the Victrola brand of turntables. While this brand was once thought of as a maker of phonographs, it is now making products like the Hi-Res Carbon, which has modern features such as AptX Bluetooth to connect the turntable wirelessly to either your stereo preamp, integrated amplifier, powered speakers, or a pair of wireless headphones. This turntable also features an auto-stop sensor, so when you reach the end of the side of the record, the turntable will stop spinning, as well as an Ortofon 2M Red moving magnet cartridge. Victrola has put together what looks to be a feature-rich turntable for the modern buyer, priced in a pretty competitive range at $599. Is this modern-looking, feature-laden turntable the right one for you? That’s what we are here to find out…

Victrola Hi-Res Carbon turntable is a modern statement from perhaps the oldest audiophile company on the planet
Victrola Hi-Res Carbon turntable is a modern statement from perhaps the oldest audiophile company on the planet

What Makes the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon Turntable Special?

  • This turntable was by far the easiest I have had to assemble. I have reviewed five turntables over the past calendar year. With these experiences in mind, the engineers at Victrola have really put some thought into making the assembly of the Hi-Res Carbon as easy as possible. I had the turntable put together using their video in minutes, and there wasn’t a single moment where I was worried that I couldn’t find a part or anything else.
  • The Victrola Hi-Res Carbon turntable looks really modern, despite its age-old legacy. From the first time you add it into your system, you can see that this turntable looks very high-performance and modern. They have used a combination of black and stainless steel to provide a very clean feel to this affordable turntable. The button on the front also adds to that aesthetic, as it is white while you are playing, and it turns blue when you are using its Bluetooth functionality. Even the dust cover looks different. Instead of the standard shell design that you see on the majority of turntables, Victrola has chosen to use a removable black plastic cover that is tailored to fit the top of the turntable.
  • It is easy to change speeds on the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon. This is a small feature, but anyone who has more than just 33 RPM records can tell you that it is a meaningful one. Being able to turn a knob to control the speed of the record is a great feature, and one that I will take any day over one where I must remove the platter and adjust the belt.
  • The tonearm of the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon is well built and also looks very cool. Victrola chose to go all out on their tone arm. It is an ultralight carbon-fiber tone arm with a pre-mounted Ortofon Red 2M cartridge, which is a fantastic combination, especially at this price point.
  • The turntable features a built-in phono stage. This is good feature to have for folks who are new to turntables, as there isn’t a guarantee that your preamplifier or your integrated amplifier is going to have a phono stage built-in. If you’re marketing to a younger audience, and I believe Victrola is with the Hi-Res Carbon, then including a feature like this is a fine idea that will keep noobs from having a bad first experience and/or returning the unit. 

Why Should You Care About the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon Turntable?

The Victrola Hi-Res Carbon is a turntable that was built for the modern-day user. It was incredibly easy to put together, which helps keep the excitement for the entry-level audiophile, and it really has everything that you might expect if you were going to be selling turntables to a modern generation. It doesn’t look like your father’s or grandfather’s old turntable. The Victrola Hi-Res Carbon turntable looks like something new and, with Bluetooth aptX Adaptive and HD audio available, it allows you to keep your setup wireless if you’re someone who has powered speakers, or your primary listening method is Bluetooth headphones. 

The Victrola Hi-Res Carbon at Andrew Dewhirst's reference audiophile system
The Victrola Hi-Res Carbon at Andrew Dewhirst’s reference audiophile system

Some Things You Might Not Like About the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon Turntable

  • The Victrola Hi-Res Carbon comes with a non-traditional dust cover. While the first time I saw this feature I thought it was great, it didn’t take me long to want for a more traditional dust cover in my life. If you have younger children around while you have the turntable on, they have free access to the player, and that is not always a good thing. The second issue is, again, as the dust cover needs to be off, it means you need to find a place to store the cover while you’re using the turntable. Then you have the issue that the plastic seems to be missing a coating to prevent the oils from your fingers from leaving marks on it. After a few weeks of use, you could see everywhere that I had picked the cover up. Lastly is that, if the cover is off while you’re using it, then you have potentially hours where your records are unprotected and literally collecting dust, which is harmful to both your records and your cartridge.
  • There is no clear indicator when the record is up to speed. In my first few user sessions with the Hi-Res Carbon, I was too quick to drop the needle, and you could hear that the turntable hadn’t quite gotten up to 33 1/3 RPM, which cause the first few seconds of the record to sound a little off. 

Listening to the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon Turntable…

I performed my testing with the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon turntable with the LEAK Stereo 230 (review pending) as a phono stage and amplifier (115 watts per channel of Class D power), as well as the HIFI Rose RS 520 (review pending) and the Hi-Res Carbon’s phono stage. The RS 520’s class AD GaN FET amplifier provides 250 watts of power. With both integrated amplifiers, I was using the MartinLogan Motion XT F100 floorstanding speakers.

One of the tracks that stood out to me while listening to the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon turntable was Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” from his classic 1977  solo album Slowhand.The slower pace of this track allows the Hammond organ to really come out, and Clapton’s ability to keep the guitar parts harmonic and soulful is always there and musically present. The entirety of the recording was reproduced very clearly, and the separation of the instruments sounded as they were intended in the recording. This is far from my favorite Clapton track, but this turntable ensured that it had a great sound, and there was little audible noise that I noticed from the turntable.

To really put the Victrola Hi-Res to work, I listed to the Wynton Marsalis track “Django.” This is from Marsalis’s 1984 album Hot House Flowers. This record shows off Marsalis’s abilities, not only with jazz, but also with leading an orchestra, something he would spend a lot more time doing later in his career. This track shows both of those talents off quite well. The track opens with Marsalis’s trumpet, as well as the string instruments from the orchestra. Through the recording the dynamics were fantastic, particularly in the top end as well as the midrange. 

The last track I used was an upbeat track from Arcade Fire called “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out).” This track is from their 2004 full-length debut album titled Funeral. The track was inspired by a 1998 ice storm that left Montréal without power for a week, and you can hear that in the lyrics. This is one of the most influential indie rock albums of the 2000s, and this track shows off why. The band puts together a sound that was very fresh at the time, and really, I am yet to hear anything that sounds like it to this day. The Victrola Hi-Res Carbon did a very respectable job delivering space between the musicians in the mix. You can hear the layering of the guitar, the synthesizer, bass guitar, drums and xylophone with relative ease. The dynamics were energetic and the overall tone felt ever so warm and inviting. 

A top view of the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon turntable
A top view of the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon turntable

Does the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon Turntable Have Any Resale Value?

I couldn’t find any of these turntables on the resale market, which is to be expected, as the product hasn’t been on the market all that long. I suspect how much you will get for this product on the resale market will be heavily tied with how well the Victrola brand is perceived by the market. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could get $300 for it used in a few years, but if you told me it was going to be less, I could believe that, too. I believe this is an entry-level turntable for audiophiles, and most of the older part of the audiophile market are likely to look to brands they identify with more. Without a big asking price, the Hi-Res Carbon doesn’t have to far to fall in value overall, thus when you consider how much enjoyment you can get from such a full-featured audiophile components, I think your overall value is pretty safe here. 

The sleek lines of the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon is a sharp statement for your equipment rack.
The sleek lines of the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon is a sharp statement for your equipment rack.

Who is the Competition for the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon Turntable Turntable?

If you are shopping in the same price range, but you want a more traditional turntable, the NAD C558 ($549 buy at Crutchfield) is a fine choice. The only real complaint I had about this turntable is that if you need to go from a 33 RPM record to a 45 RPM, you need to lift the platter and move the belt. This turntable doesn’t have Bluetooth, and it also doesn’t have the auto-stop feature, but it sounded great, as it too has a somewhat similar Ortofon cartridge.

If you are looking for something a little cheaper, the Andover Audio SpinDeck 2 ($299 buy at Crutchfield) gives you some of the same modern features, such as auto-stop when the side of the record has ended. Where you get the difference in price is that the Andover doesn’t have any Bluetooth capabilities, and it has a cheaper cartridge, but keep it in mind, it is also half the price. You can read my full review of this turntable here.

The Music Hall Classic ($649 buy at Crutchfield) is a very similar offering to the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon turntable. Both offer the auto-stop feature, and a built-in phono stage. The biggest differences between these two turntables are that the Music Hall has a more traditional look, and it doesn’t have the Bluetooth capability that the Victrola boasts, which is especially appealing to the youngest of audiophiles. They also feature different cartridges. I personally haven’t heard the Music Hall MM Spirit cartridge, but my colleague, Brian Kahn, speaks favorably in his review of the turntable that you can read here.

Final Thoughts on the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon Turntable

If you are someone who is looking for a turntable that is packing some of the most forward-thinking features on the audiophile market today, then the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon might be something you are looking to dig into more. As noted, it has a good cartridge, and if you’re new to vinyl, I think having the built-in phono stage is a nice feature to have, as is the auto-stop feature, which reduces the wear on your stylus. Ultimately, for me and where my life is with younger kids around, the lack of a shell to protect the records made this a product that is hard for me, but I know more than enough people who wouldn’t care about this, because their kids are out of the stage where they want to touch everything that moves, and I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest the Victrola Hi-Res Carbon to them if it fits into their budget, and they love using Bluetooth headphones, or they have powered speakers that allow a Bluetooth connection.

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