Last week I posted a review of the new House of Marley Stir it Up, a nice entry-level turntable. This week I’m looking at a model that’s a step up. The C20 by Crosley is a solid upgrade for anyone with a basic turntable who’s looking for more performance without spending audiophile dollars. This is the latest—and greatest—move by Crosley to expand its market from casual record listeners to vinyl collectors who demand more than its traditional systems offer.
Forget everything you know about Crosley turntables. The C20 has no relationship to the all-in-one suitcase record players you see in the mall, other than the Crosley name discreetly embossed in one corner. It’s meant to appeal to the crowd that started with one of those record players and now wants something that will get the most out of their vinyl collection. They picked up a receiver with a Phono input or a pre-amp, and they need a turntable to connect to it. That used to mean moving up to brands like Pioneer, Sony, and Rega, but the C20 is aimed at keeping these vinyl enthusiasts in the Crosley camp.
The belt-drive C20 is built in partnership with Pro-Ject, an Austrian company that has a reputation for making high quality, audiophile-grade turntables.
It shares many components with those Pro-Ject turntables, including the S-shaped aluminum tone arm with Sapphire bearings, audio-grade solid MDF plinth (in this case covered with genuine Zebrano wood veneer), and vibration-dampening feet. It also includes advanced features that are often extra-cost upgrades, including a solid acrylic platter, USB output (in addition to the standard Phono output), and a pre-mounted Ortofon OM10 cartridge.
C20 Looks Great and Performs Just as Well
Out of the box, this is a very handsome turntable. The Zebrano wood contrasts nicely with the black hardware, and, with the acrylic platter instead of aluminum, it has a very modern look.
Setup is a little more complicated than an all-in-one record player. The belt needs to be installed first, which is pretty straightforward. The cartridge is pre-mounted, but the tracking force and anti-skate need to be adjusted. The instructions are okay, but I Googled a Pro-Ject setup video that walked through everything much more clearly.
From there, I connected the turntable to my receiver’s Phono input, and that was it.
The Crosley C20 is a looker, but it’s also a great mid-range turntable. The Ortofon OM10 cartridge has performed well. Audio seems balanced, with clear highs and nice bass response. It tracks well and does better with the used records I’ve picked up than my previous system—more forgiving of minor scratches and less prone to skipping. The acrylic platter is supposed to help reduce static and resonance and I have to say, it seems to make a difference. I’ve been listening to records ranging from The Band to Ultravox and the sound from the C20 has consistently been excellent.
If you wanted to rip your vinyl on your PC, there is a USB output option.
And it’s worth noting that the Ortofon OM10 cartridge has an easy stylus upgrade path should you wish to invest in even better audio performance.
The one downside to using the Pro-Ject design is that you have to remove the platter and manually shift the belt to change speeds. So if you switch a lot between LPs and 45s, this may not be the turntable for you. There is also no auto-return on the tone arm, so when the record side is finished, it’s up to you to manually handle that task.
At an MSRP of $559.95, the Crosley C20 isn’t cheap, but it’s in a sweet spot for mid-range turntables. And considering the value of some of the extras–that acrylic platter alone goes for over $100 from Pro-Ject and the Ortofon OM10 retails for $7–the price is pretty reasonable. As an upgrade from an entry level turntable, it makes a good choice with plenty of performance out of the box and the ability to easily upgrade the stylus later if you want to take things to the next level.
If you don’t want these extras, Crosley also offers the C10, a step down that’s still based on Pro-Ject components, but goes for a more affordable $399.95 instead (you can actually pick it up for $300 on Amazon).
Disclosure: Crosley provided a turntable for review purposes.