JBL Spinner BT Turntable – play those classic vinyls again (review)
The JBL Spinner BT Turntable is the perfect pair for the JBL Authentics series of speakers. It has an inbuilt pre-amp and SBC/Bluetooth aptX-HD and stereo RCA connection to your speakers, headphones, or amp.
The biggest issue I had is that my vinyl record collection is long gone, replaced by cassette, CD, and now Spotify or Tidal Hi-res. So I had to beg, borrow, or steal some vinyl records from the test panel to do this review.
I have brushed off the cobwebs (from the records and my mind) and begun to rediscover turntables and the world of analogue music. I suspect that readers will equally have distant and fond memories of vinyl too. Let me tell you – it is worth the experience.
Our test panel wanted to know:
- 33 (12”) or 45 RPM (7”) – no requirement for old 78 (10”) RPM.
- Manual or Automatic arm
- Maintenance and stylus replacement costs
- Size – where can we put it?
- Longevity (build quality)
- Price – what is reasonable?
Caveat: We cannot review any turntable on a specs basis and compare it with any other turntable. From what we know, the more you spend, the more precision you get. For example, the $1749 Technics SL-1000C is a premium ‘DC brushless direct drive’ with all sorts of tech to reproduce audiophile standard. You can spend many times more on direct drive brands such as Goldmund, Linn ($50K), Regar Planar, Thorens, etc. Similarly, a record player stylus can cost from $50 to thousands. New records are not cheap ranging from $20-300 each.
So we need to review this as a $649.95 belt drive, Audio Technica cartridge/stylus, JBL pre-amp, BT, and pretty nice retro styling.
Australian review – JBL Spinner BT Turntable
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|From||JBL Online, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Bing Lee, Myer, Officeworks|
|Company||JBL (Est. the mid-40s) is short for James B Lansing. (Yes, he was the Lansing in Altec Lansing.) It is now part of the Harman group of companies owned by Samsung.|
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We use Fail (below expectations), Passable (meets low expectations), Pass (meets expectations), Pass+ (near Exceed but not class-leading) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. You can click on most images for an enlargement.
First Impression – you have to assemble it – Pass+
I don’t know what I was expecting – my last turntable purchased in the 70s was ready to rumble. Relax, it is not daunting. The hardest part is placing the drive belt over the drive pully, and JBL provides a piece of red ribbon to do that (don’t throw it away).
It has a classic look, with black and gold highlights (there is a black and orange version as well).
Tone Arm – manual – Pass
It has a lever lift and lower mechanism to protect the record. At the end of play, the turntable stops. In many respects, this is better than automatic as it does not have moving parts like gears and sensors to go wrong.
Record types – 33/45RPM – Pass+
It has a front switch for 33/45RPM. Once you power it down/up (rear switch), you need to select record size again.
Cartridge/Stylus – Pass
It uses an Audio Technica AT3600L moving magnet cartridge (approx. $60) and an ATN3600L round tip stylus (approx. $45). The cartridge has a 20Hz-20kHz frequency response and a tracking force of 2.5-3.5g.
The headshell appears band agnostic. Considering AT cartridges range from $10.95-$330, this is a decent cartridge. Reviews give it 8/10, citing lively, rich, full sound at a reasonable price.
Signal to Noise – Pass
Above 65dB is considered good, and JBL meets this. Cheap turntables are <60dB.
It is 435 (W) x 368 (D) x 155mm (H) x 5.3kg with the acrylic lid down. You really need about 500mm depth to allow for the lid to open, cables and accessing the power and BT buttons at the back.
While turntables can suffer from vibration, the rubber-dampening feet seem quite good at absorbing that. Place it on a stable surface away from devices that cause vibrations (like a sub-woofer). There is no perceptible motor noise.
Build – Solid enough – Pass+
Many turntables at this price point only have plastic plinths and plastic platters.
The plinth/case is made from black-finished MDF (Medium-density fibreboard). The platter is diecast aluminium with a rubber belt drive rim. The tonearm is aluminium with a removable headshell, adjustable counterweight, anti-skate adjustment and hydraulic lifting arm. It is easy to upgrade to a cartridge of your choice. The motor has electronic speed control, so it is accurate.
It will give many years of service.
Connections – Pass+
The Pass+ is for Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC and aptX-HD (should your speaker accept that). To establish a link (tested with JBL Authentics 300 – classic retro elegance, gutsy sound), press the blue BT button on the back until the Blue LED flashes and press the BT button on the speaker to enter pairing mode. It will join, and the blue light will stay solid. The connection remains in memory.
We did not try with other brands of speakers, but SBC should be fine. We will update this if we find otherwise.
It also has RCA Left/Right out, and you can use a 3.5mm 3-pole to RCA cable or RCA-RCA cables to connect to most devices. Don’t be fooled – you do not need $60 gold-plated, low oxygen, double shielded, copper cables. The ones supplied are all you need.
While not announced here, JBL has a new TT350 Classic direct drive turntable, SA550 Classic Class G Amp, CD350 Classic CD player, and MP350 streamer.
CyberShack’s view – JBL Spinner BT Turntable let the good times rock and roll
This is a good mid-range turntable for all your precious vinyl. I like its simplicity and JBL-quality build.
We won’t give it a formal rating as we have no meaningful turntable benchmarks. Unless you are an audiophile and want to spend more on a cartridge than the whole kit, then this easily passes every measure.
Rating – JBL Spinner BT Turntable with BT/RCA
- Features: BT 5.2 SBC/aptX-HD, 33/45RPM, RCA out, Audio Technica cartridge, great build and decent specs.
- Value: $649.95 seems fair for the feature set.
- Performance: It was lovely to hear analogue vinyl again and to see why it is making a comeback.
- Ease of Use: Apart from the drive belt assembly is intuitive.
- Design: I like the retro gold trim and JBL design cues.
- Reasonable price to bring your vinyl back to life.
- BT 5.2, SBC and aptX-HD connection
- Well-made – a keeper
- Decent mid-range Audio Technica cartridge and tonearm
- None, really – I have this inexplicable desire to own one!