Tech Rap: Record Store Day and the new Como Audio Bluetooth Turntable
Posted on April 19 2019
April 13, 2019 was annual Record Store Day. What’s that, I hear you ask? It’s a national day of support for record stores and records in general, not to mention an opportunity to openly get your geek on with fellow record admirers without fear of being vinyl-shamed. Record companies mark the day by releasing limited edition titles, some containing previously unreleased tracks, and many pressed on colored vinyl. This year’s exclusive releases included artists such as Madonna, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Prince, Grateful Dead, Queen, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, and many more. There was also an extra little (literally) surprise this year for vinyl enthusiasts…a tiny turntable and tiny records!
The RSD3 is a limited edition, belt-driven portable mini record player with an off-the-scale adorable factor. It looked like so much fun, I decided I had to have one, but it was only available at select record stores. I called up my nearest Newbury Comics a few days before Record Store Day, but was informed they weren’t allowed to tell me if they’d be selling it or not. Taking my chances, I drove to the Braintree, MA store late Saturday morning, only to be promptly told they had completely sold out of them. As the clerk didn’t volunteer the information, I asked what other stores had them and was told their Boston and Norwood locations. Norwood was only about 15 minutes away, so I called up that store. The guy who answered told me they had also sold out of them, but a gal in the background shouted they still had some. Before I could ask if they would hold one for me, he hung up. As it wasn’t far, I decided to make the drive and hope I arrived in time to score my novelty record player. I took the exit to Interstate 95 South and was immediately greeted by a long back up resulting from a two-car accident on the opposite side that had just occurred. Trying to get this crazy record player was like pulling teeth! I envisioned getting to the store too late and being told they were sold out. But the vinyl God must have been smiling down upon me because even though I showed up 15 minutes later than I should’ve, I was able to scoop one up along with a few equally adorable, proprietary 3” records. Mission accomplished.
Short on sound, big on cute: The RSD3 limited edition mini record player.
“Trying to get this crazy record player was like pulling teeth!”
To be clear, this player isn’t for audiophiles, it’s for fun. The small mono speaker doesn’t sound good, though the unit does include a headphone output. I connected my $400 Oppo PM-3 headphones to the output and it sounded better, but the high frequencies were MIA. I didn’t care. Watching the spinning platter, playing the little one-sided vinyl records, and hearing the pops and crackles was just too cool. Surprisingly, it was outfitted with an Audio Technica AT-3600 moving magnet cartridge (which alone costs about $20) and even included a manual pitch (speed) control and a removeable, transparent dust cover! It runs off of four “AA” batteries (not included), or the included USB cable. It also included a little plastic adapter to place over the spindle to accommodate the 3” records.
Foo Fighter’s “Big Me” on small vinyl (3” in diameter to be precise).
This model isn’t the first tiny record player. That distinction belongs to the Bandai 8 ban, which lived a short life in Japan 15 years ago. Like my RSD3, the Bandai was also battery powered, had a manual speed control, and sounded terrible (with no headphone out option), but it was undeniably cute. I suspect it used an inferior ceramic cartridge that contributed to the low-fi sound quality. Third Man Records in Detroit and Nashville re-released this model on Record Store Day along with a collection of a half dozen 3” record titles. If you missed out and cannot live without one, you can buy any one of these three models on eBay, along with the 3” records, at a significant mark-up, of course.
The diminutive Japanese Bandai “8 ban” record player, circa 2004.
Both Newbury Comics locations were doing a brisk business when I visited. It was heartening to see so many people of all ages excited about vinyl. I actually had to wait in line at the registers. Their Norwood location also sold used vinyl records which I thought was great. The whole experience transported me back over 30 years ago to my Emerson College days when I’d walk from my dorm building up to the massive, iconic Tower Records on the corners of Tremont and Newbury Streets to check out the latest releases on vinyl and CD.
Vinyl me, please: Newbury Comics in Norwood, MA on Record Store Day, April 13, 2019.
There were a lot of nifty, very tempting titles, but they were all quite expensive. For example, there was a limited edition reissue of the Woodstock three record soundtrack in mono (the hype sticker called it a “DJ/Broadcast” copy) for a whopping $65. It struck me as counter-productive to try to entice consumers to adopt the vinyl format, while at the same time charging sky-high prices. Record Store Day shouldn’t cater just to collectors.
Limited edition album titles on display during Record Store Day 2019.
Let’s transition now from a silly turntable to one of a more serious nature: The Como Audio Bluetooth Turntable. Our new, belt-driven turntable is expected to be in production by the end of this month, and should be in stock by around the end of May. You can go to our website under "Support" to read through the user manual if you want to familiarize yourself with the setup and features. Pricing is undetermined at present. One neat thing about our turntable is it provides multiple connection options to allow it to work with just about any audio system. If your system has a Bluetooth receiver like our music systems do, you can connect the turntable wirelessly. If it doesn’t, or you just like doing things old school, you can use the included audio cable to connect it from its integrated Phono preamp’s gold-plated outputs to your system’s moving magnet Phono input. If your system doesn’t have a dedicated Phono input, you can use the Line output and go into your system’s Auxiliary input. The Line output also permits connection to stand-alone powered speakers.
“Record Store Day shouldn’t cater just to collectors.”
The Como Audio Turntable will be available in real wood veneers of walnut and hickory over a MDF substrate, as well as multi-layer piano gloss white and black, to look right at home next to our music systems. An Ortofon OM10 cartridge is pre-mounted on the tone arm and the counter weight is pre-set, so you shouldn’t need to make any adjustments. There’s an electronic speed control button to select between 33 and 45 RPM, negating the need to reposition the belt to change speeds. The heavy-weight platter is made from steel and there’s a sub-platter that the belt wraps around. A removeable transparent dust cover and black Como Audio slip mat are included along with a 45 RPM adapter and a few other accessories. You can sign up on our email list on our website to be notified when the turntable is available.
When it comes to vinyl, whether you’re a casual admirer, a serious collector, or somewhere in between, consider the Como Audio Turntable. It’s easy to setup, has the Como Audio look, maximum connection flexibility, and great sound…allowing most anyone to enjoy the music.
For a nostalgic look back at records and instructions on how to connect any turntable to your Como Audio music system, check out my blog article on vinyl.
Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio as V.P. of Product Development in 2016. Peter can be reached directly at email@example.com