Despite their venerable age, vinyl records are not only not going to disappear, but are even becoming more popular. At the beginning of the year, they passed CDs in sales, and in the United States alone, in the first half of 2023, vinyl sales grew by 21.7%. In fact, it’s not surprising at all; the analog sound carrier finds its fans both among audiophiles and among those users who often like not so much the “warm” sound as the process of using vinyl, which is especially unusual for young people and thus attractive.
And while the audience of audio connoisseurs relies on separate turntables with connected amplifiers and speakers, the mass audience has an all-in-one solution. I belong to the latter, so I’ve long been interested in trying a turnkey solution – a turntable with a built-in phono preamp and speakers that you can simply plug into a wall outlet and start listening. At least, that’s how I imagined the whole process.
I asked our friends from Soundmag.ua for advice on such a player, which caused a heated internal discussion about whether they could recommend something from this category at all. It’s worth noting here that turntables with built-in speakers offer a fairly wide range of solutions today, from literally decorative ones for a couple thousand hryvnias to flagship models that are often more expensive than very high-quality standalone vinyl players.
That’s why my provocative question could not help but spark discussions in the specialized store, but I got my answer. It was Lenco LS-430, a vinyl record player worth about UAH 11 thousand with four built-in speakers. This model is just right for beginners who want a simple, all-in-one solution. I don’t know enough about vinyl players to review them, but I’m always happy to share my impressions, and I’ll do so in this article.
Design, setup and first launch of the Lenco LS-430
The Lenco LS-430 is a rather interestingly designed vinyl record player that will be presented in early 2022. The model is made in a retro style and resembles Dansette turntables of the 1960s, a technique often used by other manufacturers, such as Crosley.
The Lenco LS-430 speakers are located at the base of the turntable case, which is made of hard plastic but with a leather-like finish. The model is offered in brown and black colors, both of which are quite universal and will match different fittings. This approach allows not only to fit the vinyl player better into the interior, but also to disguise the rather large base with speakers.
At the top of the turntable there is an aluminum plate for records, a tonearm with a balancing weight, and a control unit with mechanical buttons and controls for tone, pitch, and volume. There is also a light indicator and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. All of this is covered with a removable transparent plastic cover, which should effectively protect all structural elements from dust.
The turntable arrives almost assembled, but you can’t just plug it in and start listening to records. First of all, you need to install the belt drive, so you will have to start your acquaintance with Lenco LS-430 by reading the manual. However, there will be no special difficulties with the setup, the only thing that took me longer than I expected was to install the balancing weight on the tonearm.
The weight is needed to create the necessary downward force on the platter head. Often, manufacturers calibrate the weight at the factory, but a separate tonearm weight, such as the one in the Lenco LS-430, is a fairly common design for turntables with built-in speakers. Therefore, in order to prevent the platter from wearing out too quickly, or vice versa, the needle from resting on it too easily, distorting the sound, it’s worth devoting some time to the manual. From it, I learned that the pressing force for the platter head recommended by the manufacturer is 3.5 grams plus or minus 0.5 grams.
To start the turntable for the first time, it had to be placed on a flat surface, and then the aluminum plate had to be slowly rotated to make sure that the belt drive was correctly installed. The next step is to place the fabric slipcover on the aluminum platter, put in the desired record, and lower the tonearm with the platter head onto it. The Lenco LS-430 uses an Audio-Technica AT3600 needle, and it should last for 400 hours of listening, after which it will need to be replaced with a new one.
In general, such vinyl players for the mass audience are not too difficult to set up, but you shouldn’t expect to simply plug the device into a wall outlet and start using it either.
Listening to music
The turntable is equipped with a system of 4 built-in speakers, two of which have a power of 15 W, and two more – 10 W. In addition, oddly enough, but in addition to listening to records, you can connect, for example, smartphones to Lenco LS-430 and listen to music from them, because the player has Bluetooth 5.0 support. This is a bit out of the spirit of the device itself, but it is actually quite convenient, because the user can listen to both favorite records and favorite playlists from Spotify. The only thing is that in Bluetooth mode, the maximum volume of the built-in speakers will be limited to 40 W.
For listening to records, the Lenco LS-430 supports 33 1/3 and 45 rpm speeds, switching between the two depending on the type of record. 12-inch (30 cm) records hold more tracks and require 33 1/3 rpm, but 7-inch (17.5 cm) records are also used for 45 rpm, so the turntables can switch between these standards.
The Lenco LS-430 also has basic playback control: after placing the tonearm on the record, you need to press the play button, and it pauses the player. At the same time, the device has a built-in stop system that stops playback at the end of the record, which is again important to avoid damaging the needle.
The player has a built-in phono corrector, which also makes it easier for the user to get started. If you’re wondering what it’s for, I recommend reading our detailed article with an overview of an external phono preamp. But to put it simply, it is needed to compensate for the frequency range from the record before the signal is transmitted to the speakers.
When playing vinyl, you can adjust the tone and change the pitch by increasing the high or low frequencies. The built-in speakers in the Lenco LS-430 don’t exactly “pluck stars from the sky”, but they sound better than you’d expect. LPs do provide a “warm” sound that is distinctly different from digital, and the built-in speakers will give you that feeling, but without the impressive detail or depth of the scene. This is certainly not the best option for listening to uncompressed, live sound, but frankly, not everyone needs that.
The Phono and AUX jacks allow you to connect an external phono preamplifier, sound amplifier or speakers to the Lenco LS-430. Theoretically, this allows you to use the turntable “for growth”, but most likely it will be changed along with the transition to better speakers.
In general, as for me, the Lenco LS-430 is a good, albeit rather expensive, way to understand for yourself whether you need a vinyl player in general. Ideally, you can borrow it from someone for a week along with some records. However, it is also an interesting element for the interior, which does not take up much space and will allow the owner to entertain guests. Therefore, answering my own question in the title, I would say that such a turntable does make sense, and it has its own audience.
For myself, I realized that I don’t have enough time to enjoy the “warm” sound of a vinyl record player, even if I turn it on in the background while I work. Unfortunately, a record can’t play for hours, unlike music from streaming. But the mere contact with this culture and the opportunity to hold a sound carrier in your hands is actually very exciting. Maybe someday I’ll come back to it. I just need to realize that this hobby is not cheap, and it has a lot of nuances, unlike the relatively simple world of digital music.