According to the year-end Nielsen Music Report, vinyl sales in the US enjoyed an increase of 52 percent last year, but still lurked in the shadows compared to the 164 billion songs streamed through audio and video platforms. Many of those digital tunes will have been sent from smartphone or tablet over Bluetooth to a wireless speaker system, leaving the living room hi-fi to gather dust in the corner – unused and unloved. USB turntable pioneer Ion Audio has now combined both worlds with the Air LP turntable, which marries vinyl adoration with the convenience of Bluetooth streaming.
Though wirelessly streaming music from a home hi-fi system to the breakfast bar is possible, using adapters like the the Gramofon for your old gear adds yet another box to your setup, can be tricky to install and audio quality can vary significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Ion Audio's new Air LP BT turntable can take the traditional connection route and be cabled to a living room hi-fi system via included RCA outputs, but can also convert analog vinyl sounds to digital signals and then wirelessly stream the output direct to Bluetooth speakers and amps.
Ion Audio has revealed precious few details about its new turntable, which is capable of playing 33 1/3, 45 and 78 RPM records, but here's what else we can tell you. In addition to its Bluetooth streaming prowess, there's a USB port for connecting the turntable to a PC or Mac for the conversion of analog albums and singles into digital files using the company's EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter software, presumably at up to the same 16-bit/44.1 kHz audio resolution as its current batch of USB converting turntables. The turntable sports a 3.5 aux input too, so listeners can connect and convert tunes from the likes of CD players.
For the system entry price, the Air LP is unlikely to boast any audiophile-grade components and, as a high fidelity audio listener, I doubt that I'd want to stream my treasured analog platters over Bluetooth for personal listening, and suffer inevitable quality loss. But wirelessly sharing a favorite tune with family members or friends without having them crowd around the stereo system sweet spot in the living room could have great appeal.
Another possible advantage to the inclusion of Bluetooth technology in a turntable is that few modern audio amplifiers even have a phono input these days, meaning that vinyl lovers looking to update a hi-fi setup would also need to invest in a pre-amp or even a new turntable with a built-in phono stage. With the Air LP, vinyl records can be heard through any powered Bluetooth speaker.
Ion Audio expects to start shipping its black only Air LP turntable in March for a recommended retail price of US$149. The company can also add Bluetooth speakers to that package for a total system price of $179.99.
Update 15 Jan 2015: Ion Audio has now provided Gizmag with a few more details on the "entry level" Air LP. The turntable is belt drive, the tone arm has a tracking force of 5 grams nominal (range is 4-6 grams) and sports a Japanese ceramic cartridge, and using a test tone of 3 kHz, the accuracy is within ± 3 percent.
The Air LP includes its own phono stage, so there's no need to invest in a pre-amp if your amplifier doesn't have one of its own, and the system uses Bluetooth 3.0 to stream music from turntable to BT speaker. Ion Audio has also confirmed that music is converted from analog to digital over USB at up to 16-bit/44.1 kHz stereo resolution.
Source: Ion Audio