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Ion Audio entices vinyl-lovin' cable cutters with the Air LP turntable

Ion Audio entices vinyl-lovin'...
Ion Audio's new Air LP Bluetooth turntable
Ion Audio's new Air LP Bluetooth turntable
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Ion Audio's new Air LP Bluetooth turntable
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Ion Audio's new Air LP Bluetooth turntable
The Ion Air LP features a USB port for connecting the turntable to a PC or Mac for the conversion of analog albums and singles into digital files
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The Ion Air LP features a USB port for connecting the turntable to a PC or Mac for the conversion of analog albums and singles into digital files
There's a 3.5 aux input so listeners can connect and convert tunes from the likes of CD players
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There's a 3.5 aux input so listeners can connect and convert tunes from the likes of CD players
The Air LP turntable is available by itself or with Bluetooth speakers
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The Air LP turntable is available by itself or with Bluetooth speakers
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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.

There's a 3.5 aux input so listeners can connect and convert tunes from the likes of CD players
There's a 3.5 aux input 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

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4 comments
f8lee
As Mr Ridden points out, this device could hardly have any true audiophile capabilities at that ridiculously low price so the folks who buy vinyl for the sound quality are not going to be impressed, to say the least. I mean, when a proper stylus can cost 10X or far more than this entire unit, it smacks of silly to think this device makes sense for them. Perhaps the intended market is people who haven't yet moved their vinyl collections over to digital by using one of the cheap players that can be found at Brookstone. Or the painfully hip who don't even understand WHY vinyl is better, but want to be seen as cool enough to use it. In other words, idiots.
JweenyPwee
Cool, but absolutely counter-intuitive for any music lover playing vinyl. The entire point of vinyl is pristine analog sound with zero digitization. But, the biggest concern, as always with "cheap" turntables is the needle. It's usually ceramic Chinese garbage that will scar and destroy record grooves while sounding harsh and unmusical in the process. Lose-lose. Not to mention the motor playing off-speed (usually fast). So, if you love music and prefer vinyl, this is lose-lose-lose. Lose: Converting vinyl to a wireless digital stream. Lose: Music is off-speed and sounds harsh. Lose: Needle actually mutilates the vinyl during playback...while sounding harsh and off speed...while being converted to digital... But, somebody will buy it. Oh well.
Abby Normal
most used vinyl has already been damaged by technically unaware record listeners playing such on similar quality equipment or on poorly adjusted average quality equipment. vinyl ruined by blunted needles is distressingly common. collecting used vinyl can be a frustrating thing. the best thing would be to get something like a zoom H2 or similar portable digital recorder, hook it up to a preamp, and using a quality turntable/cartridge, play your record onto the recorder, then when finished, hook the recorder via usb into the computer and transfer the files. [or if your puter has an SD memory card slot, just remove the card from the recorder and insert it into the PC slot and drag/drop the files from there. done about a thousand records that way.
Michael Fremer
5-6 grams is unacceptable. That is groove-chewing territory. A bad idea as are all of the turntables manufactured by Crosley. They are all groove chewers. However I have to disagree with "Abby Normal" that "most" used vinyl has been damaged by bad playback. Many records, yes, but not most--based on 30+ years of garage sale/used record store buying....