I remember back in the day, pre-portable digging. I’d buy stuff by title, oh it has Funk in it, it must be good. After getting burned time after time (Peter Brown is not funky!), I finally pulled the trigger and bought a portable off of E Bay about 14 years ago. I got the children’s record player from Fisher Price, model 820. Unlike the 825, it can be battery operated, which is crucial going out into the field. Unfortunately, like an idiot, when I got it, I used the wrong plug and shorted it out while testing it. After all, it is made of plastic and a child’s toy. Totally bummed about it, I eventually took it to a guy who not only fixed it, but put a headphone jack into it so I could dig without having to share. Ready to go, the only thing I needed were some extra needles. These things are tough to get, and when I met up with DJ Andy Smith to go digging for the first time in NJ (he was touring North America and Canada), he informed me he bought up the last needles in the US for this turntable! Now I know where to go when I need one. The 820 has been a work horse for me. It’s light, rather small, and takes C batteries. It has definitely been a life and money saver out in the field.
Fisher Price 825 Record Player
A few years ago I needed a back up portable, so I went with the Numark PT-01. I got it fairly cheap (I think $79) and I think the seller dropped it because my volume button is a bit crooked. I used this in the field once, and after determining it was really too bulky as well as being too heavy, it is retired to recording my records to convert to MP3’s to post up or to just listen to some records when I’m not in my studio. The sound is great, it plays 45s, 33s, and 78s, but if given my choice again, I would definitely not buy this record player. Too bulky like I said before, and way, way too heavy. Great for home use, and extra input for your receiver to play your vinyl, but leave this mammoth behind when going digging.
The portable I should have considered was the Vestax Handy Trax. Light, solid, and backed by one of the best names in the business, the Handy Trax now come with a USB port to go right into the computer for recording. Vestax even advertises to the DJ/ Collector: “Whether a collector from fine Jazz to classics, a digger in search at garage sales or in the attic the handy trax USB will take you wherever possible. from Japan to the Americas, through Europe and back, Vestax assures infinite portability.” That’s a company that is confident and knows what they are talking about with their product. Their mixers were always “mad tight”, so why wouldn’t their portables be the same top notch quality? Ok, I had one shitter of a Vestax Mixer, but my 05 is a damn champ, still in my studio today. It also comes in black, which looks really stealth.
Vestax Handy Trax
Another player that has always been seen at record conventions and the like is the Columbia GP-3. Very retro looking, square, and a bit smaller than the Handy Trax, this has been a staple in Japan for years. This thing is so popular that it even has it’s own MySpace page (that breakbeat raer tag smells just like Soul Strut…). It does have a hefty $250 price tag, but I’ve seen this thing in action, it’s well worth it. My man Mfasis has been using this thing for more than 10 years plus in the field and I believe Larry from Funky 16 rocks one as well. No complaints from them. This is a piece I definitely have to have.
Here’s a great story about the Holy Grail of portables: The Sound Burger. About 10 or so years ago, I could have purchased two Sound Burgers for $150. What a complete fool I am for not doing so. Since then, the best of the best has jumped to sometimes over $400 for one. DJ Bluewater rocks one. DJ Andy Smith brought his while digging here in the States. It’s compact, and a true hi-fi component. Made by Audio Technica, the AT-727 Sound Burger was a direct response to the Sony Walkman. I mean who wouldn’t want to walk around playing the latest Run DMC Lp while walking down the street? This is hands down, the best IMHO. There was also a Sound Crocodile that played records, Good luck even finding one of those for sale. Ok, fast forward now to 2011. I get a tip from Bluewater, who knows I have been looking for a Sound Burger, that someone put a link on Soul Strut they had a grip of SB for sale. I check it out, it’s on Etsy, and they have positive feedback. Actually, 100% and they have sold one SB already. I immediately buy the thing, it was just shy of $100, plus $15 shipping. Done and done. They have a 3 day pay/ 3 day ship policy, so Bob’s Yer Uncle, and I’ll have my Sound Burger by Friday. I do a little research, it was being sold by a Midwest all 45 DJ, who seemed really excited to help out fellow DJ’s by selling these portables. Long story short, I never got my Sound Burger, eventually got my money back because I payed with a credit card, but the seller, Rekkerds from Knoxville, TN (who deleted their Etsy account after 4 straight negative feed backs for taking people’s money and never shipping the product) has long since disappeared. Or have they? E mail me and I will give you this person’s full name/ location/ DJ name and crew because she is a complete scammer. DO NOT BUY FROM THIS PERSON. Karma man, karma. But I digress, Crosley has put out the Crosley Radio CR6002A-BK , a Sound Burger look alike. The jury is still out on this product. Some good reviews, some bad, “wobbly sound” and bad belts, but I mean I’ve seen them for $50 bucks, and if you can get one at that price (at whatever color), I say do it. I will as well. While researching, I came across this little piece of gold: Sky Studio 830 portable, which has a cassette player in it as well, for all you retro vinyl sellers offering free cassette mix tapes with purchase in your garage or tent. The price is over $400 bucks, so I don’t know if it’s worth it. If you have one, e mail me and give me a review.
Audio Technica AT-727 Sound Burger
So there you have it. A portable turntable breakdown. There are a ton of other portables out there, the Fisher Price Big Bird turntable, the Panasonic that looks like a Lady Bug, and a plethora of 70’s portables that you will encounter if you look. Remember, it would probably be a good idea to have a back up turntable if you buy one that’s that old. These newer turntables have parts that are widely available, and if you need a needle, etc. you’ll be able to get it. That’s my $.02 in the portable turntable game. Keep Diggin’!
Fisher Price Big Bird (820) Model