Victrola Stream Carbon Turntable Review Page 2

Stream Carbon requires a bit of setting up. I was a bit surprised by the weight of the die-cast aluminum platter. At this price point, I expected something more substantial. Once positioned on the spindle, a guide ribbon slips the belt over the belt-drive DC brushless stepper motor. Care should be taken not to twist the belt while avoiding contact with your fingers. The silicone slipmat is placed on top of the platter.

There are detailed instructions on properly attaching the headset. More care is needed in removing the stylus cover; it's ridiculously easy to accidentally remove the entire stylus from the cartridge. The counterweight was simple to attach, but I prefer a more accurate way to get it properly set. While there's a groove to align it with, there is some leeway within the width of the groove as to where it should actually be placed.

The system has to be set up with the Victrola app before you can start streaming. Once the turntable is powered up (by lifting the tonearm into position), the turntable is located in the app, which then sets it up to join the same WiFi network that hosts the Sonos system. The WiFi 802.11A/B/G/N/AC activates automatically when the tonearm is moved into place.

On this app page, you can select the default Sonos speaker group. The app can be a bit persnickety. The first time I set up the system, it easily found the Sonos speakers; the next few times were struggles. One time, it found one Sonos speaker located elsewhere in the house. The next time, I had to perform a factory reset on the turntable to get it to see any Sono speakers. Throughout my review time, it was hit or miss if it would find my Sonos speakers on the first try.

The app also has some basic settings. You can select Autoplay, so playback will begin on the selected Sonos speaker group as soon as the tonearm is engaged.There isn't an on/off switch on the turntable; to start playing, lift the tonearm and move it over the platter. The motor will start automatically, and the Victrola will begin playing on the default Sonos speakers.

When Autoplay is disabled, you must press the control knob for one second to start playback on the default group. The turntable is not discoverable within the Sonos app; everything has to be done through the Victrola app, which isn't nearly as slick.

Also, it's a semi-automatic player; there isn't an auto-return - it doesn't lift at the runout, but it does stop spinning.

Deeper into additional settings, you can select the length of wireless audio delay. According to the team at Victrola, the wireless Audio Delay setting does not affect the audio or streaming quality. The only change the setting makes is breaking the audio from the turntable into larger segments before sending it to Sonos. This allows slower networks to receive and play the audio more efficiently and without missing segments or dropouts. Therefore, there is no audio quality difference between the different settings; the only difference is the slight latency added with higher Wireless Audio Delay settings due to the larger audio segment size.

Even on the minimum setting, there is an awkward one or two-second delay in the signal while streaming. At maximum, it was over five seconds. This makes it very, very hard to skip around tracks quickly. Also, in the settings, you can choose whether the RCA outputs are active while streaming to Sonos.

I settled in to listen to one of the albums that inspired me to become a recording engineer, As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, the 1981 release from Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays, with the brilliant Naná Vasconcelos on percussion and vocals, was produced by Manfred Eicher. I started with "September Fifteenth (Dedicated to Bill Evans)" with its strong jazz piano lead. On some of the most dynamic sections, particularly around 5:50 into the song, there was a touch of distortion on the more strident notes of the acoustic piano at the upper end of the keyboard. It was evident even at lower listening levels. I checked it out on my Sonos Beam and Sub Mini, and it was also apparent on my Move and Ray.

To explore this further, I streamed the same section of the track from Spotify to all of those speakers and it was clean. Finally, I switched to the RCA outputs plugged into my Kenwood VR-410 and Polk RT800i floor-standing speakers. Ahhh… there was all the warmth and richness in this recording without the slightest hint of distortion. That type of piano recording is a challenge for all codecs, so it wasn't surprising that this struggled a bit.

I played through one of my all-time favorite recordings, "It's For You." Obviously, it was released first on vinyl, but vinyl always seemed like the perfect medium for this recording, with the rich and warm synth sounds layered over the sparkling, clear acoustic guitar. The haunting and plaintive synth lines are clear and distinct, and the dynamics are conveyed beautifully. The clarity of Metheny's acoustic guitar is superb, as is his solidly exuberant bass line in the upbeat middle section. Throughout the song, the bass maintains a full, big, fat sound that drives the tempo through the varying time signatures of the music.

I turned to another favorite recording, Rickie Lee Jones' album, Pirates. The dynamics of "We Belong Together" always challenge a system, especially when the full drum kit kicks in. The Victrola Stream Carbon was up for the challenge. The song starts with deep acoustic piano notes, guitar harmonics, and a bass guitar. The separation between the piano notes and bass guitar is distinctly audible. The low tom-toms had a sharp, impactful punch. The doubled vocals remained pristine and discernible. "Skeletons" is another favorite, with Jones' haunting vocals over an acoustic piano and orchestral backing. The pizzicato strings were conveyed beautifully. The breathless vocals at the end of the track were soft with lovely purity.

Finally, I cued up a recording from this century, Adele’s 30. “Easy on Me” is a sparse recording, with just her vocals, acoustic piano, bass guitar and a simple drum machine track with a kick drum that comes in with the second verse. This song doesn’t need anything more. Even more interesting in this track is the air between the piano notes; the track isn’t afraid of silence. Adele’s voice has never been stronger, and she carries the simple track just on her own.

While it’s obvious that it wasn’t auto-tuned, the turntable exhibited a tiny amount of wow and flutter, most obvious in the high notes leading into the choruses, with a slight pitch variation also evident in the last piano chords and the sustained ring out of the last notes. There was a slight over-compressed quality on the fuller sections of the track, especially the bridge, giving a harsh tone to Adele’s voice, but again, this type of range is particularly difficult for most codecs.

I had a small gripe with the supplied dust cover. I appreciate that it was included, but there's just no easy place for it when I'm using the player. I ended up with it on the floor next to my gear rack; I wish it could attach to the turntable somehow. I also didn't care for how it could touch an album unless it was perfectly positioned and aligned as you set it in place. It's also not the most attractive cover if you're setting up your turntable in a prominent location. For such a stylized player, the cover seems like an afterthought.

Here's the biggest rub – the Victrola Stream Carbon comes with an audiophile price but lacks some of the features that most vinyl enthusiasts truly want, such as a phono output. With a built-in phono amp, a headphone output would have been an easy addition.

The convenience of streaming easily to Sonos can't be denied. However, it obviously comes with a sacrifice in sound quality. At the time of this evaluation, the Stream samples at a 16-bit, 48 kHz sampling rate to convert to AAC for Sonos. However, an over-the-air update increasing the bit depth to 24 bits at 48 kHz has become available. While I found some limitations to the streaming system, anyone who really cares about the best signal can use the RCA outputs, as I discovered, to deliver a wonderfully rich, luxurious sound.

There is also the whole analog audio purist issue. Why bother with vinyl if the signal will be digitized to stream? Don't most people who buy vinyl want the signal to stay in the analog domain throughout the signal chain? Anyone who has a large vinyl collection knows one reason: any and all ways to enjoy their collection are appreciated. The convenience of this system that integrates easily with Sonos can outweigh the need to stay analog throughout the signal chain. Purists can use the RCA outputs or scroll on by.

Since we've already wandered down the analog to digital rabbit hole, it's interesting to note that there isn't a Bluetooth output that would open up the option to connect to Bluetooth headphones. Sure, I can use the headphone output on my lovely receiver and take advantage of the higher sound quality, but I do like to be untethered from that cable.

I'll admit it: I'm lazy. I love how simple it is to use the Stream Carbon from Victrola. If the album is already on the platter, you literally just lift the tonearm, place it in the groove, and it starts to spin and play on the default Sonos system. No apps to open and no power buttons to push; just lift and play. If I want the best sound quality, I power up my receiver and use the RCA outputs. It's that easy.

The quality of the RCA outputs is fabulous, but a phono output should have been included at this price. While it may seem obtuse to include a digital stream in an ultimately analog turntable, it couldn't be more current. By working with Sonos, Victrola has joined one of the easiest and best-sounding ecosystems. Is it worth the hefty price tag? Only you can decide how much you're willing to pay for the convenience. As for me, the Victrola Stream Carbon is welcome to stay in my media room for as long as possible.

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barfle's picture

It seems to me (which may not seem to anyone else), that a pretty good turntable, which this seems to be, would have a direct output, whether it’s buffered to separate it from the built-in preamp or just a pair of jacks. The other geegaws might appeal to an entry-level user, but to me, they just raise the price without raising its value.

The idea that the turntable shuts off without raising the arm at the end of the record also seems odd.

I don’t know who they are trying to sell to with that feature set.

Glenn McClelland's picture

The new Victrola Stream Carbon Turntable perfectly matched with Sonos Five speakers and Mountson Floor stands ( Mountson Premium Floor Speaker Stand for Sonos Five, Play:5 (

Jackson143's picture

As alluded to in its name, the Stream is designed to connect seamlessly to an existing Sonos speaker system. It also has RCA line outputs with a built-in phono preamp to connect to a more traditional system washington dc basement waterproofing . There are no phono-level outputs.

dariohill's picture

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Jackson143's picture

To be taken seriously, he purchased the sleeping Victrola name and trademark for an undisclosed amount. drywall installation near me