Advertisement

Dual's fully automatic turntable has the one Bluetooth control feature I really want

 Dual CS529 record player on a black background.
Dual CS529 record player on a black background.

Several Bluetooth turntable models rank among the best record players we've tested. While I'm not much of a fan of the connectivity method, they're a popular option for seamlessly pairing with a Bluetooth speaker, but I confess that I've often felt that Bluetooth turntables are missing the point.

For older guys like myself who got into music and audio through buying records in a store, then hot-footing it home to listen to the rich sound etched into the vinyl groove on a record player wired up to an amplifier and a pair of stereo speakers, many modern wireless turntables sound a bit soulless.

It's the way they use wireless connectivity to digitally stream a turntable's analog sound to a Bluetooth speaker. Although I've often applauded the audio quality that some of the best wireless headphones achieve over Bluetooth, turntables that rely on Bluetooth to carry audio tend to lose much of vinyl's rich, warm sound, which is one of the main reasons people are attracted to vinyl in the first place.

Bluetooth that's not up to scratch

Close up of Dual CS529
Close up of Dual CS529

You see, Bluetooth tends to sacrifice vinyl's sound because of the way the analog audio signal has to be compressed to enable it to be transmitted over Bluetooth's limited wireless protocol. And unlike many of the best wireless earbuds, there are't any Bluetooth turntables that I know of that support higher quality LDAC or Lossless audio codecs to maximize sound quality over Bluetooth.

This Dual turntable is one of the most sophisticated and desirable Bluetooth turntables I've encountered.

Of course, Bluetooth turntables represent an attractive entry point for many budding vinyl collectors. I can't deny that they are a popular option for anyone getting into listening to the format for the first time, but because of the sound quality compromises, I can't imagine owning one to listen to my precious record collection. But that was until I was introduced to the new Dual CS529 turntable at a recent U.K. audio show, which as I discovered is so much more than a Bluetooth streaming turntable.

A turntable I can control from my sofa

While the Dual CS529 turntable looks very much like a traditional belt-drive turntable sporting a solid MDF plinth and an aluminum tonearm fitted with an Ortofon 2M Red moving-magnet cartridge, there are some unexpected features cleverly hidden away that I found impressive during a recent Hi-Fi show demo.

I confess that the MSRP feels expensive at $1,199 / £899 for the black finish, while the walnut finish will set you back $1,399/ £999. But having said that, the new Dual's versatility should make up for its high price with a strong set of convenience features that make it one of the most sophisticated and desirable Bluetooth turntables I've encountered.

Dual CS529: From $1,199 @ Crutchfield
This automatic Bluetooth turntable is the first to be fully controllable via an app (available for both iOS and Android). It's fitted with an audiophile-grade Ortofon 2M Red moving-magnet cartridge and has a built-in phono preamp, which can be switched out to connect the turntable to an external phono preamp, should you wish. It's available in black at $1,199, while a walnut plinth option costs $1,399.View Deal

It's fitted with the company's fully automated mechanism, which isn't so unusual given that Dual has a long heritage of making automatic record players. What is unusual, is that it comes with a level of controllability that I haven't seen on a turntable before.

Playback can be fully controlled by a Dual app (available for iOS and Android devices) that connects over Bluetooth, giving listeners full control from the comfort of their armchair or sofa. Everything from selecting the platter speed (33, 45, and 75RPM) to automatic play and stop can be controlled via the app, with the mechanism lowering and lifting the tonearm and stylus seamlessly once activated via the app. It can even play records on repeat up to 10 times. Now that's neat!

It can even play records on repeat up to 10 times.

Unlike music streaming that can be stopped and started anywhere, vinyl playback requires a lot of care. But Dual's Bluetooth implementation is a neat convenience facility that feels so much more appropriate than wirelessly streaming to a speaker or pair of headphones, although this turntable will also do that.

Dual CS529 rear panel
Dual CS529 rear panel

While I like the way playing vinyl on a turntable forces me to sit and listen to a side of an album track-by-track, I understand that some appreciate a few more convenience features to make the process of playing vinyl less fussy and even more enjoyable.

The Dual will do that. It brings a level of convenience unheard of in the turntable market, and I'm wondering why it's taken so long to get this degree of controllability into a record player. The dual app responded immediately during the demo, giving vinyl fans full control of whatever's on the platter from the comfort of an armchair. Simply tap one of the large buttons on the app's display, sit back and enjoy the awesome sound of the record.

With Record Store Day set for Saturday, April 20, the Dual CS529 looks like an ideal turntable to spin any new LPs released as part of the celebration event for the amazing community of independent record stores. I'm seriously looking forward to trying out all the Dual's capabilities, so look out for my full review coming soon.

More from Tom's Guide