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One of the best portable vinyl players I've tested just got a major audio upgrade

The Sound Burger is back from the '80s to bring portability and a new listening experience to vinyl records.
Written by Allison Murray, Staff Writer
A vinyl record player with burgers and fries on the table
Allison Murray/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The Audio-Technica Sound Burger is $199 and comes in yellow, black, or red.
  • The Sound Burger has unparalleled portability, a long battery life, and provides a novel listening experience. 
  • It doesn't have a counterweight, and also doesn't have an auto-return feature. 

Technology is all about embracing the now. So, even though I am one of those people who can be stuck in their ways (such as listening to vinyl records with the appropriate analog setup), I'm glad this time I branched out to see what's possible.

I recently got my hands on the Audio-Technica Sound Burger Bluetooth turntable. While it originally came out in 1983, the company recently revived it and added modern-day tech like Bluetooth to make it the portable record player they envisioned way back then.

Also: The best Bluetooth turntables you can buy

While I certainly don't think it's a replacement for a more standard vinyl setup, I enjoyed listening to my records in different places in the house rather than being tied to the basement. The Sound Burger, in short, provides a novel experience of something that has remained largely the same for decades.

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In the 1980s, this portable player (initially known as Master Disc) was powered by batteries and came with a set of foldable headphones, so you could listen to your vinyl wherever you wanted. Now, the Sound Burger uses USB charging -- which provides a battery life of up to 12 hours -- and Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity, letting you connect it to a portable Bluetooth speaker, a soundbar, Bluetooth headphones, and more.

The Sound Burger also comes with a wired cable in case you want to listen to vinyl the analog way, although I assume you're buying this device for its portability rather than to use as a wired record player.

Some other notable specs: it has a belt drive, a Die-cast aluminum alloy platter, a frequency band of 2.402 GHz to 2.480 GHz, and a replaceable ATN3600L stylus.

The Sound Burger is easy to set up. I had vinyl playing on the device through a Bluetooth speaker in minutes. My regular vinyl setup is in the basement, so the Sound Burger satiated my craving (pun intended) to listen to vinyl in the living room. I even took it out to my deck one night, and it was fun to vibe out to an original Fleetwood Mac record outside with a fire going.

Close up image of a record playing in the Sound Burger
Allison Murray/ZDNET

The Sound Burger is very sensitive -- walking around or by it can make the record skip a bit. This is because the record player lacks a counterweight, which could potentially damage your records if the tracking force is too high. It also doesn't have auto-return, which isn't necessarily a huge issue for me; it's more of a nice-to-have feature.

Also: The best speakers for vinyl

I could see the Sound Burger being fun to bring along on a camping trip. Since you're already listening to music around a bonfire, why not make that music vinyl instead of the same old Spotify playlist? I would also recommend the Sound Burger to those who live in a small space and don't have room for an expansive vinyl setup.

ZDNET's buying advice

The Sound Burger's portability is unparalleled, and this is my favorite Bluetooth turntable because it embodies what Bluetooth was meant for -- portability. If you plan to listen to vinyl via Bluetooth, this is how to do it.

Of course, audiophiles or vinyl diehards might argue that this portable player is a waste since portability isn't the point of vinyl. But hear me out: if we can use technology to take vinyl to the outdoors or on vacation while tucked away in a cabin, why not take it for a spin?

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