The mantra with sound systems today seems to be that they should be heard, not seen. If you’re a vinyl enthusiast, downsizing a turntable setup isn’t so simple. Minimalist turntable setups are typically comprised of a pair of bookshelf speakers and an integrated amplifier. And, let’s not forget the vibrational havoc speakers can pose to your precious and sensitive setup.
Editors’ Note: We originally reviewed the Spinbase in March and noted some shortcomings with Bluetooth and headphone performance. Andover Audio addressed our criticisms and sent us a new review unit with design changes. We’ve amended our review below to reflect the performance of the updated unit. Click here to read the original review, which we’ve preserved for the record.
If you’re looking for a truly compact and near vibration-free experience for your record player, then look no further than Andover Audio’s Spinbase. It’s an ingenious, all-in-one, plug-n-play speaker system designed specifically for turntables. It’s a near perfect solution for apartment dwellers or rooms that can’t accommodate larger systems. The Spinbase’s simplicity, performance, and sheer bang for the buck left me awe-struck. Read on to see why I liked the Spinbase so much and how Andover Audio has addressed the unit’s shortcomings since my original review.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best Bluetooth speakers, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.
What is the Spinbase?
At first glance, you might confuse the Spinbase for something else. Its 18 x 3.25 x 13.5-inch dimensions (WxHxD) make it a perfect fit for just about any turntable. The casual passerby might think that the Spinbase is a turntable platform or run-of-the-mill audio component.
Take a closer look and you’ll quickly see that the Spinbase is four products in one: A powered speaker system, phono preamp, headphone amp, and Bluetooth streamer in one compact enclosure.
The Spinbase has a single volume knob on its minimalist front panel. Turn the volume knob clockwise to turn on the unit. The knob sits on top of a metal speaker grille that flanks the unit’s front and sides. Apart from having a Class D amplifier, the Spinbase is otherwise an analog throwback—there’s no remote control. Adjusting the volume is manual endeavor.
That amplifier powers two woofers and two tweeters. Andover Audio says the Spinbase’s driver arrangement produces an expansive 270-degree stereo image. I’m typically skeptical of marketing claims, but short of pulling out my protractor, I was simply awe-struck by the breadth of the Spinbase’s soundstage. Unlike a typical two-channel speaker setup that gives you a single sweet spot, I could walk from one side of the Spinbase and around to the other with virtually no audible off-axis penalty. The speaker’s sound was smooth and consistent from one side to the other.
The Spinbase’s output will easily fill small, medium, and even larger rooms—challenging or outperforming speakers at twice Andover’s $300 asking price.
Designed for both ceramic and moving magnet cartridges, the Spinbase is out-of-the-box compatible with most turntables, and its rear panel is clearly labeled as where to connect ceramic or magnetic cartridges.
If you have a second source device, such as a CD player or a network audio streamer, you can theoretically connect that to the Spinbase via the RCA line-level inputs on the unit’s rear panel (assuming you don’t have a turntable with a ceramic cartridge that would rely on those jacks). The speaker has no input selector, so if you’re connecting a turntable with a magnetic cartridge—or any turntable that has a built-in pre-amp—you’ll need to set the Spinbase’s ceramic-cartridge switch to the “off” position. Andover’s printed quick-start sheet, by the way, needs a redo.
No trouble in headphone land
You’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack on the back of the speaker, but headphone output was a real low point for me. First off, I wish Andover Audio had put the headphone jack on the front of the unit, like just about every other audio component on the planet. I’m sure there was some engineering reason for it, but the placement on the back of the unit is just impractical. Secondly, the jack should be a standard 1/4-inch headphone jack, versus the 3.5mm jack that’s there.
In my original review, I noted that the Spinbase delivered a loud and nasty “pop!” when I turned it on and then off—enough to leave my ears ringing. Thank goodness, Andover Audio has addressed this issue with the updated Spinbase. I tried Bowers&Wilkins C5 IEMs, Sol Republic, and Focal Clear over-the-ear headphones to confirm that this. You’ll still hear a slight pop when you turn the unit on with the headphones connected but it’s completely tolerable and the same as you’ll experience with some other audio gear.
If you’re an existing Spinbase customer impacted by this issue, Andover Audio has informed me that they will give you the option of receiving a replacement unit. Kudos to Andover Audio for addressing this issue and standing by its customers.
The Spinbase had no problem driving my Focal Clear headphones. In fact, the volume got really, really loud without even reaching the nine o’clock mark on the dial. I didn’t dare try using easier-to-drive in-ear-monitors or earbuds. Plugging in your headphones and kicking back to vinyl is a great option.
Bluetooth support, too
You can stream your favorite tunes to the Spinbase wirelessly, too, thanks to its support for Bluetooth 5.0. Even with the updated user manual, Andover Audio needs to do a better job for non-technical and novice users, however; the Bluetooth section in the Spinbase’s quick-setup guide is literally two sentences long, and there’s nothing in the instructions to tell you how to clear previous pairings if you want to switch Bluetooth sources.
Bluetooth was another area where I dinged the Spinbase in my original review due to the maddeningly high noise floor in the first review unit. Once again, Andover Audio addressed my observations in the updated review unit. The high noise floor and digital noise are gone. The Spinbase behaved just like any other Bluetooth source and didn’t call any undue attention to itself. To be on the safe side, I’ll call your attention to the user manual’s note to use the shorting plugs on the magnetic phono RCA inputs, to minimize the potential for digital noise through the speaker. Andover Audio makes a brief mention of this on the back of its quick-start guide, but not in the Bluetooth section. I can finally say that the updated Spinbase can serve as both a solid turntable and Bluetooth speaker.
A great performance
Unboxing and setting up the Spinbase was a piece of cake. The only setup needed was to plug the Spinbase into my turntable. Andover Audio includes a short pair of analog interconnects with an integrated grounding cable—a nice touch.
The Spinbase’s vibration-free performance lived up to its billing. I didn’t notice any vibrations during my testing. Having the Spinbase directly under my turntable didn’t interfere with my vinyl playback in the least. In fact, even putting my hand directly on the spinbase revealed only the slightest resonance coming through the cabinet—certainly no more than you’d experience with a typical bookshelf setup.
I’ve already discussed the Spinbase’s stereo performance, but allow me to say again: The super-wide sound stage is absolutely wonderful.
With its quirks cleared, this is a great system
Andover Audio’s Spinbase serves as an all-in-one, minimalist solution that will appeal to many. The Spinbase’s wide soundstage, solid sound, and near vibration-free performance will seduce many. It certainly did me.
Andover Audio’s updated Spinbase addresses the headphone and Bluetooth streaming shortcomings I noted in my original review and Andover Audio will stand by original purchasers. With those two major shortcomings addressed, the Spinbase has rightfully earned back the full star I dinged it in the original review. The bottom line? If you’re an analog junkie looking for a streamlined, all-in-one speaker solution for your turntable, you absolutely should give the Spinbase a serious listen.
Source : Macworld