Crosley C200 review

Graduate from hipster to audiophile with Crosley's C200 turntable

With a great price and quick setup, the Crosley C200 is a great jumping-off point for beginning vinyl listeners.
With a great price and quick setup, the Crosley C200 is a great jumping-off point for beginning vinyl listeners.
With a great price and quick setup, the Crosley C200 is a great jumping-off point for beginning vinyl listeners.

Highs

  • Solid build quality
  • Easy to set up and maintain
  • Built-in phono pre-amp makes stereo integration a breeze
  • Functional, no-frills design

Lows

  • Phono pre-amp shows small amounts of distortion at higher volumes
  • Included RCA cables are too short

It may seem odd that the world’s largest turntable manufacturer isn’t a household name, but here we are: Crosley Radio is an almost century-old brand currently manufacturing virtually every kitchy vintage-styled table on the market. Chances are, the company made that leather-clad suitcase player your parents bought you at Urban Outfitters a few years ago — the one you presently want to upgrade from.

Until recently, Crosley was content to keep to entry-level turntables and own that market exclusively. But with the introduction of the company’s new C-range of turntables, including the C200 direct drive option, Crosley is stepping into a rapidly expanding segment of low-cost, high-value market, challenging longtime go-tos like the Audiotechnica LP-120.

Out of the box

The C200 comes well-packaged in a large cardboard box, with each separate element of the table protected by various thicknesses of foam and shock-proof wrapping material. Some assembly is required.

Once everything is unboxed and laid out, the main table unit, a plastic dust cover, a die-cast aluminum platter, a tone arm counterweight, an Audio-Technica cartridge, and a short RCA cable must be pieced together. An instruction booklet and plastic 45 R.P.M. spacer are also included.

Setup

Don’t let the fact that some assembly is involved put you off. The C200 is extremely easy to put together – just be sure to follow the included instructions rather than wing it.

The turntable’s platter fits snugly at the center, and the included Audio-Technica needle quickly affixes to a pre-installed cartridge. The only tricky part is installing the tonearm’s counterweight, but the booklet is extremely helpful in describing how to achieve the correct balance. Likewise, the dust cover installation is about as easy as it could possibly be, quickly and intuitively snapping into place.

Once the table is plugged in, all you need to do is patch the RCA cables into a stereo amplifier or phono pre-amp you and power it up via a switch in the bottom left corner of the table.

Features

The Crosley C200 is a solid direct-drive turntable with all the functionality most of us desire. Everything included in the package feels respectably solid and works well, though they certainly aren’t especially high-end components.

The Crosley C200 is a cheap, simple, and good-sounding option.

The C200 looks similar to other classic tables from the likes of Technics and Audiotechnica – much like a Thinkpad does in the world of computing: It is clean, unassuming, and it gets the job done; It’s more of a tool than a showpiece.

Pitch adjustment and both 33 rpm and 45 rpm playback speeds are supported here. Our test model came spinning perfectly with no speed adjustment needed, indicated by the turntable’s strobe speed indicator.

The C200’s tonearm has hydraulic lift control and the same lockable rest you find on virtually any turntable — though we found this one particularly robust. Audio-Technica’s NP5 needle — a $15, Crosley-custom job —  is a decent starting option for most, though an upgrade to a better cartridge/needle combo like Audio-Technica’s AT100E, or Ortofon’s popular 2M Red will yield considerably superior sound quality for a relatively modest fee.

Perhaps the C200’s most convenient feature is an its built-in phono pre-amp, which means that those without a phono input on their receiver or integrated amplifier won’t need to need to purchase an outboard phono pre-amp to get listening right away. Crosley has included a simple switch on the back of the C200 to determine whether the built-in phono pre-amp is on or off, making the addition of an outboard phono pre extremely easy. This sheds light on who Crosley is after with the C200: Those who want to upgrade from a cheaper lo-fi table to a fully-functioning model, with the option to implement more upgrades down the road.

The only feature the Crosley C200 doesn’t offer out of the box is an auto-return function whereby the tonearm lifts itself off the vinyl at the end of the record and returns to rest in its peg. We can’t really knock the C200 for that given many turntables — both in this price range and in more expensive options — do not have this function.

Performance

The Crosley C200 sounds great all around. When using the built-in phono pre-amp, highs were crisp, mids warm, and bass — even on particularly bombastic cuts from a coworker’s special 180 gram copy of Kendrick Lamar’s untitled unmastered. — was tight, clean, and never threw the needle from its groove. Vintage records like the gorgeous Clifford Brown With Strings came through with warmth and no jagged edges, despite record label Emarcy’s slightly overdriven 1957 recording style.

We did notice some ruffling of the edges in the form of moderate compression in the upper-midrange, but we only noticed it when we listened at extremely high volumes – the distortion was otherwise inaudible. It’s hard to knock the C200 for this issue, though, as we didn’t expect much from the built-in pre-amp.

When plugged into an outboard phono pre-amp (we used the outstanding and affordable U-Turn Audio Pluto) we noticed a fairly decent increase in overall clarity, indicating a nice place to throw some upgrade dollars when one is looking for increased fidelity. Again, though, the C200’s built in pre-amp is by no means poor, especially considering it comes free inside the deck.

Crosley C200 turntable review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Crosley says that users can expect 1000 hours of playback out of the Audiotechnica NP-5 cartridge, and we have no reason to doubt that — we noticed no loss of fidelity over hours and hours of listening.

Our Take

The Crosley C200 is a affordable, simple, and solid-sounding option for those looking to upgrade from an entry-level turntable.

Is there a better alternative?

Though it lists at $279 on the company’s website, the C200 can be had for around $200 at Amazon, making it a simpler, less expensive option to the much-lauded Audio-Technica LP-120 — a big player in this space (though it is worth noting the LP-120 is a much more robust table with a better suspension and USB output for easy digital archiving.) The Fluance RT80 is another attractive option at the C200’s price level, however it lacks pitch control.

How long will it last?

The C200 is solidly built and should last for many years with limited maintenance thanks to its direct-drive motor and easily replaceable needle.

Should you buy it?

Yes. The C200 is an extremely solid option for those looking to replace a lower-end turntable with something that looks, feels, and sounds like a much higher-end deck. It’s a perfect starting point for a new vinyl listener who is looking to incrementally upgrade their setup. We award the C200 4 stars due to its combination of features, performance, price, and accessibility.

Emerging Tech

Of all the vape pens in the world, these 5 are the best

Vaping concentrates has become significantly more popular, especially among those that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. But don’t use just any vape pen: we found these five devices to be our favorites in 2018.
Home Theater

5 gorgeous turntables that spin stacks of wax in style for less than $500

Vinyl records are awesome, but they're also finicky. To get the best out of your stacks of wax, it's best to play them on a quality turntable. Here are the best turntables to be had for under $500.
Home Theater

Get the most boom for your buck with the best headphones under $100

Everybody wants a bargain, and this list has a bunch. For those looking for a solid set of headphones without spending a big stack of cash, this list is is your starting point. Check out our picks for the best headphones under $100.
Mobile

These 100 best iPhone apps will turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

The iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world, and we want to bring out the best in yours. Behold our comprehensive list of the best iPhone apps, from time-saving productivity tools to fun apps you won’t be able to put down.
Home Theater

Put your home theater to the test with these spectacular Blu-ray releases

What's the point of having all of that awesome home theater gear if you can't breed a little jealousy in your friends and family? We've put together this list of fantastic Blu-rays that have the goods to drop a few jaws.
Home Theater

Google Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra: Everything you need to know

Google's Chromecast plugs into your TV's HDMI port, allowing you to stream content from your tablet, laptop, or smartphone directly to your TV. Here's what you need to know about all iterations, including the 4K-ready Chromecast Ultra.
Product Review

These AirPod look-alikes are better in every way but one

With silicone eartips, water resistance, and a more palatable price tag, Mobvoi’s Ticpods Free are impressive AirPod doppelgangers. But for all the great things they have going for them, there’s one flaw holding them back.
Home Theater

Learn how to calibrate your home theater speakers for sheer audio bliss

Make your home theater rumble just right with our manual speaker setup guide, a simple, step-by-step walkthrough to getting the most from your audio equipment without needing to rely on imperfect automatic calibration.
Home Theater

How to make your TV squeaky clean for not much green

Not sure how to clean the LCD, OLED, or plasma display that's the cornerstone of your living room? You don't need to buy expensive cleaning solutions to clean your TV -- we'll teach you how to do it with simple household items.
Home Theater

If you've got questions about Ultra HD Blu-ray, we've got answers

Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and players are a killer way to beef up your home theater. Here's everything you need to know about one of the most significant advances to hit home entertainment in years.
Deals

All the Best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…
Deals

The Best Black Friday Deals from Best Buy in 2018

We've been hard at work assembling all the best Black Friday deals Best Buy offers in 2018 and putting them in one place to save you time and money this holiday season. From laptops to TVs, game consoles to smart speakers and much more…
Home Theater

From game consoles to 4K UHD spinners, these are the best Blu-ray players

Streaming may be popular, but the disc isn't dead yet. To get the very best picture and sound quality from your system, you need to be watching Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, and these are the best Blu-ray players you can buy.
Home Theater

What’s new on Amazon Prime Video (December 2018)

Amazon Prime Video adds new titles each month that are available for free to all Prime members. Check out our list to find all the content hitting Amazon Prime Video in November and December 2018, from new original series to classic films.