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In the 41 years since reggae legend Bob Marley died at age 36, he’s become one of the most revered artists in popular music history. Several of his children followed him into the creative arts, and the family worked hard to protect his name and image as he became an international icon.
House of Marley is the audio company founded by Bob’s son Rohan, who made a name for himself as a linebacker on the University of Miami football team and was the longtime partner of singer Lauryn Hill. The company focuses on using sustainable materials in its products; it’s a compelling feature, but one that comes at a premium.
The Stir It Up Wireless Turntable is the latest in a series of products named after Bob Marley songs. It’s an entry-level turntable with a distinct look, built with an eye for design that separates it from every other offering in its price range.
How sustainable is the Stir It Up Wireless Turntable?
House of Marley aggressively promotes its sustainability efforts. The Stir It Up Wireless Turntable has a solid bamboo plinth. Since bamboo is essentially a weed that requires nearly zero attention and immediately regenerates itself from its roots after being cut down, it’s truly better for the planet than more traditional wood options.
The slipmats and feed are made of the company’s Regrind silicone, which is manufactured from reclaimed manufacturing scraps that might otherwise go into a dumpster. The dust cover and power cables use the company’s Rewind fabric, made from 30 percent reclaimed organic cotton, 30 percent reclaimed hemp, and 40 percent recycled PET polyester. All the aluminum in the unit is recyclable. Listeners who care about planet-friendly manufacturing will find a lot to like across the company’s product line. The same materials are used in its speakers, headphones, and in a new line of charging accessories.
Is the House of Marley Stir It Up Wireless Turntable easy to set up?
The turntable comes with a set of very basic instructions for what should be a very basic setup; that said, there’s still one very big omission in the included manual.
Once you take the turntable out of the box, you locate the belt which comes preinstalled on the bottom of the platter. Loop your finger through the belt, using one of the large holes on the top of the turntable and put the platter down on the spindle, making sure your finger lines up with the belt drive spindle. Then loop the belt over the drive and you’re good.
The Audio-Technica AT3600L cartridge is preinstalled, so you need only to take the stylus protector off for the next step. So far, everything’s easy. The power cord comes with four different international plugs, so I just slid the U.S. plugs onto the power brick before plugging the ends into the wall and turntable respectively.
Next up is the counterweight, which can be intimidating for new turntable users. The instructions clearly describe how to slide the counterweight onto the back of the tonearm and then balance it for playback. The manual then skips to the next step.
What those instructions don’t tell you is how to set the proper tracking weight. There’s zero mention of the concept, something that will cause frustration for new users unfamiliar with turntables. Fortunately, the company’s UK branch posted a setup video, and it reveals that the tracking weight is 2.5g. There’s also a basic anti-skating function. House of Marley recommends leaving this set to zero unless you have tracking issues.
The turntable starts automatically when you move the tonearm from its support and stops automatically at the end of the side of a record.
What playback options does the Stir It Up Wireless Turntable have?
You can use the Stir It Up Wireless as a traditional turntable. It’s got RCA outs and a built-in (defetable) phono preamp if you want to plug directly into powered speakers or a receiver that lacks a phono stage. There’s also a 3.5mm Aux out if you prefer. The turntable comes with an RCA-to-1/4-inch cord.
There’s also a USB cable that allows you to hook up the Stir It Up Wireless Turntable to a computer for making digital recordings from vinyl. House of Marley recommends the free Audacity app for Mac or PC for conversion to FLAC or MP3, but you can use any digital recording software you choose to make the recordings.
You also get headphone jack on the front of the unit.
Is there an alternative to Bluetooth?
House of Marley also makes a Stir It Up wired turntable that duplicates all the above functions for about $50 less. It’s the Bluetooth connectivity that’s the selling point for this wireless turntable.
The turntable features Bluetooth 4.2 to connect to any wireless speakers. I tested it with the House of Marley’s excellent Get Together Bluetooth speakers.
Pairing was simple. Turn on the Stir It Up Wireless by setting the playback knob to 33 or 45 rpm. Press the adjacent Bluetooth button and the Bluetooth pairing button on your speaker. The units connected quickly and stayed connected.
If you’re used to pairing a Bluetooth speaker with a phone, the turntable doesn’t automatically reconnect with the speakers when you turn them on. You’ll need to press the Bluetooth button on the turntable every time you want to use the speakers. It’s not an issue once you understand that’s how it works, but users might be confused the second time they try to use the turntable with a Bluetooth speaker.
But how does the Stir It Up Wireless Turntable sound?
The turntable’s Audio-Technica AT3600L is a remarkably good budget cartridge that sells for around $25 on its own. That price is low for the quality it delivers and it’s a bargain when compared to the cheap, vinyl-destroying cartridges and styluses that curse so many other entry-level units. If you’re looking to upgrade, you can swap out the cartridge for the $70 AT-VM95E or anything else that fits a 1/2 inch mount.
Listening to “Stay in Time” from the 1979 album On, by Illinois power pop band Off Broadway, I was impressed by how quietly the Stir It Up played back this used copy that, while in pretty good shape, still looked like it would have a good amount of pop and crackle.
Sound reproduction from the AT3600L cartridge is excellent and should satisfy an overwhelming majority of users. More importantly, it won’t chew up your record collection, provided you’ve properly balanced the tonearm. If you’re willing to spend an additional $75 to $100, there are certainly cartridges that offer a noticeable upgrade. The good thing about the Stir It Up turntable is it’s a solid enough device that it’s worth spending the money to make the switch if and when you’re ready.
About that dust cover
Obviously, users who are interested in sustainability will understand that those clear plastic shells that act as dust covers on most every other turntable are terrible for the environment. Some entry-level turntables skip the dust cover entirely, but House of Marley has tried to deliver dust protection with a custom cloth cover that’s reminiscent of the fabric grandmothers drape over furniture in their living rooms.
I found the cloth cover a good compromise for a company that’s committed to environmentally friendly products, but some users are likely to find it less than acceptable.
The bottom line on the House of Marley Stir It Up Wireless Turntable
Some other consumer audio companies have created brands that use the name of famous music artists to sell headphones or speakers. Most of those products are about the logo more than the sound. House of Marley has managed to build a company that promotes an eco-friendly philosophy while delivering audio quality that’s probably better than it needs to be to succeed in the market.
If you’re okay with its environmentally-friendly approach to a dust cover (or don’t care about a dust cover at all), the House of Marley Stir It Up Wireless Turntable is an attractive piece of gear that works well with the excellent (if basic) cartridge that comes with it. It’s a great starter turntable and one that can grow with you when you’re ready to upgrade to a more expensive cartridge.
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