Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Pros and Cons of the Ion Profile Pro

Now that I've owned this turntable for a month or so and have had the chance to use it several times, I have a few thoughts about it. I use this turntable in the computer room where I am writing this entry. My other turntable is a vintage Pioneer PL-115D which requires a phono preamp (I run mine through a Marantz 2252B receiver and a pair of Philips bookshelf speakers) and a decent ground, so it's a a little hard to throw just anywhere. Also, my daughter pretty much owns the entertainment room where my other turntable is and if I ever open my vinyl cabinet, she bum rushes it every time. The Ion fits nicely in the computer room, doesn't require a bulky receiver (the Marantz is a work of art, but it's quite large and extremely heavy), and can be placed where my daughter can't interfere with it. There are however, some downsides. I know this turntable was designed for people who hate their vinyl collection and wish it was MP3's (really? There are people who think that way? They should send their records to me). This is a USB turntable that does have an internal preamp as well as an rca out. I run it through the rca outs into a set of very nice computer speakers (no, really. They're very nice). I have run this turntable through my other setup, so I have a decent idea what it sounds like in the best circumstances. I have also tried the recording software, and it's crap. So there's that. Anyway, without any more delay let's kick it to some pro's and con's:

1. Internal Preamp- It is a nice feature
2. Portability- This thing is waaay lighter than the Pioneer
3. Sleek Design- I like the curves on this thing. It looks nice
4. Nice Slip Mat- You can buy a decent slip mat cheap, but it's nice to not need to
5. Great Dust Cover- The hinge break on the dust cover is perfect. It doesn't force itself down as some covers do. I have never skipped a record because I was putting the dust cover down.
6. Inexpensive- I picked the Ion up for $60, which isn't bad at all.

1. Cheap Cartridge and Stylus- Of all the places to be chintzy, the part that picks up the sound and turns it into a usable audio signal always seems like a bad choice. Still, most inexpensive modern turntables skimp here
2. Cheap Tone Arm- I don't expect too much from a budget turntable, but this is not quality workmanship
3. Complete Lack of Adjustment- There is no way to balance the arm, set the anti-skate, dial in needle weight, or anything of the sort. Once again, I don't expect too much. The Philips is in the budget range for turntables, but it still provides all the basic adjustments for a decent turntable
4. Skippy Skip Skip- Because of the cheap tone arm and lack of adjustment, the Ion skips on records that play perfectly fine on the Philips.
5. Thin Sound- Because of the cheap cartridge, stylus, and tone arm (and possibly because of the internal preamp) this turntable just doesn't crank out the rich sound my Philips does.

Please know that I am not an audiophile. I don't have a tube preamp, I don't have an air-suspended turntable, I don't have a dedicated listening room, and I have never spent more than $250 on a single piece of audio equipment. I'm just a guy who tries to get the best sound he can without dropping too much coin. I have had a lot of experience with vintage and budget audio equipment, so I generally know what I'm talking about. I would only recommend this turntable to two types of people: 1) People who want to rip their vinyl to MP3's (seriously guys, send me your records. You don't deserve 'em) 2) People who want a turntable but don't want to invest in preamps, receivers, speakers, etc.

I'm not saying that this turntable sucks or that it is the worst thing on the market. It plays records, which is what it is supposed to do. I paid $75 for my Pioneer turntable and it was a much more sound investment. I would suggest that anyone looking to buy a first turntable should steer clear of the cheaply made modern budget and USB market. Buy a vintage Pioneer, Kenwood, or Sony, put a new stylus on it, and invest in either a decent vintage amplifier/receiver or buy any one of a number of reasonably-priced phono preamps that are on the market. You can sometimes find decent/fixable vintage audio equipment at thrift stores. I have a friend who outfitted himself with a great system for under $100 ($25 of which was a new stylus) by picking stuff up at a thrift store, dusting it off, and fixing it up. The Ion will continue to get use until I can teach my daughter to respect her daddy's record collection, but it isn't my favorite way of listening to my records. If I could replace it with a vintage turntable, I would.

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