The revival of vinyl as a music format has found favor with younger people. There’s nothing quite like discovering the magic of playing your favorite music on a warm and analog source, even if it suffers from the occasional snap, crackle and pop.
Quite a few turntables are being launched in this once-moribund market, but it’s all about convenience now. Today’s turntables often have a phono preamplifier built-in and Bluetooth streaming capability. Some even have a USB port for digitizing records.
House of Marley’s Stir-It-Up Lux turntable is a relatively new product from the company that works alongside the family of Bob Marley, with some of the profits going into environmental causes that the world’s most famous reggae artists treasured. All the House of Marley products are made with sustainable materials and zero-plastic packaging. House of Marley is a brand that will chime with those who like to tread lightly on this planet.
The Stir-It-Up Lux turntable is the flagship House of Marley turntable and features a belt-drive system and a solid glass platter. The plinth is made from sustainable bamboo, while the tonearm is made from aluminum. The motor can play at 33 and 45 RPM, but if 78s made from shellac are your thing, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
As well as playing LPs and singles, the Stir-It-Up Lux turntable can stream the music to Bluetooth headphones or a wireless speaker. Pairing is easy and you only need to do it once per device. As well as the Bluetooth function, the turntable has a 3.5mm stereo jack for plugging in a wired pair of headphones.
A USB Type-C port at the rear of the Stir-It-Up Lux turntable can output enough juice to power a smartphone or a wireless speaker. It’s a shame that the USB port isn’t a digital output for turning vinyl into digital recordings; that would have been a nice touch for preserving those rare records and avoiding excessive wear
The headshell on the Stir-It-Up Lux turntable is fixed. The cartridge is factory-fitted with an Audio-Technica AT-95E, which has a replaceable elliptical stylus that’s easy to source replacement stylus if necessary. The cartridge is a good compromise between quality and price and is more than adequate for the job.
Two RCA Phono sockets at the rear can output with or without the built-in preamp to connect the Stir-It-Up Lux turntable to a traditional hi-fi system. Use a high-quality phono stage that you may find on a good-quality amplifier for the best results. However, suppose your amplifier doesn’t have a phono stage. In that case, you can switch on the turntable’s built-in preamp and feed the signal directly into the line-level inputs usually used for a tuner or cassette deck.
Setting up the Stir-It-Up Lux turntable is easy and instructions are provided. The turntable ships without the tone arm’s counterweight attached, but you screw it on and adjust it to between 1.5 and 2.5g, as indicated on the counterweight’s scale. Finally, you will need to dial in the amount of anti-skate required. Fortunately, House of Marley provides an anti-skate scale measure in the box and you can see how much is needed to dial in.
The tonearm on this turntable has auto stop and start, which is handy and reduces wear on the stylus. There is a lever for cueing up the stylus and for lifting the stylus at the end of the record. The motor on the turntable only starts spinning once the tonearm is over the start of the record. Then, all you need to do is lower the arm and sit back.
I chose Ella Fitzgerald’s live recording of the Irving Berlin Songbook to test the Stir-It-Up Lux turntable. Recorded in 1955 at the Hollywood Bowl, this is classic Fitzgerald, from the golden age of recording in the mid-1950s, when some of the best music was recorded using the latest Ampex tape machines that caught every nuance in a performance.
The pressing I tested was a new release of the Irving Berlin songbook, pressed on pink vinyl. I am a purist who thinks all vinyl should be black and not recycled, as it does affect the sound a little. Even so, lowering the arm onto the LP was a joy. Hearing vinyl’s warmth again with the occasional pop took me back many years. I usually stream my music on TIDAL’s hi-fi tier, so it’s been a while since I dallied with vinyl.
To begin, I used the Stir-It-Up Lux turntable’s built-in preamp for sending the signal to my amplifier. The sound was a little squashed and had a slightly boxy quality compared to the digital stream from TIDAL.
To see if the built-in preamp was the issue, I connected the Turntable to the phono stage on the high-end pair of active wireless speakers I was testing. The sound opened considerably and was more detailed and less boxy. However, while this is a competent turntable, it probably deserves a better preamplifier to get the most from it.
To test the other features, I plugged in a pair of wired headphones to the jack on the turntable. It’s not too bad a sound at all, considering. Then, I tried streaming the music via Bluetooth. There’s something that the lower resolution Bluetooth codecs do to music, which strips away all the vinyl’s personality and is not something I’d recommend other than for convenience.
One thing worth noting about this turntable is that it doesn’t have a Perspex dust cover. That’s an essential feature on a turntable unless you keep it in a cupboard. Indeed, my house would be a magnet for dust and require a weekly clean-down. Dust covers also protect the tone arm, cartridge and stylus from little prying hands, so are worth having.
The Stir-It-Up Lux turntable is powered by an external DC power adapter, which means you don’t need to worry if you own this turntable and move from the USA to the UK, as the difference between 50 and 60Hz mains power isn’t an issue.
Verdict: The House of Marley Stir-It-Up Lux turntable is a good turntable, especially for those who are into sustainability and want all the conveniences the turntable provides, like Bluetooth and phono preamp. You could probably do better in sound quality by buying a budget model from a brand like Fluance or Pro-ject, but then you wouldn’t have the convenience or sustainability of the Stir-It-Up Lux. So, if you want a versatile turntable that will perform well and provide lots of extra bells and whistles while respecting the environment, this could be the one for you. It all depends on how serious you are about vinyl.
Pricing & Availability: The House of Marley Stir-It-Up Lux turntable is available now and costs $399.99 / £349.99.
More info: thehouseofmarley.com
- Sustainably bamboo plinth.
- Bluetooth v5.3 streaming.
- 45 and 33 RPM speeds.
- Auto start/stop with belt drive.
- Built-in, switchable pre-amp; 3.5mm aux out, USB and RCA (phono/line) out.
- Replaceable Audio-Technica elliptical stylus (AT-95E) and adjustable counterweight.