In this edition of Record Roundup — my ongoing feature of all things to do with turntables — there are two signs that we may have reached peak vinyl. First, Swedish flat-pack furniture giant IKEA has announced its own turntable. And second, Billboard has a feature on the downside of the continued surge in popularity of turntables: records are getting harder to find, with prices that are going through the roof. Here’s what you need to know.
IKEA Announces a Turntable
IKEA is best known for modern, affordable, and sometimes vexing-to-assemble furniture. However, the company is becoming quicker to spot tech trends and is willing to act on them. This includes IKEA-branded wireless speakers and furniture with integrated wireless charging.
So it probably should come as no surprise that the company is jumping on the vinyl bandwagon. Last week, IKEA announced the new OBEGRÄNSAD record player, designed with Swedish House Mafia.
The new turntable employs a simple, chunky look that combines a square and a circle, and makes a visual statement. Power is supplied by USB and there is an integrated pre-amplifier so the OBEGRÄNSAD can be used with many different audio systems. IKEA says an emphasis was placed on solid construction to absorb vibrations, as well as having a replaceable stylus “of well-known make and good quality.” The company also wanted to ensure its record player was easy to use and affordable.
The company didn’t publish any specs, but did post photos of the OBEGRÄNSAD, which offer some tantalizing clues. The cartridge in the photos is from Audio Technica, which is a good sign. The photo also shows an interesting choice in a pair of RCA jacks mounted to the side of the record player instead of the traditional back position. This would make the inputs more accessible, but could also result in cable clutter.
No word yet on price either, but IKEA says the OBEGRÄNSAD record player will launch this fall.
Records Are Getting Even More Expensive
Getting your hands on a decent turntable is one thing. Finding the records to play on it is another. If you’ve noticed records are getting both harder to find and much more expensive, you’re not imagining it. Billboard just published a feature outlining the factors involved (subscription required).
Vinyl sales were up by over 50% in 2021, nearing 42 million units sold. At the same time as demand was surging, costs were rising. The price of vinyl pellets used to make records jumped three times last year, nearly doubling the cost of the raw material. The price of nickel doubled in March alone — and that means the cost of the stampers used by record plants has also gone way up. Power, fuel, and labor costs have also increased. At the same time, the demand for records with a limited number of pressing plants has meant it sometimes takes a year for a record order to be completed.
As a result of the additional costs, record labels have been raising wholesale prices, which can now reach as high as $24 for a record. That’s wholesale, not retail prices.
The bottom line is you may want to spend even more time flipping through the bins at your local used record store…
Catching Up on Reviews Including the Fluance RT85N
In the time since the last edition of Record Roundup in April, I have had the opportunity to go hands-on with a number of interesting turntables.
Among these reviews were the Fluance RT85N (the first from this company with a Nagaoka cartridge), and the Victrola Premiere V1 Music System (a CES award-winning all-in-one system that includes a wireless subwoofer).
If you’re looking for a new turntable or record player, check these out.
And if you missed the previous edition of Record Roundup, you can catch up on it here.