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For those who are looking at a first record player or a bump up from the experience of a record player-in-a-suitcase, the choices can be daunting. And expensive. Entry-level systems are often underwhelming in audio (and overall) quality. Some are built around cheap needles with heavy tracking force that wear out quickly and can physically damage records. Start looking at a record player or turntable with decent capabilities and features like a name-brand cartridge, and costs quickly rise. Then there is the expense and complexity of connecting to an amplifier and speakers, or a set of powered bookshelf speakers.

Electrohome — a brand that has been making consumer audio products (including turntables) since 1907 — has a compelling offering. The Electrohome Montrose Record Player + McKinley Powered Bookshelf Speakers is a rare entry level vinyl-lovers bundle that delivers in a big way, yet still slides in under $200 for the entire system. I covered the combo in Volume 16 of my Record Roundup and now I’ve had the opportunity to go hands-on with it.

Surprising Good Looks, Easy Setup

I’ve unboxed my fair share of entry level audio systems and record players. I’ve learned to expect a lot of plastic and signs of poor construction. Loose screws rattling around in a box and chipped paper “wood” finish is not uncommon.

This Electrohome bundle was a big step up. MDF takes the place of a lot of plastic in cabinets and it features a teak finish that looks really smart and quite convincing. Thought was put into giving the record player and speakers a bit of a retro look, but it’s a classic style. Think 1970s rather than a 1940s cabinet vibe.

That being said, there’s no escaping plastic at this price point. The record player’s platter in particular is thin plastic, but at least it’s covered with a felt mat. And Electrohome chose to step it up by including an Audio-Technica AT3600L MM diamond-tipped conical cartridge along with an adjustable counterweight. This means a very decent cartridge out of the box, plus the ability to upgrade later if you want — very unusual at this price point.

Setup is very straightforward. The record player comes almost completely pre-assembled. All you need to do is remove packing tape then pop on the counterweight and platter mat. Wire the speakers together, connect to your phone with Bluetooth (for streaming), connect the record player to the speaker with included RCA cables, then power the systems up.

The combination is an attractive bookshelf system that lets you listen to records, plug in other external sources (like a CD player or a TV) and play tracks from your favorite streaming service using Bluetooth. In true, two-channel stereo.

Performance

I’ll start with the Montrose record player. It offers the basics, with two-speed operation, a cue lever, and auto-stop. There is a hinged dust cover and shock absorbing feet. You can even connect it to an amplifier with PHONO input by switching off its built-in preamplifier.

What makes the Montrose stand out in terms of audio quality is the use of the Audio Technica cartridge. Yes, it’s low in the AT range, but the AT3600L is a solid performer with a diamond tip and it’s been offered for decades. Many record players and turntables in this price range use a molded cartridge and proprietary stylus (often with a cheaper sapphire tip instead of diamond). The Montrose sounds better than most of these by virtue of that superior cartridge. And you know that the AT cartridge (with a recommended 3g tracking force) is not going to be chewing up your record collection.

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Records sounded great. Warm, with solid bass and upper frequencies that don’t get too harsh. I also found it was quite forgiving of older records that might have scratches. No one will mistake this for an audiophile turntable in terms of detail, accuracy, frequency response and sound stage, but it makes records sound the way you expect them to sound and seriously outperforms other record player systems in this price range.

The McKinley powered speakers deliver energetic sound, with decent low end oomph. The 4-inch woofers and rear bass ports help here. If you’re accustomed to a portable speaker, this configuration is almost certainly going to sound better — especially when you factor in the true stereo setup. Total power is 30 watts (15W per channel) so they don’t get crazy loud, but there’s enough volume to fill a mid-sized room without distorting. There is onboard volume control (and source switching), but the included remote is needed for bass or treble adjustment.

This electrohome bundle is obviously going to be outperformed by more expensive systems, but for $199? It looks good and sounds great.

Montrose Record Player Key Specs:

  • 2-speed belt-drive with optically-controlled motor
  • Preinstalled Audio-Technica AT3600L Moving Magnet Diamond-Tipped Conical cartridge
  • Adjustable counterweight
  • Auto stop
  • Switchable pre-amplifier
  • Teak finish MDF
  • Plastic, hinged dust cover
  • Includes 45 adapter, 4ft RCA cables, felt platter mat
  • Weigh 7.23 lbs

McKinley Powered Bookshelf Speakers Key Specs:

  • 2-way powered speakers with 4-inch polypropylene woofers, 1-inch silk dome tweeters
  • Class D amplifier 15W per channel (30W total)
  • Frequency response 65Hz – 20kHz
  • Bluetooth 5.0, RCA L/R, and 3.5mm audio inputs
  • Teak finish MDF cabinets with tuned rear bass ports
  • 10.4-inches (H) x 6.5-inches (W) x 7.6-inches (D)
  • Includes remote control, 2 x AAA batteries, 8ft 22 gauge speaker wire, 4ft AUX to RCA cable

Also Sold Separately

Already have a turntable you’re happy with, or just want the record player and not the speakers? Not to worry, Electrohome sells them separately as well. In addition, you can buy a version of the record player (the Montrose R36) that is equipped with built-in Bluetooth so you can stream directly to a wireless speaker or headphones.

Recommendation

To tell the truth, I wasn’t expecting much from this bundle. Not at that price. However, Electrohome managed the near-impossible and delivered an audio system that includes retro good looks, quality construction (including an Audio Technica cartridge), easy setup, Bluetooth audio streaming, and enjoyable stereo sound — all for what I would expect to pay for an entry level turntable alone.

If you’re looking for a record listening starter system that maximizes enjoyment while keeping to a very reasonable budget, the Electrohome Montrose Record Player + McKinley Powered Bookshelf Speakers bundle should be at the top of your list.

Disclosure: Electrohome provided a Montrose Record Player + McKinley Powered Bookshelf Speakers system for evaluation purposes but had no input into this review.

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