Victrola is an audio brand with a history stretching back more than a century — to 1906 to be precise. These days the company is probably best known for inexpensive, vintage inspired all-in-one and suitcase style record players. However, this year Victrola made a move into more modern looking, elegant systems including much more capable turntables. They’re calling this the Premiere series. I just wrapped up the evaluation of the Victrola Premiere V1 Music System, a $499.99 offering that includes a stereo audio cabinet with a top-mounted turntable, Bluetooth streaming, and a wireless subwoofer. Adding to its cred, this system was a CES 2022 Innovation Award winner.
Victrola V1 Setup
The V1 arrived in a single box, well-packaged with egg crate padding and each piece nicely wrapped in protective cloth. Victrola includes a very handy, super-sized (printed on a piece of cardboard the size of the box) quick setup guide that clearly walks you through each step of the setup.
Inside is the V1 turntable and audio system (the company often refers to it as a soundbar), the S1 wireless subwoofer, a cover, and accessories including a remote control with batteries.
Setup shouldn’t take long and doesn’t require tools, but it does immediately provide a big clue that the V1 has a more capable turntable than you’ll find on most all-in-ones. It’s a two-speed belt drive. The aluminum platter has the belt pre-mounted, with a cutout to stretch it over the motor pulley after placing it on the spindle. A silicone slip mat is included. The cartridge is pre-mounted on the aluminum tonearm, but you need to balance the tonearm and set the tracking force. Yes, there is an adjustable counterweight and tracking force controls.
That’s it, at least until you connect the subwoofer. A single front-mounted knob with a glowing ring controls the power (push it in to turn on or off), as well as source and volume. You can also use the remote control.
About the Cartridge…
Victrola equips the V1 with its own Premiere cartridge, the VPC 190. This is a moving magnet cartridge, but I was unable to obtain further details from Victrola (I’ll update this post if they send additional info). It’s definitely an upgrade over what you get with a typical all-in-one or entry level turntable, but there’s a catch. The stylus can’t be replaced. That means when the stylus is worn (in the 1,000 hours of play time range), the entire cartridge must be replaced.
That’s doable, but it’s a more complicated operation than sliding off a stylus. In addition, Victrola doesn’t currently have replacement details online, so I have no idea what a new VPC 190 will cost or where you can get one. The good news is that you should be able to use a third-party universal headshell and cartridge if you choose to do so when the time comes. Having the adjustable counterweight opens a lot of doors there.
A Dust Cover That’s Different
The V1 is designed to look modern, with woodgrain sides, a black cloth front, that glowing control knob, and a fairly low profile. Victrola extended that design with the dust cover. It’s a single piece of acrylic (with a woodgrain insert on one top surface) that hugs the turntable, fitting over the spindle and tonearm.
The cover definitely has a stylish look, but it can’t be used with the turntable. To play a record, the dust cover must be lifted off and stashed somewhere. That’s not an issue for me — the dust covers on all but one of my turntables are not connected to their hinges so I can lift them off when playing records, but some people might not like it. Because the dust cover edges don’t meet the top of the cabinet, there is still going to be dust on the upper surface of the system, and it could easily creep under the edges as well.
Wireless S1 Subwoofer Included
Inside the V1 are a pair of drivers, each with 10W of amplification. However, this system also includes a powered, 6.5-inch wireless subwoofer that is both front-firing and down-firing. It syncs wirelessly with the V1 and during testing that connectivity was solid. The two components quickly reconnected when the V1 was powered off and on. The S1 (which also sells separately for $249.99) has wood veneer sides and a black cloth front to complement the V1 design.
If you don’t want to go wireless, the S1 can also be physically connected to the V1 with an included subwoofer cable. On the back of the S1 are volume and crossover controls along with RCA inputs.
So, how does music sound on the Victrola Premiere V1 Music System?
On its own, the all-in-one sounded fine. Nothing special — there are just two speakers inside, after all, and no fancy DSP. About what you might expect from a decent Bluetooth speaker, although the wooden case adds a bit of warmth to the sound. However, throw the S1 subwoofer into the mix and things get more interesting. I had to be aggressive with the subwoofer’s volume and crossover settings, but once dialled in it make a very big difference. The audio gets the low end that was missing with just the built-ins, it has more punch, and seemed to pick up a little depth as well.
You can’t get extremely loud with the built-in speakers topping out at 10W each, but there’s enough volume to power a party in a good-sized room.
As for the turntable itself, it performed quite well. There was no skipping, despite being mounted on top of two speakers. Victrola’s VPC 190 cartridge proved to be much more capable than typical all-in-one offerings.
The turntable is equipped with a damped cue lever and auto-stop. It’s worth noting that the speed selector is a rocker switch located on the back panel — an unusual choice. Doing so keeps the top of the turntable clean, but if you regularly switch between albums and singles, you’ll want to leave yourself enough room to reach back there.
Additional Audio Connectivity Options
Victrola really kitted out the V1 with connectivity options.
To start with, if the internal speakers aren’t doing it for you (or you want to listen to a record in another room), the system supports Victrola’s Vinyl Stream, which lets the turntable stream via Bluetooth to an external wireless speaker or headphones. The maximum range is about 33 feet. There are also RCA jacks to output the audio to the AUX input of an external audio system.
As I mentioned earlier, Victrola frequently refers to the V1 as a soundbar system and the reason is apparent. There is also an optical input (and the optical cable is included) so you can plug in a TV. If space is limited, having an all-in-one audio system that includes a turntable and can also function as a stereo soundbar — complete with wireless subwoofer — is a win. And the V1’s low profile helps to support that use case.
There is also an AUX input in case you want to plug in a CD player, and of course it supports Bluetooth streaming (Bluetooth 5.0) so you can use your phone and Spotify or Apple Music when you run out of records to play.
Victrola also includes a basic remote to control input and volume.
Victrola Premiere V1 Music System Recommendation
If you’re looking for an all-in-in one audio system anchored by a turntable, the Victrola Premiere V1 Music System is a definite step up from the usual all-in-one offerings. In particular, the turntable is much more capable, and the audio performance from its integrated speakers + wireless subwoofer is superior. It’s modern looking rather than retro, and can do double duty as a TV soundbar. It may not have a CD player built-in, but you can always connect one.
The only real “gotcha” with this system is that non-replaceable stylus. But with around 1,000 hours of useful life, most people should get at least a few years out of the V1 before having to replace the cartridge.
If you want the best possible experience from an all-in-one style turntable music system, the Andover Model One (reviewed here) remains the one to beat. However there have been few options in the mid-range between a system like the Model One and the usual, inexpensive all-in-ones. The choice has been $200 for a very basic system with (often aggressively) retro styling, and $2,000 for a high performance system with classic, modern style.
At $499, the Victrola Premiere V1 Music System fills that mid-range, all-in-one vacuum nicely.
Disclosure: Victrola provided a V1 Music System for evaluation purposes but had no input into this review.