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JBL Spinner BT - Bridging the Generation Gap

Glenn Hart,
Publish Date
Wed, 21 Feb 2024, 1:27PM

JBL Spinner BT - Bridging the Generation Gap

Glenn Hart,
Publish Date
Wed, 21 Feb 2024, 1:27PM

Vinyl isn't just back; it's dominating. All data shows physical album sales continue to break records - sorry about the dad pun - and that trend is unlikely to slow down any time soon.

Despite this, there are a lot of people out there who have absolutely no idea why you would buy a record or what you would do with it if you did. My youngest daughter is one of those people. She's 20.

Her: "So this is all people had to listen to music with?"

Me: "Yes, pretty much. Then came cassettes, then CDs, then bluetooth and streaming."

Her: "What's a cassette?"

How quickly they forget.

Let's just say, when I brought an actual record player home, she was pretty intrigued.


The JBL Spinner BT is not an earth-shattering innovation. In fact, I first reviewed a bluetooth turntable back in 2021.

In saying that, the concept has really grown on me - especially since my reliance on smart speakers for my entire home sound system has become all-encompassing. 

Thanks to Wi-Fi and bluetooth connectivity, not to mention regular advances in wireless charging, the thought of plugging something into something else to make it work seems decidedly archaic.

Especially to daughter.

Her: "You mean, you have to connect it to another thing to listen to it?"

Me: "Well, yes. But this one connects via bluetooth. No wires."

Her: "What did they used to plug into?"

Me: "An amp."

Her: "What's an amp?"

I give up.

In fact, because of smart speakers and Hi-Res streaming services, to be honest, I get how the idea of reintroducing any separate components into the mix seems a little superfluous.

However, there's one thing that can't be denied. Records are cool.

The covers, the sleeves, the tactile experience of placing them gently on the turntable, lining up the tonearm and dropping the needle - it doesn't get more retro than that.


And it's those retro feels JBL is hoping to cash in on with the Spinner BT - released late last year along with its excellent new range of vinatge-looking Authentics speakers.

In fact, I've paired the turntable with the Authentics 500 - my favourite speaker of 2023 - for this review. Pairing couldn't be easier; press the Bluetooth button on the Spinner BT, press the bluetooth button on the speaker and the rest happens automatically. At that point, you can use the smart capabilities of the Authentics 500 to adjust the volume via Alexa or Google Assistant.


I say pairing couldn't be easier... but that's not quite right. The Bluetooth button on the Spinner BT is tiny and it's tucked around the back of the turntable, in the middle of the panel with the power button, pre-amp switch and RCA output terminals. That's fine, except it's at the back; not particularly accessible and too small to find easily by touch. Why isn't it a big, friendly button on the front like the two speed controls?


Perhaps JBL's design team thought that would ruin the minimalistic, retro look of the turntable, which I admittedly find very pleasing indeed. The dark colour scheme of the MDF plinth and smoky dust cover are only contrasted by the dim gold colour of the JBL logo on the front and the aluminium platter. (There's also a version with orange logo and platter, although this is currently unavailable in New Zealand)

JBL walks a fine line between entry-level user-friendliness and advanced audio features. I found the setup instructions easy to follow, although I've read some user reviews complaining they were a bit complicated. Sadly, these same users were also surprised to discover the Spinner BT needs to be connected to some kind of speaker system to be heard. Why on earth were they buying a turntable in the first place?

Anyway, the fiddliest bit of setup is probably pulling the drive belt into place, using the attached ribbon to pull it over the drive mechanism. The cartridge ships with stylus already in place, meaning the only thing you have to do is insert it into the tonearm.


Balancing the tonearm using the counterweight and anti-skate control might also seem a bit daunting at first but again, as long as you follow the instructions it shouldn't pose too much of a challenge.

The result is fantastic. Or at least, as far as I can tell it is. I don't really know what separates a $3000 turntable from a $749.95 one like this - I'm far too deaf to be an audio expert that discerning. All I know is I'm sitting here listening to the landmark Fat Freddy's Drop album, Blackbird on my JBL Tour Pro 2 TWS earbuds and I'm loving every moment.

I'm not even in the same room as the turntable and the connection is flawless. Without getting too bogged down in the various bluetooth connection protocols offered by the Spinner BT and whatever device you're connecting it to, while it's still true that precious analogue signal created by needle on vinyl is being digitally compressed and unpacked the moment you listen wirelessly, the technology has come a long way in a short time and surely it's only the true hi-fi snobs who would have a major issue with the sound quality here.

It's not all fun and games. The Fat Freddy tracks tend to run a little long which means there are only two songs on sides A, C and D of this double-disc masterpiece. So now I have to get up, go back to the other room and flip the disc. What a delightfully first-world problem.


Less delightful is the lack of an auto-return function - you can set the turntable to stop automatically at the end of each side but the tonearm doesn't return itself to its rest and there's certainly no auto-start either. That's not good enough when there are far cheaper devices on the market with those automations built in.

But the most annoying design omission by far is the lack of multi-connectivity. You can only pair with one device at a time which means fiddling around for that little, inaccessible bluetooth botton every time you want to swap from speaker to headphones. Again, I'd expect a little better for 750 bucks.

That being said, I can't help loving the way this device looks... blending in perfectly with my oh-so-retro JBL Authentics 500 speaker. The combination is the perfect mix of old-school aesthetics, smart speaker useability and traditional JBL audio know-how.

Am I going to let my daughter use it? Are you crazy? She can have a listen though.




Click here for more information and pricing on the JBL Spinner BT.

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