The VinylPlay is a plug-and-play turntable with a built-in phono pre-amplifier, ready for direct hook-up to a hi-fi or speaker system of your choice. It may look familiar, and that’s because it’s actually built for Flexson by UK turntable stalwart Rega, which makes the outstanding Planar 3 – although the VinylPlay has more in common with Rega's entry-level RP1.
The VinylPlay has all the hallmarks of an entry-level Rega record player, with a neatly finished, glossy rectangular plinth playing host to a sub-platter, attached via a belt to a motor pulley stepped for 33/45rpm. The platter and felt mat fit on top of this, which does mean you have to remove the platter when you need to switch between the two speeds – done by shifting the belt up or down a level on the pulley.
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The plinth is available in either black or white, and a lid comes as standard. The lid is a standard Rega unit, which is simple to slot in or remove whenever you need.
Sitting atop the plinth is another familiar sight: a Rega RB101 tonearm, as fitted to the Rega RP1. It’s a reliable design with an integrated headshell, magnetic anti-skating mechanism and a sturdy lift arm.
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The fitted cartridge, although not branded as such, looks to be a Rega Carbon moving-magnet model, which is itself an adaptation of the Audio-Technica AT91 and worth around £25. It’s a solid budget cartridge, and a replacement stylus costs just £15.
Underneath the plinth, to the back right, is a box for the built-in phono stage, which means there’s no need to have a separate pre-amplifier between the turntable and your hi-fi or speaker system.
Flexson started life as a manufacturer of Sonos accessories, so the VinylPlay has been made with the intention of simply plugging straight into a Sonos unit, although it will connect to anything with a line input.
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The phono stage has the standard RCA stereo phono outputs and a power socket at the rear. To the side are the on/off switch – it’s not the greatest placement, to be honest – as well as a USB socket and level knob. The USB is for hooking the VinylPlay up to a computer and recording your vinyl using software such as Audacity, with the level control helping to fine-tune the recordings.
Flexson and Rega have done a great job of making this deck almost completely plug-and-play. The back of the tonearm has a ring on it that marks where you have to fit the counterweight to attain the correct tracking force for the supplied cartridge – which is already fitted and pre-aligned. As a result, there’s minimal fiddling around and no need for a tracking force gauge.
Once you’ve pushed the counterweight up to that ring, all you need to do is plug it in and turn it on. Simple.
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The sound quality is very good for the price – extremely musical, with great timing and a decent level of detail. It even made a great stab at breathing life into Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”, which I’ve found to be a trial even for turntables costing upwards of £2,000.
It’s a little thin and lacking some bite, but it should sound easily competent enough for the sorts of systems it's likely to be plugged into. There’s always the option of upgrading the cartridge, although sadly, the built-in phono pre-amp can’t be bypassed to use an external unit.
I did experience a slight vibrational hum when playing music with the lid fitted, so I’d suggest detaching it and tucking it out of the way when the VinylPlay is in use. Not a huge deal, and it may not be a problem that affects all units.
The VinylPlay is a wonderful plug-and-play vinyl solution at a great price. Sure, there are cheaper decks with auto-return and suchlike, but this Flexson is a proper slice of hi-fi, and sounds much better for it.
If you listen to a mixture of singles and albums, however, you’ll likely find it a chore removing the platter to change speeds, and you’d be better off spending a little extra for the Pro-Ject Essential II Digital or Essential II Phono USB.
Also, it’s probably best to ignore the USB socket and any temptation to digitise more than a handful of records – it’s a faff, no matter how you do it. This is a great-value package with or without the USB.
A cheap plug-and-play turntable package with proper hi-fi credentials.