My interest in portable turntables was cultivated whilst working the Discogs stall at the Utrecht Record Fair. Occasionally, I’d see a collector walk past with some kind of device I hadn’t seen before. When someone who had one stopped at our booth for a chat, I got them to show me it. It was a battery powered record player / tape deck!
After seeing this, of course I got home and started researching portable turntables. I found a reasonable number of them, from the 1960’s onwards. The older ones were much less ‘portable’, more like suitcases, and were usually mains powered. I needed something truly portable, so these wouldn’t do.
So I started looking at modern turntables I could buy new. The Vestax Handytrax seems to come out top here, and certainly seemed interesting. However, there was something about its design that didn’t quite gel with me… and it seemed a bit bulky for what I wanted.
That’s why I started looking for something in the middle (this tale is starting to sound like Goldilocks and the three bears!). There were some portable turntables made in the 80s that looked interesting. Sony did some called the ‘Flamingo’ (PS-F5 and PS-F9) that played the records standing upright. These look amazing, with their retro 80s Walkman styling. There are some downsides however. First of all, the record has to be lowered into the slot, the machine doesn’t open up. I thought it would be hard to do that with an expensive vinyl without scratching / marking it! Second, it is linear tracking, and so jumping between tracks would be slow and not very precise, not great for checking out a record. Third, they seem to be really collectable and go for a fair bit in the secondhand market!
That meant the Sony was ruled out. What else? Well, in the 80s, Audio-Technica had made their own take on this concept. Called the ‘Sound Burger’, the shape is similar to the Sony, and it is battery powered, but there the similarities end. The Sound Burger is designed to be played flat, like a normal turntable. The arm is also a normal manual turntable arm, so skipping between tracks is fast. Finally, by all accounts it is actually a reasonable quality device, taking a good needle and with light tracking.
My choice was made, I wanted an Audio-technica Sound Burger AT727! I looked on the usual auction site for some months, but they didn’t come up very often, and when they did, they were in another country, or expensive, or broken. As luck would have it though, I happened to come across not one, not two, but THREE of them up for auction at another auction site for electronic musical instruments that holds an auction every 6 months. The stage was set, these turntables were atypical for this auction, who’s bread and butter are vintage synthesisers. There were no bids on any of the Sound Burgers, and the starting prices were very low. I bid on one. Then I thought, maybe I should bid on another one, just in case I lose the first bid. Then I thought, well, I have two under bid, and the cost of all three, if I get them at the low bid price, is about the same as I’d pay for one usually. They were also all different colours. Ok so I bid on all three. And won!
So, I was in possession of the three Soundburgers after a couple of weeks. They needed the belts changed, which I got from a guy in Portugal, and a couple of them needed some basic electrical work (new trim pots).
I took one over to the Utrecht record fair soon after, it was for sure useful being able to listen to records right there at the stalls! On my last visit to Portland, I also took one with me, plus a JBL Flip 3 portable speaker. It was great being able to listen to my USA vinyl purchases in my hotel room after a hard day at Discogs. I didn’t manage to use one in the airplane however, maybe next time!