House of Marley released its first turntable, the Stir It Up, several years ago. The company is back this year with a new version: the Stir It Up Wireless Turntable. Everything that was cool about the original, but now with the option of Bluetooth connectivity, so you don’t have the clutter of wires to deal with.
Setup was a little more difficult than expected
House of Marley does a great job of packaging this turntable, making extensive use of paper and cardboard instead of foam and plastic. The company is very focused on environmental sustainability, after all, and that shows—even in the packaging.
The belt comes already on the platter, so all that’s required there is to slip the platter on the spindle, and stretch the belt over the pulley. Convenient cut-outs in the aluminum platter make that an easy job. The cartridge is pre-mounted, so nothing to worry about there. However you do need to install the counterweight, balance the tone-arm and set the anti-skate force. Unfortunately, there is little to go on in the included instructions, and when I tried to download the instruction manual from the company’s website it would repeatedly come up with a “404 Not Found” error.
The stylus is an Audio Technica ATN3600L, which calls for 2.5g to 3.5g of tracking force, so I set it up based on 3.0 g, the midway point. The anti-skate typically uses the same value, but it seemed very aggressive and would pull the tone arm back before reaching inner tracks. I eventually had to dial it back to near zero.
Everything was set up and working properly before long, but it was much more fiddly than expected. And if you’ve never balanced a tonearm before, the directions that are included don’t get into any detail on how to install or adjust the counterweight—you’re likely to end up doing a bit of Googling before the setup is over.
Green cred in spades
One of the big appeals of House of Marley gear is environmental sustainability. As the company puts it, “House of Marley products are crafted from mindfully sourced materials.” The plinth of the turntable is made of CNC milled-bamboo. It’s not only an incredibly strong material from a fast-growing plant, the warmth of the bamboo really makes the Stir It Up stand out.
The platter is made of recyclable aluminum. Its covered by a mat made of REGRIND silicone, made of reclaimed post-processing and post-consumer waste. The REWIND fabric is made of 40% recycled PET plastic, 30% reclaimed organic cotton and 30% hemp.
This turntable doesn’t just look unique, it’s probably the greenest option out there.
House of Marley Stir It Up key specs:
Connect the way you want, including wirelessly
House of Marley has you covered no matter how you want to connect your turntable, or what you want to connect it to.
It features a switchable, integrated preamplifier with dual RCA output jacks. If you want to connect to the PHONO input on an amplifier or receiver, you can. House of Marley is betting most buyers aren’t going to own one of those, though. A dual RCA to 3.5mm cable is included in the box, so you can switch to Line output and plug into anything that has a 3.5mm AUX input. That covers off most portable speakers and mini stereo systems.
New for the Stir It Up Wireless model is the option of Bluetooth connectivity. It works pretty smoothly. Bring your target device near the turntable, and put it in Bluetooth pairing mode. Push the Bluetooth button on the turntable twice (once to activate, once to seek) and the two devices should connect. Push the Bluetooth button again to disconnect.
In addition, there is a USB-B port on the back (cable included) for direct connection to a PC should you want to digitize your records. And on the front is a 3.5mm headphone jack.
There’s a switch to change from 33-1/3 RPM to 45 RPM. When you choose a speed then cue up the tonearm, the platter will start spinning automatically. At the end of the final track, the platter will stop. You still have to manually return the tonearm, but you don’t have to worry about the stylus constantly bumping the record label.
The warm sound of vinyl
Green cred and an attractive design are great, but the reason you buy a turntable is to play records, and enjoy the experience of listening to music on vinyl.
The House of Marley Stir It Up does a pretty good job for the price. The Audio Technica ATN3600L stylus is popular for a reason, and it does a good job of riding the groove. Speaking of which, even with a very warped album it did an admirable job of not skipping.
This isn’t an audiophile grade turntable, so don’t expect the highs, lows and separation you would hear in a more expensive model, but it still delivers a high energy listen with that warmth that makes records sound less sterile than digital tracks.
You’re going to lose some of that vinyl magic over Bluetooth, especially when streaming to a portable speaker (the audio is digitized, compressed and played back in mono), but with a good Bluetooth speaker it can still sound pretty decent.
Not a fan of the fabric cover
A quick word about the fabric cover. Yes it works, and yes the REWIND fabric is environmentally friendly. But I’m not a fan. It gathers dust (which can’t be wiped off as easily as with a standard plastic dust cover), and the black cloth hides that beautiful bamboo plinth when the turntable’s not in use.
Bottom line? A flexible, smart-looking entry level turntable
If you’re in the market for a new turntable—something that’s affordable, but still does a good job of playing your records—the House of Marley Stir It Up wireless turntable is a solid choice. It was a little more challenging than some beginner turntables to set up properly, but once that was done it played records perfectly. It has a decent stylus in the Audio Technica ATN3600L, and it’s easily user replaceable. The turntable has a unique and very stylish look, and green cred to spare. And with Bluetooth on top of USB, PHONO and Line output, it’s also incredibly flexible.
Check out the House of Marley Stir It Up along with a huge selection of belt-drive and direct-drive turntables from all the leading audio manufacturers at Best Buy.