There are times when reviewing consumer electronics is especially cool. This was one of those times, and not just because I love music and have a thing for turntables (as I write this, there are five of them sitting in my office). What took this particular review to the next level was the fact that the TEAC TN-280BT turntable being evaluated was hot off the production line. It’s so new that the company hadn’t reached the stage of modifying labels and documentation to reflect the fact that it was an all-new model before shipping it to me.
So the turntable I received arrived in a box stamped TEAC TN-200. The bottom of the turntable was stamped TEAC TN-400. In fact it was neither, but contained components of both those existing models in an all new—and BestBuy exclusive—TEAC TN-280BT turntable.
Review of TEAC TN-280BT
In terms of appearance and core components, this is basically the TEAC TN-200, a very popular belt-drive turntable. But there are two customizations that turn it into the Best Buy exclusive TEAC TN-280BT. The first is a very attractive walnut veneer plinth. I think this really makes the turntable visually stand out compared to the standard black finish of the TN-200. The second is a big leap in functionality that makes it a great choice for today’s record collectors: Bluetooth connectivity.
Setup and initial impressions: TEAC TN-280BT
Visually this turntable is a bit of a stunner. The black platter and tone arm really pop against the walnut plinth when you free it from the packaging. It has a nice, solid weight to it (the plinth is made of MDF to provide a solid base that reduces vibration and resonance), and a clean, modern look.
On the deck are two control dials: one to start the platter spinning and the second to choose the speed. It’s a minimalist setup that complements the turntable’s clean look. It arrived with a hinged (and removable) dust cover already installed.
The first stage of setup is to place the rubber drive belt around the bottom base of the cast aluminum platter, then set the platter on the spindle and pull the belt over a pulley. That sounds a little more complicated than it actually is. I show the basic setup on the review video if you want a better idea of what’s involved.
An elliptical moving magnet cartridge (TEAC doesn’t name the brand, but says it is Japanese) is pre-mounted. With the cartridge already in place and calibrated, that means the remaining setup is a matter of balancing the tone arm, setting the tracking force and adjusting the anti-skate level. This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes and doesn’t require any technical skill or specialized tools. You basically eyeball the tone arm while you spin the counterweight clockwise and counterclockwise until it’s level. At that point, the instructions tell you how many rotations of the counterweight dial are needed to set the correct tracking force for the cartridge. Anti-skate is a dial and again, instructions are provided.
Now it’s time for the final step, connecting the turntable to an audio system.
Many connectivity options on TEAC TN-280BT
Traditionally, a turntable sends audio to a stereo system via RCA jacks, relying on the connected receiver’s Phono amplifier. The TEAC TN-280BT can do this. It has the requisite pair of RCA jacks and Phono output.
TEAC TN-280BT key specs
However, stereo systems with Phono inputs are relatively uncommon these days. Instead, many people use compact stereos or portable speakers and they lack that dedicated input with amplification. However, this turntable has its own built-in pre-amplifier, so you can flip a switch, and connect directly to the 3.5mm AUX input on these systems. The only extra you’ll need is a dual RCA to 3.5mm cable.
And then there’s Bluetooth, the wireless connectivity that really sets this turntable apart from the TN-200. All you have to do is grab your Bluetooth speaker (or headphones) and put it in pairing mode. Push the pairing button on the side of the turntable and wait for the two devices to do their thing. An indicator LED on the Start/Stop dial will light up when successfully connected. It worked like a charm with the Bluetooth speakers I tried it with.
A great choice as an upgrade turntable
Many people start out listening to records on a portable, record player-in-a-suitcase or something similar. But as their collection grows, they want something that sounds better. The TEAC TN-280BT makes a great choice as this upgrade turntable.
It looks the part and that beautiful wood cabinet will make it a showcase piece of audio gear. Your records will sound great and if you get even more serious in the future, you can upgrade the cartridge for a boost in audio performance.
But it’s the flexibility in connectivity that really makes this one stand out. Not everyone looking for a turntable upgrade has a component stereo with Phono input, or a standalone pre-amplifier. The TEAC TN-280BT can be connected to virtually any audio system thanks to its integrated pre-amp. And with Bluetooth, you can have a high quality turntable with a single cable for power, that’s streaming records wirelessly to a Bluetooth speaker. You may lose out on some of the analog appeal of records by going wireless, but there’s a lot to be said for the convenience.
The TEAC TN-280BT is a Best Buy exclusive offering. You’ll find other Teac options and many other top turntable manufacturers at Best Buy.