I’ve NEver set up a turntable before. Sure, I’ve used some, but they were all-in-ones that had speakers and preamps built in, and I had friends who set up the arm balance. A fully fledged turntable setup has always sounded intimidating to me.
A touch of fear didn’t stop me from trying, though. The House of Marley Stir It Up Lux Bluetooth turntable was my first foray into setting up my own turntable, and it was much easier (though not foolproof) than I expected. It didn’t take me long to start listening to my little collection of records with this turntable and the help of a simple Bluetooth speaker.
The trickiest part of setting up the bamboo and black-glass turntable was getting the tonearm balanced. The Stir It Up Lux uses an Audio-Technica 95E elliptical stylus (folks often call this a “needle”) and an aluminum headshell, which you balance using the included counterweight to keep it stuck on your records while they spin. The included instructions offer two options for balancing it: using the included stylus pressure gauge, or using your eye to make the tonearm parallel with the platter. Parallel was suggested first and sounded easier, since it didn’t need extra tools, so I went that route.
I was very, very wrong about that method being easier. I spent about an hour adjusting it, placing records on it, and listening to it skip around. I activated the included anti-skate and set it to the recommended level of 2, but it still kept happening. (I might have also cleaned every single one of my records in case that was the problem, but the skipping remained.)
I finally cracked out the stylus pressure gauge and reweighted the whole thing. It’s a small device, maybe the size of a short bookmark, but heavy. Following House of Marley’s instructions, I placed the pressure gauge on the plate, and then the stylus needle onto its 2-gram mark, and slowly adjusted the weight until the pressure gauge became level. It took a couple minutes at most, and I was able to place my record immediately after and enjoy skip-free listening.
Besides that hiccup, setup was easy. The turntable comes with the belt and preamp already installed, so once my tonearm was balanced, I only had to place the glass plate, plug it in, and I was ready to connect to speakers.
I tested the Stir It Up Lux with the House of Marley’s Get Together 2 Speaker, using Bluetooth to connect the two. The Stir It Up Lux’s Bluetooth button is built into the main dial. You first turn the dial to turn it on and choose the speed of your records, and then press the button to activate Bluetooth pairing mode. The dial has a red light around it when it’s simply on, then a blinking blue light when you activate pairing mode, and a solid blue ring when it’s paired. It should take just a few seconds to connect; when my turntable and speaker paired together, the Get Together 2 gave a little drum flourish to let me know.
The Get Together 2 is a fully portable Bluetooth speaker, so I placed both the turntable and speaker on separate bookshelves and didn’t have to worry about any cords (though I did have to keep an eye on the battery of the Get Together 2). House of Marley also bundles the Stir It Up Lux with smaller bookshelf speakers if you want to purchase both the turntable and speakers in one go. The Stir It Up Lux also comes with an RCA cable in case you want to connect it to your own speakers, and there’s a headphone jack too.
The Bluetooth range on the turntable is solid. I was able to take the Get Together 2 and wander down a short hallway and into the farthest corner of the next room before it started cutting out. That’s nice if the spot where the turntable fits isn’t the best spot for the music itself to play from.
I wouldn’t call it a perfect listening experience. Even after mastering my tonearm balance and placing my speaker nearby, I did occasionally hear little cutouts in the music that sounded more like Bluetooth dropping than record skipping. And while the price point isn’t too high for a starter turntable, at $400 there are plenty of excellent (and some significantly cheaper) record players worth checking out.
But those options certainly won’t be as pretty to look at as the Stir It Up Lux, with its black glass platter and bamboo plinth. House of Marley also prides itself in using upcycled materials, and the tonearm is replaceable too. So if you’re going for style and easy-enough setup, you won’t be disappointed.