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Review: Retrolife UD006 Record Player + Powered Bookshelf Speakers Offer Big Value

Review: Retrolife UD006 Record Player + Powered Bookshelf Speakers Offer Big Value

For those who are looking at a first record player or a bump up from the experience of a record player-in-a-suitcase, the choices can be daunting. Entry-level systems are often underwhelming in audio (and overall) quality. Some are built around cheap needles with heavy tracking force that wears out quickly and can physically damage records. Start looking at a record player or turntable with decent capabilities and features like a name-brand cartridge, and costs quickly rise. Then there is the expense and complexity of connecting to an amplifier and speakers, or a set of powered bookshelf speakers.

Retrolife - a brand that has been making consumer audio products (including turntables) for several years — has a compelling offering. The Retrolife UD006 Record Player with Powered Bookshelf Speakers is a mid-level vinyl-lovers bundle under $500 that delivers in a big way. I covered the combo in Volume 16 of my Record Roundup and now I’ve had the opportunity to go hands-on with it. I saw this outfit on Instagram, and now I finally have the chance to try it out.

Retrolife record player system review

For $314.99, the Retrolife UD006 Record Player + Powered Bookshelf Speakers bundle: Surprising Good Looks, Easy Setup.

This Retrolife bundle was a big step up. MDF takes the place of a lot of plastic in cabinets and it features a teak finish that looks really smart and quite convincing. Thought was put into giving the record player and speakers a bit of a retro look, but it’s a classic style. Think 1970s rather than a 1940s cabinet vibe.

The record player’s platter in particular is aluminum, it’s covered with a felt mat. And Retrolife chose to step it up by including an Audio-Technica AT3600L MM diamond-tipped conical cartridge along with an adjustable counterweight. This means a very decent cartridge out of the box, plus the ability to upgrade later if you want.

The setup is very straightforward. The record player comes almost completely pre-assembled. All you need to do is remove packing tape then pop on the counterweight and platter mat. Wire the speakers together, connect to your phone with Bluetooth (for streaming), connect the record player to the speaker with included RCA cables, then power the systems up.

Retrolife UD006 review

The minimalist UD006 record player. The combination is an attractive bookshelf system that lets you listen to records, plug in other external sources (like a CD player or a TV) and play tracks from your favorite streaming service using Bluetooth. In true, two-channel stereo.

  • Performance

I’ll start with the UD006 record player. It offers the basics, with two-speed operation, a cue lever, and auto-stop. There is a hinged dust cover and shock absorbing feet. You can even connect it to an amplifier with PHONO input by switching off its built-in preamplifier.

  • Retrolife UD006 uses Audio Technica

The UD006 record player is equipped with an Audio-Technica AT3600L cartridge for superior sound. What makes the UD006 stand out in terms of audio quality is the use of the Audio Technica cartridge. Yes, it’s low in the AT range, but the AT3600L is a solid performer with a diamond tip and it’s been offered for decades. Many record players and turntables in this price range use a molded cartridge and proprietary stylus (often with a cheaper sapphire tip instead of diamond). The UD006 sounds better than most of these by virtue of that superior cartridge. And you know that the AT cartridge (with a recommended 3g tracking force) is not going to be chewing up your record collection.

The records sounded great. Warm, with solid bass and upper frequencies that don’t get too harsh. I also found it was quite forgiving of older records that might have scratches. No one will mistake this for an audiophile turntable in terms of detail, accuracy, frequency response and sound stage, but it makes records sound the way you expect them to sound and seriously outperforms other record player systems in this price range.

Retrolife UD006 speaker review

The Bookshelf powered speakers deliver energetic sound, with decent low end oomph. If you’re accustomed to a portable speaker, this configuration is almost certainly going to sound better — especially when you factor in the true stereo setup. Total power is 40 watts (20W per channel) so they don’t get crazy loud, but there’s enough volume to fill a mid-sized room without distorting. There is onboard volume control (and source switching).

 

UD006 Record Player Key Specs:

  • 2-speed belt-drive with optically-controlled motor
  • Preinstalled Audio-Technica AT3600L Moving Magnet Diamond-Tipped Conical cartridge
  • Adjustable counterweight
  • Auto stop
  • Switchable pre-amplifier
  • Teak finish MDF
  • Plastic, hinged dust cover

Powered Bookshelf Speakers Key Specs:

  • Class D amplifier 20W per channel (40W total)
  • Frequency response 65Hz - 20kHz
  • RCA L/R, and 3.5mm audio inputs
  • Teak finish MDF cabinets with tuned rear bass ports

If you’re looking for a record listening starter system that maximizes enjoyment while keeping to a very reasonable budget, the Retrolife UD006 Record Player + Powered Bookshelf Speakers bundle should be at the top of your list.