Freelance Contributor, TechHiveJun 8, 2023 3:00 am PDT
Image: Jonathan Takiff/Foundry
At a glance
Solid sonic and battery performance
No assembly required
Lacks an app for confident Bluetooth pairing
Totally manual operation demands careful needle-down and side-ending attention
Lacks the stylus shield and travel case that came with the earlier Mister Disc
The small but mighty Sound Burger personal portable turntable offers vinyl aficionados pleasing sound, Bluetooth connectivity, and rechargeable battery power.
Audio-Technica’s charmingly compact Sound Burger is a portable, battery-powered turntable that’s just the ticket for bin-hunting expeditions and going on the road to share your beloved vinyl collection with friends. This deceptively small, 2-pound record player streams to Bluetooth speakers or headphones, and it has a 3.5mm line-level output for connecting to powered speakers or an amplifier.
True to the notion “what goes around comes around,” the “new” Sound Burger is an updated version of a portable phonograph that Audio-Technica brought to market in 1983, 40 years ago. Marketed in the U.S. as the Mister Disc, the turntable was a belated response to the personal stereo craze sparked by the 1979 launch of the Sony Walkman portable cassette player.
Like the model before it, the Sound Burger’s footprint isn’t much bigger than two 1-pound boxes of dry spaghetti noodles stacked on top of each other. It can play at two speeds—33 1/3- or 45 rpm—and it features a well-isolated belt-drive motor that spins a 3.5-inch aluminum platter. Its manually operated tone arm is fitted with a moving-magnet cartridge and a long-life (400 hours) diamond stylus.
This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best turntables.
Is the Sound Burger a good-sounding turntable?
The Sound Burger is true to the vinyl-sounds-sweeter code, painting warm, dynamic musical portraits. Its ATN3600L cartridge is a mite bass shy, but delivers a vital mid-range presence and articulate high end, gently rounded off at the top of the RIAA curve. So, listeners won’t suffer the indignities of too much record surface noise or ear fatigue. In fact, it sparkles brightly when connected—wired or wirelessly—to higher-quality gear. In my testing, the Sound Burger made for a picnic-ready match-up with a couple Ultimate Ears Roll 2 portable speakers. But it sounded even better mated with a recent vintage Bose SoundLink Revolve+, and it could have passed for a full-weight turntable when I made a hard-wired connection to a pair of KEF LS50 Wireless II powered speakers.
I found its belt-drive motor to be stable, speed accurate, and rumble-free. AudioTechnica says the Sound Burger has a signal-to-noise ratio of better than 50dB (DIN-B), and that it exhibits wow and flutter of less than 0.25 percent (WTD) at 3kHz.
Unlike the clunky tone arms and short-life needles that so many other small portables torture records with, the spring-balanced arm and conical-shaped diamond needle on the Sound Burger hold the grooves well without inflicting damage. (I played several discs multiple times over to prove the point.) Yes, the cartridge here is tracking at 3.5 grams—a gram (or two)—higher than I dial-in on turntables fitted with pricier elliptical diamond needles, but that extra gram is a necessity here, given the less stable environments in which this player might operate and the less compliant (i.e., stiffer but sturdier) nature of the cartridge’s cantilever.
What’s required to set up the Sound Burger?
The whole thing comes pre-assembled, so setting up a Sound Burger is easy as pie: There’s no belt installing, cartridge connecting, or balancing of the tone arm to do. Your only mechanical chore is to remove—but retain—the extra-long transport screw, so you can re-install it for long-distance traveling. The owner’s manual suggests re-installing the screw whenever you’re moving about.
Charging the Sound Burger’s lithium-Ion battery pack demands 12 hours of AC-power connection, and then delivers 12 hours (at least 15 albums worth) of playback time. The turntable’s charging cable features a ferrite choke, but you’ll need to scrounge up a USB-A charger. You can keep spinning discs while the turntable is plugged in, even if its battery is fully depleted when you start the party.
Operating the Sound Burger is likewise a snap. Pop the lid, and extract the round rubber insert that holds down the tonearm and doubles as both LP record stabilizer and 45-rpm single adapter. Slide off (and try not to lose) the protective needle cover (a serious downgrade from the flip-down stylus shield the older Mister Disc used to protect its stylus), pivot the tone arm out until it clicks, place your record, lower the Sound Burger’s lid (optional), pick your speed (if you haven’t already), and hit the power button. The turntable will start spinning when you move the arm over the record, and it will keep spinning when the needle reaches the inside run-out zone, until you hit the power button again or lift-off and move the arm out to its standby zone.
Listening modes on the Sound Burger
Most Bluetooth source devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets, computers) have you steer the connectivity process with a custom app. That’s not how the Sound Burger handles it. You’re somewhat flying blind while pairing this thing to speakers or headphones.
Audio-Technica’s instructions say power it on, hit the side-mounted Bluetooth connection button, then tap (or slide) the Bluetooth pairing button on the device you want to connect. If the designated partner—say, a speaker—has previously paired with a different source—your smartphone, for instance—the speaker will likely not link automatically with the Sound Burger. You’ll need to go into that phone’s Bluetooth settings and disconnect it from that speaker; you might even need to tap “forget this device.” Now, switch the Sound Burger’s power off, and then on again. Repeat the Bluetooth pairing moves at both ends and hope for the best.
Curiously, the Sound Burger made automatic friends and started playing through a NAD C700 streaming receiver that was one flight up without my even cueing the latter to switch on its Bluetooth mode. On the bright side, I learned here that the record player’s Bluetooth range is true to its spec: at least 33 feet. Once successfully paired, the Sound Burger remembers the connections it makes and will reconnect with up to eight different partners, one at a time.
I’ve generally had fewer handshake issues between the Sound Burger and powered speakers than I’ve had with it and headphones and earbuds that have been previously paired with other devices. I did get the turntable to link readily with a Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless headphone, because the Sony Connect app sniffed it out and visually confirmed that the Sound Burger was looking to hook-up. I also made a fast, easy pairing with fresh-out-of-the-box open-ear Cleer ARC II Sport earbuds.
Is the Audio-Technica Sound Burger a good value?
Audio-Technica produced a limited-edition, red, 40th Anniversary Edition of the Sound Burger that quickly sold out. With the current production, you can get the portable turntable in black, white, or yellow.
The Sound Burger is a product whose time has come again. I bet you can find a good use for one.
Jonathan Takiff is a veteran tech and entertainment writer based in Philadelphia. A long time staffer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com, his work has also appeared in numerous publications including Sound & Vision, Playboy, and Popular Science.