Product: Jensen JTA-230
Reviewed by: Francisco
Musehelix Rating: 3 out of 5
Before you rush to buy the very popular Jensen JTA-230 turntable, it’s very important to consider its pros and cons to make sure this is the right player for you. This review will cover both but keep in mind that this is a low budget player, and as such, you shouldn’t expect to get a high-fidelity sound or great performance out of this unit. However, being such an affordable record player, this turntable may exceed your expectations.
The Jensen JTA-230 is a 3-speed stereo turntable with built-in speakers and speed adjustment. I consider it an entry level record player at a very affordable price. I recommend this product to people who are on a low budget, needing something easy to use and easy to setup.
This product is also appropriate for people new to vinyl or someone who needs a self-contained player. If you are not picky about sound quality, you can also use this unit to transfer your LPs to your computer in order to convert your analog music to a digital format. I don’t recommend this turntable to high-fidelity enthusiasts.
Cartridge and Stylus
As is the case with most inexpensive, compact record players, this unit comes with a ceramic cartridge, also called a piezoelectric pickup. Low end record players come with ceramic cartridges because they are robust, resistant and less expensive than magnetic pickups. Low priced turntables are generally lighter, less sturdy and less stable. This causes external vibrations to interact with the turntable. Ceramic pickups are less sensitive to extraneous noises entering the system through the pickup. This helps the flimsy units keep the external noise less noticeable during playback. If this player had a magnetic pick up, the resulting sound would probably be noisier because of external noises and the vibration produced by the built in speakers.
The disadvantage of ceramic cartridges is that the stylus is more prone to go out of the groove at low frequencies. This means that the stylus may skip during playback of music with strong bass or sudden volume changes, for example in music driven by bass and drums. The skipping can be solved by placing a penny (or something of that sort) on top of the cartridge since this unit does not come with a counterbalance. However, you should be warned that extra tracking weight results in faster wear out of the stylus and your vinyl record. Another downside of piezoelectric pickups is that they don’t respond to high frequencies above 14,000 Hz. This should not be a problem for the most part, since it’s very close to the upper limit of normal hearing.
The stylus that comes with this unit can play 33⅓ and 45 rpm records only. Its tip is made of diamond and has a radius of 0.7 Mil (0.0007 in). A 78 rpm record has wider and deeper grooves than those on an LP. In order to play 78 rpm records, a tip with a radius of 3 Mil (0.003 in) is needed. The stylus required to play 78 rpm records is not included with this unit, but you can buy one (793-D3) for about $15 on ebay or order directly with the distributor. I don’t recommend using the normal stylus to play the 78 records because you may damage your record and the stylus.
You can expect the normal stylus to last approximately 250 hours. If you are planning to listen to your vinyl records often, I recommend getting a spare stylus from the distributor – they only cost $5.
Tonearm, Platter and Motor
This unit is almost completely manual. It has an auto-stop feature which makes the platter stop spinning when the needle gets to the end of the record but it won’t automatically return the arm to its rest. The tonearm is made of plastic and it doesn’t have a lever to lift the tonearm, so you have to lift it manually. This may be inconvenient for somebody without a steady hand.
The motor is responsible for spinning the platter. This can be accomplished in two ways: belt drive or direct drive. We use the term direct drive when the platter is directly attached to the shaft of the motor. In contrast, a belt driven platter is connected to the motor by an elastic belt. Generally, audiophile turntables have a belt driven platter while disk jockey ones are direct drive.
The belt acts as a vibration damper to prevent noises generated by the motor from being picked up by the stylus. The Jensen JTA 230 turntable has a a belt driven platter and the motor supports 33⅓ , 45 and 78 RPM playing speeds.
Because inexpensive turntables are not very accurate in terms of speed, a pitch control is provided to make fine adjustments to the rotation speed. The platter is smaller than normal which makes an LP stick out of the turntable. The dust cover is cut out in a way that you can close it while the player is operating. This unit comes with a spindle adapter to play 7-inch records playing at 45 rpm. This is because seven inch records have a much larger hole than LPs.
Inputs and Outputs
The Jensen JTA 230 is a self-contained player. In other words, you don’t need any external preamplifier, amplifier or speakers for it to work. It has two stereo built in speakers located on the left and right sides of the record player. You can also use this turntable as a stereo system to connect other devices like your iPod or MP3 player through an auxiliary input jack. If you connect your MP3 player to the auxiliary input, you can play the music through the speakers of the turntable. However, it is not possible to play your MP3 player and your turntable at the same time. In order to use the turntable, there should be no cords plugged in to the auxiliary input.
As far as the outputs, this phonograph provides left and right RCA line-out jacks, a 3.5 mm stereo headphone jack and a USB port for converting your vinyl records to digital format with your computer. A word of caution here. The RCA output does not produce a phono signal. If your receiver happens to have phono and line inputs, it’s better to use the line our aux because a phono signal is weaker than a line level signal. If you connect a line level signal to a phono input, the sound would be distorted. You can also connect this record player to an external speaker or receiver using the 3.5 mm output. If you connect the player directly to the external speakers make sure they are self powered otherwise you’ll also need a receiver or amplifier.
You are probably interested in transferring your music to your computer. The built in USB port comes in very handy and the product includes a USB cable. The great thing is that you don’t need any special drivers for this to work. Windows will recognize the turntable as a “USB Audio Controller” and will install the appropriate drivers. Very easy to setup.
In some reviews, consumers have complained about the software provided being too complicated. Audacity is a free, open source, cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds. It can be downloaded from their website. It works on Windows, Mac and Linux. This is a wonderful and powerful piece of software. I use it a lot and find it very easy to use, but if you are new to audio recording, you may experience a steep learning curve.
I must say that Audacity was not developed by Jensen or Spectra. Therefore, it was not designed specifically for turntables. It’s a general purpose audio recording and editing tool. The CD is included with the product for the sole purpose of convenience to the customer and probably as a marketing strategy. It wouldn’t really make a difference not having the CD anyway, because you can always download the program for free or use your own favorite recording software. It would not be fair to rate this product based on a third party software. The recording software should not influence your buying decision.
Jensen JTA-230 Sound Quality
By now, you may already have a pretty good idea of the sound quality. The built-in speakers have a decent sound quality but they don’t get very loud. This is probably meant to avoid feedback coming from the speakers to the stylus and to avoid skipping caused by excessive vibration induced by the speakers. The sound does not get distorted when turning the volume all the way up, which is a good thing.
The sound going out to external outputs, including the USB port, lacks in low frequencies. This could be improved with some equalization. You can also improve the sound quality by connecting the record player to an external receiver or speaker system. The effect produced by the tone control is very subtle.
There are many factors that affect sound quality. One important factor is the quality of the vinyl. Many people talk about the mass of the pressed album which directly impacts the thickness of the record. The mass refers to the amount of vinyl used to press a record. Normal vinyl records are 120-140 grams. This has been the standard pressing “weight” for many years. Modern LPs are being released in 180-200 grams. These are becoming popular among audiophiles because they are supposed to produce a better sound quality.
More important than the amount of vinyl is the quality of the material. A normal record is made of a mixture of “virgin” and recycled vinyl. Records that are 180 gram vinyl are generally made of high quality pure vinyl. Due to their thickness and weight, they are less prone to warping and deformation.
You may be asking yourself if this turntable can play 180 gram vinyl records. Theoretically, you would have to adjust the height of the tonearm or vertical tracking angle, since the record is thicker. Ideally the tonearm should be parallel to the record during playback. There is a debate as to how much this adjustment really affects the sound quality. My opinion is that for this type of turntable, it wouldn’t make a difference, since it is not a high-fidelity turntable anyway.
You can certainly play 180 gram vinyl records on the Jensen JTA-230. However, I wouldn’t play a limited edition 180 gram album on this record player. Instead, I would probably invest in a higher quality one.
Sound quality is very subjective. It really depends on the experience and expectations of each individual. But as I stated earlier, if you are used to high-fidelity sound, then this product is not for you. But if you are used to listening to music as a background, in a noisy environment or through small portable speakers, then the turntable would probably sound OK to you.
JTA 230 Turntable Controls
- Power On/Off Switch
- Power Indicator
- Auto Stop Switch. The auto-stop feature makes the platter stop spinning automatically when the tonearm gets to the end of the record, but it does not return the tonearm to its rest. Auto-stop should be disabled when the LP has the auto-stop area outside the preset limit of this turntable, otherwise the platter will stop spinning before the music ends. The auto-stop feature does not work well with 78 rpm records so it’s better to turn it off.
- Tone Control. Adjusts the treble level of the music. The effect is subtle.
- Volume Control
- Pitch Control. Fine tune the playing speed of the record. Among cheap record players, this one is the only one with pitch adjust and tone control as far as I know.
- Speed Selector. It’s located next to the tonearm. You can select the following speeds: 33⅓ , 45 and 78 RPM.
Adjustments and Upgrades
None of the parts of the Jensen JTA-230 can be upgraded. You could, perhaps, find a better stylus, but other than that, if you want a better sound quality in the future, you’ll really need to invest in a better quality turntable.
The Jensen JTA-230 record player comes factory adjusted and ready to play. The only adjustment available is the pitch adjust. According to the manual, the turntable should be adjusted or repaired by qualified service personnel only. Other than placing a penny on top of the cartridge or changing the stylus, you really can’t make adjustments to this turntable.
Body and Look
The Jensen JTA 230 is, for the most part, made of plastic. It’s small, light and has a flimsy look and feel. It has a dust cover with the sides cut out so that you can close it during playback. On the bottom it has non-skid rubber ‘feet’ to prevent the product from moving. Although feet are made from non-migrating rubber material, the manufacturer recommends to apply self adhesive felt pads to the bottom of the rubber feet to avoid damage to fine wood furniture.
Jensen JTA-230 Review Video
Here is a great video of the JTA 230 turntable in operation.
- Application CD
- USB cable
- User manual
- 45 RPM record adapter
Jensen JTA-230 Consumer Reviews
In general, customers are satisfied with this product. Many people agree that the sound coming out of this unit is “tiny”, without bass and not too loud. However, the sound quality seems not to be a concern for the majority of owners. Some even enjoy this type of sound because it is similar to what most people listened to before the digital era. Many people share the opinion that this unit sounds best when connected to an external speaker system or amplifier. Considering the price, this record player has met or exceeded most consumers’ expectations.
In regards to its features and characteristics, this turntable is appreciated for its weight and size which makes it convenient for storage and transportation. The ease of use and the ability to transfer your music to a computer have been valued. Some customers have complained about the software that comes with this unit but as I said before, it is a third party software and it should not influence your buying decision.
My main concern with this product is that I have seen several negative reviews related to defective issues. Among some of the problems that have been reported are speed inconsistencies, skipping, humming, pitch control not working, wobbles, faulty pitch controls, defective pitch control, fast playing speed, cracking and fading speakers, power light going out and turntable not working correctly after a few weeks. In most cases, the customers received a replacement with no problems. Some others just returned the item without requesting a replacement.
I know how frustrating it can be to use something for the first time and realize it doesn’t work properly. But you always have the option to return the item or ask for a replacement. The manufacturer offers a 90 day warranty. The return charges are at the manufacturer’s expense but you would be responsible for sending the item to them and the shipping costs involved.
The Jensen JTA-230 consistently earns very high ratings from consumers. You need to interpret those ratings carefully, though. Most casual audiophiles looking for something affordable to get them started will love this low cost model. Serious audiophiles would be sadly disappointed.
Pros, Cons and User Manual
- Supports all three speeds.
- Decent sound for the price and for it’s size.
- Very easy to use.
- No setup and adjustments required.
- Can be connected to a personal computer.
- RCA and 3.5 mm outputs.
- Stylus replacements available from the vendor.
- Good for starter or casual listening.
- Does not have a lever to lift the tonearm, you have to raise or lower it manually.
- The built in speakers are small and don’t get very loud.
- Low sound quality but decent for the price.
- Does not have automatic start-stop.
- Low bass response.
- Limited tone control.
- Does not have a counterweight.
- Cannot be upgraded.
You can download the User Manual here.
The Jensen JTA-230 is an affordable self-contained record player recommended to people that love listening to vinyl records but can’t afford a better turntable. It’s also good for vinyl starters and people that like listening to a few records from time to time. If you don’t care much about high-fidelity sound, this player can be a great tool for transferring your vinyl albums to a digital format in an easy way. The ease of use of this product makes it perfect for someone wanting a ready to play turntable without messing with complicated setups. Considering the affordable price, this product has met, and sometimes exceeded, the expectations of customers. If you liked this review or found it helpful, please leave us a comment, we love hearing from our readers.