Jensen is a highly respected audio manufacturer with a long and history of providing great products, with very good overall quality and excellent sound, and for reasonable prices.
So when I had the opportunity to spend some time with the Jensen JTA 230 record player I had pretty high hopes that it too would be a great product, and one that carries on that admirable Jensen reputation.
But is the Jensen JTA 230, which is not just reasonable but downright cheap, any good? Read on, and I will talk about my experiences with and impressions of this super-affordable record player.
The Jensen JTA 230 – The Overview
The Jensen JTA 230 is a very inexpensive turntable / record player – it is less than 70 dollars at full retail, and can often be found at even lower prices, and for that money it offers a ton of features:
- 3 Speed Record Playback – 33, 45 & 78 RPM
- Built In Speakers – for full stereo sound playback of vinyl records or other connected devices
- Auxiliary Audio Input Jack – for plugging in your phone, MP3 or other device to play through the Jensen’s speakers
- Auxiliary Audio Output Jack – for plugging the JTA 230 into a larger stereo system or powered speakers
- Headphone Jack – standard 3.5MM jack for almost any headphones
- Speed/Pitch Control – to fine-tune the speed of the turntable
- Tone Control – a simple single knob for making the sound brighter or darker
- USB Digital Output – for connection to your PC (windows or Mac) so you can digitally record / archive your vinyl records; includes data cable and recording software
All in all a well thought out machine, with some very nice and useful features, but that last feature – the digital output – is especially great to have, since it lets you convert your vinyl records to MP3 files easily – in fact, the simple software does it automatically.
But yeah, really all of the features are useful and handy, and the headphone jack for private listening, and tone control for personalizing the sound (and possibly for compensating for poor quality records) both work very well.
The Jensen JTA 230 is well designed and nicely laid out, and incredibly easy to use, and while the fit and finish are not really premium, they are about what you’d expect at this low price, and the overall construction seems pretty substantial and decent. The entire time I used the 230 I didn’t have a single problem or frustration, and everything worked just as it should.
How Does the Jensen JTA 230 Sound?
Ok, now that I’ve gotten all of the good stuff, all of the compliments and enthusiasm, out of the way, let’s talk about how the JTA 230 sounds with records – as you might already be gathering, this section might be slightly less complimentary or enthusiastic…
Don’t get me wrong – this is a very inexpensive record player, and it doesn’t sound bad for the price – the speakers don’t play too loud, and don’t have much in the way of bass or high frequencies, but they are reasonably clear and detailed and have a fairly pleasant tone.
And in fact the sound quality from the amplifier and audio circuitry is actually quite a bit better than you might expect for the price.
What I mean is that the speakers may be pretty meh, but the sound from the headphone jack is much better, as is the audio quality as it comes out of the auxiliary output jacks – when I used these jacks to connect the Jensen JTA 230 to a couple of different powered speakers, or to one of my bigger stereo systems, there was suddenly quite a bit of the bass, high frequencies, energy and musicality I’d been missing.
No, not tons of bass, high frequencies, energy or musicality, and still not the most pleasing tone in the world – and in fact a little of the glare I could hear through the Jensen’s inbuilt speakers was even more evident through higher resolution audio gear – but still quite respectable for this price point.
Even the digital conversion circuitry included in the JTA 230 is pretty decent, and in fact the MP3 files it created sounded just fine through even moderately high resolution headphones, although when played through more audiophile headphones and earphones some digital distortion was clearly audible, as was a fairly restricted dynamic energy and limited bass.
Yeah, but it’s Cheap, Right?
Well, yes, and believe me, I continuously remind myself of the low price of stereo gear like this while I’m reviewing it. The Jensen JTA 230 is, overall, just fine for the price, and would be a great super-cheap gift for a kid or somebody who isn’t going to sit down and really critically listen.
But for the price you can do substantially better!
My favorite example is the marvelous little Victrola Vintage Portable Record Player , which is almost exactly the same price as the Jensen.
The vintage is a different design – a portable suitcase record player instead of a the Jensen’s tabletop / bookshelf configuration – but for all its compactness and portability the Victoria has markedly better sound than the Jensen – a lot more high frequency information, a bit of bass, decent stereo imaging and substantially more musical energy, plus a more pleasingly warm and musical sound overall.
This improved sound is quite noticeable from the built-in speakers, but the Victrola also sounds better from its headphone jack and audio output connectors than the Jensen JTA 230 – even though the Jensen performs quite well in this respect.
The big drawback of the Victoria is that it does not have a digital output, so you cannot use it to make MP3 digital files of your records. I reckon the money Victoria saved in that department was put into a better cabinet and much better speakers, but that said I should point out that the Victoria Vintage does have something the Jensen doesn’t – Bluetooth wireless streaming.
While the Jensen will let you plug your phone, tablet, MP3 player or PC in using the gadget’s headphone output (if it has one), with the Victoria you can play from those gadgets through the record player’s speakers wirelessly, making it a decent Bluetooth stereo speaker as well as an excellent budget record player. In fact, though I don’t want to belabor the negative, I will say that the Victoria (which also has wired audio inputs) has speakers that sound so good that you’d actually want to use it this way, while the Jensen, well, probably not…
Ok, But I Really Do Want to Record My Records Digitally!
I do think the Jensen is a fine choice for the money, and most of the other record players at this level – or at least the ones I’ve tried – aren’t as good. And even if the Victoria is a better sounding machine, and is at least as well made, the Jensen still offers quite good value.
But even for digital recording, for around the same money you can get a lot better quality. Ok, not exactly the same money – my favorite present for friends and family, the wonderful Ion Audio Max LP Record Player is actually about twenty dollars more expensive – still way below a hundred dollars, and well within the budget price range, but a bit more than the Jensen JTA 230.
For that slight increase in price the Ion Max LP will do everything the Jensen will do, and you will get much better sounding built-in speakers, with real life, depth and clarity, and a much better amplifier, internal audio components and circuitry behind those speakers.
The tonearm is higher quality as well, which not only helps the sound but is a lot easier on records. And the fit and finish is much nicer, even if I can’t say that the actual material quality or long term reliability is better or worse than the Jensen.
But in addition to a better looking and much better sounding record player, that will make your records last longer, with the Ion Max LP you also get far superior digital conversion circuitry, and so the MP3s you can make from the Ion will sound more rich, dynamic, clear and detailed than those gotten from the JTA 230, and will even have some of that analog record warmth and life.
For me, all things considered, the Ion Audio Max LP is a smarter choice and a better deal, and not only have I given them to a few people, I have recommended the Max many times, on the Speakergy site and to anybody who asks.
Of course budget is budget, and if you can’t budge that much beyond the lower price level, and want or need digital recording, I would definitely choose the Jensen JTA 230 over the many other choices.
Conclusion: Is the Jensen JTA 230 a Good Buy?
When I compare the Jensen JTA 230 to a couple of my favorite record players, at or around the same price, I might sound a bit critical, but in fact I think the Jensen JTA 230 is about as good as it gets for the money.
It has reasonably good sound from its small built-in speakers, and surprisingly good sound from its headphone jack and wired audio output, and seems to be quite good quality overall.
Yes, for the same money the Victoria Vintage does have better sound, but it doesn’t have a PC interface for digital recording (though remember that it does have Bluetooth streaming), and has a very different look and feel as well.
And for a little more you can get my favorite record player in this range, the Ion Classic LP, which has even better sound, and markedly superior digital recording capabilities, and even has a bit of a premium look and feel.
But if you want the ability to make at least decent digital recordings of your records, and are set on the lower price level, the JTA 230 is definitely a good choice, and better than any other record player I’ve found with the same feature set.
My strongest recommendation, then, is for the Ion Classic LP, which is a really nice record player overall, will sound great playing records, and will even impart a bit of that warm, musical analog magic to the digital recordings you make.
But I can easily recommend the Jensen JTA 230 as well, and for the money I, and lots of others, definitely do – it is a good value and a very highly rated and popular record player that so many people really seem to love.