A couple years ago I purchased a Numark PT-01 portable record player after reading and watching some reviews online. Fully aware that portable record players don’t come close to delivering the high fidelity of a good home turntable set up, I wanted something I could use to play records while sitting out on the porch in the evening.
There aren’t many options in portable record players, and the vast majority of what is available are all based on the same cheap plastic architecture featuring a Chuo Denshi ceramic cartridge. The Crosley Cruiser in all its varieties is ubiquitous as are the Victrola clones. Neither are renowned for their high fidelity and are panned by most ‘serious’ audiophiles.
While the Numark PT-01 features the same cheap plastic mechanism belt driven by a DC motor as the Crosleys and Victrolas, but had some attractive features not found in those players. The Numark has an adjustable tone control and a pitch control, two were nice pluses, but even better, the PT-01 can be powered by six D-cells, unlike the Crosley and Victrola portables that must be powered from a wall wart transformer.
The PT-01 only has a monaural full range 3″ speaker, but to my ear, that’s a better choice than the smaller stereo speakers mounted too close together in the Crosley and Victrola. LIke the Crosley and Victrola, the Numark does have RCA jacks for full stereo out, and two headphone jacks – both 1/8″ and 1/4″ – which surprisingly produces very decent sound when a good set of stereo headphones are use.
Playing records on the PT-01 on the front porch has been absolutely delightful over the past two years, and I was so impressed with this $100 portable player that I had gifted one to my 8 year old godson and 12 year old granddaughter. Both children have enjoyed the record player and both continue to grow their record collections.
Modifying the Numark PT-01
The PT-01 has something of a cult following and is also available in a ‘scratch’ version. Several aftermarket firms have marketed modifications for the PT-01 and as someone who enjoys mucking around with electronic devices, I found myself unable to resist the allure of making a few mods to my record player.
This weekend I installed a better speaker, the Jesse Dean Designs Puck-It platter support and PCB tone arm & pre-amplifier kit to allow me to use a magnetic cartridge.
The speaker was an easy upgrade, as the speaker has the same dimensions as the stock speaker. The Puck–it platter support, which adds rigidity to the plastic platter was also a simple upgrade, as it just firmly presses into the center of the bottom of the platter.
The Jesse Dean Designs Puck-It Platter support (L), and the Celestion replacement speaker (R)
The installation of the new tone arm was a bit more involved, but again, wasn’t difficult, and my installation took about a half hour’s time on the workbench guided by the excellent Jesse Dean YouTube step-by-step directions found here.
The tone arm kit comes with everything needed for the mod including, in addition to the tonearm itself, a compact pre-amp, two breakout boards, connection wires with connectors and hardware.
The tonearm is a bit unconventional and a thing of beauty. It’s actually a printed circuit board, which allows it to be thin and connections from the cartridge to the back of the arm are built-in as traces on the board. It also features a nifty built in white LCD under the head shell area.
The bottom of the flat tone-arm
The Ortofon OM 5e cartridge mounted to the PCB tone arm.
L: Bottom view of cartridge mounted to the tonearm.
R: The Jesse Dean kit comes with a nifty magnet insert that goes into the original tone-arm holder. A very cool design, indeed!
The accessory boards needed for the pre-amp are very well engineered to fit into the existing PT-01 architecture without the need to drill additional holes. Each of the three boards mounts neatly using existing screws.
I did, however encounter a very minor fitment issue when installing the pre-amp break out board. I could not mount it square to the existing PCB as two electrolytic capacitors interfered with the end of the break out board. It was no matter to mount the board slightly counterclockwise on the mounting screw axis. This was the only glitch I ran into when installing the tonearm kit. It was an easy and relaxing project to work on on an Easter Sunday afternoon.
L: The power break-out board installed in the bottom half of the PT-01 cabinet.
C: The Pre-amp board and pre-amp break-out board installed.
(Note there was insufficient room to mount the break-out square to the main
PCB due to the placement of two electrolytic caps).
R: The power and tone arm connections on the pre-amp board.
Powering up the PT-01 for a test run before closing up the cabinet, I found that everything worked properly. I queued an album and made sure to listen on a set of headphones to make sure I was getting stereo L/R audio, something that wouldn’t be obvious listening through the monaural speaker if one of the channels wasn’t properly connected.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the results. As expected there is a much improved higher fidelity sound due to the replacement of the ceramic cartridge with the higher end Ortfoon moving magnet cartridge. It’s definitely not audiophile quality, which is to be expected, but for the cost of these few accessory parts, my beloved portable record player has been appreciably improved. And, here comes summer!
Browse the Jesse Dean Design website here.
2 thoughts on “Optimizing my Numark PT-01 portable record player”
Bought my Grandson one of these turntables for Christmas this last year (he’s 6). It was a huge step up from the Fisher Price he’s been playing since he was 1 1/2 years old. Haven’t tried any upgrades yet, but I (possibly mistakenly) showed him that with the right cord he could plug the output of the record player into the aux input of his Fender Champion 20 guitar amplifier (he’s a budding classic rock guitarist) and fill my world with VERY LOUD Black Sabbath music (Iron Man and Paralyzed are his favorites). We’ll see about upgrades when he gets a little more careful with the tonearm, and all his records don’t look like they’ve been to Hades and back.
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That’s awesome Tim! I think my godson might actually have been 6 when I bought the PT-01 for him as a Christmas gift too. He had another portable record player, and he through a temper tantrum and busted it that fall. His dad and I had a conversation about whether or not he was ready for the PT-01, and it turned out getting it for him was the right choice. He has treated his with nothing but respect and has been very careful to take good care of it. This past Christmas I got him the flip over stylus cartridge so he can properly play 78s with a 3 mil stylus. I love the fact your grandson is playin his through the guitar amp – you truly are helping raise the lad right 🙂