This portable turntable adds the secret ingredient missing from hi-fi: fun

Audio Technica Sound Burger in white finish on yellow desk
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

We can get a little snobby when it comes to hi-fi. Whether it's a decades-long hobby or you're working in the industry, the knowledge that certain products, technologies, materials or designs can offer better sound performance than others can often turn this into a rather tired game of recommending (often expensive and cumbersome) 'x' product over 'y' product for pure fidelity, and snubbing our nose at anything that can seem quirky or offbeat or not 'proper hi-fi', or at anything that dares to prioritise anything other than reproducing the purest sound quality.

Even as someone who doesn't mind yet another plain black box as long as the sound it delivers makes it worth it, I can sometimes feel like a spark of fun and creativity is missing from the experience. Many products these days are competent, well-made and sound decent, and that's all fine.

And then there's the Sound Burger. Audio-Technica's 1980s portable record player seemed like a novelty then and it still does so now in its revived form, but it brings back that element of fun into something as static and old-fashioned as vinyl.

Audio Technica Sound Burger turntable with record spinning on yellow desk

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The advent of CD in 1982 meant that the Sound Burger was quickly eclipsed by an emerging digital format that was newer, more exciting and far more convenient, but today this portable turntable is living in an era where turntables and the vinyl format are continuing to enjoy their resurgence. Not only with hi-fi enthusiasts, mind you; this revival is being propelled by a younger generation who are enjoying vinyl's tactile and visually appealing format compared with online streaming, but who are also limited when it comes to budget, space and, more importantly, have no interest whatsoever in a traditional hi-fi separates system with its mess of wires, racks and many separate little boxes. 

The Audio-Technica Sound Burger (or AT-SB727) turntable is the size of a large subway sandwich, supports Bluetooth streaming (wired is also available), and is portable. Everything you need is included in the compact design: protective lid, belt drive mechanism, platter, tonearm and cartridge, electronic speed selection, power and Bluetooth buttons, and even a record adapter.

There's no scope for adjustments – which might set off alarm bells for any turntable fan – but Audio-Technica has pre-set the tracking force for the cartridge chosen, so you don't have to worry about the stylus force damaging your records with undue pressure.

It may look like a toy at first, but it's actually rather well-made while still being lightweight. A lot of careful and clever thinking has gone into the Sound Burger's nifty design, and they're delightful to experience. The spring-loaded latch to open the lid in place is nicely damped; the tonearm sits in the record adapter when not in use so it's safe and secure; there is an obvious, pleasing 'click' feedback when the tonearm is extended to the correct distance, ready for the record placement; and the platter starts spinning as soon as the tonearm is moved towards the record. It all works very smoothly.

Even my colleagues who have either spent years (even decades) militantly setting up turntables or have zero interest in vinyl found the Burger's setting up process and well-choreographed mechanisms appealing. There are plenty of 'plug-and-play' options from established turntable brands, but those decks are still traditional designs and require some level of knowledge, set up time and pouring over the manual. We all agreed that the Sound Burger is far more accessible: everything clicks into place as neatly as LEGO, you can get a record playing in seconds, and there's no barrier to entry. The pleasingly tactile act of putting on a record is present here, but it's a much more lighthearted experience than feeling very serious. For newbies getting into vinyl with no desire to 'mess about with hi-fi', I can see the Sound Burger being such an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Audio Technica Sound Burger with Ruark MR1 Mk2 speakers on wooden cabinet

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Add in the fact that you can stream to a Bluetooth speaker, radio or pair of headphones, and you've got a bonafide music system that only needs two elements. No cables, no stands, no extra little phono stage or amp boxes. While it is portable, Audio-Technica does caution against slinging the Burger around (a screw at the back holds the tonearm firmly in place) and it recommends you place it on a flat, level surface when spinning a record – so it's not entirely blasé about the whole vinyl-playing process. I connected the Burger to speakers varying in shapes, sizes and prices such as the Ruark MR1 Mk2 desktop speakers, the Sonos Era 100 wireless speaker and the tiny Roberts Revival Petite 2 radio – all excellent performers for the money. While I'm not expecting audiophile-levels of insight and precision here, the performance you get from the Burger combo is lively, engaging and, yes, a lot of fun.

This also means that those, like me, who would love to have a turntable system at home but are struggling to find the space now have a rather attractive and neat solution. The Sound Burger paired with either the Ruark speakers or Roberts radio takes up next to no space at all, and you don't have to have a permanent, dedicated space for the turntable either, as you can neatly store away the Sound Burger when it's not in use.

The full What Hi-Fi? review of the Audio-Technica Sound Burger is still on its way, but regardless of the final verdict, I have no problem sharing that I've been enjoying its company for the last couple of months. The novel design offers something entirely different to all the other Bluetooth turntables on the market and delivers a better level of quality than those budget, trendy and often poorly-made options that are vying for everyone's attention. I'd argue that the Sound Burger is trendier and better value: it's a stylish, accessible design that caters to the Instagram and TikTok media-sharing generation while offering the solid basics of vinyl replay in a well-thought-out package that's fun to use and play. And we shouldn't snub that approach.

Audio Technica Sound Burger on carpet floor

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

A mini update on my quest to get my own turntable system: thank you to the many readers who got in touch about my turntable woes and offered suggestions and encouragement. As you can see, I've been living with the Sound Burger to see if it solves the space and time issues, and you know what, it did get me playing records more readily without any of the over-thinking that's been plaguing me. I am still determined to have a dedicated space for my vinyl system, but I'll be tackling the problem from a different angle: storage. Reading my colleague Chris Burke's tips on storing vinyl made me realise I hadn't even thought about how or where I'll store my records. So that's spurred me on to 1). buy a rather lovely wooden cabinet that can safely store my records and serve as a place to put a turntable on, and 2). decide on exactly where in my house this new vinyl cabinet will live (there was only one choice, in the end, which helped cement this decision). Next time: I actually get a turntable.

MORE:

I would love to have a turntable system at home, but two things are stopping me

New to vinyl? Here’s the humble hi-fi accessory you never knew you needed

16 of the best-sounding vinyl records

Check out our best Bluetooth turntables and best budget turntables recommendations

Kashfia Kabir
Hi-Fi and Audio Editor

Kashfia is the Hi-Fi and Audio Editor of What Hi-Fi? and first joined the brand over 10 years ago. During her time in the consumer tech industry, she has reviewed hundreds of products (including speakers, amplifiers and headphones), been to countless trade shows across the world and fallen in love with hi-fi kit much bigger than her. In her spare time, Kash can be found tending to an ever-growing houseplant collection and shooing her cat Jolene away from spinning records.

  • Friesiansam
    Anyone who thinks the Sound Burger is a good idea, doesn't have a cat, especially not a young cat...
    Reply
  • Jeff is
    Who cares how it sounds? That's not what this piece of audio equipment was designed for.
    Reply