With a significant amount of help from the turntable gods at VPI (Cliffwood, New Jersey, USA), Shinola has brought to market a very high quality turntable with all of the bells and whistles, including a built-in phono preamplifier and an Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge. There’s a tremendous amount of analog goodness wrapped up in the beautiful design of the Shinola Runwell Turntable.
Shinola Runwell Turntable
- Built-in phono preamplifier
- Ortofon 2M Blue moving magnet cartridge
- Belt-driven pulley with speeds of 33 1/3 and 45rpm
- Precision-machined aluminum components
- Weighs 40 lbs!
- Manufactured in Detroit, USA
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
Before we dive into the details of the Shinola Runwell Turntable, let’s take a closer look at the brand itself. Founded in 2011, Shinola is a nod to the shoe polish manufacturer of the early-to-mid 20th century under the same name. It is operated by Bedrock Brands out of Texas, and was launched by Tom Kartsotis, who was one of the founders of the Fossil Group (Fossil watches!).
The knee-jerk reaction to this would be: “What do shoe polish and watches have to do with audiophile equipment such as the Runwell Turntable?”. That’s a good and valid question, however as I stated in my Preview Article, their business philosophy is built upon designing and manufacturing at the highest level that they can. They embrace the concept of the customer experience, and when you combine that with beautiful styling and craftsmanship, you gain a very loyal following.
Belt-driven turntable with built-in phono preamplifier
WOW & FLUTTER:
35.4DB @ 1KHZ
RIAA CONFORMANCE DEVIATION:
Less than +/- 0.25DB, 20HZ to 20KHZ, exclusive of infrasonic filter at 13HZ
47kohm in parallel with 200pf
SIGNAL TO NOISE RATIO EXCLUSIVE OF CARTRIDGE INTRINSIC NOISE, UNWEIGHTED:
18” X 13.875” X 7.5”
Rose Gold, Silver & Black, Black
Shinola, Runwell Turntable, turntable reviews 2017, Shinola Runwell, Turntable Reviews 2017
A big part of Shinola’s success in the rest of their business (watches, leather goods, etc.) is their ability to hire experts in their fields, and also collaborate with the most respected minds and companies to reduce their learning curve. While touring their manufacturing facility, they kindly shared with me how they were able to get up and running so quickly with the tools, techniques, and technologies to produce all of their goods. When you have the proper funding, and a brilliant team at the top, you simply hire and consult with the best in their respective fields.
So with this successful model already in place, they used that same format in the development and manufacturing of the Shinola Runwell Turntable. This is where legendary turntable designers and manufacturers VPI Industries of Cliffwood, New Jersey came into play. With 35 years of experience, VPI has a long history of producing some of the absolute best turntables in the business. So with that, and the fact that they too are a USA-based company (very important to Shinola!), it was a great fit to bring a new turntable to the market with such a collaboration.
As part of my research for the article, I drove up to Detroit to check out their corporate headquarters. In that short amount of time, I was quite impressed with their operations, as well as the culture that I could detect within the company. As a business owner myself, I know that having the right culture is (a) challenging to achieve, and (b) absolutely necessary to the success of the business. There was a tremendous amount of pride in the brand, and in the products that all of the locally-sourced artisans produced.
As a part of the tour, I took a trip to their retail store / center a few blocks away from the factory. Once a run-down, abandoned block, it was now a fully developed, hip retail district courtesy of Tom Kartsotis and Jack White of The White Stripes (a native of Detroit). We visited their main retail store, and I even got the opportunity to meet Tom Kartsotis who was giving a private tour of the place. Needless to say, I was in the right place at the right time to find him here. Additionally, we visited and got a private tour of Third Man Records that is owned by Jack White himself. With a very cool retail record store in the front, and a full-fledged record pressing plant in the back, it was like a trip to vinyl heaven. After purchasing a few albums while I was there, and stopping next door for some lunch, we went back to the factory to take a few shots before heading home. I’ve been to many factories and corporate headquarters around the globe in a wide variety of industries, and I must admit, that this was one of the coolest places I have been…all in the center of Detroit, Michigan USA!
The Shinola Runwell Turntable is belt-driven with a built-in phono preamplifier, and a pre-installed Ortofon 2M Blue moving magnet cartridge. Capable of playing speeds of 33 1/3rd and 45rpm, it is manufactured of mostly machined aluminum components, and solidly built. The on / off knob is conveniently located on the front left side of the turntable, and it also comes with a high quality leather record mat with the Shinola logo proudly embossed for all to see.
For those looking for an easy to use (and set up) and great sounding analog solution, the Shinola Runwell Turntable is meant for you! Packaging, setup, and instructions couldn’t have been any better, and even if you have zero experience with turntables, you could be up and running in a matter of minutes. Within the box, they also include an LP, so you could immediately enjoy some music if you’re waiting for your UPS driver to deliver your first order of albums.
My main setup included a Pass Labs XP-20 pre-amplifier, Pass Labs X350.8 amplifier, Revel F208 speakers, and Clarus Crimson cables. Also on hand to help with the evaluation and applicable comparisons, I had a Sutherland Engineering 20/20 phono pre-amplifier, Pass Labs XP-17 phono pre-amplifier (in for future review), and a Pro-Ject 6 Perspex turntable with Sumiko Blackbird cartridge.
As I previously stated, getting the Shinola Runwell from package to playing couldn’t have been any easier. Shinola has done a fantastic job of pre-assembling the unit, and taking the fear out of setting up a tonearm and cartridge. This alone could be a big determining factor for some would-be turntable owners.
Since my current system includes a Pro-Ject 6 Perspex turntable ($1,999) with a Sumiko Blackbird Cartridge ($1,099), along with a Sutherland Engineering 20/20 phono preamplifier ($2,200), I wasn’t expecting the Shinola Runwell Turntable to be anywhere in the same league at less than half of the price. But what I found though, is that the Runwell did more than an adequate job of competing. The further up the ladder you go with cartridge and phono pre-amplifier choices, the more you will bring out in the overall sound (for the most part). The more resolving (and expensive) components will bring forth better overall dynamic range, better soundstaging, and more details to the musical presentation.
I’m not saying that the $2,500 Shinola Runwell Turntable battled toe-to-toe with a system worth twice the price, but it definitely put up a worthy fight. With a relatively quiet background and good dynamics, the Shinola really impressed with just about every type of music that I played through it. And when you consider that this is Shinola’s inaugural audio product, it made even more of a positive impression on me.
Now let’s take a look at some specific music notes:
The group Yello has been around for a long time, and over the years they have produced some incredible music that is great for evaluating audio systems.
While their name might not ring a bell to most, just about everybody knows their famous song from 1985 Oh Yeah that was featured in the classic movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. With that note I’m sure you’ll have it stuck in your head for a while after reading this, so you’re welcome for that! Anyways the album Toy is their latest, and it is absolutely spectacular from the first song to the last. It has a techno vibe to it with wide dynamic swings, and on the right playback system it will make you forget about the equipment, and simply enjoy the music (at high volumes!). While through the Runwell it didn’t provide the absolute in resolution or dynamic range, it did however produce a very high quality of sound, with a quiet background. It produced a large soundstage with very good imaging, and at no time did it comes across as fatiguing, which could easily happen with music like this.
Go to just about any type of audio show, and you’re going to hear this album being played. Tin Pan Alley is a favorite amongst demonstrators because it’s an amazing song, and because it’s great for showcasing quality of components.
Now I’ve heard this song being played on systems that cost as much as a house or a Ferrari, and it will simply make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck when done right. So given this, I always like to use it when evaluating any kind of gear. The challenge with this however it to keep in perspective the level of components that you are listening to. There’s going to be a significant difference between more budget-minded components than there are the uber-expensive ones that you find at most shows. And since most of us will never have the ability to own a spare-no-expense system, we can’t hold that sound quality as the standard by which everything should be measured. We as reviewers have to keep it all relative. Having said that, I was quite impressed with sound of Stevie Ray’s voice and guitar coming from the Shinola Runwell. The fact that I listened to Tin Pan Alley over and over was proof, at least to myself, that I really enjoyed what I was hearing.
In her self-titled debut album from 1979, Rickie Lee Jones created something that would at the time be viewed as hip, jazz-infused pop music that could be heard on most radio stations.
But in the years that would follow, it is viewed as an audiophile-grade album that is great for demonstrations. I have the MoFi version that in my opinion, is the best sounding of all of the formats that are available. Two of my favorites are the popular Chuck E’s in Love, and the less popular Easy Money. It’s a combination of her unique voice, and the swings in dynamics and pace that make me enjoy her music so much, and on the Shinola Runwell I could sit back with pure listening bliss and forget that I am reviewing equipment. If you’re already into vinyl playback and don’t have this album, I highly recommend you order it up!
THE SHINOLA RUNWELL TURNTABLE provides a complete analog solution for those looking to get into vinyl playback, and with such an emphasis on styling, it will fit in well with any décor.
- Great looking piece of audio equipment
- Built like a tank
- Made in the USA
- Very easy to set up
- High quality analog reproduction
- Inexpensive dust cover availability
- Matching record clamp
The Shinola Runwell Turntable isn’t just a good product for an “introductory piece” for a new company. It’s a good turntable, period. Shinola did a fantastic job of designing and engineering the Runwell with the assistance of VPI Industries, and it is very well built.
It can easily be incorporated into an existing audio system, or it can be combined with a high quality pair of powered speakers like their own Bookshelf Speakers or the award-winning KEF LS50W’s to create an amazing starter system!
Not only is the Shinola Runwell a great turntable that will look fantastic in any décor, but it’s also from a forward-thinking company. After spending a day at their headquarters in Detroit, and seeing firsthand how they are also building pride in workmanship from American workers, I am also a big fan of the company and the brand. I love what they are doing, what they are producing, and I also look forward to their success moving into the future.