I know I’m not going to win any vinyl or audiophile fans by blogging about the RokBlok, but you’ve got to be impressed with the ingenuity. The usual means to get music from your records to your ears was by spinning the record under a stylus. The stylus on an arm pivoted so the stylus could track from the outer edge of the record to the final run out groove. Pretty simple and its worked for seventy plus years.
Innovation in turntables has been pretty much limited to improvements in the types of cartridges(moving coil and moving magnet) and the means to spin the platter (belt drive, direct drive and idler).
The RokBlok turns this upside down. Its a 2 inch by 2 inch by 4 1/4 inch block that houses a pre-amp and analogue amp that powers a 2 inch speaker, a diamond stylus, Bluetooth transmitter, rechargeable battery and motorized wheels for moving the RokBlok over your vinyl. According to the website, you simply unlock the stylus, slide it to the left position, turn it on and place it on your vinyl. The wheels take the RokBlok around your vinyl at 33 1/3 or 45 and the music emerges from the 2 inch speaker. Alternatively, you can send the signal to your Bluetooth enabled speaker.
What does it sound like? I can only speak to the Youtube reviews, but if they are an accurate rendering this is even worse than I expected. I think you could get better sound out of a thrift store Crosley. Check out this review.
The other concerns are what this could do to your records. The common configuration of platter and stylus has the stylus dragging through the groove with limited and very controlled pressure on that groove. The intent is to properly track the groove to extract the undulations that create the audio signal without causing undue wear. The RokBlok system pushes the stylus along the groove. Envision the difference between holding a stick between your thumb and index finger and dragging it across a smooth sand beach. It will create a line for sure, but you don’t have to exert significant pressure to advance the stick forward. Now reverse that and push the stick through the sand. The first thing you’ll notice is the stick digging into the sand and creating a deeper and deeper groove. I suspect this is exactly what the RokBlok would do to your vinyl.
I’m giving the RokBlok points for novelty and innovation, but zero for sound quality. As one reviewer said “Probably better as a cat toy.” I’d agree.