Model: Audio-Technica Sound Burger AT-SB727
Inputs/Outputs: Headphone out, Line out, Bluetooth 5.2.
In the box: Sound Burger,Quick Start Guide, Audio cable, USB-C cable.
Colors: Black, White, and Yellow
Pros: As much fun as you can have without getting arrested. Easy to setup and use. 12-hour playback. Replaceable rechargeable battery. Bluetooth 5.2. Good sound. Great retro style.
Cons: Lifting tone arm can be tricky. Can’t defeat the phono preamp. No volume control. Susceptible to vibration. No place to store locking pin. No non-grip surface. Speed controls are delicate.
Don’t drive up to your favorite fast-food joint and ask for a Sound Burger. They won’t know what you’re talking about. But chances are, people into vinyl records will. Audio-Technica first released the Sound Burger late last year. It sold out within 2 days and until recently, had been on constant back order. So, what is this thing that had people waiting months to get? The Sound Burger is a new, belt-driven, portable Bluetooth turntable inspired by the original model introduced by AT some 40 years ago. It’s practically become the hottest thing in audio since the phonograph was invented. Nipper now has something cool to listen to when he goes outside to do his business.
Hurry Up & Wait
I was able to score my Sound Burger through a contact at AT, but still had to wait a few weeks to get it. Burgers are just now starting to show in stock on AT’s website, Amazon, and other places (links provided at the end of my article). I already own 3 turntables, so why get another one? My turntables are heavy, full size, and I don’t have room for them since I was forced to sell my home, so they’re packed up in boxes. I wanted a turntable that was easy to move, wouldn’t take up a lot of real estate, wouldn’t take up an afternoon to setup, and wouldn’t cost a lot. Those cheesy Crosley “suitcase” record players with their ceramic cartridges weren’t even a consideration.
A portable turntable is a rather odd device when you stop to think about it. Are people really going to lug a box of records around and then plop down in a park, or wherever, and start listening while passersby gawk? It would come in handy if you frequented used record stores or flea markets and wanted to preview albums before you bought them. It would also be a very cool thing for a dorm room, provided no one steals your Burger. In my case, my Sound Burger is staying safely in my house. Besides, I get enough strange looks as it is when I go out in public.
Preparing Your Burger
Setting up the Sound Burger is as easy as deciding what condiments to put on a burger. The first order of business is to unscrew the locking pin on the back. Don’t forget to do this or you’ll damage the tone arm. Disappointingly, there’s no place to store it so be sure not to lose it. The next thing to do is plug in the included USB-C cable and start charging the Li-Ion battery. Now comes the fun part. Lift the lid, lift the tone arm, remove the rubberized clamp, place a record on the platter, apply the clamp (which cleverly doubles as a 45 RPM adapter), close the lid, turn the unit on, select 33 1/3 or 45 speed (sorry, no 78 RPM), and place the tone arm on the record to start the platter spinning. Your Burger is now well done.
Well, not quite. You need to connect it to something for the sound part of the Sound Burger to work. You have 3 options: There’s a stereo 3.5 mm headphone output, 3.5 mm stereo line output (audio cable included), and Bluetooth 5.2. There’s no volume control so if you’re connecting to something that has no volume control then you’re at the mercy of Sound Burger’s fixed level output.
That output, as I discovered, is quite low, to the point where I wasn’t able to enjoy my cherished closed back Oppo PM-3 Planar Magnetic headphones. I switched to my Tin HiFi T4 wired ear buds but the sound level was even lower with those. Unfortunately, neither of those models have a volume control. Why AT failed to include a volume control on the Sound Burger is a mystery. A simple rotary volume control couldn’t have been beyond the realm of human engineering and couldn’t have been that costly.
Above the Burger’s Power and Speed buttons is a simulated vented area that one might understandably mistake for a speaker grille. To be clear, the Sound Burger doesn’t have a built-in speaker. You must connect it to something to be able to hear it. This might strike you as odd that a portable audio device lacks a speaker, but I’m actually glad AT didn’t include a speaker. It would’ve added to the cost, would’ve been mono, would’ve sounded horrible, and would’ve had no volume control. Hands up anyone who wants to pay more for a useless feature.
Sound Burger’s Sound
Putting the unfortunate headphone experience behind me, I next connected my Sound Burger via Bluetooth to my portable Muzen Cyber Shell portable Bluetooth speaker. It paired and connected almost immediately and sounded excellent (thankfully, the Cyber Shell has a volume control). I have read of instances where the Sound Burger’s Bluetooth refuses to play nice with certain Bluetooth speakers and ear buds so you might want to have a plan b from outer space just in case.
Speaking of playing nice, the most important Bluetooth test was my Dayton Audio HTA100 hybrid tube integrated amplifier which has a Bluetooth receiver. My Sound Burger refused to pair and connect to it despite repeated attempts and with it literally sitting right next to my integrated amp. This was incredibly disappointing because the HTA100 is my primary audio system which I use daily. Upon further investigation, it turned out my HTA100 was connecting to my Vizio TV’s Bluetooth even though my TV was totally turned off (not in standby)! Huh? I went into the Vizio’s settings menu and instructed the TV to forget the HTA100. Once I did that, the Sound Burger paired and connected to the HTA100 within seconds and remained connected. It then connected automatically every time I used it. Double yay!
What Do You Like On Your Burger?
I was in a jazzy and bluesy mood so I began by playing a few tracks off of Richie Garcia’s vintage “A Message from Garcia” (Modern Harmonic MH-8078). This mono album from 1956 is not exactly the most vibrant recording, but it was enjoyable on the Burger nonetheless.
From there, I turned to the fantastic “Nina Simone Sings the Blues” (RCA LSP-3789). I bought this record a number of years ago through Vinyl Me Please but had never listened to it for various reasons. Now I know what I was missing. The Sound Burger did it justice and if it had a “repeat” function I would’ve used it.
I turned up the heat even more when I put on “The Drifter” by Mike Flanigin (Black Betty BBST-4068). Believe me when I say there isn’t a bad track on this album. When “Nina” began to play, I cranked up my integrated amp’s volume up to 45% and closed my eyes. It was a Sound Burger in paradise. Vocals were clear and strong, the bass was powerful, and I could hear each individual instrument.
To wind things down, I played my near mint copy of Shadowfax’s “The Dreams of Children” LP (Windham Hill WH-1038). Despite the recording being 38 years old, the music sounded perfect. I’m well acquainted with this record and I was pleased with everything I had heard.
Like A Version
The Sound Burger’s Bluetooth transmitter is version 5.2 which is one level below the latest 5.3 version. There’s not a lot of difference between versions 5.2 and 5.3, but 5.2 is superior to older Bluetooth iterations…version 5.2 is more stable and has improved latency (delay). It also requires less power in order to maximize battery playback time which AT puts at 12 hours on a full Burger charge (a USB-C charging cable is included).
Juice Me Up
While I’m on the battery topic, major kudos to AT for making the 2100mAh battery user replaceable. AT doesn’t yet sell replacement batteries but generic replacements can be easily sourced if you get desperate. I’m tired of Bluetooth devices with built-in batteries that aren’t user replaceable, requiring you to dispose of them (and the money you paid for them) when the batteries are spent.
If you want the best sound reproduction, there’s always the old-fashioned wired option via Sound Burger’s 3.5 mm line out (a short, inexpensive audio cable is included). Again, make sure whatever audio device you’re connecting to has a volume control. I need the wireless option since my HTA100 only has one set of analog inputs and they’re taken up by my cable box. One minor complaint- The Sound Burger has a built-in phono pre-amplifier allowing it to be conveniently connected to an auxiliary input. The problem is if you have a stereo receiver, integrated amplifier, powered speakers, etc., that has a dedicated phono input like my HTA100 does, there’s no way to defeat the Sound Burger’s internal pre-amp, meaning you can only connect it to an aux input. There’s also no ground screw on the Sound Burger, but so far, I haven’t noticed a hum problem.
Get To the Point
One of the keys to a turntable’s sound is its cartridge and stylus. In the Sound Burger’s case it’s the moving magnet ATN3600L which retails for $24 and is described by AT as good for “casual listening”. It’s the stock cartridge used on many budget turntables but don’t be put off by that. The ATN3600L enjoys a solid reputation in audio circles for its overall sound quality and tracking, with some claiming it sounds as good as cartridges many times its price. To my ears, it sounds good if slightly bright and aggressive. Regardless, it’ll have to do because there’s no upgrade path. But let’s be honest…the Sound Burger is not an audiophile piece of equipment, nor does it claim to be. Yet I have no complaints when it comes to its sound considering its price point and what it is…a Burger, not a Kobe A5 Wagyu Tomahawk steak.
Where’s The Beef?
Since the Sound Burger only weighs about 8 times that of a McDonalds’ quarter pounder, it’s very susceptible to vibration. Tap on its surface while it’s playing a record and expect to hear a corresponding loud pop from whatever you’re listening to it on. It’s too bad AT didn’t add some weight inside like a hunk of steel for a little more damping and a more quality feel, though I suppose extra weight would be counter to a product designed to be portable.
While we’re on the topic of touch, the Sound Burger’s plastic exterior is smooth and slippery…not the ideal surface for a portable device. Granted, it has a small handle on the back, but whenever I moved it, I instinctively lifted and carried it. I didn’t want it swinging around carefree from its handle and potentially banging into something. A rubberized coating and/or knurled areas to provide a good grip would’ve been appreciated. As a side note, in a couple of weeks I’ll be evaluating a generic carrying case.
Tracking force is the weight required for the stylus to follow the grooves in the record. Too little weight and the tone arm will lift off the record. Too much weight and the sound will be distorted and you could damage your record and stylus. I measured my Burger’s tracking force at 3.35 grams straight out of the box. The ATN3600L user manual recommends 3.0-4.0 grams with 3.5 grams being standard. Mine is within spec but I would’ve preferred it at least meet the standard and there isn’t any way to adjust the weight.
I Got Screwed
As you can see from the above graph, my Burger was exceeding the speed limit with 33 1/3 averaging 34.05 RPM, while 45 RPM topped out at 46.24 RPM. Being the anal audiophile that I am (some would say “anal audiophile” is being redundant), I decided to manually adjust the speeds using the 2 access holes on the bottom of the Burger along with a small, flat-head screwdriver. I was successful at adjusting the 45 RPM speed but 33 proved more elusive. The tiny white plastic adjustment piece broke off the potentiometer before I could finish my tinkering. As a result, 33 1/3 is now stuck at 27 RPM rendering it unusable (I’m in the process of getting my Burger repaired through Audio-Technica). Luckily, I saved this speed adjustment task for last. I had already completed my evaluation before tackling the speed issue. My advice to you is unless the speeds are way off, leave the trim pots alone. They’re too delicate to fiddle with and it isn’t worth the risk.
Let’s switch gears from technical to color, or Technicolor. The Sound Burger was first released in a limited-edition red version last November to celebrate AT’s 60th Anniversary and the 7,000 Burgers sold out. Earlier this year the Burger was made available in black and white, and more recently, in yellow, all priced at $199 each. Had it been me, I would’ve made the limited edition in silver which was the original and only color when it debuted back in 1983 as “Mister Disc” in the USA. I would’ve made the red color part of the regular line up. AT would’ve sold many more than 7,000 if red had been a standard color. It’s also a great color for marketing purposes.
“Mister Disc” was a weird name but it fit the era. Besides, the name “Walkman” had already been taken. In the UK and Japan, it was called the “Sound Burger”, and that’s the name AT used for this 2023 reboot. It’s certainly a more playful name though equally weird. Perhaps it was intended to hint at the fun that was in store for the new generation of Burger lovers.
61 Years and Counting
As I mentioned, AT has been around for almost as long as I have. It was founded by Hideo Matsushita in Tokyo in 1962. It was initially a phono cartridge manufacturer starting with the AT-1, the first affordable phono cartridge. Today, the company’s product lineup includes an impressive selection of turntables, headphones, microphones, professional equipment, and of course, phono cartridges. Their limited- edition AT-LP2022 turntable is a head turner with its dense, clear acrylic chassis, platter, and Shibata stylus. At $1,200, it’s a tad more expensive than the $199 Sound Burger.
Need A Lift?
From comments I’ve heard and read, handling the tone arm is apparently the most difficult part of using the Sound Burger. There’s no space for a tone arm lift, so it has to be accomplished manually. I’m right- handed and I have a slight shake in my right hand, which hopefully is nothing serious, yet I had no problem managing the tone arm. There was only 1 instance when I slightly scraped the stylus on the record while lifting the tone arm. That said, I can see it being a little challenging for some users.
Light Me Up
I admit I’m a closet light freak. I love lights on my audio gear and I suspect I’m not alone. We’re part of the great silent audiophile majority. Lights might not make any contribution to sound quality but they definitely raise the fun factor. The Sound Burger has small power/charging/BT and speed lights, but the speed light only comes on when it’s set to 45 RPM. Had I been the Product Manager for this model (AT, if you’re listening, I’m available), I would’ve made the speed LED bi-colored so it would be one color for 33 1/3 and another color for 45 RPM. That way there would be a light on regardless of the speed setting.
While we’re on the topic of lights, I would’ve placed a single blue LED in the center of the Bluetooth pairing button instead of making the power light do triple duty. I also would’ve back lighted the “Sound Burger” name whenever the unit was on. Did I mention I love lights?
Have It Your Way
I’m not done. I would’ve included a downward firing LED mounted to the outside of the lid above the record on the side that houses the tone arm. Not only would it look very cool illuminating a spinning record, it would also aid in placing the stylus if you were looking to drop it on a specific track. The cost of these additions would’ve been minimal as would the power to light them, it would’ve further distinguished the Burger from the original model, and it would’ve multiplied the fun factory by ten.
May I Take Your Order?
Put simply, Audio-Technica‘s Sound Burger is the Happy Meal of portable turntables. Like fast-food, it’s convenient, fun, provides instant gratification, and sounds delicious. It even has a cover to prevent one’s drool from coating the platter. In a word, you’ll flip over the Sound Burger. Get it? Flip? Burger? See what I did there?
Disclosure: I purchased my Sound Burger at an accommodation price, though not in return for this review.
Main audio system used in this review: Dayton Audio HTA100 hybrid tube integrated amplifier with Bluetooth 5.0, Blueroom Minipod speakers with Transparent Audio Hardwired Speaker Cables on Perlegear speaker stands, Sunfire True Subwoofer Super Junior with SVS SoundPath subwoofer cable, and TrickleStar TS-1104-7 Tier 1 Advanced PowerStrip.
See my Sound Burger unboxing pics on my Instagram page.
Trivia (from Wikipedia): “Since the late 1990s, Audio-Technica supplied microphones and headphones for US television shows such as ‘Big Brother’, ‘Deal Or No Deal’, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions, and several international events.”
Trivia (from Wikipedia): “In 2005, Audio-Technica developed ‘Uniguard’, a method for making microphones resistant to radio frequency interference from cell phones, Bluetooth devices, wireless computer networks, and walkie-talkies. 13 patents were involved in bringing the feature to fruition…”
Links to buy Sound Burger (I don’t receive a commission if you buy one):