Updated: October 2019.
The Ion Audio Max LP 3-Speed Belt Drive Record Player doesn’t have any in-depth reviews online so I decided to review this record player since it does have a few good features.
It received good ratings overall and it’s reasonably priced for folks looking to spend less than 100 bucks.
It’s a unit that’s easy to use, and it does convert vinyl to MP3 and there’s the added benefit of playing an MP3 device through the record player itself.
[table id=12 /]
This record player is an entry level unit. So, if you’re looking for any kind of fidelity sound the Ion Audio Max is not the record player for you.
But, if you’re a casual listener who breaks out the old vinyl collection once in a blue moon, an all-in-one solution like the Ion Audio Max might just be what you need.
I like the wood finish with its smooth, rounded corners and the dust cover only partially covers the plinth, leaving the built-in speakers exposed.
It reminds me of an attractive record player you’d find in a home in the early 70’s. But it’s still modern looking.
If you’re a serious novice ready to throw yourself into vinyl collecting and you want a better unit, something like the Audio Technica AT-LP60-USB Turntable is a better choice. Although you’d still need to cough up for speakers.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my disclosure for more details. Thank you!
Like any record player in this class, the Ion Audio Max does have a few drawbacks. I’ll be getting into these in more detail as we go through the features one by one.
It’s worth noting here that according to customer reviews, Ion has exceptional customer service. I would recommend purchasing any product including this record player from Amazon and not through a third party selling on Amazon.
Products fail, even the high end stuff, that’s a fact and it’s got nothing to do with quality but since Amazon has a rock-solid returns policy you have recourse and are protected.
After reading the introduction, if you still think this record player could be right for you, keep reading.
Features of the Ion Audio Max LP 3-Speed Belt Drive Record Player
It’s always beneficial to know exactly what you’re buying before you spend a dime. Especially when it comes to record players since there are so many choices, features and drawbacks to consider.
So before you go out and spend any cash, let’s take a deeper look at its features and what it has to offer.
With a 3 speed transmission, this self-contained record player spins vinyl at 33, 45 and 78 RPM. It’s also able to play 7″, 10″ and 12″ records as well as the newer 180 and 200 gram records. An adapter for 45’s is included stock standard from the factory.
Size really does matter when it comes to the build of all-in-one record players. Bigger means more power and sturdiness.
The Ion Audio Max is not one of the biggest record players on the market. The dimensions are 15.2″(w) x 16.4″(d) x 4″(h) and it weighs in at 7.7lbs.
However, the plinth is designed with a natural wood base, this is a saving feature and bumps up the quality of the unit – wood is so much better than plastic.
One feature that I find great and that customers have highlighted is the fact that the lid can close while spinning a record. So no more dust on your record player or vinyl.
Although the lid does seem a little flimsy, with correct handling you should have no problem with it cracking.
Some users might be concerned about scratching the lid but frankly, that’s why there is a lid in the first place – for protection. Rather scratch the lid than your vinyl.
The Ion Audio Max record player comes stock standard with a belt-driven motor, as is typical of the all-in-one units.
The downside of a belt drive is that speed is not always precise and start-up time is slower. But this shouldn’t bother you since you’re not using the record player as a DJ would use a direct drive turntable.
The upside of a belt drive is that the belt acts as a shock absorber, reducing the vibration that resonates from the motor to the tonearm and stylus.
As is standard with most all-in-one record players the Ion Audio Max does not have any options to control the finer aspects of the sound output. So no pitch control.
The Ion Audio Max is not a fully automatic unit. In other words, you will need to cue the tonearm at the beginning of the record. I like this function because it’s easier to cue specific tracks but it also means you need a steady hand – something I lack.
A very useful feature is the ability of the record player to auto-stop. So the motor will stop turning the platter once the final track has finished.
It’s important to note here that the tonearm will not lift and return to its resting place. But if you’re someone who catches a nap while playing music the upside is your vinyl won’t get damaged.
You also have the option to turn this function off which means the motor will keep turning. The upside to this is that the final track won’t be cut short which sometimes happens with 78’s.
Cartridge and Stylus
A ceramic cartridge is the stock standard fitting with most of the self-contained record players.
These cartridges and styli cannot be upgraded. So you’re stuck with what you have.
The main issue with ceramic cartridges is that they are prone to skipping. To negate this drawback they are set in the factory with a heavier tracking force. The Ion Audio Max has a factory set tracking force of between 4 and 5 grams.
A heavier tracking force and no option to adjust this setting can possibly lead to faster wearing of your records and the stylus. If your vinyl collection is old and you’re not more than a casual listener, this should not be a problem for you.
But if you’re a heavy listener or you have records that are in mint condition, rare or difficult to replace I would suggest looking at a turntable rather than a record player.
Something like the Audio Technica AT-LP120 is more along the lines of what you need. Sure, it’ll cost you more but you want to protect those gems.
The replacement stylus for the Ion Audio Max is the CZ-800-10 which fits a variety of Ion record players. It’s a sapphire tip with an ideal tracking force of 4 to 6 grams as mentioned earlier is a factory set.
I checked around for the cheapest price for replacements and you can pick one up at Amazon for less than you would on Ion’s website.
And while we’re on the subject of style, you won’t be able to play 78 vinyl with the CZ-800-10. 78’s have wider grooves and you want a wider stylus tip.
For this, you’ll need the ICT06RS which is not available at Amazon. You can pick one up from Ion’s website for 40 bucks which is pricey, but that’s what you’ll need to play 78’s.
Considering the size and position of the speakers on an all-in-one record player is important.
The bigger the speakers the more sound and less distortion they produce. The speakers on the Ion Audio Max do leave a lot to be desired. They are pretty standard full-range stereo speakers.
I haven’t been able to find out the exact wattage – not even on the manufacturer’s website. But I suspect they’re very basic.
There have been mixed reviews on the speakers but it’s safe to say that the sound they produce will easily fill a small room like a man cave, dorm room or bedroom.
I’m not blown away by the positioning of the speakers. They are built-in to the top of the plinth. In my opinion, this is a drawback since the sound is not as direct.
I would have preferred front or side positioning but then the entire design would be different to make space for the speakers. Depending on what you want in terms of sound, this might not bother you.
What I am super pleased with is the fact that the Ion Audio Max has an internal preamp. So you can hook it up to your home stereo system or external speakers.
This is a real redeeming feature since you don’t have to rely on the built-in speakers. And even if you cough up for external speakers you can still get the whole package for a sweet deal, depending on which speakers you go for.
Something like the Logitech S150 USB Speakers with Digital Sound (see on amazon) which you can pick up just about anywhere.
I like all-in-one units that don’t clutter the design with a bunch of useless and unnecessary extras like CD player and AM/FM radios. The main reason for this is, less moving parts means fewer vibrations.
And on a unit that’s lighter than a more expensive record player or turntable, this is definitely something to consider.
After all, you’re buying it to listen to vinyl. If you want to play CD’s or listen to the radio you have other more appropriate options. The fewer frills, the less moving parts to cause vibrations.
This won’t make a huge difference to the sound since it’s a very basic unit but if vibrations can be avoided, so much the better.
USB and Connectivity
The Ion Audio Max LP 3-Speed Belt Drive Record Player has a plethora of connectivity options, more so than other record players in its class.
Firstly, it has a USB interface and comes with EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter Software to bring your vinyl into the 21st century. And if you use a Mac, the tracks are automatically saved to iTunes.
The disk with the software is included in the box but I’d visit their website to download the latest version.
Secondly, you can hook up your iPod, iPad or other digital playing device and listen to your MP3’s through the built-in speakers.
There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack for private listening and to avoid disturbing the neighbors! According to customers the sound produced through the headphones is much better than just listening through the standard built-in speakers.
And of course, as mentioned earlier, you can hook up external speakers to the record player for even better sound.
The Ion Audio Max LP 3-Speed Belt Drive Record Player also comes standard with a USB cable and a 100 to 240v power cable – only for use in the USA.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
I want to use external speakers with this record player, can I do that?
Yes, you can hook it up to external speakers. Obviously the sound quality will still be limited to what the cartridge and stylus can produce. But using external speakers will give you louder and more powerful sound output.
Will this record player damage my 180g vinyl records?
No, this record player will play 180 and 200-gram vinyl records. But if you’re a heavy listener perhaps consider a higher-end turntable.
What is the slip mat that comes with the record player made of?
The slipmat is made of felt.
Does this record player have a built-in preamp? Can I use an external preamp with this record player?
Yes, the Ion Audio Max does have a built-in preamp. The unit doesn’t have a dedicated input for an amp but you can use the headphone jack for this.
I recently had a reader ask if they can hook up passive speakers to the ION Max. In short, the answer is no. Unless you have some sort of a receiver. Although you should be careful not to connect it to any phono input since it already has a built-in preamp.
You’ll need to connect it to another line level input like AUX, CD or Tape.
Should You Buy the Ion Audio Max LP 3-Speed Belt Drive Record Player?
The Ion Audio Max LP 3-Speed Belt Drive Record Player has a lot of neat features that should make it a contender if you’re looking for something self-contained, easy to use and still looks good.
The fact that it’s affordable at under 100 bucks with features like the ability to rip vinyl to digital format, use a headphone jack, built-in preamp and hook it up to external speakers really makes it a good choice in its class.
Of course sound quality if the built-in speakers is stock standard and nothing special but if you’re not too fussed about high-quality sound and you don’t want to cough up for external speakers the sound will be sufficient. You can always get some external speakers at a later stage.
If you are or suspect that you will become a heavy listener then the cheaper ceramic cartridge is going to be a problem.
If you’re a casual listener who only breaks out your vinyl collection once in a while, then this record player should be on your shortlist.
I really like the Ion Audio Max LP 3-Speed Belt Drive Record Player and all things considered, it’s a great record player for casual listeners with no intention of going heavy and have an older vinyl collection.
A budget cartridge doesn’t have to mean a crappy one. Check out these fantastic turntable cartridges for under 100.