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Victor Cosmopolitan 8-in-1 Music Center review: Play and digitize

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At first sight

Expert assessment


Plays vinyl, cassette and CD Aux, USB, SD card and Bluetooth inputs Analogue and Bluetooth output Nostalgic look Record almost any source to USB, SD card or cassette tape


Needs a better recorder with Dolby and dbx noise reduction Does not record AM radio, only FM No Bluetooth output of AM/FM radio

Our verdict

If you have a lot of legacy media lying around — LPs, cassettes, CDs, MP3s on USB drives, and the like — you’d be hard-pressed to find a more affordable product for playing them back or digitizing analog content. The unit also acts as a Bluetooth transceiver for the audio system. But all is not great here; we found some weaknesses and the recorder is a weak point.

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I almost titled this review “Everything but 8 Tracks,” but it would start on a negative note for what I consider a very positive product: Victor Audio’s Cosmopolitan 8-in-1 Music Center. It’s the most versatile of the more than a dozen legacy and nostalgic media playback devices the company has to offer.

Versatile not only in playing vinyl (at 33, 45 and even 78 rpm), cassettes, CDs and AM/FM radio, but also in digitizing any material on USB or SD media in MP3 format. It will also record to cassette if that is of interest. The only trick missing is burning the audio to CD (and the aforementioned 8 tracks), but that’s a much more complicated process due to all the formatting involved. In truth, I had no desire to burn CDs. Did I mention it will also transmit and receive Bluetooth audio?

This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best turntables.

The Cosmopolitan 8-in-1 is the most versatile of the more than a dozen legacy and nostalgic media playback devices Victor has to offer.

Victor sent me the silver-faced, dark-wood-sided version of the Cosmopolitan, but it’s also available in basic black if you want another darker look that pretty much screams the ’80s. Physically, the Cosmopolitan measures approximately 12.5″ wide, 10.5″ deep, just over 8″ tall with the top mounted turntable lid closed.

origin 1This is the silver version of the Cosmopolitan. Note how the sleeve has openings to accommodate LPs left on the turntable.

Victor Audio

The front houses the cassette deck and CD player, LCD readout, controls, and digital and analog input output. The rear contains the power jack (uses an AC wall adapter, not an internal transformer), captive FM antenna cable, and analog stereo RCA outputs.

Front panel controls include component select buttons as well as large tuning and volume knobs (push to power on). There is another row of controls above the CD tray which control that device as well as perform other functions: Record (Rec), Delete (Del), Program, Repeat, Play/Pause, Stop, Previous (track, station, etc.), and then.

These controls are used to register the various components, program and navigate radio stations, manage files on USB and SD media, and so on. The whole thing is quite smart and far more capable than you might assume. Being able to delete files from a USB stick is not something I expected.

Victor also includes a remote control that covers most of the features. It’s about 5.5 inches long, fits well in the hand, and sports logically arranged buttons with easy-to-read bold labels. The remote control is powered by two AAA batteries, unfortunately not included. Nor is it a cable for RCA jacks. If you lack the latter, order one at the time of purchase. As I’ll go in, the Cosmopolitan powers other higher-quality audio gear at its best.

The Victor Cosmopolitan in detail

Being a $180 8-in-1, you shouldn’t expect the best of breed in any particular component, especially the outdated ones. I was hoping this would work, and that’s pretty much what it delivered, with one possible exception.

origin 1The Victor Cosmopolitan’s CD player, knobs, digital media slots and main buttons.

Record player: Handling 78rpm media in addition to more modern 33rpm and 45rpm turntables is a plus right from the start. There is a cushioned arm with a cue lever, as well as auto stop (but no auto return). An adapter for 45rpm is included (those records have a larger center hole).

The tone arm rests lightly on the record, the stylus seems fine, and the velocity was constant (it’s belt driven). The sound coming out of the unit, however, seemed a little thin compared to my other turntables when digitized. It’s easy to EQ recordings resulting in something a little fuller, and the top end is there, something difficult if not impossible to recreate if it’s not in the original signal.

This component is certainly usable even if I would have preferred a fuller sound.

Cassette player/recorder: This is the weakest component of the system. The control buttons are sturdy long-throw mechanical types, it has a sturdy door. On the other hand, it does not support Dolby B/C/HX or dbx noise reduction and there is no bias adjustment for different types of tape.

Also, there seemed to be some high frequency flutter, possibly caused by variations in tape speed and distortion during tape recording and playback. Some of my cassettes are 50 years old and prone to these artifacts, so it may not be the Cosmopolitan’s fault. That said, some were still retail packaged (i.e. unopened) and of much newer vintage.

Other quirks include the lack of a light indicating that recording is in progress. Also, the player does not automatically change state when rewinding or fast forwarding; that is, the buttons remain pressed. I don’t care for buttons, but the flutter and distortion was disappointing.

origin 1The Cosmopolitan’s recorder was the weak link in our tests.

Note that it is possible to fix flutter and wow in post-production using a program from Celemony called Capstan. I have used it. It works quite well and requires little user intervention. Capstan is very expensive, but you can hire him for a day or two to use his magic. So no, that precious blast from the past isn’t doomed to phenomena. You might as well try a better cassette player.

CD player: This is arguably the best of Cosmopolitan’s legacy media components, and it performed well in all respects. This isn’t surprising, since it’s one of the newest technologies at hand. In general, digital either works well or doesn’t work at all.

The tray slides in and out promptly, and track switching was quick. Note that the CD player will not work at the same time as the cassette player, at least when recording the latter to USB.

AM/FM radio: I was pleasantly surprised by the Cosmopolitan’s radio tuner. Even without the wire antenna unrolled from the back, it found many stations. Note that I’m almost exactly in the middle of San Francisco. It will automatically save stations to your presets or you can add them yourself using the multifunction controls above the CD player. The process is explained in the user guide.

A bit annoying, you can record FM radio but not AM stations. It won’t be a big deal for most people, but there are some unique things about AM that I would have appreciated the chance to document. Sadly, there is also no Bluetooth output with the radio selected. Regardless, good reception makes this one of the best components in the system.

origin 1The black version of the Cosmopolitan takes the look from the 70s to the 80s.

Victor Audio

Scan to USB stick or SD card: This is a fairly easy deal, although the Cosmopolitan didn’t like the first 1TB exFAT USB stick I inserted. It was fine with the 4GB FAT32 stick I switched to. Recording is a simple matter of selecting the component you want to record from, pressing record and then starting playback. Files (REC1.mp3, etc.) are stored by default in a folder named REC, which is created automatically.

Digitizing CDs works a little differently than recording LPs or radio. You need to press Record a second time and the player will start from the beginning of the current track. In other words, you’re ripping digitally, not just recording an input signal. In fact, they are saved in a separate folder called “Rips”.

I suggest renaming the scanned files straight away, or opening them on a computer and renaming or splitting them if you’re recording album sides, radio, etc. There are free programs like Audacity AND Sound ratings which will facilitate this.

Bluetooth transceiver: Since the Cosmopolitan receives and transmits Bluetooth, you can add Bluetooth streaming to your existing TV or stereo system if it doesn’t already have one. Roku TVs, for example, don’t have a built-in Bluetooth output, so you can connect the TV’s auxiliary output to the Cosmopolitan’s auxiliary input and then use its outputs.

Or you can plug Bluetooth into the Cosmopolitan and use the headphone jack or RCA analog output to send audio to the rest of your stereo setup. This is definitely one of the more practical features of the Cosmopolitan.

Audio performance by Victor Cosmopolitan

How does the Cosmopolitan sound? By itself, not so good. The internal side-facing speakers lack reproduction of higher frequencies and produce little or no thud. They’ll do in a pinch, but the Cosmopolitan is really meant to deliver audio cues to more sonically capable equipment.

I have been generally pleased with the quality of the FM radio made recordings and especially the CDs, with the latter being pristine rips. However, the cassette digitizations were not of the same quality; it’s probably the recorder’s fault. The LP recordings were a bit sparse, but I’ve already described it: the frequencies are there, they just need a little EQ in post production.

More capable audio devices might include headphones – output from the system’s 3.5mm jack is fine. The sound characteristics of the RCA and Bluetooth outputs are also fine. Only the internal speakers sound cheap. Buy this unit for its playback capabilities, but don’t expect it to fill the bill as a standalone sound system.

Is the Victor Cosmopolitan 8-in-1 a good value?

No component of the Cosmopolitan will satisfy an audiophile, but this is not the market Victor envisions. This system is aimed at the average person with a legacy media set that they want to reproduce or digitize. Bluetooth goes a little further, making it a great unit for sending signals to and from connected equipment. That said, if cassette tapes are your main focus, you may be disappointed.

In the end, I appreciate the Victor Cosmopolitan 8-in-1 Music System for both its vintage looks and its multitude of features. It’s great not having to turn on a computer to rip a CD (assuming you can find a computer with a CD drive), and recording FM is very nice. I’ll say one last time, though: the cassette deck’s audio quality is disappointing; other than that: great work, Victor.