Children’s record players that won’t damage records, Alfa Romeo Tonale in my column (Week 1, 2024)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 1, 2024

Q. Is there a turntable for kids that won’t ruin records that are played on them?

-P.C., Minneapolis, MN

A. To clarify, P.C. is referring to cheap all-in-one turntables that have ceramic cartridges, which are rough on records and wear them out quickly. Look for a fully-automatic turntable with magnetic cartridge and dust cover. Then the kids just put on the record and press play. The $259.99 Audio-Technica AT-LP60 turntable/speaker bundle on Amazon would be a fit and sound pretty good, too.

My new Alfa Romeo Tonale and plug-in vehicle coverage: I am as much of a car guy as I am a tech and entertainment guy, with a lifetime of immersion as an automobile enthusiast and some time working in the industry as well. There has been reader interest in suggestions for EV chargers and such, but I have not had a way to try them since I did not have a plug-in vehicle.

In early December I got a great year-end deal so I leased a 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), so I can now review such products and report on my experience living with a plug-in car. This will mostly be on my website but I may post updates in the column from time to time and reply to questions that might come in.

This is not my first plug-in electric vehicle. Back in 2014 I leased a BMW i3 Range Extender and even with the gasoline range extender it could not go more than 60 total miles in the winter. It was so limiting I ended up buying a cheap used car to get around in when it was very cold. Unless you had Tesla money, EVs were clearly not there yet. Some would argue that EVs are still not quite ready for the mass market, but I think plug-in hybrids are a nice compromise. They provide significant reductions in fuel consumption and carbon emissions, while eliminating range anxiety and making up for shortcomings in the charging network. (Tesla owners do not typically have these problems, but not everyone wants a Tesla or can afford one.)

This is also not my first Alfa Romeo. In 2018 I leased a Giulia 2.0 RWD with Sport Package and purchased it at lease-end 39 months later. I still own it and plan on keeping it indefinitely. In over five years and almost 60,000 miles it has been perfectly reliable, is an absolute joy to own and drive and gets great gas mileage, too. I also turned a friend on to the brand. He had previously driven German luxury cars, but just leased his 3rd consecutive Alfa Romeo. Between us we have had 5 Alfas in a little over 5 years, and loved them all. I found a great dealer to work with and that helps, too.

The fuel savings have been phenomenal. The Tonale can go 31 miles solely on electric power, and if you start charging in the evening using the included 120V charger and an ordinary three-prong outlet it will be fully charged in the morning. My garage still has a 240V connection from my old i3 and a 240V charger fully charges the car in 2.5 hours. In 26 days and over 1,700 miles including some highway holiday travel, I have averaged 50.6 mpg. I have also not purchased gasoline in over two weeks despite the smallish 11.2-gallon gas tank. In fact, since I have been staying local the needle has barely moved off full after 281 miles of driving. It will be interesting to see the mileage trend over time. Stay tuned!