by Rebecca Day
Have a stash of LPs that you haven’t been able to part with over the years? Whether you’re looking to clear the basement of boxes of vinyl or want to have all of your music on your smartphone, a USB turntable is the answer for turning your analog albums into digital tracks.
If your collection includes a stack of 45 rpm records, or even 78 rpm discs, look for a turntable that can accommodate all three speeds. Some pack cassette mechanisms so you can transfer those analog recordings, too. A built-in phono preamp is an important feature in a USB turntable for bringing up the output to a level that will work with your PC’s sound card. That’s important, too, if you don’t have a stereo or audio video receiver with a phono input.
Most USB turntables come with the software you need for editing and organizing your newly digitized music, but you might want different software depending on how detailed you want to get in editing. Some software is better than others for removing skips and pops, for instance, or eliminating songs you don’t want in your library. Find the software that best meets your level of expertise … and patience.
Following are several USB turntables in different price segments, from a basic, inexpensive model offering a quick route to music transfer to higher end units with a few more features, better build quality and higher styling.
The Ion Audio Max LP all-in-one device combines a turntable and speakers so it can play 33, 45 and 78 rpm records without connection to a PC or stereo receiver. RCA connectors allow for connection to an outboard receiver for more power and higher volume, and it connects to a PC for conversion to digital files via USB. It has an auxiliary input for connecting a tape deck and the EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter software can handle content from both analog sources. The unit comes with a dust cover, 45 adapter, headphone input and felt slip mat. A headphone input is located on the front. $99
A long-time maker of turntables and audio cartridges, Audio-Technica offers several models of turntables, both USB and non-USB, types. The budget-oriented AT-LP60USB is Mac- and PC compatible and comes with Audacity software. Its built-in phono/line preamp is switchable, allowing you to hook it up to a stereo with or without a phono input. The belt-drive turntable comes with a dual-magnet Audio-Technica phono cartridge with a replaceable stylus. Playback speeds are 33 and 45 rpm. Included in the box: a USB cable, adapter for 45 rpm records, recording software, and RCA adapter cables. $149
Spend more, get more from the TEAC TN-300 USB turntable, available in high-gloss red, black and white, along with cherry finishes. In addition to a built-in phono preamp, the Teac turntable comes with an Audio-Technica AT95E moving-magnet cartridge. It’s built to last – and to resist noise and vibration – with a die-cast aluminum platter that rests on a solid medium-density fiberboard base. The unit’s Neoprene rubber belt is designed to isolate motor vibration and prevent noise from being transmitted to your amp and speakers. In short, the Teac goes beyond LP-digital conversion capability with its USB connector; it’s designed to be a solid performer in a quality sound system for years to come. An anti-skate mechanism on the tonearm allows for accurate record tracking. The RCA analog output is switchable between line and phono for use with external phono preamps. The TN-300 spins 33 and 45 rpm records. Note: Recording software not included, but Teac recommends that users download free recording and editing software from Audacity. $399