You can now buy USB vinyl record player turntables that allow you to convert all your old LP and 78 records to digital MP3 music files. Then you can listen to your favourite music files on your MP3 player.
What is a USB Turntable?
These USB vinyl players have a USB socket that means you can just connect them directly to your PC. Your PC records each side of your LP or 78 vinyl records as a single MP3 file. Some of the better USB turntables come with software supplied to split these long MP3 files into individual tracks, using the Internet to identify the individual tracks, artists and many more details, saving you a lot of typing on a keyboard
Who Needs a USB Record Player?
Anyone who is replacing a record player turntable should look for one with an inbuilt MP3 encoder and USB socket, preferably on the front.
Why Would You Convert Vinyl to MP3 Files?
Vinyl records are easily damaged by misuse and they get distorted from heat. By converting your vinyl to MP3 you ensure that you can listen to a digital, MP3 version of every LP track on your MP3 player and keep the original vinyl recordings to play on your vinyl turntable when you are truly listening to them.
Where Would Anyone Prefer MP3 to Vinyl Recordings?
Even true audiophiles admit that using a record player turntable is awkward. You cannot play vinyl records in the car or while walking along. If you are listening to music in this kind of location, with lots of background vibration or through tiny speakers, you will not notice the deficiencies of MP3 files.
When Will Vinyl Records Ever Die?
Not any time soon. The music industry tried to kill vinyl LPs in the 1980s with CD recordings, but vinyl made a return from the grave as a premium recording medium. Those of us who did not throw away or sell our old 78s and Long Playing records (LPs) just need to keep a decent vinyl turntable to enjoy them to the full.
How Can You Convert a Vinyl LP to MP3 Format?
You buy a turntable like the ones reviewed below that have an integral MP3 encoder and a USB socket. These turntables feed the normal analogue signal to your amplifier and speakers, but a digital signal to your computer, an MP3 file.
Are All USB Turntables the Same?
Accuracy of reproduction from vinyl recordings has always depended on the quality of engineering in the turntable. That is why a fully kitted out Linn LP12 Sondek turntable will cost you over $2,000 and Aldi sell a USB turntable for $40. You cannot compare the two.
With USB turntables, the same as with conventional turntables, you get what you pay for; good engineering comes at a price.
USB Turntable Reviews
Please note that US and UK prices are given for the convenience of readers in both countries, but US equipment runs on 110v and UK on 220v electrical supplies, so even though US equipment is cheaper UK customers will not be able to order it and plug it in unless they check if the voltage can be switched to 220v.
Aldi Medion USB Turntable
Aldi have a special offer Medion USB Turntable for less than 50 euro on Sunday 7th November 2010. These will sell like hot cakes and you will need to be queuing up at the door when the shop opens on that date to get one.
It will play 33, 45 and 78 rpm vinyl disks, so it will handle singles amd EPs as well as LPs.
NuMark TTUSB Stereo Turntable System
Thi is a very basic system made of plastic except for the aluminium platter. It has a very cheap-looking appearance and comes with no lid, though you can buy one as an optional extra. It is heavy for a USB turntable at 12.1 pounds, due to the heavy aluminium platter.
Sound quality is not good, with some users reporting a slight hum between album tracks. You have to upload your music to iTunes to work on it.
There is no cueing lever, meaning that you have to manually lower the stylus onto your irreplaceable vinyl records. The set up is awkward and you have to repeat the set up every time you switch the NuMark on. The stylus and tone arm far below Hi-fi quality.
You cannot use your computer sound for anything else unless you unplug the NuMark USB lead.
Summary: All show but poor sound quality and very basic features missing.
Amazon.com $110 (USD), Amazon co.uk Â£142 (GBP) plus postage in both cases
Sony PS LX300USB Stereo Turntable System
This turntable is black and looks like a "proper turntable". It is fully automatic, just press the button. Sound quality is good rather than excellent but instructions for setting up the turntable are poor. It has a weight of 6 pounds, very light for a turntable.
Summary: Looks good and delivers good, but not superb sound. Good value if you want a one-box USB turntable solution
Amazon.com $114.69( USD), Amazon.co.uk Â£123.99 (GBP) plus postage in both cases
Audio Technica ATLP120 Professional USB Turntable
This turntable looks superb. It is one of a very small number that can play 78s. The motor is direct drive, so there is some motor noise. Speeds can be switched between 33, 45 and 78 rpm.
This Audio Technica weighs 24 pounds, a very substantial piece of equipment. The biggest flaw is the very low volume signal through the USB connection. Quality very good for a USB turntable, but that low signal is a big problem. It has a fully adjustable anti-skating control, but the fitted stylus is not good and for hi-fi quality sound you would need to fit a better one.
Summary: Pretentious, good sound, but you would need to buy a new stylus and cartridge to make the most of it, and that low volume output will put many people off.
Amazon.com $189.59 (USD) Not available from Amazon.co.uk
Denon DP-200USB Fully Automatic Turntable with MP3 Encoder
This is another good looking turntable and with a weight of 9.3 pounds it is more substantial than many USB turntables. It has a USB socket, but warns you not to connect itdirectly to computer but to plug in a USB memory stick.
Sound quality very good but the music editing software is very basic. It is fully automatic, but you cannot override the auto because there is no cueing lever for the tone arm.
Summary: Very good, if you are happy to record onto a USB memory stick and then plug that into your computer
Amazon.com $164.08 (USD) Amazon.co.uk Â£159.95 (GBP) plus postage in both cases
The USB turntables currently on the market have been engineered for features, rather than for audio quality. If you already have a turntable that wounds good you should consider buying an external phono jack to USB converter and downloading open source software from the Internet. The Pioneer turntable below wipes the floor with all the USB turntables above. It has a higher specification and all you need to add to it is the external USB converter.
Pioneer PL-i990 2-Speed Full Auto Type Fully Automatic Turntable
This is a lightweight (6 pounds) belt driven turntable with a rubber platter, hinged dust cover. Basic vibration reduction engineering is used, like vibration absorbing feet.
Sound quality is the best of all of these turntables, but there is no built-in USB
Summary: Excellent, if you are happy to buy a separate phono jack to USB converter for about $20
Amazon.com $119.95 (USD) Amazon.co.uk $139.95 (GBP) plus postage in both cases