In this new era of “Internet of Things,” where digital music has prevailed for quite some time, there has been a resurgence of vinyl records. Album sales on records have been on an upward trajectory since quite some time now. In 2017, Nielsen reported a 9% increase in sales of vinyl records to a massive figure of 14 million. This resurgence of vinyl records is meant to stick for a long while with the manufacturing of affordable turntables. Many artists also publish their albums on vinyl along with other platforms.
Turntables are becoming trendy over time as consumers have rediscovered the pleasures of listening to music in the good old classic way. This can be partially attributed to the “retro” vibe of vinyl. However, it would be unfair to say that these vinyl lovers are resorting to these turntables out of mere nostalgia as they have more to offer.
Yes, we understand that the sound quality of the vinyl records is unique and paralleled to none. But is that all there is to a turntable? Not. Modern turntables bring a lot more features to conventional turntables.
Whether it’s portable turntables or USB turntables, there are a few things you need to take into consideration.
Before we move on to our next point, we deem it necessary to read a brief overview of turntables (if you are not a music nerd, then you may skip the next section)
(Bonus Read: Are Turntables Becoming Popular Again?)
A brief overview of vinyl
It all started when Thomas Edison came up with the idea of inscribing music onto a sheet of tin foil rolled up on a cylinder. It’s not like this was the first ever recording device, but it was the most revolutionary invention. In 1877, Edison invented the phonograph, which transformed the music industry after that. Over time, the Volta Laboratory under Alexander Graham Bell made a slightly improved version of this device called the “graphophone,” which used a wax phonograph cylinder instead of the heavy tin cylinder. However, during the 1890s, Emile Berliner was the first to introduce to initiate the transition from phonograph cylinders to flat discs made from rubber, which were later recognized as “vinyl.”
These vinyl records were the dominant source of music recording throughout the 20th century until the introduction of Compact Discs (CDs), which were more user-friendly.
Why go for a USB turntable?
Regardless of how great of medium vinyl records are, the only drawback is that they can be quite inconvenient for the digital age. Not only are they huge and tough to carry around with yourself, but they are also quite vulnerable and subject to wear and tear. Since you are thinking about investing in a turntable, you want to make sure that you can preserve your records and have them last longer. The USB turntables offer this valuable functionality. This function allows you to digitize your vinyl records, so that you may access them easily wherever you want through your PC, smartphones, etc. without having to bear the cost of your vinyl records wearing out.
One may wonder, why not instead hunt down your favorite vinyl tracks on one of the streaming services available? But here’s why you should not rely on online streaming services:
- First of all, a lot of vinyl tracks are not available on the streaming services. So, you may not be able to find your favorite song online;
- Secondly, the luxury of having your favorite collection is otherwise unattainable
- Thirdly, relying on online vinyl tracks also imply that you would not be investing in a turntable, thus depriving you of the warm and pleasant sound that vinyl records bring
Top 6 USB turntables 2019: Reviews & Comparisons
If you are searching for a turntable that can be directly plugged into the amp for playback, with an additional USB feature, AT-LP5 is the turntable you should check out first before moving on to other options.
The AT-LP5 has the power to extract the best quality out of your vinyl. The device would likely leave you with less money in your pocket, but it’s a one-box solution for your music needs with a durable design that guarantees longevity.
The J-shaped arm of the tonearm is not there just for a retro quirk, but it is engineered to minimize the tracking error. Therefore, with full bass, midrange, and treble, you will be able to hear minute details through this device that you might miss with other models.
Although, you will have to put some effort into setting the device up, from attaching the cartridge to adjusting the counterweight.
Given these features, it is the best USB turntable that tops our list.
- Manually operated direct-drive, high-torque motor with stable on-axis rotation at two speeds: 33-1/3 and 45 RPM
- Balanced tonearm with hydraulic lift, anti-skate control and adjustable counterweight for perfect performance
- Switchable built-in pre-amplifier enables connection to components with or without a dedicated phono input
- Anti-resonance die-cast aluminium platter with heavy rubber damping mat for balanced rotation and improved low frequency reproduction
- Equipped with a USB output for direct connection to a computer, and comes with PC- and Mac-compatible Audacity software to digitize your LPs
AT-LP120BK-USB has been around for quite some time now. This device comes with a convenient built-in preamp and a relatively low price as compared to a lot of alternate models. It also includes a replaceable cartridge, which has already been calibrated according to the settings, and needle.
Not only does it have an outstanding playback quality, but it also creates accurate digital versions of your records. The LP120-USB comes with an S-shaped pivoting tonearm with an adjustable counterweight to maintain the right balance over your records.
However, remember that this model comes with a plastic base, hence the budget-friendly price tag. This means that it’s relatively less durable than many other models.
If you are seeking for an affordable option that offers great sound without a complicated set-up process, then AT-LP120BK-USB is the best USB turntable for you.
- High-torque direct-drive motor for quick start-up and USB output that connects directly to your computer
- Selectable internal stereo phono pre-amplifier allows turntable to plug directly to components with no dedicated turntable input
- Includes a USB cable, adapter cables, and Mac- and PC-compatible Audacity software to digitize your LPs
- Forward and reverse play capability; cast aluminum platter with slip mat and a start/stop button
- Three speeds - 33/45/78 rpm; selectable high-accuracy quartz-controlled pitch lock and pitch change slider control; removable hinged dust cover
The Stanton T.55 USB is a decent-looking USB turntable that features a metallic black tabletop with grey outer-edge and controls. The model comes with a counterweight for a tonearm to help you set the right amount of pressure for your record. Stanton T.55 incorporates an anti-skating mechanism and is centered on a belt-drive system.
There are some other turntables in our list of best USB turntables that feature better sound quality. Therefore, the conversion may have slight distortion.
T.55 USB usually comes with a one-year warranty and is quite easy to operate. Although this turntable is in our list of 6 best USB turntables, it is certainly not best of the best USB turntables.
- An easy to operate belt-driven turntable with professional features
- Features a strudy design with a comfortable and practical layout
- Designed with a pitch control slider with +/- 10% adjustment
- The straight tone arm offers improved tracking for scratching
- Also features 2 playback speeds (33 or 45 RPM), 2 start/stop switches for mix or battle setup, and RCA stereo outputs
- Includes RCA cables, slip mat, dust cover, and a Stanton 300 cartridge pre-mounted on the headshell
In spite of an ultralow price, the Audio-Technica’s AT-LP60-USB turntable comprises of a built-in phono preamplifier, a replaceable stylus, and a completely automatized activity. It plays 7-and 12-inch records with great precision. This is a lighter model compared to other models.
Given the ease of operation and set-up, this incredibly user-friendly turntable will help you get acquainted with turntables.
It uses a belt-drive system, which makes it unsuitable for DJs who require fast track and back-cueing. However, if you are looking to enter the vinyl market, Audio-Technica’s AT-LP60 is the ideal USB turntable for you.
The overall sound quality, from bass to treble, was warm and smooth balance unlike a lot of cheap turntables that lack the depth in their sound.
The only major downside is that you cannot upgrade the phono cartridge, and so you might have to switch to another turntable if you ever want an update in the future. Nonetheless, Audio-Technica makes good quality cartridges, so there’s not much to worry about.
Moreover, AT-LP60 does not offer any tracking adjustments, either. Nonetheless, if your main aim is to be able to digitize your vinyl record, this USB turntable will get the job done.
If you are an amateur who may face a hard time with manual turntables, then AT-LP60-USB is the best USB turntable for you.
- USB output-connects directly to your computer for plug-and-play use
- Mac and PC compatible Audacity software digitizes your LPs
- Fully automatic turntable operation with two speeds: 33 1/3, 45 RPM
- Switchable built-in pre-amplifier with line-level RCA output cables
- Professional belt drive aluminum platter
The Numark TT250 USB is a decent-looking direct drive turntable. The turntable features a strong build with tonearm, counterweight, and the platter manufactured using metal. All components are built to guarantees longevity.
The turntable comes with many features that make it an outstanding choice. The anti-skating mechanism keeps the tonearm balanced, which allows the turntable to offer consistently good sound quality. The counterweight has, both, the mass and sufficient range of movement to allow for the arm to be set to the required weight.
The Numark TT250 turntable comes with a digital download card. It also comes with software that is user-friendly because it turns digital conversion into three easy-to-follow steps.
According to the price of this turntable, we can certainly say that it’s a staggering value for money.
- Quartz-controlled direct drive motor for playback speed accuracy; instant torque: 2.0 kgfcm
- S-shaped tone arm ensures precise tracking of record grooves
- Die-cast aluminum platter for rock-solid stability (.09% wow & flutter)
- 45 and 33 1/3 RPM speeds and selectable 115/230V operation
- Converts records to digital files with USB cable connection to computer
This turntable has is an excellent and well-designed device to have your LP collection digitized. The turntable features great sound. There is a delicate natural flavor that you’re able to feel during the playback.
The PS-HX500 turntable is a plug-and-play solution that comes all set up. It also incorporates a built-in RIAA EQ curve for enhanced performance. Another exceptional quality is the simple software of the turntable that is free from glitches.
High-end vinyl users may find that PS-HX500 turntable is not as alterable and flexible in terms of adjustments as they would like. Therefore, the analog sound quality is not too great. However, with careful placement and isolation, the turntable can produce commendable results.
If we compare it to other USB turntables, the Sony PS-HX500 features far more sophisticated technology, especially when it comes to conversion of vinyl to digital files. Therefore, even though the analog performance of the turntable is not a wonder, it is the best USB turntable for you if you’re looking for exceptional digital capabilities.
- Enjoy all the smooth and warm sound expressions of your vinyl thanks to high-quality audio technologies that ensure the best possible analog playback.
- The integrated shell improves durability and stabilizes the cartridge for superior focusing and dimensionality of sound, while its lightweight structure improves traceability.
- Supports both phono and line output so you can play through integrated amp or external phono EQ.Turntable Speed - 33 1/3 r/min, 45 r/min
- Breathe new life into analog masterpieces with Hi-Res audio up to DSD quality. Just hook up the PS-HX500 turntable to your PC via USB, play a record and digitally archive the music from your favorite vinyl recordings in Hi-Res
- The HX500's supplied software lets you use a PC or Mac to conveniently edit tracks from both sides of an album and transfer them in high resolution to a compatible portable player or device for playback-anywhere and anytime
- DSD Native AD converter: The internal A/D converter supports native conversion from analog to DSD 2.8 MHz or 5.6 MHz digital.
How to select a turntable?
If you are a crazy music fan, which you probably are given that you’re still reading this, there is nothing better than experiencing the warmth of a vinyl record. However, finding a turntable worthy of your money can be quite an arduous task. We shall try our best to lay down a few points that you should keep in mind before selecting a turntable.
Consumers usually try to look for cheap turntables. Those turntables are more often than not cheap because they use lower quality material that is less durable as compared to their more expensive counterparts.
We suggest that you should generally avoid buying turntables made out of plastic (unless the quality of that plastic is exceptional). You should try to go for turntables made out of steel or wood as these material are long-lasting. If you want a lighter and still durable turntable, then you can also go for an aluminum-based device.
A stylus is that part of the turntable which is directly in contact with the vinyl. Your cartridge should be set with the ideal weight settings. If there is too much weight on your record, it might cause excessive friction and drag, thus resulting in degradation of vinyl. On the contrary, if there is low tracking force on the record, it might result in a lower quality sound.
You should preferably buy turntables that allow you to alter the tracking force by changing the position of the stylus and the cartridge.
Drive Systems (Belt Drive vs. Direct Drive)
There are essentially two main types of drive systems: Direct Drive system and Belt Drive system.
The direct drive connects the platter directly to the axis of the motor. The main benefit of this is that it allows platter to have better speed control over the system. In a belt drive system, however, the motor is not in direct contact with the platter. It is connected through an elastic belt.
Are Turntables Considered Musical Instruments?
This is one of the most widely asked questions. But the answer depends on your definition of what “musical instruments” are.
Some people associate musical instruments with their tone, decay, and vibration. Others consider any object that’s able to make a sound to be a musical instrument.
Can Turntables Play CDs?
Unfortunately, no, they cannot. Modern-day turntables, as well as their vintage counterparts, all depend on the depth of the grooves of vinyl records. CDs rely on laser sensing. You can find turntable lookalikes that can play CDs, but it’s not the same thing, and these lookalikes won’t offer the same experience turntables can.
Will Cheap Turntables Ruin My Records?
It goes without saying that when it comes to turntables, don’t look at the price. Most modern turntables are affordable anyway, and vintage ones are once in a lifetime investment. If you go with something that doesn’t come with a warranty or guarantee, you risk losing your records.
Fortunately, the brands and turntables we’ve mentioned here are all reviewed by thousands of customers and are known for being some of the best turntables out there.
So, there you go – our selections for the best USD turntable. It is time for you to make a selection based on your requirements. We hope that this article was of great help to you. Thanks for sticking by!