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|1byone USB Record Player||33 / 45 / 78 RPM|
|ION Audio Max USB Turntable||33 1/3 / 45 / 78 RPM|
|Sony PS-LX 300 Turntable||33 / 45 / 78 RPM|
|Audio-Technica AT-LP60||33 1/3, 45 RPM|
|ION Audio Air LP||33 1/3 / 45 / 78 RPM|
For music lovers the world over, the demise of vinyl – in the wake of the increasing popularity of the Compact Disc – was a welcome one. At first, that is, for we soon came to realise that, in fact, the CD – while convenient – is a clinical device, one seemingly lacking the soul that can be found with our LP’s and 45’s. You probably have a stack of LP’s in the loft – I certainly do – and hanker to get them out and play them – but what do you play them on? It’s rare to find a stereo system that includes a turntable these days, as it’s all CD’s and MP3 players. There is a solution, which we will come to shortly.
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So, what is the attraction of vinyl over CD or digital mediums? Well, many will tell you there is a clear difference in sound, that vinyl is warmer and more tonal; others will say they simply like the routine of carefully taking the record out of its colourful sleeve, placing it on the record player, and listening to the initial crackles that somehow give it life. No matter your reasons, there is something very satisfying about playing a record which you don’t get with CD or digital. That’s not to say the latter are bad – far from it, they are very good – but the nostalgia element is not there. Back to that solution we mentioned: it’s the USB record player, and you will want the best USB record player thats available.
USB record players – Our Top 10 Picks
We begin with one that is entirely typical of the breed; it’s not by a name brand, but it comes with some impressive features and is a good-looking design. Indeed, the natural wood finish gives a quality appearance, and it has three speeds – you can play 33rpm, 45rpm and – should you have any – 78rpm records on this one, and the sound quality from the built-in forward facing speakers is perfectly decent. The stylus is replaceable so you get a full life out of this model.
The turntable connects to a USB port for full transfer of vinyl to MP3, so you can build up your library on your hand-held devices or MP3 player, or on your laptop or computer. This one features full connectivity so you can add it to your sound system should you wish, and it is very easy to use with simple controls on a well-designed front panel. All in all, it’s a very neat design that does the job it is meant to do. We will say that there are some more impressive models in this list – that’s the problem with going first – but at around £40 you won’t find many that are better value – it’s well worth a second look.
This is one from ION – a known brand in the modern Hi-Fi world – and the first thing we will say is that it looks the part. It’s a very sleek design, another natural wood finish, and it is slim and compact too. The clear dust cover is a nice touch, and it has built-in speakers. However, we are not sure the sound quality of the small, upward-facing speakers is as good as it could be, but it is fine for putting on a record quickly, sitting back and enjoying your favourite tunes. It will play all three speeds -33, 45 and 78rpm – and is easy to use and stylish.
This model can be connected to your existing sound system by RCA output – which is the industry standard – and it also transfers vinyl to MP3 so you can listen on your handheld device or laptop. It’s a very convenient design and comes complete with all jacks and the relevant software, so you are ready to go as soon as you get it out of the box. Like all of these devices, this gives you the chance to get your vinyl out of retirement and relive your youth! The price – it’s around £80, so much more than the above, but it is a quality model.
In the world of hi-fi and sound, few brands are as recognisable as Sony; this giant of a firm has been at the forefront of quality music systems for many decades, and remains a market leader in many ways. This is a quality model that looks every inch the traditional turntable and, in fact, that is what you are getting – plus, of course, the USB bit! One important point to be aware of: this one does not come with built-in speakers. It does have an amplifier, so you can either buy a pair of speakers to plug in, or add it to your existing stereo system, the choice is yours.
OK, so it’s just a turntable: why would you choose this over those with speakers? First, because it is a serious quality item, as you would expect from Sony, and second, because the diamond stylus and experience of the company means you are guaranteed excellent sound. It only has two speeds – there’s no 78, but we doubt you have any of those anyway – and it can transfer vinyl to MP3. Also, it’s compatible only with Windows. If you want a genuinely high-quality turntable, one with the attributes of a name brand and a guarantee of quality, this could be the one, but bear in mind you pay for the price – it’s a shade under £100, so quite expensive.
You get full USB connectivity, so can transfer from vinyl to USB quickly and easily using the appropriate software, and you also get all the cables needed to connect to whatever system you are using for the sound output. It is a thoroughly decent turntable, and one that we recommend you check out again, as it is very well-made and offers good performance. As with the above, however, we advise caution as it is also around £100. Still, if you want quality, you sometimes have to pay to get it!
ION has something of a reputation for being at the leading edge of technology development in USB turntables, and this model is a good example of why that should be. It’s a rather neat design – very modern and space-age – and offers some very interesting features. For example: while those we have seen so far connect physically to a sound system, this one can do that and also has Bluetooth capability. Hence, you buy yourself a wireless speaker – there are some great ones on the market at sensible prices – and away you go!
You can also pair it with, say, your mobile phone, and use a headset to listen in private. You get the full USB transfer capability, and it has RCA output too so you can link to your existing stereo system, and it has all three speeds – 33, 45 and 78rpm – so all your vinyl is compatible (although you will need a separate stylus if playing 78’s). If the idea of a Bluetooth turntable turns you on – and it is pretty clever – then this could be the one for you but, again, be aware it is close to £100 in price.
This is back to the standard fare, and it’s a pretty clever piece of kit. We are back to a model with built-in speakers, so you don’t need to worry about that, and although it comes with a full set of features, it is a pretty clunky design that doesn’t look quite as good as some of the others. Nevertheless, you get all the stuff you want – including auxiliary inputs so you can plug your other devices in and play through the turntable – and at a sensible price, too. If simplicity is what you want, and you’re not bothered about clever design, you might find this one to be right up your street.
What else do you get with this one? Well, it plays two speeds – no 78rpm which is not unusual – and it can convert your vinyl to digital using already installed software. It’s also got RCA output, so you can play on your existing stereo amplifier. It has a full set of controls so you can adjust your recording levels, and is very capable in that area. You can have this one for under £40, so it’s also pretty good value.
This is a novelty one, and is quite neat in fact. It is in the style of a briefcase, which when opened, reveals a portable record player. The outer design is a Union Jack finish, so it is very noticeable, and it would make a great gift for anyone who likes music and wants a record player for using on the move. There are other fun colours and designs, so if the flag is not for you, there should be something to suit. We should say that the emphasis with this one is on portable and fun; it’s not the greatest sound quality although it does have speakers within.
You get the full USB transfer capability, and it also has the software already installed, and it is light and easy to carry with you. The stylus is not as high quality as you might find with some of the more expensive models, but it’s fine for being able to play your LP’s wherever you go. It has all three speeds, and a headphone socket. As we said, it’s a great fun item – and a good idea for a gift – but if it’s quality music you want, there are better choices. You can buy this one for around £35.
It would appear that the briefcase style turntable is in vogue, so we thought we’d take a look at a couple more of these clever and versatile models. This one is a little more laid back than the previous – and is of an altogether higher quality, too – and is finished in a rather stylish black, which makes it look like that which it is imitating. It is suitably portable and has a nice feel to it, although as with all portable devices, some of the quality is lost in transit. Nevertheless, it remains worthy of inclusion in our top 10.
With this one you get all three speeds plus RCA output, so you can connect it to your existing sound system, although it comes with built in speakers so you can simply plug in and go. Also, it comes with a USB stick; this means you can transfer your vinyl to the stick without the need to connect to a computer – a very neat touch, especially if on the move. Would we buy it? If we were looking specifically for a briefcase model, it would certainly be on the list, but for a quality turntable there are other options, and it’s more than £50.
Back to ION, one of the leading names in this field, for their take on the briefcase type of turntable. Indeed, this one is pretty much identical to that above, although without the USB stick. It is a neat design in black, again like the above model, and comes with all three speeds – although a separate stylus is required if you want to play your 78’s. It has a quality playing arm and stylus – more so than the two above – and seems to be on another level from its direct rivals, as one would expect from the brand.
It has built-in speakers plus RCA output so you can link to your stereo system, and we like the fact it comes with a rechargeable battery so is truly portable. It’s easy to carry around – great for parties, for example, or for recording some of your mates’ vinyl – and easy to use, and has pretty good sound quality for one of these models. Easily the best of the briefcase designs, this one is around £60, so is also the most expensive.
10: ION Audio Max LP
So we finish with another model from ION; they have a comprehensive range of USB turntables, and a reputation for quality, and we have already reviewed a few of theirs on here. This is a conventional model – not a briefcase design – and looks the part in shiny black; it also has a very stylish dust lid design, so is attractive to look at too. You get all three speeds, quality built-in speakers, and you can also play back through your home stereo system if you wish. It comes with a headphone jack for private listening, too.
As with all of these, you can convert your vinyl to digital sound, and it comes with ION’s own software in place. It’s easy to use, very neat and a genuine quality item. It’s compatible with Mac and Windows, so whatever device you are using you will be fine. And that’s about it, really! It does what it says on the tin, as with all the USB turntables, although at around £80 is more expensive than some.
There you go, then: ten of the best USB record players on the market, each with its own attributes, and across many different types of design. If this has made you want to dust off your vinyl and listen to your favourite records, that’s great, but before we sum up, let’s have a quick look at the important features to look out for.
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How It Works
A USB record player is the modern, 21st century take on the traditional turntable, and that’s just about it! Except there’s something more about these surprisingly affordable devices that you will find both useful and interesting. That is, they can connect to your computer, so you can transfer your vinyl to your computer or other devices. Does that sound like it defeats the object? Well, yes and no: being able to digitise your vinyl means you don’t have to buy it again to play when out and about, and you can also connect most of these turntables to your sound system and they will play as a regular record player.
Most of these turntables have integrated speakers, so you don’t need to connect to your existing stereo if you don’t want to, and they are usually neat and sleek designs that will look good, too. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that these devices have been largely responsible for the revival in interest in vinyl; note how many artists now release a vinyl version alongside the traditional CD and streaming mode. So, dust off your vinyl, admire those gatefold sleeves, get yourself a record player and take a trip back in time – vinyl is alive, vinyl lives! Let’s have a look at the top 10 USB record players on the market today.
Important Features to Consider
So, you fancy a USB record player, and want to know how to make a choice: before we give you our tips, let’s have a look at what you need to consider when you’re choosing your model:
USB Conversion – the essential point, and all of the models above allows you to transfer your vinyl to digital.
Built-in Speakers – if you want to be able to use your turntable without connecting to a stereo system, then you need a model with speakers within. Note that some of the above don’t have this feature, so choose carefully.
Speeds – not all of these can play 78rpm records, so if your vinyl collection is truly vintage, you need one that does.
Portability – if you need one that you can carry around, check out the briefcase-style designs. These are very neat, and very portable, but may not give you the best sound.
There’s a few ideas as to what to look for – now all we need to do is wrap things up!
Let’s Wrap It Up!
USB record players are very popular, and we can see why. They allow you to resurrect your old vinyl, and get the best sound you can from your records. They cone in a variety of different styles, and at various prices, so it’s hard to pick. However, we have come to the conclusion that when it comes to sound products, quality is essential, and that’s why we recommend you check out the ION models further.
They may be more expensive than others on here, but this is a quality brand with a great reputation, and they are all well-built and provide excellent sound quality. So, buy yourself the best USB record player, and get that old copy of Sgt Pepper’s out of the loft!