Top five best USB turntables for 2019
By Oliver Trebilcock
Transfer your treasured vinyl into digital files that will last forever with these great USB turntables that make it easy to do.
Listening to music on vinyl is a unique experience, but records are not without their drawbacks. They take up physical space and the more often you get your favourite records out to play them, the faster they’ll degrade in quality. You can’t take your collection out and about with you either. However, a USB turntable can help.
USB turntables allow you to plug your computer directly into them to make digital copies. The best ones can make high-quality recordings of your records without losing the detail of the original. Using the free software Audacity, or proprietary software that comes bundled with some USB record players, you’ll be able to split the recordings you make into individual tracks and play them on all your devices, whether it’s your computer, smartphone or multi-room audio system.
Our rigorous tests compare digital recordings made by turntables side by side with the original records, and we’ve picked out five of the best models for making digital copies here.
Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by taking out a £1 Which? trial.
Top five best USB turntables
This is a premium, high build quality record player that is one of the very best we’ve tested since the vinyl revival. Unlike some premium rivals, it’s very easy to use – suitable for beginners looking for a very high quality player with plenty of features. It’s manual-operation, with Bluetooth allowing you to stream music to wireless speakers if desired. It’s a truly outstanding package.
Another turntable with top audio quality that won't degrade your music when you transfer it into digital files. Although it doesn't come with its own software, we used Audacity to try out the USB connection and it passed our tests with flying colours. The warmth and detail of the tracks were transferred from the orignal vinyl to the digital version, so your favourite music will be preserved almost perfectly.
This turntable borrows a lot of its design cues from models used by DJs, but it would be just as at home in your living room as in a club. It's very reasonably priced too, giving top-quality performance in a mid-range package. We were impressed by its build quality and sound quality is preserved well when you transfer your records to digital.
If you're looking for value, then this is the standout choice. With sound quality only slightly down on the top-scoring models, and a price to rival some of the cheapest, this turntable will give you plenty of bang for your buck. It's fully automatic, which means that you just have to press one button to start the record spinning and get the needle into the groove. It comes with its own software for digitising records but we found it a little tricky to use. We'd recommend using Audacity software instead.
Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct at January 2019.
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And here are three USB turntables to avoid
The vinyl revival has breathed new life into a music format that was on its way to extinction, and along with all this newfound popularity has come a glut of mass-market record players to satisfy demand. Unfortunately, some manufacturers don’t seem too concerned about making their products good, as long as they can get them on shelves as cheaply as possible.
The worst record players we’ve tested sound so bad that we’d rather sit in silence than be subjected to their noise, and the digital copies they’ll make of your music will be no better. The table below rounds up some of the worst offenders.
USB turntables to avoid
This record player is almost as cheap as you can get, but unfortunately in this case it's not a worthwhile saving. The price may be good, but it's poorly put together. Sound quality is horrible even before you try to convert your music to a digital form. When you do, an irritating background hiss is added to the music - it's enough to completely ruin your treasured albums.
This large folding record player looks the part, but looks can be deceiving. When we tried to make digital versions of our records we found that the recordings were not up to scratch. On quieter tracks, the background rumbles and buzzing created by this player completely drown out the subtelties of some instruments. We wouldn't want to sit through an album's worth of this noise again.
Another temptingly cheap player that you'll want to avoid at all costs. To give it some credit, we didn't find that sound quality deteriorated much when we made digital copies of our records. However, it would have been hard for it to get much worse - our expert listeners could scarcely believe that such an innocent-looking device could produce sound this bad.
What software should you use?
Most USB turntables come with software, such as Audacity, that will convert your records into other music formats. Most typically, conversion software will allow you to split up tracks into separate audio files, search for album titles or artists online and name the applicable files. Some software will also help you clean up clicks or scratches in the recording and get rid of background noise.
If your turntable doesn’t come bundled with software it’s easy (and free) to download Audacity. We’ve also written a handy guide to digitising your records.
Are USB turntables worse for sound quality?
The short answer is not much any more. When USB turntables first started appearing in shops the vinyl industry was on the wane. They were marketed as a niche tool for people to digitally archive their soon-to-be-obsolete records. Because of this, early USB models tended not to focus on high-quality sound, and were designed more to be cost effective and convenient to use instead.
Over the past 10 years, as vinyl sales have started to soar, hi-fi manufacturers have slowly bought into the USB turntable market and started producing models that both sound good and allow you to digitise your records easily.
The crème de la crème of audiophile brands still tend not to put USB connections in their turntables as this would result in increased costs, and they would rather focus on sound quality. However, these days you can choose from a range of USB models with excellent sound, as the top table above shows.