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1 October 2020

Top five best USB turntables for 2020

Transfer your treasured vinyl into digital files that will last forever with these great USB turntables that make it easy to do. 
USB turntable
OT
Oliver Trebilcock

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, try Which? for instant access to the table results and access to all our reviews.

Top five USB turntables

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75%
Best Buy
£269.00
Reviewed

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 original vinyl to the digital version, so your favourite music will be preserved almost perfectly.

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72%
Best Buy
£179.99
Reviewed

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.

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70%
Best Buy
£240.00
Reviewed

This turntable is designed to be as easy to use as possible, but still sound great. It's a rare model that manages to succeed at both. It will do your record collection justice when playing, and it manages to make good-quality digital copies too.

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67%
£345.66
Reviewed

This is a direct-drive turntable, which means it has no belt and records spin up instantly. It’s the brand’s higher-end model, with a stylish design including an aluminium front plate and carbon fibre tonearm. Sound quality is excellent, with clear vocals, enjoyable bass and energetic drive. As is very common with USB turntables, digital recordings are more limited and reserved, but it’s a lovely package overall.

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66%
£489.00
Reviewed

This is a 'proper hi-fi' solid wood USB turntable and its standout feature is digitising vinyl records to your computer. Digitised records of many USB turntables, even at the premium end, typically sound significantly worse than through the player. Here, the difference is much narrower, so it’s a good benchmark of what to expect without spending thousands on equipment. Sound is well balanced, Bluetooth connects directly to wireless speakers and the rarer 78rpm record speed is supported.

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Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct at September 2020.

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And here are the 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 the worst offenders.

USB turntables to avoid

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43%
Don't buy
£99.00
Reviewed

The rough and muddy sound quality of this popular low-cost turntable is the least of its issues. There’s substantial background buzz throughout playback, and there’s wobble and pitch instability too. And it’s even worse on digital recordings – which are far too quiet with even more background noise. It’s also awkward to use, so avoid an expensive mistake.

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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.

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