Top five best USB turntables for 2021
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.
Pricing and recommendations correct as of January 2021.
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.
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.
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.