12 Best (and Worst) USB Turntables Tested
In an age of digital music, vinyl is experiencing a resurgence. More than 14 million records were sold in 2017, an increase of 9 percent over the previous year, according to Nielsen. Consumers have rediscovered the joys of listening to albums just as their parents or grandparents did. However, many of today's turntables have a modern twist: a USB port that lets you plug the player into your PC so you can digitize your vinyl-bound music and take it with you.
Here are eight USB turntables that will not only play your vast collection of Whitesnake and Led Zeppelin albums, but also let you transfer them to a digital format and download them to your phone, tablet or computer. We tested each turntable and rated all of them based on design, ease of use, sound quality and price.
The AT-LP5 has the quality to unleash the fidelity of records that less expensive turntables can't match. With full bass, midrange and treble, you'll hear details through this direct-drive model that you miss with entry-level units. The audio quality translates to both more-enjoyable listening and better digital files.
The LP5 ships with a copy of Audacity, the free audio recording and editing software for PC, Mac and Linux, to help you make digital versions of your records. However, you'll need to work to get the LP5 set up, from attaching the cartridge to adjusting the counterweight (don't worry — a video from Audio-Technica walks you through the process).
You'll find other quality turntables that sell for a bit more, such as the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon USB, but the LP5 holds its ground against the competition.
Key SpecsDrive Method: Direct drivePorts:Stereo RCA, USB outputsPreamp: YesSpeeds: 33 1/3, 45 RPMSize: 17.7 x 13.9 x 6.1 inches
If you like to play with your records — as in tweak the speed or pitch and even reverse direction — the AT-LP120BK-USB is the deck for you. Thanks to its excellent accuracy out of the box, this direct-drive unit doesn't need many adjustments, but it can be fun to change the numerous settings anyway.
The AT-LP120 produces full bass and a big overall sound — better than Audio Technica's entry-level AT-LP 60, though not as detailed as the company's LP-5. The LP120 ships with a copy of Audacity to help you make digital versions of your records. This model is a bit of a beast compared to other turntables, weighing in at 23.5 pounds and measuring 17.2 x 13.9 x 6.1 inches.
Drive Method: Direct drivePorts: Stereo RCA, USB outputsPreamp: YesSpeeds:33 1/3, 45, 78 RPMSize: 17.2 x 13.9 x 6.1 inches
If you're just getting started with vinyl, the LP60 makes a good choice, offering a great balance of price and performance. The fully automatic belt-drive unit comes preassembled — just plug it in and hit start to enjoy the rich sound of your records. The LP60 delivers good bass and full vocals through its built-in preamp; for better sound, you can bypass the preamp and use your own amp.
The LP60 lacks the features of more-expensive turntables — it doesn't offer any tracking adjustments, for example — but if your main goals are ease of use and transferring vinyl to digital, it gets the job done. It ships with a copy of Audacity to help you make digital versions of your records. Key SpecsDrive Method: Belt drivePorts: Stereo RCA, USB outputsPreamp: YesSpeeds: 33 ⅓, 45 RPMSize: 14.2 x 14 x 3.8 inches
With good bass and solid all-around sound, the Fluance RT80 represents a bargain at $200 — if you can do without a USB port. Its modern, minimalist style looks sharp as the records go 'round. It ships with an Audio Technica AT91 cartridge, which you can upgrade if you want more treble and sharpness.
Unlike many lower-cost turntables, the RT80 requires a bit of setup, including installing and properly balancing the counterweight. But once you've got it properly aligned, it's simple to use.
Because this turntable lacks a USB output, you'll need an RCA-to-USB adapter to record LPs to MP3 on your computer.
Drive Method: Belt drivePorts: Stereo RCAPreamp: YesSpeeds: 33 1/3, 45 RPMSize: 16.5 x 13.8 x 5.5 inches
Innovation Technologies Victrola Nostalgic Aviator Wood 8-in-1 Turntable
The Victrola 8-in-1 is a jack-of-all-trades: Not only does it play records, but it also serves as a hub for all your audio, including AM/FM stereo, MP3s, CDs and even cassettes. The large, all-in-one unit resembles a mid-20th century console radio, but with a touch of the 21st century in a display that shows the input and volume level.The Victrola's internal speakers sounded the best of any turntable we tested, though it still wasn't as full as a good pair of stereo speakers. The unit includes a USB stick that you can record audio to, whether that be vinyl, cassette or CD — all you need to do is press record. Just don't dance too much when listening to a record, as we found that LPs were prone to skip.Key Specs
Drive Method: Belt drivePorts: USB, Bluetooth, stereo RCA, 3.5mm auxiliary inputs, headphone outputPreamp: YesSpeeds: 33 ⅓, 45, 78 RPMSize: 20.4 x 12.1 x 12 inches
Credit: Innovation Technologies
Ion Archive LP
If your goal is to create digital versions of your LPs, the Ion Archive LP is the easiest and most cost-effective way to get the job done. The included EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter software is much simpler to use than Audacity, the standard software used for transferring vinyl to digital; this software walks you through the entire process and can even automatically split tracks.The resulting files sound good, but not great, lacking the detail of more-expensive units. If you're planning to listen to your vinyl, you should spend more money for a better system. The Archive's built-in speakers produce tinny sound with little bass, and using the RCA stereo output improves sound quality only moderately . The unit doesn't come with a dust cover, either.Key SpecsDrive Method: Belt drivePorts: Stereo RCA, USB outputsPreamp: YesSpeeds: 33 ⅓ and 45; 78 RPM (with separate stylus)Size: 16 x 14 x 3.5 inches
When you're ready to experience the real potential of vinyl — the full fidelity and warmth of analog audio — but you can't stomach paying $450 or more, the Teac TN-300SE is a great step forward. Available in black or walnut, the unit follows the minimalist aesthetic that many higher-end turntables favor these days, and it looks like it costs more than it does.The TN-300SE ships with an Audio Technica AT95E cartridge and produces full bass and balanced mid and treble tones; while it can't match the detail of Audio Technica's LP5, it's light-years better than players we listened to that cost less than $200. It's not plug-and-play, though, as you need to install the cartridge (easy) and install and adjust the counterweight (more challenging). The Teac doesn't ship with recording software, either, but you can download a free copy of Audacity. Key SpecsDrive Method: Belt drivePorts: Stereo RCA, USB outputsPreamp: YesSpeeds: 33 ⅓, 45 RPMSize: 21.25 x 17 x 8.5 inches
The aptly named Nomad is best for listening on the go. This retro-style portable turntable comes in a vinyl-wrapped wood cabinet with built-in speakers, a headphone jack and an auxiliary input; it even has a handle for easy carrying. It can spin records at 33 1/3, 45 and 78 rpm. The Nomad ships with Audacity audio-editing software for LP-to-digital conversions. Don't expect to experience the full fidelity of vinyl. The speakers sound tinny and weak; if you use the auxiliary output to listen through your own speakers, the preamp is heavy on bass. This turntable's small platter doesn't support the outer edges of 12-inch records, resulting in a lot of wobbling when you're listening to the first few tracks. Overall, the Nomad is more about nostalgia than good sound.Key SpecsDrive Method: Belt drivePorts: 3.5mm auxiliary input; stereo RCA, 3.5mm headphone, USB outputsPreamp: YesSpeeds: 33 1/3, 45, 78 RPMSize: 17 x 13 x 4 inches
Victrola Portable Bluetooth Turntable
If we've learned one thing in these turntable reviews, it's that suitcase models under $100 aren't worth it. Given that albums generally cost $20 or more new, you should probably invest more in the device that will play them.
The Victrola portable Bluetooth turntable proves the point. It skips occasionally, and the built-in speakers are weak and tinny; even through an external speaker, this Victrola produces little bass.
It offers Bluetooth (so you can stream music from your phone) and other features but doesn't have a USB output, so you'll need to add a USB/RCA adapter to record LPs to MP3. If you're going to spend money to add that feature, you should spend it on a better overall unit instead.
Drive Method: Belt drivePorts: Stereo RCA, headphone out; Bluetooth, 3.5mm inputsPreamp: YesSpeeds:33 1/3, 45, 78 RPMSize:16.7 x 7.3 x 12.8 inches
1byone Vintage Turntable
1byone's vintage turntable is heavy on nostalgia, with its suitcase design and low price, but unless you're also into AM-quality sound, you'll want to pass. The unit skipped frequently during playback, and its speakers produced tinny and thin sound. This turntable comes with handy features such as Bluetooth, and you can connect it to an external speaker. But you can get a much better record player for just a bit more money, such as the Ion Archive. This 1byone model also lacks a USB output, so you'll have to add a USB-to-RCA adapter to record LPs to MP3.
Drive Method: Belt drivePorts: Stereo RCA, headphone out; Bluetooth, 3.5mm inputsPreamp: YesSpeeds:33 1/3, 45, 78 RPMSize: 13.8 x 10.0 x 5.1 inches
Jensen's compact record player harkens back to the inexpensive models many kids had in the 1970s, and the thin and tinny sound from the built-in speakers will remind you of listening to an AM radio (or your phone's speakers, to update the reference). The retro-style unit includes a headphone jack and RCA stereo output to bypass the speakers, both of which slightly improve the sound.The JTA-320 includes a knob for adjusting pitch control — an unusual feature for a cheap turntable, but it turned out to be needed: The model was playing at more than 34 rpm instead of 33 ⅓ out of the box. Even after I adjusted it closer to the appropriate speed, the platter had trouble spinning at a consistent speed. Recordings done through the USB output, using Audacity sound-editing software, lacked bass. If you're new to vinyl, do yourself a favor and spend a little more money to get a lot more enjoyment. Vinyl lovers, this one's a hard pass. Key SpecsDrive Method: Belt drivePorts: 3.5mm auxiliary input; stereo RCA, 3.5mm headphone, USB outputsPreamp: YesSpeeds: 33 1/3, 45, 78 RPMSize: 13.8 x 13.4 x 6.4 inches