PROS / This turntable features built-in speakers so you can listen to your records as you convert them.
CONS / The EZ converter software does not have audio tools to help clean up your conversions.
VERDICT / The Ion Archive offers high quality conversions and allows you to listen to your records while you convert them. This turntable is affordable and gives you features that many other turntables do not.
We were impressed upon first glance of the Ion Archive. The USB turntable has a natural wood finish on the tabletop and two built-in speakers on the front corners. The finish alone sets this converter turntable apart from the competition, but its quality LP to digital conversions is why the Ion Archive earns our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award. The Ion Archive is highly affordable compared to the rest of the turntables our lineup and offers high-quality conversions.
Recording & Playback
This vinyl converter turntable can play 33s, 45s and 78s. It also has an auto start/stop feature. When it's on, the record player stops the record when it reaches the end instead of continually spinning with the needle dragging on the record, wearing out both the needle and the record. The auto start/stop feature is especially convenient when converting records.
We digitized three different LPs to test the audio quality of the conversions and compared the converted LP to a digital download of the same content. We converted The Beatles' "Rubber Soul," Jack White's "Lazaretto" and a 45 of The Beatles' "Let It Be." The Jack White album was in pristine shape, but the other two records were old, scratched and the 45 was slightly warped. We used these records to emulate a real-world conversion scenario, assuming that not all of your records are in pristine condition.
For our first audio test we compared "Norwegian Wood" from the "Rubber Soul" LP to a digital download of the same content. The converted song had static at the beginning of the song, but as soon as the song kicked in, it was unnoticeable. The conversion had good volume compared to the downloads of other conversions, because conversions are generally quieter than the download. The LP conversion was a bit more thin and bright compared to the download. Tonally, it wasn't as warm , round or robust as the download, but overall, the quality was high.
We then digitized "Lazaretto" and compared the single to the digital download. Much like the "Norwegian Wood" comparison, there was noticeable static at the beginning of the song that became unnoticeable once the music kicked in. The main difference between our conversion and the digital download was the lack of bass in the recording. The drums were not thumping as hard and didn't have the depth as the download did. There is also a delay effect that is present on the opening line of the song that pans from left to right between headphones. Many turntables failed to replicate the digital panning, but the Ion Archive added all of the details over to the converted file. Overall, we were impressed with the quality of the conversion.
Finally, we digitized the 45 of "Let It Be." This was also a fairly high-quality conversion, especially considering the poor condition of the original LP. When the whole band joins in, we noticed some distortion and clipping in the audio. There was also static that could be heard throughout the recording, but the audio quality was higher comparably to most other turntables in our lineup. There are a few other turntables that performed slightly better than the Ion Archive in our conversion tests, but Ion Archive holds its ground if you are looking for high-quality conversions of your LPs.
One of the downfalls to using EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter is that there are no additional audio tools to help clean up your conversions after you record them. Programs such as Audacity allow you to use click-and-pop filters and other noise-removal tools to remove unwanted noise before exporting your audio file. You can also change the file extension so you can compress your digital LPs to create smaller file sizes. Outside of its simplistic nature, the only real feature that EZ Converter provides is the ability to adjust the input volume before you start to record.
The Ion USB turntable features built-in speakers if you don't have external speakers to connect to your turntable. If you want more volume from your turntable, you can use the included RCA cables to connect this turntable to an external source of speakers. The Ion Archive does not feature a headphone jack or a dust cover.
The Ion Archive vinyl to digital converter comes bundled with EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter Software . This software lets first-time users convert their LPs with ease. This software walks users step by step through the conversion process, prompting you to connect your turntable via USB, capturing the correct input volume for your conversion and even notifying you how and when to start the record. Once your conversion is finished, you can add metadata, such as song title, album name and other information, so you can keep track of your growing digitized library.
We converted one side of both of the 33s to assess auto-track detection within the EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter software. This feature detects silences between songs and splits the audio into separate tracks so your conversion doesn't end up being one long audio file.
There have been general concerns and complaints among consumers that this feature doesn't work well and that it doesn't split the songs during silences. We didn't experience any of those issues. This feature makes it convenient to digitize LPs because you don't have to manually stop and restart your conversion between every song. You can start your record and walk away and fill in the metadata when you come back. We were impressed with how simple the software was to use.
Help & Support
We received exceptional support from Ion when we contacted them. The phone menu was short and easy to navigate, and our support technician was helpful and addressed all of our questions.
You can also contact Ion via email. The Ion Archive is covered by a 90-day warranty starting on the day of purchase and comes with a user manual for both the turntable and the software.
Ion Archive is a great-looking turntable that creates high-quality conversions. It comes with software that walks you through the conversion process. With all of its extras, including built-in speakers and multiple playback speeds, it makes this turntable seem like a steal compared to the competition.