Owning one of the best USB turntables gives you an easy way to digitize your music collection, or just to enjoy your vinyl records in new ways, through modern speakers and headphones.
Being able to make a backup copy of an LP that comes directly from the surface of the record itself, capturing some of the warmth and personality of the vinyl experience but hearing it through digital speakers or your smartphone, can be a great way to add an extra dimension to your music listening, or at least an extra layer of convenience.
And the best thing is you don’t need to spend much money to get one of the best USB turntables. A decent model will set you back in the neighborhood of $150, while spending twice that will get you a really top-end device.
Look out for features such as Bluetooth, and a decent audio jack for headphones. Listening to your records directly requires a preamp connection, and of course you’ll need speakers too.
Preserving old media by digitizing it is a popular pastime, so why not check out our lists of the best VHS to DVD converters and cassette to MP3 converters too. And once you’re done converting, you may need some of the best audio editing software too.
1. Audio-Technica LP120: Best USB turntable overall
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The Audio-Technica LP120 has all the important playback and design features we recommend you look for if you plan to use your turntable frequently. It also produced the most accurate analog-to-digital conversions in our tests. The price is steep for people shopping for their first turntable, but if you plan on listening to your vinyl collection regularly, the investment is well worth it.
Audio-Technica bundles the LP120 with Audacity, the best conversion software we reviewed. Audacity has all the tools you need to properly record, edit and repair audio files. In our tests, the noise and pop filters did a good job of removing unwanted sound, and the equalizer allowed us to boost the outlying treble and bass frequencies, which can degrade during conversion. It also has volume normalization tools to help boost weak input signals and keep the volume consistent.
The LP120 is missing a few of the newest design features like Bluetooth connectivity and a headphone output with volume control. However, these features are replaced by a built-in phono preamp that lets you connect the turntable to any audio system or speaker that has RCA or 1/8-inch auxiliary inputs. It also comes with a professional-level cartridge (the piece that holds the needle) and removable headshell (which holds the cartridge) that are easy to find replacements for when the time comes.
2. Sony PS-HX500: Best turntable for Hi-Res audio conversion
The Sony PS-HX500 is the go-to USB turntable for anyone that wants to keep their analogue to digital conversions at the highest quality. That's because unlike like most of the competition this turntable will convert to Hi-Res audio.
That means you can have both WAV and DSD file types which offer super high resolution playback on your digital device. Despite the complex quality of the files the software itself is relatively easy to use. This simplicity continues in the minimal look of the turntable which may be too basic for some, but enjoyably clean for others – it all depends on what you're going for. What does remain minimal is price, with a decent tag for what you get.
The built-in soundstage means you won't need a preamp but the sounds from this setup does lack a little depth. But since you can go via a preamp if you want, thanks to a phono out, this gives you that option for better sound if you need. The basic cartridge can also be upgraded to allow for even better quality. A great turntable for beginners and those that want to upgrade and improve as they do.
3. Audio-Technica LP60BT: Best Bluetooth turntable
The Audio-Technica LP60BT is a super simple to use turntable that rather uniquely packs in Bluetooth connectivity. That means you can connect wireless headphones or speakers for easy listening without the faff of wires.
The tonearm is automatic meaning it drops the needle at the beginning of the record and returns to its resting place when it reaches the end of each side – ideal if you're wirelessly listening from a distance.
Th LP60BT turntable is bundled with Audacity, which is our favorite conversion software. It’s easy to use and has all the tools you need to clean up noisy recordings, including the crackles and pops associated with older records, as well as edit tracks.
This model has excellent playback and design features, and it produced some of the most accurate conversions. During our tests, the conversions its high-quality Audio-Technica cartridge created consistently sounded good and natural.
4. House of Marley Stir It Up: Best sustainable design turntable
If you want a good looking turntable that's also totally sustainable then the Stir It Up option from the House of Marley is for you. This not only looks great with that bamboo wooden upper, hemp based material covered lower and brushed finish tonearm – but it's also affordable.
Despite the beginner level price this manages to punch sonically well above that. The built-in preamp is another beginner feature which means this can output directly to speakers or headphones. In fact the headphone port is conveniently placed right there at the front for easy access. There is also a Bluetooth equipped variant that will let you listen wirelessly, if you want that and don't mind spending a bit more.
The Audio-Technica cartridge this comes with can be upgraded for an affordable way to enhance audio. This also outputs to a preamp if you want to enhance sound even more that way. That said, the quality is decent especially at this price. The USB output for analogue to digital conversion is just a really impressive bonus at this price.
5. Ion Audio Air LP: Best affordable USB turntable
The Ion Audio Air LP is a super affordable turntable that still offers USB conversion and a top selection of input and output options. Despite that low price this even offers Bluetooth output for wireless connectivity with headphones and speakers.
Bluetooth transmission doesn’t sound as good as a wired connection, but it’s more convenient and allows to you listen at a distance. For conversion work there's the EZ Vinyl Converter software which is easy to use with a step-by-step guide. Although volume normalization would have been a nice addition here.
There are a few durability concerns with this turntable, but that’s normal in the less-than-$100 price range. There are too many plastic parts and the cartridge didn’t perform well in our conversion tests. We suggest upgrading the cartridge if you plan to use this turntable to convert a vinyl collection. Despite its shortcomings, this is the best turntable for less than $100.
Why Trust Us
We used a research and testing process that simulated, as closely as possible, how a typical consumer uses a USB turntable. Our final product recommendations are based on our impressions of the turntables and their accompanying software gathered during hands-on testing. We’ve evaluated and compared USB turntables for seven years, and in that time, we’ve identified the important features that make one model better than another.
Side-by-side comparison is the most important part of our review process, but we also scour the internet for relevant articles and interview industry professionals to stay up to date with the latest trends in the world of USB turntables. For example, we spoke to Jeremy Fillis, a professional DJ and the store manager of Guitar Center in Salt Lake City. We asked him what feature on a USB turntable is most important for creating quality conversion and playback, and he said, “I always tell customers to upgrade to a higher quality needle.” That’s one of the reasons we recommend turntables that have a replaceable headshell and cartridge.
How We Tested
We gathered a handful of records in various states of disrepair so we could test how well the turntables converted under a variety of conditions. We connected each turntable to our test computer using the same cable and used the software bundled with each product.
Once we connected the turntable and the software was ready to record, we played an entire side of a record and converted the songs to MP3. We then compared the converted songs to a digital download and noted discrepancies in stereo imaging and volume. Our final conversion quality grade is based on how accurate the converted file sounded compared to the digital download.
We awarded higher scores to turntables with bundled programs that are easy to use and have tools that improve recording quality. We preferred programs with step-by-step instructions that make the conversion and cleanup processes as simple as possible.
In our last test, we evaluated Bluetooth connectivity on turntables that feature it. We plugged each one into a Bluetooth speaker with an aux input and quickly switched back and forth between the wired and wireless connections to find out how much fidelity was lost in the wireless transmission.
How Much Does a USB Turntable Cost?
The most important factor when deciding how much to spend on a USB turntable is how much you’re using it. If you plan to digitize a vinyl collection and rarely use it again, you could spend between $100 and $200 to get a turntable with a good cartridge and software. If you plan to use the turntable to listen to a vinyl collection on a daily or weekly basis, we recommend spending around $300. For that price you can get features like a direct drive motor, anti-skating and a counterweight to ensure playback is consistent and the turntable doesn’t ruin your records.
Important Features to Consider When Shopping for USB Turntables
The two primary drive methods for turntables are direct drive and belt drive. Direct drive turntables offer more consistent playback speeds and are more durable because the motor is directly connected to the platter.
Belt drive turntables create a bit less noise in the conversion process because of the disconnect between the drive motor and platter. However as belts start to stretch and wear out, they can slip and cause inconsistent playback speeds.
We prefer direct drive turntables since you can remove the extra noise they create with audio repair tools.
Replaceable Headshell & Cartridge
All the turntables we tested have replaceable cartridges. However, they vary in size and connection type, so it can be hard to find the right one, especially if you shop online. When you purchase a turntable with a detachable headshell, you can choose a headshell that accommodates a wide range of cartridges made by multiple brands.
If you are serious about conversion and playback fidelity, upgrading a cartridge and headshell is the fastest and easiest way to get noticeably better results.
Audio transmitted over a Bluetooth connection doesn’t sound as good as audio sent over a wired connection. However, it gives you the freedom to move your speakers without worrying about a cable. As Bluetooth speakers improve in fidelity, so will the transmission of audio from an analog source like a turntable.
Don’t Need USB?
All the turntables we tested have a USB connection for converting your vinyl collection to MP3, but if you don’t intend to use the conversion feature, you can get a similarly priced turntable with better peripheral components.
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