We tested four USB turntables that cost less than $150, and the Sony PS-LX300 was our favorite. The tested conversion quality was on par with that of turntables costing almost twice as much, and the unit comes bundled with one of our favorite conversion programs: Sound Forge Audio Studio LE. If you are shopping on a budget and looking for a decent turntable to play records and convert them to MP3, this is a great option.
To test conversion quality, we converted entire sides of three LPs in various states of disrepair. We then used the software bundled with each product to repair cracks and pops associated with old and damaged vinyl. We cleaned up the converted files and compared the converted file with a downloaded MP3 of the same songs. The Sony turntable’s quality stylus and powerful conversion software produced better-than-average results in this test. The only turntables we reviewed with better quality conversion cost almost twice as much as the Sony PS-LX300.
Sound Forge Audio Studio isn’t the most user-friendly software, but its editing and repair tools for improving vinyl conversions are among the best we tested. It has a recording template that walks you step-by-step through the conversion process, and when you finish converting, the software asks you if you would like to apply an audio restoration tool. For example, you can use the editing tools to remove the silent gaps between tracks or to improve the sound of a converted track by boosting bass and treble frequencies to compensate for losses during conversion.
An important component of quality conversion is the stylus. The PS-LX300 had the best stylus of all the products we reviewed under $150. We searched a few online retailers to confirm replacements were available and found multiple sites selling replacements anywhere from $9 to $40. Some of the other budget turntables we tested, such as the Ion Air LP and TEAC TN100, have fixed cartridges that can’t be replaced.
Another feature that is helpful when converting vinyl to MP3 is a fully automatic tone arm. The Sony PS-LX300 is fully automatic: You press one button on the front panel, and the tone arm gently moves to the beginning of the record and drops the needle. When it reaches the end of a side, it lifts the needle and returns the arm to its resting place. Fully automatic operation lets you convert vinyl without constant surveillance and avoid the damage associated with manually moving the needle around a record. The PS-LX300 buttons and components didn’t feel as durable as those of the best turntables we tested, but nothing broke during testing.
Along with the software installation disc, this turntable comes with a USB cable, a rubber slipmat and an adapter for playing 45-rpm records. One packaging feature worth noting is that the belt doesn’t come attached to the motor. That can improve the life of the belt because it doesn’t get stretched out while the turntable sits in a warehouse. Installing the belt and aluminum platter is easy and gives you a glimpse into the inner workings of the turntable.
The Sony PS-LX300 is the best USB turntable we tested for less than $150. The stylus sounded great during our playback and conversion tests, and we had no problem repairing and improving the converted files with the included software. We reviewed a few turntables that feel much more durable, but plastic parts are normal with turntables at this price point.