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If you’re serious about sound quality, chances are you’ve got a growing record collection that you enjoy on a nice home audio system. But, vinyl has one drawback: it’s the least portable music format available, which means you can only listen to your LPs at home.
The best compromise is to get a USB turntable, which can be plugged into your computer, and allows you to digitize your vinyl. Digital versions of your records will not sound exactly the same as the actual album, but you’ll get the good (an analog source of an album you like) along with hiss, clicks, and pops, which you can clean up later if you like.
In most cases, USB turntables need to be connected to your machine with a cable, but some can digitize vinyl directly onto a flash drive. You can carry around the digital versions of your albums on a high-resolution music player, your phone, or listen to them on your computer.
One of the biggest benefits to using a USB turntable is making backups of your albums in case one gets damaged, or borrowed by a friend. At the very least, you’ll have a high-quality digital version of your favorite records you can listen to over and over without wearing out the grooves.
What Are the Best USB Turntables?
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best USB turntable for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Preamp: A preamp amplifies the sound coming from your turntable, so it’s easier to hear through a stereo receiver. All of the record players we’ve selected have a built-in preamp, which means you can connect them directly into your receiver, even if it doesn’t have a phono input.
You can also plug these record players into a pair of active (powered) speakers, and have a compact, high-end audio system.
Speed Controls: Every turntable in this guide can albums at 33/3RPM (rotations per minute) and 45RPM, so you can play full length albums and singles.
Upgradable Cartridge: We only chose record players that allow you to swap out their cartridge or needle, so you can upgrade your system over time, or replace them after years of use.
Automatic vs Manual: This guide features a mix of automatic and manual turntables. Automatic record players have physical buttons that will start your record player, and drop the needle on the right spot. Manual turntables require you to physically pick the needle up, and drop it on the record by yourself.
BEST OVERALL: Audio-Technica AT-LP60
Audio-Technica’s AT-LP60 is our top pick because of its convenience features, which add up to create a turntable that’s easy to use and sounds great.
Buttons along the front-side of the turntable allow you to raise and lower the needle, start or stop the platter from spinning, and change speeds from 33/3RPM and 45RPM. A lever on the top of the turntable lets you select whether you’re playing a 12-inch record or 7-inch single, which will determine where the needle falls when you hit the “Start” button.
The AT-LP60 comes with an Audio-Technica cartridge with a replaceable needle, but it doesn’t have a replaceable cartridge. Its body is made out of a die-cast aluminum, which the company says reduces distortion caused by vibrations.
If you’re new to digitizing vinyl, Audio-Technica includes recording software with this turntable, so you don’t have to get it yourself. The AT-LP60 is an all-in-one-box solution that reduces the pain points of playing and backing up records.
BEST FOR DJS: Pioneer DJ PLX-500-K
Pioneer DJ’s PLX-500-K is a DJ turntable that also has a USB port for digitizing vinyl.
This isn’t a fully automatic turntable, which means you have to physically lift the needle and drop it down on the track you’d like to play. You can change between 33/3RPM and 45RPM by pushing a button on the top of the table, though.
On the right-hand side you’ll see a tempo controller, which allows you to raise or lower its speed by 8%, which is traditionally done to sync up two songs during a mashup. Pioneer DJ also says you can use this turntable to scratch (move the record forward and backward) records, although that’s not advised if you want to keep your collection in perfect shape.
Pioneer DJ bundles this table with one of its own cartridges, which can be fully replaced and upgraded later on. It also packs in the rekordbox dvs DJ software, which allows you scratch over pre-recorded samples. This software cannot be used to digitize your records.
Finally, the PLX-500-K comes with a dust cover that have a “sleeve stand,” which allows you to display an album’s artwork while you’re playing the record. It’s not purpose-built for digitizing records, but Pioneer DJ’s PLX-500-K has features the other turntables we’re recommending can’t match.
AUDIOPHILE PICK: Denon DP-200USB
Denon’s DP-450USB is the ultimate tool for digitizing your records, and it doesn’t even require a computer.
It’s a semi-automatic turntable, which means you can start and stop the platter from spinning by pressing buttons, but need to manually lift and lower the needle. You can switch between three speeds: 33/3, 45, and 78rpm, by twisting a dial on top of the DP-450USB’s deck.
This record player has a built-in phono preamp, so you can use it with any home theater equipment or speakers right out of the box. Denon pairs this table with a phono cartridge, but you can swap it out with another one if you prefer.
Denon clearly spent a lot of time optimizing the DP-450USB to get the best possible sound. It has a built-in equalizer to manage bass, midrange, and treble, an S-shaped tonearm that ensures the needle falls directly in the center of your record’s groove, and a weighted platter that’s operated by a sensor that continually monitors its speed. All of these tweaks are built into the turntable, so you don’t have to manage a thing.
Most USB turntables digitize your records by connecting the deck to a PC or Mac. The DP-450USB has a USB port on the front of the table. Plug in a flash drive, hit the record button (choose between MP3 and WAV formats), and drop the needle. If you want to edit your digital audio files, you can plug the flash drive into your computer once the record has been fully digitized.
Denon’s DP-450USB offers the best, easiest way to digitize your records without any loss of audio quality.
4. ENTRY LEVEL: Sony PS-LX310BT Belt Drive Turntable
Sony’s PS-LX310BT offers most of the same features as an audiophile USB turntable at a substantially lower price.
The automatic turntable has a phono preamp inside, so you can connect it to any set of powered speakers or home theater receiver without an extra accessory. The PS-LX310BT features an aluminum platter, which will keep your records stable, reducing vibrations. Its aluminum tonearm improves tracking (the needle’s ability to stay perfectly centered in a record’s groove) for optimized performance.
On the front of your deck you’ll find start and stop buttons, plus an extra one that lets you raise or lower your needle. Two switches on top of the PS-LX310T let you switch between 33/3 and 45rpm speeds, and specify if you’re playing a 7-inch or 12-inch record. Finally, there’s a Bluetooth button on the lower left-hand side of the turntable, so you can connect it to a pair of wireless speakers.
This record player’s USB port is on the back, so you can keep it connected to your computer discreetly. Sony indicates that you can digitize your records into MP3s, but you can select lossless files like FLAC, ALAC, or AIFF if you use the right software.
The PS-LX310BTs audio and technical features make it the best USB turntable under $200 by a longshot.