Best USB Turntable Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best USB turntables you can buy in 2020.
Fact one: your vinyl collection is both valuable and vulnerable. Fact two: it has been handed down to you, at least in part, and lovingly added to over the years following many hours of crate rummaging. Fact three: replacing it would be nigh-on-impossible (see facts one and two). That's why preserving your tangible collection in the form of digital files is a good idea. Can you imagine hunting down your unique stash of records – complete with the distinct sonic nuances from each particular press – on streaming sites? No. Neither can we. Enter then, the USB turntable. The models here mentioned not only offer the option of ripping your records for digital safe-keeping, they sound great for the price, too.
Record-ripping turntables have been around for a while, but the Sony PS-HX500 can record up to DSD 5.6. Ergo, Sony calls it a ‘hi-res turntable’, so it’s not surprising that one of the first things we notice when lifting the Sony from its box is the bright yellow hi-res audio logo, sitting loud and proud on the plinth’s front-facing edge.
While the ripping feature hardly seems necessary to keep vinyl's resurgence in full swing, it does mean that those buying their favourite LPs won’t also have to head to a download site to get it in glorious high-resolution for their smartphone or portable music player here.
Invariably, some will jump at the chance to digitise their collection while others will be less bothered. If you belong to the second group, however, you’ll be interested to know that elsewhere the PS-HX500 behaves and looks very much like a typical turntable. A five-star What Hi-Fi? Award winner.
Read the full review: Sony PS-HX500
The attention to detail filled us with confidence before we even got around to listening to Audio Technica’s AT-LP5 turntable. Before laying that first record on its rubber-compound-crowned die-cast aluminium platter, we were expectant – and it didn't disappoint.
There’s the AT95EX cartridge, exclusively designed for this turntable and fitted to an AT-HS10 head shell for what Audio-Technica claims is a perfect balance for its tone arm.
More than all this though, it'll equip you with extra technology that for many people will prove extremely useful. Audio Technica's deck has nailed down what matters here – this is a turntable that is both a pleasure to use and to listen to.
Read the full review: Audio Technica AT-LP5
This is a semi-automatic, belt-driven turntable with a built-in phono stage. It even supports USB recording. And it costs around about £100. The Lenco L-85 is designed to be as user-friendly as possible – and it succeeds. Everything comes pre-fitted, including the moving-magnet cartridge, and there’s no need to set the counterweight, adjust the bias, or weigh anything.
The only adjustment you have to make is to reset the auto-return motion. Move the arm right to the end of the record and let go: it will calibrate itself and return to its armrest in one smooth motion.
There’s no need for special audio software or tricky laptop hook-ups – just plug a memory stick into the front panel’s USB port, hit the record button when you’re ready, and voila – you have an MP3 version of your vinyl record that you can play on your laptop or copy onto your smartphone. It'll only record as MP3 files, but remember this is a £120 turntable – it would be unrealistic to expect hi-res FLAC files from it.
Read the full review: Lenco L-85
One of the Dual MTR-75’s best features is that it’s fully automatic in operation. Press the start button on the turntable and the tonearm lifts, positions and lowers itself onto the record by itself.
Also topping the features list is the built-in moving magnet phono stage, so you can plug the MTR-75 straight into a pair of powered speakers. There’s a pair of switchable line level outputs available if you prefer using an external phono stage or the one built into your amplifier.
Dual also provides buttons to select between two speeds (33.3 and 45 rpm) and a toggle switch for choosing between 7in and 12in records.
Other features include that USB type B output for ripping records into digital files. It works smoothly; the recorded digital files sound a touch thin, but they have the same upbeat character as the turntable itself.
Read the full review: Dual MTR-75
Its plastic chassis, available in silver or black, wears a shiny, tasteful finish, and the streamline tonearm mechanics and hood fixings mean that, at a quick glance, Audio Technica's AT-LP60-USB deck could pass for a model worth twice the price.
A little DIY is involved in terms of setup – the die-cast aluminium platter needs positioning and the belt attaching (no tonearm adjustment is required) – but it’s not arduous enough to put off even the most clueless novice.
However, once up and running, operation is as effortless as using a CD player and recording from vinyl is a simple process too. Files can be ripped as 16-bit/44.1kHz or 48kHz WAVs by connecting your PC or laptop to the turntable’s USB type B output, then using the supplied Audacity software to process them.
Read the full review: Audio Technica AT-LP60-USB