If you want to digitise your vinyl collection, but don’t want to pay a premium, then cheap USB turntables are for you. The turntables listed in this article will not blow minds and delight ears with their audio finesse – what they will do is make mp3s out of your vinyl. Simple enough really, and the USB turntable market has done a pretty good job of making this process relatively painless.
It’s important to stress that cheap USB turntables are essentially ‘tools’, and should not be considered hi-fi components. Their job is to convert vinyl to mp3, and they will do that well enough. After that, if you decide that vinyl actually is worth playing regularly, you will need to buy a more expensive record player to get better sound. Most people will be happy to play the occasional record on a cheap USB turntable, but regular users will want to spend a little more money to get a massive improvement in sound.
The sound quality of cheap USB turntables is often characterised as being a little thin. A common characteristic of cheap turntables in general is their cartridge is fixed to the tonearm. The included cartridge, also being cheap, is responsible for a great deal of the sound quality. Some slightly more expensive turntables have this option, which allows the user to upgrade to a cartridge that will do their music justice. An example of a highly affordable cheap cartridge that could be paired with a slightly-more-expensive turntable is a Shure M97xE or Audio Technica AT95e.
A common characteristic of cheap USB turntables is the materials they are constructed from – primarily plastic, for cost saving purposes. Plastic has always been frowned upon by the hi-fi community, as it transmits vibrations very well. This is a bad thing when you consider that the turntable platter and cartridge should stay as still as possible when playing a record, in order for the needle to be given the best chance of transmitting only what is on the record, and not the sounds of the surrounding environment. Of course, with cheap electronics, plastic is where the money is saved, and you will have to spend a few hundred dollars more to get something made of a more appropriate material for hi-fi.
Our List of Cheap USB Turntables Worth Purchasing
The Audio Technica AT-LP60 is my favourite bargain basement turntable, and the USB version provides the extra USB recording features. Audio Technica include the Audacity software, which is the best recording software around. It’s also free, and what I recommend for computer savvy people no matter what turntable they purchase.
The Numark TTUSB comes packed with the EZ Vinyl Converter software, which is super easy to use – more so than Audacity. Those not particularly skilled with computers will enjoy its easy to use interface. The Numark TTUSB does not have a cueing lever – that little device that makes lowering the tonearm on to the record much easier. If the user is used to manually cueing a record player, then this is no problem. New turntable users will find that there is a bit of a learning process, so use your least favourite records as practice when first using the turntable.
Don’t buy this cheap USB turntable if you own a Mac. Otherwise, the main attraction of this beast will be its vintage looks. I’m not convinced that Sony’s Audio Studio software, which comes packaged, is up to snuff compared to Numark’s offering or Audacity.
Which of the Cheap USB Turntables to Pick?
Of the listed cheap USB turntables, my picks would be the Audio Technica or Numark. Choose which based on software and your own computer skill. If you prefer the vintage looks of the Sony, you will still be well served. Cheap USB turntables are a good option for digitising your records, and you could consider selling those vinyl records for a little bit of extra coin and room in the attic.