What are the 3 Best USB turntables to digitize your vinyl collection?

by Bill Duffy - Read report

Stanton T.92
Pro-Ject Debut III
Numark TTUSB
CONCLUSION:
The 3 Best USB turntables to digitize your vinyl collection are the Stanton T.92, the Pro-Ject Debut III and the Numark TTUSB.
  • Background
  • Process
  • Comparison
  • Rate this Report
FACTS/BACKGROUND:
Over the past 10 years, MP3s have emerged as the dominant model for listening to and sharing music, overtaking traditional physical models like CDs, cassette tapes and vinyl records. Yet often it's difficult to find MP3s of high sound quality, and even more difficult to find MP3s of rare records. For those with vinyl collections, a USB turntable is certainly worth purchasing – with a USB turntable you can easily record the vinyl's audio and convert it to MP3 format using simple software. This allows you to preserve your music digitally, making it possible to listen on your computer or portable MP3 player.

Though many audiophiles criticize USB turntables – the sound quality isn't as high as analog turntables – the benefits ultimately outweigh the negligible sound quality difference. First off, to record from analog turntables requires specific sound cards or audio interfaces, and unless you are familiar with recording techniques, this may be an unnecessarily complicated process (bear in mind that the software packaged with USB turntables usually makes the digitizing process simple, inserting start and end points, even track and artist information). Second, USB turntables are among the most affordable on the turntable market – traditional turntables can run up to $3000, whereas USB turntables rarely price above $500.
PROCESS:
I started by researching how USB turntables work and the general different types of turntables available on the market. I then focused on specific components of turntables such as the drives (belt drives vs. direct drives), tone-arms and cartridges. I then narrowed my search to focus on positive USB turntable reviews and found several expert reviews favoring the turntables featured here. I then countered these positive expert reviews against consumer feedback on turntable forums, audiophile forums, and on online retail sites.
COMPARISON:
 Stanton T.92Pro-Ject Debut IIINumark TTUSB
CredibilityDirect-drive motor, turntable comes shipped with Cakewalk pyro Audio Creator LE, an intuitive, easy-to-use recording softwareBelt-drive motor (suspended from body to prevent vibration transmissions), turntable does not come with recording software though user manual recommends Audacity, a free recording software for Mac and WindowsBelt-drive motor, comes shipped with Audacity
UsabilityDustcover and high quality cartridge included. Rugged motor can withstand heavy vibrations and DJ scratching, software is easy to use, pitch control fader with DSP key lock to allow you to change tempo without affecting pitch, two start/stop switches, S-shaped tonearm for playback stability.Dustcover and high quality cartridge included. No extra features like the Stanton but supreme sound quality rated highest amongst USB turntables. Average quality cartridge included. Need to purchase dustcover separately. Comes with pitch control. Included preamp so no receiver necessary before hooking up to speakers. 1/8” stereo input allows you to connect cassette or CD for playback and recording. S-shaped tonearm for playback stability.
Pricing$300.00$350.00$85 ($115 w/ separately purchased dustcover)
Does Product Get Results?Highly praised in expert reviews and consumer feedbackHighly praised in expert reviews and consumer feedbackHighly praised in expert reviews and consumer feedback
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REASONING:
In deciding the 3 Best USB turntables, I used these key considerations to focus my research:
  1. Trustworthiness – Does the turntable use a belt drive or a direct drive? Does the turntable come with recording software?
  2. Usability – How is the quality of the turntable's build and sound? Does the turntable come with a dustcover? Does the turntable come packaged with a cartridge or must it be purchased separately? How easy is it to convert audio to MP3 format?
  3. Pricing – Does the turntable deliver at an affordable price?
  4. Performance - Does the Product Get the Desired Results?
While there were some other tangible factors in the selection process, and included in the discussion below, these four attributes illustrate the most important factors in the decision making process.

Stanton T.92


The Stanton T.92 my top choice among the 3 Best for its solid construction, wide-ranging features, ease of use and excellent sound quality. Unlike the other two turntables the Stanton T.92 has a direct drive motor – direct drive motors are more rugged and reliable than belt drive motors, able to withstand heavier vibrations without skipping. The Stanton comes shipped with a cartridge and dust cover, meaning that you won't have to make extra purchases on these, and the S-shaped tonearm provides playback stability. The Stanton is capable of 33, 45 and 78 RPM playback speeds, and its most unique feature is a pitch control fader with DSP key lock – meaning that you can change the tempo of whatever track you are playing without affecting the desired pitch. The Stanton T.92 comes shipped with recording software (Cakewalk's pyro Audio Creator LE) that is streamlined specifically to digitally archive various physical music formats, though the user manual also recommends using Audacity, a free recording software program. The only drawbacks to the Stanton T.92 are its lack of autocue and autostop features, but for its affordable price ($300) this turntable is an excellent and solid option for those seeking to digitize their vinyl collections.

Pro-Ject Debut III


For the second best USB turntable I chose another high-quality, well favored USB turntable on the market, the Pro-Ject Debut III. This attractive turntable comes with well-built components – a belt drive decoupled from the fiberboard plinth to reduce transmission of vibrations, aluminum headshell and tonearm, and a stainless-steel vinyl platter fitted with a felt mat. Like the Stanton this comes shipped with both a dustcover and cartridge – so despite its average price of $350, you save money not having to purchase these two components. The Pro-Ject Debut III is very easy to set up as well, only requiring a few simple steps before first use, and comes in six different colors. Many have noted that this is one of the only USB turntables to have true “audiophile” sound quality and the ease with which they were able to record audio from this turntable. However, drawbacks of the Pro-Ject Debut III are that it does not automatically ship with recording software (the user manual recommends downloading Audacity, a free software program for Mac and Windows), that it only plays at 33 and 45 RPM, and that it has a straight (instead of S-shaped) tonearm.

Numark TTUSB


For the third best USB turntable I chose the Numark TTUSB, a more affordable USB turntable that provides quality audio with some build concessions due to its price. The Numark has a belt drive motor and comes shipped with a cartridge, but it lacks a dustcover, requiring you to purchase this separately for approximately $30. Some have noted that the cartridge on the Numark TTUSB does not provide as high of sound quality as an audiophile-grade cartridge as seen on the Stanton or Pro-Ject, but it does come with an S-shaped tonearm, and many have actually given high praise for its sound quality (it would seem that beauty is in the ear of the beholder!). As noted the build is also not as high quality as the first two – it is mostly made of plastic except for the tonearm – but it does come with a preamp built-in, so there is no receiver necessary to hook this turntable up to your home speakers, and comes with pitch control like the Stanton. The Numark TTUSB comes shipped with Audacity, but a unique feature is its 1/8” stereo input, meaning that you can record not just vinyl, but cassette tapes, CDs or anything else that can be connected via this input. At the average price of $85, the Numark TTUSB is a much more affordable option than the Stanton or Pro-Ject and has its own set of features that make it worth being on 3 Best.

To recap, I put the Stanton T.92 turntable in first place for its solid construction, easy-to-use included software, excellent sound quality and unique playback speed/pitch control features. The Pro-Ject Debut III came in second for its top of the line sound quality and attractive design, but failed to take first place for lacking recording software and for having a straight tonearm (straight tonearms are more prone to skipping and distortion than S-shaped tonearms). Finally, the Numark TTUSB rounds up the 3 Best for its excellent price-to-quality ratio – despite not having the rugged direct drive motor of the Stanton, nor the sound quality or sleek design of the Pro-Ject, the Numark has a decent enough build, sound quality and unique features at a very affordable price.
Sam Ash Quikship Corp.