The 10 Best USB Turntables
This wiki has been updated 22 times since it was first published in April of 2016. Now that vinyl records are making a well-deserved comeback, you may want to dust off your collection and start playing them again. These turntables will not only let you hear that rich, warm, old-school sound that so many audiophiles love, they can also connect to your computer via USB, so you can convert your favorite tracks into MP3 or WAV files for on-the-go listening. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.
March 10, 2020:
A few of the models on our old list proved to be a little outdated, and either necessitated removal or an upgrade. The Sony on our previous list, for example, was upgraded to the Sony PSHX500 Hi Res, which offers superior digital quality despite still having a belt-driven motor. We also upgraded the old Ion model to the newer Ion Air LP, which offers Bluetooth connectivity for its vinyl playback. It's a nice modern feature, but unfortunately the company decided to stop innovating right there and the actual turntable could use some improvement.
The usual suspects can be found toward the top of the list, with the Audio-Technica AT-LP5 and the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB offering two particular approaches to archiving. Ultimately, the LP120 is a little more versatile for everyday use, but the LP5 can create truly lossless files for your digital storage. Just be mindful that these higher bitrate files also take up a lot more storage space on your computer.
Benefits Of A USB Turntable
The quality of sound on a vinyl record is what has made them so popular.
The quality of sound on a vinyl record is what has made them so popular. Vinyl records may be seen as the first form of lossless audio compression, as they do not change the audio during the process of recording. The process of creating a vinyl is the key to this. Unlike digital recording, which compresses the large raw files in order to be used on media like CDs, the recording on vinyl is done directly onto the master record, which is then copied. This process hasn't changed much since Thomas Edison's phonograph, and is what gives vinyl its lossless sound.
Using a USB turntable is a great way to capture this lossless audio and convert it to a digital file, which can then be used in various applications. DJing can be improved with lossless tracks, which are harder to find for the lesser known records most DJs search for to set themselves apart. A USB turntable allows DJs to sample rare records directly into digital programs.
The average user stands to benefit from this convenience as well. Adding a USB port to a turntable adds near-universal connectivity, meaning the music can be accessed from various applications, computers, and speaker systems that standard turntables can not.
Have USB Turntables Revolutionized Music?
Throughout musical history, some instruments have made such an impact as to change the direction of music itself. For instance, the introduction of the piano in the early 1800s forever changed the shape and direction of Western music. The piano remains a cornerstone of music to this day, largely due to the fact that it is a single instrument which replicates the entire orchestra's tonal range. Therefore, a composer with a piano can write a piece of music for any musician.
The changing use of the turntable has had a similar effect on modern music.
The invention of the electric guitar in 1931 caused similar ripples in the contemporary musical world. The electric guitar not only changed popular music, it actually changed the culture surrounding the music. Before the invention of the electric guitar, guitarists struggled to be heard over the rest of the band in dance halls. Devices like the resonator guitar provided some additional acoustic power, but it wasn't until the electric guitar was born that guitars came to the forefront of popular music. The ability to alter the sound in virtually limitless ways changed the direction of every form of contemporary music.
In 1971, the synthesizer generation began, thanks largely to the work of Wendy Carlos on the film score for A Clockwork Orange. Once again, music was changed forever. Synthesizer use has evolved and progressed to this day, and still drives much of popular music.
The changing use of the turntable has had a similar effect on modern music. Where the synthesizer allowed for the most minute aspects of a note to be changed to create different sounds and play styles, the turntable was an integral part of the birth of an entire genre of music. Without the use of the turntable, there would be no hip-hop.
A Man And A Turntable
While turntables have existed in one form or another for more than a century, their use has shifted over time. The most notable occurrence of this shift happened in the early 1970s, and centered around a young man named Clive Campbell, known by the stage name DJ Kool Herc.
This method became the blueprint for the musical genre we know today as hip-hop.
Growing up watching Jamaican DJs battle for audiences, Clive loved the ability of music to move a crowd. His father was a sound technician, and had all the equipment available when Clive was ready to explore. Clive decided on the stage name DJ Kool Herc, and started throwing back to school parties in the recreation room of his building in the Bronx, New York. He set up two turntables linked together in a way which allowed him to quickly switch between playing one record and the other.
Kool Herc began to notice that breakdancers attending his parties really enjoyed the musical breaks in the records he played. Herc began searching for music which emphasized these breaks. Herc would put two identical records on his turntables, cued up to the break of the song. When the first record reached the end of the break, he would switch to the second, which was cued back at the beginning. This allowed Herc to keep these musical breaks going as long as possible. This method became the blueprint for the musical genre we know today as hip-hop.
Yet hip-hop is not just the music, it is the culture surrounding the music. As set forth by Kool Herc and the other founders of hip-hop, the pillars of hip-hop included DJing, rapping, breakdancing, and graffiti writing. Hip-hop as a cultural phenomenon is now heavily studied in colleges, and may never have been introduced to the world were it not for DJ Kool Herc and his turntables.