Best Cheap Turntables
With the music industry in flux and CD sales falling daily, the full, rich sound of vinyl records is sparking a replay for this "old" media. The MP3's floating around online are generally poor quality and don't match the warmth of a record, so more consumers are starting to invest again in vinyl. This surge of new record buyers has generated a need for cheap turntables for casual listeners. Although we mention a few affordable analog turntables in this buying guide, our focus is on good quality USB turntables costing less than $150.
Our Top Pick
Ion Audio TTUSB 10 Review
Experts and users rave about the deal you get with the Ion Audio TTUSB 10 (starting at $125). With anti-skate and tonearm counterweight adjustment, users' records are safe from the wear and tear that would occur in the absence of either critical feature. CNET finds that the lack of unnecessary features is a blessing with this simple but capable turntable.
Many Ion Audio TTUSB 10 reviews on Amazon.com are upbeat about the bundled software, which includes Audacity and a program called Gracenote. In an Ion Audio TTUSB 10 review, one user says Gracenote is "remarkable" because it actually names the tracks for him without having to enter anything manually. This type of feature is rare with USB turntables overall, as most software forces users to split tracks and name each one themselves. ION Audio TTUSB 10 reviews by CNET experts are less enthusiastic about the software package, saying the basic software is too simple and the advanced is too complex. CNET notes, however, that the ION Audio TTUSB 10 has decent sound and recording quality, although an ION Audio TTUSB 10 review in Everythingusb.com is less impressed with the sound quality.
While the features and software included make this USB turntable a solid package overall, and probably the best cheap buy out there, its plastic parts and lack of automation set it a notch below several higher-end models.
Numark TTUSB Turntable Review
Numark's TTUSB (starting at $90) turntable gives users many essential features, such as a moving magnet cartridge, anti-skate adjustment, and an offset tonearm. The built-in 78 rpm software support lets users digitize 78's without a hassle, as a Numark TTUSB review notes on Amazon.com. Like many other cheap USB turntables, the Newmark TTUSB features Audacity software for digitizing vinyl. As one Numark TTUSB reviewer writes on Numarkturntables.com, users can even digitize old cassette tapes using a 1/8-inch jack connector.
In a Numark TTUSB review on Epinions, a user writes that the MP3's created from vinyl spinning on this platter are the same quality as MP3's made from ripping a CD. Although there's always a slight loss of quality from the original recording when creating an MP3 on any device, the Numark TTUSB does the job at least as well as others. That said, another Numark TTUSB review on Epinions suggests upgrading to a better needle in order to improve the sound quality.
The Numark TTUSB boasts solid construction for the price, although it doesn't measure up to the steel design of more expensive models. But consumers looking for a cheap solution to digitizing vinyl or just listening to records will be pleased with the value-to-price ratio.
Ion Audio iPTUSB Portable Review
While Ion Audio iPTUSB reviews by CNET experts praise this cheap turntable, consumers don't always agree. In an Ion Audio iPTUSB review, CNET says the 7-inch record adapter and lightweight portability (it will run on six D-cell batteries) are huge pluses, and the audio quality is impressive for a turntable this size. On the other hand, the Ion Audio iPTUSB Portable uses a ceramic cartridge and lacks a counterweight adjustment, which poses a risk to your record collection. An Ion Audio iPTUSB Portable review on Amazon.com bemoans the lackluster sound and says the turntable picks up ambient noise when ripping vinyl. Other gripes focus on poor connectors and a plastic tonearm that an Ion Audio iPTUSB Portable review on ZZounds.com describes as flimsy.
The software bundled with the iPTUSB (starting at $90) includes the usual Audacity as well as EZ Vinyl Converter, which only work with PCs, and the EZ Audio Converter, which only works with Macs. One user posting an Ion Audio iPTUSB Portable review on Amazon.com says the Mac-friendly software easily converts vinyl to MP3 format but doesn't do much for the vinyl noise; for that task, he says, Audacity does a nice job after you've learned to use it.
Because the Ion Audio iPTUSB Portable lacks certain critical features, such as anti-skate adjustment and a decent needle, the iPTUSB is not a good option for users keen on preserving their records. While its portability and 78 rpm capability are appealing, that's not enough to make this a bargain worth chasing.
Sony PS-LX300USB Review
As a Sony PS-LX300USB expert review on Gadgetguy.com says, you could buy a sound card for a computer and plug in an analog turntable and probably get superior results than you would with this model, and all for about the same price. Despite what Gadgetguy says, users posting reviews of the Sony PS-LX300USB on Amazon.com seem to like this USB turntable, both for its sound and price. The Sony PS-LX300USB (starting at $110) does have a decent feature set, including an offset tonearm and a moving magnet cartridge, but it's missing several critical features, such as anti-skate and tonearm counterweight adjustment.
The bundled software will cause problems for Mac users, because this model is simply not compatible with that platform. Some users make this mistake and buy this inexpensive turntable anyway. A Sony PS-LX300USB user review on Amazon.com claims that if you download Audacity, the turntable will interact with a Mac although you won't be able to change any settings; another user found "VinylStudio" software on Apple's website that did the trick of making the two pieces of hardware interact.
Despite the instantly recognizable Sony name, and support for the product from some users, you might want to think twice about this turntable. Those missing critical features could cause some grief down the road.