Vinyl is well and truly alive again and actually a growing industry. Audio enthusiasts have loved vinyl forever, but there’s a whole new group of people discovering the format for the first time.
The only real drawback to vinyl is that it’s not very convenient. Records are huge, and you can’t carry them around with you when you go out.
What you can do is digitize your records with your PC. Anyone can do this with any turntable, but for the easiest experience you want one with a USB connection built in. If that sounds up your alley, you need to get yourself one of these great turntables.
Audio Technica AT-LP60 USB
The AT-LP60 is a solid starter turntable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its $100 price point and fully-automatic operation. There’s no adjustable counterweight, which may be a drawback to some, but in our experience, it doesn’t track too heavily.
The AT-LP60 supports both seven- and 12-inch vinyl and 33 RPM or 45 RPM speeds. Playing is as simple as popping on a record and hitting the start button, though there is also a manual override.
The cables are attached to the rear, and there’s a built-in phono pre-amp if you want to go straight to some powered speakers. The USB cable allows you to hook up directly to your PC, and Audio Technica even includes a copy of Audacity so you can get going right out of the box.
Audio Technica AT-LP5
The AT-LP5 is one of Audio Technica’s flagship turntables at $449, and it has just about everything you could want to see. This is a direct-drive turntable, so there are no rubber belts to worry about.
It has a fully-manual, curved tonearm with plenty of adjustabilities, and the cartridge is easily upgraded to something even better if you wish. The AT-LP5 also supports 33 RPM and 45 RPM records and has a built-in phono pre-amp for using directly with powered speakers.
The AT-LP5 is also quite stylish, modeled on some of Audio Technica’s classic turntables. The included USB cable allows seamless connection to your PC to transfer your music using Audacity, which is also included for easy out of the box setup.
Sony’s beginner-friendly turntable is in the $100 region and is fully automatic, so it’s perfect for beginners or more casual listeners. You’ll get a solid turntable that looks pretty sharp and has excellent build quality.
This belt-drive turntable also supports 33 RPM and 45 RPM records and has a built-in phono preamp for using directly with powered speakers. The tonearm is static-balanced, so you can’t adjust it, and the only real downer is that you can’t upgrade the stylus.
Sound quality is good, and while Sony includes some software for your PC to help you make the best copies possible, for many people using Audacity will still be a less frustrating solution.
Pro-Ject Elemental USB
If you’re looking for something a little different, this amazing-looking turntable will probably scratch that itch. You pay a premium for the USB version at around $280, but there’s no denying it looks like nothing else out there.
Despite the minimal appearance, this belt-drive turntable is packed with features. It has a lightweight, adjustable tonearm and gold-plated terminals for good sound quality. It can support both 33 RPM and 45 RPM records, though changing this is a little awkward.
It’s a fully-manual turntable and to listen to music over the analog outputs you will need a separate phono preamp or a powered amplifier to run it through.