OT: USB turntables


wedroy1923

Moderator
Premium Member
Playlist Author
Hello:

I was wondering if anyone here had any experience with USB turntable / LP to digital converters? Is there one that users here have found particularly good? I'm just starting my "shopping around" period, so any advice is appreciated.

Thanks,
wedroy1923
 

eyore

DLRP explorer
Premium Member
Playlist Author
I use an ION USB Turntable and it's pretty good (comes with free Audacity). Model iT TUSB05.
I think they are pretty well standard though - much of the fine tuning comes from the editing program.
I switched to USB from Line In when my old record player gave up the ghost.
Nero now splits the tracks for you as well so you can just play and do something else (doesn't stop the odd skip though so you still have to listen to them).
I have just bought 6 LPs from a charity shop today including a "Best of Walt Disney" UK release so I have a little work ahead of me (that gets it "on topic" I guess) ;D
 

wedroy1923

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eyore: thanks for the suggestion; I'll check it out!
 

Horizons

Playlist Author
I wish I saved all of my old LPs from the early years. I used to have an extensive bootleg collection of Rush and Pink Floyd LPs. I ended up selling them off once CDs started to become the norm. There are times I kick myself for that move.
 

almandot

Member
I have a few hundred vinyl records in my mom's garage that belonged to my dad and my dad still wishes he'd have gotten back from my mom ;) Never went looking through them really(I *know* that there isn't any disney stuff :p)
 

superbu

New Member
Hello:

I was wondering if anyone here had any experience with USB turntable / LP to digital converters? Is there one that users here have found particularly good? I'm just starting my "shopping around" period, so any advice is appreciated.

Thanks,
wedroy1923
I don't think the USB turntables are particularly good. The only thing they've got going for them is the fact that they're USB-ready.

I've looked at the Ion in person, and it's really a rather flimsy record player. The housing is plastic, which means it is very sensitive to vibration. A good record player has all-metal construction. I'm sure it sounds okay, but you could get one that's better.

For not much more you can get a separate RCA-to-USB adapter (or, what I have, a two-jack RCA to single-jack audio "in" adapter) and just use a good, standard turntable. A good place to shop is www.kabusa.com. That's where I got my turntable after weeks of research, a Vestax BDT2600. (I needed one that plays 78s.) Any of the Technics models under $200 would be a good option for you, all much better than the Ion. Technics turntables are considered to be very well manufactured.

Whatever you do, do NOT get one of those retro-looking things they sell at Target, etc. I bought one several years ago... still have it, in fact. They're very poor quality and produce tinny sound. For the same or less money, you could get a much better record player.
 

eyore

DLRP explorer
Premium Member
Playlist Author
I have copied over 1000 LPs to Disc although not all with the ION but (it's actually perched on top of my monitor) but it hasn't had a problem (yet) - even when typing etc. It's sturdier than it looks).
Most of my copying has been done in a far easier way, to be honest.
Just plug the headphone socket from your Hi-Fi into the line in on the PC and use a free recording program (I actually use an early version of Musicmatch which was free and records. I didn't have any spare USB ports on my old PC.
There really is no reason to spend a lot on the turntable as long as the speed is accurate.
There's a big difference to playing a vinyl and recording it.
Use of a decent editing program will produce good results using the cheapest USB turntable you can get.
I find no difference whatsoever from using an expensive Hi-Fi or the ION turntable.
Initial recording quality (to me) is the same with both. Playback, on the other hand, does depend on the quality of the Hi-Fi.
Maybe I was just lucky with the one I got.
Never seen an all-metal player. They have all been either wood or plastic in the UK since I have been around (and that's a while). Sounds a good way to get electrocuted ;D
 

The Trout

Member
There really is no reason to spend a lot on the turntable as long as the speed is accurate.

This really isn't true. Vinyl sound quality is not like CDs - it improves dramatically the better your turntable is. Better turntables will have higher highs, deeper bass, and resolve a great deal more detail. The noise level will likely be lower as well. Most USB turntables are cheap pieces of crud. They're at an affordable price point, but you get what you pay for. Adequate for most consumers, I suppose, but not if you really care about the music.

Most vintage stand-alone tables you find for cheap would probably be better than than the USB turntables, though they'd need new carts. And a preamp. The cost would probably filter out most casual listeners who don't know what they're missing and/or are just hopping onto the bandwagon since vinyl is trendy right now. A good entry level vinyl rig would probably come in at around $1000. $450 for the turntable (Project Debut III or a Rega P1), $250 for the cart (Audio Technica 440MLa), and $300 for the preamp (Cambridge Audio 640p). Though that's all brand new hardware, and while it's solid, it could sure as heck be upgraded. In any event, you could find good vintage turntables (Marantz, Rega, Thorens, etc) that actually sound better for much cheaper than new turntables, though they may require fixing up.

Sorry for the rant. I just really hate USB turntables.

EDIT: Forgot to mention how I record to the computer. I needledrop by running RCA cables from my amp to the line-in on my soundcard. When recording vinyl, you should always record at high resolutions (96khz, 24bit preferably) then downsample it later if you need to. Vinyl, as an analog medium, has more detail than CD so you'd want to capture as much of that as possible. Then you can tweak it as you'd like, but I'd warn again most filters for noise reduction. They usually just end up making the recording sound like crap.
 

eyore

DLRP explorer
Premium Member
Playlist Author
You are never going to get vinyl to sound as good as a CD unless you own the masters.
The usual idea is to transfer to CD to either prevent further deterioration of the vinyl or because players are harder to find (although they are making a comeback in the UK).
I would suggest trying the cheapest USB deck that's around (and they are really cheap) and make up your own mind based on your own idea of quality. Borrowing one may be a good idea.
I'm a musician and I find my results perfectly adequate (IMHO).
Maybe they have improved since you last used one.
Anyway, enough said on this subject, I think :)
 

The Trout

Member
Actually, the sound of most records is frequently better than CDs if they're in good condition and your turntable/cart/preamp is solid. USB Turntables just don't hold a candle to any quality table made today (or even in the past). I used to listen mostly to CDs but now I do all my listening almost entirely on vinyl. Every new release that comes out these days whips the butt of its CD counterpart.
 

eyore

DLRP explorer
Premium Member
Playlist Author
;D You must have better stuff in the US.
I have a pretty good Hi-Fi and many "nearly new" vinyls and am constantly amazed at how poor the vinyl is in comparison to the well-made CD (many CDs are really bad, aren't they). I invariably take a vinyl, a CD, a tape etc when purchasing equipment just to check how well they play.
Then again, I find a cathode ray tube TV far superior to a plasma screen and I did have lots of 78s as a child (and a wind-up gramaphone) so that may have affected my judgement. ;D
Maybe it's like wine. Some can tell a lot from tasting a small amount, others either find it tasty or not. (Personally I can't stand the stuff - all tastes like vinegar to me - even the expensive stuff. Mmmm nice on French Fries maybe) ::)
 

BLM07

Member
Oh noooo, how about we turn this into a digital vs analog thread :eek:

Nobody will pull me away from FLACs going over a optical wire to a Onkyo receiver. I get rid of analog anytime I can: that train has passed, flown down the track, and into the ravine ;)
 

The Trout

Member
I guess I'll agree to disagree about the turntable. If the USB tables produce a sound you like, then fine. But they in no way equal the sound vinyl is capable of producing on a quality turntable.

The thing with most new records though, is that they're far better mastered than the CDs, which have their volume maxed out so high that it actually destroys parts of the music and hurts my ears. The vinyl releases have peaks and valleys - far more dynamic range. This video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ - pretty much sums up the sound of modern CDs. I'll take vinyl any day of the week over that, even on your USB turntable. ;)

In any event, I actually AM pro-digital, believe it or not. But most of my records sound better than their CD counterparts - superior mastering and higher resolution. That's why I needledrop 'em to the computer! If CDs sound beat my records (and I do have some great CDs, mind you), then I'd drop my records in a heartbeat. But since most CDs are mastered for crap, I've got no choice.

But I'll agree with BLM - this probably isn't the place for an analog vs. digital debate. I initially just wanted to note that most USB turntables on the market will NOT equal the sound of even a quality entry level table in the $400-range from a place like AcousticSounds.com.
 

eyore

DLRP explorer
Premium Member
Playlist Author
My last word on this subject.
You have hit the nail on the head there.
$400 is a lot of money. These turntables sell for around ?60 in the UK (that's $120 even with the dreadful exchange rate).
It seems that, in the US, these are selling around $200. :eek:
That's far too expensive and about twice what they should be selling for (looking at comparable prices for items in the UK and the US).
For that reason alone, I would agree that a (maybe slightly cheaper) Hi-Fi with either RCA plugs or, (like mine) with headphone sockets plugged into a line-in with a jack plug would do the job just as well.
I certainly wouldn't have paid that much for one.
As for analogue/digital, digital is still fairly new on the scene (in comparison) and advances are made very quickly (my first digital camera - state of the art with 2 million pixels) was soon overtaken by cameras with four times the resolution and at less than half the price!
Sadly, my VHS camcorder (broken) took pictures in very low light which my digital one couldn't cope with at all but my new one (digital but tape) is much better.
Let's resume the converation and debate in 5 years time (may have a plasma screen TV by then) ;D
 

The Trout

Member
It's all in the ears. You can't hear the difference between $100 and $400 - I actually can. I often wish I COULDN'T. I still have the upgrade bug, actually, because I know my current analog rig could sound a lot BETTER.

And sadly, five years down the line, there probably still won't be a consensus. They've TRIED making superior digital formats (SACD, DVD-A) but they never caught on to the mainstream public. Life goes on, I suppose.

It should be noted that our own Randy Thornton is one of the few guys making CDs today that I downright love. His work has plenty of dynamic range and he never uses no-noise to harm a recording. I'd trade in any of my Disney records of a Randy-mastered CD any day of the week. The biggest compliment I could actually give Randy is that I put my Camarata Alice vinyl head-to-head with his CD and I could really tell the different between them.
 
Quote by "The Trout" "Forgot to mention how I record to the computer. I needledrop by running RCA cables from my amp to the line-in on my soundcard. When recording vinyl, you should always record at high resolutions (96khz, 24bit preferably) then downsample it later if you need to. Vinyl, as an analog medium, has more detail than CD so you'd want to capture as much of that as possible. Then you can tweak it as you'd like, but I'd warn again most filters for noise reduction. They usually just end up making the recording sound like crap."

Very interesting discussion. I have been using an old Magnavox console stereo to transfer my Disney vinyls to mp3 and had wondered about upgrading to a USB turntable, but I think I will stay using what I have. I pick it up at a thrift store for $15.00 ;D. It plays 78s, 45, 33 1/3, 8 track and cassette and has RCA jack for output. Also came with a new needle still in package (flips from 78 to LP). I am using Audacity to digitally record the music. I have been using a sample rate of 44khz and 32bit.

Trout, I am going to try the higher settings you reccomended. I had just recorded "Sleeping Beauty STER-4018" in the lower setting and will see if I can discern any difference in the higher recording. I am not sure what you mean by "downsampling". Can you explain that process to me? Also any other recommended settings I should try? I do not use noise filters other than "Click/Pop" removal. The 78s usually have a bit of background noise but it adds to the nostalgia in my opinion :).

I am generally sastified with the tranfers I get in terms of what they sound like. I mainly am just happy to be be able to transfer vinyl recordings that have not been released on CD (for which most of the Disneyland label has not occurred).
 

almandot

Member
Isn't vinyl only at 50khz anyways? 44.1 and 48 are obviously lower than that but 96 seems like overkill. I guess it's the only real option though there is 88.2.
 

The Trout

Member
It's overkill, yeah. But I'm paranoid and vinyl's analog (thus a higher resolution than CD), so I wanna capture as much of the sound as humanly possibly. The 24-bits, though, is what matters the most, because that actually can be heard if your ears are tuned up. The sound can seem more alive and less "closed off," for back of a better term. Down sampling to a CD's resolution can suck some of the life out of some recordings for me. Then again, 44/16 is usually just peachy for most people. You've gotta be pretty anal-retentive to hear the difference in bit-rates on a lossless recording.

I recommend recording at a super high bit rate and then converting it down to 44/16 instead of recording it straight to 44/16, though. Your software should actually do a better job of converting the analog sound to CD resolution than your hardware can.

Also, anyone that's needledropping needs to check your levels. You want your recording to peak at -1db to keep all the dynamic range intact (though if you record too low, peaking below -6db, you'll actually lose sound information). If you crank the volume while recording, you'll end up with a waveform that looks "brick walled" and sounds way too loud and just plain terrible.

And I'll go ahead and change my tune slightly on USB turntables - they're probably perfectly fine for most people's ears. You can severely improve the quality by upgrading, but that's probably more of a cost than you guys are willing to pay. Just do me favor - DON'T re-EQ the recording when it's on your computer. It was equalized correctly by the mastering engineer the first time around. It doesn't need more treble and bass (the dreaded "smiley face" EQ). Also? DON'T use noise reduction filters. They introduce lots of digital artifacts and can make your recording sound like it's in a fish tank. Just get used to the sound of the vinyl underneath quiet passages of the recording.

(Declicking, however, I'm okay with. Just don't let your declicker go too nuts, because it'll take the top off of the brass and percussion.)

Oh, and one last note before people start to hate me even more: CLEAN THE VINYL. You probably can't afford a record vacuum, but even a simple scrub with a mixture of alcohol & distilled water (possibly with some dish soap) will do wonders for the sound. Google "cleaning vinyl records" and you should do okay. Way too many people think that pops, clicks, and crackles are just "the way records are supposed to sound." Bullcrap. Take care of them, and like I said before, they'll beat the pants off of most CDs.*

* Except a lot of Disney recordings, because - as noted earlier - Randy kicks butt.

EDIT: Forgot to mention, like with any sound on your computer, lossless is the way to go. FLAC is your friend!
 

Magic Music

Administrator
Playlist Author
lossless is the way to go

Yup. I've been using lossless encoding for at least 8-9 years now. I knew that storage space was going to keep getting cheaper and cheaper as capacity continued to increase, so I saw little use for lossy encoding. I settled on Monkey's Audio way back in the day. I was the one who provided Matt with the idea and sample for the monkey sound when your files are finished. I eventually switched to FLAC, when it looked like it was going to have more support. At present, though, I use Apple Lossless, as I've got Macs, MacBook Pros, iPods, and iPhones all over the place in my home.
 

The Trout

Member
APE is a solid format, though it has less overall support online and actually requires a bit more processing power, as far as the CPU is concerned. That last bit is really only an issue, though, if you're playing them with a Rockboxed iPod or something.
 

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