Best USB turntables 2020 | Laptop Mag

The best USB turntables allow vinyl collectors to not only hear their favorite records the way many artists and music producers intended, in analog, but can also digitize and store their favorite LPs onto other devices. This includes computers, smartphones, and MP3 players. 

Now, we’re not going to lie to you. A turntable setup is a serious investment, and that doesn’t even include what you’re likely to spend on records (yea, those don’t come cheap either). At the same time, a USB turntable is well worth the cost if you want to catalog and preserve these crate gems and enjoy music in its rawest, most uncompressed form.

But purchasing a USB turntable isn’t as simple as shopping for a CD player or computer speakers. You need to become more familiar with the hardware, which usually requires reading a bunch of technical jargon that makes operating and understanding the machine a bit cumbersome. Don’t sweat it. 

The good news is that record players are no more complex than setting up a new sound system. We have taken the liberty of breaking down the vital components required to choose the proper option for you, while offering our top picks for the best USB turntables based on performance, purpose, and, yes, price.

What are the best USB turntables?

Sitting in the No. 1 spot of our best USB turntables list is the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB, thanks to its superb sound, solid range of features, and user-friendly setup. Audio-Technica also implemented a few upgrades, which include a new phone preamp, tonearm, and low-torque motor. It also does a decent job of digitizing your favorite records, depending on the genre. The company’s AT-LP60USB turntable is another favorite of ours that promises much of the same performance, but with fewer features and a lower price.

The Sony PS-HX500 is a strong runner-up that’s only weighed down by its no-frills design and high price tag. On the plus side, this premium machine affords listeners some bountiful features and incredible sonics with strong bass response. Its plug-and-play digital recording capabilities are the most promising of the bunch, creating hi-res results that are nearly identical to what you’ll hear on vinyl.

Music lovers who want a futuristic setup will want the Pro-Ject Elemental Phono USB as their turntable, thanks to its ultramodern design and plugins for vinyl restoration. Then there is the Denon DP-450USB, a chic turntable designed for at-home listening that delivers adequate sound and has an auto sensor that automatically stops the player when reaching the end of a record.

Keep in mind we also have several newer releases on our radar that we’re waiting to snag some hands-on time with, including the Plus Audio +Record Player, which is a hybrid record player housing an amplifier, speakers, and Bluetooth connectivity in a handsome wooden cabinet. The Audio-Technica AT-LP5X is another promising release that features a basic setup, sleek aesthetics, and three playback speeds (33-1/3, 45, and 78 RPM).

For now, check out our current list of the best USB turntables, from entry-level models to elite hi-fi machines.

The best USB turntables you can buy today

(Image credit: Audio-Technica)1. Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB

Best USB turntable overall

Size and weight: 17.83 x 6.2 x 13.89 inches, 20.15 pounds | Motor: Direct Drive | Cartridge: AT-VM95E phono | Phone preamp: Yes | USB: Yes | Speed switch: 33-1/3 RPM, 45 RPM, 78 RPM

Plenty of features

Loud, dynamic sound

Simple setup

One of few turntables with three selectable speeds

Removable parts

Digital conversions are more miss than hit

Plastic finish looks a bit cheap

The Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB is considered one of the best USB turntables by many experts, including us. It’s an awesome beginner turntable that is easy to set up and easier to use; you’ll feel comfortable switching between speeds to achieve the right RPM for records. Audio-wise, the machine produces great sound and the integrated amp does add a bit more warmth to the soundstage.

The AT-LP120XUSB is also kitted with numerous features, from the critically loved AT-VM95E cartridge that offers a wider frequency response to its stereo output terminals for connecting to other audio equipment (e.g. amps, speakers). There’s even analog-to-digital conversion for those who want to archive their rare record collection onto a hard drive, though the bass quality takes a hit, which often results in average-sounding conversions. The physical construction is durable, but the plastic finish and detailing does little for the overall design.

(Image credit: Pro-Ject)2. Pro-Ject Elemental Phono USB

Innovatively stylish with quality playback

Size and weight: 16.93 x 11.81 x 3.54 inches, 6.06 pounds | Motor: Belt Drive | Cartridge: Ortofon OM 5E hi-fi | Phone preamp: Yes | USB : Yes | Speed switch: 33-1/3 RPM, 45 RPM

Very attractive

Clean and crisp audio

Plug and play installation

Relatively affordable

No dust cover

The Pro-Ject Elemental Phono USB looks like something you would find in a modern art gallery, but don’t be fooled by its distinct presence. This is a turntable with both style and substance. Sound teeters right around the bright side of the audio spectrum, feeding your ears with snappy bass and transparent highs. Construction-wise, the Elemental Photo USB is a work of art featuring a thin, rectangular plinth with rounded ends, along with a ‘Central Gravity Mass Point’ base that absorbs rumble and vibration for superb stabilization. Pro-Ject also made the setup and installation process a breeze; you should be able to connect to an amplifier or remove the stylus guard without Geek Squad assistance.

It’s a shame that such a handsome creation doesn’t offer the proper protection, in this case a dust cover to keep the turntable dirt-free. This might be a deal-breaker for vinyl owners with OCD, but for others, it’s no biggie.

(Image credit: Denon)3. Denon DP-450USB

Best semi-automatic USB turntable

Size and weight: 13.46 x 16.3 x 4.13 inches, 12.8 pounds | Motor: Belt drive | Cartridge: MM cartridge | Phone preamp: Yes | USB: Yes | Speed switch: 33-1/3 RPM, 45 RPM

Quality audio performance

Can connect to an integrated amp or receiver

Digitize vinyl collection

Lows and highs lack range

Impractical dust cover

Much like vinyl, turntables are delicate pieces of machinery. If you’re someone who worries about breaking the needle every time you play a record, then the DP-450USB was made specifically for you. It’s programmed with a power off feature that you can enable, which will save the needle from wear and tear by automatically bringing the tonearm back to its resting position after a record is finished. But the DP-450USB isn’t just a smart do-it-for-you turntable – it’s capable of producing airy, detailed sonics with its decent components. The DSN-85 MM cartridge is serviceable and delivers full midrange.

Unfortunately, lows and highs are not well balanced; bass doesn’t have much oomph to it and hi-hats sound splashy. Some reviewers claim the internal amp accentuates the bass levels as well. Thankfully, you have the option to swap out the cartridge. Another headscratcher is the dust cover, which keeps debris from damaging the plate, yet won’t allow you to play records and use it simultaneously.

(Image credit: TEAC)4. Teac TN-300

Pleasant sound in a handsome package

Size and weight: 16.5 x 4.6 x 14.0 inches, 10.8 pounds | Motor: Belt Drive | Cartridge: Audio-Technica AT95E VM | Phone preamp : Yes | USB : Yes | Speed switch: 33-1/3 RPM, 45 RPM

Solid craftsmanship

Easy and customizable setup

Precise audio quality

Occasional humming

Digital conversions are hit or miss

The Teac TN-300 is a gorgeous piece of audio hardware that boasts an elegant, aluminum body and comes available in several enticing colors: Black, Cherry, Red, Natural Wood, and White. Its mature and premium design exudes expert audio equipment vibes, but the setup is seamless for novice audiophiles to pick up. While it offers ways to upgrade sound performance by connecting to a phono preamp or directly to a hi-fi system, the turntable also sounds great right out of the box. Lows and mids have some punch to them and highs are well represented, giving you full-bodied results.

Even though the turntable lets you rip records to create digital copies, not every conversion will be successful; some MP3 files suffer from lack of clarity. Also, a few customers and reviewers have complained about sporadic humming when playing records, however, it’s unclear whether this relates to any defective turntable units.

(Image credit: Audio-Technica)5. Audio-Technica AT-LP5

High performance at a high price

Size and weight: 21.00 x 9.00 x 16.00 inches, TBD | Motor: Belt drive | Cartridge: Audio-Technica AT95EX | Phone preamp: Yes | USB: Yes | Speed switch: 33-1/3 RPM, 45 RPM

Wide sound

Accurate direct drive

Cartridge can be upgraded

Impressive build quality

Takes up a lot of space

Another standout turntable from Audio-Technica, the AT-LP5 is an easy-to-operate and set up machine that will play your vinyl collection with precision. A high-torque motor allows records to spin up to speed, while the tonearm and cartridge are a winning combination that helps track grooves with accuracy. The midrange offers lots of detail and the lows are well balanced to enjoy wide sound. We also love that the machine is very simple to set up for non-audio nerds.

In terms of design, the AT-LP5 won’t win over décor junkies, but it’s still a finely crafted machine that boasts an aluminum platter and rubber damping mat to minimize vibrations, which it does very well. Even though the turntable isn’t heavy, it requires much more room for setup than some of the other alternatives on our list.

(Image credit: Pioneer)6. Pioneer PLX-500

Best professional DJ USB turntable

Size and weight: 17.7 x 6.3 x 14.5 inches, 23.6 pounds | Motor: Direct drive | Cartridge: VM cartridge | Phone preamp: Yes | USB: Yes | Speed switch: 33-1/3 RPM, 45 RPM, 78 RPM

Roomy, enjoyable sound

Great isolation

Traditional control layout

Tempo fader control

Causes bass feedback at high volume

Extremely heavy

While the PLX-1000 remains an oldie but goodie for aspiring DJs, the PLX-5000 is a modernized, home-oriented version that offers high performance for those looking to replace their banged-up Technics turntable. The machine hosts some notable features, many of which are laid out conveniently on the deck. Leading the way is the pitch fader to adjust speeds from +8% to – 8%. DJs will find this clutch for beatmatching and mixing. The USB output means you can easily digitize records using Pioneer’s DJ Rekordbox software. It’s also one of the few turntables to offer 78 RPM speed; pressing 33 and 45 together achieves this. 

Those looking to transport this bad boy from their living room to their backyard might need some extra help doing so since the turntable is one hefty sucker. You’ll also need to be careful with the volume levels, as blasting music at max volume causes the unpleasant bass feedback.

(Image credit: Reloop)7. Reloop Turn-3

Attractive sound and design

Size and weight: 17.7 x 13.9 x 5.5 inches, 15.4 pounds | Motor: Belt drive | Cartridge: Ortofon 2M Red | Phone preamp: Yes | USB: Yes | Speed switch: 33 RPM, 45 RPM, 78 RPM

Pleasant sound

Solidly built for the most part

Multiple connection options

Arm lifter known to wobble at times

Stylus guard could be better

Despite being a four-year-old model, the Reloop Turn-3 continues to maintain its popularity among the DJ community for its aesthetics and well-balanced sound. The MDF (medium density fiberboard) construction and gloss black plinth will be admired from the moment you unbox this turntable. Lows are strong and establish a firm footing to keep hip-hop and rock songs knocking, while the relaxed midrange equalizes sound output. A switchable built-in photo stage, along with RCA and USB outputs open the door for customized performance.

You’ll want to monitor record spins since the arm lifter is known to wobble from side to side at times, affecting album playthroughs. As annoying as that sounds, it’s actually not the turntable’s biggest flaw. That would be the poorly made stylus guard, which can be replaced, but shouldn’t have to be, considering the high price.

(Image credit: ION)8. Ion Max LP

A feature-laden USB turntable with built-in speakers

Size and weight: 15.24 x 16.46 x 4.06 inches, 7.71 pounds | Motor: Belt Drive | Cartridge: CZ-800-10 phono | Phone preamp : Yes | USB : Yes | Speed switch: 33-1/3 RPM, 45 RPM, 78 RPM

Integrated stereo speakers

Three-speed vinyl conversion

Multiple jacks

Speaker quality can’t compete with popular Bluetooth speakers

So-so build quality and sound

The Ion Max LP prides itself on being a jack-of-all-trades turntable, meaning it’s capable of a lot, but doesn’t master every performance hallmark. This turntable plays 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM records and offers decent conversions to enjoy your vinyl cuts on other multimedia devices. Ion also includes software that makes ripping files simple. The built-in speakers definitely earn the turntable cool points, and produces decent sound, but won’t replace your home sound system or party Bluetooth speakers. Headphone and RCA jacks are installed too, for private listening or to connect to external speakers.

As you would expect with any turntable priced under $100, build quality is reflective of the price. The wood finish looks good, but is sensitive to scratches and scuffs, plus the molded plastic dust cover isn’t aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.

(Image credit: Dual DTJ)9. Dual DTJ 301.1

An oldie, but goodie for amateur DJs

Size and weight: 17.70 x 13.77 x 5.40 inches, 11.8 pounds | Motor: Direct drive | Cartridge: Audio-Technica ATN3652 | Phone preamp: Yes | USB: Yes | Speed switch: 33 RPM, 45 RPM

Optimal sound reproduction

Motor operates silently

Fair number of features for an older model

Extremely difficult to find

No automatic shut-off

The Dual DTJ 301.1 has been around for several years and still remains one of the most sought-after turntables among the hardcore DJ community. Performance is smooth, with the 8-pole 2 phase DC motor with built-in electronic brake playing records accurately, while its adjustable arm prevents stuttering for optimal sound output. Even if its standout features are limited to just two – a built-in preamp and USB connection – that is still a fair number to have when discussing a model that’s been out since about 2014. The all-black design and reliable components like the Audio Technica ATN3652 cartridge add to its appeal.

Modern music lovers may not be thrilled with the lack of automatic shut-off. However, the real challenge is getting your hands on a DTJ 301.1, as it’s much rarer to find online these days. Any newbie mix masters lucky enough to stumble upon one will be grateful to have it as their first machine.

(Image credit: Audio-Technica)10. Audio Technica AT-LP60USB

Size and weight: 18 x 6 x 16 inches, 6.6 pounds | Motor: Belt drive | Cartridge: Integral dual magnet phono cartridge | Phone preamp: Yes | USB: No | Speed switch: 33-1/3 RPM, 45 RPM

Impressive sound

Automatic operation

Can rip records to digital files

Relatively affordable

No adjustment features

Cartridge can’t be changed

Should you want something affordable that can digitize your vinyl collection, then the Audio Technica AT-LP60USB stands out as one of the best USB turntables in its price range. Bass and treble are surprisingly well balanced, and vocals are revealing. We love that it can play both 7- and 12-inch records at the push of a button, much like the Denon DP-300F. Something else that stands out is the clear plastic dust cover that protects the plate and all other components. The plastic chassis doesn’t feel as premium as other competitors, but Audio-Technica’s bold and glossy colors (Black and Silver) do give this machine an upscale presence.

Those who like to customize their turntables with a more powerful cartridge need to look elsewhere as the AT-LP60USB’s built-in cartridge can’t be swapped out. It also doesn’t have adjustment features for counterweight or height adjustment.

How to choose the best turntables for you

Several factors need to be taken into account when shopping for the best USB turntables. Things can get pretty technical, which might cause some confusion, so we’ll make this as painlessly educational as we can.

As the sub-category name implies, you need to make sure the turntable features a USB output. This allows you to connect the machine to a computer and digitize analog records.

Second is selecting the proper drive: belt or direct. Both offer their own set of pros and cons. Direct drives are favored by professionals due to their more accurate speeds and durability, meaning you can expect the belt to last longer. At the same time, their motors tend to produce unwanted noise during playback. Belt drives are preferred by audiophiles because of their consistent speed and great isolation to minimize motor noise for detailed sound. The main issue with them is that their belts stretch, which can affect the speed of records and sound quality in the long run. 

Next is the setup process. The extra cables and components that come packaged with a turntable can be intimidating for newbies, though, luckily, most modern vinyl players have decks with plug-and-play setups that are easy to understand. Pick a turntable that is simple to assemble and comes with foolproof instructions.

Speaking of components, your turntables need to support a variety of them to operate at max performance. Start with the cartridge and stylus (aka the needle), which are generally pieced together and come in different shapes. You want something that is well balanced and applies a reasonable amount of pressure on records to not only prevent dragging on the vinyl surface, but also preserve the needle. Look at the tonearm next, the moveable part that keeps the cartridge in a steady position as the records spin. It should be well-constructed (made from aluminum or carbon fiber) and have an adjustable counterweight to independently adjust the tracking force of your needle. Follow up with the platter, which spins the records and should be heavy; the heavier, the better, as it creates less vibration.

Audiophiles who want to get more sound out of their vinyl player may want to seek out a model that can be paired with other audio equipment. This requires having a turntable with a built-in phone preamp or buying one separately. There are also turntables with Bluetooth support, allowing you to connect wirelessly to compatible speakers and home audio systems.

How we test the best turntables

When researching and testing the best USB turntables, Laptop Magazine evaluates several factors: assembly, design, sound, setup, and value just to name a few. Our reviewers also compare these models to similar products in the category in terms of compatibility with other audio products, special features, and pricing.

Turntables are tested over the course of a week for 2 hours at a time. During this period, we assess for audio performance and ease of use. Reviewers listen to sample tracks across popular music genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, R&B, and classical just to name a few. At the same time, they analyze clarity, depth, isolation, and volume. Live recorded albums such as comedy and concert specials are also taken into consideration.

Once our testing is completed, every model is rated based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Any product that is truly exemplary is awarded an Editor’s Choice.

Round up of today’s best deals

Pro-Ject Elemental Turntable…

Teac Tn-300 Analog Record…

Audio Technica AT LP5 Direct…

Pioneer DJ Direct Drive DJ…

ION Audio Max LP – Vinyl…


About the Author: Chris Jenny

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