With its small size and impressive list of features, it's not a stretch to call the Ion iPTUSB the Swiss Army knife of turntables. Most of the Ion iPTUSB's features are the same great features found on the less-expensive Numark PT-01: a built-in speaker; battery power (or AC adapter); 33, 45, and 78rpm modes; RCA line output; pitch control; tone control; dual headphone jacks; a replaceable needle; and an adapter for 7-inch records. The Ion iPTUSB distinguishes itself from its Numark ancestor by including a USB output, a 3.5mm stereo line input with adjustable gain, a USB cable, and Mac and PC recording software.
The Ion iPTUSB is missing a few features that will make phonograph purists turn up their noses in disgust. For example, the Ion iPTUSB's fragile, all-plastic tone arm lacks counterbalance, needle alignment, or antiskate controls. Also, the base of the turntable is woefully lacking in shock absorption.
With a turntable as small and light as the Ion iPTUSB, we weren't expecting much in the way of sound quality. While the Ion iPTUSB's built-in speaker won't blow you away, its sound quality over the headphone or the RCA output is remarkable. If you're the kind of person who drags out their record crate only a few times a year to rekindle the analog nostalgia, the Ion iPTUSB offers an ideal combination of convenience and quality.
The Ion iPTUSB's USB recording quality was well above our expectations. Getting started was a snap, since our PC recognized the Ion iPTUSB the moment we connected it over USB. We were frustrated to find the two pieces of included recording software were either too basic (EZ Vinyl Converter), or too complicated (Audacity) for what we wanted to accomplish. Whichever tool you choose (we recommend grabbing Cakewalk's Pyro software) you'll be pleasantly surprised by the Ion iPTUSB's recording quality. We also made several recordings using the Ion iPTUSB's 3.5mm line-input, and achieved good results recording music from an MP3 player to our PC (a cassette deck, CD player, or MiniDisc would also work).
Ion rates the battery life of the iPTUSB turntable at 16 hours, which means you may have to confront the irony that your turntable's battery performance is better than that of your MP3 player.