Turning vinyl LPs into digital MP3s is an awkward and time-consuming process, no matter how you cut it. If your ultimate goal is to turn the records on your shelf into files on your iPod, the Numark TTi turntable ($449 list, $250 street) offers the shortest distance between the two music mediums. Using the TTi's built-in iPod dock, vinyl recordings are captured directly to your iPod without the hassle of using your computer as a middleman.
As turntables go, the Numark TTi is designed like a sub-$200 deck. Aside from the platter and tone arm, most of the Numark TTi is constructed from lightweight plastic. It's heartbreaking to think that someone might pay full price for the TTi when they could spend the same amount for a classic Technics SL-1200MK2, but the appeal of ripping your vinyl right to your iPod may prove hard to resist.
At first glance, the Numark TTi looks impressive, with a sculpted, two-tone design that measures around 17 inches wide, 14 inches deep, and 5 inches high. All the usual modern turntable features are right where they should be, including an oversize start/stop button, switches for 33 and 45rpm modes, a pitch adjustment fader (+/-10 percent), tone arm counterweight, antiskate adjustment, and an illuminated power button near the back of the tone arm.
Aside from a universal iPod dock planted in the top-left corner, the TTi's unique features include a USB connection on the back (for those moments when you prefer to rip to your computer), an auxiliary 3.5mm input jack near the front, and a strip of iPod playback and menu controls that run down the right side of the turntable. The iPod control strip seems like a silly idea at first glance, considering that your docked iPod is within arms reach, but they come in handy when it's time to record (see Performance).
On the back of the Numark TTi you'll find hardwired power and RCA audio cables, along with a recording gain-adjustment knob, a switch for line or phono output, and the aforementioned USB jack. Numark also throws in a few extras, such as a felt slipmat and a 45 record adapter, but stops short of including a dust cover.
The Numark TTi is a mediocre turntable with a single killer feature: direct iPod recording. Recording directly onto your iPod makes life a little easier, but if you're a stickler for editing, organizing, and touching up your recordings, you'll need to involve a computer at some point.
Fortunately, the Numark TTi can also be used to capture recordings on your computer (Mac or PC) using a USB connection (cable included). The TTi comes with a CD of bundled software, including Apple's iTunes jukebox software, the open source Audacity audio editor, and a very basic recording application called EZ Vinyl Converter 2, which allows you capture, label, and export your recordings to iTunes, but lacks audio editing capabilities.