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You bought a USB turntable. Was that a dumb idea?

Do you convert your LPs to MP3 files, or just play music in its original format?

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
2 min read

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

I'd love to hear from folks who bought USB turntables specifically to make digital files from their LPs. I know it seems like a great idea if you have a lot of LPs you never play -- you get a USB turntable to transfer the music to your computer, and then make files you can play on your phone or in your car. Sounds like a plan, but one that rarely pans out. Or did you buy a USB turntable, but as it turned out you just use it to play LPs? I'd guess a lot of folks are in the second group: they rarely transfer LPs, they just play them. Nothing wrong with that.

Of course the condition/quality of the record, the type of file you make (MP3, FLAC, WAV, or what have you) make a difference, as does the turntable's phono cartridge, the phono preamplifier, and the digital converter that transfers the analog sound of the LP into digital form. Every part of the transfer "chain" makes a difference in the file's sound quality. One thing's for sure -- it's not an easy process.

First, there's the hassle of playing the LP in real time, then editing the files, cleaning up the clicks and pops; that sounds like a lot of work to me. Especially if you can stream the album or tunes from Spotify, Tidal, or Apple Music with zero effort.

The feedback I hear from new vinyl converts who bought a turntable a year or two ago is that they really take pleasure in playing records. The hands-on involvement of picking out an album or single to play, pulling the disc out of the jacket, putting it on the turntable platter; it's all part of the process they've come to enjoy.

That's why I'd love to hear from folks who regularly transfer their LPs to digital. How has that worked out for you? Do you still play LPs? Or now that you've transferred your collection to digital, do you no longer play them? Do the files sound better than the LPs did or do they sound worse -- or just different? If you're now relishing music that went unheard before you bought a USB turntable, it was a smart move. Would you advise others to buy USB turntables, or a better-quality non-USB 'table instead, and just listen to LPs as LPs?

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