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Let's Talk Computer Audio

Do you have a question about converting records to CDs? Are your MP3's treating right? Need to know how to download that Podcast? Wondering which file format is right for you? And what is this "tagging" people keep telling me about. Is that some sort of digital graffiti?

Ask all of your computer audio questions here.

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Converting From Lossless Format to MP3

David, September 11, 2007

Because I rip all of my music in lossless format (Windows Media 10), I am currently having to re-rip albums in mp3 in order to build a library on my wife's mp3 player.

Is there a way to do this straight from a lossless song?

Re: Converting From Lossless Format to MP3

Jeff (Editor), September 12, 2007

I salute you for not settling for anything but the best sound quality. You can convert your library to relatively painlessly using MediaMonkey.

MediaMonkey is the Swiss Army Knife of computer audio (for Windows) and it's free. You can download it from the Knowzy Software Library.

After you get it installed, here are the steps to convert your WMA lossless collection:

  1. Run MediaMonkey. In the left pane of the program, browse to your WMA collection. You'll find it either under My Computer or My Documents.
  2. Expand the folder containing your music collection. The top subfolder will be called "All." Select it. You will now see your entire collection in the right pane of MediaMonkey.
  3. Select all of your songs by going to the Edit menu and clicking "Select All."
  4. Go to the Tools menu and select "Convert Audio Format." In Convert Tracks dialog box, you need to change two settings, Destination and Format.
  5. The "Destination" field serves two purposes: It tells MediaMonkey where to put converted files and how to name them. Designate a folder to save the files, such as C:\WifeTunes. Then describe how to name the files using placeholders such as <Artist>, <Title>, etc. Depending on your preferences, you will end up with something like C:\WifeTunes\<Artist>\<Year> <Album>\<Track#> - <Title>. As you build the template, you will see a preview of your new file names below.
  6. Select MP3 as your format, then click Settings to choose the sound quality. You can calculate disk space and listen to sound clips at various levels of quality in our article "Comparing MP3 Bitrates."
  7. Once you are satisfied with the destination and the format, click "Ok" and the conversion begins. You can watch the process at the bottom of the MediaMonkey window.

One note about MP3 encoding in MediaMonkey: Because of a licensing restriction, you are only allowed to encode to MP3 for 30 days. With some extra effort, you can continue encoding to MP3 forever. Just download the free LAME encoder and extract the file named lame_enc.dll to your \Program Files\MediaMonkey folder.

That's your quick tutorial on converting audio file formats with MediaMonkey. Let me know if you get stuck on any of the steps.

Re: Converting From Lossless Format to MP3

David, September 13, 2007

Wow! Thanks for that info.

It is so hard getting info from anyone who understands computers and quality audio. Trying to talk to computer techs about lossless or other audiophile issues brings a "deer in the headlights" look. I am into high end audio but am trying to educate myself about incorporating my pc.

One other question: When I rip music to windows in either mp3 or lossless, the rip is a lower volume than the original. I have done direct comparisons with the rip vs. cd at the time of rip and after and it is consistent.

The pc and cd player are the same but the rip is lower. I even tried putting it back on disc from the rip and if memory serves, it was back to original volume. I did read your article on audiograbber audio leveling but this seems like a ripping problem not a playback one.

Any ideas?

Re: Converting From Lossless Format to MP3

Jeff (Editor), September 14, 2007

You are welcome. I'm glad to be of service.

I can all but guarantee the difference in volume you're noticing is a playback issue, not a ripping issue. Playback from a CD-ROM typically goes through an analog output back into the sound card. Audio files are played directly through the sound card.

The "Windows Mixer" application allows you to individually adjust the volume levels of the analog and digital sources on your sound card. You can run the mixer by going to Control Panel, then Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices, then Sounds and Audio Devices, then the Advanced button under Device Volume.

Your CD-ROM playback volume is usually called CD Player, but is sometimes called Line In. The volume for audio files is called Wave. Even if both of these are set evenly, it still doesn't guarantee the volumes will play equally.

The real test would be to burn a lossless file to an audio CD and compare it on an independent CD player (like in your car or home stereo). Play the original and then play the copy. The volume should be identical.

Lossless means just that- an exact, bit-by-bit copy of the original. If the volume were adjusted, it wouldn't truly be a lossless copy.

In WMA Lossless mode, Windows Media Player is incapable of ripping anything but an exact copy of the CD. Other programs with more capabilities have potential to make changes to the original audio on the CD.

Re: Converting From Lossless Format to MP3

David, September 14, 2007

OK, I'll try those volume settings.

I had previously burned a lossless cd and compared it on my home cd player and you're right, it was the same as the original.

Thanks!

 

Please Help: "No Sound Device or No Mixer Device Installed"

Rosa Vallejo, October 11, 2007

I recently rebooted my computer and now I can't play cd's or any kind of sound from my computer. I keep getting a message "No sound device or no mixer device installed." It played up until the reboot.

Re: Please Help: "No Sound Device or No Mixer Device Installed"

Jeff (Editor), October 12, 2007

Be prepared- this may be a tricky one! I have two things you can try. Neither are much fun.

My guess is that you've had this computer a while. Maybe two years or more? Windows XP is probably bloated and confused after plugging in devices and installing programs over the years.

The first thing to try is reinstalling your sound drivers. If that sounds difficult, it is nothing compared to the second option I'm going to give you: Reinstall Windows.

Here's the step-by-step for reinstalling your sound driver:

  1. Right-click on a "My Computer" icon
  2. Select "Manage" from the menu
  3. In the Computer Management window, click "Device Manager"
  4. In the right pane of the window, open the leaf that reads "Sound, video and game controllers"
  5. Now you need to find your sound card in the list. You should see around six items in the list. I'm not sure which item it is, since it's unique to your computer. What I can tell you is which of the items is not your sound card:
    • Audio Codecs
    • Legacy Audio Drivers
    • Legacy Video Capture Drivers
    • Media Control Devices
    • Video Codes

    That should narrow down your choices. One of the remaining items is your sound card.

  6. Select your sound card and press the Delete key. Don't worry, we're going to get it back!
  7. In the "Action" menu, select "Scan for hardware changes." If we're lucky, little information bubbles saying "Found New Hardware" will start popping up in the bottom right of your screen.

Hopefully Windows found your sound card again and music is filling the air. If not, you will need to take the much more drastic step of reinstalling Windows.

This is not a trivial task. You will need the original discs that came with your PC. You should back up any important data and have a couple of hours to spare. I also recommend enlisting someone who has installed Windows before.

Hardware problems are tricky things. Having a techie tinker with your computer is often the best way to go in these situations.

Good luck!

 

Disappearing Music Files

David, November 10, 2007

Sometime in the last two weeks I have had a number of songs go missing from my computer. I use XP Media Player 10. Most of my music is lossless but some are mp3 or wma. It appears that the missing items (at least the ones I know of) are of the latter two varieties. I have found about 20 missing but out of thousands of songs it will take a long time to find how much is actually lost.

No recent power outages or anything unusual. I did run my 40g drive down to about 5-6g remaining a couple of months ago but cleaning out duplicate files got me up to around 13g free space.

This drive is a dedicated music library with only a couple of movies occasionally on it. I have used some of these files in the last weeks so I know it happened recently. Is there any way to find the missing files and/or keep this from happening again? I purchased a 320g USB external drive but it is acting goofy so am hesitant to trust it for a backup.

Re: Disappearing Music Files

Jeff (Editor), November 12, 2007

This is one of those mysteries that may ultimately go unsolved. I can give you some pointers on locating the music, assuming it's not lost forever. I can also assure you that you are not doomed to a life of randomly disappearing music files- they went away for a reason.

There was one thing in your letter that raised a red flag: You mentioned cleaning out duplicate files. Is it possible some of you music files could have been caught up in the sweep? Did you use a program to find duplicate files or use your own judgment (both have the potential for error)?

When you say missing songs, it could mean one of two things: Missing from your Windows Media Player library or physically missing from the hard drive. If they are missing from the library, you can simply add them back (once you find them). If they are missing from the hard drive, they may be gone for good.

Here's how to search your entire hard drive for your missing music files. From the Start Menu, select "Search." When the Search window appears, click "All Files and Folders." Finally, type in the name of a song you are missing in the top text box that reads, "All or part of the file name" and click "Search."

If your files show up in the search, they probably just went missing from your Windows Media Player library. Right-click the music file and select "Open Containing Folder" to see where these files are located on your hard drive. You can drag the music files right into your library.

If your search didn't turn up any missing files, your last resort is the Recycle Bin. You may find some, if not all of your missing files in there. If you do find them, the "Date Deleted" may clue you in to how these files were deleted. (What was I doing that day?)

Good luck to you. And get that backup system in place as soon as you can. The more you play around with your music collection, the more chances you have to mess something up!

 

Best Format for Music Player: MP3 or WMA?

David, February 14, 2008

I just purchased a new Sony mp3 player and I want to know which is the best format to rip my cd's into.

I am torn between WMA VBR or MP3 VBR. Which do you think I should try?

I have ripped a few albums using WMA VBR between 135kps>215 they sound good but I just want to make sure I get the best I can for the space I have to use; my player is an 8GB.

Is Mp3 better than WMA?

Re: Best Format for Music Player: MP3 or WMA?

Jeff (Editor), February 18, 2008

This is an excellent question. The short answer is WMA has better audio quality than MP3 at the same bitrate. You can use a lower bitrate with WMA, allowing you to pack more songs into the precious 8GB of space you have available.

However, this is a narrow way to look at the digital music collection you are about to build. Here are some other things to consider:

  • Is your MP3 player the only place you will listen to your ripped music?

    Ripping your CD collection is a tedious process. Most people only want to go through it once. You are talking about ripping to sub-CD audio quality to save space. You may need to repeat this process all over again when space is no longer a consideration. You might be better off ripping to a high-quality or lossless format and then converting what you need for your MP3 player at lower sound quality.

  • MP3 is the most compatible audio format in existence

    WMA works fine for your particular MP3 player and your computer. But it's not a universally compatible format like MP3. iPod's, for example, cannot play WMA.

  • Saving only 10 to 15% space, using 10 to 15% more battery life

    WMA is a newer format than MP3 and uses less space to encode at the same quality. While it's a subjective figure, the space savings is in 10 to 15% range. However, WMA also requires more brain power to decode, meaning it is going to work your MP3 player harder. I read in an article once that you can expect a decrease in battery life of about 12% compared with MP3 files.

  • Does it matter? Run the numbers

    If you're a big music fan, 8GB is not going to come close to holding your entire music collection. You will have to be selective about what music you put on your player. If you have fewer than a hundred CDs, you may be able to fit everything on your player using CD quality MP3s. You can estimate how much space your collection will take in our article "Comparing MP3 Bitrates." Variable bitrates tend to average out near the high number in the range, so choose a rate close but not exceeding this number.

There you have it. If you take the short term view and need to pack as much as you can into that 8GB, go WMA. If you want a music collection to last beyond this MP3 player, rip to high quality and convert down for your MP3 player.

 

Tagging a WAV File?

Mike Whitaker, July 31, 2008

I convert old vinyl to WAV files (for CD burning and later conversion to MP3). I find that whilst I can add advanced editor tags to files saved as MP3 in Windows Media Player, I can't add them to WAV files. Why - or can it be done?

If you know how, Help. Thanks.

Re: Tagging a WAV File?

Jeff (Editor), August 4, 2008

Unfortunately, the WAV file format is about as raw as they come. It does not support tagging of any kind. Your best bet is to use a more modern lossless format.

You didn't mention what program you're using to record the audio from your turntable but I'll venture a guess: Audacity.

FLAC (my personal favorite) is the only lossless format that Audacity can export to. However, you need to download the beta version to export to FLAC. (More on the current state of FLAC support in Audacity.)

Windows Media Player does not support FLAC natively. If you want advanced tag editing, MediaMonkey does the trick nicely for free.

MediaMonkey supports FLAC out-of-the-box. You can edit tags directly in the media library. You can multiselect tracks, right-click and select "Properties" to edit tags en masse. And the hi-res album art from Amazon is the icing on the cake!

Once you tag your FLAC files in MediaMonkey, you can convert them to MP3 with all the tags intact.

For my proposed solution, I'm making three assumptions: You're using Audacity to rip vinyl, you want to start saving in FLAC and you're willing to give up Windows Media Player for MediaMonkey. If that's the case, the following tutorial is for you.

With Audacity 1.3.3 in hand, here's how to export your vinyl rips to FLAC with basic tagging:

  1. Do your normal recording from your record player.
  2. When it comes time to save your track, select "Export" from the File menu.
  3. In Export dialog, select "FLAC Files" from the "Save as type" drop down list.
  4. Click the "Options" button. Select "8 (best)" from the Level drop down and make sure the default "16-bit" is selected.
  5. Now for the tagging! Fill out the artist, the album, the genre, everything except the track title and the track number.
  6. Click the "Set default" button. This remembers all the tags you just enter so you don't have to retype them on track 2.
  7. Now enter the track title and track number.
  8. Click OK and your done!

Audacity will not download album art. This is where MediaMonkey comes in handy. For the album cover artwork, highlight all the songs in album and select "Auto-Tag From Web."

Hope that helps!

 

Easiest Way to Copy My LPs to CDs?

Fay Moreno, January 6, 2009

I am 65+ and I must have at least 300 albums, and 500 45s, and even some 78s. I want to buy the easiest to use, ripping turntable (I think).

I saw Crosley Music Center and Crosley Songwriter CD Recorder at Macys. I also read about a Crosley Keepsake USB LP Ripping Turntable. Then I read about Staton T-90 USB turntable, Numark TTXUSB turntable, and ION LP-2-CD turntable.

My records have many scratches and skip alot. I am not really electronically savvy; please help me with which one might be the easiest to figure out and the best to buy.

Of course, like anyone else, I don't have money to pour down the drain. However, I know I need one that takes the skips and pops and hisses out.

I need all the help I could get. And I would like to purchase one soon. The Guitar Center in Philadelphia suggested the Staton T-90, but do I really need a professional DJ type?

I would greatly appreciate any and all help. Thank you very much for your kind consideration and attention to my problem.

Re: Easiest Way to Copy My LPs to CDs?

Jeff (Editor), January 6, 2009

I'm happy to give you all the help you need- particularly since you're the first person to ask my advice since I published my USB turntable guide! There's an ideal vinyl ripping turntable out there for you and I'll work with you to find it.

The first step is to be clear on your goals for digitizing your record collection. Here's what I gather, in order of priority:

  1. Easy
  2. Make CDs
  3. Handle really skippy records
  4. Decent sound quality
  5. Remove hiss and pops

What I didn't hear you say was "put the music on your iPod or computer." That's a good thing if your top priority is easy- it means you don't need to get your computer involved.

A "Standalone" vinyl ripping turntable records LPs directly to CDs- no computer required. It doesn't get any easier than this. The right one can also accomplish most your goals except #5: Removing clicks and pops.

Unfortunately, technology has not been developed to overcome skips or badly damaged records. You can only rely on tried and true methods, namely cleaning and extra weight.

That said, some record players are better equipped to overcome skips. Turntables with adjustable anti-skate also allow you to apply more pressure to the record, making it tougher for a scratch to bounce the needle out of the groove.

Adjusting "counterbalance" knob at the end of the toneaem causes the needle put more force on the vinyl without taping pennies to the other end of the tonearm!

In the Standalone category, there is only one turntable with an adjustable counterbalance. In fact, it's one that you mentioned: Ion Audio's LP 2 CD.

The LP 2 CD has one more technique for dealing with skippy records that no other standalone has: Do-overs.

You can only record to a CD once. All other standalones record to CDs while your record is playing. If you want re-record because of skipping, you'll need another blank CD.

The LP 2 CD, on the other hand, has built-in memory. You can record that song over and over again until you finally get it right. When you're happy, you create a CD.

Removing clicks, pops and hiss does require a computer. That complicates the process significantly. You'll have to forego your top priority, "easy," if you want to get your computer involved.

That's not to say you can't learn. If you're willing to spend the time, invest in some good software and perhaps enlist a grandson, you can figure it out.

The Ion LP 2 CD connects to your computer via USB in addition to burning CDs, so you're prepared if you ever decide to take on the computer challenge.

So there's my first crack at finding your ideal vinyl ripping record player. Let me know how I did and if you have any additional questions or concerns.

 

Numark PT-01USB and Ion iPTUSB Have Ceramic Cartridges

Bradley Olson, January 21, 2009

Since this is a very inexpensive portable turntable, this uses a ceramic cartridge. There are many people who prefer the 1980s Audio-Technica Sound Burger portables as they use magnetic cartridges for better sound.

Re: Numark PT-01USB and Ion iPTUSB Have Ceramic Cartridges

Jeff (Editor), January 21, 2009

Audio-Technica's "Sound Burger." Sounds Good for a Portable.

A rare example of a portable record player with a decent, non-ceramic cartridge. Not sold in stores but maybe on eBay.

The Sound Burger is a fun looking turntable. Thanks for sharing it.

What a bonus that it features a moving magnet cartridge. So many battery-powered, portable turntables use ceramic cartridges.

I strongly suspect that the Numark PT-01USB and its cousin, the Ion iPTUSB, use ceramic cartridges. I even express my suspicions in the footnote for the turntable.

However, when I interviewed a rep. and a supervisor in Ion's Level 2 technical support department, they assured me that no Ion or Numark turntable has a ceramic cartridge. I even pressed them on this particular model and the TTUSB05. They stood firm.

So, as a (wannabe) journalist, the best I can do express my doubts until I have evidence to prove this is a ceramic cartridge and not a MM cart. To call it ceramic based on a price-point or a hunch is a good way to get sued, not to mention a violation of my primary obligation of accuracy in reporting.

If you can provide me proof that PT-01 has a ceramic cartridge, I will happily report it and offer my gratitude.

Re: Numark PT-01USB and Ion iPTUSB Have Ceramic Cartridges

Bradley Olson, January 21, 2009

From KAB's website in regards to the Vestax HandyTrax (which uses the same stylus as the PT-01USB and the iPTUSB):

AUTO SHUT-OFF :NO
SPEAKERS      :ONE 3"SPKR.
DRIVE SYSTEM  :BELT
               DC Servo
SPEEDS        :33/45/78
VARIABLE SPEED:10%
Stylus incl.  : LP Sapphire
---Replacement Styli ------
Stylus LP     :793-D7
Stylus 78     :793-S3

If KAB mentions "LP Sapphire" in their description and the replacement stylus is 793-D7, this is the same stylus used in "nostalgia" turntables, then it uses a ceramic cartridge.

Re: Numark PT-01USB and Ion iPTUSB Have Ceramic Cartridges

Jeff (Editor), January 22, 2009

Ask and ye shall receive, as the saying goes! Thanks so much for the info. And thanks for showing me a resource where I can independently verify a manufacturer's claims about their cartridges.

Companies like Kab Acoustics and Stylus Plus in the UK know their cartridges. Both state unambiguously that the PT-01USB and iPTUSB feature ceramic cartridges.

That's good enough for me. The chart now reflects a ceramic cart instead of a moving magnet.

Thanks again for providing the evidence I needed to confirm my suspicions. I can now confidently tell the world, "You're getting a ceramic cartridge if you buy one of these turntables!"

Re: Numark PT-01USB and Ion iPTUSB Have Ceramic Cartridges

Bradley Olson, January 22, 2009

They Don't Make Boom Boxes Like This Anymore!

A truly unique portable stereo. The turntable even plays both sides without flipping over the record.

Another collectible vintage portable turntable is the Sharp VZ-2000 and its successor, VZ-2500. It is a boombox with a linear tracking turntable built in.

See the following sites:

 

 

 

 

Outsourcing Vinyl Ripping to Kids and Other LP Digitizing Fun

Terry, March 5, 2009

I just found your site through VinylEngine and am thrilled!

I have been digitizing for a while now, with about 200 albums completed (800 to go).

I initially went with a USB turntable. I chose the Stanton T.90 and am happy with the choice. It has features that a normal turntable has such as anti-skate etc. It also felt solidly constructed. I upgraded the cartridge after testing a few.

I also tested a handful of recording software and cleaning software, but avoided any that were greater than $100. I decided upon Audacity for recording and splitting. I use GrooveMechanic for removing ticks and pops. I tend to clean albums only if they have severe noise. For a handful of ticks, I would edit them in Audacity.

My testing method for cleaning software and cartridges was to clean/record a song I know well several times. I then pressed them all to a single cd and listened to them on my stereo. I then listened myself and had others listen to gather their feedback.

For archiving, playback and tweaking mp3 tags, I am using iTunes.

As an added bonus, this project has also been a family treat. My two sons are paid per album that they digitize. It has led to a lot of fun discussions and broadened their appreciation of various musical genres.

I just thought I would share one audiophile's approach and experiences to digitizing his music within a modest budget.

Re: Outsourcing Vinyl Ripping to Kids and Other LP Digitizing Fun

Jeff (Editor), March 10, 2009

I'm glad you liked the USB turntable guide. I learned a great deal writing it and I learn more every day from my readers and sites like the Vinyl Engine.

I love the idea of outsourcing the tedious work of vinyl ripping to your kids. What a great way to introduce them to new music (and dynamic range) while conserving your time which is worth more money. It's a win-win!

I'm glad to hear you're enjoying your Stanton. DJ USB turntables are definitely a step up from "consumer" USB turntables. They place an emphasis on sound quality that cheaper USB turntables can't match because, well, they're cheap.

You addressed the major issue with DJ turntables- the cartridge. Many don't come with a cartridge. Others, like the Stanton turntables, come with a DJ cartridge, which press the needle hard against the vinyl.

A DJ turntable is designed to keep the stylus in the groove, despite rapid back and forth platter movements and quick stops and starts. Part of this design is a cartridge that exerts quite a bit of force on the record.

This is a great thing if you're a DJ. It's also handy if your records are badly scratched and damaged. DJ cartridges are bad if you want to keep your vinyl in pristine condition, as the increased "tracking force" accelerates record wear.

Luckily, all DJ turntables accept "hi-fi" cartridges with as little as one-fifth the tracking force of a DJ cartridge.

Which cartridge did you settle on? How do you like it?

Thanks for reminding me about Groove Mechanic. It's a software package I've been meaning to add to the list, along with Adobe Audition.

As I browse the list of vinyl ripping software, I'm struck by the lack of free declicking applications. Audacity is the only one.

Of course, your Stanton comes bundled with Cakewalk pyro 5, which also eliminates clicks, pops and hiss. I know you weren't impressed with Audacity's declicking facilities but I wonder how pyro's compares with Groove Mechanic.

Thanks for sharing your vinyl ripping experiences and tips.

 

Using M-Audio FastTrack Pro for Vinyl Ripping

Brian Marron, May 10, 2009

I am not sure how the external USB soundcard shown on the webpage, M-Audio Fasttrack Pro, supports LP recording from an existing turntable/phono preamp system. There are no RCA inputs and only a single SPDIF input on this soundcard. How would one connect the output from a phono-preamp to this device?

Re: Using M-Audio FastTrack Pro for Vinyl Ripping

Jeff (Editor), May 12, 2009

Photo of the M-Audio Fast Track Pro.
Image courtesy of M-Audio

M-Audio Fast Track Pro

Retail Price:   $249.95
Notable
  • USB Sound Card
  • Signal To Noise Ratio: 101dB
  • XP, Vista and Mac compatible
Photo of the American Recorder 1/4" to RCA Adapter.
Image courtesy of American Recorder

American Recorder 1/4" to RCA Adapter

Retail Price:   Not Available
Notable
  • Right: Female RCA connection
  • Left: Male 1/4" (6.3mm) Mono TS connection

You are correct- there are no RCA inputs- the M-Audio FastTrack Pro has 1/4" jacks for a line-in. The RCA's are easily adaptable to 1/4". Unfortunately, I couldn't find any USB sound cards with RCA inputs and a Signal to Noise ratio exceeding 100db, which is the standard I set for the sound card section of the web site.

 

Connecting a Turntable to the M-Audio FastTrack Pro

Here's what you need to do hook up your turntable to the M-Audio or similar USB sound cards with 1/4" TS jack. A high-resolution photo of the FastTrack Pro front panel may help you follow along.

  1. Connect the record player to a pre-amp. The M-Audio doesn't have a phono pre-amp. It does have a microphone pre-amp but it doesn't work the same.
  2. Connect 1/4" adaptors to RCA cables. The output from your pre-amp, whether it's a receiver or a standalone pre-amp, will likely output to an RCA cable. Attach RCA to 1/4" TS adaptors to the ends of these cables and connect them to the front jacks of the FastTrack Pro. These should be mono adaptors (TS) as opposed to stereo adaptors (TRS).
  3. Set inputs to "Instrument." On the side of each 1/4" input, you will find a button that reads "Inst/Mic." Both buttons should be set to Inst.
  4. Turn off "Pad." Just below the Inst/Mic buttons, there's a Pad button. Turn this off.
  5. Set to "Stereo." To the right of the input jacks, there is a "Stereo/Mono" button. Set it to stereo.
  6. Adjust gain. This is where you "set the levels" before your the analog signal reaches the analog to digital converter. Both gain knobs should be set to the same level. With a record playing, adjust the gain as loud as possible without the red "Clip" light flickering. LP is recorded at various volumes, so if you want to "set it and forget it," be conservative and set it somewhat lower than the level where you find clipping. Just ensure the green "signal" light is constantly lit.

That's what it takes to run your turntable through a FastTrack Pro.

 

A Good USB Sound Card is Hard to Find (with a line-in, that is)

The FastTrack Pro and similar, extremely quiet USB sound cards are designed with musicians in mind. They include XLR microphone inputs and mic pre-amps, 1/4" inputs for a guitar, MIDI inputs for keyboards and other digital music equipment.

All of the external USB sound cards I've found with an S/N ratio exceeding 100dB are similarly designed for musicians, namely the EMU 0404 USB and the Infrasonic Amon.

Typically, other USB sound cards have only outputs or, if they do have an input, it is only for a microphone (not a line level input).

I was only able to find one current USB sound card with a line-in: The Turtle Beach Audio Advantage SRM*. It has a S/N of 82dB. The line-in jack is a stereo 1/8" jack, not RCA.

 

Don't Forget USB Sound Card/Pre-amp Combos

The idea behind the "Upgrade Your Sound Card" section is to present excellent replacements to poor sound cards. However, there is another class of USB sound cards designed especially for vinyl ripping. These sound cards feature an analog to digital converter and a phone pre-amp built into one box that plugs right into your USB port.

See the section "Turn Any Turntable into a USB Turntable" for a complete rundown on these boxes.

These sounds card have RCA inputs and even a grounding screw. The ART PhonoPlus V2 even outputs to S/PDIF in addition to USB.

You can't directly compare the S/N of these sound cards to the line level input on traditional sound cards. The inclusion of a phono pre-amp invariably reduces the figure below 100dB. Keep in mind, though, even the best turntables don't break 80dB S/N, so as long as your sound card and pre-amp are quieter, you should be OK.

 

 

Volume Really Low on Crosley CR249 (Keepsake Turntable)

Jenny, May 15, 2009

I own the Crosley CR249 USB turntable and am having a difficult time with trying to get the burned cd's to have any volume using Audacity.

My question is, does the Crosley Keepsake Turntable have a built-in preamp? I cannot tell.

Thanks.

Re: Volume Really Low on Crosley CR249 (Keepsake Turntable)

Jeff (Editor), May 12, 2009

Original Volume Level

Click the record to hear a Pink Floyd clip recorded on the CR249. The volume is very low.

Play LP icon

Volume Normalized

Listen to the same clip after raising the volume the max without clipping.

Play LP icon

Volume Amplified 7.5dB

Listen to the CR249 clip after raising the volume past the clipping level.

Play LP icon

The Crosley Keepsake Turntable does not have a pre-amp nor does it need one. The issue with the really quiet recording, in my understanding, is a problem with the analog to digital converter. Worry not, though, you can use Audacity to fix the problem.

The CR249 doesn't have a pre-amp because it uses a ceramic cartridge. Manufacturers use these, frankly, inferior cartridges so that they avoid the expense of a pre-amp. If it had a magnet cartridge, a pre-amp would be required.

Ceramic cartridges generate a strong enough signal for a normal volume level. However, in the Crosley, the recording volume is set very low at the A/D converter stage just before the audio goes out your USB cable.

On our USB turntable samples page, you can hear how low the volume is compared to Audio-Technica's and Ion Audio's USB turntables. It's very noticeable.

 

Photo of the Crosley CR249-TA.
Image courtesy of Crosley

Crosley CR249-TA

Retail Price:   $149.95
Notable
  • Portable with built-in speakers. Comes in black and tan.
  • Plays 78 records, though you should change the needle.
USB system icon

Normalizing the Volume in Audacity

Audacity's Normalize Window

Select Normalize from the Effect menu in Audacity to bring up this dialog box.

"Normalizing" is the highest you can raise the volume without losing the loudest parts of the music. After normalizing, the peaks of your music reach the maximum amplitude but never exceed it.

Normalizing makes a huge difference in raising the volume level on the Crosley. Hear for yourself in the samples above.

When you normalize you albums, you should do it all at once, rather than song by song. There are two reasons for this. First, it's just easier. Second, it ensures that the amplification is consistent across the whole album- songs the artist meant to be quiet aren't suddenly blaringly loud.

Here's how you normalize your LP recordings using Audacity:

  1. Record an entire album as you normally would. It is best to have the whole album in a single Audacity project.
  2. Select all of the waveform. Hold down Ctrl and press A or choose "Select All" from the Edit menu.
  3. Select "Normalize" from the Effect menu. The default values are ideal: Remove DC offset and maximum amplitude 0.0dB.
  4. Click "OK" and you're done. After some processing, you will see the waveform grow dramatically with some parts reaching the top or bottom.

 

Amplifying Your LP Recordings in Audacity

Audacity's Amplify Window

Select Amplify from the Effect menu in Audacity. Use sparingly- it's bad for your music!

You can make your recordings even louder using Audacity's Amplify effect. However, the loudness comes at a price: It will destroy the recording's dynamic range.

Dynamic range (in audio terms) is defined as the ratio of the loudest sound to the softest. In a recording with good dynamic range, the difference in volume between a whisper and a symphony climax is extreme. The more you destroy your dynamic range, the closer in volume these events become.

It begs the question: Why would you want to do this to your music? Personally, I never would.

However, producers of popular music are increasingly making their music "louder" by destroying dynamic range. The phenomenon even has a name: "The Loudness War."

The sad truth is, if you don't want to reach for the volume knob when shuffling your LP recordings in with your digitally produced pop music, you must do something to compete with it.

Amplifying your music well beyond the clipping point is one way to do it and that's what we're describing here.

Another tactic is to deal with it on the playback end. The ReplayGain standard is an excellent solution, though still not widely supported.

With all my disclaimers and warnings out of the way, if you still want to go through with it, here's how to amplify your music in Audacity:

  1. Record your LP as normal. Again, it's best to record have entire album available in the Audacity project window.
  2. Select the entire waveform. Ctrl + A.
  3. Select "Amplify" from the Effect menu.
  4. Adjust Amplify settings. The further you move the slider to the right, the louder your music will be. A positive number in the "New Peak Amplitude" text box means you are going clip your music and destroy your dynamic range. Audacity doesn't want you to do this by accident, so you have to check the "Allow Clipping" checkbox before continuing. In my example, I could only bring myself to use 7.5dB. You'll have to experiment with this number yourself to decide what works best for you.
  5. Click OK. After some processing, the waveform expands. The loudest points will be "through the roof."

 

 

S/PDIF Input Options for Under $100

Dave Angus, June 30, 2009

The ADSTech RDX-150 "Instant Music" USB sound box has Toslink optical S/PDIF input and output, as well as line level.

Quoting a post of mine on another forum:

I bought an RDX-150 on sale at Staples and had a look inside. The USB codec is a Burr-Brown/TI PCM2902E. Build quality looks pretty good (made in Taiwan, not China); the other chips are all major brands. It's got low-pass filters on the analog inputs and outputs, just like the evaluation board that TI sells for the PCM2902.

I figured the S/PDIF input would be useful with a turntable that had S/PDIF output.

For what it's worth, this article from AudioXpress reviewed a bunch of inexpensive preamps:

http://www.audioxpress.com/reviews/media/403hansen2090.pdf

Anyway, congratulations! Your site is doing a great service if it saves potential victims from wasting money on overpriced junk.

Re: S/PDIF Input Options for Under $100

Jeff (Editor), July 2, 2009

Photo of the ADS Technologies RDX-150.
Image courtesy of ADS Technologies

ADS Technologies RDX-150

Retail Price:   $56.20
Notable
  • Includes Spin It Again software, with almost a perfect score in the Vinyl Ripping Features checklist.
  • No phono pre-amp. You must supply one for RCA inputs. Not required for S/PDIF input.
Photo of the RiteAV Coaxial to Optical Converter (196430).
Image courtesy of RiteAV

RiteAV Coaxial to Optical Converter (196430)

Retail Price:   $13.99
Notable
  • All S/PDIF turntables have coaxial outputs. ADS Tech RDX-150 doesn't have a coaxial S/PDIF input; it only has an optical S/PDIF input.
  • This box converts from coax S/PDIF to optical (Toslink) S/PDIF.
Photo of the ARTcessories USBPhonoPlus.
Image courtesy of ARTcessories

ARTcessories USBPhonoPlus

Retail Price:   $129.00
Notable
  • USB sound card and pre-amp in one
  • Coax and optical (Toslink) S/PDIF inputs

Great find! The ADS Tech RDX-150 is an affordable solution for people who need an S/PDIF input and it's cheaper than the ART PhonoPlus v2. While it is missing the coax connection that all S/PDIF turntables have, that's fixable with an adapter. A huge bonus: The ADS Tech comes with Acoustica's Spin It Again software, a full-featured vinyl ripping program.

 

Comparison to ARTcessories PhonoPlus v2

Before you introduced me to this box, I only knew of one device to add an S/PDIF input to your PC for under $100. Now that I have a second, it seems appropriate to compare the ADS Tech RDX-150 to the ART box.

  • Cheaper: You can pick up an ADS Tech box for about half the price of an ART box. However, if you want to connect an S/PDIF turntable to it, you still need to buy an adapter. (Read on...)
  • No Coax S/PDIF Input: I have yet to find a turntable with an optical S/PDIF output- they are all coaxial. That's not a problem on the ART box: It has both an optical (Toslink) and coaxial input. The ADS Tech box only has an optical input. You need a separate adapter to connect an S/PDIF turntable to it. I found one on Amazon for $14, so, even with the added expense, you are still saving $30 or more over the ART box.
  • Vinyl Ripping Software The ADS Tech comes Acoustic's Spin It Again, a program designed specifically for digitizing LPs that retails for $45- a little more than the ADS Tech box itself. The ART box comes with Audacity, a general purpose audio editing program you can download for free.
  • No Phono Pre-amp If you are only interested connecting an S/PDIF turntable, this is not a problem. However, this might be a problem if you want to connect an analog turntable to your computer. Read more below.
  • Extra ART features The ART PhonoPlus v2 has many more connections, features and, of course, a pre-amp. Let's compare:
Feature ARTcessories PhonoBox v2 ADS Tech RDX-150
S/PDIF In, Optical Yes Yes
S/PDIF Out, Optical Yes Yes
S/PDIF In, Coax Yes No
RCA In Yes Yes
RCA Out Yes Yes
USB Out Yes Yes
Headphone Out Yes No
Adjustable Gain Yes No
Rumble Filter Yes No
Clipping Indicator Yes No
Phono Pre-amp Yes No
Grounding Screw Yes No
Vinyl Ripping Software No Yes
Published Specs. No Yes

 

 

ADS Tech RDX-150: No Phono Pre-amp

Given that ADS Tech bills this box as vinyl digitizer, I find it strange that it is missing a phono pre-amp. After all, most turntables require a pre-amp and it seems like the lack of one inconveniences a large chunk of their target market.

The missing pre-amp is the precisely the reason why the ADS Tech RDX-150 didn't make it into the "Turn Any Turntable into a USB Turntable" section of the USB turntable guide. I can't claim that with this box, since extra equipment is required.

I suppose two arguments could be made for not including a pre-amp: One, it keeps the cost low. Two, at this price-point, if they were to include a pre-amp, it would be, well, a cheap pre-amp.

The excellent AudioXpress article you provided offers some great insight as to what might be lacking in a low-cost pre-amp. Particularly RIAA equalization accuracy and freedom from noticeable noise and hum.

 

Thanks for sharing a valuable addition to the sub-$100 S/PDIF input solution.

 

 

Solution for Digitizing Cassettes and LPs

Dr. Bebop, September 26, 2009

Does anyone know if there are good USB turntable setups, or pre-amp setups for analog turntables, which can also be used for digitizing cassettes (even if it is as MP3 and not WAV file)? Any thoughts on best USB cassette digitizers, otherwise?

Does the phono have to be hooked up to the amplifier, and the pre-amp and computer?  That's more room to work with, in which case perhaps a laptop brought to the stereo is a better setup.  Without the amp, setting up with the desktop is more workable.

Phono is an Ariston Pro and deck is Sony K707ES, both likely better specs than the USB versions, excepting top flight models.

Any way to digitize cassettes as WAV files, and not MP3? I know you can do WAV files from phono, and that's preferable, since there's no compression of the sound. MP3-cultured kids may not care, but I do. Any fave software? I heard good things about Cakewalk, but Spin It Again looked good on your site.

Thanks!- LP/cassette collection to go.

Re: Solution for Digitizing Cassettes and LPs

Jeff (Editor), September 29, 2009

Photo of the ARTcessories USBPhonoPlus.
Image courtesy of ARTcessories

ARTcessories USBPhonoPlus

Retail Price:   $129.00
Notable
  • USB sound card and pre-amp in one
  • Coax and optical (Toslink) S/PDIF inputs
Front Side of ART PhonoPlus V2.

Press the "Input" button in when recording vinyl and out when recording from tape.

It sounds like you already have an analog turntable and just need a way to digitize it. Our section, "Turn Any Turntable into a USB Turntable" might be worth checking out.

There you'll find a selection of boxes that include a phono pre-amp and USB output. For cassettes, you just switch off the pre-amp and you're digitizing at line-level.

The ARTcessories box is my clear favorite because it has so many options. However, it doesn't come with any special software- just a free program called Audacity. The program does the trick but it takes some time to learn.

The ION Audio box comes with EZ Vinyl Creator software. You can read my review of it. The software is easy to use but has some serious limitations, like MP3 only (no WAV).

Yes, you can connect your record player and cassette player to the same box. And no, you don't need to get your stereo receiver involved.

It might help to follow along with the ART PhonoBox pictures. Click the pictures to zoom in.

  • In the first picture, you have two RCA (red and white) inputs labeled, "Preamp Phono Line In." You would connect either your turntable or your cassette player here. There's even a grounding screw for your turntable.
  • It's a little hard to see but in the second picture, on the left, is a button that says "Input." Underneath it reads "Phono" when the button is pushed in and "Line" when the button is out. To record from your turntable, guess what, make sure the button is set to Phono. When recording from a cassette player, a DVD player, a VCR or just about any other audio source (aside from a microphone), set the button to Line.

There is some great software written to address the needs of digitizing from a record player. The top two in my "Vinyl Ripping Software" list are "Vinyl Studio" and "Spin It Again." Both also support digitizing cassettes.

I don't have formal reviews of these packages yet but you can read a mini-review and comparison at the Vinyl Engine.

Spin It Again and VinylStudio can both record to WAV. And I care about the difference too. Everything I digitize goes to FLAC (a more modern WAV-like format), then I convert the music to MP3 for portable devices, etc.

Cakewalk is great if you're a musician and want to produce music. It is not designed specifically for digitizing vinyl or tapes, though it is possible if you poke around enough. You can read my review of the version of Cakewalk that comes with some USB turntables.

Good luck with your digitizing project!

 

 

What USB Turntable to Put Under the Christmas Tree?

Marie Sanderson, December 5, 2009

My son asked for a turntable so he could listen to our old lps. I would like to find something that would allow him to transfer music to digital format.

From what I've read the best advice seems to be get a good turntable and not a usb.

He uses a Mac and is a music freak...his hobbies include guitar and drum playing. Can someone help me put something together?

Thank you.

Re: What USB Turntable to Put Under the Christmas Tree?

Jeff (Editor), December 5, 2009

Photo of the Ion Audio LP DOCK.
Image courtesy of Ion Audio

Ion Audio LP DOCK

Retail Price:   $299.95
Notable
  • Upgradable cartridge, adjustable gain, USB output
  • Record directly to an iPod (not as useful as it sounds).
standalone system icon USB system icon

It's true that the better turntables don't have digital outputs. However "better" starts around $300 and quickly goes up from there.

If Santa's going to be that good to your son, take a look at the turntables in the "Superior Analog Turntables" section. Then get a one of the three boxes found in the "Turn Any Analog Turntable into a USB Turntable" section (the ARTcessories box is probably your best bet).

There are reasonable-sounding turntable for around $100. The trick is to avoid the really bad sounding ones also in that price range. You can listen to actual recordings from three turntables around that price on the Samples page.

Personally, I like the Ion turntables at this level. The LP Dock, at $129 on Amazon, is a great value for a few reasons:

  • It's expandable: You can upgrade the cartridge for even better sound.
  • You can adjust the recording volume: It is one of the few USB turntables with an "adjustable gain" at any price. This helps him pull the full fidelity out of quietly recorded LPs.
  • It has Mac software: All Ion turntables come with a program called, "EZ Vinyl." It lives up to its name- very easy to use. It's great way to get started, though he'll probably graduate to software with more advanced features pretty quickly.

I hope that gives you some ideas.

Re: What USB Turntable to Put Under the Christmas Tree?

Marie Sanderson, December 6, 2009

Thank you so much for your prompt and informative response. Santa is very happy to hear about the ION ..it's within his budget.

I must say I am quite grateful for your help. You made my day.

Thank you,

Marie

 

 

Gift of Bad USB Turntable Makes Neither Giver nor Receiver Happy

Bill Nelson, January 3, 2010

I received an Innovative Technology ITUT-201 USB turntable for Christmas. Although the quality level isn't up to my Technics SL-J33 Quartz Drive turntable, that one hasn't worked for several years and an authorized shop was unable repair it properly.

This one has a ceramic cartridge, but has the "advantage" of connecting directly to the USB port. However, my first few attempts at ripping music from my LP collection have been futile.

I've been using "Audacity" for ripping cassettes for months, and am fairly satisfied with the results. The turntable hasn't worked nearly as well. The audio envelope is clipped about 80% of the time and none of the level controls available have any effect.

I understand now, from the information on this site, that the USB input bypasses the audio card. If I can find some suitable conversion cables, do you think using the line out from the ceramic cartridge to the "line in" jack on the sound card would cure this problem? If not, do you have any other suggestions?

Thanks!

Re: Gift of Bad USB Turntable Makes Neither Giver nor Receiver Happy

Jeff (Editor), January 4, 2010

Photo of the Cables to Go Female L/R RCA to 1/8" male adapter.
Image courtesy of Cables to Go

Cables to Go Female L/R RCA to 1/8" male adapter

Retail Price:   $9.64
Notable
  • Left: Female stereo RCA connections for your turntable cable
  • Left: Male 1/8" (3.5mm) for your computer
Photo of the Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB.
Image courtesy of Audio-Technica

Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB

Retail Price:   $299.00
Notable
USB system icon DJ system icon
Photo of the Technics SL-1200MK5.
Image courtesy of Technics
DJ system icon analog system icon

My suggestion? Return it while there is still time and exchange it for something better!

No matter how you connect it, this turntable will disappoint you. The ceramic cartridge pickup will never satisfy ears accustomed to hearing a nice Technics, linear-tracking turntable.

 

Using Your Sound Card Instead of USB

You can bypass the analog to digital converter built in to the turntable and use your sound card instead. However, if you believe clipping is occurring, a basic sound card is unlikely to help.

The cartridge itself generates the voltage that hits the line-in on your sound card in a ceramic cartridge system. If that signal is so "hot" that it clips analog to digital converter in the turntable, it is likely to do the same in the A/D converter in your sound card.

On better sound cards, you can attune a hot signal before hits the A/D converter (called "gain adjustment"). On basic, built-in sound cards, you can only adjust volume after the conversion, and the clipping, occurs.

To connect the Innovative Technology turntable to your sound card, just pick up stereo female RCA to 1/8" male adapter. Then plug it into the line-in jack of your sound card (just like the cassette deck).

 

Listen to Mine

You wrote at a perfect time- I just created samples from the same turntable (though a different brand name- Grace Digital Audio). The recordings, like yours, are noticeably bad.

And it skipped frequently, like the other ceramic cartridge turntable I tested.

Here's a sneak preview of the samples I produced. Compare them to your samples. Do they sound about as bad?

Now compare these samples to those from similarly priced USB turntables with better cartridges. The Audio-Technica and the Ion are both moving magnet. The Crosley is another ceramic.

 

Make Everyone Happy- Exchange the Turntable for Something Better

You're in a situation where no one is happy. The person giving you the gift feels bad because it falls short of your expectations. You feel bad because you can't entrust this turntable digitally enshrine your cherished vinyl collection.

Thank the person who gave it to you but ask for the receipt. He or she probably bought it at Wal-Mart, JC Penny's or Kohl's.

Make everyone happy. Get a refund and use the money toward a better USB turntable.

 

Here's the Turntable I See for You

You have an 80's era Technics turntable that you can't repair. The department store put $100 in your pocket when you returned the bad USB turntable. You probably don't want to spend over $700 on a new Technics SL-1200. (Yes, they still make 'em!)

The answer: Audio-Technica just came out with a digital version of their SL-1200 imitator- the AT-PL120- and it's selling for around $300.

The digital version is the AT-LP120-USB. It's direct drive, comes with a cartridge pre-installed, has a built-in pre-amp and USB output. Most importantly, it has that Technics-like, 80's turntable charm for hundreds less than a new Technics SL-1200 package.

To be sure, the specs on the PL120 fall short of the SL-1200. But they beat the Innovative Technology turntable by a mile.

 

 

You Left Out 78 Records, You Insensitive Clod!

Steven C. Barr (who owns about 56,500 old 78's!), January 4, 2010

Your site says nothing about using current analog (or digital!) hardware to play "78's" even though most such gear offers that speed as a selection!

The most important point is not even mentioned, being the fact that 78 rpm records have groove sizes of .0025" to .004" This means that using stereo microgroove needles (often included with current players!) to play "78's" will provide poor results at best...and worse yet will quickly make the needle useless (or even dangerous!) for playing vinyl microgroove (33, 45) records!

None of the companies which make and sell current turntables says anything about this situation, so buyers often see the "78" on the speed selector and assume they can play 78's!

Re: You Left Out 78 Records, You Insensitive Clod!

Jeff (Editor), January 7, 2010

Coming Soon to Knowzy: Mozart on 78

Playing back century-old 78 RPM records is challenging. Yours truly will soon find out how challenging.

Another 78 from 1921

This was four years before the industry standardized on 78 RPM. At what speed should this record play? I’ll need to research that!

I'll admit that 78 record info is sparse but it's there. For example, I go into the subject fairly deeply in my review of the Crosley CR249.

But you're right- it's too little and not prominent enough.

Let's begin fixing this here and now with what follows. Eventually, the info in this thread will become the basis for a main topic in the turntable guide.

I do plan to try this out personally. I have some 78 records on loan from a relative. I just need to get the equipment to do something meaningful with them.

 

What Everyone Should Know About Digitizing 78 Records

Judging by your name, you wrote the book on 78 record collecting. I invite you to interject with nuance and corrections.

The bare minimum for getting reasonable sound and not damaging your records seems to be this:

  1. A turntable with a 78 RPM speed and a 1/2" or P-mount.
  2. A Stanton V500 cartridge
  3. A special needle designed to fit much wider 78 record grooves.

But there's a lot more to it. Century-old shellac records aren't always in the best condition. Record makers used varying record speeds, materials, equalizations and cutting processes.

If you are committed to faithful reproduction of your 78 records, expect to put a great deal of time and money pursuing it.

Here's a brain dump of my knowledge on the subject 78 record archiving:

  • You need a special needle. Period. End of Story. In fact, you will find yourself with several types of styli if you get serious about 78 record restoration.
  • Regular needles sound terrible. If you put a vinyl needle to a shellac record, you will hear music. However, you will also get an unbearable amount of surface noise. There are two reasons for this:
    • You're playing the dust and debris at the bottom of the groove. The groove on a 78 record is at least three times wider than an LP with a "microgroove." Your regular, vinyl needle will drop to the bottom of the groove where nearly a century of dust, debris and mold has collected. A needle designed for 78s matches the width of the groove and rises above the debris.
    • Lower part of groove is likely worn. In the heyday of shellac 78 records, record player manufacturers advised you to change the needle with every play. Few followed that advice. This resulted in damage to the lower part of the groove. A wider, modern 78 stylus hits the untouched "sweet spot" higher up in the groove, where a vintage needle couldn't go.
  • 78 records will damage regular needles, not the other way around. A common misconception is that using a modern, vinyl stylus on a shellac 78 record will damage the record. In fact, just the opposite is true- a 78 record will damage your vinyl needle, which, in turn, may ruin your LP records. Even the lousiest of vinyl needles will exert less than 10 grams of pressure on a record. Back in the early days of 78 records, needles placed an ounce (128 grams) or more of pressure on the shellac. 10 grams will have little impact on most 78 records. The rigid shellac grooves, however, will make a big impact on a delicate vinyl needle.
  • USB turntable manufacturers offer reckless advice on 78 record playback. The Crosley CR249 USB turntable has a 78 speed. However, Crosley doesn't make a 78 needle and the manual instructs you to simply switch to 78 and play. Similarly, you can't attach a 78 needle to most Ion Audio turntables. But that doesn't stop them from including a half page of instructions on recording 78 records. If you follow either of these companies' lead, you're likely to damage the next vinyl record you play.
  • Record in stereo, even though 78 records are mono. Often one side of the record groove is more damaged than the other. By recording in stereo, the inner grove becomes the left channel and the outer groove becomes the right channel. Listen to each individually and you may find one channel sounds better. Keep that one, and discard the other. Your recording will be that much better for it.
  • Getting proper speed is tough. 78 RPM (78.26 more precisely) wasn't standardized until 1925. Earlier records were recorded as slow as 67 RPM and as fast as 85. Sound HiFi in the UK will modify your Technics SL-1200 MKII to play at speeds between 71.29 and 90 RPM but it costs around $1,000. You can change the speed of your recordings in free programs like Audacity and Mixx. However, in my experience, such effects lead to choppy sounding music.
  • Getting proper equalization is tough. After 1955, records were produced with the bass lowered and treble raised according to the RIAA equalization standard. The pre-amp in a modern turntable system reverses this equalization making the record sound normal. 78 records had many equalization standards and none line up very closely with RIAA. If you use an RIAA pre-amp for 78 playback, it won't be perfect but at least the treble won't be overwhelming and the bass won't be underwhelming. Perhaps your best bet is to do a "flat transfer" then use your computer to apply the proper 78 equalization. Brian Davie's free Equalizer program contains all major 78 record equalization standards. Audacity's Equalization effect has several standards as well.
  • What equipment do you need? Very few companies make gear designed specifically for 78 records and very few retailers sell it. Here's what to look for:
    • Cartridge: Stanton 500 (or 700 if you have a P-Mount). I can't recall ever seeing another cartridge recommended for 78 records in my research. Nearly all 78 needles still in production are designed to fit the Stanton 500/700.
    • Styli (Needles): 78 needles are much wider than vinyl needles. A typical vinyl needle is around .6 mil (.0006 inches). 78 needles are between two mil and four mil to match the wider grooves. The following styli all fit the Stanton 500 cartridge.
      • Esoteric Sound manufactures a 3.0 mil stylus (model D5130E). They claim, "If you only buy one 78 stylus, this is it." At around $150 for a 78 record needle, you may not want to buy more than one.
      • KABUSA sells a range of needles in various widths. The widths start at 1.1 mil to and go as high as 4.0. Serious 78 archivists use many different size needles to match the varying characteristics of vintage records.
  • 78 Record Info on the Web:
    • Downloadable 78 Recordings @ cdbpdx: One man has put over 4,000 public domain 78 recordings on the web. Download them free. Lots of memorable music from artists such as: Count Basie, Hank Williams, Glenn Miller, Bennie Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and more. Get them individually or all at once through BitTorrent.
    • Downloadable 78 Recordings @ Internet Archive: Find another 10,000 recordings from old 78 RPM records to download.
    • Vintage 78s – Getting in the Groove: Excellent, detailed primer on archiving 78 RPM records as a hobby. Includes many photos, drawings and diagrams.
    • From 78 to CD: A collection of anecdotes and advice on digitizing your 78 record collection from 78RPMRecord.com.

I apologize for glossing over this subject and I'm sorry you felt neglected. I hope this conversation will guide Knowzy readers with questions about digitizing 78 collections.

 

 

It's a "Stylus." Saying "Needle" Makes You Sound Stupid!

William Sommerwerck, September 20, 2010

I am semi-awed by the huge amount of work that must have gone into creating this article. However, almost every bit of technical information is wrong, to some degree or another.

In practice, this doesn't matter much, as anyone with a good technical grasp of turntable and pickup operation wouldn't be using a USB turntable in the first place. The fact that you're warning people away from ceramic pickups and encouraging them to use conventional turntables with a magnetic pickup and preamp is enough.

I do, however, encourage the writer to replace all occurrences of "needle" with "stylus". It looks really ignorant. "Needles" went out with acoustical phonographs.

Thank you.

Re: It's a "Stylus." Saying "Needle" Makes You Sound Stupid!!

Jeff (Editor), September 20, 2010

Thanks for your interest and compliments.

I am fairly new student to vinyl and I'm certain my guide is not 100% perfect. Fortunately, it's a living document and every word of it is up for discussion.

As my expertise grows, it is reflected in the turntable guide.

While I don't expect a point-by-point critique of flaws you see in the guide, maybe you can focus on a particular point that really stands out?

As to the term "needle" vs. "stylus," this is intentional but maybe I can be more concise about it.

One of the main goals of the guide is to introduce people to turntables. Terms like stylus, plinth and even turntable are often not in the "newbie's" vocabulary. But needle, body and record player are nearly universally known.

I tend to uses these terms interchangeably but maybe I should use the slang only to introduce the reader to the proper name. It's something to think about.

Thanks for writing and I do appreciate the feedback. I'm always striving to improve the turntable guide.

Re: It's a "Stylus." Saying "Needle" Makes You Sound Stupid!

William Sommerwerck, September 20, 2010

Thanks for your reply.

Simply replacing "needle" with "stylus" would greatly improve the page.

It would take quite a bit of time to correct all the errors, and it wouldn't improve the article in any practical way -- that is, help people do a better job of making digital dubs of LPs. I'm unemployed, and can't justify contributing unpaid time.

I'll look over the article and see if there are any errors that might cause users to do something wrong.

Oh, yes... One point overlooked... Records should be thoroughly cleaned before being transferred. The best way to do this is with a vacuum cleaning machine for LPs. They start at around $250.

 

Listening to USB Turntable While Recording

Michael, September 26, 2010

I am trying to decide which USB turntable to buy for converting my LPs to digital. The Autio-Technica LP120-USB is my preference.

Question: Can I monitor while recording? I would like to know if I will be able to hear the music through the computer speakers during (or preferrrably before) recording.

Re: Listening to USB Turntable While Recording

Jeff (Editor), September 28, 2010

Software Playthough Checkbox in Old Audacity Versions

Just open the Preferences dialog from the Edit menu and check it to listen while you record.

Software Playthough Checkbox in New Audacity Versions

Open the Preferences dialog, select Recording and check Software Playthrough to monitor your USB turntable while recording.

Yes, you can certainly listen to your turntable while recording from it.

If you are using Audacity, the program that comes with the Audio-Technica turntable, you will need to adjust a setting first.

Other programs like Acoustica's Spin It Again and AlpineSoft's VinylStudio have a similar setting.

 

Hearing Your USB Turntable During Recording in Audacity

Audacity is included with nearly every turntable on the market because it's free. You can download it yourself before buying your turntable and follow these instructions to enable monitoring.

Depending on which version of Audacity you have, the instructions are slightly different.

 

Older Versions of Audacity (prior to 1.3):

  1. Select Preferences from the Edit menu
  2. Look for a check box that reads, "Software Playthrough" and check it
  3. Click OK and you'll hear whatever you're recording.

 

Newer Versions of Audacity:

  1. Select Preferences from the Edit menu
  2. Click "Recording" in the list on the left side of the window
  3. Check the "Software Playthrough" checkbox
  4. Click OK and monitor away!

 

 

The Technics SL-1200MK2 is No More!

Bradley Olson, October 23, 2010

Photo of the Technics SL-1200MK5.
Image courtesy of Technics
DJ system icon analog system icon

I am just posting this to let everyone know that the Technics SL-1200MK2 is discontinued but the MK5 version of is still available.

Re: The Technics SL-1200MK2 is No More!

Jeff (Editor), October 25, 2010

Good to hear from you and thanks for the tip.

I replaced the MK2 with the Technics SL-1200MK5 in the turntable guide.

It appears that some retailers are raising their prices on the MK5. For example, Musician's Friend has it for over $1,000.

Let's hope that others don't follow suit.

Today, it's still pretty easy to find in the $700 range if you shop around.

 

 

What Happened to the Numark LP 2 CD?

Doug, November 13, 2010

I have a couple of questions. Why is the Numark LP 2 CD model no longer available on most online dealers?

Your review says that the ION LP2CD gives poor sound quality. Is it possible to improve the quality by using Spin It Again or other software?

Thanks.

Re: What Happened to the Numark LP 2 CD?

Jeff (Editor), November 16, 2010

Photo of the Ion Audio LP 2 CD.
Image courtesy of Ion Audio

Ion Audio LP 2 CD

Retail Price:   $399.95
Notable
  • Burn directly to CD or connect to your computer via USB.
  • 700MB internal memory. Perfect recording before commiting to CD.
standalone system icon USB system icon
Photo of the Crosley CR248-PA.
Image courtesy of Crosley

Crosley CR248-PA

Retail Price:   $399.95
standalone system icon

You're having trouble finding Numark's LP 2 CD because they no longer make it. However, Ion Audio's LP 2 CD is essentially the same turntable as far as sound quality.

If recording directly to CD is important to you, the Numark/Ion LP 2 CD is the top of the line. But that doesn't mean it's a great turntable.

Software such as Spin It Again and VinylStudio can clean up the audio but it can't add back what was never there in the first place. However, upgrading the cartridge would improve the sound quality.

 

Numark vs Ion Audio LP 2 CD

Numark now lists the LP 2 CD in its "Legacy Products" section. I'm having trouble finding anyone that still sells it.

The Ion Audio version (Numark and Ion are the same company) is identical in terms of the turntable parts. The cartridge, preamp, platter, tonearm and plastic body are all the same.

You shouldn't hear any difference in sound.

The differences between the Numark and Ion models are:

  • More memory. A unique feature of both versions is the ability to digitize your LPs to internal memory before burning the disc. This allows you to get the recording just right before you make a CD. It also means the noise created by the spinning CD won't creep into your recording. The Numark LP 2 CD gives you 1GB of memory to work with. The Ion gives you 700MB, exactly the size of an audio CD.
  • Possibly better A/D converter. The Numark boasts "Mastering engine, DSP, and CD burning by Alesis" The Ion makes no such claim. Alesis is a company acquired by Numark in 2001 after it filed for bankruptcy. Its claim to fame is the ADAT recorder. I don't know if the Alesis technology in the Numark LP 2 CD is limited to CD recording portion or if the analog to digital converter used in the USB output is improved as well.

 

Does the LP 2 CD Sound Terrible? Listen for Yourself.

Vinyl in general has sound quality limitations compared to CD or other high quality digital formats. The best you can hope for is a turntable setup that sounds as good as CD.

The problem with a turntable such as the LP 2 CD is the components just aren't of high enough quality to get anywhere near CD quality. No turntable in its price range is.

You can do much worse than the LP 2 CD, though. One thing to avoid on turntables in this price range is a ceramic cartridge, like the one found in the Crosley Songwriter (CR-248). The Ion/Numark LP 2 CD has a better moving magnet cartridge.

I have some samples from a different Ion turntable that should sound very similar to the LP 2 CD. I also have samples from a different Crosley.

Have a listen. While you'll clearly hear the difference between the CD and Ion, you'll also hear how bad it can get with the Crosley.

 

Can Software Improve the Sound of a Lousy Turntable?

Perhaps you've heard the saying, "Garbage-in, garbage-out." It definitely applies here. If the sound quality starts out poor, there's little you can do to improve it.

A better investment would be to upgrade the cartridge. Many USB turntables don't give you that option. Fortunately, it is an option on the LP 2 CD.

Software can remove hiss and hum. Software can remove clicks and pops. Software can raise the volume if it's lacking.

But if your turntable can't reproduce the low and high end of the frequency range, software can't put it back. If the turntable is wobbly, software can't fix that. If excessive noise drowns out the subtleties of the music, software can't revive them.

In short, digital tricks can clean things up a bit but they can't put back what is missing from the sound.

 

 

Direct Drive or Belt Drive. Which is Better?

Danny Weeks, November 28, 2010

I've reading the article about comparing turntables to record vinyl records to CDs. I was wondering which is best a direct drive turntable or belt driven?

Re: Direct Drive or Belt Drive. Which is Better?

Jeff (Editor), November 30, 2010

The direct vs. belt drive question has no clear answer and, among vinylphiles, is akin to asking which is the best religion or political party. It's a very divisive issue. But I can give you some guidelines to help you decide for yourself.

 

Belt Drive: Found on the Best and Worst

First off, when it comes to more expensive turntables, over $1,500, there is no question and virtually no choice: Belt drive wins hands down.

Bottom-of-the-line turntables, under $200, are usually belt driven as well, with poor results.

For example, none of the four belt drive turntables I tested spun at 33.3 RPM. One spun at 34.4 RPM, which raises a musical note by a half step.

Belt driven turntables rely on heavy platters to maintain speed stability. We're talking 15 pounds or more. Cheap belt drive turntables typically have plastic platters or, at best, two pound aluminum platters.

 

Direct Drive: Stable Speed but Possibly Noisy

Direct driven platters excel at maintaining a proper, stable speed. However, since the motor directly spins the platter, its noise can bleed in to the music.

A quiet direct drive motor serves you best, but again, that requires an investment. People praise the Technics SL-1200 as quiet and stable. But you'll be lucky if you can get a SL-1200 setup for less than $1,000.

Motor noise is less of an issue with a belt drive turntable. The pulley at the end of the motor is isolated from platter. Motor vibrations would need to travel through the belt to make it into the record playback- not an easy feat.

I've tested two direct drive turntables: The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB ($200) and the Stanton T.92 USB ($300). Both spun at exactly 33.3 RPM and strobe dots on the platter prove it. And I don't think I heard the motor, though there was plenty of noise.

 

No Clear Winner

The direct drive turntables I tested are more expensive than the belt-driven turntables. How would these direct drive tables compare to a better-built belt-driven table, like a Pro-ject Audio Debut III?

A well-built turntable will perform better than a cheap, plastic turntable, regardless of the drive system. For a belt drive, I think the weight of the platter is a great indicator of how well it will perform.

When two turntables are otherwise equal, the fierce direct vs. belt debate begins among vinylphiles. No clear winner ever emerges.

 

 

Is Cheap Gemini DJ Turntable a Bargain at $50?

Rawl Gelinas, January 20, 2010

Thank you very much for a very informative site.

I just purchased a Gemini VINYL2MP3 turntable from BJ's Wholesale which is "old stock". I talked with Gemini's support B4 the purchase and their tech told me this model was identical to the newer TT-1100USB you have reviewed. Just a model labeling change. The table is physically and electrically identical in all respects but was priced at only $ 49.99 plus shipping and tax through BJ's after the "coupon" (online only). Delivered to my door cost = $70. I would like to raise two issues with your review chart of features of the TT-1100USB based on the fact it is identical to the VINYL2MP3 model and my experiences with that one.

I think you should consider changing two answers in your Turntable Contruction chart columns for this turntable. First, the feet do adjust. Second, the optional light that looks like it would be a speed strobe light is just an platter illumination light. The hash marks on the edge of the platter are nothing more than decoration per their tech. The optional light will not indicate speed in any manner and in fact the RCA jack it plugs into puts out purely a DC voltage (I measured) not any type of oscillating or strobing signal as would be necessary to achieve the speed sync effect expected. I have a Technics SL-Q2 so I know what to expect. I wish the light did work as a speed strobe because the table has to be adjusted with a strobe disc and the pitch adjustment to get even close to correct speed. The middle of the pitch adjustment range was nowhere close to correct speed at 33 1/3 and the tech at Gemini said this was typical.

Finally, I should note that while this table functions pretty much as expected, it does exhibit excessive platter wobble. Since I bought this primarily to transcribe 78s and have also bought a dedicated shell/cartridge/3mil 78 needle as well as an Rek-O-Kut "Archival" pre-amp for this purpose, when playing 78s the wobble is enough to introduce quite noticeable audible noise floor rise especially on the outer tracks. This is most apparent at 78 speed.

Gemini is shipping the unit back to replace the spindle which is the cause of the wobble. That speaks well of their customer service but I wonder how many TT-1100's out their suffer from the same problem.

Feel free to reply with any questions of if you want an update after I get my re-worked table back from Gemini.

Cheers,
Rawl Gelinas

Re: Is Cheap Gemini DJ Turntable a Bargain at $50?

Jeff (Editor), January 21, 2011

Photo of the Gemini TT-1100 USB.
Image courtesy of Gemini

Gemini TT-1100 USB

Retail Price:   $209.95
USB system icon DJ system icon

Thanks for the feedback on the Gemini VINYL2MP3/TT-1100USB. I can't experience every turntable in person and I always appreciate thoughtful, firsthand insight.

I made the corrections to the table. I can see claiming a strobe light was a mistake just by looking at the platter.

$50 is the cheapest I've seen a Gemini turntable. Amazon sells Gemini's new TT-1100USB for $105.

 

Gemini TT-1100USB vs. More Expensive DJ USB Turntables

The TT-1100USB is part of a class of cheaper DJ turntables that look promising based on their features: Moving magnet cartridge, aluminum platter, anti-skate, half-inch mount. What more do you need?

What you're describing sounds closer to a $100 "plastic toy" turntable. In fact, Gemini's VINYL2MP3/TT-1100USB is a mass-produced, OEM turntable direct from China.

These turntables really don't compare well to a more expensive, name-brand DJ USB turntables or your Technics SL-Q2.

 

TT-1100USB Compared to Better DJ Turntables
Gemini TT-1100USB / VINYL2MP3 Stanton T.92 Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Technics SL-Q2
Weight 8.1 lbs 19 lbs 23 lbs 15.3 lbs
Rumble Not Published -65dB -50dB -56dB
Body Plastic Metal Plastic/Metal Plastic/Metal
Drive Belt Direct Direct Direct (Quartz-controlled)
Cartridge Gemini CN-15, $20 Stanton 500.V3, $50 Audio-Technica ATP-2, $70 Technics EPC-207C, Discontinued
Platter Rotation Speed Incorrect 33.3 RPM 33.3 RPM 33.3 RPM (Presumably)

 

Why Isn't Proper Speed a Requirement?

It just baffles me that turntable manufacturers consider it acceptable to ship record players that spin too fast or too slow. In my mind, improper pitch dwarfs nearly all other sound quality issues.

Correct speed should be a requirement. But it's not for cheaper turntables.

I measure the speed of the turntables I test with a digital tachometer. None of the plastic, $100 USB turntables spins at the proper speed. One turntable clocked in at 34.4 RPM.

It seems as if you have to spend $200 on a turntable before you get a steady 33.3 RPM: The only two out of the six I tested with perfect speed out-of-the-box are the Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB and the Stanton T.92 USB. Both have a strobe light that visually confirms their platters are spinning at the proper speed.

Re: Is Cheap Gemini DJ Turntable a Bargain at $50?

Rawl Gelinas, January 21, 2011

Thanks for replying.

[Gemini promises] they will resolve the problem which I am 100% convinced is due to a poor quality spindle where they mate a chrome plated piece that fits through the record's hole with a tapered brass piece that the platter fits onto. Either the brass piece wasn't turned well on the lathe or when they put the two together the result is not symmetrical about the vertical axis. This causes the wobble.

For giggles and grins, when I was in my local Guitar Center store this week, I examined the Stanton 92 to see if it was much better as to platter wobble. GC sells it for $299 so it should be. It was better but it also had platter wobble at the outer edge as well. By comparison, my old Technics SL-Q2 has virtually none. For a relatively modest increase in cost, these companies could make this one part much better and really increase the quality and specs of their products.

I read your online reply and have a couple comments. First, using a strobe disc I checked the speed of my Technics SL-Q2 and it syncs up at both 33 1/3 and 45 rpm. It has a real strobe light that also indicates lock at these two speeds respectively. The circuit uses a PLL so speed should not be a problem.

Using the strobe disc, I can get the Gemini to spin at the proper speed but at 33 1/3 only with a lot of adjustment of the fine pitch. Not as much at 45 or 78 rpm.

At the GC, the Stanton 92 synced up at 33 1/3 and 45 rpm but at 78 rpm it did not according to it's built-in strobe light and the platter's strobe patterns! And the fine pitch didn't help at 78 rpm. Perhaps it was in the locked mode but if so it should have synced up at 78 rpm.

I really wish I could have found a way to mod my Technics to play at 78 rpm but we'll see how Gemini does with their repair.

I'll see about uploading some pics.

Re: Is Cheap Gemini DJ Turntable a Bargain at $50?

Rawl Gelinas, July 5, 2011

I apologize for not following up sooner. I was shipped a replacement turntable that performs much better with respect to "wobble". Apparently the new table was hand selected by the tech support technician. Also it is labeled TT-1100 USB on the table and the felt pad is labeled just Gemini but it is otherwise identical in every respect to the one I purchased.

For $50 I am completely satisfied. It will let me transcribe my 78's without spending an arm and a leg on a better turntable just for that purpose.

If I end up doing enough transcriptions of 78's I will consider trading up.

 

 

The Turntable Guide Gets an Editor

Jack Pantry, July 29, 2011

The Knowzy USB Turntable Comparison Chart does not include the Pyle Pro PLTTB3U nor TLTTB2U turntables.

That chart does not include the Marathon Pro TT-101USB, which has been discontinued but there are still many of them out there for sale. I believe it is identical to the Gemini TT-1100USB.

That chart does include the Gem Sound GT-USB and DJ-USB even though I believe both have been discontinued.

That chart does not include the Ion TTUSB DC, which I believe can best be handled with a footnote since it is identical to the TTUSB, except it has a removable hard plastic Dust Cover.

That chart does not include the Ion TTUSB 05XL, which is identical to the TTUSB 05, except it has a LINE IN that the 05 does not have.

The Knowzy USB Turntable Comparison Chart cannot over emphasize how import it is for the overwhelming majority of users to have a turntable with an Offset Tone arm, to the point that there should be a Category to exclude those that do not. Or conversely, a Category to only include those that do not have an Offset Tone arm for users who know the consequences.

That chart does not indicate which turntables are Reversible, such as the Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB, Numark TTXUSB, Gemini TT-1100USB, and Marathon TT-101USB. There may be others.

That chart does not indicate which turntables have a Damped Tone Arm, such as the Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB, Numark TTXUSB, and Music Hall USB-1. There may be others.

While that chart does indicate which turntables have a hard plastic Dust Cover, it does not indicate which are hinged and which are merely removable.

That chart does not indicate which turntables have a Height Adjustment, such as the Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB and Numark TTXUSB. There may be others.

That chart does not indicate which turntables have a Target Light, such as the Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB, Stanton T.55 USB, and optionally the Gemini TT-1100USB and Marathon TT-101USB. There may be others. The Numark TTXUSB is rather clever in that they placed the Strobe Light so that it can also be used as a Target Light.

While that chart does indicate which turntables have a Variable Pitch, it does not indicate how different the Variable Pitch of the Numark TTXUSB and Stanton T.92 USB are from all the others, due to their internal DSP (digital signal processor) that allows them to change the pitch without changing the tempo, or vise versa. All others change both simultaneously. There may be others with a DSP that I am unaware of.

While that chart attempts to indicate which turntables have an Adjustable Counter Weight, it is very confusing to know that NP means Yes, and N/A means No.

The Audio Technica AT-LP60-USB does not have an Adjustable Gain.

The Brookstone iConvert USB does have a Pre-amp, which is necessary for it to have a Line Out, as well as a USB interface.

The Ion TTUSB does have an Adjustable Gain.

The Ion TTUSB10 does not have a Tone Arm Cue.

The Music Hall USB-1 does have an Offset Tone Arm.

The Sony PS-LX300USB has the Platter and Dust Cover descriptions reversed.

Re: The Turntable Guide Gets an Editor

Jeff (Editor), August 11, 2011

Photo of the Marathon TT-101USB.
Image courtesy of Marathon

Marathon TT-101USB

Retail Price:   $115.79
USB system icon DJ system icon

Thank you so much for taking a fine-tooth comb through my turntable data. Finally, someone is performing the function of an editor.

I try my best to provide accurate data. But, as is evidenced by all the errors you found, proofreading and fact-checking my own work isn't a perfect system.

I appreciate your efforts and future visitors to the comparison guide will benefit from its improved accuracy and completeness.

 

Marathon TT-101USB and OEM Turntable Genealogy

I added the Marathon because I'm in to the genealogy of these cheaply built, mass-produced turntables.

The design of both the Gemini TT-1100USB and the Marathon TT-101USB is similar to Hong Kong supplier Well Joint's line of turntables.

The Marathon turntable is similar to the TT-1100USB but not identical. On the

Gemini, the 45 RPM adapter sits to the left of the pitch slider. On the Marathon, the adapter sits above the slider.

 

Pyle's 20 USB Turntables. Most are Terrible.

The Pyle turntables are a good find. 20 in all.

Most Pyle turntables use cheap ceramic cartridges. The "Retro Style" PVNTT5UR is typical of these.

But three meet the minimum standard- a moving magnet cartridge and anti-skate adjustment. These are the PLTTB1*, PLTTB3U* and PLTTB2U* models.

I will add them soon.

 

Other Suggestions

You had many other suggestions for the charts. They come at a good time. I'm reviewing the turntable data points and their presentation very soon.

I like your idea of filtering out turntable with a straight tone arm. I already go to great lengths alerting readers to turntables with a straight tonearm. Each of these turntables contains a warning, for example. Luckily, these turntables don't seem to be popular even in the DJ world and there are only three in the chart.

I don't think I've ever seen a manufacturer talk about dampened tonearms. This is a spec might be difficult to ascertain. Are signs of tonearm dampening that are apparent from a visual inspection?

I certainly should and will note tonearm height adjustment, target light, reverse rotation. I can probably get more details on dust covers too.

Re: The Turntable Guide Gets an Editor

Jack Pantry, August 11, 2011

I did not mean to become your editor.  I had been looking for a USB turntable for nearly a month before I found your web site.  I wish I had found it much earlier.  My criteria was that it must have a magnetic cartridge, and it must have nothing more than a turntable, pre-amp, and USB interface.  It must not have a CD drive, iPod socket, flash memory socket, MP3 compression, etc.

 

Dampened Cue Lever, Straight Tonearms

I misspoke when I said Damped Tone Arm, when I meant Damped Cue Lever, which prevents the tone arm from free falling when you release the cue lever.  Of the three vendors that I mentioned, it is very subtle in their literature.

The Sony PS-LX300USB and Audio Technica AT-LP60-USB, both of which are Automatic, neither has a cue lever but both have an alternate action push button to raise and lower the tone arm, which are also damped.

There may be other turntables that have a damped cue lever, or damped alternate action push button.

What you call a straight tone arm, I prefer to call a tone arm without offset.  There are many straight tone arms with an offset, both on the high end with balance and anti-skate adjustments, and on the low end without balance and anti-skate adjustments.  I don't know why mid-range tone arms adopted the S-shape, as long as they have an offset.

 

More New Turntables

The Gemini TT-1100USB, is in production, and it has the same functionality as the following three, but it has a slightly different molded body.

The Marathon Pro TT-101USB, Gem Sound DJ-USB, and DJ-Tech Vinyl USB 10, are no longer in production.  They all had the same functionality as the Gemini TT-1100USB, and they all had the same molded body, but that molded body was slightly different then the Gemini TT-1100USB.

The DJ-Tech Vinyl USB 20, is in production, and it has the same molded body as the  DJ-Tech Vinyl USB 10, but it only has two speeds whereas the others had three speeds.  It is claimed to be direct drive whereas the others were belt drive.  However, its weight is 8.8 lb., the same as the Marathon Pro TT-101USB, and I suspect the same as the other two as well, but in any case, 8.8 lb. is much too light for a direct drive turntable.

The DJ-Tech SL 1300 MK6 USB is a big brother to the DJ-Tech Vinyl USB 20.  It has a very similar molded body, possibly using a mold insert for those differences.  It is direct drive and its weight is 19.8 lb.  It has 3 speeds, reversible, and it has 3 ranges on its variable pitch slider, whereas the others only had a single range.    It also has crystal controlled RPM that none of the others had.

The Gem Sound GT-USB, which also is no longer in production, was a different turntable with a different molding, and I don't know of another one quite like it.

The Vestax BDT-2600 USB 3-speed, belt drive turntable.

The TDK TVT2002 USB 2-speed, belt drive turntable.

The Pro-Ject Essential Phono USB 2-speed, belt drive turntable.

 

Vinyl Ripping Software Additions and Corrections

VinylStudio does support AIFF format for the Mac, the same as AAC/M4A.

Sound Studio by Felt Tip Software should be added to the list.

Amadeus Pro and Amadeus Lite by HairerSoft should be added to the list. Amadeus II by HairerSoft should also be added to the list for Mac OS X 10.4 and Mac OS X 10.3 users.  AAC/M4A requires Mac OS X 10.4.

Audio Hijack Pro by Rogue Amoeba should be added to the list.  Pay special attention to older versions for use on Mac OS X 10.5 and Mac OS X 10.4.

WireTap Studio by Ambrosia should be added to the list.

I would especially like to see your assessment of Sound Studio and the three versions of Amadeus.

Re: The Turntable Guide Gets an Editor

Jeff (Editor), August 16, 2011

I wasn't signing you up for a job without asking. But with more than 20 new turntables, numerous corrections and several new software packages, you've already done some great work as an editor.

Even if you stop now, I and Knowzy readers owe you a debt of gratitude for your editing and research.

 

Sound Studio and Amadeus

I especially appreciate the tips on Mac software. Macs are in short supply around here and I'm not always tuned in.

I probably won't get to reviewing Sound Studio or Amadeus any time soon. But here are my initial impressions:

  • Compare them to Audacity (free download for the Mac) and see if you really need to pay $30 or more dollars for the features that you will use to record your LPs.
  • Sound Studio requires the LAME library to encode to MP3. You must download and install it separately. It's a tricky procedure on Windows, though it appears easier for the Mac. Audacity also requires LAME to avoid paying a licensing fee for the MP3 encoder, however Audacity is a free program. Sound Studio costs $30- what's their excuse? Shouldn't they throw in a licensed MP3 encoder for that price?
  • Amadeus II is an old version suitable only Mac OS 10.3 and earlier.
  • I don't find any additional features in Amadeus Pro ($60) that will help with vinyl ripping over the features found in Amadeus Lite ($30).
  • Amadeus burns CDs- an advantage over Audacity. Sound Studio doesn't burn CDs.

 

 

Portable Turntable with a Moving Magnet Cartridge?

Brittany, September 25, 2011

Your reviews and comparisons are great. Thanks so much.

I've been looking at the ION IPTUSB turntable, but it has a ceramic cartridge. Could this be replaced with the cartridge used by the TTUSB?

Re: Portable Turntable with a Moving Magnet Cartridge?

Jeff (Editor), September 26, 2011

Photo of the Marathon MA-ETT-SIL.
Image courtesy of Marathon

Marathon MA-ETT-SIL

Retail Price:   Not Available
Notable
  • There are no good portable USB turntables but you can make a DJ USB turntable portable with a hard case.

Ion Audio's portable iPTUSB turntable is a take it or leave it proposition. Unfortunately, I don't know of a single company making a portable USB turntable with moving magnet cartridge. If easy and safe transportation is important, you could get a hard turntable case for a DJ-style turntable.

 

You Can't Upgrade a Ceramic Cartridge to Moving Magnet

There are two big reasons why you can't upgrade the iPTUSB and most other ceramic cartridge turntables:

  • The cartridge is permanently attached. The ceramic cartridge is simply not designed to be removed (though the stylus is removable). Assuming you could get the cartridge off in one piece, there's no way to mount a new, standard mount cartridge on the tonearm.
  • You would need a separate pre-amp, USB output. The ceramic cartridge's signal is loud and it runs directly to the USB output. A moving magnet cartridge is soft and requires a pre-amp component to make it louder. You would need to buy the pre-amp separately. Also, since you can't put a pre-amp between the cartridge and the USB output, you would need to find another way to digitize the audio.

 

You Can Make a DJ Turntable Portable

Upgrading the iPTUSB is a lost cause. However, you can take a decent DJ turntable, like the Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB or the Stanton T.92 USB, and pack it in a hard case. The whole setup would run about $250.

That's certainly more than the iPTUSB. But it's the difference between a solid turntable and a flimsy plastic toy.

 

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Originally Published:  Tuesday, June 26, 2007, 12:00 AM PT

Last Updated:  Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 2:01 PM PT

 


 

 

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