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Best USB turntables 2020

Best USB turntables
(Image credit: Denon)

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

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

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

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

What are the best USB turntables?

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

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

DJs will find the Pioneer PLX-500 to be a worthy machine of spinning party records. The adjustable pitch fader and three-speed playback provide plenty of versatility for mixes, while the spacious soundstage should satisfy large gatherings. Then there is the Denon DP-450USB, a chic turntable designed for at-home listening that delivers adequate sound and has an auto sensor that automatically stops the player when reaching the end of a record.

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

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

The best USB turntables you can buy today

Best USB turntables: Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB

(Image credit: Audio-Technica)

1. Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB

Best USB turntable overall

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

Plenty of features
Loud, dynamic sound
Simple setup
One of few turntables with three selectable speeds
Removable parts
Digital conversions are more miss than hit
Plastic finish looks a bit cheap

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

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

Best USB turntables: Sony PS-HX500

(Image credit: Sony)

2. Sony PS-HX500

Best-sounding USB turntable

Size and weight: 16.8 x 4.1 x 14.8 inches, 11.9 pounds | Motor: Belt drive | Cartridge: Sony MM cartridge | Phone preamp: Yes | USB: Yes | Speed switch: 33-1/3 RPM, 45 RPM

Superior hi-fi sound
Ready-to-play setup
Solid components
Converts vinyl records into hi-res files
Generic design
Extra software needed to play recorded files

USB turntables have gained a bad rap for sounding horrible, but the Sony PS-HX500 puts that argument to rest. It’s considered one of the best USB turntables available with lots of hi-tech circuitry and features stuffed underneath its minimalist frame. Placing the needle on a record rewards you with full-bodied and detailed sound. The subtle nuances in recordings are distinctive; vocals come through loud and clear, while horn and string instruments sound lively. Bass is impactful as well, complementing the PS-HX500’s well-rounded soundstage. 

The turntable’s biggest selling point is its ability to rip, edit, and store tracks from your vinyl collection, which it does exceptionally well. Much of the raw analog-ness and warm sound that you would expect is maintained on these digital copies. We wish Sony’s software was more intuitive with the digitizing process; you have to manually add metadata for each track. The no-frills design might also make you question the high price. 

Best USB Turntables: Pioneer PLX-500

(Image credit: Pioneer)

3. Pioneer PLX-500

Best professional DJ USB turntable

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

Roomy, enjoyable sound
Great isolation
Traditional control layout
Tempo fader control
Causes bass feedback at high volume
Extremely heavy

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

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

Best USB turntables: Denon DP-450USB

(Image credit: Denon)

4. Denon DP-450USB

Best semi-automatic USB turntable

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

Quality audio performance
Can connect to an integrated amp or receiver
Digitize vinyl collection
Lows and highs lack range
Impractical dust cover

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

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

Best USB turntables: Audio Technica AT-LP60USB

(Image credit: Audio-Technica)

5. Audio Technica AT-LP60USB

Best cheap USB turntable

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

Impressive sound
Automatic operation
Can rip records to digital files
Relatively affordable
No adjustment features
Cartridge can’t be changed

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

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

How to choose the best turntables for you

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

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

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

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

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

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

How we test the best turntables

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

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

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