Trends come and go like the turning of a record, and with our love for anything vintage, it’s hardly surprising that these plastic pastimes have recently come back into fashion.
For decades, a record player was the best (and sometimes only) way to listen to music. After years of lying dormant on piles of 80s memorabilia (Wham! posters and shoulder pads included), they’re now making a storming comeback. Thanks to the superior sound and striking sense of nostalgia they produce, turntables have garnered thousands of new fans in recent years, all eager to revive the life of the humble, modest vinyl.
Whatever your reason for loving these relics: the feel of fraying sleeve-notes, look of funky cover art, or simply the passions they excite, records offer a listening experience like no other, and are always a feast for the senses.
In this helpful guide, we’ll explore some of the best USB record players on offer that will maximise your LP’s potential and leave you spinning with delight. Whether you’re looking for a gift or shopping for yourself, we’ve whittled down our top six cutting-edge players to suit every listener and budget. The real question is, are you ready to get into the groove?
What’s so special about USB record players?
If you’re an avid vinyl fanatic (indeed, who isn’t?!), chances are you’ve already started a collection of all your favourite toe-tappers. With the hissing, crackly sounds that we’ve come to know and love from these classics, it’s easy to see why they’ve made such a rapid resurgence in the last ten years or so.
Unfortunately however, they do possess a downside. Unlike contemporary forms of music, records don’t benefit from the joys of portability, and can be a real pain to listen to if you’re a fan of boogying on the move.
This is where USB record players come in. With the added advantage of plug-in technology, these modern devices allow you to digitise and transpose your LPs onto a range of alternative mediums, whether that be a flash drive, smartphone or computer. Enabling you to connect via a handy external cable, you’ll never have to worry about damaging or losing your precious vinyls again – they’ll always be safely stored and backed-up in an MP3 format. At the very least, you’ll be able to create high-quality digital versions of all your best-loved tunes, in the unique analogue format that artists and producers intended.
These players are certainly a worthwhile investment if you want to catalogue and preserve these gems in their cleanest, unedited form. After all, there’s nothing quite like the sound of an original press.
Things to consider before buying your turntable
While the thought of buying a turntable may initially appear attractive, there is often much more to consider than first meets the eye. If you’re new to this kind of tech, or simply need updating on some of their common features, you’ve come to the right place! Below is a list of characteristics to bear in mind when purchasing your USB record player.
Budget: this one may seem obvious, but it’s worth considering your budget before the exploring commences. Prices can range from £50-£1000 for the higher-end models, so try and determine a limit to narrow down your search.
Sound quality: this tends to be the most important aspect of a turntable, as it directly affects your listening experience. Sound quality is often regulated by the stylus and internal audio components, so keep an eye out for the ones which may look cheaper or substandard.
Portability: if you’re someone who likes to listen on the go, whether in different rooms or at a party, moveability and weight may be some aspects you might want to consider. Convenient record players (including the wireless variety) often come with handles and foldable locks, and can be carried around town as easily as a suitcase.
Bluetooth: if modern embellishments are your bag, a Bluetooth player will be the choice for you. Simply connect to any speaker for that extra sound boost.
USB connectivity: while all the turntables in this Buyer’s Guide offer USB connectivity as standard, it’s not always a distinguishing feature (especially with older models). Check out OnBuy’s full selection of record players here.
Audio inputs and outputs: if you’re someone who enjoys listening to vinyls through your headphones, an aux-in capability is a must-have in your turntable. Similarly, if you prefer to connect your player to larger external speakers or amplifiers, an aux-out (or line-out) option is just as important. This addition can dramatically improve sound quality, so may be worth considering.
Design: again, this one may seem obvious, but a record player’s design can be easily overlooked when tech and audio features take precedence. There’s actually a huge range of diverse styles on offer, from minimalist to decorative, so try and base your decision on the vibe of your home décor. If you tend to favour vintage interiors, a sleek, modern turntable may not be the best fit.
OnBuy’s top six turntables for 2021
Now that we’ve established the basics, let’s delve straight into OnBuy’s selection of the six best turntables to soundtrack your 2021. Having decided which features are most important to you and your listening experience, browse through the options below to find your perfect music companion.
Pros: presents a number of extra features, including a cassette player and AM/FM radio, seamless fusion of new and older styles
Cons: can appear clunky, cheap plastic design
The DIGITNOW! Record Player would make a fantastic addition to anyone’s vinyl collection. Featuring a classic belt-driven turntable for playback at three different speeds (a rare attribute for such an affordable model), it is a wonderfully versatile piece of kit that any audiophile could simply fall in love with.
The extras on this device are astonishing, and help to distinguish the DIGITNOW! from other competitors on the market. With crucial USB and SD card compatibility, not to mention the AM/FM radio, it really stands out as a traditional yet cutting-edge machine. The added cassette player, with rewind and fast-forward functions, is also extremely handy for those with tape recordings too.
Naturally, the USB encoding means you can easily convert all your favourite vinyl records to flash drives in MP3 format, with PC or laptop required. Its convenient Bluetooth connection abilities make the DIGITINOW! a thoroughly modern player, allowing you to sync up your smartphone and stream to your heart’s content.
The built-in speakers offer a well-rounded stereo sound, maximising the audio quality of all your favourite songs (both old and new). The 3.5mm jack is a useful additional feature, as well as the LCD display and simple navigation system around the menu interface.
On a slightly more negative note, this record player can appear rather awkward and bulky in sleeker or contemporary settings. It may also be criticised for its plastic design, which could come across as cheap and slightly inferior.
Pros: impressive, well-balanced and articulated sound, easy operation and slick aesthetic
Cons: limited adjustment features, sound could do with more solidity
You can’t go too far wrong with the Audio Technica AT-LP60X. Often praised for its fully automatic belt drive and various adjustable speeds, it is the perfect all-rounder for boosting the quality of your vinyls.
If you’re new to digitising LPs, this turntable comes with recording software as standard, so you won’t have to worry about searching for an additional piece of kit yourself – bonus! This specialised software, Audacity, is available for free download, so you can start playing and copying all your favourite tracks straight away.
The die-cast aluminium platter seamlessly reduces resonance and audio distortion, which is perfect for the lovers of authentic analogue sound. The redesigned tonearm base and head shell further dampen the vibrations. Plus, with a switchable in-built phono stage and replaceable stylus, the AT-LP60X USB can easily integrate into any external system you may have, whether that be an amplifier or a powered speaker.
On the downside, this player does have more limited adjustment features than some of its competitors, and less accessory extras. It has also been criticised for its softer sound quality – not necessarily a deal-breaker, but may be worth considering if you’re a fan of solid, unedited music.
Pros: benefits from three selectable speeds, quick and simple setup
Cons: digital conversions aren’t always accurate, plastic components look cheap
The Audio Technica AT-LP120X is often described as one of the best USB record players on the market. Benefitting from over 50 years of the brand’s musical heritage, it’s believed to be one of the most convenient players for listening ease and comfort.
This device is incredibly simple to set up, and you’ll feel relaxed switching between the three selectable speeds to achieve the right RPM (revolutions per minute) for your vinyls. Audio-wise, it produces superior sound. With the integrated amp (a rarity in commercial turntables), you’ll find that extra warmth is added to all your vintage singles.
Of course, the analogue-to-digital conversion potential is a fantastic additional feature, allowing you to archive any LP to laptop and PC alike. On top of this, the critically loved cartridge offers a wide frequency response to any stereo output terminals, or alternative audio equipment.
Regretfully though, the bass quality can tend to reduce when digitising your music, resulting in average-sounding conversions. The machine’s physical appearance may also detract from its attributes, potentially looking cheap with plastic embellishments and trimmings.
Pros: simple and stylish design, built-in amplifier for flexible set-up options
Cons: wooden base may not be to everyone’s taste, unimpressive detail levels
The Roberts RT200 is everything you could wish for in a record player. Compared with decks from traditional hi-fi brands, this turntable offers an incredibly easy listening experience, with excellence sound balance, smooth roundness in the midrange, and no sharp edges. The built-in phono stage and switchable stereo preamplifier expertly intensify the sound of your music, bringing all vinyls to life.
Offering a hassle-free and easy setup, the Roberts turntable is equipped with a direct-drive motor and less moving parts, which both ensure a reliable performance. In fact, it’s semi-automatic, so there’s no need to worry about fiddling with belts or manual speed changes.
It also comes with various supportive accessories, including twin phono plugs, a mains adapter, DC input socket, an auto on/off switch, and 3.5mmm stereo jack plug (to name just a few!). USB audio cables are also featured for your simple, pain-free music conversions, assisted by compatible free software and a USB stick.
The Roberts’ sleek and sophisticated design is also a bonus, giving a modern lease of life to any LP and chic touch to any interior décor. The natural wood plinth and aluminium front is unique and clean in appearance, well-suited to those with class and refinement in mind.
This feature may not enhance the aesthetic of every living space however, and may appear flashy. The unimpressive detail levels are also worth considering, as the poor dynamic expression can sometimes leave your music sounding flat.
Pros: Lenco brand benefits from over 70 years’ experience, integrated stereo system
Cons: aluminium platter may not be best suited to every interior, on the pricier side
Perhaps the best record player with USB capabilities, the Lenco L-87 often tops the charts with its slick and stylish design. The premium and reliable belt drive with two speed ratings allows you to play your music at either 33 or 45 RPM (a handy feature for fans of versatile and varied listening).
The Lenco L-87 also produces a superb high-quality sound, with a built-in stereo preamplifier and adjustable counterweight. Simply connect this turntable to any powered speaker without the need for a separate amp – it’s really as easy as that! This feature also means that the device is able to seamlessly integrate into any existing hi-fi- system. The superior cartridge and prestigious Audio Technical needle help you to enjoy the best possible audio, and are both included at no extra cost.
To prevent your favourite music from becoming a thing of the past, digitise any LP with the handy USB port connection, and your transfers will be ready to go in no time.
Despite all of these benefits though, the Lenco is also often criticised for potentially cheap-looking aluminium platter. It is also on the pricier side of USB turntables, which could be a drawback if budget is a primary concern.
Pros: multiple playback options, three varying speeds available
Cons: quirky design may seem dated in more modern settings, can be heavy and cumbersome
The Shuman wooden music centre would make the perfect addition to any retro vinyl collection or interior décor. Of all the turntables on offer, it features a large number of extra elements, including wireless connections, a CD player, FM radio, cassette player (all of which you can record from), and fully functioning remote control.
It also boasts a belt-driven, three-speed capability, plus a needle arm that automatically stops and returns when your album has finished playing (to protect the point from damage).
The wireless quality of this Shuman is a big hit, with an integrated Bluetooth receiver for streaming music from smartphones, tablets and PCs. The built-in stereo speakers produce a lovely, warm, crisp and clear sound, as well as offering you a headphone port, for a more localised, personal listening experience. As with all the other players on this list, the handy USB port allows you to quickly and easily transform all your favourite music into modern MP3 formats.
The Shuman also unapologetically evokes all the nostalgia we’ve come to expect from vintage records. As well as multiple recording functions, it is also finished to an extremely high technical standard. Each unit is handcrafted with real wood to produce a unique and authentic LP companion.
On the downside, this turntable isn’t particularly portable, due to its 9kg weight. The sturdy wooden casing is constructed of strong planks that are 1.5 times thicker than most other brand’s players on the market. Though durable and robust, it can make the Shuman heavy and especially cumbersome.
Having looked through just a small sample of what OnBuy has to offer, we hope you now feel more informed on the benefits USB record players possess.
If you require even more inspiration, discover our full range of turntables here. Or, if you’re looking to invest in some accessories, why not explore our state-of-the-art speaker, amplifier and preamp ranges to accompany your device? Depending on the model you choose, these modern additions could really make a difference to your overall sound.
Once you’ve made your decision, all that’s left to do is dig out your old vinyl records and let the music play!
Please note: The information in this buyer’s guide is correct at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.