Ion Convert Vinyl to Digital Music Files With a Quality Turntable

To convert vinyl to digital music files, of course, you’ll need a turntable. Perhaps you have an old one in a closet, attic or basement. The next option is to buy one new or used. We’ll cover all three options.

Whether you’re going to use an old turntable you have lying around the house or purchase one used, you want to make sure it is in proper working order first. I had an old stereo phonograph that I thought worked decently, but I couldn’t get a good recording off of it. I tried different cables, different hookups, posting to message boards, and so on.

Finally, I actually tested the thing and found out that it was not giving a proper output through both speakers. Twiddling the balance knob did no good, nor did switching speakers or wires. The thing was just shot. So the moral of the story here is, even though a phonograph, stereo or turntable may seem good at first glance, it can turn out to be a dud. You should test it carefully before you get started.

Whether you test a phonograph you find in a closet or one you find at the second-hand store, the process is pretty much the same. If you’re going shopping for a used phonograph or turntable, you might want to bring a record and speaker with you for testing purposes.

The first thing you want to test is whether the thing actually has a needle (stylus)! It will be difficult to test the phonograph in a secondhand store if it lacks one! If the phonograph in your closet lacks a needle, you’ll have to find out what type it takes and order one online (they’re no longer carried in RadioShack stores).

The second thing to test is a turntable speed. Put the record on the turntable, start the thing running and place the needle on a steady, even passage. Does the pitch vary? In other words, is the turntable’s motor speeding up and slowing down? If so, the thing is shot and you should avoid it.

Next, plug the speaker into either output jack (or use a pair of headphones) and twiddle with the balance knob while the record is playing. Make sure you get a smooth, strong signal through each stereo track at approximately the same volume and with no static.

Finally, make sure to test the device on both LPs and 45s (even 78s if you have some really old ones you want to digitize).

If the unit has passed this battery of tests, you should be ready to go. The unit doesn’t need to have any speakers, since you will be plugging it directly into your computer.

If you want to save the hassle and make sure you get a quality unit right from the beginning, you might want to just buy a new turntable. There are a number of good ones that are designed specifically for digitizing old vinyl. For example, the Ion TTUSB Turntable with USB Record can be purchased for under $90 and has an adjustable anti-skating control for increased stereo balancing and line-level outputs for easy stereo connection. The Ion Audio TTUSB 10 Vinyl Recording USB Turntable (a few dollars more) supports the recording of 78 RPM records.

Naturally, the quality of the turntable or phonograph you buy will in large part determine the quality of your digitized files. The unit will simply have a better sound, even when no speakers are involved. It will have a richer base and sharper treble.

The quality of your digitized files, of course, will only be as good as the quality of the equipment you use to digitize them. However, you can get pretty decent results even from a budget phonograph. Plus, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that your music will never deteriorate any further from this point onwards.