Most of us have one. You know what we’re talking about. The thing you keep in your closet, or on the top of a bookshelf, because one day you’ll get to it. We’re talking about your vinyl collection. Whether you’ve got records left over from the 70s, or whether you inherited your collection, you probably have some. But vinyl isn’t just for baby boomers and hipsters. It’s also the new format of choice for audiophiles.
The thinking goes like this. If you want a portable format, MP3s are, bar none, the best choice. Conversely, vinyl records analog audio, not digital, for the best possible detail and texture. As a result, you get far better audio quality from a record than you do from a CD. This is a major reason why, with CD sales continuing to drop and streaming services taking over, vinyl is growing. Unlike CDs, records are actually benefitting by the digital age, because they’re the logical MP3 alternative.
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But whether your connection is new or old, sometimes you want your music to be portable. A record requires a turntable, which in turn requires a stable, level surface. This rules out listening in your car or during your workout. You can kick back and enjoy your favorite tunes in rich detail, but only in the comfort of your own home. So it’s understandable that you may want to convert your vinyl tracks to portable MP3 files.
Today, we’re going to review three of the best turntables for converting vinyl to MP3. We’re looking at affordable models here, designed primarily for transfer and not as your primary player. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for a clunker. We’ll start by reviewing the Popsky 3-Speed Turntable w/ Bluetooth. This is an attractive, faux wood player with built-in speakers. Next, we’ll look at the DIGITNOW Bluetooth Record Player. This is a multi-function turntable with a cassette player, and records directly to a thumb drive. Finally, we’ll examine the LP&No.1 All-in-One Bluetooth Record Player. This is a compact player that comes with an Audacity install disc for editing and saving your files. Let’s find out how they stack up!
How to Convert Your Records to MP3
Before we begin, let’s talk about how to transfer your vinyl songs to MP3. It might sound complicated, but the process is surprisingly simple. Here’s a quick overview.
Clean Your Vinyl!
First, take a look at the physical condition of the records themselves. Remember, music is recorded by a series of bumps etched into a groove. As the needle travels through the groove and travels over the bumps, sound waves are then produced. If there’s dust or grime on the surface of the record, it’s going to mess up how the needle travels. At best, it will degrade the quality of your audio. At worst, it can cause the needle to skip, wrecking your recording.
Before you attempt any kind of transfer, make sure your records are clean and clear of dust. If they’ve been stored in the original sleeves, this shouldn’t be a big deal. However, if they’ve been exposed, you’ll need to use a gentle solution to wipe them clean. It helps if you dry them with a lint-free cloth such as microfiber, to leave the surface as free of dust as possible.
Choose Your Recording Type
The next step will depend on what type of turntable you own. Some turntables are designed with built-in MP3 conversion technology. You plug a thumb drive into the back, play a record, and you’ve got MP3s.
But with most record players, you’ll need to send the music to your computer for recording. At that point, you’ll need to convert it on your own. How you want to connect the turntable is up to you. A Bluetooth or USB connection can be used in many cases. However, the audio quality won’t be as good as an RCA connection. If you want to get the best possible capture quality, you’ll need to utilize an audio interface with RCA inputs. That said, most people will be just fine with USB quality. Remember, all of this is getting compressed into an MP3 anyway! If you want the best quality, you just listen to the original vinyl.
Record Your Music
Now, it’s time to start your record player. If you’re using a turntable that records to a USB stick, the recording process may vary. Read your manual, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
If you’re recording on a computer, you’ll need to start your recording software first. There are plenty of recording options available, and many of them cost money. That said, the most popular choice – and one of the best – is free. You can download Audacity and install it in just a few minutes. It’s free, it’s open source, and it doesn’t load up your computer with a bunch of bloatware. Open Audacity, make sure you have the correct audio input selected, and hit record. When you start playing your record, Audacity will capture a high-quality WAV file of your music.
Edit and Export
The last step is to edit your MP3s and export them. Again, this is easiest if your turntable is set up with a thumb drive. You’ll just need to open the files in iTunes or another MP3 player and fill in the track information. Once again, though, things get a bit more complicated if you’re recording your own audio. The songs will all be one long audio file, so you’ll need to separate the tracks and export them as MP3s. How you go about this will depend on your software. If you’re using Audacity, there are plenty of free guides to help you get started.
Popsky 3-Speed Turntable w/ Bluetooth
The Popsky 3-Speed Turntable w/ Bluetooth is a faux wood turntable with a distinctly 70s vibe. It’s fairly minimalist, with a clear plexiglass cover and one simple control knob. We like the aesthetic, because it looks like what a record player used to be. There’s no LCD display, no giant array of buttons, and nothing to wreck the retro feel. Of course, this minimalist design has a downside. Since the only control is a volume/on/off knob, you’ll need to perform all other functions via the smartphone app.
That said, the app itself is intuitive and easy to use. It installs in a couple of minutes, and allows you to control your turntable whenever you’re in Bluetooth range. From there, you can choose which audio output to use, and select which type of record to play. The Popsky turntable supports all standard sizes, including 33, 45, and 78 RPM and 7, 10, and 12-inch diameters. 45 RPM playback requires an adapter, which is included with the kit.
Audio playback can be done in a few ways. If you’re just listening, the easiest option is to simply use the built-in speakers. The quality isn’t terrible, and is fine for casual listening around the house. That said, if you want to get the most out of your vinyl, you want to use the 3.5mm aux or RCA output. These will provide far superior quality, especially the RCA connection. In addition, you can also play back music from your phone or MP3 player via the Bluetooth connection. In this regard, the Popsky turntable doubles as a set of Bluetooth speakers.
For transferring your vinyl to an MP3 player, you’ll need to use software such as Audacity. You can connect via 3.5mm aux and plug directly into your computer’s microphone jack. If you want a little quality boost, you can also use an RCA connection via a third-party audio interface. No matter what you choose, the turntable will be covered by a 12-month manufacturer’s warranty. It also comes with 24-hour customer service to help you sort out any issues.
DIGITNOW Bluetooth Record Player
The DIGITNOW Bluetooth Record Player is the polar opposite of the Popsky turntable. Where the Popsky is retro, the DIGITNOW is as modern as they come. It sports a backlit LCD display that shows the current audio source, as well as other useful information. The front panel allows you to select between various audio sources, of which there are a handful. As a result, there’s no need to fool around with any smartphone apps in order to change your settings.
This is fortunate, since you get more than just the turntable for inputs. For one thing, there’s a cassette player built into the side of the black polymer housing. Next, you can play music via a Bluetooth connection. You can also use the radio tuner to listen to old-fashioned terrestrial radio. Finally, you can use the 3.5mm aux input to connect a CD player or other device. That’s a lot of versatility for one turntable. You get fewer options for output, though. In fact, you get exactly zero options for output other than Bluetooth. This means you’ll have to use Bluetooth headphones or speakers, or rely on the built-in speakers.
The most attractive feature of the DIGITNOW player is that it encodes everything directly to MP3. You plug a flash drive into the USB port or an SD card into the slot. Then, you hit record, and whatever you’re listening to will be recorded. There’s no need to mess around with a computer or any third-party software. Not only that, but you aren’t limited to recording vinyl records. You can also convert cassette tapes to MP3, or make MP3 files from a CD player or radio broadcast.
LP&No.1 All-in-One Bluetooth Record Player
The LP&No.1 All-in-One Bluetooth Record Player is a fun, miniature player that’s a bit smaller than the others. It will still play a 12-inch 45 RPM LP with the included adapter. However, a full-sized LP will hang over the edge, so you won’t be able to close the cover while playing. For our part, this only adds to the charm. But if you’re a stickler for keeping your cover closed, you may prefer a full-sized turntable. Then again, just because its small doesn’t mean this record player is cheap. It comes with a 30-day money back guarantee. You also get a free replacement stylus when the first one wears out.
Like our previous two options, the LP&No.1 has a pair of built-in speakers for easy playback. It can accept a Bluetooth input for playing audio from your phone or MP3 player. Alternatively, you can also connect a CD player or other wired source via the 3.5mm aux jack.
The output is a single USB port on the back of the housing. This means you won’t be able to connect to most external speakers. However, the USB output is really just designed for connecting to your PC. From there, you can record your files and export them as desired. There’s an Audacity install disc in the package, although it’s just as easy to go to Audacity’s website. The software is free anyway, and using the website ensures that you get the latest version.
So, which one of these turntables should you use to convert your vinyl to MP3? We began by reviewing the Popsky 3-Speed Turntable w/ Bluetooth. This is a very attractive turntable with a retro vibe. It accepts a Bluetooth input, and can be connected to external speakers via 3.5mm aux cable or RCA. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with any options for MP3 transfer. You’ll need to install your own third-party software and do any editing by yourself. This isn’t a huge deal, but it’s something you need to be aware of.
The DIGITNOW Bluetooth Record Player is the most versatile option of the bunch. You aren’t just limited to converting vinyl records. You can also convert cassette tapes and even terrestrial radio to MP3 files. There’s no need for an app, either, since the controls are all on-board. That said, the only way to use an external speaker is to connect via Bluetooth. This means you can’t use an RCA cable for higher-quality live playback.
The LP&No.1 All-in-One Bluetooth Record Player is a mix between our last two options. It lets you play from more audio sources than the Popsky, but not as many as the DIGITNOW. That said, the USB output will be easiest for most people to work with. You won’t have to mess around with an audio interface or low-quality 3.5mm aux audio. On the other hand, you’ll need to at least have some minimal skill with Audacity.
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