Play your vinyl records on your computer with these digital options


Question: I’m back to music on vinyl, so what should I look for if I’m looking for a record player that connects to my computer?

Reply: The revival of vinyl records has been gaining popularity for more than a decade, which has prompted many companies to create new turntables that can connect to a computer.

Making sure it has a USB interface isn’t the only thing to consider as the cost of a new vinyl record can be two to three times that of a comparable CD or digital download. .

Vinyl records suffer from a affliction that doesn’t apply to their digital counterparts – they slowly deteriorate with every play and buying a cheap turntable can speed up the degradation.

The “needle” of a turntable spins in the grooves of the record and the mechanics that control this physical contact will have a huge impact on the health of your vinyl over the years.

Record player against turntable

Although many people use these terms interchangeably, there is a significant technical difference between the two.

A turntable is a separate component that relies on other components such as an amplifier, preamp, and speakers to generate sound.

A record player is an all-in-one device that can play records without any other components.

My first suggestion is to avoid “record players” altogether, as the sound quality and damage to your vinyl collection is undesirable.

Preamp Considerations

If you also want to hook it up to a PA system, you’ll need to determine whether or not you need a turntable with a built-in preamp or not.

Traditional turntables generate a very weak output signal which must be amplified, which is why older stereo amplifiers and receivers have a separate “phono” input.

If you plan to use the turntable with an existing amplifier / receiver that doesn’t have a phono input, you’ll want to purchase a turntable that has a built-in preamp.

Another great use of a built-in preamp is that you can plug the turntable directly into high-quality powered speakers (, which eliminates the need for a separate amplifier / receiver for those just starting out.

Scalable cartridge

The cartridge is what houses the stylus (or needle), which has the greatest impact on sound quality, so avoid buying a turntable that doesn’t allow it to be changed or upgraded.

You will have a substantial investment in your vinyl collection and you might develop a taste for better sound on the road, so ease of maintenance and scalability are important.

Automatic vs semi-automatic

The automatic turntables will start and stop the disc at the push of a button; semi-automatic means you manually place the needle on the record and it automatically lifts the tone arm at the end.

Semi-automatic units have fewer moving parts, so there are fewer problems.

Brands to consider

If you’re looking for an entry-level turntable, check out what Audio-Technica ( and Sony ( have to offer.

For those looking for superior build quality and fidelity, check out Audio-Technica’s Step-Up models (, Denon ( or the Special Edition line of Pro-Ject (

Ken Colburn is Founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services, Ask any technical question to or on Twitter @TheDataDoc.


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