Turn the Tables
If you're from my generation and have ever explained the concept of the vinyl record to anyone under the age of 18, then you too have experienced the looks of bewildered amusement and the distinct realization that you're probably just getting old. Well before you put yourself out to pasture, or consider putting your beloved record collection up for auction on eBay, there are a few things you should know. A recent resurgence in vinyl records fueled by collectors, vinyl DJs and music enthusiasts who can't seem to find their favorite oldies on iTunes has paved the way for new products that merge one of the oldest audio achievements of the 20th century with the digital advancements of today – the turntable and the USB port.
In researching which USB Turntables are available on the market today, it became evident that most manufacturers have made a point to standardize the professional features sought after by DJs, broadcasters and other professionals without alienating the causal user. You can see this sort of marriage between familiarity and advanced features in the Numark TT USB and Numark TTi USB turntables. At a glance, they appear to be what most would consider as standard equipment in any DJ coffin, broadcast booth or home DJ rig. Features that include a belt-driven motor and platter, adjustable pitch control, 33-1/3 and 45 RPM speed settings (78 RPM support via software), RCA phono output connections and anti-skate controls are all familiar territory to most of us who can recall the days when buying music meant leaving the comforts of your own home. The real convenience in these two models is ironically in the form of standard equipment found on every computer manufactured after 1996 – the USB port.
The USB connector on these turntables provides a direct digital connection to any Windows or Mac computer for archiving and digitizing your old vinyl records with your favorite digital recording software. Don't have audio recording software you say? The Numark TT USB includes Audacity for the Mac and the TTi USB includes both EZ Audio Converter for the Mac and EZ Vinyl Converter 2 for Windows. Each will handle your basic audio recording and editing needs including converting audio files to mp3, and clean up some of the beautiful pops and clicks associated with vinyl records.
The Numark TTi USB takes its feature set a notch higher by including a built-in iPod dock for archiving vinyl directly to iPod and Apple iTunes software. If all this isn't convenient enough for the iPod owning vinyl record collector (which is something of an oxymoron), the EZ Vinyl Converter 2 software features Gracenote™ Music ID Technology which automatically analyzes your vinyl and retrieves album, artist and song title information for you. On the Mac platform, EZ Audio Converter software let's you manually enter artist and song title information.
The Hercules DJ RMX and Cortex dMIX-300 offer an alternative for those who may want to incorporate their own fully functional turntables and analog gear with the modern day phono input located on their computers. These two units are not turntables, but tactile control surfaces designed with an integrated two-channel DJ mixer. There are rotary jog-shuttle platters for controlling computer audio files just like turntables, and analog inputs for connecting actual turntables, CD players, external mp3 players, etc. Of course, the USB connections on these units integrate with Mac and Windows computers. Not to be outdone by the Numark TTi USB turntable, the Cortex dMIX-300 control surface also features an iPod dock for syncing audio to iTunes. These units are not only viable solutions for integrating turntables and DJ gear with computers for archiving purposes; they also control and manipulate DJ software and operate like any two-channel DJ mixer.
These Numark, Hercules and Cortex models represent only a few of the products that connect a turntable with a computer's USB input. In fact integrated solutions such as the TEAC LP-U200 turntable incorporate a CD player, AM/FM Tuner and SD card slot. Products from ION and SONY will also appeal to the professional and enthusiast alike.
So it seems that for now, a vast minority of nostalgic music lovers can breathe a sigh of relief. The USB connector has bought the vinyl enthusiast a bit time. It's unfortunate that all things must come to an end but in the mean time have fun archiving, rockin' crowds or rediscovering your old music collection.