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Good provisional or first machine, but perhaps best to go up one model
on June 11, 2010
This has recently gone up in price, even apart from the Gold Box Special that greeted me. In a way, I wish I'd seen the higher price, which would have discouraged me from ordering so quickly. I remember when, in the '70s, it cost more to replace a Shure V-15 Type II cartridge than to purchase this turntable, which comes complete with cartridge, stylus, and 4 different connecting cables to cover just about all situations, even those for customers without a receiver/amplifier. It wasn't long before, in the '80s, the elliptical stylus itself went for over a hundred, eventually taken off the market by Shure due to the scarcity of its rare and costly constituent.
The point: for 60 to 90 bucks, you should not expect anything close to a genuine audiophile turntable--even though the machine includes auto tone arm lift, two instruction manuals, four well-made cables, cartridge and stylus. But the feature missing with this turntable, the one reason I wish I hadn't ordered it and had waited to purchase the next model up, is a counterweight for achieving precise tone arm balance as well as an anti-skating control for reducing pressure (and distortion) on the inside grooves of the vinyl LP, especially the tracks closest to the middle hole.
Nevertheless, given the absence of a counter-weighted tone arm and anti-skating control, this turntable does a highly competent job of tracking most recordings. In fact, it performs better than both of the ailing industry-standard, professional Stanton turntables that were proving increasingly problematic at the station. Also, the tracking pressure that I measured is less than 2 and a half grams, light enough to prevent the stylus from eating up your vinyl (at least not until after 2-3 playings).
The unit comes with built-in preamp, so not only does it not require an amp with a phono jack, but it doesn't require any amp beyond the one in your computer if your primary consideration is converting vinyl to digital. A couple of things to be aware of: the lift on the tone arm is too small to be of use for manual placement. You'll need to be comfortable with the automatic lift mechanism or forget about picking up and dropping down the tone arm with any semblance of accuracy. Also, in back is an all-important lever that switches the unit from "phono" to "line" connection. If you're using the unit without an amp with phono jack (beginning in the '90s, cost-conscious manufacturers began leaving them off of receivers and amps, though with the comeback of vinyl we've seen the reappearance of phono jacks), be sure to set the switch to "line." The same holds true if your connection involves use of any of the optional cables and connectors that are included with the turntable.
The turntable tracks quite nicely from what I've seen, and is worth the low cost. Still, before investing in a USB unit--without or without phono connectors--you may simply wish to save up for the best "conventional" turntable along with an amplifier or receiver that has a phono jack. That way you'll have a better chance of scoring some of the audiophile niceties mentioned above, and connection to your computer will be no problem--whether you have an 1/8" familiar audio jack or an adapter that will transform RCA into USB cables.
The software included with the turntable is Audacity--a respected freeware program that's capable of doing an excellent job but is not known for being the most user-friendly program. Other possibilities are Cool Edit (for PC users); Spin Doctor or Sound Studio (Mac users). Once you've converted a couple of LPs, it's a piece of cake--except for the potential of allowing the process to consume all of your time and life. (Try to resist the temptation to make up your own CDs, complete with jewel cases, printed front and back covers and spines, disc centers, booklets, photos, inserts, etc. Another not inconsiderable expense--in time as well as money.)