Pros: Fire-and-forget functionality makes dubbing vinyl a snap!
Cons: The unit is flimsy and missing all kinds of higher-end features
A year or so ago, I found myself in the market for a record player - yeah, they still make those. I had come across a treasure trove of ancient vinyl and I wanted to - well, two things out of it. 1) A turntable that would sound nice, be not too hard to use and look good with my home theater set up and 2) be able to dub my new found treasures to the computer
Eventually I settled on the The Audio-Technica AT-PL120, a nice solid unit that did everything I needed it to. However along the way I examined a whole bunch of other options - the Ion TTUSB being one of the contenders. As it turns out, my friend - who also had a ton of records and not quite as much cash as I - was encouraged by my research and opted for the Ion. Here's my hands on report.
The Ion will set you back about 150-200 bucks, depending if you catch Circut City on sale that week - or about about 100 dollars less than my AT-PL120 turntable. The big difference between the two is that the Ion TT-USB is a much simpler set up for dubbing vinyl than my AT-PL120. The TT-USB hooks directly up to your Mac or PC via a USB connection (or via RCA cables, if you are so inclined). That lets you bypass having to buy the phono pre-amp, a sound card, the cables, or a receiver. It's all here, in one package, ready to roll.
And I do have to admit that the TTUSB looks damn sexy. It's got some futuristic styling and that kind of retro-ish Buck Rodgers feel about it. The one thing that my AT-PL120 has over the TTUSB is that my turntable is HEAVY, like a battleship. The TTSUB feels light and plastic-y. If I were a DJ in a nightclub, I suspect the dancing and the thumping would make this thing bounce like a Mexican jumping bean.
The other thing that the TTSUB lacks, one of the deal breakers for me: no dust cover. Some models do have them, but the one I had my hands all over didnt. Since I'm a slob by nature, this would not do for me - especially since records tend to generate static like nobody's business, and you wouldnt want your precious vinyl collecting all kinds of funk in the grooves now would you? You can get an anti-static turntable mat, but that's additional cost and effort - and it still doesnt address the setteling dust while the unit just sits there.
The turntable is capable of handling 33 and 45 records - but not the 78 RPM speed records. You can compensate for this after you've made the recording by speeding up the file with the bundled software - but it is an extra step that a user may have to worry about. Also, there is no pitch adjustment slider, aside from the 33 and 45 RPM settings. There are also no speed markings on the platter (the little dots on the side of the turn table). Neither of these would be a big deal - except that the whole point of the TTUSB is to archive your old records, and fine tune adjusting is vital.
Yeah, yeah - ok. It's not as cool as your Big Sexy Turntable - we get it. But how does it sound? The playback sounded fine - deep like a record should be, and the recording quality seemed fine too. The bundled software was a bit off putting though. The EZ Vinyl Converter was too basic and the more advanced Audacity (the program I use) is extremely overwhelming for beginners. Audacity is easy to use - once you know the program - but there is a learning curve to it.
The other point of concern for playback: the plastic platter. Plastic is not a durable material, and over the years I could easily see the platter warping from heat and old age. In the short term it should be fine, and with proper care it shouldnt be an issue - but I'd much prefer a metal platter.
I guess I shouldnt harsh on the simplicity plug and play factor of the turntable. The simple truth is that as you strip away the fancy frills, you dramatically lower the chances of a neophyte or idiot screwing things up. In today's modern society, a fire and forget turntable is more of a plus than a minus. So as a basic play records and get them onto your computer, this should be fine. However, if you demand a turntable with a more robust construction, higher quality and more features, you would be well advised to look elsewhere.
WOULD I BUY IT AGAIN IF SOMEONE STOLE MINE -
No way. I'd come up with the extra sheckels and get a high end turntable.