Sony’s USB turntable turns LPs into MP3s

We know what you’re thinking: WTF is a turntable doing on APC?  Ah but Sony’s $299 PS-LX300USB is a turntable with a high-tech twist: a USB port for connecting the deck to your Windows PC (Mac owners need not apply). A tiny inbuilt pre-amp boosts the turntable’s outgoing to a usable level and with the aid of the bundled Sound Forge Audio Studio software you can spin your old 33s and 45s and have them automagically turned into MP3 files.

And if you don’t have any blasts from the shiny black past we’re sure a parent or favourite uncle or aunt will. They also fall into Sony’s target audience and we can’t think of many better ways to give the gift of geekery than to bring all of their favourite old albums back to life as easy-to-play CDs.

Which is why having taken the LX300USB for a quick spin (no pun intended) we can offer this advice: do not unleash the Sound Forge Audio Studio software on any unsuspecting mere mortal.

The turntable’s a gem – great value for such an affordable unit and as it’s essentially Sony’s mid-range LX250H deck fitted with a USB port it can happily become part of your hi-fi system once your record ripping session burning is done.

But Sound Forge Audio Studio is an audio editing production package with the features interface and array of menu options to match when all that’s really called for is something far simpler and more task-specific. Indeed at a first pass of Sony’s piddling text-only instruction sheet (screenshots are for sissies!) we were unable to make sense of the steps required to copy an LP into a digital format let alone be able to hear the music while the album was playing.

Then we discovered a Vinyl Recording and Restoration option tucked away under the Tools menu. Sony makes no mention of this and that’s a shame because this simple wizard is exactly what the spin doctor ordered and precisely what the non-geek novice needs to be using.

With a few friendly clicks you’re led through playing the LP (and at the same time being able to enjoy the music through your PC’s speakers); running an automated cleanup filter to normalise any audio peaks and clean up hiss pop and crackle; then selecting if the recording is to be burned directly to CD saved as a CD-ready WAV file or in MP3 format at three pre-set bit rates – 96Kbps 128Kbps or 192Kbps.

So if a family member or friend lacking the gadget gene buys one of these turntables walk them through the Vinyl Recording and Restoration wizard and they should be good to go from then.

Also worthy of note is that the software doesn’t divvy the album into tracks – it captures each side of the LP as one long recording. You can of course use Sound Forge Audio Studio (or any equivalent program) to dice that into individual tracks for skipping or shuffling on an iPod or assembling a ‘best of’ mix CD. But we reckon many folk who grew up with vinyl will be happy just to have those dusty old classic LPs bought back to life in their entirety.