off the record
If you're over a certain age, chances are you have a box of old vinyl records sitting in a closet somewhere. And if you're like me, some of them are so weird and obscure that they'll never merit a CD release.
Trying to convert these audio recordings to MP3 format can be a time-consuming and confusing process. In my case, I needed to refurbish my old turntable. So I bought a phonograph preamplifier, adapter cables to hook my turntable into my sound card and software to handle the recording and editing.
Things would have been much simpler had I known about an American company called Ion Audio (www.ion-audio.com), which produces a line of turntables that plug directly into a Universal Serial Bus 1.1 port on a personal computer. And its packages include all of the software - for either Windows or Macintosh - you'll need to do the conversion.
In a spin The company's latest model is called the iTTUSB10.
The belt-driven phonograph can be plugged into your stereo and used as a regular turntable thanks to its switchable RCA output cable. RCA is the most common connector for consumer audio equipment.
It has all of the basic features you would expect, including an S-shaped tone arm, adjustable anti-skating control and a hinged dust cover. When used as a traditional turntable, it plays 331/3- and 45-RPM records.
Digital penetration When it comes to making MP3s of your vinyl, just install the included software, then plug the USB cable in and you're ready to go. If your collection includes 78-RPM records, the software can handle the conversion of those. There's even an auxiliary input allowing you to plug in a cassette deck then digitise your old audio cassette tapes.
The iTTUSB10 can be purchased online for US$200 from The Sharper Image (www.sharperimage.com) and other US-based websites. You will probably need a power voltage converter if you plan to use it in Hong Kong.