Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat.
Playing a USB turntable through computer speakers is far from ideal.
Those tiny speakers are never going to give you the sound quality you want.
But sometimes, they might be your only option.
Or perhaps you have some other reason to play your music though them, like you want to use your turntable for sampling.
The good news is: it’s not overly difficult. But it isn’t exactly straightforward either. Keep reading to learn how to play a USB turntable through computer speakers.
How To Play USB Turntable Through Computer Speakers
Playing your USB turntable through your computer speakers is definitely possible. We’ll start with instructions for a PC, then move on to a Mac.
Set Up Your Turntable
For this step you will need to refer to your user manual, because every manufacturer has different recommendations and settings.
In general, you will be configuring the anti-skate mechanism, the tonearm weight, and in some cases installing the belt or other player-specific steps. The result should be a perfectly balanced turntable that is ready to play records.
Set Up Your Computer With The Proper Configuration (Windows Based PC)
Power on your computer and your turntable and locate a free USB port on the PC. Plug the record player’s USB cable into the open port on your computer.
Find the sound settings on your computer. On a PC there is usually a speaker icon in the bottom right of the window. When you find this icon, right click on it to bring up the options window.
Once you have this window open, click on the playback devices option. This will bring up a new window called the sound window.
Now you will choose your speakers. The default computer speakers should appear in this list next to any other speakers you may have set up.
If you want to listen on your built in speakers, choose them from this list. The active speakers you are currently using should have a check mark next to them.
Do not select anything other than the speakers you want to use. It is also a good idea at this point to make the computer speakers the default device.
Now that the speakers have been selected, you must tell the computer what source to listen to and play back.
Click on the tab next to the playback tab in the current window you are looking at (the sound window). This is the recording tab, where you will choose the input device.
There should be an option for USB audio codec. This is the one you want to select, so the soundcard is listening to the USB port. Like the previous step, it is possible here to select more than one thing. See to it that only the USB audio codec is selected.
Set up the USB audio codec. Right click on the USB audio codec option. This will bring up a smaller sub-window where you see a list of options. One of them is properties. Click on the properties option which will bring up yet another new window.
Click the listen option. In the new sub-window, there are four tabs at the top. They are:
Click on the listen tab and check the little box that says listen to this device. A green check mark will indicate that you have chosen to listen to this device, which you have already configured. Now, just click apply and you are ready to listen to your records through your PC speakers.
Listening To A USB Turntable On A Mac
- Set up your turntable the same way you would if you plan to listen on a PC (instructions above). You will need your turntable’s instruction manual to do this correctly.
- Turn on the mac and the turntable and plug the USB cable from the turntable into an open port on your mac computer.
- On the dock, you will see an option called system preferences, which you should select by clicking on it.
- Now inside the preferences window, find the speaker icon and click on it. It may also be called the sound icon.
- At this point, the sound settings window will appear. Much like the PC, you need to select the USB audio codec and change the setting to make it the sound input device.
- There will be three tabs on the top of this window. Choose the output tab to set the output of the sound device.
- Select the ‘speakers’ option from this window to tell your computer to use the speakers to produce the output.
- Now you must tell your mac to monitor that input. This is done via the recording program. Open the recording window and choose the ‘monitor’ option. Simply put your computer cursor over the area of the interface that says playback and monitor level master volumes, and you should be able to hear your record player.
Why Is It So Hard to Listen To My USB Turntable On My Computer?
To be fair, if you follow the steps, it is not overly difficult. But I would be lying if I said it was fun, or enjoyable in any way to set up.
Although modern technology makes it possible for us to listen to and record an analog device like a turntable on a digital device like a computer, neither device is designed to do this. A program like Audacity can help with recording.
Why Make USB Turntables If They Are So Hard To Listen To On Your PC?
In fact, the reason some manufacturers started making turntables with USB outputs was not to listen to them on computers at all. Instead, this modification was made so that vinyl enthusiasts could record their records to the digital domain.
This is a great idea. Since vinyl is a physical medium, it will degrade over time. But digital files will never degrade or sound any different, no matter how long you wait to listen back to them.
The best time to ‘rip’ (record from vinyl to digital) is the first time you play a record, since technically, the record will never sound that good again. Turntable manufacturers know this and saw an opportunity to serve the vinyl market back when USB technology became mature enough to do the job.
Why This Is Not An Ideal Pairing
Since computers are made to be ‘play from’ devices, and turntables are analog devices which are designed to be played through a good analog receiver and phono preamp, this pairing is far from ideal.
You will not get anywhere near the sound quality from a pair of PC speakers as you will with a good stereo system setup. But it is convenient for ripping records to digital, or if the only playback device you have is a PC with speakers.
Play Record Player Through Computer Speakers: Final Thoughts
If your computer speakers are the only ones you have, or if you want to record your vinyl to the digital format, it might make sense to listen to your records using your computer speakers.
In that case, we hope the instructions above have helped you get everything set up correctly.
But ideally, you want to have a better set of speakers. External speakers hooked up to a stereo system are the best. You don’t even need a receiver to hook up to speakers.
Many record players come with built-in speakers, too. These are never great quality, but they get the job done if you have nothing else.