01.First look BASE turntable
This system can convert your old vinyl records to MP3 files, but you’re better off sticking with your old turntable.
BASE TT-186WWEA music system with direct encoding
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This device from Base claims to burn your old 33/45 rpm vinyl records to MP3 files, then copy those files to USB or SD cards, all at the press of a button. CHOICE testing found that while it lives up to this claim, the sound produced in the files is a long way off hi-fi quality. At the default bit rate of 128kbps, the sound lacks bass and is somewhat harsh at higher frequencies.
The system also has its own turntable, a built-in AM/FM radio and two small speakers that deliver a harsh, tinny sound. The sound is OK when connected to a separate sound system via its line-out, but still nothing like CD quality.
It can only convert to MP3 files at bit rates of 32kbps-256kbps. The higher the bit rate, the less information is dropped from the original sound – and at the lower end you'll get a noticeable drop in quality. There are also no controls for frequency manipulation when recording, although there is a bass boost switch that has a marginal effect when playing back.
The instruction manual refers to functions that didn’t match the functions of the model we purchased. The turntable, for example, is only supposed to start rotating when the tone arm is lifted, but we found the turntable turned as soon as the function selector was in the “phono” position.
The light, plastic tone arm has to be lifted and placed on the record manually, which can lead to the needle bouncing across the record. Tracks are not separated automatically when recording – you need to press a “separate track” button on the remote control to split them, otherwise you’ll end up with the whole record in one big MP3 file.
Once recorded, however, it’s reasonably easy to navigate the digital files using the display and controls on the front panel.
This product may be OK if you have a stack of old vinyl records lying around and want a cheap and easy way of copying them to MP3 format. But be warned: you won’t get quality at this price.