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ION Audio LP DOCK USB/iPod Turntable - ION Audio LP DOCK
While it's possible to record to an iPod without connecting the phono audio outputs to a hi-fi system, it's probably a good idea to do so anyway in order to monitor the actual sound. With a record cued up in the right place, simply press the Rec Menu button to enter the record mode on the iPod, and then press the Select button to start recording. Pressing Select again will either pause the recording, or alternatively you can use the Scroll knob to select the Stop and Save option. It really is as straight forward as it sounds.
Saved recordings can then be played back through the LP DOCK's phono outputs, and are accessible by navigating to the Voice Memos area of the iPod's menu. The recordings can of course be transferred to a computer via the LP DOCK's USB connection just as you would with a normal iPod dock. You can even listen to music from your computer through your hi-fi using the turntable's phono audio output by selecting the turntable as the main USB playback device in the Sound Control Panel.
If you'd rather record straight to your computer via USB instead, a copy of EZ Vinyl Converter 2 for the PC is also bundled. This features Gracenote's rather impressive MusicID technology, which analyses the waveform of the recording and automatically retrieves album, artist and song information from the Internet. For some reason, Mac users only get the standard version of EZ Audio Converter which doesn't include the MusicID feature. You should also bear in mind that the EZ recording software is limited to 160kbps MP3 recordings. For higher quality PC-based recording and advanced editing features, a copy of the excellent Audacity freeware is included on the CD.
Right, let's be honest here about the sound quality. The LP DOCK isn't going to win any prestigious hi-fi awards (or probably any hi-fi award for that matter). That said, at the lower end of the musical spectrum the LP DOCK continually impressed me. Spinning Michael Jackson's Thriller album for example, the bass line from a WAV recording of Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' was nice and deep with plenty of rhythm. Likewise the drums and bass guitar on Billie Jean were impressively weighty, with the midband sounding neutral and clean.
However, comparisons with the CD version of Thriller revealed the LP DOCK was struggling to cope with the top end, usually tending to sound slightly harsh or bright and just lacking a certain refinement. I wouldn't consider this harshness to be a fault of the turntable, but rather down to the quality of the supplied ‘starter' cartridge. I'm fairly confident the deck would perform far better if this was replaced with a proper budget hi-fi cartridge. Two possible options that immediately spring to mind are Audio Technica's highly regarded AT-95E and AT-110E cartridges, both of which offer excellent value for money at around £20 and £30 respectively. Spend much more than that however and I suspect the quality of the turntable and tone arm will then start to reveal themselves as a limiting factor to achieving hi-fi nirvana.
Being easy to set up and offering an acceptable sound quality out of the box, the LP DOCK turntable will appeal to anyone who wants to digitally archive their old vinyl collection with the minimum of fuss. However, aspiring audiophiles are advised to spend another £20-30 on a ‘proper' hi-fi cartridge to ensure they extract the most they can from their prized vinyl records.
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