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Digitizing Your Old Vinyl, Photos

One product proves to some degree a hit; the other, a miss

En español | Even though you've moved into the age of digital photos and music, you undoubtedly still have boxes full of old pictures, slides and negatives. And unless you're a stronger-willed spring cleaner than most, you have a couple of crates filled with records stowed at home, too. You'd get a lot more pleasure from these old treasures if you could turn them into digital files, ready to enjoy with a click of the mouse. 

ION Audio promises to make the leap from old-fashioned analog to newfangled digital easy and inexpensive. After test-driving two products, they've earned a definite maybe.

a man with his music CDs

Digitizing your photos isn't as hard as it once used to be. — Marni Horwitz/Gallery Stock

The stronger of the two is the Profile LP turntable, sold on the company website (IONAudio.com) for $99.99 but widely available at a discount. The turntable connects to a PC or Mac via USB, and can also play through a home audio system or powered speakers with standard red and white stereo plugs. Free downloadable software is available on ION Audio's website for recording purposes.

The turntable won't be mistaken for audiophile-quality gear anytime soon, but it's reasonably well built, with vibration-absorbing feet and a lever to raise and lower the tonearm. The turntable motor starts automatically when you move the arm over the record, and returns to its stand after the final track. There's no way to adjust the counterweight, and only 33 and 45 rpm records are supported (sorry, your old 78s aren't invited to the dance party). At least you get an adapter for the fat center hole in 45 rpm singles. Can you imagine trying to find one of those at this point?

As for the stereo output, it's amplified internally so it can connect to a standard auxiliary input on an AV receiver, another relief given the rarity of phono plugs on today's audio gear.

USB installation was a bit tricky on the Windows computers used for testing purposes. The documentation takes you through the process of revising several deeply buried settings, but two vital alterations (lowering the recording level and hearing the record play back through the computer's speakers) aren't explained.

As for the downloadable recording software, it sacrifices some vital capabilities in the interest of simplicity. It does a decent job of recording an album side and automatically breaking it up into individual tracks, and lets you enter song name and artist information before saving the results as MP3s. But there's no easy way to pause and flip the record over to record both sides — you have to start a new recording session. There's no way to set the MP3 quality level you prefer, a pretty basic adjustment. And most important, there doesn't appear to be any filtering to remove the clicks and pops so common in most old, used records.

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