Vinyl records have made a comeback in recent years, and many music enthusiasts are rediscovering the joys of listening to their favorite albums on a turntable.
However, if you want to digitize your vinyl collection or record your own music, you’ll need to connect your turntable to an audio interface. This can be a bit tricky if you’re not familiar with audio equipment, but don’t worry – we’ve got you covered!
In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps of connecting your turntable to an audio interface, whether you have an RCA or XLR connector.
So grab your favorite vinyl record and let’s get started!
How To Connect A Turntable To An Audio Interface
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
Before you start connecting anything, make sure you have all the necessary materials. You’ll need your turntable, an audio interface, and the appropriate cables to connect the two.
Most audio interfaces only have a 1/4 inch cable input, so you may need to purchase some adapters. You can find these at any audio store or online.
Step 2: Plug In Your Interface
Make sure your audio interface is plugged in securely and that all power cords are connected.
Step 3: Determine Your Connector Type
The next step will depend on what type of connector you have coming out from your turntable. There are two types: RCA and XLR.
If your turntable has an RCA connector, plug an RCA cable into both input jacks labeled “IN” on the back panel of your audio interface. Then connect the other ends of the RCA cable to either the PHONES jack on the front panel or directly into the interface’s PHONES jack.
If your turntable has an XLR connector, plug a TRS cable into both input jacks labeled “IN” on the back panel of your audio interface. Then connect the other ends of the TRS cable to either the LINE INPUT JACK on the front panel or directly into the interface’s LINE INPUT JACK.
Step 4: Play Your Record
Now that everything is connected, you’re ready to play your vinyl record through your audio interface. Enjoy the warm sound of analog music!
Step 5: Turn Off Your Devices
When you’re finished playing your record, make sure to turn off your audio device first. Then turn off any power supplies (such as batteries) before unplugging anything from the outlets.
Understanding Audio Interfaces And Turntables
Audio interfaces are devices that allow you to connect your turntable to your computer or other audio devices. They have inputs for microphones and line-level signals, and you can find a combination of XLR, 1/4 inch phone plug, and in some cases, 1/8 inch mini-plug, RCA, or optical input connections as well.
Some audio interfaces provide two input channels, while others provide many more. Most audio interfaces contain a headphone amplifier so you can monitor your recording and mixes in high fidelity. Some models may provide multiple headphone outputs.
Depending on the make and model, audio interfaces may provide one stereo pair of line outputs for monitor speakers or may provide many outputs for multiple headphones, pairs of monitors, or for surround-sound mixing, external summing, re-amping, and outboard effects processing.
When choosing an audio interface, consider your needs. For example, if you’re a singer/songwriter, a pair of units are usually sufficient. For a band, you need a professional touch for bigger tracks. You’ll want something expandable and also with eight inputs as a minimum. If you’re a film scorer, you are most likely to be composing and mixing in a surround system setup sooner or later so an interface with at least six outputs is recommended. If you’re a DJ, you’ll need an audio interface with at least 4 outputs, two of them being stereo.
Choosing The Right Audio Interface For Your Turntable
When choosing an audio interface for your turntable, there are a few key factors to consider. First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure that the audio interface has a phono preamp built-in. This is because turntables output a much lower signal level than other audio sources, and require a preamp to boost the signal to line level.
Another important factor to consider is the type of connector your turntable has. If your turntable has an RCA connector, you’ll want to make sure that the audio interface has RCA inputs. If your turntable has an XLR connector, you’ll want to make sure that the audio interface has XLR inputs.
It’s also important to consider the number of inputs and outputs on the audio interface. If you plan on recording other sources in addition to your turntable, such as a microphone or guitar, you’ll want an interface with multiple inputs. Similarly, if you plan on using studio monitors or headphones, you’ll want an interface with multiple outputs.
Finally, consider the quality of the audio interface’s converters. The quality of the converters will have a significant impact on the overall sound quality of your recordings. Look for an interface with high-quality converters that can handle high sample rates and bit depths.
Connecting A Turntable With RCA Connectors To An Audio Interface
Connecting a turntable with RCA connectors to an audio interface is a straightforward process. First, make sure your turntable has a built-in preamp MM with an on/off switch and RCA output cables. Then, connect those RCA cables to a converter that will convert them to TS cables. Plug the TS cables into the input jacks labeled “IN” on the back panel of your audio interface.
It’s important to note that unbalanced audio is not inferior to balanced audio. While balanced audio is the preferred professional standard because it is less susceptible to picking up noise and interference, especially on long cable runs, unbalanced audio is simple and does not require additional circuitry.
If you want to plug into a 1/4 inch connector, use an RCA to TS adapter. This solution is trivial and does not require any additional circuitry or equipment.
Finally, make sure all power cords are connected and secure before playing your vinyl record through your audio interface. When you’re finished, turn off your audio device first, then turn off any power supplies before unplugging anything from the outlets.
Connecting A Turntable With XLR Connectors To An Audio Interface
If your turntable has XLR connectors, connecting it to your audio interface is similar to the process for RCA connectors.
First, plug in your audio interface and make sure all power cords are connected. Then, plug a TRS cable into both input jacks labeled “IN” on the back panel of your audio interface.
Next, connect the other ends of the TRS cable to either the LINE INPUT JACK on the front panel or directly into the interface’s LINE INPUT JACK.
It’s important to note that XLR connectors are balanced, meaning they have three pins instead of two. This allows for better noise rejection and signal quality over long cable runs.
Once everything is connected, you can play your record through your audio interface and enjoy the high-quality sound. When you’re finished, remember to turn off your devices in the proper order to avoid any damage or interference.
Troubleshooting Common Issues When Connecting A Turntable To An Audio Interface
Connecting a turntable to an audio interface can be tricky. Here are some common issues you may encounter and how to troubleshoot them:
1. Phono vs. Line Level
The first thing to check is whether the output on your record player is a phono or line level. If it’s phono and your interface is expecting line level inputs, you may experience major issues. Some interfaces can be changed to handle phono input, but not all. You can also introduce noise when connecting a turntable to an interface because there is no grounding associated with it. To avoid these issues, it’s best to grab the output of your mixer into the soundcard instead of going directly from the turntable.
2. Mono vs. Stereo Input
Most audio interfaces have mono inputs, but turntables output in stereo. To get a stereo input, you will need to use an RCA (phono) to 1/4 inch mono cable for each lead and use each input on the interface. Most sound software understands this and gives you the option to combine pairs of inputs on an interface into a single stereo input.
3. USB Audio Codec Not Recognized
If the USB audio codec is not recognized in the Audacity Device Toolbar, you cannot record from it. Try rescanning audio devices or exiting Audacity and relaunching it. Make sure the turntable is plugged into the mains and switched on, and its USB cable is connected to the computer. Ensure you are plugging into a spare USB port, not a USB hub. Try a different USB port or using another USB cable – sometimes a faulty cable can cause this problem. If that does not help, try rebooting your computer.
4. Grounding Issues
If you hear buzz, hum, or hiss when playing records through your audio interface, it could be due to grounding issues. Connect your turntable’s ground wire (if it has one) to the ground terminal on your receiver or audio interface. This helps prevent any “hum” or noise coming from your turntable from playing through your system.
By following these troubleshooting tips, you should be able to connect your turntable to an audio interface without any issues and enjoy high-quality analog music!
Tips For Optimizing Your Turntable And Audio Interface Setup
To ensure the best possible sound quality and performance from your turntable and audio interface setup, there are a few tips you should keep in mind:
1. Level Your Turntable: One of the most basic steps of turntable setup is ensuring that it is level. While you can try to do this by eye, using a bubble level is much more accurate. You can find affordable bullseye levels online or at audio stores. Just place the level on your platter and adjust your turntable until it is horizontal.
2. Minimize Latency: Latency is the delay between when you play a note or sound and when you hear it through your speakers or headphones. To minimize latency, use a computer with a fast processor and well-written drivers. Check for driver updates regularly and choose a modern audio interface with a fast protocol. Adjust latency settings based on the complexity of your project and freeze virtual instrument parts to reduce CPU usage.
3. Use Quality Cables: The cables you use to connect your turntable to your audio interface can have a big impact on sound quality. Use high-quality RCA or TRS cables, depending on the type of connector on your turntable.
4. Reduce Noise: Turntables are susceptible to picking up noise, so it’s important to reduce any sources of interference as much as possible. Keep your turntable away from other electronics, power cords, and sources of vibration.
By following these tips, you can optimize your turntable and audio interface setup for the best possible sound quality and performance.