MAKE:TNT Tools 'n' Tips

ART Pro USB Phono Plus

It's the eternal question: You have "Kung Fu Fighting" on vinyl, but how do you get that onto your computer to turn it into an MP3? Well, Grasshopper, there are many paths to enlightenment, but few are more Zen than this little USB audio interface.

A phono cartridge needs a pre-amp with special equalization. The USB Phono Plus has true phono inputs--along with line level and digital audio connections--in a small, solid, metal enclosure. It's a great solution for Mac iBook and Mini owners lacking audio inputs, but it works with standard USB audio drivers on any recent Win or Mac system. ART also includes a wall wart so you can use it apart from your computer as a standalone phono pre-amp.

My favorite feature? It has a KNOB. The gain control lets you fine-tune the volume before digitizing, to record the level as high as possible without clipping. But trust your recording software's level meters, rather than the clip LED on the front panel; mine flashed red even when there was a bit of headroom to spare. No complaints about the sound quality, though. I can't hear any difference between my original vinyl and the digitized version.

in stores (their website has a dealer locator)