Review of the Stanton T90 Turntable by TweakHeadz Lab
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Review of the Stanton T90 USB Direct Drive Turntable

 

Confessions of a Non-DJ

 

Its been a while since I bought a turntable.  So long I'd rather not say.  I am a home studio guy, not a club DJ, so take everything I say about them through those colored glasses.  But as a re-mixer and a samplist, I am always interested in new ways to tweak sounds and spinning, scratching and scraping vinyl is certainly in my arsenal.  My old table did a fair job at that, but I could not help but notice the new features of the modern turntable. Hence, my latest acquisition, the Stanton T90.

 

The Cool Stuff

 

The T90 has a lot going for it that made up my mind.  Lets do the list:

  • Direct drive, Hi Torque Motor (a must really, for any kind of heavy use)
  • Motor stop/start buttons.  (Not only for cueing, but for scratching.  You disengage the motor and can do what every you want to the platter.)
  • Variable Speed
  • 78RPM as well as 33 and 45
  • Reverse play (Yes I still get kicks listening to stuff backwards for the secret message)
  • Key Lock  (Lets you speed up, slow down the music without changing pitch)
  • Comes with a Cartridge
  • Coax digital out
  • USB out 
  • Line out  (arguably, this was most important to me because I want to be able to connect to stuff fast)  It can be switched to a phono out if you really want to use a phono preamp.

That's a pretty impressive set of features.  It might not be as professional as a Technics 1200, but it is about half the price. 

 

Stanton T90 USB Direct Drive Turntable
The Stanton T.90 USB is a professional quality turntable with high-torque direct drive motor and a USB output, combining the latest digital technology with a unique style that can only be Stanton.

 

In Use

 

I did not experience any difficulty with the operation of the unit.  The package arrived in perfect shape, double boxed from zZounds.  I did have to glance at the manual to figure out how to adjust the tonearm, but that was about it.  However, I did run into an issue with the word clocking of digital audio.

 

USB.  There were no drivers to install for the USB interface on my Mac. This was good and bad it turns out.   My first software attempt to sample vinyl using Peak 4 were doomed.  I could not get anything other than a big block of digital hash.  But I have to remind myself that Peak 4 came out a long time ago.   I was not to be put down that easily.  I read the manual and downloaded the free version of Audacity as they recommended.  Perfect. Then I tried Soundtrack Pro 2 and it worked well too.  Absolutely flawless recording and playback except for one thing...

 

My MOTU 828mk2 started throwing a hissy because I was monitoring through it, yet receiving the signal from another clock, the USB driver from the Stanton.  I went through the range of options for setting the word clock in the MOTU control panel. The one called "USB Codec" did nothing.  I was able to stop the stuttering hiss, but in its place was a low level clock whine coming from the MOTU.  It was not real bad.  When the music was playing it was not audible, but between songs it was evident.  It is possible that word clock is not being recognized by the MOTU or it is not being sent in a way the MOTU wants it.

I was unable to resolve this issue so far.  I am thinking if I connect by s/pdif that will provide the word clock that the MOTU will accept.

 

Connecting via the unbalanced line outs (RCA) did the trick. I ran the outs to the instrument inputs on the 828mk2. That is something one usually would avoid, but I wanted to be able to rebalance the stereo image.  There was no hum or noise, except for the surface noise on the records and that which was embedded in the original recordings.  The fidelity was good and the sound was quite awesome coming out my Mackie HR 824s.  I tell you, there are great recordings on vinyl, made before people started squashing digital bits against the 0dbfs wall.  The older mixes have a real sense of craft. 

I spent a few nights with my long lost collection of records and recorded whole albums directly into Logic, split the big files into small files and saved as MP3s at the 192 rate.  Great sound.

 

PC users will like that the T90 comes with Pyro5 by cakewalk.  I have not gotten to that yet but I am thinking will move the DJ rig to the PC here at the TweakLab. 

As a machine to help you archive vinyl, I think you will be quite pleased.  That seems to be the central focus of the T90, but the hi torque, the kill switches and the fast ramp up also give it validity as a scratch table.  I don't know how it would do in battle as I am not heading that way, but for the heavy grind of extreme sampling I think its a good match.

 

As Part of my Rig

 

My goal for the T90 is to build up a DJ sampling rig, along with my Axis 8,  a small DJ mixer and a quality preamp to feed my Fantom's MPC-like pads.  As that fills up the computer will become the repository of all these samples.  I am convinced I want vinyl snips, scratches, and dubs in my music along with synths and audio.  I am thinking this will be a refreshing change in the manner in which I work. 

To sum up, I like the Stanton T90 and think I will more than get my money's worth.  It would be nice if the USB connection worked with my MOTU better but it is actually not a problem for me. 

 

Happy Sampling

Tweak,

January 2008

 

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