USB turntables are nothing new, but have previously required a computer to do their analog-to-digital thing. Converting vinyl into MP3s is a wonderfully liberating feat. But who keeps a computer next to his stereo stack or has the room for a turntable (and accompanying record collection) in the office?
Enter Denon’s DP-200USB turntable, fully equipped to provide the user experience we old-timers are used to, while introducing the iPod set to the magic of LPs.
My wife has a stack of 45s she never plays but won’t get rid of because they haven’t found their way onto iTunes, or even onto CD. With vinyl allegedly making a comeback, and roping in younger music fans who appreciate the organic sound, the need for a more convenient vinyl “ripping” solution seems clear.
After a quick bit of assembly, I simply connected the permanently attached analog stereo cable to the Phono input of my receiver, switching the player’s Phono EQ to Off. This switch is a very smart addition in deference to modern receivers which might lack a dedicated Phono in, favoring a more standardized “Aux” instead, with its own distinct levels.
Here’s where the DP-200USB moves away from the pack: Its front-panel USB port accepts a ubiquitous flash drive, while an internal MP3 encoder sits ready to convert analog stereo signals to digital files. We just plug in, slap down an LP or 45, confirm the proper speed setting/disc size, press Start, wait for the needle to get groovy, and then hit the Record button. A blinking red light gives confirmation that music is indeed being captured.
At side’s end we press the Record button again to close the file and the player stops automatically, or we can hit Stop to end playback at any point.
And so our newborn MP3 is ready to enjoy instantly on any device that can accept the eminently transportable USB drive and decode MP3 audio.
The fixed bitrate is an ample 192 kilobits-per-second (not specified anywhere in the specs, but I checked the properties of my new MP3 file back at the PC).
Denon promises that “approximately 30 LP analog records” can fit on a 1GB drive.
The process is “manual” in the sense that we need to physically stand by and watch to begin recording at the proper moment, and it’s a bummer if we’re not at-the-ready twenty-odd minutes later when the side ends, ’cause then we will have a lot of dead space at the end of the sound file. Might automatic audio sensing be in Denon’s future?
Because eventually we’ll want to put these tracks onto a computer, even if just to transfer them to a portable device, Denon includes multipurpose “Trans Music Manager” PC software.
One album side equals one MP3 file, which is fine for the unified flow of Abbey Road side two, but most people prefer individual tracks. The software automatically detects the two-to-three-second gap between songs and divides accordingly, and we can customize the sensitivity, the length of the silence to be detected, and more. From there, we can add song/artist/album metadata with the integrated help of Gracenote’s online Compact Disc Database (CDDB). It’s not an exact science so, you can also enter track info manually.
The hardware itself is surprisingly compact, with a serious die-cast aluminum platter, a protective flip-down stylus cover, and a retro smoked plastic lid on spring-loaded hinges.
Despite the pops and crackles which will likely be unfamiliar to many listeners born after 1983, I enjoyed the genuine sparkle of this vinyl/digital hybrid. There’s palpable depth and a welcome warmth to these files, with a nostalgic quality to the audio as well.
Perhaps the most telling: I can see myself investing the time to copy more of my vinyl collection even now the review is done.
CONTACT: 201.762.6500, denon.com