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Not for audiophiles, but a good little semi-portable record player
on 30 November 2012
If you are a HiFi enthusiast, read no further. But if you are looking for a compact, semi-portable stereo record player to listen to your old vinyl records (or even new ones) then this record player could well fit the bill. I bought it as a birthday present for someone who wanted a small record player that would be easy to transport, could play second-hand LPs and singles, and would be able to copy records to mp3 files. However this record player is not designed to be connected to a PC or to a USB hard drive via a USB cable: you have to plug a USB pen drive (flash drive, USB stick or whatever you want to call it) or SD Card into the record player if you want to record to mp3. It can also play mp3 and WMA files from those devices.
The first thing that struck me was how small this record player is. Notice from the photo that a 12-inch LP sticks out at the back, front and one side of the player, which just goes to show what a small footprint it has. It's not heavy either. So moving this record player from room to room or from one location to another is not difficult. The tone arm does look fragile, tiny and 'plasticy' but at least it does not seem too heavy. Unfortunately you have to lower and raise the tone arm manually, which can be fiddly as it is small. When you switch on the record player -- one of the rotary knobs on the front serves as the ON/OFF switch and the volume control -- the turntable will start to spin when you move the arm towards the record, and will stop spinning when the arm is near the centre of the record. This worked fine with the LPs I played, but there is a switch on the back of the player that you can use to disable the automatic start/stop functionality if you find that a record stops spinning before the end of the last track. In that mode, a record carries on spinning while the player is switched ON. Three speed settings are available: 78, 33.3 and 45 RPM, and there is also a rotary knob for fine adjustment of the speeds, although I didn't need to touch it.
I copied an LP to mp3 files on a USB pen drive (there is also an SD Card slot if you prefer to use one of those instead of a USB pen drive), and have to say I am impressed with the result. To be able to do this without needing a PC is handy, although I found that I wanted my laptop nearby so that I could check the tracks had been recorded correctly, and to rename the mp3 files afterwards. It is important to note that the capacity of the USB pen drive or SD Card can only be 2 GB or less. That is the limit specified in the instruction manual. There is no need to use a PC, you just plug in the USB pen drive and follow the instructions in the user guide. You can select mp3 bit rates up to 256 KBPS (the factory default is 128 KBPS) by using a button on the remote that comes with the player (you will need two AAA batteries for the remote). I selected 192 KBPS which is what I normally use when ripping my Audio CDs to mp3 files on my laptop. You can either record a complete side of a record to one big mp3 file or you can create separate mp3 files by pressing the TS button on the remote at the end of each track. I had to read the instructions a couple of times and practice a couple of times, but it's not difficult. You quickly learn how long to wait at the beginning and end of a record before starting and stopping recording, so as not to have several seconds of silence at the beginning and end of mp3 files. I recorded mp3 files of each track of an LP that was in almost-new condition, and the result was impressive. A couple of the louder parts on a couple of the tracks had a momentary slight crackle, but overall the quality of the mp3 files was better than I expected, and they allowed me to listen on my laptop to an album that is not available on Audio CD and I hadn't heard in 30 years. You can also play mp3 and WMA files on a USB pen drive or SD Card via the record player, and there are buttons on the front of the record player and on the remote to enable you to do that.
There is a socket on the back of the player to plug in an optional sub-woofer if you want, but it's not essential. There are also RCA phono sockets on the back if you want to connect the player to an amplifier or to external speakers, and there is a headphones socket on the front panel. There is also an Aux In socket on the front panel if you want to play an external mp3 player through the record player's speakers. The record player's volume can actually be turned up quite a bit, certainly more than loud enough for me. However, as the built-in speakers are on opposite sides of the record player they are not pointing towards you and the two stereo channels are a bit too separate for my liking. Perhaps angling a book at each end of the player would bounce the sound forwards and improve this. Or you could plug a couple of portable powered PC speakers into the headphone socket if you wanted.
The needle is replaceable. If I were going to play 78 RPM records then I would buy another needle just to use for playing those, so that the needle would not spoil 33 and 45 RPM records.
Overall, then, if you are not expecting this to be a HiFi but want something compact with built-in speakers and the ability to copy records to mp3 files, this is a decent buy. For playing records easily and quickly around the house or at a friend's house, and for recording mp3 files without having to mess around with external software, it's a good choice.