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If the USB in this Denon turntable’s model number caught your eye, you’ve probably been thinking of digitizing your vinyl collection. And you’ve probably looked at some of the—ahem—less-expensive USB turntables and found them lacking.
Well, here’s the good news: Denon’s DP-450USB turntable delivers great sound and audiophile build quality, and it makes recording your vinyl super easy—even without a computer. The bad news? The Windows software Denon chose to bundle with its product leaves much to be desired.
Audiophile build and design
Denon is best known in the U.S. for its exceptional line of AV receivers, but the company has a much broader portfolio, including exquisite headphones (such as the Denon AH-D9200 TechHive reviewed recently), an excellent multi-room audio system known as HEOS, and, of course, a strong line of turntables. Many people don’t know it, but Denon has been building turntables for more than a century—its legacy dates back to 1910, with the development of Japan’s first gramophone.
Denon’s DP450-USB looks and feels like an audiophile turntable. The solid base comes in your choice of lacquered black or white finishes. My review sample came in black.
Four anti-vibration feet are mounted to the base. The outer shells of these are plastic and each foot’s inner circle is made from a dimpled rubber that pivots to absorb vibration. The feet aren’t as substantive as you’ll find on some more expensive turntables, but should you feel the need, you can always supplement them with an IsoNode or Sorbothane-based product.
The DP-450USB comes with a metal platter and a rubber mat, which is not unusual at this price point. The platter has two rectangular openings through which you can pull the belt onto the motor’s pulley.
Setup is easy and straightforward. To get the most out of the DP-450USB, you need to reference the online owner’s manual. What comes in the box is just a quick-start guide. Page 10 of the manual gives you a QR code so you can quickly download the full user manual from the web.
But you won’t need the user manual to discover that the DP-450USB is a veritable Swiss Army knife: It will play records at 33-1/3-, 45-, and 78 rpm. Denon says the DP-450USB has an integrated sensor that automatically controls the platter to prevent unwanted speed fluctuations.
Appealing to both the novice and the audiophile, the DP-450USB comes with a moving magnet (MM) cartridge, but will also accept a MC (moving coil) cartridge. The included stylus is good for about 400 hours of playback.
The onboard phono preamp allows you to connect the DP-450USB to powered speakers, a multichannel A/V receiver, or an integrated amplifier. The only thing missing from this turntable’s bag of tricks is the absence of support for Denon’s aforementioned HEOS streaming platform. The ability to stream your vinyl to any HEOS-compatible audio component would be a killer addition that would put Denon’s turntable on par with Yamaha’s MusicCast Vinyl 500.
If you want to elevate the Denon’s performance, you can flip the Equalizer setting in back to Off, which will defeat its internal preamp so you can connect an outboard phono preamp. If you’re serious about your vinyl experience, you’ll want to play through an external phono preamp.
I played the Denon through both its internal phono stage and a Cambridge Audio Alva Duo phono preamp. I found the Denon’s internal phono stage to be pretty good for an out-of-the-box option, although it heavily emphasizes the bottom end. You might find that boost appealing; for my part, I much preferred the Denon’s sound through the more refined and neutral performance of the Alva Duo.
Denon’s DP-450USB is a semi-automatic turntable, which means you don’t need to watch it like a hawk while you’re spinning records. When the tonearm reaches the end of the record, the tonearm automatically lifts, the platter stops spinning, and the device turns itself off.
You will need to return the tonearm to its rest, but the semi-automatic feature worked flawlessly during my evaluation. Once the tonearm reached the end of the record, it made a few revolutions on the silent part of the record, the tonearm lifted, and the platter stopped spinning.
I would put tonearm back on its rest, flip the side, or change the record; and as soon as I returned the tonearm back over the record, the platter would automatically resume spinning. The turntable will also automatically power down after being idle for 20 minutes.
An ingenious dust cover
Most turntables come with a hinged, plastic cover. The obvious advantage of that design is that you can close it while a record is spinning to prevent dust from settling on the record. The downside is that it significantly increases the vertical clearance needed when you place the turntable. Denon came up with an ingenious alternative that lays flat on the platter, with an igloo-like housing that protects the tonearm. While you’re spinning a record,the cover serves as an easel for displaying the album cover. Someone in Denon’s industrial design deserves a pat on the back for this, but there is one drawback: There’s nothing to prevent dust from settling on the record while the record is on the turntable.
The Denon DP-450USB is identical to the Denon DP-400 ($499 on Amazon) with one key difference: The addition of USB output. If you’re intrigued by the DP-450USB and don’t feel you need the USB functionality, then you can save yourself $100 and pick up the DP-400.
Recording your vinyl
The DP-450USB’s recording feature works by recording to a USB memory stick or thumb drive via the USB-A socket on its front right panel. To make a recording, simply pop in a thumb drive, start playing a record, and press either the MP3 or WAV button on the turntable. A white light will blink above the thumb drive and a blue light will glow over the audio format (MP3 or WAV) you chose. To stop recording, simply press the same audio format button.
Transferring music is easy: Pop the thumb drive into your PC and copy the files over. The Denon is smart enough to automatically serialize each recording: It will start with REC00001 and go from there, so you don’t need to worry about overwriting your recordings.
Bundled software I could do without
Denon bundles the DP-450USB with MusicCut software, which you’ll need to download from Denon’s DP-450USB downloads page. Once downloaded, you’ll need your turntable’s serial number to install the software. You’ll then be prompted to register with Gracenote, which will handle auto detection of the songs and albums you record.
I must take Denon to task here on several fronts: First, the MusicCast software is available only for Windows—there is no MacOS version. If you’re a Mac user, I’d suggest you look at Audacity (which is free) or specialized solutions, such as VinylStudio (which costs $29.99 via the App store). What Denon should do is partner with a developer that has software available for both Windows and MacOS (VinylStudio developer AlpineSoft, for example) and offer a discount coupon that’s good for either version.
My second complaint is even bigger: MusicCut’s website says its software recognizes both MP3 and WAV files, but the program would not open the latter for me. I’m not about to digitize my vinyl to my Roon server as lossy MP3 files. I want to digitize my vinyl in WAV and then convert to either FLAC or ALAC using a software package such as XLD.
Third, song recognition proved to be a frustrating experience. I digitized Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms and the Eagles Live album for this review. Brothers in Arms came back as In the name of Freedom by the Sandviken Big Band. I had to then go into MusicCut’s “Edit Tag Info” and manually tag each track with the correct information.
My advice: Avoid MusicCut and invest in some other software. If you want free, try Audacity. If you want something more user friendly and automated, there are lots of alternatives, but you’ll need to pay for them.
Aside from the software, which Denon didn’t develop, I enjoyed my time with Denon’s DP-450USB. I found it to be a solid turntable with great sound and an easy-to-use vinyl digitization process. The bundled MusicCut software is this bundle’s Achilles heel, but it’s not a deal breaker. If you’re looking for an audiophile-grade turntable that you can use for pure music enjoyment plus vinyl digitizing, you can’t go wrong with Denon’s DP-450USB.