My first vinyl purchase wasn't "I Want To Hold Your Hand", or "Glad All Over", but an EP of songs from the Mikado. It seems strange now. My collection mushroomed from there and ultimately earned the cliché "eclectic". There's a bit of everything in there now, from Tchaikovsky, through Pink Floyd to The Paper Dolls and beyond
I'm sure I'm not alone in bowing to the powerful tidal wave of sentiment that prevents us from parting with our now almost obsolete old albums, and singles for that matter.
I think there are three factors. The first is the significant financial investment that they represent. Each of those records, singles and LPs, was bought with hard earned and probably saved up cash. It was carried home with pride, like a prize won or a treasure unearthed.
The second is their physical identity: the art work on the covers; the lyrics and notes on the inside; the sentiments that might have been written by a loved one; the sheer physical "thrill" of sliding the disc out of its sleeve.
And the third factor is the sound. The weakness of vinyl is also its strength. It scratches, and each of those blemishes is a part of our history - whatever it was that made our hand slip at the time. Also, it can have a rawness about it. It leaves us with a tangible feeling for how it was made in the studio. It's a medium through which we feel we can have a connection with our idols.
So how do we make all this available to us in these modern times? The first answer is "a big cupboard". I'm not getting rid of my vinyl. Let that be clear. I still want to be able to hold them, read them and remember the times in which they were at the centre of my life.
The second answer is the Envivo USB Turntable: a machine that will turn those precious old tracks into MP3 files, so that I can listen when I'm in the car, out for a walk - wherever - and so that I can still hear that unique sound.
O O O Features of the Envivo USB Turntable O O O
This looks much like any other turntable, and can be used as such. However, it also has a USB lead that you can connect to your computer and comes with software to help you to convert the analogue track to an MP3 file. A very useful instruction booklet is included.
In addition to 33 rpm records, this will convert 78 rpm and an adaptor is supplied for when you want to play 45rpm discs.
The build isn't tacky, but it's decidedly plastic. Having said that, the turntable itself is reassuring, as is the action of the tone arm and the solid way it sits back on its rest, complete with clip, of course. It looks fine and wouldn't be out of place with an expensive amp and speakers.
O O O The Recording Process O O O
It's actually very simple. Once the software is set up on your computer, you tell it to record and at the same time play the vinyl on the turntable. The sound is fed into the computer, digitized and saved as an MP3 which can then be written to a cd, or to a stick, or to an MP3 player. Actually, you can also save it as a WAV if you like, but the chances are that most people will want to save as MP3s
There are two discs and two programs that come with this device. There is a very basic software called Recordmate, but I can't for the life of me work out why you would want to use this when you also have Audacity supplied (compatible with Windows XP, Vista and & Mac OS). Audacity is a very straightforward piece of sound editing software, as sound editing software goes, but it has more than enough functionality for this purpose. Not only will it allow you to record a digital version of the sound, but then you can convert it to different types of file, cut, splice, repeat etc etc. So basically you can tidy it all up nicely before finalizing it and dropping it onto your cd or whatever.
To record a whole album is quite time-consuming, as the process has to work in real time and you will either have to be very attentive to the process to make sure that you stop and start at the right moments to save discrete tracks, or you will have to spend time afterwards, editing on Audacity.
Controls are straightforward with a one touch start/stop system.
Personally, I think it's worth it. Of course, you can buy a lot of your old albums re-mastered onto cd these days, but it isn't the same, is it? No, it isn't.
And there will always be some of your old treasures that you can never find on a modern, commercially produced cd. For those, this is a priceless piece of equipment.
O O O When I say Priceless...... O O O
As you probably know, Envivo products, originating in Sweden, are almost exclusively distributed through Aldi stores. Mine cost £49.99, but I know that they have been sold for as little as £29.99, an example of what I believe is called a "dynamic pricing strategy".
At either level, this is an amazing price. Other USB turntables go for much more and you have to ask yourself three questions:
Q. Is the recording process any quicker or easier on the more expensive machines?
Q Is the recorded product appreciably better?
A. Probably not.
Q. Will the machine last for longer that the Envivo?
A. Possibly yes, but hold on...why would you want it to? You've only got so much vinyl. You're only ever going to have so much vinyl. Why would you want a USB turntable to last a long time? Obviously you could use it simply to play your records, but either you're not going to do that very often, in which case you still won't be knocking lumps out of your player; or if you want to play your stuff regularly, surely you'd want a much better turntable anyway?
O O O Tech Spec O O O
Minimum Requirements are:
Pentium 2.0GHz CPU or above
1GB RAM or above
VGA card with 32MB memory
One available USB 2.0 port
Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7
The stylus can be replace and there's a three year warranty.
My conclusion is that this is an excellent buy, if you can just happen to be in Aldi when they've got them in.
I'm off to digitize my Woody Guthrie albums. Irreplaceable!
I'm not very often given to impulse buying but a few weeks before Christmas whilst mooching through Aldi, I spotted this USB turntable on sale for a staggering £29.99 and thought at that price this had to be worth a punt. The turntable has the capacity to convert vinyl records which play at 78, 45 or 33 rpm into digital format. If nothing else I reckoned this was an opportunity to liberate my collection of currently near redundant vinyl from its attic prison.
EnVivo .... never heard of 'em!
I'm not overly bothered about brand names but as I'd never heard of EnVivo before and there was no clue about them in the details which came with the turntable, I tried to do a little research online, without very much success. It looks as though EnVivo is a Swedish company which makes a variety of audio visual equipment, however, all the servicing for their products is done through a Belgian company called Teknihall and the only contact details which accompany the equipment are for Teknihall. Despite never having heard of the company, it's reassuring to know that they have enough faith in their products to sell this turntable with a 3 year warranty!
So what do you get for the princely sum of £29.99?
This all comes neatly packed in a sturdy box with carrying handle which contains the USB turntable itself, plus mains connector and USB cable as well as a fairly comprehensive instruction booklet and software discs. The discs provide two lots of software for converting your music files.
Despite the incredibly low price and it being very lightweight, the build quality of the turntable is surprisingly good and looks decent enough to have on display. It's not going to give Bang & Olufsen or Denon any sleepless nights but nevertheless it's far sturdier than I expected. It's a pretty basic piece of kit and is made from a medium grade plastic in two-tone grey with a clear lift up protective dustcover/lid. Although I've said its build is sturdy, I'm not sure it would survive being dropped!
At first glance it looks like any basic turntable with very similar controls in that the turntable has a push button on/off switch, playing arm and selector lever for choosing turntable speed plus an auto stop control which ensures that once the needle reaches the end of the record the player arm will automatically lift. There is also a lever to allow for more accurate lowering and raising of the player arm rather than relying on the manual dexterity of the user and the turnable also comes with an adapter which is required for playing 45s (singles). At the rear of the unit the speaker/amplifier sockets are situated and the USB socket, the only feature which differentiates this from any other basic turntable, is also at the rear.
The player arm is a delicate part of the apparatus so it was good to see that this has a lock to prevent the arm from dislodging from its cradle and that the player head housing the needle cartridge has a plastic protective cover. As the chances are that the turntable will need to be moved around in order to have it close to a computer whilst making recordings, it's essential to make sure that the player arm is secured before moving.
The turntable is suitable for use with Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 or MAC operating systems and the system requirements are:
Pentium 2 or above
I GB of RAM
VGA card with 32MB memory
All very well but does it work?
Before the turntable can play or record it's necessary to load the software onto your computer. There are two programmes supplied on the accompanying discs: the rather basic RecordMate LP which doesn't use much system power and is very straightforward to use but doesn't allow the user to listen as the recording is being made unless the turntable is connected to speakers, or the more sophisticated Audacity suite which allows the user to listen to the recording via the computer as it's played. The Audacity software is much more sophisticated allowing the user to tweak the recorded files, removing extraneous noises, cutting and splicing etc as well as being able to save the files in a variety of formats. As Audacity is a far more versatile software programme, I didn't both loading RecordMate LP at all so can't really comment on whether it's any good or not. Whichever programme you decide to use, there are very clear instructions which come with the turntable and I had no problem either with the initial set up or in making my first recording.
It has to be said that creating recordings is fairly time consuming but very simple to do as the equipment comes with clear and concise instructions on how to do this. Once the file has been saved onto the computer, it's possible to either transfer the recording onto an MP3 player or burn to CD or even just keep it on your computer if you have the disc space. I've already written a review of the Audacity software so won't give you chapter and verse on how to use it. Suffice to say, it's very intuitive software and if I can use it, anyone can.
There must be some drawbacks to this bargain!
I haven't come across any drawbacks as yet but I have spotted a couple which may arise in the future. The main one is concerned with replacement parts. No mention is made of whether these are available or where they can be purchased. I can only assume that this information will be available from Teknihall, EnVivo's service partner. The other potential problem would come when trying to change the needle cartridge. Unlike the average turntable, the player arm on this one doesn't raise up to enable the user to see the underside which I feel would make changing out the needle cartridge rather difficult. That being said, a replacement cartridge would probably cost as much as the entire turntable so I'm viewing this as very much a piece of throwaway equipment which I now isn't very environmentally friendly!
To my mind, this is an absolute bargain. Instead of being stashed away in the loft, my vinyl is now enjoying a new lease of life. I've managed to transfer nearly all my precious old LPs into digital format as well as saving some of them onto CDs which has saved me a fortune as I had been gradually replacing them. This has been particularly useful with some LPs which are now obsolete and which I've been unable to replace with a more up-to-date format.
Reacquainting myself with my stash of LPs has been an added joy and I've rediscovered some gems I'd totally forgotten. It hasn't freed up any additional space as I simply can't bring myself to part with these relics of my youth (with the exception of a Picketty Witch LP which I swear I never bought and which is now residing in the Oxfam shop!)
As far as I know this particular USB turntable is only available through Aldi and availability may be quite limited as a consequence but if you manage to come across one of these for sale, it will be well worth your while snapping one up.