What's Hip? Hands On with Denon's DP-450USB USB Turntable

I’ve always wanted to be a hipster. However, the reality is that I’m too curvy for skinny jeans, I like having brakes and gears on my bicycle, and I prefer Nespresso’s convenience to single-origin third wave pour-over coffee. And while I appreciate vinyl, I equally appreciate the convenience and portability of digital music files. How do I get my music both ways? With the Denon DP-450USB turntable that easily creates WAV or MP3 files from my beloved vinyl collection, I can get my music however I want. Totally hip.

The DP-450USB turntable from Denon (MSRP: $599) is an upgrade from the previous DP-200USB. The DP-450USB is a belt-drive turntable with the MM DSN-85 stylus, but it can be easily upgraded. The weighted platter features an integrated speed sensor for accurate playback; speed selections are 33-1/3, 45 and 78 rpm, with included adapter. Wow and flutter is listed as 0.10%. The turntable has a built-in phono EQ with an on/off switch so you can easily use an external phono amp.

The turntable is a semi-automatic player; you can select auto-on/off on the back of the unit. If auto-on is initiated, the tone-arm will automatically lift at the end of a side and the platter will stop spinning; the unit powers down after 20 minutes of inactivity. It will not return the tone-arm to the cradle. The S-curved tone-arm has a simple (albeit cheap-feeling) clamp to hold the arm securely when not in use.

The DP-450USB comes with a non-attached dust cover that is only meant to be used when the player is not being used. When the dust cover is placed upright in the included stand, it doubles as an LP cover display. There are two advantages to this arrangement, and one negative. The dust cover can’t be used while playing a record, but it also means the cover won’t cause any vibrations or resonances during playback. And, it also allows the DP-450USB to fit in a narrow shelf because you don’t need to allow room to lift the cover during playback.

Of course, the pièce de résistance of the DP-450USB is the built-in USB port for ripping albums to either WAV or MP3. The USB-A port is on the front of the player, and you initiate recording by simply selecting which format: MP3 is 44k @ 192kHz, and the WAV is set at 44K, 16-bit. The USB drive needs to be formatted for FAT16 or FAT32. You can only record directly onto a USB drive; you can’t use a hub or use a USB cable to record to a laptop or external hard drive. Denon offers their MusiCut software to edit the finished MP3 files. Sadly, it doesn’t work for WAV files, so songs have to be recorded individually. Although USB 2.0 is supported, I had problems with longer WAV files and needed USB 3.0 drives to get reliable performance.

The setup of the DP-450USB was pretty straightforward, and within about 20 minutes, the music was playing. Instructions show how to attach the belt to the drive, install the cartridge and counterweight, balance the tone arm and adjust the skate, and connect the cables. The player comes with an assortment of adapters for power, and a grounded RCA cable.

I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve played a record, and I still have some of my collection displayed in my home theater. I dusted off my copy of I’m No Angel by the Gregg Allman Band. I hate to admit this, but it might be the first time I’ve played this album since I bought it; I had the CD, and believe it or not, original cassette recordings from the recording sessions, but better late than never, I played the album on the Denon.

The tone-arm gently lowers the cartridge so there was barely a pop as the stylus found the groove. I can say that the sound was as good as it was in the studio, because, well, I was there (see Gregg Allman (1947-2017): A Personal Remembrance). It’s been a while since I heard the soft pop and crackle of an LP, and the DP-450USB has a slightly audible “whir” as the platter spins. The sound through my Amazon Link Amp and Polk RTi speakers was clear with minimal distortion, and the bass was rock solid. Gregg’s vocals were still dripping in reverb and just as warm and powerful as they were years ago.

The Denon DP-450USB sits in an interesting spot: with the MM stylus, it’s not the best turntable on the market, but with the ability to record WAV in addition to MP3, it’s certainly adequate for any vinyl enthusiast who also wants to take high-quality versions of their vinyl in the car or on the go. As for me, I’ll squeeze my curves into some skinny jeans, hop on a fixie and ride over to the local coffee shop while listening to my ripped LP files on my phone. And for me, that is hip enough.