Well, this is probably the world’s cheapest DVS [digital vinyl system]. The reader here got the deck for £14; retail is just £29.99. Add a Raspberry Pi in place of the computer, a display and some adapters, and you have a full-functioning DJ system. For real.

Daniel James tells us the full story. My favorite advice – and I agree – don’t buy this record player. It really is that awful. But it does prove how open source tools can save obsolete gear from landfills – and says to me, too, that there’s really no reason digital vinyl systems still need to lean on conventional computer hardware.

Now – on with the adventures at Aldi. The necessary gear:

1. A terrible turntable (EnVivo USB Turntable in this case)
2. PiDeck. (See the official project page. That means a recent Raspberry Pi and SD card.
3. Control vinyl – Serato here.
4. Audio interface. Since the USB connection in this case was unusable, the author chose an audioinjector, crowd-funded hardware available now for about £20.

Daniel (of awesome 64studio Linux audio expertise fame) writes:

I was looking to find the worst deck in the world, and I think I found it. The EnVivo USB Turntable retails for £29.99 at Aldi, a supermarket. I paid £14 for mine brand-new and boxed, at auction. I wanted to find out for myself just how badly these plastic decks were built, as my neighbours have similar models, and the sound from the analogue line-out is sucktacular. Really, don’t bother if you intended to use this deck for its stated purpose of digitising your vinyl collection.

There are more expensive versions available under various brand names with deluxe leatherette cases or built-in speakers, but the deck inside looks the same. What would we reasonably expect at this price, given that it shipped all the way from China? Ed.: uh…. heh, well, that’s true of pretty much everything else, too, let’s say more to the point it’s some of the cheapest turntable hardware to ship from China.

Inside, there are very few components; these decks appear to be an experiment in just how cheap you can make something and still have people buy it. The straight tonearm has no bearing, it simply pivots
loosely in a plastic sleeve. There is no counterweight or anti-skating adjustment, just a spring underneath the deck pulling the stylus towards the record. The platter is undersized for a 12″, and so is the spindle. Records playing off-centre must add extra vintage charm, they figured.

A 12″ hip-hop tune would not play on the brand-new deck, as the kick drum hits bounced the stylus right out of the groove every other second. The analogue audio output lacked any meaningful bass, too. Then I tried a 12″ Serato CV02 timecode with the PiDeck, and things started to look up. With the control vinyl’s pilot tone containing little or no bass energy, the stylus tracked fine.

Then, I popped out the three rubber nipples from the platter which are all that serves as isolation from motor vibration, put tape around the spindle to make it regulation diameter, and dropped on a slipmat. With the control vinyl on the deck again, it started working as well as most turntables with little torque, but took scratches and backspins in its stride. The USB interface does not have enough headroom for backspins without distortion of the timecode, so I used the line-out RCA sockets instead. No pre-amp is required to hook up an audioinjector.net stereo card for the Raspberry Pi, and this far superior audio interface created by Matt Flax takes care of the output to the mixer.

The spring-loaded plastic tonearm will even work with the deck held at an angle, which previously I had only seen achieved with the straight tonearm Vestax decks. Maybe a 10″ Serato vinyl and slipmat would be a better fit. With a pitch control, these decks would have everything you need to get started DJing. How long they will last in use is anyone’s guess, and you are heavy-handed on the platter, you will probably burn out the tiny motor. The stylus is at least replaceable.

Next time you’re at the supermarket, please, do not buy one of these cruddy decks; the world has enough plastic trash already. However if you happen to own one, or found one in a dumpster: one, two, you know what to do!

Previously: PiDeck makes a USB stick into a free DJ player, with turntables

More: http://pideck.com/

  • James Husted

    Good thing that they avoided the USB connector. Many decks of this kind fail to include a RAIA filter (as are on almost all phono preamps) and so the sound out of them is horrible.

  • benjamin funklin

    i bought an unbranded USB turntable for around £20 from a chinese website to specifically practice scratching with. it was cheap enough that i wouldn’t have to worry about shipping it home or trying to get money for it when i leave this country. it is not the one mentioned in the article, it is long and thin and about 6 inches wide if you look at pictures online. it is good enough for scratching as a beginner-intermediate. it has no pitch control, but for just scratching that isn’t needed.
    you get what you pay for and for £20 it is decent enough. with the 7inch serato vinyl you could also use eday scratch if you have the correct crossfader (the mixfader), but that doesn’t fit into this implied ‘new’ way of doing things with pi.

  • Ewan Colsell

    is there some kind of conspiracy whereby its never mentioned that all these unusual dvs projects use xwax? http://www.xwax.org digital vinyl on linux.

    xwax is one of the most stable dvs systems in existence, and it performs well even on underpowered hardware. its extremely spartan though and dosen’t have sync or looping.

    • Daniel James

      Hi Ewan, thanks for mentioning xwax 🙂 You’ll see that the first page of http://pideck.com/ does so too.

      • Ewan Colsell

        (-8 of course pideck.com mentions xwax! i only brought it up because it’s not the first time an xwax based project ends up on a widely read site like CDM without mention of xwax itself.