Yes, I know there are many ways to digitise your collection of vinyl classics. The problem is, they all require that you have a turntable. I don't. I don't know anyone who does. And, to be honest, I'm not interested in buying one, simply because there's no place for it in my current "entertainment centre" set-up, and putting one near my computer really isn't an option either.
But I do have an awful lot of vinyl records that I would love to convert anyway, so I was intrigued to see Teac's solution: the GF-350 Multi-Music Player/CD Recorder. The meaning of that mouthful? It's basically a turntable with a built-in CD-burner (OK, there's an amp and tuner there too). Could this be the simplified solution to every vinyl-owner's dreams? We decided to take a look.
The review unit arrived, not in pristine shape, but in workable order. Whoever had looked at it last, however, had neglected to replace the manual. This was not a problem because, being male, I would have been incapable of looking at it anyway.
The GF-350's a design that would fit in very well to a room furnished by IKEA (not that there's anything wrong with that) -- the black-stained wood-panel casing features a lift-up top, and the front panel shows the tuner AM and FM bands, an LCD status panel, controls, and the CD disc tray. On either side of the main panel are two three-inch speakers.
Features and setup
Setup for the GF-350 was easy. All you have to do is plug the unit into a power point and you're ready to go. We popped a blank CD into the drive and an album on the turntable. What next (remember, there was no manual)? Selecting "phono" on the front panel puts the unit in record-pause mode and lets you adjust the record level. To do this, all you have to do is set the needle down on one of the louder tracks and adjust the centre knob accordingly (most operations are very similar to recording cassette tapes, which makes the process very simple and straightforward).
Once the levels are set you cue the stylus to the beginning of the album (or the track you want to record) and press play. If you're recording several tracks in succession, there is a "track increment" button you can press between tracks. Of course, having to baby-sit the entire recording can be somewhat of a pain, so if you're game you can turn on the "auto track" feature. This feature can only be invoked via the remote, and once you turn it on, it's possible to adjust the "silence level" that triggers incrementing of the track. Unfortunately, though I tried this with several different albums, and at all the different silence settings, it never worked satisfactorily. I either ended up with one song split into several or several songs merged into one. Since my ultimate aim (other than to have CDs of some of my rarer old albums) was to load the song into the player on my computer, this was not good. Still, in some ridiculous way, I enjoyed the manual recording procedure because it reminded me of the good old days of making cassette recordings.
There's also a "finalise" step that writes the CD table of contents when you're finished recording (which must be done before the disc can be played on most CD players). I must confess that I was forced to find a PDF version of the manual to figure out how this is done (you must first select the CD source, then press finalise, then press play).
One of the test recordings was of an album for which I already had the CD version. Comparing the two recordings, unsurprisingly the factory CD version was noticeably better than the one made on the GF-350 -- there was more bass and depth on the factory recording. That said, the GF-350 CD had just that tiniest bit of vinyl crackle, which I look at as a bonus. And if you play it on a quality audio system, tone adjustments will let you make up for a lot of what's missing. Sadly there are no tone controls on the unit itself.
It would have also been nice if you could record a CD from the radio.
All in all, if you've got any rare vinyl (the turntable can also handle 45s and 78s) that you're dying to get on CD, or you'd just like to make your own CD compilations from your vinyl collection, this is one very handy unit. With its ability to act as a record/CD/AM/FM player (the unit also features external audio inputs), the GF-350 also makes a nice addition to a small study or den.