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LP Newbie needs a better needle
misterelie
post Jan 7 2011, 22:43
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Someone recommended I come to this forum and ask my questions here. Impressed, by the way, you guys are hard core :)

Anyway, I have a very large and extensive collection of LP's, most are either old jazz or old classical. I am trying to get them digitized into my computer so that I might be able to save the records and preserve the music (a lot has never been re-released). However, I am terribly unhappy with the sound quality I am getting. I'm fairly confident about my setup on the computer side: using a Mac Pro with Amadeus to record, edit, and split the tracks, and clickrepair to remove the pops. But I think my phonograph cartridge and needle is not up to the task.

The player is a Numark PT-01 and the needle and cartridge is whatever came with the player. I think this turntable is designed for DJ-ing and scratching and not really made to reproduce the constant dynamic changes in classical and jazz music (at least, that is my completely uninformed, uneducated, ignorant opinion. I'd love a better explanation).

I do not have any idea what kind of needle I should get. If I also need to replace the cartridge as well as the needle. I also have no idea where to get these things. If someone could give me some input, I would appreciate it. When I was growing up, cassettes were the thing and then CD's became popular. My family grew up without a record player and so I have no experience working with these things. I actually lucked into these LP collections when I was in college.

Thanks everyone.
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DigitalMan
post Jan 7 2011, 23:20
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Welcome to the forum - what specifically is the problem you're trying to solve? What makes you say "..I am terribly unhappy with the sound quality I am getting...." Distortion? Frequency response? Noise....?

I'm not familiar with the Numark PT-01, but personally I would consider replacing the whole cartridge and not the needle, but that may be difficult depending on how the tonearm is designed.


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DVDdoug
post Jan 7 2011, 23:41
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QUOTE
I do not have any idea what kind of needle I should get. If I also need to replace the cartridge as well as the needle.
You would only need to replace the stylus (needle) if it were worn out. If you want to change/improve the sound, change the cartridge (it will come with a new stylus).

I haven't been cartridge shopping for quite a few years, but my feeling is that "you can't go wrong with Shure's best" phono cartridge. I beleive that's currently the M97xE, which you should be able to find for under $100 USD. (I don't know if the M97's "old style" screw mount fits your tonearm.)

You can spend thousands of dollars on a turntable & cartridge, but at the end of the day, you're still stuck with playing "scratchy old vinyl records".

QUOTE
...most are either old jazz or old classical. I am trying to get them digitized into my computer so that I might be able to save the records and preserve the music (a lot has never been re-released). However, I am terribly unhappy with the sound quality I am getting.
sad.gif That's probably normal... Most records (especially older records) were nowhere near "CD quality". In addition to click & pop removal, you can try a bit of high-frequency boost to "brighten up", recordings that sound especially "dull".

This post has been edited by DVDdoug: Jan 7 2011, 23:51
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mjb2006
post Jan 7 2011, 23:54
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USB turntables don't have the greatest reputation in general, and a quick Google search for reviews of the PT-01 portable turntable reveal that it's no exception. As you will see by the reviews, many people complain of sound quality problems with this turntable. Although they market it as a solution for archiving, it's not really designed for that at all. It's more for taking to the flea market so you can get an idea of what a record sounds like.

The more traditional arrangement for a turntable is for it to have a headshell to which you can attach any cartridge you want (the Shure M97xE is a popular, affordable choice), and for the turntable to not have a built-in pre-amp. Instead, it'll have a pair of RCA plugs that deliver "phono" output: a weak signal which must be run through a pre-amp to boost the bass and cut the treble, because the groove on the record was cut with weak bass and boosted treble. The pre-amp also brings the weak signal up to "line" level, suitable for connecting to your computer's "line in". I use a DJ mixer for my phono pre-amp. Some people use an old receiver. Pretty much anything with phono in and line out will do. There are external units you can buy nowadays with USB output. A search of the forums here should yield some recommendations. The forums at vinylengine.com may also be helpful.
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misterelie
post Jan 8 2011, 02:25
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Wow, thanks. This is already giving me someplace to go. This is helpful.

@Digitalman: When the group gets particularly loud or a single instrument gets high, the sound begins to crack up. It isn't the input volume, I played with it and it wasn't overloading. It was something else. I put my ear close to the needle and I heard the problem coming from there.

@DVDdoug: Thank you for the needle recommendation. I'll see if I can find somewhere to procure one.

@mjb2006: The PT-01 isn't a USB turntable. It uses standard RCA outputs. It was my first phonograph purchase, so I didn't know any better. I'm not looking to actually play the records, just get them into the computer so I can play them digitally, so I guessed that if I could improve the needle, the turntable itself wouldn't matter as much. Is that assumption incorrect? Thank you for the recommendation to vinylengine.com. I will check that out as well.

Thank you all, I will start looking into this.
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royphil345
post Jan 8 2011, 02:27
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If you want audiophile quality, that turntable just isn't going to cut it. That's definitely not what it was designed for. It doesn't even look like you could change that cartridge. If you want to invest in something decent, the least expensive table I could recommend is the Audio Technica direct-drive that comes with a decent cartridge and elliptical stylus. The table is worthy of an upgrade eventually too...

http://www.amazon.com/Technica-ATLP120-Pro...9721&sr=8-3

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRiQsam3-SM

About the best deal going as far as cartridges goes right now is the Shure M97xE with the JICO SAS upgrade stylus. The M97xE with stock stylus isn't a bad place to start. Although, it can sound pretty "dark" with the stock stylus unless you mess with the resistance or capacitance loading.

If you don't want to spend that, it's probably best to leave vinyl alone because CDs are going to sound much better. If you look around... you may be able to download vinyl rips from others with fancier equipment of material never released on CD. I believe it's perfectly legal to download out of print recordings.

This post has been edited by royphil345: Jan 8 2011, 03:15
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Glenn Gundlach
post Jan 8 2011, 06:02
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Your assumptions agree with mine. Someone suggested a Shure M97 and I agree with that. You might look into a used table on eBay. I used to repair those things back in the '70s and I'd steer clear of BSR/McDonalds, BIC and maybe Garrards. The Japanese and German tables were pretty good and will outperform the Numark. If you do go this route you'll also need a phono preamp to raise the millivolt level of the magnetic cartridge up to line level and apply the RIAA equalization. The preamp could be a stand-alone preamp which will possibly be too expensive or less performance than you'd like. An option could be to get a receiver or integrated amp from the '70s to '90s as they almost all had reasonable preamps included. You could get a Technics receiver for same or less than a standalone preamp. You would then go into the computer at line level and use the sound system in the computer for digitizing. That can work outstandingly well once you get levels dialed in. The computer noise floor should be 20+ dB below the record noise.

Basically, the cartridge/stylus is the most important for good sound, a turntable good enough to use it properly and a preamp to interface into the computer. I've heard of people using mic level inputs for the cartridge and then equalizing it in digital. Personally I would not go that route as the gain spread is around 20 dB and I think you'd be throwing away too many bits for something easily done in an analog preamp.

G
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greynol
post Jan 8 2011, 07:47
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QUOTE (royphil345 @ Jan 7 2011, 17:27) *
I believe it's perfectly legal to download out of print recordings.

It depends on where you reside. In the US it is not legal to download anything that is protected by copyright, regardless of whether or not it is still in print.


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DonP
post Jan 8 2011, 14:04
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QUOTE (greynol @ Jan 8 2011, 01:47) *
QUOTE (royphil345 @ Jan 7 2011, 17:27) *
I believe it's perfectly legal to download out of print recordings.

It depends on where you reside. In the US it is not legal to download anything that is protected by copyright, regardless of whether or not it is still in print.


That may not be as clear, certainly you'd be on the moral high ground, if it is a rip of a record you already own.

I call for the US to return to it's copyright roots. The initial copyright law did not allow renewing copyright if the work was out of print, and in no case would copyright run more than 28 years. Copyright, as allowed in the constitution, is for a *LIMITED* time, after which the work becomes public, the way patents still work.


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DonP
post Jan 8 2011, 15:35
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QUOTE (misterelie @ Jan 7 2011, 20:25) *
@Digitalman: When the group gets particularly loud or a single instrument gets high, the sound begins to crack up. It isn't the input volume, I played with it and it wasn't overloading. It was something else. I put my ear close to the needle and I heard the problem coming from there.


I'd expect that all those adjustments on a tone arm which keep the stylus in the groove, pointed the right way, and not pushing harder on one side, get laid bare as the recorded volume goes up.

Also possible that the cartridge is overloading the built in preamp which it sounds like your turntable has. Any adjustments under the hood for that?

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Porcus
post Jan 8 2011, 15:47
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QUOTE (misterelie @ Jan 7 2011, 22:43) *
The player is a Numark PT-01 and the needle and cartridge is whatever came with the player. I think this turntable is designed for DJ-ing and scratching and not really made to reproduce the constant dynamic changes in classical and jazz music (at least, that is my completely uninformed, uneducated, ignorant opinion. I'd love a better explanation).

I do not have any idea what kind of needle I should get. If I also need to replace the cartridge as well as the needle.


Google for "pt-01 replacement stylus". I found one in the UK: http://www.djstore.com/item/numsty05.htm A brief googling indicates that the cartridge cannot be replaced. Check for yourself.

(And I would guess that you are right that this turntable wouldn't sound too musical.)


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cliveb
post Jan 8 2011, 18:16
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Everyone is being quite polite and restrained, but let's cut to the chase: that Numark PT01 is a *toy*. Using it to digitise a large vinyl collection is a futile exercise - you'll waste a huge amount of time and achieve very poor results.

Be under no illusion - you need to replace the PT01 with something up to the job. The secondhand market is your friend. Look for a decent belt drive manual turntable from the likes of Dual, Rega, Thorens, Pro-Ject, or an old Japanese direct-drive workhorse from any of the household names (Technics, Pioneer, JVC, Denon, etc). Fit it with a new (not second-hand) decent moving magnet cartridge from someone like Shure, Ortofon, Audio-Technica, Grado, Sumiko, etc. If you buy a secondhand turntable with a decent cartridge, replace the stylus.

You'll need to make sure the cartridge is correctly aligned. Either do some reading to find out how to do this yourself, or take it to a HiFi store that still understands vinyl and ask them to check it over.

Finally you'll need a phono preamp of some sort. If you have a receiver or amp with a phono input, that will do the job. Otherwise you can get quite decent inexpensive ones from the likes of NAD and Pro-Ject. (Behringer make a cheap one called the PP400 which I don't personally know anything about, but their gear is generally OK and good value).

Does all this sound like a lot of bother? Unfortunately that's the way it is if you want to do good LP transfers. Trying to do it on the cheap is a bit like trying to repair a car without a decent set of tools.
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Roseval
post Jan 8 2011, 18:26
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I agree with CliveB.
Turn tables with ceramic cartridges are not the way to go.
A decent A/D converter is also needed.


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Porcus
post Jan 8 2011, 19:05
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I agree with CliveB to the extent of violating TOS8 tongue.gif


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greynol
post Jan 8 2011, 19:21
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QUOTE (DonP @ Jan 8 2011, 05:04) *
That may not be as clear
How is it not clear?

QUOTE (DonP @ Jan 8 2011, 05:04) *
Copyright, as allowed in the constitution, is for a *LIMITED* time, after which the work becomes public, the way patents still work.
Who said I was talking about works with copyrights that have expired?


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misterelie
post Jan 8 2011, 19:49
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Thanks guys. Looks like I'll see what I can do to find a used turntable. Then up the cartridge.
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DonP
post Jan 8 2011, 22:48
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QUOTE (greynol @ Jan 8 2011, 13:21) *
QUOTE (DonP @ Jan 8 2011, 05:04) *
That may not be as clear
How is it not clear?


AFAIK (and implicit in many threads here) in the US if you own a copyright work of music it is fair use to make a copy in another format for your own use. I don't think it's been demonstrated that it matters whether the source of that copy is the one you own. There have been services that gave you online access to mp3 files of albums if you owned the CD. The challenges they had, if I recall, concerned how you proved you owned the CD (perhaps with a borrowed copy).

I would not argue that owning an LP entitles you to a copy of a remastered CD, audio DVD etc of the same album as those are at least implicitly higher quality than what you own.

QUOTE
QUOTE (DonP @ Jan 8 2011, 05:04) *
Copyright, as allowed in the constitution, is for a *LIMITED* time, after which the work becomes public, the way patents still work.
Who said I was talking about works with copyrights that have expired?


The context (which you removed) was about the original US copyright limitations. Under those pretty much any out of print vinyl would by now also be out of copyright.

If anything, the limits should now be shorter, since it is possible to release a work world wide the same day. When the first limits were adopted, it could take years to ship a book to the farthest markets.

The extensions stand as they are now thanks mainly to the determination of Disney to keep their whole catalog under copyright. Every time the first Mickey Mouse cartoon is in danger of expiring, Disney pours a bunch of money into Congress to increase the limits. Just as the real test of a new democracy comes with the first elected change of power, the test of copyright being "limited" as mandated in the constitution, will come when the early Disney works go public.

Ironic that many Disney movies are based on their use of public domain stories that would have still been in copyright under the limits Disney tells Congress are necessary today for content creators to make a fair profit.
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greynol
post Jan 8 2011, 23:16
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QUOTE (DonP @ Jan 8 2011, 13:48) *
Under those pretty much any out of print vinyl would by now also be out of copyright.
Good point as is your reiteration that the OP does actually own the vinyl and that we're talking about titles that have ever been released on CD.

QUOTE (DonP @ Jan 8 2011, 13:48) *
If anything, the limits should now be shorter
We aren't discussing the world of should; we're talking about US law. That you disagree with it is irrelevant to the subject at hand. Your rant about Disney is clearly off-topic.

This post has been edited by greynol: Jan 8 2011, 23:17


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mixminus1
post Jan 8 2011, 23:57
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@misterelie, FWIW, here's a link to the setup I ended up with (and a brief summary of my experience with it) for doing more-or-less what you've described:

http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....st&p=698949


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Porcus
post Jan 9 2011, 01:32
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QUOTE (misterelie @ Jan 8 2011, 19:49) *
a used turntable. Then up the cartridge.


Tip [pun intended]: Stay away from "DJ" cartridges. Back in old days when I was doing vinyl, the following was "conventional wisdom" (all reservations made):

1) They are constructed to backscratch (drive in reverse). Nice feature for DJs and party animals, but that means that part of the price pays something else than sound quality.
2) Often, heavier wear on the vinyl itself (sometimes they weigh >3 grams on the LP, "hi-fi" pick-ups usually 2 or sometimes less)

Besides, the physical tip is often bigger. That is, now you have used a "DJ" cartridge, you might experience that a "hi-fi" cartridge (even a reasonably-priced Ortofon or Shure or Audio-Technica) goes deeper into the groove and reads the groove where you have not yet worn it. However, if you bought your LPs second-hand, a smaller tip might mean you might start playing it "where the previous owner has worn it".

Oh, and if you get a stylus that "digs deeper", it might be an idea to play through the LP once to see if the stylus ploughs up dust that's been deep down there for ages. I had that experience with my most recent pickup, which had a slightly finer tip than most -- there was a fair deal of dirt indeed. No results guaranteed, but in the very least it is worth testing before you start archiving. If the second run has less surface noise, then that's more or less a free improvement (assuming your time is costless tongue.gif).

This post has been edited by Porcus: Jan 9 2011, 01:34


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misterelie
post Jan 9 2011, 07:31
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Thank you mixminus1. Thank you Porcus. Good ideas both. I might have a line on a used 70's Zenith turntable. I'll know in a day or so about it. If not, I'm going to see if I can replicate mixminus1's LP setup.
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Apesbrain
post Jan 9 2011, 21:44
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@misterelie, forget the '70s Zenith; it's very likely more craptastic than the turntable you already own. Go with one of the brands recommended above, or use mixminus1's setup or -- even easier and about the same cost -- buy either the $299 Audio-Technica or $249 Music Hall USB turntable on this page:

http://www.needledoctor.com/Online-Store/USB-Turntables

Either turntable will be all you need. Just plug the USB into your Mac and record directly into the software of your choice.

mixminus1 also mentioned that you'll probably want to clean your LPs before recording them. You can research various home-grown washing methods online or here is the cheapest "machine" for doing so:

http://www.needledoctor.com/Spin-Clean-Record-Washer

Lastly, find yourself a quiet place to do your transfers with a solid table on which to place the turntable. In a basement with a concrete floor is a good place. Put your Mac somewhere other than on the same table as the turntable. Remember, vinyl works because the grooves wiggle the point of the stylus a miniscule amount and that small movement creates a similarly miniscule current. Any other vibration introduced into the system -- people walking on a lightly sprung floor, you typing on your keyboard on the same table as the turntable, heavy trucks driving by -- will add distortion to the signal trying to make its way cleanly out of the grooves.
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greynol
post Jan 9 2011, 21:51
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QUOTE (Apesbrain @ Jan 9 2011, 12:44) *
concrete floor is a good place.

Is a concrete floor good at dampening vibrations from trucks driving by? To me the answer would seem to be no.

This post has been edited by greynol: Jan 9 2011, 21:58


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mjb2006
post Jan 10 2011, 02:21
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Regarding copyright If you're in the U.S., the Cornell Copyright Information Center maintains a nice table explaining the current terms of copyright, and there's a section in the middle for sound recordings. Basically everything is still in copyright until at least 2049 or 2067 (at the earliest), except for recordings published/pressed in the U.S. without a copyright notice between 15 Feb 1972 and 1 Mar 1989 (although some of those works from 1978 and later may have been subsequently registered). I'm guessing it's not easy to find records that fall into this category.

In print, out-of-print, you own it on another format, you own it on the same format, you only downloaded it, you got it from a friend or family member, you're trying before you buy, you're making/offering copies of it for educational purposes, you're going to remix it, it's not a perfect copy, you're only using a snippet, you're not making any money off it, it's public domain in the country you got it from or somewhere else in the world ... none of these rationalizations matter; as far as U.S. law is concerned, someone owns the copyright, and in the U.S. that owner can take you to civil court for making copies of it (or publicly playing it, or transmitting it digitally). The federal government could also take you to criminal court, though I don't think they've done that to anyone yet.

As for just what copying of copyrighted audio is permitted, well, there's a judicial precedent for copying music you've purchased onto a portable device, and the RIAA's website says "Record companies have never objected to someone making a copy of a CD for their own personal use. We want fans to enjoy the music they bought legally." Neither of these is activities is protected by law or is a guarantee of indemnity. Unless you have a license, in writing, from the record companies, permitting a particular kind of copying, you better believe they reserve the right to sue your pants off, no matter how benign the activity.
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misterelie
post Jan 10 2011, 06:12
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Was given a turntable. It works, but I haven't hooked it up to the computer yet for a comparison. Might still need to replace the needle. Not sure yet. It is a Zenith C585W. Looked on the internet and can't find anything about it.
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