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vinyl ripping issue/soundcard question
narlus
post May 13 2007, 14:27
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i need a little help here -

my old tried and true IBM thinkpad died (which was my de facto lp ripper), and it's been a while since i've converted any lps to wav. well now i've got some stuff i want to rip, i've had to press into service another laptop for these lp -> wav -> mp3 conversions. the toshiba's crappy soundcard appeared as though it wouldn't even support recording (wouldn't support recording anyway i tried), so i tried my HP Pavilion dv4000 instead.

a word on setup:

i use a 2 RCA (tape output from preamp) -> 1/8" coax, which i plug into the mic symbol of the laptop. i use cooledit pro 2 as a capture program, and record to redbook standards (44.1 kHz, 16 bit stereo).

the problem is that the sound (even in wav) is crap. here's a sample mp3 (compressed using LAME to VBR apx):


http://www.sendspace.com/file/52v4vu

sounds horribly compressed and tinny; even the wav sounds like that.


could it be that my laptop's got a horribly dodgy soundcard? what next, look for an external soundcard? any ideas? crying.gif

here's a screengrab of the spectral view of the wav file...you can see that everything over 8KHz is cut off. weird.



any help is much appreciated!


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johnsonlam
post May 13 2007, 18:26
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1) You should use Line input instead of MIC input, the impedance and signal strength not match

2) I suggest if your budget allow, use an external sound card (I'm using M-Audio FireWire Audiophile)

3) Use audio grade cables for analog connection to minimize the signal lost

4) For best result, you need a "good" phono amplifier, though Audacity have "Reversed RIAA" process, but I doubt very much your MC/MM cartridge can supply enough gain for the sound card

I make a DIY phono VSPS, with the proper OP-AMP I.C. it sounds good:

http://www.geocities.com/rjm003.geo/rjmaudio/diy_pho5.html

I may not have the best tools, but for your reference (ignore the garbage on screen, it's Chinese):

http://johnson.tmfc.net/vinyl

P.S. You should use 48KHz or higher (if disk space not a problem) because Vinyl really sound better than ordinary CD.

Hope this help.

This post has been edited by johnsonlam: May 13 2007, 18:31


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pdq
post May 13 2007, 19:10
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QUOTE (johnsonlam @ May 13 2007, 13:26) *
1) You should use Line input instead of MIC input, the impedance and signal strength not match

2) I suggest if your budget allow, use an external sound card (I'm using M-Audio FireWire Audiophile)

3) Use audio grade cables for analog connection to minimize the signal lost

4) For best result, you need a "good" phono amplifier, though Audacity have "Reversed RIAA" process, but I doubt very much your MC/MM cartridge can supply enough gain for the sound card

I make a DIY phono VSPS, with the proper OP-AMP I.C. it sounds good:

http://www.geocities.com/rjm003.geo/rjmaudio/diy_pho5.html

I may not have the best tools, but for your reference (ignore the garbage on screen, it's Chinese):

http://johnson.tmfc.net/vinyl

P.S. You should use 48KHz or higher (if disk space not a problem) because Vinyl really sound better than ordinary CD.

Hope this help.


I agree with 1) and 2), but don't worry too much about 3). Almost any audio cable over short distances will work just fine. I don't think 4) applies because you are already taking the tape out from your preamp, which probably has a perfectly good LP input.

As for using 48 kHz sampling, if your eventual destination is a CD then don't. Use the same sampling rate (44.1) from start to finish. If, on the other hand, you don't intend to ever go to CD, and you have a sound card that always upsamples to 48 kHz during playback, then by all means record at 48 kHz.

Far more important than the sample rate, if there is any way that you can use 24 bit resolution for recording and any further processing you may do (declicking etc.) then do so. Only convert to 16 bit as the very last step.
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AndyH-ha
post May 13 2007, 19:29
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Even if the laptop had a very good microphone preamp, it would be a very poor way to record a regular line level signal (the output from your phono preamp). As it happens, however, the microphone preamps in laptops are extra poor quality, so you are 16 strikes down using it. If your laptop has a line level input, you need to use that. However, laptops soundcards, even at line level, are mediocre at best. If, like some laptops, your's only has microphone input, quality is doomed to be very poor.

It is almost certainly the case that the laptop soundcard actually records at 48kHz and resamples to 44.1 before passing the input to CoolEdit. CoolEdit will do a much better job of resampling, so recording at 48kHz and letting CoolEdit produce 441.kHz is superior. With all the other problems, its a toss-up as to whether or not you can hear the difference, but the difference is there. An external soundcard, unless it is a multi-media/gaming card, won't have this problem.
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johnsonlam
post May 14 2007, 10:33
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QUOTE (AndyH-ha @ May 14 2007, 02:29) *
Even if the laptop had a very good microphone preamp, it would be a very poor way to record a regular line level signal (the output from your phono preamp). As it happens, however, the microphone preamps in laptops are extra poor quality, so you are 16 strikes down using it. If your laptop has a line level input, you need to use that. However, laptops soundcards, even at line level, are mediocre at best. If, like some laptops, your's only has microphone input, quality is doomed to be very poor.


Agree, if narlus is serious about quality, may need to buy an extra USB sound card.

QUOTE
It is almost certainly the case that the laptop soundcard actually records at 48kHz and resamples to 44.1 before passing the input to CoolEdit. CoolEdit will do a much better job of resampling, so recording at 48kHz and letting CoolEdit produce 441.kHz is superior. With all the other problems, its a toss-up as to whether or not you can hear the difference, but the difference is there. An external soundcard, unless it is a multi-media/gaming card, won't have this problem.


As I know Sound Blaster Live did this kind of "internal resampling", no idea how ANALOG, CMI or REALTEK sound chips handle 48KHz.

And my destination is not CD, so I don't care about 44.1KHz.


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narlus
post May 14 2007, 14:52
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thanks all for your helpful replies. i'm pretty sure that my laptop doesn't have a line-in (all i can see is an icon for mic and one for headphones), so it looks like i will be in the market for a USB external soundcard. any suggestions?


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pakman
post May 14 2007, 18:11
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QUOTE (narlus @ May 14 2007, 13:52) *
thanks all for your helpful replies. i'm pretty sure that my laptop doesn't have a line-in (all i can see is an icon for mic and one for headphones), so it looks like i will be in the market for a USB external soundcard. any suggestions?


I'm gearing up to converting my LP's for digital streaming too, and I've been thinking about what soundcard to use too, but I'm really frustrated by the absence of any up-to-date comparative tests of external soundcards.

There are a couple of pretty cheap ones, and some very costly ones costing many thousands of US$ which would be more at home in a recording studio. In between there are several USB and FireWire ones around the $200-$1000 price level (like the M-Audio mentioned above, and others by Roland, Apogee, Terratec, and RME's Hammerfall system which looks at first sight like FireWire but isn't so you have to buy one of their PC cards as well as the external signal processor). However, I haven't seen the results of any comparative testing of these for digitising recorded music. How does the M-Audio Audiophile (either the FireWire or the USB one) compare to the Apogee Mini-Me? They both generate 24bit/96kHz data, and both can be powered externally, but one is a quarter the price of the other. Is there any audible difference in the results that they produce?

Any pointers to up-to-date info would be greatly appreciated!

Regards,
P.
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AndyH-ha
post May 14 2007, 19:18
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While the facts may not be satisfactory, if recording from LP is your goal, any professional soundcard, from M-Audio to Apogee and Lynx, so far exceeds what you can get off vinyl that you will never hear any difference (Well, you may some great difference, but it is almost certain to disappear under ABX testing.). Whatever comparison tests might show, it would be irrelevant because there are no faults that will have any impact on your finished product.
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lee_petri
post Jun 29 2008, 00:18
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My sound card has three ports - the normal headphones and mic, but the third is not the 1/8th inch line-in that others describe. but a rectangular port - not as wide as a normal USB. There is a smaller, rectangular piece in the middle, and it has 5 pin-holes lined up from left to right. The tiny graphic next to it is a circle (filled in) with two short lines below and to the upper left, and a small box to the upper right. Is this an input that can be used to rip?

Also - can a cable be run from the tape-out jacks directly to the USB, or do you have to go through the sound card? I'm looking to rip LPs and cassettes.

Any help is greatly appreciated!
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AndyH-ha
post Jun 29 2008, 10:53
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Being less secretive about just what your soundcard is might help someone to decipher the connection you are trying to describe. However, the probability is low that this “rectangular port” is useful for recording from analogue sources.

Tape out jacks? The tape monitor output on a preamp, integrated amplifier, or receiver? Or are you talking about recording from a tape deck?

You can only input to a computer’s USB connection with a USB device. There are many soundcards that connect to the computer via USB.

Any audio starting out in the analogue domain must go through a soundcard, internal or external, to get onto a computer.

You headphone connection is, of course, output only. The microphone input is a very poor way to input most audio (I’m assuming this is a built-in or gaming card, not a high quality microphone interface). You most likely need a line-level input. If you listed every connection your current soundcard contains, you probably need a new soundcard.
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Billyk
post Jun 29 2008, 16:15
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I use M-Audio products and found this USB interface ,if it works as well as the 24/96 product I use everyday, you should be all set and make nice recordings.
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lee_petri
post Jun 29 2008, 17:28
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QUOTE (Billyk @ Jun 29 2008, 10:15) *
I use M-Audio products and found this USB interface ,if it works as well as the 24/96 product I use everyday, you should be all set and make nice recordings.


AndyH-ha
Its an integrated sound card and the manual doesn't say what it is (the notebook is a compaq nx9030). I did a little research, and it appears the rectangular port is a 4-pin IEEE 1394 (or Firewire) interface. (The manual shows it in a diagram but makes no direct written reference to it.)

I meant the tape monitor output from a receiver.

Thanks Billyk - I'll check that out.
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AndyH-ha
post Jun 29 2008, 21:28
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Tape monitor outputs should go directly into soundcard line level inputs -- except that the levels don’t always match well enough. Sometimes the signal level is too high and will clip the soundcard inputs. This all depends upon the combination of phono cartridge, phono preamp, and soundcard.

Since there is usually no way to adjust the monitor output levels, something needs to go in between there and the soundcard input. A small mixer or a line-level preamplifier are the usual choices. A mixer can probably be had for less money than a preamp (even though the mixer contains preamp(s)).

If the levels are low, that is probably no bar to making good recordings with a good soundcard. Peak levels of -12dB to -18dB freak out some people but you will probably find there is no recording quality problem to solve. However, the line level preamp or mixer will again come to your aid if your psyche is too tender at that level.
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Billyk
post Jun 29 2008, 23:59
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As for mixers I love this, Samson S-Mix, you can find it for under $50.00. It does a great job for what it is. I have 6 of them at different locations and use most for mixing a PZM mic with a lavalier mic for forensic interview rooms. I do have one in my office for use with various input and output matching.
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lee_petri
post Jun 30 2008, 02:43
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AndyH-ha- So I take it the 1394 interface isn't going to help...

Well - the phono doesn't have a preamp, does that have any effect on the eventual signal level coming out of the "tape out" of the receiver?

I guess I need to do some experimenting. (I just pulled out my old laptop, and it looks like it has a line-in.)

I'm asking all of this because my girlfriend just bought me a USB compatible turntable. After reading this thread I'm guessing it has something integreated that serves the purpose of the sound card in this endeavor.

I'd like to have a setup that allows me to digitize cassettes as well - and I also don't want to add another stereo component to my collection of gadgets. As long as good recordings can be made I really don't care about the input level. At that point its just a number.

BillyK - that M-Audio interface - it doesn't appear to be able to take the place of a line level input, or am I missing something? Thanks for the Samson S-Mix advice - I'll check that out.
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AndyH-ha
post Jun 30 2008, 07:56
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The firewire port you asked about may be useable if you were to get a firewire soundcard. Those are often picky about just which firewire port they will work with, however, so no saying until you try it.

If there is no phono preamp, you can't listen to phonograph record, unless perhaps you are using one of those ancient crystal cartridges. If so, you need to start over at the very beginning of the signal chain if you hope to achieve any quality -- if there is anything worth while left on the records after being played with such a cartridge and the miserable tonearm in which they were normally mounted.

Does the receiver have an input for phonograph record? If so, it has a phono preamp.

Ah, one of those USB turntables. The box contains a phono preamp and soundcard. It plugs into a computer's USB port. Nothing more is needed.

A cassette deck cannot use the USB connection built into the typical USB TT. It could if there were the minor provision of input jacks and a selector switch, but generally there isn't. You will therefore need a soundcard with a line level input for the cassette deck or you will have to modify the connections on the TT.

You do care about the input signal level if it is too high. Digital clipping is quite unpleasant. The system built into the USB TT should be properly matched to avoid that, however.

The M-Audio micro is only one channel. It is not suitable for cassette or phono.
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Billyk
post Jun 30 2008, 18:05
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QUOTE
The M-Audio micro is only one channel. It is not suitable for cassette or phono


Wow good catch, I have one on order. Read the specs, etc. Saw 1/8 stereo output and that was all I needed for my application. I apologise for recommending and not catching that, as I now see, double stared mono input disclamer!!

This post has been edited by Billyk: Jun 30 2008, 18:05
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GregDunn
post Jul 2 2008, 21:39
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I do a fair amount of live recording (almost always by invitation of the band) and it struck me recently that I could make one tool do two jobs. I bought an Edirol (Roland) R-09HR to use with my existing battery-powered omni mics; it's done a fine job of capturing the shows and is extremely portable. It occurred to me the other night that I could simply take the tape out from my phono preamp while playing an LP and run it directly into the R-09. Having the option of recording at 24 bits, I could get a capture that was arguably better than any LP signal likely to be presented to the inputs. More bits to throw away during subsequent noise removal, etc.

It's nice because you can remove the SDHC card and bring it to your computer to transfer the file directly; much faster than playing back my Sony DAT recordings and waiting for the transport to glitch. I've done a few transfers with it and it's quite a nice way to rip LPs as well. If you have any need for a small live recording solution which supports 16/24 at 44.1, 48, 88.2, or 96k, consider buying one of these - it's a handy little device and the line input is apparently more than good enough for live or other sources.

Yeah, it's a lot more money than a sound card, but the portability and flexibility made it a no-brainer for me when doing field recordings.
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