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Vinyl to WAV hardware recommendations?, Good turntables, preamps?
paulgj
post Jul 29 2004, 07:44
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Hi All,

I have accumulated a few LP's over the years that have never made it to CD and I want to go ahead and rip them to my own home made audio discs.

I've been reading up as much as I can and basically I now need to go out and get the external hardware for starting this task.

I need some recommendations for a decent affordable turntable (up to about $250) and a preamp to go with it. I also see that there is quite a lot of opinion on what cartridge & stylus choices to make, so all suggestions would be appreciated.

Also I noticed a lot of good information on this site: http://www.dak.com/Reviews/2020Story.cfm and was wondering if anyone has experience with the preamp shown on the site for $69.

Thanks in advance,

Paul

This post has been edited by paulgj: Jul 29 2004, 07:44


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MugFunky
post Jul 29 2004, 08:41
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definitely get a deck with a pitch control on it (10% may not be much , but effectively it is a free sample rate boost). preferably direct-drive, with a good power supply.

as for preamps, i'd get one that had the option for turning off the RIAA preamp - the RIAA curve can be applied more accurately in software, and if you use a zero-phase filter like cool edit's FFT, there will be a (probably inaudible) quality boost. also doing it this way will give you a little extra precision, and more headroom for recording (plus more predictable levels). a simple line preamp can be bought from electronics shops very cheaply ($20 or less? i can't remember), can run off 9-volt batteries (this is good because it's cleaner DC than you'd get from the average little transformer) and has a switch to enable/disable RIAA.

tone arm should be linear - it tracks better and doesn't do strange things with the inner groove.

cartridge? i'm not sure about that one. if i had the money i'd go for moving coil, but these are quite heavy and may cause problems. besides that, a very good (and lightweight) moving magnet cartridge will give similar performance and wear the record less.

stylus should be hyperelliptical (mine's spherical, dammit), or if you can find one, get a shibata stylus (i'm not sure if they still make these, but they are designed for discrete-channel quad records, where the rear channels were carried on a modulated tone at 30khz IIRC. this means a shibata stylus can usefully resolve up to 30Khz at least. this is a very good thing)

however, records are lo-fi, and the lo-fi sound they make has it's own aesthetic, which personally i'm quite fond of. so i wouldn't be worried if your system is less than ideal (like mine...).

This post has been edited by MugFunky: Jul 29 2004, 08:43
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CSMR
post Jul 29 2004, 11:38
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QUOTE (MugFunky @ Jul 28 2004, 11:41 PM)
however, records are lo-fi, and the lo-fi sound they make has it's own aesthetic, which personally i'm quite fond of. so i wouldn't be worried if your system is less than ideal (like mine...).

A highly unusual comment. Is this experience from your unideal setup, or gathered from other sources?
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prism_emf
post Jul 29 2004, 12:04
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You're suggesting a $250 direct drive linear tracker? I say that's very bad advice.

Said cheap DD linear trackers were popular in the 1980's, mainly from Japanese manufacturers. This stuff was and still is mass market crap, definitely not hi-fi. Direct drive is expensive to do well - the SL1200mk2 is the cheapest table to pull it off. Linear tracking tonearms are even more expensive - the servo-guided plastic thingies do more harm than good.


First off, $250 is stretching it if you want an archiving quality vinyl rig and preamp. Still, it should be doable. For about $100 or a little more you should be able to get a used Thorens 160/166 or 300 series model. Put another $100 in a new cartridge and the remaining $50 should buy you a basic phono preamp from Radio Shack (The Little Rat is what they call it, IIRC). Do NOT use a used stylus, at the minimum get a new stylus for the old cartridge if you can't afford a new one.

Yes, Thorens are belt drive without a pitch slider. But if properly set up, the speed is spot on - you won't need an adjustment unless you're archiving 78s. And they sound a whole lot better than cheap direct drives. If you can't find a Thorens, a Dual 505 series model should also fit the bill.

With the cartridge you're limited to MM models, as the cheap preamp won't like MC carts. Accuracy and a thin stylus profile are good for archiving.... for $100 I bet the best you can get is the Audio-Technica AT440ML, which has a line contact stylus. Ortofon OM series and Goldring 1000 series are also contenders, but are a bit more expensive in the US. Stay away from Grados and the Shure M97xE if you want a flat frequency response.
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2Bdecided
post Jul 29 2004, 13:10
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I'm sorry MugFunky, but I think I disagree with everything you said.

Unfortunately I can't really add any constructive comments because I'm not in the USA, and any models I suggested would be unheard of over there.

However, I think you're pointing him in completely the wrong direction!

FWIW I'd probably buy a used turntable, but get a new cartridge, stylus and pre-amp.

Cheers,
David.
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cliveb
post Jul 29 2004, 13:44
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QUOTE (MugFunky @ Jul 29 2004, 08:41 AM)
definitely get a deck with a pitch control on it (10% may not be much , but effectively it is a free sample rate boost).
Decks with pitch control limit you to DJ (poor sound quality) and broadcast (rare & expensive) types. It is far easier to just get a deck that rotates at the correct speed in the first place. Very few good HiFi turntables include pitch control. And I don't understand your comment about a "sample rate boost" - what do you mean by that?
QUOTE
preferably direct-drive, with a good power supply.
There is no intrinsic reason why direct drive is better than belt drive. In fact, you'll find that most affordable turntables with decent sound quality are belt drive. *Good* direct drive is expensive to engineer.
QUOTE
as for preamps, i'd get one that had the option for turning off the RIAA preamp - the RIAA curve can be applied more accurately in software, and if you use a zero-phase filter like cool edit's FFT, there will be a (probably inaudible) quality boost.
Even though careful digital EQ can be more phase-accurate than an analogue preamp's EQ, the phase accuracy of an LP is so poor that the difference is academic and of no practical significance. In any case, having to apply RIAA correction after recording is just an extra step that will become tiresome. On balance, it's far simpler to do it in the preamp.
QUOTE
tone arm should be linear - it tracks better and doesn't do strange things with the inner groove.
In theory linear tracking tonearms should produce less tracing distortion due to geometry errors, but in practice they are devilishly difficult to build well. The number of linear tracking arms that are affordable and work properly can be counted on the fingers of a double amputee. A properly aligned pivoted arm is far more practical.
QUOTE
cartridge?  i'm not sure about that one.  if i had the money i'd go for moving coil, but these are quite heavy and may cause problems.  besides that, a very good (and lightweight) moving magnet cartridge will give similar performance and wear the record less.
Good moving coils do sound better, but they put additional requirements on the preamp. You should only think about a moving coil cartridge if you've got some serious money to spend on this project. Otherwise you're better off with a decent mid-range moving magnet.
QUOTE
stylus should be hyperelliptical (mine's spherical, dammit), or if you can find one, get a shibata stylus (i'm not sure if they still make these, but they are designed for discrete-channel quad records, where the rear channels were carried on a modulated tone at 30khz IIRC.  this means a shibata stylus can usefully resolve up to 30Khz at least.  this is a very good thing)
I doubt anyone still makes genuine shibata stylii. The shibata profile is very specifically designed for CD4 records, which of course are no longer made. As a general rule elliptical stylii give more accurate groove tracing and hence better sound quality, especially in the high end. The more extreme the ellipticity (is that a word?), the better the tracing. These stylii are sometimes called "fine line". But there is a downside: the more elliptical you get, the more critical the cartridge alignment becomes. There is a cut-off point where the inability to accurately align things starts to degrade the sound. Where this cut-off point is depends on the tonearm design and skill of the person doing the setup. I'd avoid stylii that were more extreme than .7 x .2
QUOTE
however, records are lo-fi, and the lo-fi sound they make has it's own aesthetic, which personally i'm quite fond of.  so i wouldn't be worried if your system is less than ideal (like mine...).
In objective sound quality terms, vinyl records are a dog's dinner. But the human ear is a funny thing, and LPs can actually sound pretty damn magnificent if played properly. They were also never subject to the modern hypercompression plague (if you cut an LP with the sort of compression typical on modern CDs, you'd probably get about 5 mins per side), so at least music tends to "breathe" properly when played from an LP (as it does from a well mastered CD, of course).
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MugFunky
post Jul 29 2004, 14:22
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aah. i see this is what happens when one relies on second and third hand knowledge.

usually when i go out on a limb i add a generic "please refute this if you know better"... i forgot this time. smile.gif

being a student on a non existent budget, i have to use what i've got, and anything else has been researched from many conflicting web sites, which is no substitute for real experience in the field. it seems there aren't many good resources for vinyl stuff on the internet, because i've read heaps on the subject.

my (less than ideal) setup is a pioneer PL-200. i'm not sure if this is an example of a good engineered DD or a bad one. whatever. it has it's original tone arm (one of those curved ones with no height adjustment), and a stanton SK-80 (i think) cartridge. it's a DJ style cartridge which i bought years ago, and it has outlived it's usefulness.

as far as the pitch control goes - my sound card only operates at 44100Hz, so if i want more i simply play back the record slower. with 45s i simply play them at 33.3, and with 33.3 i give them the slowest speed i can manage (just shy of 10%). this is where turning RIAA off comes in handy - recording slow and speeding up in software will make the RIAA curve go all crappy, so rather than de-RIAA, speed up, then re-RIAA, it is better to simply not record with RIAA, and speedup before adding the EQ curve. recording slow also makes my rather bad cartridge perform slightly better.

of course, if there's better equipment available, there is no need to slow things down then speed them up again.


QUOTE
A highly unusual comment. Is this experience from your unideal setup, or gathered from other sources?


what does that mean then? man, at least i attempted to be helpful and constructive in my post. i find that comment more than a little bit pompous. i did say it was an aesthetic. that implies subjectivity, no? and i don't think anyone can seriously deny that vinyl is lo-fi for the most part, unless you listen exclusively to 180g virgin pressings on one of those wet-dream audiophile setups costing in excess of USD$100,000... but who has time for that? most of my records come from op-shops and cost me ~AUD$2.

This post has been edited by MugFunky: Jul 29 2004, 14:25
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CSMR
post Jul 29 2004, 15:18
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QUOTE
In objective sound quality terms, vinyl records are a dog's dinner.

How do you mean? Noise floor?
QUOTE
what does that mean then? man, at least i attempted to be helpful and constructive in my post. i find that comment more than a little bit pompous. i did say it was an aesthetic. that implies subjectivity, no? and i don't think anyone can seriously deny that vinyl is lo-fi for the most part, unless you listen exclusively to 180g virgin pressings on one of those wet-dream audiophile setups costing in excess of USD$100,000... but who has time for that? most of my records come from op-shops and cost me ~AUD$2.

I'm not an expert, but it's normally said that if records are cleaned and maintained reasonably they have qualities that make them preferable to cds on comparably priced systems above a fairly low level ($hundreds rather than $hundreds of thousands). I don't have much experience, but that's what most people say who are in to records and cds. Of course, you might also consider cds lo-fi: I don't know what you mean by the term. When I think lo-fi I think of cassettes, micro-systems. Given that people who are into extreme hi-fi stuff often prefer records, I don't see that calling them lo-fi is appropriate. Sorry to sound pompous; I can't help it.
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M
post Jul 29 2004, 15:44
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QUOTE (MugFunky @ Jul 29 2004, 08:22 AM)
usually when i go out on a limb i add a generic "please refute this if you know better"... i forgot this time. smile.gif
*

QUOTE (MugFunky @ Jul 29 2004, 08:22 AM)
...and a stanton SK-80 (i think) cartridge. it's a DJ style cartridge which i bought years ago, and it has outlived it's usefulness.
*

QUOTE (MugFunky @ Jul 29 2004, 08:22 AM)
...i don't think anyone can seriously deny that vinyl is lo-fi for the most part, unless you listen exclusively to 180g virgin pressings on one of those wet-dream audiophile setups costing in excess of USD$100,000... but who has time for that?  most of my records come from op-shops and cost me ~AUD$2.
*

MugFunky, what is your definition of "lo-fi"? I suspect that is the root of my disagreement with your assertion; a well produced vinyl transfer from a pristine source has the capability of more accurately reproducing a waveform, and of performing well beyond the limitations of a 16-bit, 44.1kHz digital transfer. But if you regard the surface noise/pops/clicks inherent to a worn stylus and less-than-pristine vinyl as part of the overall "fidelity" of the vinyl, your statement is at least internally consistent. It's just wrong. biggrin.gif

- M.
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prism_emf
post Jul 29 2004, 16:05
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QUOTE (cliveb @ Jul 29 2004, 03:44 PM)
I doubt anyone still makes genuine shibata stylii. The shibata profile is very specifically designed for CD4 records, which of course are no longer made. As a general rule elliptical stylii give more accurate groove tracing and hence better sound quality, especially in the high end. The more extreme the ellipticity (is that a word?), the better the tracing. These stylii are sometimes called "fine line". But there is a downside: the more elliptical you get, the more critical the cartridge alignment becomes. There is a cut-off point where the inability to accurately align things starts to degrade the sound. Where this cut-off point is depends on the tonearm design and skill of the person doing the setup. I'd avoid stylii that were more extreme than .7 x .2
*


Actually, Ortofon's Jubilee still uses a shibata profile stylus, but there's no indication whether it's a "genuine" Shibata. The cheaper models in the same range use Fritz Gyger line contacts.

Line contact styli do have better groove tracing properties, especially on the inside grooves. Incorrect horizontal alignment destroys the sound of an elliptical as well, but the sharper the stylus profile, VTA (vertical tracking angle) becomes more and more critical. If the tonearm provides no way to adjust height even with shims, it would be best to avoid line contact styli. Spherical styli are practically immune to VTA change. (or SRA - stylus rake angle, actually)

.2 x .7 mil is the standard elliptical type, but I don't see any reason why you would want to especially avoid sharper profiles if your tonearm is properly adjustable.
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cliveb
post Jul 29 2004, 17:05
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QUOTE (CSMR @ Jul 29 2004, 03:18 PM)
QUOTE
In objective sound quality terms, vinyl records are a dog's dinner.

How do you mean? Noise floor?

In pretty much all respects. Vinyl records have a high noise floor (-60dB is doing well), but because most of the noise is at lowish frequencies, it's not as noticable as, say, tape hiss. They also have appalling levels of distortion (several percent), nowhere near flat frequency response, very limited bass response, poor crosstalk, and of course they are very vulnerable to wear and tear.

But of course all these factors are relative: vinyl LPs are technically way behind CDs, but ahead of wax cylinders and shellac 78s. Despite their objective failings they can be very nice to listen to.
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cliveb
post Jul 29 2004, 17:22
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QUOTE (prism_emf @ Jul 29 2004, 04:05 PM)
Actually, Ortofon's Jubilee still uses a shibata profile stylus, but there's no indication whether it's a "genuine" Shibata. The cheaper models in the same range use Fritz Gyger line contacts.
Ah right, thanks for the clarification.
QUOTE
.2 x .7 mil is the standard elliptical type, but I don't see any reason why you would want to especially avoid sharper profiles if your tonearm is properly adjustable.
A tonearm that is properly adjustable doesn't necessarily get properly adjusted. It depends on the skill of the operator. That's why I think it's safest to stick with a modest profile.

And as you say, the more extreme the stylus shape, the more critical the VTA. (Horizontal alignment is also move critical for line contact stylii, as it affects the phase more, although I suppose since the phase of an LP is pretty bad anyway, that's moot). The irony of course is that the VTA that is actually cut into the masters varies due to the mechanical bounce-back properties of the particular lacquer that was used. To a certain extent you're fighting a losing battle trying to optimise VTA in a playback system. Do you intend to have an easily adjustable VTA and determine the optimum setting for each LP? It's interesting that VTA has always been a hot potato in the States but we're relatively relaxed about it here in the UK.

But the bottom line is that if you have the tools and skill to set up a line contact stylus properly, it does give the best results, all other things being equal.

And finally, my experience of transferring LPs is that the best stylus profile to use is whatever one happens to trace a part of the groove wall that hasn't been destroyed by previous playing on a poor turntable. That's a matter of trial and error: if an LP has been badly damaged by mistracking that happened to use a very small tip, then a fairly large (perhaps even spherical) tip could well give a better transfer.
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prism_emf
post Jul 29 2004, 18:44
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QUOTE (cliveb @ Jul 29 2004, 07:22 PM)
A tonearm that is properly adjustable doesn't necessarily get properly adjusted. It depends on the skill of the operator. That's why I think it's safest to stick with a modest profile.
*

That's true. But IMO, if you want to do vinyl to digital transfers, you should have the patience to learn the adjustments and triple check everything - a poorly set up cartridge with an elliptical tip will also sound bad.

For someone with no interest in the adjustments, a P-mount 'table is the easiest way out. Plug & play! Of course, they usually don't sound quite as good, but again better than a poorly adjusted regular turntable.

QUOTE (cliveb @ Jul 29 2004, 07:22 PM)
To a certain extent you're fighting a losing battle trying to optimise VTA in a playback system. Do you intend to have an easily adjustable VTA and determine the optimum setting for each LP? It's interesting that VTA has always been a hot potato in the States but we're relatively relaxed about it here in the UK.
*

I'm with you on that one - I just like to set it and forget it. Here's something from Jon Risch that I found very helpful:

http://www.audioasylum.com/audio/vinyl/messages/1240.html

I.e. forget VTA, set for the statistically derived average SRA instead. Has worked very well for me.
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Cyaneyes
post Jul 30 2004, 20:16
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All playback options aside, perhaps the most important issue in vinyl playback is getting the record clean. I would advise you to search for cleaning methods, invest in some fluid and a microfiber brush, or if you really want to go all out, consider a vacuum cleaning system like this.
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