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Best equipment to rip vinyl
davidh_R
post Feb 27 2008, 00:46
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What is the best way to rip vinyl? Anyone done any extensive tests comparing USB to recording via a mixer?
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AndyH-ha
post Feb 27 2008, 01:21
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The form the soundcard takes is irrelevant. Good converters come in all the interface forms: USB, firewire, and PCI. Poor quality is also available, at least in the USB and PCI categories, but finding good soundcards is not difficult; there is a plentiful supply.

Playing an LP is a mechanical process. Getting a good recording requires good playback as its first step. None of the TTs Iíve seen with USB connections (i.e. their own built-in phono preamp and soundcard) have been other than far low end. These obviously satisfy some people, but your question is about ďbestĒ and that isnít it.

If the foregoing isnít clear enough: it isnít the soundcard that will make the difference, it is the (mainly) mechanical parts that come before the soundcard that should be your primary concern. These are also the more expensive parts, by far.

Besides the basics needed for playback -- TT, tonearm, cartridge, and phono preamp -- you may need a mixer or a line-level preamp. This all depends on the cartridge and phono preamp. Output levels are all over the map. Some mate well with soundcards input requirements, some require signal level adjustments.

If you donít need something between the phono preamp and soundcard to adjust the soundcard input levels, that is one less source of noise and distortion. On the other hand, decent line level preamps (stand-alone or in a mixer) are good enough to not really hurt your signal, so using them is better than trying to make some kind of custom adjustment -- unless you just like to tinker.

By the way, rip is a slang term, but it has a generally accepted meaning. It is digital audio extraction, which is the way a computer gets data directly from an audio CD. An LP must be played, the audio signal converted to digital data, and that recorded. None of those three steps are involved in "ripping."
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DVDdoug
post Feb 27 2008, 01:24
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When you say USB, do you have a turntable with a USB output?

I can't help you with "best"... (I've never had an unlimited budget.)

The biggest factor is NOISE. So, I'd say use the set-up with the best signal-to-noise ratio. Your RIAA preamp is probably the biggest noise generator, followed by your soundcard. (A USB turntable has both an RIAA preamp and "soundcard" built-in.)


My "standard comments" about LP recording...
QUOTE ("DVDdoug")
There is lots of information about LP to DC transfer on this web site (Clive's website).


I will almost always do the following:

I always check for clipping. (I simply check the peak level, and if it's 0dB I assume it's clipped and I re-record.)

I use Wave Repair (Clive's software) to remove "ticks", "clicks", and "pops". It does an amazing job by replacing the defect with the just-preceding or just-following few milliseconds of sound (or a couple of other methods). WARNING - This can be very time consuming. Wave Repair seems to work best when used manually. It usually takes a day (or a weekend) for me to fix-up an LP.

I try some noise reduction and/or noisegate. Sometimes there can be artifacts (side effects), so I don't always apply these "filters".

If it's an old "dull sounding" recording, I'll add some high-end boost.

After I'm done with any other processing, I always normalize (or GoldWave's MaxMatch). This sets the level so that the peaks are exactly 0dB, giving the best signal-to-noise ratio at playback time. It's generally best to normalize the whole album as a single WAV file to retain the relative level between the tracks... Some songs are supposed to be louder or softer than others.

Whenever I burn a CD, I always make an extra archive/back-up copy. If I'm doing lots of processing, I make an un-processed archive CD too.


P.S.
I forgot my most important piece of advice... Don't do it, unless the CD is unavailable! My vinyl transfers almost never end-up quite "CD quality". I'm sure there are exceptions, especially if you have a pristine LP and if the only CD available is an over-compressed remaster... But, last time I was doing this... I was almost done when I found an out-of-print used CD copy, and I bought it!

This post has been edited by DVDdoug: Feb 27 2008, 01:43
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AndyH-ha
post Feb 27 2008, 06:18
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System noise can be a problem, but it should not be. Iíve recorded through several not so expensive phono preamps whose noise levels were so far below the basic disk surface noise as not to be any factor at all in the recording. Noisy phono preamps exist, and you certainly donít want one like that, but I repeat from my first post: the mechanical aspects of disk playback are the major factor in quality transfers.

The TT and tonearm have to be decent quality and they must be set up and aligned properly. Distortion from these factors are the biggest hurdle to good recordings from LPs. Phono cartridges certainly vary in term of the sound nuances they produce, but you donít have to get into a very expensive cartridge to get a decent signal.

We get into a matter of taste when we discuss LP originals vs CD reissues, but there are many people who prefer the LP, and not because they have developed a taste for LP distortions. Very often CD reissues are remastered to quite different standards than the original LPs, and seemingly by people who donít really understand music very well. While this doesnít apply to all reissues, it is common enough that there are quite a few of us who do not lean toward preferring the CD versions.

There is a steep learning curve, you must have good software, and patience is required. Given those, good LP transfers often need defer nothing to label issued CDs. The basic LP noise can be reduced enough to be a non factor -- where the music level is low enough for it to matter. Extra noise from LP damage can also often be successfully reduced to below audible levels under most circumstances.

Distortion levels can never be less than what is on the disk you record from but good condition LPs are generally quite easy to listen to -- once you get rid of the vinyl disk defects. As to whether or not it is worth the effort, each can only judge for himself.
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digital
post Feb 27 2008, 09:55
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davidh_R

I have used several USB-interface designs, no mixer/phono experience.

The product that I settled on is the ARTcessories USB-Phono-Plus V2. I can shoot you a few clips of recordings that I've created using this device if you like (PM me). I happen to have a couple of emí on the hard drive of this PC; sourced from an 'audiophile pressing' LP last year. My source is a Systemdek IIx with a Shure M97xE cartridge in very good condition, the TT is in near-showroom condition.

http://www.artproaudio.com/products.asp?ty...t=13&id=128

Andrew D.
www.cdnav.com
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cliveb
post Feb 27 2008, 10:19
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QUOTE (AndyH-ha @ Feb 27 2008, 00:21) *
Playing an LP is a mechanical process. Getting a good recording requires good playback as its first step. None of the TTs Iíve seen with USB connections (i.e. their own built-in phono preamp and soundcard) have been other than far low end.

I've not personally used any USB turntable, but from their prices and specs, I concur with Andy: they look like cheap and nasty devices. The only possible exception to this that I have seen is the ProJect Debut USB, which looks like it might be a cut above the rest. The standard Debut is a decent budget turntable in its own right, and the company has a good reputation. But let nobody be under any illusions that this is a "high end" device.

Something that nobody has mentioned yet is that there is a step *before* the playback of the LP which is quite possibly the most important one: cleaning the LP properly. The best cleaning methods use a vacuum device such as the Nitty-Griity, VPI or Moth. The best record cleaner is the Keith Monks machine, but it's extremely expensive and not a feasible home-user option.

This post has been edited by cliveb: Feb 27 2008, 10:21
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slks
post Feb 28 2008, 04:03
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My (limited) experience has been that USB turntables are terrible. You'd do better looking for the best similarly-priced standalone turntable and running that through whatever sound card you have on hand.

The best equipment to rip vinyl is identical to the best equipment to play vinyl, that is, a good turntable/cartridge/pre-amp. That's the most important part, since there are lots of turntables that sound like shit. The sound card isn't nearly as important, I wouldn't worry about using anything other than an integrated (with the motherboard) sound card. If it puts your mind at ease and you've got the money, I guess you could get a good M-audio card or something.


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w1L50n
post Feb 28 2008, 21:05
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QUOTE
I forgot my most important piece of advice... Don't do it, unless the CD is unavailable! My vinyl transfers almost never end-up quite "CD quality". I'm sure there are exceptions, especially if you have a pristine LP and if the only CD available is an over-compressed remaster... But, last time I was doing this... I was almost done when I found an out-of-print used CD copy, and I bought it!


One of these days I'm going to get my vinyl to digital. Going by 1sth things 1st, I agree (for the most part) with the above quote.

I don't buy many CD's anymore......so my question is:

How does one tell (if possible before purchase) whether a CD is likely to have compression (over-compression to the point where the LP in good condition may be the better alternative)? I have read a couple of 'rules of thumb' like CD's pressed after year 2000....but that's about all I have to go on. Is 'Remaster' a red-flag?
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AndyH-ha
post Feb 28 2008, 21:13
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I donít know much except that if it is rock or pop, it seems more likely to be treated the way current rock and pop are treated. I donít think it is only the over-compression and dynamic range reduction so prevalent today, however. Sometimes CD reissues just take a very different viewpoint on what the performance should sound like. If you happen to like what you listened to in the old days, you might find the new version doesnít fill the emotional void very well.

This post has been edited by AndyH-ha: Feb 28 2008, 21:14
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slks
post Feb 29 2008, 02:02
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QUOTE (w1L50n @ Feb 28 2008, 14:05) *
How does one tell (if possible before purchase) whether a CD is likely to have compression (over-compression to the point where the LP in good condition may be the better alternative)? I have read a couple of 'rules of thumb' like CD's pressed after year 2000....but that's about all I have to go on. Is 'Remaster' a red-flag?


Around 1992 or 93 was when the modern loudness war began, discs made before then should be unaffected (although that doesn't mean they'll sound good). It's very rare that a CD made after 1996 will be free of overcompression, although there are exceptions. There really isn't any way to tell before buying other than downloading a copy from the internet.

If a disc is advertised as remastered, that doesn't tell you much either. Some remasters have been great, some have been wretched. There's no surefire way to tell other than listening to it or opening it up in a wave editor.


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w1L50n
post Feb 29 2008, 05:06
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Hmmm.....

Me thinks I may give my old vinyl a fair chance. It's a bit of the 'smell your own farts theory'.

I can stand a few clicks and pops on my stuff....can't take it from another source.
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