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Low quality of my cartridge+preamp—can you suggest others? ≤€500
dumdidum
post Feb 15 2012, 00:58
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I currently digitize vinyl working with a technics 1210, an audio-technica at-95e, and the preamps built into my native instruments traktor kontrol s4. presumably, few people here will know what an s4 is. for purposes of this thread, it should be sufficient to note that the s4 is a midi controller (roughly speaking--actually, it uses a different protocol) which includes a 4-in, 4-out audio interface with 2 phono preamps that's geared towards DJs. the audio interface in the s4 might be comparable to standalone 4-in, 4-out USB 2.0 audio interface with 2 phono preamps in the $200 range (again, it would be an audio interface geared towards DJs so it would come with very low-latency asio drivers).

i am unsatisfied with the results i'm currently getting. i record with audacity at default settings (32-bit floating point, 44.1kHz). the gain in windows' volume mixer for the channel to which the 1210 is connected to is at 100%. the peak levels i'm getting during recording are at about -12dB to -15dB. (there's no way in audacity to further boost the volume during recording.) i don't perceive the audio quality as good at all despite the fact that i'm digitizing records in mint condition. (i'm trying to digitize vinyl-only releases so buying digital is not an option. unfortunately, in the genres i listen to--certain areas of house and techno--, vinyl-only release are relatively common.) on some recordings, the kick drum sounds muffled. on most recordings, i feel noise levels are excessive.

now, i certainly don't think the preamps in my audio interface are any good. the at-95e cartridge which i recently bought for EUR 20 is entry-level, too. does anyone have suggestions as to what preamp and cartridge to buy? as for my budget: EUR 500 (~$650) is my absolute max. ideally, i'd like to spend less. so i'd be happier if i can get something reasonable for, say, EUR 300 or so.

This post has been edited by dumdidum: Feb 15 2012, 01:01
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DVDdoug
post Feb 15 2012, 02:48
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I can't recommend a preamp. But for cartridges, "Shure's best" (M97xE) can be found for under $100 USD. This is my "refernce point". You can spend more... a lot more... but I don't see the point in chasing sound quality that will never equal a CD.

QUOTE
i don't perceive the audio quality as good at all despite the fact that i'm digitizing records in mint condition.
Could it be just because it's analog vinyl? Maybe the recordings (or pressings) are not as good as you expect. The recording is often the weakest link. Have you heard these records on a better system? I grew-up in the vinyl days and I was never satisfied with vinyl. I know some people like the sound of vinyl, but you simply can't get the dynamic range (and associated low-noise) that you get with digital.

QUOTE
i record with audacity at default settings (32-bit floating point, 44.1kHz).

The ADC in your S4 appears to be 24-bit. All audio ADCs(and DACs) are integer, so you can't actually capture in floating point. You can save-as floating point, and Audacity (and most audio editors) work at 32-bit floating-point internally no matter what format you feed-in.

QUOTE
the peak levels i'm getting during recording are at about -12dB to -15dB.
That actually shouldn't be a problem (unless your ADC is noisy). It's common for pros to record at -18dB (24-bits). With 16-bits you may be loosing some resolution, but the analog noise is normally the limiting factor (for resolution & dynamic range).

QUOTE
(there's no way in audacity to further boost the volume during recording.)
That's pretty common. Basically, the recoding software is just a "control center", selecting the source and taking the digital-data out of the ADC, formatting it, and sending it to the hard drive. If you need to control the volume, it has to be done on the analog side of the ADC. The main concern is keeping the peaks below 0dB so that the ADC doesn't clip (distort).

Of course, you can always boost the levels digitally after recording (with Audacity). And there are some other things you can do, like EQ, noise reduction, pop-click removal, etc. I always normalize the levels, and I always do some click & pop reduction. (I haven't seen a new-pristine record in about 30 years! biggrin.gif ) I don't normally EQ, but with some older dull-sounding records, I'll boost the highs.

Or, if you plug the analog output of the S4 into your regular soundcard's line-in, you should be able to get your recording levels up. But, you'd still be using the S4 preamps. As long as your soundcard's input isn't noisy, you should be able to get a very-good recording (ignoring the noise from the vinyl and preamp that you'll be accurately recording). Although, most regular soundcards are only 16-bits.

This post has been edited by DVDdoug: Feb 15 2012, 03:03
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zaentzpantz
post Feb 15 2012, 11:21
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I used to have the Audio Technica cartridge, and it always sounded a bit hard to me. I would upgrade the cartridge and make sure there is enough analogue signal to drive up to as close as 0dBFS as possible.

This post has been edited by db1989: Feb 15 2012, 11:57
Reason for edit: deleting pointless full quote of first post


--------------------
Digital is great but you can always tweak analogue...
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RonaldDumsfeld
post Feb 15 2012, 13:02
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I had a similar chain as yourself.

Technics 1210, AT 440MLa, Audacity. I'm not familiar with the NI S4. I have a MOTU Ultralite which is a 10 in/14 out interface with 2 mic preamps but no phono stage.

To rip vinyl I bought a Cambridge Audio 640P and connected that between the deck and a line in pair on the interface. The 640P is about the least expensive stand alone phono pre-amp (~$100) with a moving coil and moving magnet input (I also have a Denon DL-103). I don't recommend it for MC as it's a bit noisy. You can get the 540P, which is MM only, even cheaper and it works fine so long as you don't need massive amounts of gain. NAD among others have alternatives at the same price point.

The CA units don't have an independent gain but I could add some at the interface if I wished. I'd be surprised if you couldn't do this on the NI interface also. Although I suspect you this might be done on an already digitised signal and you wish to have the analogue signal peaking close to max to get the max bit depth. This isn't really necessary imo and as a previous correspondent has already pointed out it is standard practice to record at between -10 and -20 to be on the safe side. You can use normalise or amplify in Audacity as a final 'mastering' stage anyway.

If you insist on sticking to your original proposed requirements then you need to keep on looking for a cartridge with a higher output and/or a phono preamp with it's own analogue gain. With the former quality might be suspect and with the latter cost starts to become prohibitive. I don't think you'd gain much advantage in real world audio quality either.

After a bit of practice I have found that after ripping vinyl using this method neither myself nor my friends can reliably identify which is the original vinyl and which is the ripped copy in properly controlled tests. ymmv.

The problem I do have is that my rips rarely if ever sound as subjectively loud as the same tune in MP3 or WAV downloaded from the likes of Beatport or Juno. This is after normalising the rip to 0dB as well. What I suspect is the case here is that it is possible to compress the arse off a digital version compared to vinyl and that's what happens. Although I remain open to other suggestions?
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dumdidum
post Feb 15 2012, 13:48
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QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Feb 15 2012, 02:48) *
for cartridges, "Shure's best" (M97xE) can be found for under $100 USD.

thanks for the cartridge recommendation, i'll look into it!
QUOTE
This is my "refernce point". You can spend more... a lot more... but I don't see the point in chasing sound quality that will never equal a CD.

agreed

QUOTE
Could it be just because it's analog vinyl? Maybe the recordings (or pressings) are not as good as you expect. The recording is often the weakest link. Have you heard these records on a better system?

unfortunately, i haven't heard these records on better analog systems. today's pressings can be pretty poor but i'm also unsatisfied with my digitization of (supposedly) "audiophile" vinyl (i.e., 180g 12" records, 45rpm speed, only one track per side). however, i have to point out that a few years back i digitized a bunch of vinyl with a different setup (i don't possess it anymore) with better results.

QUOTE
The ADC in your S4 appears to be 24-bit. All audio ADCs(and DACs) are integer, so you can't actually capture in floating point. You can save-as floating point, and Audacity (and most audio editors) work at 32-bit floating-point internally no matter what format you feed-in.

the ADC in my S4 is 24-bit/96kHz indeed. but, afaik, only when using ASIO. i think with WASAPI it only does 16-bit/44.1kHz. and audacity doesn't support ASIO. (on a side note, i was thinking about switching to a software such as sound forge which does support ASIO.) probably my previous post wasn't formulated clearly but i am aware that ADCs are integer and that audacity converts to 32-bit float on the fly.

QUOTE
the peak levels i'm getting during recording are at about -12dB to -15dB. That actually shouldn't be a problem (unless your ADC is noisy). It's common for pros to record at -18dB (24-bits). With 16-bits you may be loosing some resolution, but the analog noise is normally the limiting factor (for resolution & dynamic range).

thanks for pointing this out.

QUOTE
Of course, you can always boost the levels digitally after recording (with Audacity).

i do normalize after recording but don't do any other processing (well, if there a few single loud pops, i might remove them manually.)

QUOTE
Or, if you plug the analog output of the S4 into your regular soundcard's line-in, you should be able to get your recording levels up. But, you'd still be using the S4 preamps. As long as your soundcard's input isn't noisy, you should be able to get a very-good recording (ignoring the noise from the vinyl and preamp that you'll be accurately recording). Although, most regular soundcards are only 16-bits.

tbh, i searched the HA forum a little bit prior to posting. i didn't find much recent insightful discussion about phono preamps. obviously, a google search yields tons of discussion regarding phono preamps. but a good chunk of it is possibly "audiophile" bs. tbh, i lack the expertise to compare and evaluate phono preamps.

but i do suspect that the phono preamps in my s4 aren't good. few DJs play real vinyl anymore. the phono preamps are there mostly to accommodate users of timecode vinyl (i.e., a vinyl containing a special timecode signal with which the user controls a digital audio file sitting on the computer). the audio quality of the preamps obviously don't matter much for that application. they merely need to be sufficiently good for the software to track the timecode signal. for this reason, i suspect the manufacturer views the phono preamps as an area where it can cut costs.
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dumdidum
post Feb 15 2012, 13:55
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QUOTE (RonaldDumsfeld @ Feb 15 2012, 13:02) *
To rip vinyl I bought a Cambridge Audio 640P and connected that between the deck and a line in pair on the interface. The 640P is about the least expensive stand alone phono pre-amp (~$100) with a moving coil and moving magnet input (I also have a Denon DL-103). I don't recommend it for MC as it's a bit noisy. You can get the 540P, which is MM only, even cheaper and it works fine so long as you don't need massive amounts of gain. NAD among others have alternatives at the same price point.

thanks! again, i am a bit lost whether there will be noticeable differences (=audible according to the standards of HA) between phono stages in this price range. some of the audiophile sites also recommend the NAD PP2i and the Pro-Ject Phono Box II. Others swear that you need a Lehman Black Cube.

QUOTE
The problem I do have is that my rips rarely if ever sound as subjectively loud as the same tune in MP3 or WAV downloaded from the likes of Beatport or Juno. This is after normalising the rip to 0dB as well. What I suspect is the case here is that it is possible to compress the arse off a digital version compared to vinyl and that's what happens.

i have heard this as well, and i believe this considerations relevant to this topic are covered on HA's wiki.
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Arnold B. Kruege...
post Feb 15 2012, 14:36
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QUOTE (dumdidum @ Feb 15 2012, 07:55) *
QUOTE (RonaldDumsfeld @ Feb 15 2012, 13:02) *
To rip vinyl I bought a Cambridge Audio 640P and connected that between the deck and a line in pair on the interface. The 640P is about the least expensive stand alone phono pre-amp (~$100) with a moving coil and moving magnet input (I also have a Denon DL-103). I don't recommend it for MC as it's a bit noisy. You can get the 540P, which is MM only, even cheaper and it works fine so long as you don't need massive amounts of gain. NAD among others have alternatives at the same price point.


thanks! again, i am a bit lost whether there will be noticeable differences (=audible according to the standards of HA) between phono stages in this price range. some of the audiophile sites also recommend the NAD PP2i and the Pro-Ject Phono Box II. Others swear that you need a Lehman Black Cube.



I had to follow up on your reference to the Lehman black cube.

Here are the stated advantages per a site that advertises it:

30VA (=10x Black Cube) high-current toroidal transformer with protection coil
Only top notch electronic parts
Ultra fast recovery-rectifying diodes
Advanced series voltage regulation stage
Output voltage: app. +/- 15VDC
Double sided PCB
Detachable cable with professional 4-pole XLR connector with gold-plated contacts
Aluminum case
Dimensions: 230mmDx90mmWx44mmH
All connectors at the rear side

None of these alleged features are actually relevant to sound quality or in any way justify the bloated price that is into the 4 figures!

Here is what matters to you:

(1) Enough amplification and dynamic range.
(2) Good RIAA equalization.
(3) Low noise.

There's no reason why a ca. $100 device can't provide the above very well one or more times over. Interestingly enough the one thing they could do to stand head and shoulders above their competition in reference to item 1 would be to exploit higher internal DC voltages than +/- 15 VDC. But they make a big point over being average and typical in that regard. <shaking head>

QUOTE
QUOTE
The problem I do have is that my rips rarely if ever sound as subjectively loud as the same tune in MP3 or WAV downloaded from the likes of Beatport or Juno. This is after normalising the rip to 0dB as well. What I suspect is the case here is that it is possible to compress the arse off a digital version compared to vinyl and that's what happens.

i have heard this as well, and i believe this considerations relevant to this topic are covered on HA's wiki.


Yes, if two files have maximum levels that are similar, but one still sound louder, then there is either dynamics compression or midrange boosting involved. Both of these detract from the naturalness and expressiveness of the music.

This post has been edited by Arnold B. Krueger: Feb 15 2012, 14:36
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2Bdecided
post Feb 15 2012, 15:54
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I'd have no problem digitising the kind of music you mention from vinyl in a way that's virtually indistinguishable from CD.

There may be background noise ~45-60dB down, but not audible during the track.

Frequency response will be fine. Distortion will be almost inaudible for new 45rpm vinyl.

This wouldn't require anything too expensive. <$100 cartridge, <$100 pre-amp. <$50 pre-amp probably!

So, troubleshoot what's going wrong now, rather than spending silly money. My best guess, like others, is the pre-amp. Though at $900, you'd hope the pre-amp in the traktor was OK. Maybe the money went elsewhere in the product.

Getting the gain right should help immensely. Maybe everything is just getting lost in pre-amp noise because it expects a cartridge with a much higher output. So, different equipment, rather than more expensive equipment, may be the answer.

Might be something as dumb as grounding. Samples may help to identify the problem, or maybe not.

Cheers,
David.

This post has been edited by 2Bdecided: Feb 15 2012, 15:56
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RonaldDumsfeld
post Feb 15 2012, 16:21
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I did also consider that maybe the loudest parts of my rips were clicks or surface noise but even after going through the tedium of removal and cleanup and then digitally amplifying the resultant file the rips were still a couple dB quieter.

When you are working tunes this isn't really a problem because you'd expect to trim the incoming tune manually anyway but it is a issue when listening to personal playlists containing a mix of shop bought and ripped tunes. At first I used to use a compressor on my rips but then I realised that was going about the job arse about face. So now I either use replaygain or chop ~2dB off the version of commercial material I'm using. Not ideal but it works.
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derty2
post Feb 15 2012, 16:44
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Comments by a friend of mine who is quite good at vinyl ripping:

QUOTE
(Comparing: "Shure M97 Xe", "Audio Technica 440MLa", "Audio Technica 95E" & "Ortofon 2m Blue")

The 95e is very bright, probably because it’s not as detailled, so they tried to at least bring the highs up front.

The 440MLa is a lot better. It’s way more detailled, better balanced, more neutral, clean and precise bass response, fits well with rock music.

The Shure is different. It only costs half as much ... It has more bass response, but the bass is a little bit lacking in the details that higher priced carts show.
Comparing the Shure to the "Ortofon 2m Blue"; in this price range, the Ortofon has better resolution and clarity than the Shure. The soundstage and instrument placement is also better on the Ortofon.
Both carts also sound completely different. The Shure is a lot more darker, with a bit more focus on bass response, while the Ortofon is more on the bright side, with focus on the upper mids.

All cartridges are worth buying in their price range. If you want to get the most out of your dime, get the Shure, you won’t be disappointed.

I think it also important for you to know what "Compliance" is, so here is a technical explanation:

The compliance of the stylus (the stylus where the needle sits in) creates together with the effective moved mass a mass-spring-system, which has a resonance frequency. This frequency should be beyond the subsonic resonances and under the deepest tones of the music – so between 7-12hz.
So, what you have to do is you need to look up the dynamic compliance of the cartridge that you want to use (vinylengine) and look up the effective mass of your tonearm (vinylengine). See how high the effective mass of the arm can be for the cartridge to see if it will work (there are tables for that).

Some more theory:
The compliance measures the deflection of the stylus (µ) when a defined force (mn millinewton) is applied. Without looking at other parameters, you can say that the higher the compliance is the better the tracking ability: Stylus with high compliance are able to follow “extreme” groove modulations more easy than low compliance stylus, so they should provide a sound that’s less distorted there. But it’s just a parameter. Way more important is that the compliance fits with your tonearm! That’s what you have to check.
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dumdidum
post Feb 15 2012, 18:31
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Arnold B. Krueger, derty2:

This is good stuff, your thoughts are much appreciated! smile.gif

RonaldDumsfeld,

Thanks, I actually work with automatic gain adjustment software as well. it ain't perfect but yeah, it helps.

QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Feb 15 2012, 15:54) *
So, troubleshoot what's going wrong now, rather than spending silly money. My best guess, like others, is the pre-amp. Though at $900, you'd hope the pre-amp in the traktor was OK. Maybe the money went elsewhere in the product.

Getting the gain right should help immensely. Maybe everything is just getting lost in pre-amp noise because it expects a cartridge with a much higher output. So, different equipment, rather than more expensive equipment, may be the answer.

Might be something as dumb as grounding. Samples may help to identify the problem, or maybe not.

the ground wire is connected. but, apart from that, some interesting thoughts here. i will try to troubleshoot further before pulling the trigger on new equipment. a few responses:

1.) i suspect, too, that the low input gain may be part of the problem. the input gain of the S4's channel to which i connected the 1210 is at its max (100%). i can adjust that input gain via Win 7's volume control panel. in audacity 1.3.14, i can see that the volume of the selected input source is at 100% as well. there's nothing further i can crank up. yet, as i already wrote above, the peaks i see after recording are somewhere between -12dB and -15dB, depending on the track. according to the s4's specs, its phono preamps only provide for 32dB amplification. it seems many discrete phono stages in the $50-$150 range provide ~40dB amplification, some even more.

2.) apparently, i am not the only one who complains about the low amplification of the latest iteration of native instruments' audio interfaces. on the NI forums, other users complain about the phono signal not being hot enough.

3.) i still got a DJ cart flying around somewhere which should provide substantially higher output. i will get around to do some testing of my own either tonight or tomorrow. idk if anybody would listen to those, but i could provide audio samples. perhaps one with the hifi cart (at-95e) and a second one where i digitize the same track using the DJ cart.
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Gretschguy
post Feb 15 2012, 20:52
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QUOTE (dumdidum @ Feb 15 2012, 00:58) *
i am unsatisfied with the results i'm currently getting. […] the peak levels i'm getting during recording are at about -12dB to -15dB. […]

If you are recording at a peak of -12dB then something is definitely wrong. Your peaks, without normalizing, should be around -1dB.

Are you sure you are using the right MC or MM setting for your phono preamp or does your turntable have a preamp built into it?

I would recommend the Denon turntable and DL160 cartridge, the Denon has a built in preamp and you can upgrade to something like a Graham Slee phono preamp, they are exceptional for the money. I also suggest you look at Parasounds equipment.

When I record my vinyl it peaks at about -1dB and the average loudness is typically around -20dB.

QUOTE (dumdidum @ Feb 15 2012, 13:55) *
QUOTE (RonaldDumsfeld @ Feb 15 2012, 13:02) *
The problem I do have is that my rips rarely if ever sound as subjectively loud as the same tune in MP3 or WAV downloaded from the likes of Beatport or Juno. This is after normalising the rip to 0dB as well. What I suspect is the case here is that it is possible to compress the arse off a digital version compared to vinyl and that's what happens.

i have heard this as well, and i believe this considerations relevant to this topic are covered on HA's wiki.

Dumdidum, I would suggest not normalizing to 0 and simply adjusting your input levels to peak safely below 0 such as -1dB. The beauty of vinyl to me is the 3D sound and wide soundstage that compression destroys. BTW I've just uploaded some 24 bit vinyl rip samples that you may want to check out.

Note that I also find that having the average loudness lower than MP3 or WAVs is actually preferable as it gives you more volume control to zone in on just the right volume that you want. I find with my stereo that if an MP3 is really loud then one notch on the volume dial makes too big of a jump.

If you do feel you need to process in some way, such as normalize, then I'd suggest keeping a copy of the raw file in case at a later date you change your mind about this approach or decide on a different approach then you won't need to re-rip.

In terms of equipment check out Parasound if you have not done so already, I've been very happy with their support and their JC phono pre.

This post has been edited by db1989: Mar 4 2012, 22:23
Reason for edit: merging double-post and truncating huge quotes
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RonaldDumsfeld
post Feb 15 2012, 22:02
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QUOTE
If you are recording at a peak of -12dB then something is definitely wrong.


Not necessarily if you consider the use to which the Op's equipment can be (ab)used b the user.

DJ cartridges tend to have have high output. That sells. You can also play bang up disco madness hits on 45 rpm 12" sides. that's louder. So is pitching it up to +16. DJs even resort to blu tacking a 5p piece to the headshell. Again, makes it louder. If they aren't going down very well they even have a natural tendency to turn everything up. Doesn't make it sound any more acceptable - but it does make it louder. So it makes perfect sense that the fixed phono stage gain is set relatively low.

In which case there may well be good design considerations contributing to the -12 output generated by a low end hi-fi cartridge. Everyone who buys it wants it to be capable of being LOUD but if it clipped on a test then it would get a bad reputation. Likesay, I'm surprised if it doesn't have adjustable gain on the channel controls but that might not be what the OP want or can use.

Phono stages are a difficult market segment these days. In the past all decent Integrated Amps or even Receivers had a competent phono stage, otherwise they wouldn't sell. It's an simple product really. maybe it added < $10 to the total cost. The economics of hi-fi though say it's not worth selling anything in a box on its own for much less than $100. So you get crap phono stages for $100 if you are not careful. The alternative is silly money hi-fi tweek only units costing up to $1000 or even more in some cases.

So what is the post modern vinyl addict to do? You cannot buy an old mixer with decent phono stage because they get noisy when old, there are no new Int Amps or Receivers with a phono stag. Stand alone boxes are mostly either high margin, low value or very high margin silly man products.

Where lies the classic phono stage for the discerning, budget conscious vinyl nut of today.

I hope the OP keeps us informed of his deliberations. I'm following this thread with keen interest.
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DVDdoug
post Feb 15 2012, 22:27
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QUOTE
Dumdidum, I would suggest not normalizing to 0 and simply adjusting your input levels to peak safely below 0 such as -1dB.
A lot of people are afraid of 0dB. But, any decent DAC or soundcard can handle the full 16 or 24 bits (0dB) with no problems, including any "inter-sample overs".

QUOTE
If you do feel you need to process in some way, such as normalize, then I'd suggest keeping a copy of the raw file in case at a later date you change your mind about this approach or decide on a different approach then you won't need to re-rip.
There's generally no harm in normalizing. Increasing the volume by normalization does no damage and is completely reversable (with potentially very small rounding errors). If you reduce the volume (digitally or in analog), you are loosing resolution. If you are doing lots of EQ or noise reduction, you may want to keep an unaltered original archive. I only do that on very-rare occasions when I'm doing lots of processing, and I might change my mind later.

QUOTE
Your peaks, without normalizing, should be around -1dB.
Every record is different... In order to hit that -1dB mark with no danger of clipping, you have to record twice... (Once at a lower level to find/calibrate the peak level.) It's more typical to "shoot for" -3 to -6dB. Then, if you get clipping or your levels are too low, you can try a 2nd time.

QUOTE
Are you sure you are using the right MC or MM setting for your phono preamp or does your turntable have a preamp built into it?
No moving magnets (inexpensive cartridge) and no MM preamp on his DJ controller. And, the Technics 1210 does not have a preamp built-in.

QUOTE
When I record my vinyl it peaks at about -1dB and the average loudness is typically around -20dB.
The difference (ratio*) in dB is constant for each recording. If you reduce the peaks by 10dB, the average will decrease by 10dB too. A peak-to-average ratio of 18 or 20dB is not unusual.


* Since decbels are logarithmic, subtraction gives you a ratio.

This post has been edited by DVDdoug: Feb 15 2012, 22:52
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kraut
post Feb 17 2012, 14:58
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QUOTE
I would recommend the Denon turntable and DL160 cartridge, the Denon has a built in preamp and you can upgrade to something like a Graham Slee phono preamp, they are exceptional for the money. I also suggest you look at Parasounds equipment.


I agree with your statement regarding the denon dl 160, but there are a few below 100$ phono preamps around. ART, Behringer, come to mind as cheap alternatives. I run for my earphones an ART four channel headphone amp that is very quiet and it sounds fine to me.

There are also some plug ins available for software RIAA equalization, if you have a soundcard with a sensitive enough mic input.

http://jiiteepee.fortunecity.com/riaafilter/index.htm
ww.kvraudio.com/product/3550

I want to try those plug ins myself.

This post has been edited by kraut: Feb 17 2012, 15:05
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pdq
post Feb 17 2012, 15:27
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The problem with software equalization is that it requires greater dynamic range from your sound card than if you equalize before you digitize, although a good sound card may well be up to the task.
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dumdidum
post Mar 4 2012, 16:19
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ok, it took me awhile, but i have prepared samples for a listening test.

i had my technics sl-1210 m3d serviced. following the recommendations of some posters ITT, i've upgraded my cart to a Shure M97xE and also purchased a cambridge audio 640p phono preamp.

my results have much improved. but for me, the most interesting question was whether the phono preamp in my traktor kontrol s4 is good enough or not. so i've tried to compare the audio quality of the 640p with the s4. i've prepared two samples for an ABX. here's the linky. the link is actually to a zip file which contains two 30s FLACs. they are recordings of the record The Beat Broker - Pacific Break. (sorry guys, i listen to techno/house music and don't have any vinyl in genres such as jazz or classical).

for both recordings, i used the same chain except for the phono preamp. for sample_640p.flac, the signal was routed through the 640p preamp and then digitized using an input on my S4 set to LINE. for sample_s4.flac, the signal wasn't routed through an external preamp. the turntable was connected directly to the same input channel of my S4. but this time the hardware switch was set to PHONO, not LINE.

the 640p amplifies more than the s4 (39dB vs 32dB). so i normalized both recordings to 0dBFS (each time, i digitized the track as a whole and normalized it before taking the samples from the same section). i was pretty careful making sure that i take the exact same passage from each track so i hope it's all good for an ABX.

if you're interested, it would be great if you did an ABX and report your results here. obv, i'd like to know: (i) can you successfully ABX and (ii) if so, which sample do you prefer?

i'll post my own thoughts later as well.

EDIT: tbh, i would be extremely surprised if anyone here fails to ABX. but i'd still be curious to hear your thoughts on what's going on there...

This post has been edited by dumdidum: Mar 4 2012, 17:13
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db1989
post Mar 4 2012, 22:19
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The point of an ABX test is not to compare two processed samples against each other, to determine which the listener prefers.

The point is to compare (A) one or (B) two or more processed samples to a single unprocessed version (in this case, perhaps a CD?), to determine (A) whether it sounds audibly different or (B) which processed sample more closely resembles the unprocessed one.

This post has been edited by db1989: Mar 5 2012, 22:00
Reason for edit: improving bit about ABXing
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DonP
post Mar 5 2012, 21:52
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QUOTE (RonaldDumsfeld @ Feb 15 2012, 17:02) *
Where lies the classic phono stage for the discerning, budget conscious vinyl nut of today.


I bought a preamp with one. I've seen homebrew projects for phono stages that don't look any harder to build than the headphone amps that are all the rage to go with mp3 players.
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2Bdecided
post Mar 7 2012, 12:08
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I'm amazed that two supposedly working RIAA pre-amps can sound so different. The EQ is completely different, and different in different ways on each channel.

IMO that's either abysmal design or a hardware fault.

Whether the 640p+s4 combination is "correct" or not is difficult to say without a known recording. I think it's fair to conclude that the s4 on its own is wrong though.

Maybe cliveb would have a more generous explanation, related to cable lengths, capacitance, etc - but I've never heard anything quite that bad.

Cheers,
David.

This post has been edited by 2Bdecided: Mar 7 2012, 12:09
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dumdidum
post Mar 7 2012, 13:09
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Mar 7 2012, 12:08) *
I'm amazed that two supposedly working RIAA pre-amps can sound so different. The EQ is completely different, and different in different ways on each channel.

I agree that the difference is striking. I was already wondering if it is due to some kind of artifact during recording such as dust on the needle. But I do remember clearly that I cleaned the stylus in between recordings so I don't think so.

I'm kinda curious now to get to the bottom of this. In response to what db1989 wrote, I've just ordered up a vinyl where I already own the digital release. I'll do another round of recordings, trying to make 110% sure that everything is kosher. Might take a few days till the vinyl arrives but then I'll post new samples, including a sample from the digital release which may then act as a point of reference.
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cliveb
post Mar 7 2012, 19:35
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Mar 7 2012, 11:08) *
Maybe cliveb would have a more generous explanation, related to cable lengths, capacitance, etc - but I've never heard anything quite that bad.

Since I'm unfamiliar with music of this style, I can't really comment on whether the tonal balance of these recordings is typical. They certainly sound kind of "thick" to me. The S4 clip in particular seems very lacking in top-end, especially on the left channel.

The loading of moving magnet cartridges can have a large effect on treble response. If the phono preamp's capacitance is too high, or its input impedance too low, then you can lose quite a lot of high frequencies. I checked out the specs of the S4 and it claims an input impedance of 47k, which is the standard for MM cartridges, so if anything is wrong it's likely to be a high input capacitance. The fact that the two channels are strikingly different would tend to suggest that QA on the S4 may not be up to snuff - so maybe the input impedance is out. This difference can't be in the LP itself, because the 640p recording doesn't have this imbalance.
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pdq
post Mar 7 2012, 20:23
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If you think that one channel of the preamp has a problem then swap the channels and see if it moves to the other side.
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dumdidum
post Mar 8 2012, 14:49
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QUOTE (pdq @ Mar 7 2012, 20:23) *
If you think that one channel of the preamp has a problem then swap the channels and see if it moves to the other side.

may i ask one really stupid question for clarification: is it sufficient to swap the channels on the RCA cables, right? so hook up the left of the dual RCA cable coming out of my technics to the right input of my S4 and the right RCA to the input labelled left on my S4?
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db1989
post Mar 8 2012, 15:01
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QUOTE (dumdidum @ Mar 7 2012, 12:09) *
I'm kinda curious now to get to the bottom of this. In response to what db1989 wrote, I've just ordered up a vinyl where I already own the digital release. I'll do another round of recordings, trying to make 110% sure that everything is kosher. Might take a few days till the vinyl arrives but then I'll post new samples, including a sample from the digital release which may then act as a point of reference.

So am I! It’ll be interesting to see how this goes. smile.gif
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