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Need tips for converting ANALOG to Lossless
BFG
post Nov 18 2012, 23:04
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Right now, I'm converting my entire CD collection to FLAC for archiving. But I also have some records, cassette tapes and (gasp) 8-tracks to "archive" as well.

I'd like some tips on the best hardware to use for the initial analog to digital conversion (presumably to WAV), as well as best practices for noise reduction without compromising the signal. I'd also like to hear thoughts on when/if it's appropriate to upconvert to stereo.
I haven't checked the Wiki for these topics yet, but will soon.
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Engelsstaub
post Nov 18 2012, 23:33
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If you're still playing cassettes and 8-tracks and have a decent computer then you probably have most of the equipment you would really "need" to digitize them.

Why in the world would you want to digitize 8-tracks and cassettes though? I get needledrops (which is sometimes enough of a pain...) but 8-tracks? They are arguably the worst analog format ever introduced. Cassettes aren't too far behind, IMO. If they are not rare and irreplaceable I'd just replace them with used CDs from Amazon. Put them in a box and pass them on later or something. That's a lot of work for the inevitably shitty results you're going to get.

I use iZotope RX Advanced for working on needledrops, but that software is expensive. Like over a thousand USD-expensive. You can get similar professional results with Adobe Audition for about $350.

...but anyway: a decent sound card and a good turntable (assuming the stylus is in good shape) should be all you need other than capable software. If you really feel you must digitize cassettes and 8-tracks, then just use the hardware you already have. I personally doubt you'll be any happier with the results if you hunted down "better" playback gear for those formats.


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BFG
post Nov 19 2012, 03:02
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QUOTE (Engelsstaub @ Nov 18 2012, 16:33) *
Stuff

Thanks for the advice. I'm definitely NOT interested in dropping $1000 (or even $350) into this project...but I did find a $50 analog->digital turntable+cassette player the other day; I'll give that a try and see what happens. It won't cover the 8 tracks but oh well.

In all honesty, I'm doing this because (1) there are a few albums which (as far as I'm aware) you can't get on CD, and (2) I promised my grandma in the nursing home that I would biggrin.gif


EDIT: (in anticipation of future comments) Yes, I am aware that there's really no such thing as Lossless Analog.

This post has been edited by BFG: Nov 19 2012, 03:03
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Engelsstaub
post Nov 19 2012, 04:46
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Check out VinylStudio. It's free to try and thirty dollars beyond trial.

You may only need if for the trial. I can tell you, as a user, that it is very convenient for recording, splitting, and cleaning up vinyl (and other analogue-source) transfers. It is more than sufficient for cleaning up ticks and pops in vinyl recordings. The more expensive software is advanced at noise-reduction and stuff like that and it doesn't sound like you really want or need that anyway. There's a version for Windows and Macintosh.

I'm not trying to run an ad for VinylStudio, but I thought you'd like to know that I'm personally pleased with it and feel it's well worth the cost if you decide it's something you can use. There are plenty of other options, but this one is a good all-in-one IMO.


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Dynamic
post Nov 19 2012, 07:00
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Or just use something free like Audacity to record and edit and split into tracks and Export into lossless (e.g. FLAC) if you have access to a turntable or tape deck and a suitable cable to link them to a 3.5mm stereo jack for your Line In input on your sound card.

You don't need more than 16 bits per channel or more than 44.1 kHz sampling rate (though 48 kHz might be preferable on some cheaper sound cards, depending how they operate). The hiss noise from the format will exceed the input circuitry hiss on your soundcard, so allow 6 to 12 dB of headroom to allow for louder peaks and adjust the volume (e.g. ReplayGain Album Gain) in the digital domain later.

Some cheap sound cards have a small DC offset which the Normalize effect in Audacity can remove without changing volume.

You probably don't need to worry about declicking and dehissing if it's for your grandma who just wants to listen to it, but if the cassettes had Dolby NR applied, turn that on to achieve correct timbre and cymbal/hi-hat decays. There's also a free Winamp plugin, Tape Restore Live that might help, which can be used after recording to reverse Dolby NR and output to disk.

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Porcus
post Nov 19 2012, 15:40
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A few issues to consider (and others who have experience might want to fill in).

- A decent stylus (we are still talking two-figure $$s, not three) is likely worth its money, at least compared to one of unknown age and condition on a second-hand cheap turntable. But not all are replaceable! Don't buy until you have checked. Also, there are basically two fittings (the 'other' one is callet T4P or P-mount). Google pictures and ask here if in doubt.

- Not only Dolby for tapes (as mentioned by Dyamic), but also RIAA EQ for vinyls, might be applied in the digital domain rather by cheap analogue circuitry, provided you get sufficient volume to record it properly. Depends on your sound card. A typical phono preamp makes about a 40 dB gain, so if you record without one, expect low volumes. (Q for the braintrust: on cheap gear and maybe low output, is it any likely to improve by recording at > 16 bits, volume normalize and crop off the least significants?)

- Keep your recorded files as backup. You will make errors when you process them, so don't work with your only copy.



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mixminus1
post Nov 19 2012, 15:55
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QUOTE (BFG @ Nov 18 2012, 19:02) *
In all honesty, I'm doing this because (1) there are a few albums which (as far as I'm aware) you can't get on CD

Then, in the name of all that's holy (and even unholy), DO NOT use
QUOTE
a $50 analog->digital turntable+cassette player

Something that craptastic is pretty much guaranteed to damage your records due to the very low quality cartridge (likely ceramic) and insane tracking force required by it, and may eat some tapes, as well.

You don't need to spend that much more, but at least look at something like the $99 Audio-Technica USB turntable - sound quality could only be better than that $50 wundermachine, and it won't chew up your records.

For the cassettes, what do you currently have for a player?

This post has been edited by mixminus1: Nov 19 2012, 15:58


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saratoga
post Nov 19 2012, 16:02
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QUOTE (BFG @ Nov 18 2012, 22:02) *
QUOTE (Engelsstaub @ Nov 18 2012, 16:33) *
Stuff

Thanks for the advice. I'm definitely NOT interested in dropping $1000 (or even $350) into this project...but I did find a $50 analog->digital turntable+cassette player the other day; I'll give that a try and see what happens. It won't cover the 8 tracks but oh well.


Do you already have a turntable? If so, you might get better results for less money just hooking a PC up to it and recording.
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2Bdecided
post Nov 19 2012, 16:20
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QUOTE (Engelsstaub @ Nov 18 2012, 22:33) *
Why in the world would you want to digitize 8-tracks and cassettes though? I get needledrops (which is sometimes enough of a pain...) but 8-tracks? They are arguably the worst analog format ever introduced. Cassettes aren't too far behind, IMO.
Most commercial cassettes range from so-so to lousy, but I have plenty that I recorded myself which are still fine. I'd transfer them if I could get around to it.

In any case, if it's the only copy you can find, and you want to listen to the content, you have to put up with the quality.

QUOTE (BFG @ Nov 19 2012, 02:02) *
I did find a $50 analog->digital turntable+cassette player the other day
You get what you pay for.

QUOTE
I promised my grandma in the nursing home that I would biggrin.gif
Then it'll probably be good enough just to be able to listen to the music again.


The usual advice is to buy a half-decent used turntable, pre-amp/receiver/amplifier-with-turntable-input, and hi-fi cassette deck. Connect these to a half-decent sound card. Put a new stylus into the turntable if necessary. Adjust the azimuth on the cassette deck to match each tape you transfer. With luck, the results will be far better than an all-in-one "transfer your tapes/records to PC" solution sold new today.

Cheers,
David.
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BFG
post Nov 21 2012, 00:24
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Heh, you're right - this probably is pretty craptastic at $50. (The MSRP is $120, but still...)

Nevertheless I'll give it a try...who knows, it might surprise me. And as I don't have a (working) turntable at the moment, at minimum I'll have a basic record player again.

This post has been edited by BFG: Nov 21 2012, 00:25
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stephan_g
post Nov 26 2012, 12:56
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Don't be surprised if the platter is wobbly, the tonearm bearings have plenty of play, antiskating is just about absent and tracking force is more or less random. (You should already be getting an MM cantridge of some sort at least. If it's a ceramic as still found in cheapies, I wouldn't even let it near any irreplaceable records.) For something that is usable at least, you'll have to drop about as much as a Dual DTJ301 or similar will cost you, and we're still not talking good at this point. (A "plastic fantastic" Technics of yesteryear is likely to be better than that.) No, cheap turntables aren't fun.
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