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iltsavm
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Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???

Hi there!

I'm brand new to this site and had posted the same question in the 'Entry Level' section but realized that this section would be more appropriate.

I just bought myself a used starter turntable as well as came upon a very large collection of excellent records.

The only thing I was asked to do as a favour for the record collection was to do create a number of CDs from some of the records and tracks.

Which sound card and software would be appropriate for this type of conversion on the computer? My turntable is Music Hall MMF-5 and I have Mission Cyrus 1 amp (which I still love to this day) so phono jack isn't an issue.

I was recommended to use M-Audio Audiophile 2496? Your thoughts? What about the software?

Currently, I have Creative Sound Blaster Live (basic card) and have Nero and Cakewalk (I'll have to check the version but had it for over 6 years, without ever installing it on the PC) for softwares.

I don't want to spend crazy amount of money to do this but still want high quality results? Yes, I know...you get what you pay for.

Thanks in advance!!!!

Tom

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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???

The M-Audio Audiophile 2496 is a good choice; excellent sound/value at $100.00. It comes with ASIO drivers. Make sure to download the latest version from the website if you go this route.

Cakewalk and Nero will do the job, even the older versions.

Record at 44.1 16-bit, setting your record level not to go over 0dBFS during the loudest passage. There is no problem if you leave 6dB or so headroom as you can raise the volume later in Cakewalk.

After a side of the LP is recorded, raise the volume of the entire side up to just shy of OdBFS. Don't raise the volume on a per track basis as you loose the album side's coherency (the best is to record the entire LP and raise it all at once).

Then edit out the beginning and tail silence, and divide the recorded file into tracks for the CD. Take these files and burn them to CD and you are done.

Try this out with your Creative card. It will work the same. The results will be very good, although not as good as a better sound card.

Cakewalk (now Sonar) is a bit overwhelming at first. Audacity is a good free bit of audio software that you can download and use if you would like something more user friendly.

iltsavm
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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???

Thanks for the suggestions and the recommedation!!!

I just installed the Calewalk Pro Audio and (you're right) the software is a bit overwhelming. I've also downloaded Audacity as well as the trail version of GoldWave.

I'm looking forward to playing with these softwares for the next little while.

KBK
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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???

Elk:

I prefer to set the record level so I get the odd, minor clip (once twice per record side, max), and leave the noise floor alone, so as little number crunching as humanly possible is done. I find this brings the best 'fidelity'.

Comment?

Elk
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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???


Quote:
I prefer to set the record level so I get the odd, minor clip (once twice per record side, max), and leave the noise floor alone, so as little number crunching as humanly possible is done. I find this brings the best 'fidelity'.

Comment?


A great procedure, as long as my assumption is correct that the clipping you get is indeed very minor and inaudible. The only downside is that you need to have monitored the entire side of the record (or at least know where the loudest parts are and have checked them) prior to beginning to record.

The noise floor should remain the same in either method as the LP's background noise (however slight) will be greater than the inherent noise of the recording chain. Thus, the S/N ratio will be the same.

While a few argue that changing the volume digitally always has an effect on the sound, most agree that a boost or cut of 6 or so dB makes no difference in the sound, especially if one is recording with 24 bit resolution.

Thus, once I have learned what levels generally work I leave them alone and just perform the next needle-drop.

Another option is to leave the 6dB or so headroom and just burn the CD directly without changing the level. There are plenty of CDs that don't top out at 0dBFS.

Monkey Mouse
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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???


Quote:
Elk:

I prefer to set the record level so I get the odd, minor clip (once twice per record side, max), and leave the noise floor alone, so as little number crunching as humanly possible is done. I find this brings the best 'fidelity'.
Comment?

I am now in the middle of my second journey through converting all my vinyl to digital using my PC, I have some things to help you with:

I am using a moded Rega P3 with CA arum Beta, incognito wiring into a Bellari tube phono into my M-Audio Delta 1010 (8 channel balanced version of the 2496) and recording using Sounforge 8 (or Live 6). Very simple and easy setup - all recording is done at 24/88.2. I clean each record thoroughly with an Orbitrac 2 cleaning kit.

The only thing I do once I make a recording is trim the beginning & end, manually remove clicks & large pops (software works like poo) and normalize to -3.0db using the peak function of measurement. At 24 bits, you have plenty of headroom and a very low noise floor, even with the Bellari.

Keep in mind that I am archiving very high output dance and electronica singles that are recorded extremely well (for the most part). I do have a 4,000+ 12" album collection that might be digitized depending on my motivation too.

Some things to note:
7" 45's are almost useless to record for quality sound as they are cut at very low volume levels and scratch way too easy.
24/88.2 music takes up 1.57GB per hour, so have plenty of HD space
Clean records are a must - no reason to spend time removing clicks in your program when you could have eliminated them in the first place
Pro quality sound cards are definitely worth the $ if you do a lot of digitizing, starting at $100 and up....
Don't place your cell phone near your recording equipment as it introduces audible interference into even shielded cables

Paul

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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???


Quote:
24/88.2 music takes up 1.57GB per hour, so have plenty of HD space


Paul,

Oops, I think you are out by an order of magnitude. 24/88.2 material takes up about 15GB per hour uncompressed e.g. WAV, shrinking to as little as 10GB per hour with lossless compression, e.g. FLAC, depending on programme.

Also, the higher the analog noise floor the worse the compression ratio these formats will achieve since noise does not compress. I would expect this to be particularly noticeable when recording off vinyl.

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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???


Quote:

Quote:
24/88.2 music takes up 1.57GB per hour, so have plenty of HD space


Paul,

Oops, I think you are out by an order of magnitude. 24/88.2 material takes up about 15GB per hour uncompressed e.g. WAV, shrinking to as little as 10GB per hour with lossless compression, e.g. FLAC, depending on programme.

Also, the higher the analog noise floor the worse the compression ratio these formats will achieve since noise does not compress. I would expect this to be particularly noticeable when recording off vinyl.

1.57gb is the correct figure for 24/88.2 - it is exactly 3x the resolution as CD Wav audio (CD is 525mb per hour).

The noise floor is low: the meters show about -60db with the Bellari (not a dead quiet unit) - but you can't hear any noise no matter how loud the volume. Sounds as clean as a high quality modern CD.

struts
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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???

Paul,

Double oops, of course you're right. I was mixing up my bits and my bytes . An hour's worth of 24/88.2 samples equates to 15Gb, not 15GB. My apologies!

My comment about the noise floor was related to recording from vinyl. Once the needle is on the record the noise floor increases both due to vinyl noise components like stylus roar or bearing rumble as well as any components coming through from the programme like master tape hiss. My point being that any noise that is essentially Gaussian (white) in nature will not compress, which is why FLAC often provides lower compression ratios at higher resolutions.

I used to have quite a respectable vinyl system (SME 10/Ortofon Rohmann/Nagra PL-P) and although it was pretty quiet the noise floor was certainly audible if I cranked the volume up! Can I presume the impressive noise floor you quote for your recording chain is 'at rest'?

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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???


Quote:
Paul,

Double oops, of course you're right. I was mixing up my bits and my bytes . An hour's worth of 24/88.2 samples equates to 15Gb, not 15GB. My apologies!

My comment about the noise floor was related to recording from vinyl. Once the needle is on the record the noise floor increases both due to vinyl noise components like stylus roar or bearing rumble as well as any components coming through from the programme like master tape hiss. My point being that any noise that is essentially Gaussian (white) in nature will not compress, which is why FLAC often provides lower compression ratios at higher resolutions.

I used to have quite a respectable vinyl system (SME 10/Ortofon Rohmann/Nagra PL-P) and although it was pretty quiet the noise floor was certainly audible if I cranked the volume up! Can I presume the impressive noise floor you quote for your recording chain is 'at rest'?

Yes, it is without vinyl touching the stylus, but everything else powered up (and spinning). Keep in mind this is what Soundforge is reading through its monitoring section, which is running through a good (but not high end) sound card - Delta 1010. Since the Bellari is a tube, it has more noise (than a SS), but gives a much better sound that anything SS at that price point. I'm confident that a Sinaudio SS balanced phono stage into something high end (like a Lynx Aurora) would drop the noise floor at least 15db. That would be a $4,000 investment.....

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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???

Paul,

So I am puzzled as to why you are recording at 24/88.2 when your upstream chain is only giving you ~10 bits of usable resolution. Seems to me you could record at 16/88.2 for a 33% (or greater, with a lossless codec) space saving and not actually lose any dynamic range. Am I missing something?

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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???

You are completely correct, Struts. 16 bits would do it.

For the OP:

If you disconnect the preamp from the sound card and record "silence", what do you get as a noise floor? What do you get with the phono preamp connected?

I get the following:

1) with nothing connected to the soundcard: RMS -98dBFS, peak -85dBFS

2) with Phonomena phono preamp connected: RMS -70dBFS, peak -59dBFS

It appears to me that your -60dB noise floor is about what to expect.

Also, if you increase the gain on your recording of the noise floor, does it sound like white noise or does it hum. If it hums you want to track down the grounding issue that is causing the hum.

Monkey Mouse
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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???


Quote:
Paul,

So I am puzzled as to why you are recording at 24/88.2 when your upstream chain is only giving you ~10 bits of usable resolution. Seems to me you could record at 16/88.2 for a 33% (or greater, with a lossless codec) space saving and not actually lose any dynamic range. Am I missing something?

I record at 24/88.2 due to the fact that it gives you more range (lower noise floor) than 16/88.2 when you normalize or add a lot of track together for a mix. This is a proven fact in the pro audio world. Of course having a -60db noise floor is cutting down on the range a bit, but there is not software on the market to push that back another 20db without harming the audio (on my list of to dos...).

It is actually much better to record at 24/44.1 than 16/88.2 when it comes to sound quality, this has been proven in pro audio as well. I picked 24/88.2 due to the fact that it is right at the point of diminishing returns and HD space is very cheap these days.

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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???


Quote:
You are completely correct, Struts. 16 bits would do it.

For the OP:

If you disconnect the preamp from the sound card and record "silence", what do you get as a noise floor? What do you get with the phono preamp connected?

I get the following:

1) with nothing connected to the soundcard: RMS -98dBFS, peak -85dBFS

2) with Phonomena phono preamp connected: RMS -70dBFS, peak -59dBFS

It appears to me that your -60dB noise floor is about what to expect.

Also, if you increase the gain on your recording of the noise floor, does it sound like white noise or does it hum. If it hums you want to track down the grounding issue that is causing the hum.

I can't disconnect all my wiring from the sound card as it is in a rack running through a patch bay, sure it would lower the noise a bit.

The only gain control in my signal chain is the Bellari - it is set high, but any more would start to distort. Hiss and/or white noise is not audible. I do get a tiny bit of noise out of my monitoring section if it is cranked up (normal in this case).

Elk
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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???


Quote:
The only gain control in my signal chain is the Bellari - it is set high, but any more would start to distort. Hiss and/or white noise is not audible. I do get a tiny bit of noise out of my monitoring section if it is cranked up (normal in this case).


What I am wondering about is the type of noise that you are getting that defines your noise floor to -60dB. If you record this noise and then increase the gain in Soundforge (normalize peak to -.3dBFS or similar) and then listen to it - is it white noise or does it have a distinct frequency component?

My thought if it is white noise, there probably is nothing more you can do about it at the moment. If it has a 60Hz or 120Hz component you may be able to track down the hum through careful grounding.


Quote:
It is actually much better to record at 24/44.1 than 16/88.2 when it comes to sound quality, this has been proven in pro audio as well.


I have not seen this to be the case. Can you provide us with a source for this position?

Even assuming the final product will be 16/44 I have not seen anything like a consensus on this point. However, if one is doing a lot of multi-tracking the extra headroom of 24-bit would be nice.

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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???


Quote:

Quote:
The only gain control in my signal chain is the Bellari - it is set high, but any more would start to distort. Hiss and/or white noise is not audible. I do get a tiny bit of noise out of my monitoring section if it is cranked up (normal in this case).


What I am wondering about is the type of noise that you are getting that defines your noise floor to -60dB. If you record this noise and then increase the gain in Soundforge (normalize peak to -.3dBFS or similar) and then listen to it - is it white noise or does it have a distinct frequency component?

My thought if it is white noise, there probably is nothing more you can do about it at the moment. If it has a 60Hz or 120Hz component you may be able to track down the hum through careful grounding.


Quote:
It is actually much better to record at 24/44.1 than 16/88.2 when it comes to sound quality, this has been proven in pro audio as well.


I have not seen this to be the case. Can you provide us with a source for this position?

Even assuming the final product will be 16/44 I have not seen anything like a consensus on this point. However, if one is doing a lot of multi-tracking the extra headroom of 24-bit would be nice.

I will try out your suggestion when I fire it up to record some vinyl later today. There is no 60hz grounding hum - it would stick out like a sore thumb.

There have certainly been lengthly debates on high end pro audio forums like gearslutz.com that delve into the best bit rates for use of resources. Majority of members use 24/44.1 or 24/88.2 (sometimes 96) when recording in their studios. Of course you need to dither down to 16/44.1 for CDs, but a some folks just send out their 24/96 mix to a mastering house to pull in every last iota of detail. I happen to agree with that philosophy. Anyone who tracks more than 8 simultaneous tracks is going to lean toward 24 bit as it gives a higher level of headroom that is need before digital distortion. Lets not forget that CDs are dead that the next generation of audio reproduction is going to be 24/96 or higher - maybe even DSD.

Keep in mind that pro audio equipment is meant to pull all the detail out of the mix and honesty is the key. When you play the finished result out an audiophile system, you have a lot less honesty as tubes and other components color the music, so things can get masked.

Elk
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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???


Quote:
Majority of members use 24/44.1 or 24/88.2 (sometimes 96) when recording in their studios. Of course you need to dither down to 16/44.1 for CDs, but a some folks just send out their 24/96 mix to a mastering house to pull in every last iota of detail.


No one disputes that 24 bits is great when available for the extra headroom - especially when mixing multiple tracks together.

But what I am interested in is the foundation for your statement:


Quote:
It is actually much better to record at 24/44.1 than 16/88.2 when it comes to sound quality . . .

I can't see how this would be the case after SRC and dithering to 16/44.1 - unless you are not using your available 16 bits when recording 16/88.2.

For example, if you are recording 16 bit and leaving 50dB headroom, thus only using the last 8 bits, it is going to sound pretty bad. But that does not establish that 24/44.1 is a better recording format than 16/88.2 for a Redbook CD. It only establishes that you have to use your chosen format intelligently.

Leaving aside the incompetent recording operator, how is it "much better to record at 24/44.1 than 16/88.2 when it comes to sound quality"?

By the way, don't forget to record some "silence", normalize it to -.3dBFS and listen to and analyze it. You may be surprised at what you find in your noise spectrum. This can be a great reason to go through the grounds on your rack, etc.

KBK
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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???

What kind of space does stereo 24/192 take up?

That's my next digital task: to make unlocked DVD-A's of my Analog LP's, on a customized USB 2 channel recording box..

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Re: Converting vinyl into digital - hardware and software ???

I have been reading your comments on converting vinyl to digital and I was hoping one of you might give me some suggestions.

I have been using a Yamaha turntable into a B&K preamp with phono input and I am very happy when listening to the vinyl play - the sound is beautiful.

I then record the vinyl to my hard drive using an M-Audio 1010 card and I use either Polderbit software or Nero to capture and convert it to digital.  I use 16 bit at 44.1 to sample the vinyl.

Then I burn to a CD using Nero.

My results are very poor.  The music sounds the same but loses the soundstage and stereo - it sounds much flatter.  All the insturments are there, but they are so flat and lifeless compared to the vinyl.

I can do A to B comparsions between the vinyl and the CD and it is very disappointing.  Again, all the instruments are on the CD, but they don't have the beauty and balance and separation of the vinyl.

Any thoughts suggestions ideas ???

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Ripping LPs

mxchuck wrote:
I then record the vinyl to my hard drive using an M-Audio 1010 card and I use either Polderbit software or Nero to capture and convert it to digital.  I use 16 bit at 44.1 to sample the vinyl.

My results are very poor.  The music sounds the same but loses the soundstage and stereo - it sounds much flatter.  All the insturments are there, but they are so flat and lifeless compared to the vinyl.

All I can think of is that your M-Audio card doesn't have a very good A/D converter. Either that or you are under- or over-recording. BTW, for vinyl rips, we recommend Vinyl Studio,which is inexpensive but optimized for high-quality rips: http://www.alpinesoft.co.uk/

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

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While there was a discussion

While there was a discussion various sound cards to use for desktop computer conversions, what options are worth investigating for laptop use.  Its very inconvenient to have a desktop computer in the living room where the stereo system is at, however a good laptop would be far more convenient.  However, this eliminates PCI sound cards.  What is are some good "audiophile" worthy USB sound cards that would work for vinyl conversion to digital?

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