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Topic: recommendation for USB A/D converter for vinly digitizing?? (Read 446 times) previous topic - next topic
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recommendation for USB A/D converter for vinly digitizing??

currently using an old Sound Blaster HD (THX version) via Line In inputs (turntable has built in phono pre-amp). The SB has good noise specs and 24 bit resolution, but no way to raise GAIN. As a result the big majority of my albums are low volume: peaks hit maybe -5dB for 90% of the records, only a very few had peaks greater than -3dB.

So, I'm looking for a USB A?D converter with GAIN adjustment: PLUS GAIN that is. 24 bits, good noise. reasonably priced <$200

Records are old, so they introduce enough noise as is

 

Re: recommendation for USB A/D converter for vinly digitizing??

Reply #1
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As a result the big majority of my albums are low volume: peaks hit maybe -5dB for 90% of the records, only a very few had peaks greater than -3dB.
Perfect!   Low digital levels are not a problem, especially at 24-bits.   You can amplify after digitizing. The main thing is to avoid clipping so the "standard recommendation" is to shoot for -3 to -6dB to allow headroom for unexpected peaks.

And, if soundcard noise is a problem a couple more dB won't make that much difference.   (Like you say, usually record noise is the big problem and sometimes preamp noise is a problem.    Sometimes soundcard noise is a problem but it's lower-down on the list.)

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So, I'm looking for a USB A?D converter with GAIN adjustment: PLUS GAIN that is. 24 bits, good noise. reasonably priced <$200
There are lots of audio interfaces with switchable mic/line inputs.   (Most have a combo XLR/TS/TRS connector so you'll need an appropriate adapter cable.)

A ART USB Phono Plus is another possibility.

Re: recommendation for USB A/D converter for vinly digitizing??

Reply #2
Amplify after digitizing? using Vinyl Studio Pro: Normalization has selections for GAIN maxing at at 0, seems to be purely to reduce level, not raise levels.

Was thinking if I had adjustment pre digitizing I could raise it ~ 2 to 3 dB, which would keep 90% of records still ~3dB down in peaks.

I do need to raise the levels, as I also have CD rips, and playing a CD rip right after playing a vinyl rip results in ear pain! i.e., player volume set high for vinyl rip, then cd rip is VERY LOUD! I've already ripped about 40 albums, and tried out results, but I have about 200 albums to go

Re: recommendation for USB A/D converter for vinly digitizing??

Reply #3
Quote
Amplify after digitizing? using Vinyl Studio Pro: Normalization has selections for GAIN maxing at at 0, seems to be purely to reduce level, not raise levels.
Normalization can go either way.     Normalization is a mathematical/statistical concept and it should bring the peaks to 0dB (1.0 or 100%) but some software allows you to choose a different normalization level.     

But analog-to-digital converters can't go over 0dB so usually you are boosting (or doing nothing).   

The exception is when there is some other processing (such as boosting the bass) pushes the peaks over 0dB.    Then normalizing will bring the level down.  Most audio software uses floating-point internally so it can go over 0dB (without clipping) but many file formats can't go over 0dB and digital-to-analog converters can't go over 0dB so it's "bad practice" to save-export a final-file that goes over 0dB,

Quote
...still ~3dB down in peaks.
Since your recordings are "too quiet" you might as well normalize to 0dB.    Nothing bad happens when you get "close" to 0dB, only if you try to go over 0dB.


Re: recommendation for USB A/D converter for vinly digitizing??

Reply #5
I do need to raise the levels, as I also have CD rips, and playing a CD rip right after playing a vinyl rip results in ear pain! i.e., player volume set high for vinyl rip, then cd rip is VERY LOUD!
This is normal. CDs are usually mastered with higher loudness (more dynamic compression) compared to vinyl.

I agree with DVDdoug, peaks at -5dB are fine. You can normalize to 0 at the end (or rather something like -0.3dB to avoid more intersample peaks), which shouldn't increase the noise for vinyl recordings, since their own noise is already high.

You can test your current sound card's AD performance with RMAA to see how well it performs, ideally with a known clean input. If you want to really stress test it, you can run the test with a graphics card load in the background, which can cause audible interference.

It's possible that a better performing external device won't get you any benefits for noisy vinyl recordings.
Also, keep in mind sub $200 external sound cards don't always perform great and while having gain knobs can be useful, it can also introduce additional problems, like more L/R channel imbalance (something to watch out for with analog pots).

Re: recommendation for USB A/D converter for vinly digitizing??

Reply #6
A friend who was a recording engineer worked for major labels around the country. He said his goal was always to set the expected peaks at -20dB when recording to allow for possible higher peaks not to clip. Of course when recording from an LP the incoming signal levels are always predetermined so that much headroom probably isn’t necessary.

I transferred about 800 albums through my sound card. Some of those were 2, 3, and 4 LPs each. A few boxed sets were as many as 10 LPs. Input signal level is determined by the phono cartridge and the phono preamp. Only one LP ad any peaks that reached within a hair of 0dB. That could be quite different with other cartridges and preamps.

A fair number of classical albums and solo instrument albums, such as acoustic guitar, had maximum levels well below -20dB. I never found that to be a problem for my final product. Normalization is always the last step of my processing, after all declicking, noise reduction, and anything else needed.

 
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