Skip to main content
Topic: Need help recording from vinyl. (Read 706 times) previous topic - next topic
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Need help recording from vinyl.

A handful of vinyl records have fallen in my hands, but I don't have a turntable. I operated one as a kid in the late 80s and early 90s but I haven't had access to one in ages, and I had no idea of any technical information about them back then, since my parents were not into technology but for the most basic operational level. Now I'm aware that the signal out of the turntable needs equalization, which is usually included in the amplificator, and the wow and flutter problems.

My idea would be getting a turntable from some second hand store, record them to my computer and resell the thing. Perhaps I could borrow it from someone willing to let me use it.
I don't have any fancy ADCs or anything, and I think I'm content to use my motherboard's audio line-in. It's a somewhat mid-high end board from many years ago with a and it can do 192/24 (which I plan to use for recording, at least 96k, but will downsample for storing, of course, as I don't have golden/dog ears). It's a VIA VT1828S. I don't suppose that will be a problem for vinyl, will it?
I will probably apply that Celemony Capstan program to whatever I want to keep.

Assuming all that I said so far is OK, or reasonable, at least, the only thing I'd need to know, I think, is whether it is possible, and advisable, to record the raw signal from the turntable, apply Capstan on it (or not), and, then, digitally apply the equalization on the result, or should I always use a physical equalizer/amp between the turntable and the computer instead?
Also, would I need any special connector or converter for this, or would an RCA to 3.5mm stereo jack converter be OK?

Re: Need help recording from vinyl.

Reply #1
Quote
Now I'm aware that the signal out of the turntable needs equalization, which is usually included in the amplificatory
Yes.  It's called a phono preamp.   In the old days the phono preamp was built-into the stereo receiver but phono inputs are a rare feature on modern receivers.   

You can also get USB audio interfaces with a built-in preamp.  The Berhinger UFO202 is popular and inexpensive.   The ART USB Phono Plus has a phono preamp and it has an recording volume control.

There are also turntables with USB ports.    (Of course, those have a built-in preamp so they almost always have line-level analog outputs too.)  For around $300 USD you can get a reasonably-good USB turntable complete with a preamp & cartridge.   You can also find cheaper ones or more expensive ones, but personally I wouldn't "go crazy" and spend a lot more because you're still stuck with the sound of analog vinyl.

Some modern "DJ turntables" have built-in preamps.

Quote
and the wow and flutter problems.
I've never heard wow or flutter from a turntable unless it was defective.

Quote
I will probably apply that Celemony Capstan program to whatever I want to keep.
Do you know what that costs?   (You shouldn't need it anyway.)

Quote
]My idea would be getting a turntable from some second hand store, record them to my computer and resell the thing. Perhaps I could borrow it from someone willing to let me use it.
That can be a good idea, but I'd plan on replacing the cartridge.   (Usually the whole cartridge is about the same price as a replacement stylus).  That's not necessarily an "extra" expense because "traditional" turntables are sold without cartridges anyway.    If you get a belt drive you may have to replace the belt.  (I would recommend against one with an idle-wheel drive.)   Direct drive tends to be very reliable.  I have a direct-drive Technics turntable (not the famous high-end one) and if I were in the market for a turntable (new or used) I'd look for direct drive.


Quote
I don't have any fancy ADCs or anything, and I think I'm content to use my motherboard's audio line-in. It's a somewhat mid-high end board from many years ago with a and it can do 192/24 (which I plan to use for recording, at least 96k, but will downsample for storing, of course, as I don't have golden/dog ears). It's a VIA VT1828S. I don't suppose that will be a problem for vinyl, will it?
Most soundcard's line-inputs are adequate.  If you don't get excessive noise you can pretty-much count-on it being better than human hearing.    And even if there is a little audible, the soundcard noise is usually not as bad as the record & preamp noise.    (Microphone inputs are another story...)    There's no need to record at "high resolution".   CD audio (44.1kHz, 16-bit, stereo) is better than human hearing, and obviously analog vinyl is worse than human hearing.  But there's no harm either.   The only downside is larger files.   (There are exceptions where "pushing" the soundcard & computer at high data-rates makes the sound quality worse.)

Quote
Assuming all that I said so far is OK, or reasonable, at least, the only thing I'd need to know, I think, is whether it is possible, and advisable, to record the raw signal from the turntable, apply Capstan on it (or not), and, then, digitally apply the equalization on the result
I assume you're talking about RIAA equalization?   That's possible but not advisable.   You need a preamp and the preamps built into regular soundcards are usually low-quality, plus the input impedance on a microphone preamp is too low for a phono cartridge.

Quote
Also, would I need any special connector or converter for this, or would an RCA to 3.5mm stereo jack converter be OK?
As long as you have a line-level signal, any adapter/cable is fine.

---------------------------------------------------
Although you shouldn't need Capstan, you'll probably want to "clean-up" the clicks & pops.  And I find a lot of older records to be "dull sounding", so I'll often boost the highs.

This page (possibly outdated to some extent) has several software suggestions for removing clicks & pops, and a ton of other information about digitizing records.     Audacity has a few different tools.   Wave Corrector is a free automatic de-clicker.    I've used Wave Repair ($30 USD) for a long time.   It does an "audibly perfect" job removing most (but not all) clicks & pops.  It's manual so it only "touches" the audio where you identify a defect but it's also VERY time consuming.

Re: Need help recording from vinyl.

Reply #2
Sound cards do their own preamp and shouldn't add the distortion that speaker amps could add, but when you're talking computer components with a lot of potential interference, it's recommended to preamp outside of the computer.

As for turntables with built-in preamp, the Audio Technica LP60 is fully automatic and delivers pretty decent quality for only $99; the caveats for the price is it doesn't have full anti-skate and comes with cheap felt that should be replaced with something less staticky — only small adjustments like that to start ripping.

As for recording sample rate, 192KHz is perfectly fine. You could record at 96KHz and not tell the difference, though, since the frequency response of the original recording equipment, especially the microphones — even today — typically reject anything above 48KHz or even lower; the rest is pretty much noise, and that's not including the noise floor of the record. 192KHz might force better time calibration, so there's nothing wrong with ripping at that rate... unless it actually makes quality worse as DVDdoug mentioned.

Edit: the LP60 does have anti-skate; it just may skip with some modern records. And not all systems handle recording at 192K or higher well.

Re: Need help recording from vinyl.

Reply #3
A handful of vinyl records have fallen in my hands, but I don't have a turntable.
I have one initial comment. Are these vinyl records available on CD? If they are, then buying them in that format will save you a whole world of pain. Going to the trouble of acquiring a turntable, tackling the learning curve of vinyl record transfer, and putting in the effort is just not a sensible use of your time. Be under no illusions, if you go down this path, you'll discover new things about the process as you progress, and end up re-transferring your earlier efforts to take account of this new knowledge.

IMHO the only reasons why you might choose to transfer vinyl records are:
1. The particular recording is unavailable on CD or has been remixed and/or remastered in a manner that damages the music, and you can't find good quality transfers online that other people have already made.
2. You actually enjoy the process. Since you personally haven't started, you can't know if this will apply to you, but chances are it won't.

Re: Need help recording from vinyl.

Reply #4
Quote
have one initial comment. Are these vinyl records available on CD? If they are, then buying them in that format will save you a whole world of pain.
Right!!!   And, in the end you rarely end-up with a recording that sounds as good as a  CD or a good-quality MP3.  

I once spent at-least a full-weekend trying to clean-up a digital copy of a record that was in moderately-bad condition...    Then, I found an out-of-print used CD copy online and I ordered it.    I was so happy to find it that it didn't bother me that I'd wasted all of that time!    And, the CD sounded great!

 And, don't believe any "audiophile nonsense" about how wonderful vinyl sounds.     Some people do prefer the sound of vinyl or just handling the vinyl and that's OK, but digital it's technically superior (more accurate) in every way that counts and most "normal" people realize that.   ;)      You can spend thousands of dollars on a turntable, cartridge, and preamp, and you've still got vinyl surface noise and possibly other vinyl "defects & weaknesses".

Re: Need help recording from vinyl.

Reply #5
Also, would I need any special connector or converter for this, or would an RCA to 3.5mm stereo jack converter be OK?
If you go "line in" from the turntable, you'll need to apply software RIAA equalization then significantly amplify the recorded signal (+40dB).  Having never tried this, I have no idea if it will give satisfactory results.  Alternatively, you can buy a cheap ADC with on-board phono EQ/amp:


You can use this ADC for your cassette project also.

Re: Need help recording from vinyl.

Reply #6
As for quality and better noise floor, yes, whatever's closer to the master in PCM such as compact disc or FLAC. But you'll never know how good a record is unless you record it. ;)

Re: Need help recording from vinyl.

Reply #7
And, don't believe any "audiophile nonsense" about how wonderful vinyl sounds.     Some people do prefer the sound of vinyl or just handling the vinyl and that's OK, but digital it's technically superior (more accurate) in every way that counts
Doug, please don't go all Arny (RIP) on us. What you said makes no sense. If you prefer the sound of vinyl, then it matters not one iota whether it's "technically inferior". Preference is just that.
I'm hardly a Vinylphile, but own a turntable specifically because there are vinyl versions of recordings that sound flat out better than the CD versions...at least to me, aka all that matters. I of course rip them so I don't have to go through ritualistic/detriorating playback.
The OP could probably pick up a used/refurb usb TT for <$150, start ripping.
Loudspeaker manufacturer


Re: Need help recording from vinyl.

Reply #9
I have one initial comment. Are these vinyl records available on CD? If they are, then buying them in that format will save you a whole world of pain.
C'mon now Clive, it's 2019. I'd check if Amazon, Spotify, etc. streaming service has the album. If not, only then might I consider buying a CD. Heck, even used, with shipping, cost of 2-3 CDs is about monthly cost for streaming at or near lossless these days.
Loudspeaker manufacturer

Re: Need help recording from vinyl.

Reply #10
@cliveb @ajp9 @Apesbrain @DVDdoug @ajinfla
Since so many replies have piled up, I'll reply in bulk.

Of course, looking for CD/digital releases was the first thing I considered, but not all of them are available, (some are not even easily verifiable as they are classical and that makes it harder to know what recording you have), and, also, I have no way to know whether the CD master would sound better or worse than the vinyl master until I get the chance to listen to the latter.
To be honest, I probably won't keep much of this, but I'm moderately interested in the process. I haven't touched vinyl in more than two decades.

These vinyls have been inherited, some of them I know I don't want them, some of them I remember from my childhood and others I just don't know what they are and they seem to be rare enough (and potentially crappy, indeed) that there doesn't seem to be any digital transfer available anywhere. I'm not too interested in buying them either, at least until I actually listen to them.

I'm from Spain (thanks for the ebay listing, @ajinfla , but the seller doesn't ship here). Some of the records are international artists, some classical, some, rare local stuff, others also international, but rare-ish... It's a good mix.

Anyway, I don't really want to buy a lot of equipment, as I won't be keeping any of it after I'm done with this anyway.
Because of that, I'd prefer the straight phono-to-linein hook up and digitally apply all the corrections afterwards if at all possible. I've seen that there's a RIAA phono de-emphasis DSP for foobar2000. Isn't that meant precisely for this? Of course, I realize that you'll need straight amplification/gain too. Do you think the soundcard's noise floor will rise above the noise floor or the vynil turntable?

If I'm doing this, I'll try doing it as cheap as possible, and that's probably going to mean cheap second hand or borrowed turntable and trying the straight-to-linein idea (or an included amp in the case of borrowing, I suppose), unless someone tells me it's definitely not going to work or that it may even cause damage.

Bonus question. I read somewhere a long time ago about wet playback: Finely spraying water on the record, after also having washed it, to help with the cracking and popping. At first glance, it kind of sounds like it makes sense, but also that it coud be bad for the equipment. Any opinion on this?

Oh, and, rest asured that I'm no audiophool thinking that rubbing a needle across an ondulating groove on a polymer substrate is going to sound better than digital numbers on a DAC.


Re: Need help recording from vinyl.

Reply #12
A competent sound card will have S/N significantly greater than the surface of vinyl.  Washing records with a very mild detergent solution, thoroughly rinsing, and letting them air-dry before recording is a fine idea; playing them wet is not.  Good luck.

Re: Need help recording from vinyl.

Reply #13
Quote
trying the straight-to-linein idea
I'd strongly advise against that, but...

The microphone input may  work better because it has a preamp.   A line level signal is about 1V and the output from a (magnetic*) phono cartridge is a few millivolts so you need an amplification factor of about 1000 (at mid-frequency).    You can amplify digitally after recording but you've lost resolution and you may get noise, etc.

The microphone input has lower impedance than the a phono input.   That will affect frequency response and it may reduce the signal (before amplification).

The microphone input on a soundcard/laptop also puts-out 5VDC to power an electret microphone.   That probably won't damage the cartridge but it might affect the sound quality.

Audacity's Equalizer effect has an RIAA preset.

...IMO - You're already starting-out with "scratchy old records" and since you are going through all of this work it's probably a bad idea to use a setup that will (potentially) further degrade the sound.   Hopefully, you can make some improvement to the sound (with de-clicking and EQ, etc.).

Quote
Bonus question. I read somewhere a long time ago about wet playback: Finely spraying water on the record, after also having washed it, to help with the cracking and popping. At first glance, it kind of sounds like it makes sense, but also that it coud be bad for the equipment. Any opinion on this?
Clive has some thoughts about this on his LP-toCDR webpage



* A ceramic cartridge (cheap low-quality) will put-out nearly line level into a very-high impedance (1M Ohm or more) and with the high-impedance load it's output will approximate the RIAA equalization curve.    A typical line-input has an impedance of 10K - 100K so you'll get a weaker signal and the frequency response will change (less bass if I remember correctly).

A ceramic cartridge will overload a phono preamp.   It's virtually impossible to find anything that works with a ceramic cartridge unless you have the old stereo system that came with it.    The only new turntables you'll find with ceramic cartridges are USB turntables and those have the electronics built-in so you'll usually get line-outputs along with the USB connection..

Re: Need help recording from vinyl.

Reply #14
It isn't much more of a hassle to buy an inexpensive RIAA preamp, if you decide to go with a turntable that doesn't have one built in. The Behringer PP400 is quite inexpensive and well-regarded. I've used a Real Cable Nano-LP1 (which is even cheaper, I paid less than €20 including shipping) on my secondary turntable for a while, and that also works great.

If you're planning on only doing this once, it will pay off to take some care in the process. And I would advise you to keep the original unprocessed rips as archival copies. You may end up thinking at some point that you went a bit overboard on the processing, in which case it's nice to be able to have untouched copies.

Honestly, if you're not planning on turning this into a hobby, I would just get a decent USB-equipped turntable, do your rips and sell it on again.

Re: Need help recording from vinyl.

Reply #15
I have one initial comment. Are these vinyl records available on CD? If they are, then buying them in that format will save you a whole world of pain.
C'mon now Clive, it's 2019. I'd check if Amazon, Spotify, etc. streaming service has the album. If not, only then might I consider buying a CD. Heck, even used, with shipping, cost of 2-3 CDs is about monthly cost for streaming at or near lossless these days.
Fair point.

Perhaps I should have said try to find them in some kind of digital form elsewhere (including other needle drops that someone else has done) rather than going to the trouble of doing it yourself.

To the OP: if you decide you do want to transfer these records, and it's a once-only task, you need to recover the best possible analogue signal from the records to start with. No amount of digital restoration will make up for a poor initial transfer. Therefore:
1. Clean the records properly, ideally using a vacuum device such as Nitty-Gritty, VPI, Moth. None of these machines are cheap, so look to find somebody with one who will let you use it for a small fee. If you can find a professional Keith Monks machine, that's the best option.
2. Try to use a good turntable with a good pickup cartridge & stylus. Cheap USB turntables really aren't up to the task. Buying the necessary equipment and then selling it on seems over the top to me. If you can find a friend with a good vinyl setup who will let you use it to make the initial recordings, that is probably your best option.

Re: Need help recording from vinyl.

Reply #16
@cliveb Well, you know how it is. I'll try to do the best possible job on the cheap the first go. Right now, I don't plan on keeping anything, but, if it turns out that some of the records are worth for me to give them a second try with better equipment to try to squeeze better quality out of them, I might keep them for a little longer. There's nothing set in stone at this point.
That said, I think it's unlikely that I will find something so good, unique, and at such unacceptable quality that it warrants a second try. We'll see. :)

 
SimplePortal 1.0.0 RC1 © 2008-2019