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Topic: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions! (Read 1574 times) previous topic - next topic
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Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Hey everyone,

So after seeing a bunch of my favorite video game soundtracks being vinyl only, as well as some vinyls having awesome orchestrated arrangements, I am looking to start buying and learning about transferring vinyl and cassette tapes to my PC. Here are my overall goals...

1. Transfer the audio as high quality and accurate to the source material as possible

2. Do so using equipment that is as simple to use as possible

What I am looking for is a fully automatic, high quality sound turntable with a simple plug and record jack (Whether that is USB or a 3.5 mm audio jack, whichever would be higher quality). I do not want to have to fiddle around with buttons, knobs, or other settings in order to get the sound just right or play the record properly (Knowing me, I'll do something wrong and break a record). I just want something where I take it out of the box, put the record on it, connect a 3.5 mm audio / USB plug into my PC, and hit play to start recording. Also, I won't be using the turntable to listen to the records at all, only transfer them.

I am willing to spend around $300-$500 in this endeavor. So would anyone be able to recommend a turntable around that price range that can do all of the above?

Now for cassette tapes, I understand that you should buy a dedicated tape deck in order to get high quality sound. I'd like to only spend around $100, since I doubt I'll be transferring that many tapes.

From my research, I understand there are different types of tapes as well as something called "Dolby Noise Reduction", and that you need to set these properly on a tape deck in order to transfer audio correctly. Are there any other settings I need to worry about and how do I know what to use (Is it true the majority of "Recorded by professional record companies, then sold in stores" tapes are type 1 and use Dolby Noise Reduction B)?

As for transferring and recording the audio, someone mentioned that a blue "Line In" jack is better to use than a microphone jack (They made no mention of a USB jack). Is the "Line In" jack the best to use? How about the frequency and bit depth to record at? I figure 16 bit is the proper setting as I know from reading articles that 24 bit is worthless, but should I be recording at 44100 Khz or 48000 Khz? Do I need special cables to ensure the audio is actually being recorded in stereo, rather than 2 channel mono (I believe the correct cables are called 3.5 mm audio cables)?

As for recording, I think I have that part figured out decently enough, as I've used Audacity before to do basic editing. The only questions I have concern monitoring the recording for clipping. From what I understand, I should avoid going into the "red zone" on the volume...monitoring...thingy, and that going into yellow is generally okay, but the absolute best recording volume wise is one that only goes into the farthest of "green". Is this true and is there any specific volume that is a sweet spot, or any trick to ensure you can just record at 100% volume and not go into the "red zone", or is it all just trial and error? Am I supposed to be controlling the volume from one specific device / Audacity itself, or does it not matter?

I also heard that supposedly, at least for cassette tapes, that if you record through your audio jack at too loud a volume you can damage your computer's circuitry! Is that true? Finally, should I turn on the "Software Playthrough of Input" option under "Recording" in Audacity (Someone in a video said I should, but then the version of Audacity he was using mentioned something about not checking it if recording stereo tracks, which I will be).

Thanks in advance for any and all assistance!

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #1
You might have a look at Sony PS-HX500, it does USB out.

As cassette decks or phono stages have line-out you must use the line-in of your AD converter.
Signals at line level are way to hot for microphone inputs.

You can connect a turntable directly to a AD converter skipping the phono stage.
The output is very low so you need the microphone input (you need 2 of them as your record is stereo).
Using a program, they apply the needed RIAA correction afterwards.

Always record using 24 bits simply because of this you have more headroom.
Allows you to keep say 20 dB headroom.
Audacity stores everything as 32 bit, even better if you do some post processing.
Likewise you might go for 88 or 96 kHz sample rate.
It is overkill but as recording analog is a horrible job, you rather do it once.

When all is done, you might decide to downsample the final product to 16/44.1.

I don't think you can damage your computer by recording to loud.
The only thing I can imagine is if the line-in signal is to hot or you feed it to a mic input,  you might blow your soundcard.

"3.5 mm audio cables"
Most of the time this is a stereo plug.
Depending on your outputs and inputs you might need a 3.5 jack to 2x rca adapter.
TheWellTemperedComputer.com

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #2
I can't help with the vinyl digitisation, but many years ago (and I've just updated it) I wrote a fairly simple guide to digitising cassette tapes.

It's all fairly self-explanatory. If there's one thing to really focus on after the basics are in place, is that you adjust the azimuth. So, ensure the cassette deck you have allows the azimuth to be adjusted: either by a dedicated control knob; or via access to the tape head screw. I cannot emphasize just how important adjusting the azimuth is in eliciting the very best audio from the tape.

Good luck :)

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #3
https://manual.audacityteam.org/man/sample_workflow_for_lp_digitization.html
https://anarchivism.org/w/How_to_Rip_Cassette

As cassette decks or phono stages have line-out you must use the line-in of your AD converter.  Signals at line level are way to hot for microphone inputs.
Correct me if I'm wrong but you should connect RCA output to the BLUE mini-jack input of a soundcard / motherboard, which should be the line in.  See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_card#Color_codes

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  ;~)

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #4
Jaybeee, do you know of any inexpensive decks that allow for azimuth adjustment whilst still having high quality audio output? I really don't want to spend any more than $200, because, as I said, I'm only going to be transferring a few tapes. I understand you can just take the door off, but that makes me a little nervous (Unless it is really intuitive).

Also, here is one of the tapes I want to transfer...

https://vgmdb.net/album/3436

It has the "Reverse DD" logo on it, which means noise reduction was used, but how would I know the right noise reduction? Like I mentioned earlier, I was told in a video that "Dolby Noise Reduction B" and "Tape Type 1" were usually safe bets to use. Is this correct?

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You might have a look at Sony PS-HX500, it does USB out.

Would there be any difference in audio quality between using the blue Line-in and the USB ports?

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #5
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What I am looking for is a fully automatic, high quality sound turntable with a simple plug and record jack
Almost all good turntables are manual.   Some are semi-automatic where they lift the stylus at the end.

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(Whether that is USB or a 3.5 mm audio jack, whichever would be higher quality).
A "traditional" turntable has unamplified RCA connections from the phono cartridge.  There are no internal electronics.  You need a phono preamp to apply the RIAA Playback Equalization and to bring the signal up to line-level. 

Older stereo receivers had a phono preamp built-in.   You can buy a stand-alone preamp or you can buy an USB interface with a built-in preamp such as the Behringer UF0202 or Art USB Phono Plus.

Some newer turntables have a built-in preamp and/or built-in USB interface. 

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I am willing to spend around $300-$500 in this endeavor. So would anyone be able to recommend a turntable around that price range that can do all of the above?
I'd say that's the "sweet spot".   If you go too cheap you'll get "cheap" sound.   And if you spend a lot more you're still listening to analog vinyl (and the record itself becomes the weak link.)   Knowzy.com has lots of reviews & recommendations.

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Now for cassette tapes, I understand that you should buy a dedicated tape deck in order to get high quality sound. I'd like to only spend around $100, since I doubt I'll be transferring that many tapes.
Cassette decks are more rare than turntables.  Try B&H PhotoVideo.   I don't think you'll find Dolby for $100. 

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From my research, I understand there are different types of tapes as well as something called "Dolby Noise Reduction", and that you need to set these properly on a tape deck in order to transfer audio correctly. Are there any other settings I need to worry about and how do I know what to use (Is it true the majority of "Recorded by professional record companies, then sold in stores" tapes are type 1 and use Dolby Noise Reduction B)?

The "type" is the tape-type/formulation.   It's critical to set the correct tape-type when recording to tape.  It's less critical for playback.

Dolby B noise reduction was very popular.    Dolby B sounds a little "bright" if it's not decoded (the high frequencies are compressed & boosted) but it's listenable and you can turn-down the treble or EQ to taste.   (That doesn't properly decode it.)    Some people used to leave Dolby off during playback because they preferred the brighter sound. 

As far as I know, Dolby C wasn't used on commercial releases.   It's more aggressive and it's probably not listenable without decoding.  (Dolby A is strictly for recording studio use.)

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As for transferring and recording the audio, someone mentioned that a blue "Line In" jack is better to use than a microphone jack (They made no mention of a USB jack).
With a USB connection you are bypassing your soundcard.

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How about the frequency and bit depth to record at? I figure 16 bit is the proper setting as I know from reading articles that 24 bit is worthless
The bit depth is first determined/limited by your soundcard/interface.    If you are using Audacity, by default it will up-sample to 32-bit floating-point for temporary/internal processing.   There are advantages to floating point processing.  when you export to your final-format you can choose the bit-depth.

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but should I be recording at 44100 Khz or 48000 Khz?
Either one is OK.  Uncompressed/lossless files will be proportionally larger at 48kHz.

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Do I need special cables to ensure the audio is actually being recorded in stereo, rather than 2 channel mono (I believe the correct cables are called 3.5 mm audio cables)?
A 3.5mm stereo plug is a TRS connector.  It has 3 connections - Tip, Ring, Sleeve - Just like a regular headphone plug.    (A headset may have a 4-conductor TRRS connector with an additional connection for the mic.)

Your turntable will have left & right RCA connectors.   Some USB audio interfaces have RCA connectors and some higher-end audio interfaces have left & right 1/4-inch/XLR (pro microphone) combo connectors.

The cables/adapters will depend on your particular hardware.

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As for recording, I think I have that part figured out decently enough, as I've used Audacity before to do basic editing. The only questions I have concern monitoring the recording for clipping. From what I understand, I should avoid going into the "red zone"
The ADC (analog-to-digital converter) is hard-limited at exactly 0dB and it will clip if you "try" to go over.   Nothing bad happens when you get close to 0dB.   And at 16-bits or better, digital has a wide dynamic range so you can safely record down to around -12dB (25%) or less.

Digital recording levels are not THAT critical as long as you avoid clipping.  You can amplify or normalize after recording/digitizing.

With a USB turntable or an inexpensive USB interface you probably won't have a recording level control.    (to avoid clipping, the analog level has to be controlled before  the signal is digitized.      Usually you'll have enough headroom, but some setups can end-up with clipping. 

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I also heard that supposedly, at least for cassette tapes, that if you record through your audio jack at too loud a volume you can damage your computer's circuitry! Is that true?
That's not true.    You'll only "damage" (clip/distort) the recording.  ;)  You could damage your soundcard by connecting the speaker output from a high-power amplifier, but not with a mic or line output.   

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Finally, should I turn on the "Software Playthrough of Input" option under "Recording" in Audacity
Yes.   That routes the sound to your computer speakers/headphones so you can hear what you're recording. 

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but then the version of Audacity he was using mentioned something about not checking it if recording stereo tracks, which I will be).
Depending on your soundcard/drivers there is sometimes a setting called "Stereo Mix".   That's one way to record the sound going to the computer speakers.  You should NOT be using Stereo Mix.  It's one way of recording streaming audio.   (Stereo Mix and Software Playthrough together will create a feedback loop.)

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Would there be any difference in audio quality between using the blue Line-in and the USB ports?
There could be a difference.    One could be noisier than the other, or they may clip at different (analog) levels. One could be 16-bits and one could be 24-bits, etc.
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Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #6
I've digitized vinyls and tapes, and I'd just make few remarks:
DON'T buy turntables with USB outputs; they usually record at 44100, 16 bit, and if the record is hot, it will clip, as it has fixed gain. Look for turntables with line outputs, which can be variable but you will have to adjust recording level in recording application. Phono out requires RIAA correction, I don't know if USB soundcards allow variable input gain before digitizing.
Second, for tape, buy used, don't buy stuff from 70's and early 80's, buy late 80's to mid 90's decks, Yamaha, AIWA, Denon, Technics, Sony, Pioneer... and watch out to buy one in working condition. Here, in my country, you can buy good tape deck for that money.
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Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #7
Jaybeee, do you know of any inexpensive decks that allow for azimuth adjustment whilst still having high quality audio output? I really don't want to spend any more than $200, because, as I said, I'm only going to be transferring a few tapes. I understand you can just take the door off, but that makes me a little nervous (Unless it is really intuitive).

Also, here is one of the tapes I want to transfer...

https://vgmdb.net/album/3436

It has the "Reverse DD" logo on it, which means noise reduction was used, but how would I know the right noise reduction? Like I mentioned earlier, I was told in a video that "Dolby Noise Reduction B" and "Tape Type 1" were usually safe bets to use. Is this correct?

I take the door off of my cassette deck; it's easy to do. I would say most models are also easy to do. http://www.tapeheads.net/ is worth looking at too.

itisljar makes a good recommendation for looking at late 80s / early 90s used decks. Two heads for definite and three heads is ideal.  Mine's only two and yet yields great audio reproduction with other procedures followed.

I understand your concern about Dolby. I always listen to the tape in the various modes to see which sounds the best. Ideally you use the one that it says to use; for good reason. 99% of my tape rips are from my own recordings (from the radio), so Dolby was of little concern to me.

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #8
It has the "Reverse DD" logo on it, which means noise reduction was used, but how would I know the right noise reduction? Like I mentioned earlier, I was told in a video that "Dolby Noise Reduction B" and "Tape Type 1" were usually safe bets to use. Is this correct?
The "Reverse DD" logo means Dolby noise reduction; it is Type B unless it says otherwise.  Likewise, the tape is Type 1 unless it says otherwise, e.g. "70 ┬Ás" or "high bias".  Practically any cassette deck should be able to play both types.  Ideally, the cassette deck you choose will have an output level control to help manage potential clipping.  If open in your area, you might try a local Goodwill store as they can have great deals and offer 7-day return.  If your PC lacks a line-in, you're going to need a USB audio interface such as the Behringer UCA-202.  As for a turntable, you can't really beat the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB at anywhere near your budget.  It has both USB and line level output.

This equipment plus Audacity with which you are already familiar should be all you need.  Set your "Project Rate (Hz)" to 44100 and keep your recording peaks below -6 dB.  Put your turntable on a solid table or shelf and don't disturb it while recording.  If you're going to be working at the PC while recording, it's a good idea to not put the turntable and PC on the same worktop!  Turn speakers off or play at low volume to avoid airborne feedback while recording.  Of course, these are lesser concerns when recording from cassette.  Good luck!

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #9
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DON'T buy turntables with USB outputs; they usually record at 44100, 16 bit, and if the record is hot, it will clip, as it has fixed gain.
The review for the Audio Technica LP120-USB says it has a LOW output.

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #10
To get very good sound quality from vinyl records I can't stress what a difference a good cartridge does. The ones that come with turntables in many sub $400-500 range sound very good on the outer grooves but when it reaches the inner grooves the sound is so hard to listen to because of inner groove distortion. One cartridge that is not too expensive but makes a huge difference compared to like Grado Black or Gold is the Audio Technica ML440 and is a moving magnet (MM) which does not require an upgrade to the RIAA phono preamp.

I can't stress this enough.

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #11
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Almost all good turntables are manual.   Some are semi-automatic where they lift the stylus at the end.

My main concern with a manual turntable is how you apparently need to do all this adjusting of the tonearm and you need to be extremely careful when placing the stylus on the record, placing it in exactly the right spot, and apparently taking it off right when the record ends, otherwise you scratch it. Granted, I could just be acting paranoid and its much easier than I think. I could always try a record I don't care about as a "test run" to see how to play vinyl correctly and how to record.

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The bit depth is first determined/limited by your soundcard/interface.

Any easy way for me to determine that? My sound card is the integrated audio chip on my motherboard, a Realtek ALC892. I looked through the Realtek HD Audio Manager, and apparently under the "Default Format" tab, the highest it will go is 24 bit / 192000, so if I'm understanding correctly, that would be the highest the audio chip could support, and it would be a waste of time to record in Audacity at 32 bits or am I wrong?

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The cables/adapters will depend on your particular hardware.

After reading this thread I'll probably be using the RCA cables, hooked into a female end RCA to male end 3.5mm cable, then finally going into the Line In jack on my motherboard.

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(to avoid clipping, the analog level has to be controlled before  the signal is digitized.      Usually you'll have enough headroom, but some setups can end-up with clipping.

So altering volume levels in Audacity wouldn't work I'm guessing? Would altering the volume via the Windows Sound Mixer work or would I have to alter it from a volume knob on the turntable itself?


As for a turntable, you can't really beat the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB at anywhere near your budget.  It has both USB and line level output.

This one, yes?

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N3S4X3P?tag=georiot-us-default-20&th=1&ascsubtag=trd-us-1408978876582051800-20

I was actually eyeing that one and a lot of sites I checked mentioned it very favorably. Can I replace the cartridge head on it, with a Audio Technica ML440, as punkrockdude suggested? Is this easy to do for a beginner like me? I just don't want to break delicate equipment.

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This equipment plus Audacity with which you are already familiar should be all you need.  Set your "Project Rate (Hz)" to 44100 and keep your recording peaks below -6 dB.
 

Any particular reason I should avoid 48000? I may just import the audio at 24 bits or even 16 bits, as I know nothing about audio remastering and don't want to risk making the audio sound worse, making 32 bit pointless as from what I understand it is only useful for editing audio beyond basics like Cut and Paste (As I learned from my previous thread, in order to keep the signal truly lossless, without dithering or down sampling, I need to import and export the audio at the same bit rate without dither turned on, unless changing the bit rate of imported audio in Audacity essentially alters the "native" bit rate at will so I can get the best of both worlds).

To get very good sound quality from vinyl records I can't stress what a difference a good cartridge does. The ones that come with turntables in many sub $400-500 range sound very good on the outer grooves but when it reaches the inner grooves the sound is so hard to listen to because of inner groove distortion. One cartridge that is not too expensive but makes a huge difference compared to like Grado Black or Gold is the Audio Technica ML440

You mean this?

https://www.amazon.com/Audio-Technica-ATN440MLA-Replacement-Stylus/dp/B0053WGYYQ?th=1

Do you know anywhere I can get a genuine one, because apparently one of the Amazon reviewers mentions fake ones being sold...

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #12
Can I replace the cartridge head on it, with a Audio Technica ML440, as punkrockdude suggested?
Yes, you can replace the cartridge but why?  The stock AT-VM95E cartridge has been well-reviewed.  The ML440 is great, but now discontinued and cost more than the turntable.  If I were to upgrade the stock cartridge in any way, I'd replace the stock bonded elliptical stylus with the nude elliptical, but you can do that when the original wears out.  If you mess around with cartridges, not only will you need to get into cartridge alignment but then you are tempting issues with output clipping.  The stock cartridge has an output of 4 mV and I wouldn't go any higher.
Any particular reason I should avoid 48000?
It doesn't really matter. If you are planning to burn your files to CD, I'd go with 44100 as that is "CD format".

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #13
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My main concern with a manual turntable is how you apparently need to do all this adjusting of the tonearm and you need to be extremely careful when placing the stylus on the record, placing it in exactly the right spot, and apparently taking it off right when the record ends, otherwise you scratch it.
Most manual turntables have a "cue lever" that gently lowers/raises the tonearm.   You do have to manually move the tonearm to the "right spot" if you want to play a particular track.   (From what I found on the Internet, the LP120 does have this.)

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Any easy way for me to determine that?
Unfortunately, no.  There may be a way to find out, but the drivers automatically make any required conversions.   So for example, you can play a 24/192 file on any-old cheap soundcard.  The same goes for recording.   (Of course up-sampling while recording doesn't actually increase resolution.)   

But, it's not a big problem because "CD quality" (16/44.1) is better than analog vinyl (and better than human hearing).   The analog resolution is limited by noise.     Records can go higher in frequency than CDs but digital frequency response is flatter than vinyl across the audible frequency range.   (A lot of the ultrasonic content on vinyl is noise and distortion anyway.)

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So altering volume levels in Audacity wouldn't work I'm guessing? Would altering the volume via the Windows Sound Mixer work or would I have to alter it from a volume knob on the turntable itself?
If ADC has already clipped there's nothing software can do.    Reducing the volume after the signal is digitized doesn't remove the distortion.  

You may not have that problem...    The LP120 review say it has a low output so clipping wouldn't be a problem with that particular turntable.  You can amplify after recording.*

It does sometimes happen with some setups and there are a LOT of variables (record loudness, cartridge output, preamp gain, ADC sensitivity).    With a USB turntable or USB cassette deck there is usually nothing you can do.   (Cassette levels are a little more "controlled" because the tape can only go so-loud before it saturates.)   If you're using a USB interface with no recording level control you can buy a line-level attenuators or if you are using a headphone output to a line-input there is always a headphone volume control.

The ART USB Phono Plus has a recording level control.   Higher-end Audio Interfaces always have recording level controls.



* At low levels you are loosing resolution.  i.e. You are not "using" all 16-bits or all 24-bits.   But as a practical matter, you are not going to hear any difference with 14 or 15 bits of resolution.   There is still more usable dynamic range than the original analog vinyl.    (The Knowzy review of the LP120 indicates that it wasn't a problem.)


Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #14
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To get very good sound quality from vinyl records I can't stress what a difference a good cartridge does.
I grew-up with vinyl and I was always upgrading, or wanting to upgrade...    But after I got my 1st CD player I realized I'd never get "digital quality" from records.  Now, I only use my turntable to digitize (older) music that is not available digitally.  

Above a certain price point, the main difference is frequency response.   A "better" or more expensive cartridge may not "sound better".   You may prefer the less expensive one.   You can adjust frequency response/balance with EQ and the record itself usually makes a bigger difference.   The frequency response/frequency balance varies a lot on older records.  I don't have any new records but I assume they are more consistent now...

You can get tracking distortion and some cartridges are better than others but you shouldn't get audible distortion with most records.

Shure no longer makes phono cartridges but their best used to sell for around $100 USD.  If I was in the market for a cartridge that would about be my price limit.

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #15
You can get tracking distortion and some cartridges are better than others but you shouldn't get audible distortion with most records.

That is not true in probably 9/10 cases. Every single cheap cartridge (<$50) I have used have audible distortion on the inner grooves. Some are unbearable and sound like you have put the audio through a distortion guitar pedal.

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #16
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But, it's not a big problem because "CD quality" (16/44.1) is better than analog vinyl (and better than human hearing)...The LP120 review say it has a low output so clipping wouldn't be a problem with that particular turntable.  You can amplify after recording.*

Sounds like it would be best to record at 16/44.1 then. I guess I could always listen to the output and if I don't like the volume level, re-record at 32/44.1 and try this "amplify" filtering (If you know of any tutorials that will teach me the right way to do this, I would be appreciative).

Thanks for all the help so far everyone!

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #17
Ok, understand something: when you record with Audacity it defaults to 32-bit floating point.  If you set your project rate to 44100, then the file you record will be 32/44.1.  It's only when you are done recording and post-processing that you "Export" the files from Audacity at your target playback format, be it 24/44.1 or 16/44.1.  These things have nothing to do with "volume level".  After you get some experience recording, you'll understand.

I typically record each side of an LP separately into Audacity and save each side as WAV 32-bit float.  Before saving, I remove any DC offset using Audacity's "Normalize" tool.  I also run its "Measure RMS" tool and adjust if one channel is significantly lower level than the other.  (I sometimes do this also if one side is much different in volume than the other which can happen if one side is much longer than the other.)  Then I stitch Side A and Side B together and save it as an Audacity "Project".  From there, I can cut excess silence and mark track transitions, then save the Project again.  At this point I amplify the entire recording so that peaks hit -1 dB and save again.  A typical LP Project takes about 1GB of disk space.  When everything is ready, I "Export Multiple" as 16-bit FLAC tracks, default compression 5.  I save and keep the original Project should I later need to come back to fix something.

For simplicity's sake, I've left out a few steps which are optional.  Before stitching the sides together, I run them through a noise reduction program to remove most pops/clicks and lower the background hiss.  I also play them through using headphones and manually remove/repair any defects the NR program could not handle.  On average, it takes about 4 hours per LP from the time you drop the needle on the first side until the time you have finished files ready to play.  Everyone does this differently and it will take a lot less time if you skip the optional steps.  All in all, if you can buy the CD it will be a lot easier!

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #18
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...and try this "amplify" filtering (If you know of any tutorials that will teach me the right way to do this, I would be appreciative).
Assuming Audacity - There is an Amplify effect and a Normalize effect.    Easy!!!!  

Normalizing adjusts the volume for peaks at a predetermined level (usually for "maximized" 0dB peaks).   Audacity has already pre-scanned your file and by default the Normalize effect adjusts for peaks of -1dB.   The Amplify effect can also be used for normalization as it will default to whatever change is needed for 0dB peaks.  (With either effect, you can change the target-peak level.)

As Apesbrain mentioned, the Normalize effect has a couple of other options such as DC offset removal (which won't be needed unless you have a DC offset problem).   And, it can normalize the left & right channels independently  (which generally you shouldn't do because sometimes the left & right peaks are not supposed to match and it can throw-off the left-right balance.)

It's usually best to normalize the album as a whole.    Usually some tracks are supposed to be louder than others, plus the peaks don't correlate well with perceived loudness so if you normalize ("maximize") the songs separately you can throw-off the relative loudness between tracks.

If your channel balance sounds off, the latest version of Audacity has a Loudness Normalization that can be used to match the loudness of the left & right channels.     That effect doesn't check the peak levels so you'll need to run regular normalization after that to avoid potential clipping.

...Audacity also has a helpful forum and the user manual has some tutorials.

From what you've said you'll mostly be digitizing new records so clicks & pops may not be a problem.    That's usually the biggest issue with vinyl.   Audacity has a Click Remover effect and a couple of other tools.    And there are some specialized "vinyl clean-up" applications.

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #19
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Before stitching the sides together, I run them through a noise reduction program to remove most pops/clicks and lower the background hiss.

Would these programs be ClickRepair and DeNoise?

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #20
Would these programs be ClickRepair and DeNoise?
Those are good options; they require Java.  VinylStudio and Golden Records are alternatives.  There are many more.

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #21
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Would these programs be ClickRepair and DeNoise?

In addition to the Click Removal effect, Audacity has a Repair effect (where you have to zoom-in and manually select the defect) and there is a Drawing tool where you can zoom-in and re-draw the waveform (usually a last resort).  

Audacity's Noise Reduction effect may be helpful with any constant low-level hum & hiss, including tape hiss.  But if the noise is bad "the cure can be worse than the disease" so it's something you just have to try.  (Regular Noise Reduction won't help with "snap", "crackle", and "pop" from a record.)

...The cure can be worse than the disease with any of these tools.

Wave Corrector is FREE.

I also have Wave Repair ($30 USD).   You have to manually select the defects so it's usually VERY time consuming.    (With new records it wouldn't be too bad, if you need it at all).     The good thing is it only "touches" the audio where you identify a defect.    It has several repair methods  options and it does an audibly perfect job on most (but not all) clicks  & pops.  It often works best on the worst clicks, maybe because they are easier to find in the waveform/spectrogram.   (Wave Repair ONLY works on 16-bit 44.1 or 48kHz WAV files.)

This page (written be the developer of Wave Repair) lists more software options and has a TON of information related to digitizing vinyl.  (Some of the information on that page my be outdated.)

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #22
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...Audacity also has a helpful forum

Sadly, when I registered a while ago, I never received my email to activate my account no matter how hard I tried  :( .

Alright, so I believe I finally have the workflow for this down!

1. Connect turntable via RCA cables to Line In jack on PC
2. Record at 32/44.1
3. Export both sides at 32 bit and save both audio files as a "Master Copy", in case I ever want to return when I'm more confident / experienced in my remastering abilities
4. Perform DC correction with Audacity
5. Export to 32 bit
6. Use ClickRemoval with Audacity's recommended settings
7. Use Audacity's Noise Reduction with recommended settings
8. Amplify audio so the loudest parts hit -1 dB
9. Cut up the audio into multiple tracks
10. Output to my preferred audio format

Just a couple more questions...

1. According to Knowzy, the LP120 has very low volume output, so should I amplify the volume before I use ClickRemoval and Noise Reduction?

2. Also according to Knowzy, they say integrated audio chips can cause increased noise in the audio, plus I was always considering buying a sound card anyway. My motherboard has PCIe 3.0 and 2.0 slots in it, and I'm perfectly comfortable with installing new components. Apparently the Asus Xonar D2X is a great card, but it is now discontinued. Would anyone be able to recommend a high quality card for around $250 that works well with Windows 7?

3. Just so I'm clear, Amplify just makes the volume on the recording louder, without altering the loudness of the peaks in correlation with each other right? I was always told before that using Normalize on audio was a mortal sin, because it tries to keep the peaks completely uniform in loudness, which would obviously throw off the way certain parts of the song were intended to be louder than others.

4. Is there really any tangible difference between backing up the "Master Copy" audio as an Audacity project, rather than an audio file? Both seem to essentially do the same task.

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #23
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Alright, so I believe I finally have the workflow for this down!
I don't see anything wrong there, but listen carefully after the Click Removal and Noise Reduction results because you can get artifacts/side effects.

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8. Amplify audio so the loudest parts hit -1 dB
Personally I normalize to 0dB, but some people worry about "inter-sample overs" (where the analog waveform goes over 0dB).  Or, if you make MP3s you may want to leave some headroom because as I think I mentioned MP3 compression can change the peak levels slightly.    I don't worry about either of those but if you are "paranoid" just go with -1dB.    (It's only a slight difference in loudness.)

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1. According to Knowzy, the LP120 has very low volume output, so should I amplify the volume before I use ClickRemoval and Noise Reduction?
Yes.  But you may want to amplify/normalize again as the last step.   If you have an extremely loud click and that's the "loudest thing" your normalization will be based on the amplitude of that click.  (I don't think I've ever seen that.)   Other effects/processing such as EQ will also change the levels so I usually normalize (again) as the last step.

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2. Also according to Knowzy, they say integrated audio chips can cause increased noise in the audio
You'll have to decide if noise is a problem.   The line-inputs can be perfectly acceptable.  Usually, noise from the record is a bigger issue, plus you can get AC hum picked-up through cartridge an/or through the preamp, as well as preamp hiss.   There is always some noise and the soundcard usually isn't the weak link.    

And again, if you are using the LP120's USB port your soundcard isn't involved.

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Would anyone be able to recommend a high quality card for around $250 that works well with Windows 7?
Good USB audio interfaces with line inputs start around $100 (or you can find them for a little less).  Check the link above.    The Art USB phono plus is less than $100.  

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3. Just so I'm clear, Amplify just makes the volume on the recording louder, without altering the loudness of the peaks in correlation with each other right?
Right!    It's exactly like turning-up (or down) the volume control. 

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I was always told before that using Normalize on audio was a mortal sin, because it tries to keep the peaks completely uniform in loudness, which would obviously throw off the way certain parts of the song were intended to be louder than others.
No!  Normalization is simply a linear volume/gain adjustment with a target peak level.

"Typically" amplification (or attenuation) is by a certain amount.   i.e.  +6dB of amplification is double the amplitude (4 times the power/wattage).   But, Audacity's Amplify effect has an additional feature of allowing you to set to a desired peak level.   i.e You can use the Amplify effect to normalize.

Some people (and some applications) misuse the term "normalization".   It's a concept derived from math or statistics where the data is adjusted to fit 0 to 1.0 (or 0 to 100%.).   "Loudness normalization" or "RMS normalization" don't follow that 0-100% model but they are also straightforward-linear gain/amplification adjustments.

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4. Is there really any tangible difference between backing up the "Master Copy" audio as an Audacity project, rather than an audio file? Both seem to essentially do the same task.
An Audacity "project" has some additional information and it can contain multiple tracks for mixing, etc.    The audio in a project is split into many small files and there's small "main file" that keeps it all organized.     It's NOT a good master or archive format because if you move files around everything can get trashed and it's just more fragile with all of those little files.   Plus, you can only open it in Audacity.     I always recommend exporting to WAV immediately after recording whether you make project or not.    (The things I do are similar to what you'll be doing and I rarely make projects.)

Re: Looking to Learn how to digitize Vinyls and Cassette Tapes...LOTS of questions!

Reply #24
1. Connect turntable via RCA cables to Line In jack on PC
2. Record at 32/44.1

No, you need a preamp stage between the turntable and the soundcard.  A variety of options are available, and they do make some difference to the quality you will obtain.  A cheap second hand amplifier is one decent possibility, but takes up some space.

On another note the cartridge certainly makes a material difference with various models giving different responses through the frequency spectrum (some more bassy, brighter emphasising mid/highs, and some more balanced).  Much depends on the type of music you will be ripping and your personal preferences, so I would strongly suggest trying to see if you can test drive different options yourself in a friendly store.

I have relatively recently revised my opinion on the importance of the cartridge and would suggest you spend your money there and on the turntable (+preamp), and save your money on the soundcard.  But FWIW I did use the PCI version of the Asus card you mentioned until 4/5 years ago and it is an excellent option with great converters and no noise whatsoever.  You could probably pick one up secondhand on ebay, but the Asus DX card is also a great option I have in lounge system that is much cheaper but still fairly high quality.

Have fun!


 
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