Vinyl to digital technology

This topic contains 12 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  nosignalallnoise 1 month ago.

Viewing 13 posts - 1 through 13 (of 13 total)
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  • #42443

    Chris_Taylor
    Participant

    Hey Tech Geeks…

    I’ve been looking into purchasing one of those record players that take vinyl and digitizes the audio. Looking for recommendations, what to look out for and how best to approach this kind of technology.

    Any feedback would be great.

    #42444

    nosignalallnoise
    Participant

    You probably have everything you need already. If your stereo receiver has a magnetic phono (RIAA, usually) input and a line output (tape monitor), you’re set. The stereo functions as the preamp. Connect the line-out of your stereo to the computer sound card’s line-in (lime green jack IIRC) and go to town. Download Audacity if you don’t have it already (https://audacityteam.org/), install it and use it to capture the audio from the line-in port.

    You’ll want a different amp for doing 78s since most if not all were pre-RIAA and will sound just sort-of OK on a modern wired-for-RIAA stereo amp. For maybe 99% of LPs, 45s and maybe a Seeburg disk here and again, it’s sufficient.

    Most of the so-called “vinyl digitizer” turntables on the market are Chinese BPC garbage to be avoided, but it’s your call/they’re your records. Shango even did a review of one that could write directly to a USB disk (had its own MP3 codec) and while a very good idea in concept, fell flat on its ass fidelity-wise. I think it may have been an Audio Technica.

    #42447

    Andy Brown
    Participant

    What he wrote. ⬆︎

    Audacity works great. You may have to download a few plugins to get the export format options you want, but the installation instructions spell that out clearly and provide the links.

    Assuming you have a PC with a sound card, no other option is simpler and less expensive (free is a very good price).

    I use Audacity to record my 3 hour radio show and then use it again to prep it and export it. FYI Audacity project files (.au) are 32 bit float PCM. 32 bit float is a format for audio editing wherein it uses the 8 extra bits for effects and editing instructions. Once your file is edited (or not), you have to export it to use it as in the native .au format, regular audio players will not recognize it. I export my three hour radio show in 16 bit .aif so that it comes in under the 2 GB limit of a free dropbox or wetransfer account. 16 bit .wav or 16 bit.aif (CD format) come in at about 1.9 GB. before zipping. A 24 bit .wav comes in at about 2.7 GB and in the native 32 bit float the .au file is even bigger.

    The quality of the D/A A/D (your sound card . . . since I use Macs I can go directly in with analog or digital audio) does matter. I use an inexpensive D/A A/D called iMic but that’s to get my music mix into my analog mixer to mix with voice and then the mixer plugs right into my MacBook Pro to record. My iMac feeds the music mix to a USB out to the iMic. I could send the mix back to the iMac (the iMic has ins and outs) and eliminate the laptop as the recorder, but that would tie up core audio on the iMac which I prefer to use to keep iTunes open to preview my music and have access to all my metadata which the player, another freebie named Mixx, doesn’t display them all. So I use my main monitors to hear the analog mixer output and the internal speakers on the iMac become the preview (cue) channel. But I digress. Audacity runs without fail, so far. It is not quite as user friendly as some other audio/video editing programs I’ve used in the past, but it gets the job done and there’s a small learning curve. There’s plenty of filters that come with the installation along with links to additional filters and plugins. I use mostly the “fix clip” (I really need a compressor on my mic channel, it would save me a lot of post prod. time), normalize, and reverse when I have to edit out a ‘bullshit’ or ‘shit’ that have become ubiquitous in music coming out these days. I don’t need much of the rest of it (yet). When I get back to doing video editing, I’m going to need to pop for the real deal (Final Cut Pro X) since I’ve yet to find anything for less that does as much and my old FCP suite won’t run anymore due to OS upgrades. Again I digress.

    So basically what the message is you don’t have to spend a dime. Audacity is free. Your old turntable is probably better than any USB turntable except the real high end stuff, so Audacity with your windows with sound card pc and an RCA stereo to mini stereo adapter to get into the sound card you’re good to go.

    #42448

    Chris_Taylor
    Participant

    At this time I don’t have a turntable and haven’t used one in many years. But I will look into it.

    I love Audacity and have used it to convert some files from ProTools.

    Thanks for the info.

    #42449

    semoochie
    Participant

    I was watching You Tube and they had this thing that looked like a brick. You set it on top of a stationary record, flip a switch and the brick goes around the record and plays it!

    #42451

    lastday
    Participant

    If high audio quality is important to you, your selection of a turntable and cartridge is the most important part of this. A lousy turntable-cartridge combo cannot put out high quality audio and the rest of the audio chain will not fix deficiencies at the source.The Audio-Technica AT-LP120USB is about the baseline for a decent turntable & cartridge combo. It has both analog phono and USB outputs. The TT’s A to D converter for the USB output is very basic: 16 bit 44.1KHz sampling rate, same as CD.

    Visit vinylengine.com for other perspectives but be prepared for a lot of opinionated posturing.

    I strongly advise staying away from the really cheap turntables sold under brand names like Crosley. They’re garbage. Crosley does make some decent gear at the higher end of their lineup but their bread and butter turntables are really not good at all.

    EDIT: A couple things I forgot to mention about the AT-LP120USB.

    It has a built-in RIAA phono preamp, which means you can connect the TT directly to any Line Input, such as on a computer sound card. The preamp can be bypassed via a switch if you prefer to use your own phono preamp.

    The TT has adjustments for anti-skating and vertical tracking force. The stock cartridge that comes with it can be upgraded. The cartridge head shell is easily removable. All this stuff is essential if you want to extract the best performance out of your vinyl. And the door is open to upgrades.

    Being a direct-drive design with pitch adjustment, the platter speed is dead-on correct. If you go with a belt drive design, the speed is very unlikely to be dead-on. If that matters to you, DD is the way to go.

    #42454

    nosignalallnoise
    Participant

    Audacity works great. You may have to download a few plugins to get the export format options you want, but the installation instructions spell that out clearly and provide the links.

    You need FFMPEG for some import options, you also need FLAC, Twolame and LAME binaries if you intend to use FLAC/MP2/MP3 (remember, 320 Mb/s CBR 44100 or 48000 stereo!) export unless they’re built in now.

    since I use Macs I can go directly in with analog or digital audio

    SPDIF-in has been standard equipment on most sound cards worth spending money on for the last ~20 years or so, doesn’t matter if it’s MAC. I think it was specified under AC97. Various ways of handling digital-in/out had existed on very high-end sound boards before that but AC97 was what standardised (i.e. drove the price down) the tech.

    At this time I don’t have a turntable and haven’t used one in many years. But I will look into it.

    Get a Technics SL1200 (IIRC) and a decent 1/4″-mount magnetic cartridge and you’ll be set for life (plus you can do 78s by switching out the cartridge, you can also do Edison 80s by wiring an LP cart out of phase and adjusting the pitch control up somewhat). If you get an 0.5 mil needle (or just use your standard 0.7-mil needle and set the tracking force a hair lighter) you can take Seeburg audio in albeit at 33 (you can pitch it down the rest of the way in software). All the stuff about a “special” narrow needle being needed to play Seeburg disks was really marketing toss from an era when a lot of mainstream phonographs, especially the 4-speed BSRs and VMs built into combo and console stereos of the time, had super-heavy ceramic pickups that needed a fuck-ton of tracking force just to generate any signal. In reality they’re not much different of the standard microgroove mono LPs of the era except they run at 16.6 RPM rather than 33.3. Most decent stereo turntables having lightweight tonearms with magnetic stereo or mono LP cartridges can track them perfectly fine with no more damage than any other record. But I digress.

    The Audio Technica record players are OK for general listening (forget about having a variety of cartridges unless you manage to find one with P-mount, since the ones I’ve seen are all integrated into the tone arm) but you can never go wrong with the Technics. There’s a reason why the SL1200 series has been in production for so many years. Basically AFAIAC, if you can find it at Freddy’s or Target, it has no business being in the stereo rack.

    I strongly advise staying away from the really cheap turntables sold under brand names like Crosley. They’re garbage. Crosley does make some decent gear at the higher end of their lineup but their bread and butter turntables are really not good at all.

    Yes. Shango, radiotvphononut and countless others have skewered Crosleys and their ilk over the years. I think Aussie50 even once did an autopsy on one he found in the scrapyard (yes, apparently they made their way to the Land Down Under. Crosley: Destroying the World’s Record Collection One Country at a Time.™) To their credit the Chinesium BPC “Lucky Tone” transports with CEC Chuo Denshi ceramic cartridges they use *are* reasonably competent 78 players in an emergency, when they do work, though I wouldn’t dare plop an LP or an Edison 80 on one or you won’t have much of a record left after a couple plays.

    #42457

    radiogeek
    Participant

    Wow. A lot of high end stuff, and fancy codecs.

    I have taken music from an old turntable that was decent enough in it’s day and put it into digital format. I’m not picky so I’ve used .wav or .mp3 … seems just fine.

    Often I’ll just run it into my Roland digital recorder so I don’t have to use the computer. Six to a half dozen.

    One input to the conversation. Once I tried to do this on a laptop (a decent machine). I found that running on battery signal to noise was great, but when I plugged in the power supply I got noise. Apparently, laptop sound cards aren’t well shielded from the power supplies. Just get a decent turntable, decent condition cartridge, get the arm working right, and away you go. Same process to get digital from old cassette decks.

    What’s annoying is having to go in later and establish the tracks. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of pushing record, dropping the needle, then REMEMBERING TO COME BACK and stop the recording before you capture an hour’s of click, click, ….

    At least that’s what someone told me happened to them …

    #42458

    lastday
    Participant

    The Audio Technica record players are OK for general listening (forget about having a variety of cartridges unless you manage to find one with P-mount, since the ones I’ve seen are all integrated into the tone arm) but you can never go wrong with the Technics.

    Audio-Technica makes turntables at many price points and levels of quality. The AT-LP120-USB uses a standard detachable headshell so changing cartridges is a snap (well, it’s no more difficult than any other TT). The TT has all the basic adjustments a decent turntable needs. KRVM ran on two of them for over 5 years.

    Audio-Technica’s complete lineup of turntables:

    https://www.audio-technica.com/cgi-bin/product_search/turntables/turntables.pl?lang=eng

    Used Technics SL-1200 TTs in good condition are fetching high prices now because it was the gold standard in DJ-style direct-drive turntables, and it was discontinued in 2010. They resumed production around 2017 and roughly tripled the price. Think $2,000.

    P-Mount cartridges are all but dead. The selection of new ones is quite limited.

    Great online resource for browsing all things vinyl:

    https://www.needledoctor.com

    Many of the big names in turntables from the past have resumed selling TTs because vinyl is hot. Pioneer is an example. The interesting thing about many of these new models is they’re all made by the same manufacturer: Hanpin.

    http://www.hanpin.com.tw/4_Products_02.html

    Audio-Technica and Pioneer are made by Hanpin. Their top-of-the-line models like the Pioneer PLX-1000 are referred to as “Super OEM” turntables because they’re branded with familiar names but manufactured under contract by companies like Hanpin. The Pioneer PLX-500 is derived from the same basic Hanpin design as the Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB.

    And on the subject of cartridges, Audio-Technica’s are generally very highly regarded. Even the cheap ones are pretty good.

    #42467

    Randy_in_Eugene
    Participant

    Fred’s Sound of Music runs a solid shop, and has some vintage turntables at affordable prices, as well as some decent new. (Was just in there day before yesterday.) Knowing you’re a musician, I’m inclined to agree with those who recommend a turntable with pitch control for dead-on speed.

    #42468

    Alfredo_T
    Participant

    In the late 1990s, I picked up a Technics SL-1800 at a hamfest for $35. I just had to clean one of the speed control pots, and I later bought a new stylus. At the time, I knew that I was getting a good deal, but I did not appreciate that one day, hipsters would discover records and that my Technics would become a screaming deal.

    The Technics SL-1800 is a variable pitch turntable. It has a strobelight that is timed to the AC line frequency (the platter has dots for both 50 Hz and 60 Hz). Unlike some other Technics models, there is no quartz oscillator to set the speed. If the user wants zero pitch shift, he or she has to watch the correct set of dots and adjust the speed knob until they are stationary.

    I am a fan of Technics turntables. They are well built and will provide many years of service.

    #42486

    Alfredo_T
    Participant

    I found that running on battery signal to noise was great, but when I plugged in the power supply I got noise. Apparently, laptop sound cards aren’t well shielded from the power supplies.

    Assuming that your laptop used a three prong AC power supply, you may have been experiencing a ground loop issue. Running the computer off its battery broke the ground loop.

    That brings to mind another issue: the 3.5 mm jacks that consumer grade soundcards often use for analog input don’t make for the highest quality connections. Nevertheless, that’s what I’ve always used. One just has to be careful. For example, don’t allow fingerprints to collect on the plugs because that will degrade the quality of the ground connection and introduce hum.

    #42487

    nosignalallnoise
    Participant

    ^– What he said.

    I usually fit my PCs with a kludged-together RCA line-in built from panel-mount sockets (used to get these at Rat $hack), a modular cable that you’d use to connect the CD drive’s line-out to the sound card and an expansion slot cover. This enables you to bypass the flimsy 1/8 TRS jacks that sound card manufacturers use as an excuse for a line-in port. Since I use digital audio extraction for CDs (uses the CD drive’s IDE or SATA interface) I haven’t had need for going line-out from the drive so this frees up at least two internal line-in ports on the sound board for other uses.

    1. Drill the holes for the sockets in the slot cover plate then mount them up
    2. Lop ONE of the modular plugs off the cable then solder the appropriate wires to the left and right sockets and ground tabs
    3. Mount the cover with the attached sockets into an unused expansion slot in the back of the PC and connect the other end of the cable to the sound board’s auxilliary or CD line-in and reassemble the computer
    4. Connect your stereo component and start recording

    One of my PCs used to have TRS line-in and microphone jacks in the front panel. That was removed and replaced with RCA sockets in a similar manner so I don’t have to pull the PC out of the rack any time I need to connect an audio device (e.g. a tape deck, or a scanner discriminator output for 900 MHz pagi–erm, packet teletype monitoring. Yeah, that’s it.).

    Ground loop issue; try choking the cord going into the laptop.

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