who says mini-jacks suck?
January 21, 2004 4:23 PM   Subscribe

How to convert LPs to CDs. Many audiophiles will mock the software they suggest using as well as the hardware pictured, but this is aimed for the everyday people that don't have a laser turntable or ProTools. All in all, a decent introductory guide.
posted by starscream (28 comments total)
Just a suggestion. Though he heartily recommends not using the microphone input, you may actually have more success using this input as opposed to the line-in.

Many older turntables output at a level somewhere between line and mic level ( the phono level you'll see on old stereo amps) . So you will have a really low level at line in.

Then again you could blow your mic-in preamp if what's coming off your turntable is too hot.

Caveat Emptor.
posted by bitdamaged at 4:46 PM on January 21, 2004

Excellent timing, starscream. I am working on a project to convert a collection of vinyl to digital. The New York Times recently had an article on this subject, and I have it in email. Let me know if you want a copy.
posted by theora55 at 4:47 PM on January 21, 2004

Thanks for the link, starscream. I keep a spare turntable next to my PC just for this purpose. Unfortunately, the turntable just gave up the ghost, ah well.

I use Cool Edit to record the WAV, but I split the tracks by hand, and I've never tried pop reduction software. Would it be inappropriate to ask for free versions of the utilities mentioned in this article?
posted by cobra libre at 4:57 PM on January 21, 2004

Theora55, I'd love to read that article! Possibly others here would as well; maybe it deserves a post or linking?
posted by starscream at 5:17 PM on January 21, 2004

NYT articles cost $ when they go to archive; not sure how long that takes, but this article is already archived. My email address is in my profile. It's a semi-public address and gets lots of spam, so a reference to MeFi in the subject line is useful.
posted by theora55 at 5:23 PM on January 21, 2004

I'm on a Mac and I use Audacity which is open-source, free ware, and a very nice platform over-all.

For an audio interface, I am using a borrowed Motu 828, but that's clearly overkill. If you are serious about digitizing your vinyl, I would highly recommend a USB 2.0 audio interface instead of using your line in or mic, unless you have an upgraded sound-card.
posted by gen at 5:33 PM on January 21, 2004

p.s. Audacity (linked above) works on Mac/Windows AND Linux.
posted by gen at 5:34 PM on January 21, 2004

Many older turntables output at a level somewhere between line and mic level ( the phono level you'll see on old stereo amps) .

IIRC it's pretty much every turntable, as all they do is pass the outputs of the cartridge (the thing that holds the needle) straight out. There are some turntables that include a phono pre-amp, but they're in the minority (and they're usually fairly nasty).
posted by inpHilltr8r at 5:50 PM on January 21, 2004

RipEditBurn, Ha!

I mock your software!

That's not nearly expensive enough!
posted by milovoo at 6:32 PM on January 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

The whole phono level thing is a bit more complicated.

First, there are three general classes of phono cartridge design, spanning a wide range of signal levels. From lowest level to hottest level, they are moving coil, moving magnet, and ceramic.

Second, LPs and other vinyl were recorded with specific equalization curves (e.g. the "RIAA curve"), de-emphasizing bass and pre-emphasizing treble, to compensate for the limitations of vinyl (thus keeping the needle from jumping out of the groove too easily during heavy bass passages, and reducing hiss in the treble area). Phono preamps, like the kind in your typical stereo amplifier or receiver, apply a complementary curve to the incoming phono signal to restore normal equalization to the program.

I took a quick look at the site and, while they discuss the ability to apply EQ in general, they don't seem to specifically address the pre-emphasis/de-emphasis issue.

Another issue is impedance matching between phono and whatever you run the phono into. Helps signal-vs.-noise and EQ balance. Also, keeping hum out of the source signal as the (most common) moving-magnet cartridge has low enough output to be succeptible.

Bottom line: Even if you're not an audiophile (I'm not), you'll get much better results if you run your turntable into the appropriate (MC, MM, or ceramic) "phono" input of your stereo pre-amp, amp, or receiver, then take a line out (like the one you'd run to your cassette deck) to your sound card.

Just my $0.02.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:44 PM on January 21, 2004

I just want me one o' them Laser Turntables.
posted by shecky57 at 7:59 PM on January 21, 2004

I want a slot in LP player in my car.
posted by ODiV at 8:19 PM on January 21, 2004

Bottom line: Even if you're not an audiophile (I'm not), you'll get much better results if you run your turntable into the appropriate (MC, MM, or ceramic) "phono" input of your stereo pre-amp, amp, or receiver, then take a line out (like the one you'd run to your cassette deck) to your sound card.

Amen! :)
posted by starscream at 9:03 PM on January 21, 2004

My friend Craig has built a robot for converting tapes to CDs in a highly automated fashion. If you want someone else to take care of it for you, have a look at Cassettes2CDs.com. Sadly he isn't doing LP's yet, though maybe the laser LP player will change his mind. (Full disclosure: he is a close personal friend, but I have no financial stake in the operation.)
posted by ccoryell at 9:58 PM on January 21, 2004

I've just started this process using the method ZenMaster describes in his bottom line, and it's worked pretty well. I've used pretty cheap software too for the record/edit/audio cleanup tasks (Cakewalk's Pyro 2004) and it's worked OK. I'm not real happy with its wave editing features, but the sound cleanup seems to work pretty well.

The overall procedure is a pretty big time drain though, between the recording, editing, and entering all the MP3 tags.
posted by pitchblende at 10:16 PM on January 21, 2004

it's quite uncanny, the topic - but i just opened this up this evening and i have to say it's something of a miracle. SPDIF out to SPDIF in on my soundcard - bringing audio in digitally from LPs in one single clear beautiful step. i can't say what the overall experience will be with it, but right out of the box it's quite impressive.
posted by nyoki at 11:58 PM on January 21, 2004

If you have a Mac running OS X 10.2 Jaguar ("Not currently compatible with Mac OS 10.3," YMMV), then Griffin Technology has a free piece of recording software called Final Vinyl that works with their $40 iMic USB audio adapter, that "has several advanced features including equalization and built-in RIAA curves" along with input gain control. I have not personally used it (though I have used the iMic, which works flawlessly), but it's worth a shot for those who don't have access to any other form of RIAA de-EQ.
posted by esoterica at 1:40 AM on January 22, 2004

if you wanna get slightly serious about converting your LPs, it'd be worthwhile to pick up a phono preamp if your turntable doesn't have one, or has one that is crappy. you can pick up a pretty good one for under $30-40 if you look around on ebay.
posted by mcsweetie at 6:44 AM on January 22, 2004

Very helpful, thanks.
posted by lucien at 9:27 AM on January 22, 2004

For those of you not afraid of some power but have a light pocketbook, there's always ProTools Free. You can adjust all your levels and it comes with many of the mastering effects that one might use to reduce pops and noise. Also, when you're done recording in your vinyl, you can use it to make very interesting remixes or record your garage band's demo.
posted by password at 9:32 AM on January 22, 2004

theora55, starscream: Here's a working link to that NYT article: From Vinyl to Digital, Hold the Crackle. :)

(Slightly OT, but FYI, you can use the New York Times Link Generator to create eternally accessible links to NYT stories. I do this every time I link to a NYT piece [for instance, the vinyl to .mp3 story]. Comes in very handy after a few weeks and the normal link goes into their archives.)
posted by djwudi at 11:13 AM on January 22, 2004

I 2nd the suggestion to pick up a phono preamp, if you are serious about vinyl. NAD makes a nice affordable one... (along with quite a few other companies) you would be quite surprised at how better it sounds than whatever is built in to your reciever...
posted by LoopSouth at 12:12 PM on January 22, 2004

Oh, and some info on the laser turntable - It's not worth the cash unless you are willing to do a full wet vacume clean on whatever side of the record you are wanting to play... and this process can be very expesive (over a grand for the good cleaners) and very time consuming.. since it has to clean the groove in one run, it can take many minutes... just to prepare to play one side of the record.

The laser turntable is VERY sensitive to any particles in the grooves... if you play a record that sounds clean on a normal turntable, it sounds incredibly harsh because the lasers pick up every speck of dust or grime...

The laser can focus much closer to the grooves than even the smallest diameter styluses, and therefore picks up much more noise.

The problem with audiophile equpment is it brings out much more sonic information (the good and the bad) than you are used to hearing... it can take a little getting used to.
posted by LoopSouth at 12:47 PM on January 22, 2004

What ZenMasterThis said. I'd forgotten about the equalisation stuff, since the general levels are so low as to be immediately noticeable as 'wrong'.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:50 PM on January 22, 2004

There's always ripvinyl, a download I learned about from a very similar post here about a year ago.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:15 PM on January 22, 2004

You know, I'd love to move some of my collectible vinyl to CD, but I don't have a working turntable, and I'm sure for what a good one would cost me, I could probably have a professional do the deed.

Any ideas on where to look for said professional in say, the yellow pages?
posted by dejah420 at 1:56 PM on January 22, 2004

Thanks to the folks who recommended various other utilities. Wish I had a Mac.

I completely forgot that I used a phono preamp for my turntable->PC setup. Like mcsweetie said, they're $30-40 at any Fry's or Radio Shack and absolutely essential.
posted by cobra libre at 5:37 PM on January 22, 2004

dejah420, it's probably cheaper and easier to pick up a good turntable and then do it yourself.
posted by Vidiot at 8:56 PM on January 22, 2004

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