OT: Digitizing My LP Collection

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I am about to digitize my collection of about 250 LPs.  I am
sure someone here faced this task.  Because the collection might
be left behind when we leave the country good archive (but not
audiophool) quality is preferred.  The collection was well taken
care of but is played and 25 to 35 years old.  The opinions I
found on the internet were mostly contradictory.  24 bit audio
was recommended by many but I have difficulty believing that for
LPs.  My cheap phono preamp and on-board audio (RealTek) aren't
up to it.

Alternatives considered:

    Feeding a phono preamp into a good quality sound card.
Recommendations for either welcome.

    A specialized audio digitizing card or USB box, such as
Behringer UCA202 ($27.50) or Audio Interface or NAD PP-3 ($200).

    A good quality linear amp and software equalization (such as

Any others?

The board is a microATX with limited space but at least one each
open PCI and PCI express slots.

Other considerations?

Advice appreciated,

Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection
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At *best* an LP will have about a 60db range in audio signal. Any 16-bit
sound card will cover this without difficulty. A 16-bit card has up to
96db audio range, even a bad card has 14-bits or resolution (84db) and
so can meet the demands of the LP's without adding any of it's own
"flavour" - providing some care is taken with the input levels. More
bits (that is more genuine linear bits) makes setting the record volume
easier as you have a wider range of settings that will still capture the
dynamic range of the LP without adding any audible noise and distortion
from the digitization process. but using A 24-bit card will be somewhat
problematic. The card will most likely have no more than 20-bits that
are usable and formats for saving the data are not so well supported, so
you should "normalise" the volume (preferably over the entire album
contents) and then convert the signal into 16-bit PCM (WAV file format).
Don't use any lossy compression like MP3.

You need a *fair* quality phono preamp *if* you are sure the one you
have already got is no good. There are still designs available on the
internet - check the application note for the LM833 from the national
semiconductor web site.

As far as software manipulation / equalisation goes, the golden rule is
*don't*. Whenever you manipulate the signal the most likely effect is
that you will permanently loose information. Leave that for the working
copies, not the archive masters.

Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection
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If you have a free PCI slot, consider looking around for one of the
older Ensoniq or Creative Labs "AudioPCI" cards with an ES1370 or one
of its close relatives.  They're inexpensive (I see several for under
$10 on eBay), and according to tests Arny did years ago they're very
good 16-bit performers.

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All good points and advice, based on my own experience in doing this.

I do favor using a card with more than 16 bits of real linear capture
(and some sort of 24-bit format on disk) for the reasons cited.  It's
definitely best to leave a good deal of headroom at the "hot end", so
that you avoid clipping (this can't be un-done!).  I usually try to
capture with the average "loud" portion at least 10 dB down from full
scale, and the hottest peaks staying several dB below clipping.

It's not unusual for one side of the capture to be louder than the
other by 1 or 2 dB, due to variations in the cartridges... you may
want to balance this out after capturing, when you normalize the
recording volume for playback.  If you do normalize (adjust volumes
at all) make sure that your audio softare is capable of doing it
properly... applying a "dither" to the signal when truncating it down
to 16 bits for CD storage... this helps prevent the creation of
audible low-level quantization artifacts.  I preferred to write my own
"adjust gain, balance the channels, and then dither and truncate"
utility myself... that way I *know* just what it's doing.

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Numerous others as well... googling "RIAA preamplifier schematic"
turns up plenty.  They're even available as kits (PAIA has one).

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Agreed.  First goal should be to have the "capture masters" be as
clean and exact as possible an image of what comes right out of the
cartridge (after proper amplification and RIAA equalization).  Grab
these files, then back 'em up immediately (e.g. to CD-ROM or DVD-ROM).
Then, edit and clean them up to your heart's content.

I don't favor the "run the cartridge right into the sound card input,
capture, and do the equalization in software" approach.  The RIAA
curve has about 40 dB of gain span across the audible spectrum...
I think you'd have difficulty handling this much EQ after a 16-bit
capture, without the risk of running into problems with noise and

One more point, and perhaps the most important:  GIGO (Garbage In,
Garbage Out).  The quality limits of any good 16-bit audio card are
going to be *far* less of an issue than issues with the LP, stylus,
and cartridge... so pay plenty of attention to the latter.

In particular:

-  If your stylus is damaged, worn, or mistracking, then replace it
   and/or fix or adjust the turntable.
-  Clean the records, well and properly, before you play them for
   capture.  Getting rid of pops and ticks and groove grunge by
   cleaning and de- static'ing the record is far easier and more
   effective than trying to remove them from the digital data via
There's lots of information out there about methods for cleaning LPs
well and safely... commercial vacuum cleaners, homebrew cleaning
fluids, and even a technique for cleaning LPs effectively by using
Titebond wood glue!  [No joke... spread it on thinly, let it dry, and
it peels off in a sheet and brings the dirt with it!  Haven't tried
this approach myself but quite a few people swear by it]

Friends of Jade Warrior home page:  http://www.radagast.org/jade-warrior
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Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection
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Recording and processing vinyl takes an unreasonable amount of time,
far beyond the 50 mins or so to do the recording. 250x a couple of
hours (if you cut corners) is 500hrs, or 12.5 weeks of full time work.
The only sane advice I can offer is don't! Most of what you've got you
can get better quality copies of online. Whether you can legally grab
it free since youve already paid, or need buy new I'll leave for
someone else. Just digitise what you absolutely cant get anywhere


Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection

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I couldn't agree more. This is exactly what I have been doing.

Failure does not prove something is impossible, failure simply
indicates you are not using the right tools...
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Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection

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Everything had been digitized already; you just have to search the Internet.

Vladimir Vassilevsky
DSP and Mixed Signal Design Consultant

Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection
On Sat, 04 Jun 2011 21:00:07 -0500, Vladimir Vassilevsky

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No it hasn't.  Try finding "Space and Creation" by Alice Coltrane.  Vinyl
is still available.

Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection

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   Some new recordings are still being released on vinyl.

It's easy to think outside the box, when you have a cutting torch.

Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection

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Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection
On Fri, 10 Jun 2011 09:54:01 -0500, Vladimir Vassilevsky

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                          s/b "Reflections on Creation and Space"
Scruffy about blowing the album title.

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46%ine, it is not impossible to find many individual tracks.  But where =
i get the complete album on CDs?  Nor are all the tracks on the album
present at that site. 20%

Re: Digitizing My LP Collection
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I can offer you some advice on this subject; I've already done it many
timnes over.  I'll take your concerns in the order you posted.
#1)  24-bit audio certainly is good if you already have a sound card that
offers it.  However, I personally wouldn't invest a lot in one, especially
if you aren't looking for audiophool performance.  (Audiophools claim to be
able to hear differences in sound quality produced by wires having different
purities of copper.)  I have a Dell with built-in audio and Realtek drivers
too, and although I consider myself a critic of reasonably accurate
reproductions, I find that my setup is completely adequate.  This is
certainly pertinent if your goal is to save all of your recordings in MP3 or
other compressed file format.  The MP3 format is a lossy scheme, and
depending on the bit rate at which the audio is converted, can sound very
bad to pretty good.  If that's your goal, then I recommend that you dismiss
a 24-bit sound card right away.

#2)  A good grade phono preamp is a good idea, but again, you don't have to
go broke to achieve good sound.  I've compared the quality of reproduction
between the preamp in a high quality audio tuner-amp and a good external
($35) dedicated phono preamp.  Negligible difference to my ears, even when
listening through headphones.

#3)  USB audio digitizers are pretty good for the money.  I've never used
one, so I can't give any first-hand experiences, but friends tell me that
they're good stuff.

#4)  Audacity is a great piece of software for the money (FREE!), and it
offers a lot of flexibility when post-processing your recorded audio, but
it's not what I use.  I use a program called "WaveCorrector", by Gannymeade
(http://www.wavecor.co.uk ).  I've been using it since 2001 or so; not free,
but I like it much better than all the rest of the packages that claim to do
the same thing.  It's purpose in life is the recording and post-processing
of audio from vinyl records.  It has a really good processor for detecting
and removing the clicks and pops that are so annoying on vinyls.  It also
has effective noise profiling and graphical equalization filters.  Quite a
versatile package.
The best feature is the click & pop processor.  It actually looks for
features in the audio waveform that looks like a click and applies a
smoothing algorithm to the waveform to remove the click without affecting
the rest of the audio.  It's very effective, and saves LOTS of
post-processing time.

Having said all that, after you have all the hardware and software
operating, the single most important theng you can do is to clean your
records.  If you aren't going to save your vinyls for posterity, then you
don't have to be so careful with the cleaning solution.  There are many
recipes for cleaning solutions on the web, but I have used liquid
dish-washing detergent (Dawn, Ajax, Palmolive, etc.) with a few drops of
Jet-Dry, a great spot-removing surfactant.  The Jet-Dry allows the detergent
to really wet the surface and loosen the dirt.
Buy a label protector such as the Groovmaster
(http://www.gallagher.com/clean_records.htm ), or make one yourself
(http://vinylhive.com/groovmaster-label-protector-clean-vinyl-records /) or
(http://www.thecrystallakeblog.com/2010/10/diy-groovmaster-label-protector-tool.html ).
I use a flat edging paint applicator from Home Depot (such as the Shur-Line
Model 1000c) to scrub the grit out of the grooves.  It's bristles are stiff
enough to scrub the dirt & grit from the grooves and soft enough that it
doesn't damage the vinyl. Much better than the paint brushes they recommend/
Good microfiber cloths are good drying towels... gets the moisture off the
surface without leaving any lint behind (you'll hear the lint as a click or
pop)..  Finish the drying in a dish rack with a small fan blowing across the
Many of the purists recommend a final rinse in distilled, deionized water; I
have always had good luck with tap water.

Hope this helps.  I have transcribed well over 200 records onto CD using
this method with great results.  Many of my transcriptions can't be
discriminated from a retail CD album.  A caveat... getting the recordings as
clean as possible can consume HOURS uoon HOURS of your time.  It's just a
matter of how many you are willing to put into your project.

dgminala at mediacombb dot net

Re: Digitizing My LP Collection

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  Yes. Most important is to wet the disc with your anti-static media

  I have also found that breathing (believe it or not) at the needle
during the playback removes even more of the static ticks which can

 Still, it has been noted that a lot of stuff has already been digitized,
and yes, just as good as yours or better.

  And I'll bet that you used MP3.

  If you want the best, switch to a lossless format, like FLAC.

 If you used MP3, all this blathering about how much care you took to
make good output for the encoding means nothing.

Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection
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One suggestion is look to see if any of them are still available to buy
as CDs. A lot of back catalogue material is available to buy digitally
remastered for probably less than the cost of your time to do it and at
a far higher quality.

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Try it first with the sound card you have and see if it is in fact the
weakest link. You do need a good preamp - and preferably one that does
not occassionally pick up nearby taxi radios as breakthrough.

I have used a soundcard to digitise rare analogue cassette recordings
without having any problems but the noise floor off tape is higher.

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Save the masters as is. You can always tweak them later.

Remember to verify that the recording you made actually sound OK and
have not clipped or picked up extraneous noise or skipped a groove.

Martin Brown

Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection
On Sun, 05 Jun 2011 09:34:27 +0100, Martin Brown

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That's an expensive option.  $15 * $250 is a chunk of change. A lot of the
"digitally remastered" stuff is crap (and I'm no audiophool). The time to do
it isn't all that great.  It can be done while doing other things, even
listening to music.  ;-)  I did it a while back (then lost the disk). :-(

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A good preamp is what you used last time you listened to them.  ;-)

Taxi radios?  All the taxis I've seen over here use cell phones.

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Tape is horrible.  I don't know how they ever sold prerecorded cassettes.  A
sound card will be far better.

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But that's part of the "experience".  ;-)

Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection
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Depends on the source material. A lot of 70's stuff went onto CDs pretty
early on and is now around 3 ($5) over here. Several labels like Naxos
have scoured back catalogues of classical music for good performances
and made budget CDs of rather excellent quality. I'd be very surprised
if it was more expensive over the pond.

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The time to do it properly is at a minimum 2 hours per 45 minute disk if
you verify by playback. And longer if you have to redo anything.
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I did test my new power amplifier with the old turntable and preamp. I
had forgotten just how tetchy about induced magnetic fields, acoustic
feedback isolation and earth loops these old magnetic cartridges were.
Line level CD output is just so much less hassle to set up - plug in and go.
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CB rigs then. It was one of the annoyances I remember when I was
transferring stuff from vinyl in the past (a long while ago).
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All the older material was on professional tape at one time. And a
portable tape deck is hard to beat for recording live interviews.
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I have somewhere a bad copy of Wish You Were Here with a skipped groove
from doing vinyl transfer. I gave up and bought a genuine new CD in the
end when it was in some BOGOF deal at the supermarket.

You can set some price limit if you like, but I reckon if you can buy a
new one for under $10 it isn't worth spending 2-3 hours faffing about to
make an inferior digitised version of an old worn vinyl disk. YMMV

It is a completely different matter if you have a tape of a one off
irreplaceable performance or something that is no longer available.

Martin Brown

Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection
On a sunny day (Sat, 4 Jun 2011 18:10:04 -0400) it happened "Abby Brown"

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Use the sound card, 48 k samples stereo should be enough,
encode to mp3 at highest quality setting with 'lame' in Linux
if you have little space. Save on DVD and external harddisk too.
Make one large encrypted version of it, name it bugs.exe
or something that does not look suspicious, and upload it to your website,
or if you have a 1G email space to there.
I also keep 2 extra harddisks, makes about 5 or 6 copies, and I also
keep the stuff on a USB flash and also on SDcard.
With so many copies on different media and in different locations,
it is unlikely (mm I think I have some on CDs too)
that you will ever lose your collection.

Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection

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Save uncompressed.  Hard disks are cheap.

Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection
On Sun, 05 Jun 2011 09:26:07 -0500, " snipped-for-privacy@att.bizzzzzzzzzzzz"

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  First thing you have stated correctly in ages.

Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection

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  The zip options allow one to "store" a file without ANY "compression".

  You need to get a clue because you cannot differentiate between a
stupid text file and an audio bit stream.

 FLAC does NOT "compress" ANYTHING. That is why it is the same size as
the original wav file.

Re: OT: Digitizing My LP Collection
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  I don't think you know the difference between compression and lossy
formats. non-lossy and lossy can both be compressed.

  ZIP can compress with out loss of information. Please get your facts
together before going into battle.


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