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Jonathan50 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-12-07 04:58 PM
Original message
Ripping vinyl, a few hints..
As I mentioned in my last OP, I'm ripping an extensive vinyl lp collection to digital media. I've learned a lot during the process and since I've seen at least one other post here that mentioned ripping vinyl I thought I would share a little of what I've learned.

First thing, *don't* put your turntable on the computer desk on which you work. You can damn near hear every keystroke and mouse click in the finished product. If you set a drink cup down a bit too hard it sounds like an earthquake by the time you enhance the bass and play the WAV file back over a good sound system, or, Allah forbid, quality headphones.

Second, clean your records before you try to rip them. A lot of the skipping is apparently due to large (in relation to the record groove) pieces of trash in the groove, this makes the needle jump out of the groove, causing either a skip or a loud pop and a jump of a groove or two.

Ivory dishwashing liquid works well for me, along with a soft polyester fiber painter's brush which I move parallel to the grooves in a sort of scraping motion, trying to dislodge the crap in the grooves. I use regular tap water for the washing and then a final rinse with distilled water which I get at the grocery store. If your tap water is really "hard" you may wish to use distilled water for the whole process but I haven't found it necessary.

A decent turntable, cartridge and stylus make a big difference. My setup is a Sanyo direct drive, linear tracking turntable from the early eighties. My cartridge is an Audio Technica middle of the line product and I have a microline stylus. The microline stylus seems to make a difference since it appears that it rides in a slightly different portion of the groove than a regular stylus and thus is contacting a portion of the groove which is less worn. They even make special 3 mil styli for playing 78 rpm records which have a substantially larger groove than an lp, you can get those styli on ebay for a surpisingly decent price.

I haven't found that the preamp makes that much difference as long as the one you use is low noise and low hum. Most preamps don't distort much and the distortion in the record overwhelms anything in the preamp.

A good soundcard is a necessity, the on board soundcard is not good enough to do a really quality job. My soundcard is a Turtle Beach "Santa Cruz" which I picked up on ebay for less than twenty dollars shipped. It's a very good soundcard but it doesn't have the latest bells and whistles so everyone avoids them.

I'm getting great results sampling at 44.1 kHz and don't see any reason to go to a higher sampling rate. If it's good enough for CDs it's good enough for me.

Next we come to software and the actual recoding process itself.

After trying more than a few different softwares I've come to a combination that does a good job for me.

For the recording process I like Wave Repair, it's a shareware/freeware that has nice features for recording. First, it has a nice big display of the elapsed time of the recording, next it has a preview function to allow you to set recording levels before you actually start recording. Wave Repair also has peak holding meters which hold the highest peak level of your signal until you reset them. Very nice and handy. Finally Wave Repair has nice big sliders for setting the recording level, they also move smoothly rather than in discrete jumps as some softwares do. As long as you do not use the editing functions within Wave Repair, it remains freeware, if you wish to use the editing functions then you should pay the quite reasonable shareware fee.

I leave *at least* six dBs of headroom when recording, if you have a decent soundcard the noise level is low enough that the vinyl noise will overwhelm it even when recording at ten dB or more below the clipping level. Clipping in digital recording is much more detrimental to the sound quality than it is when recording on tape like with cassettes. Since I recorded many, many cassettes in my time it took me quite a few ruined recordings to get over the habit of pushing the recording levels as high as I could.

After recording comes the editing process, for this I like either Wavosaur or Audacity, both are freeware and work well but have somewhat different feature sets. Which one you use will be a matter of taste and familiarity. You can cut off the leading and trailing portions of the recording, splice together album sides or whatever other editing task you might desire with either of these very capable programs.

An important step in ripping vinyl is click and pop repair and for this one software stands out above all the rest. You'll have to spend a little money this time, something I don't much like to do but in this case it is well worth the investment. A software called Click Repair does a really excellent job of removing clicks, crackled and pops. Click Repair uses wavelet analysis, something about which I know even less than I do about quantum mechanics, but I do know it works very well. On anything other than a horribly noisy lp, Click Repair works at a pace at least four or five times "real time" even on my aged and lethargic Celeron box.

Finally the process comes down to the digital signal processing and encoding portions of the recording. For this I use WinAmp, another freeware, and a couple of freeware plugins for WinAmp. The first plugin I use is called simply Enhancer, and it does an incredible job of making your recordings come alive with bass, treble and a "forward" sound. Enhancer has quite a few different settings, all of which can either markedly or subtly massage the sound depending on how much of each effect you use.

The second freeware plugin I use with WinAmp is the mp3 encoder output plugin, this is called Chun-Yu's MP3 writer plugin version 3.0. Lots of settings for mp3s, variable bitrate etc..

This setup runs at two to four times real time speed on my box so the actual ripping is the most time consuming part of the entire process.

I hope that this little mini-tutorial might help someone interested in ripping their vinyl. May you enjoy the process as much as I have been.

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satya Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-14-07 07:34 PM
Response to Original message
1.  Wow! Thanks so much for posting this!
I'm hoping to finally get around to ripping my LPs this summer -- I'm bookmarking this for later.

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rzemanfl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-15-07 05:37 PM
Response to Original message
2. Wow, what a lot of work. I just use Spin It Again and let the
software do most of the work. Then I make a CD of the results. I do use dish soap, but not distilled water or a paintbrush. The results I have gotten with some low end equipment and forty year-old LPs that have really been around the block have satisfied me. From time to time I will patch in an iTunes download if a cut is damaged beyond redemption.

I have an LP of a band from Milwaukee, where I went to college, that is really beat up, I think beer was spilled on it in '67 and stayed there until I washed it a couple months ago. The LP in good condition goes for $125.00 and up on the Internet. By working with each cut one at a time, putting those on a rewritable CD and importing them to iTunes, then making a playlist and burning the whole album to a CD I got a really excellent result. I only put in that amount of effort because of the memories that LP brought back of college, the guys in that band, young women in mini-skirts and uncontrolled controlled substance ingestion.

I have probably done about a hundred albums so far. Since this is all in real time, it is a labor of love, unless the record has never been made into a CD or is only available on CD at an exhorbitant price. For example, my copy of the Blues Project's "Projections" was beyond hope. The CD version goes for around $50.00. I bought the vinyl LP in perfect condition on the net for under $10.00 from its original owner, it was in such good condition it went right onto the CD with no need for noise reduction.
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Jonathan50 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-17-07 09:08 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. Hey, whatever works for you..
I'm kind of obsessive, plus I'm thinking of making this a small side business locally. I already have a number of 78 rpm records lined up to do after a post on a local board offering the service.

I do have a couple of other points to make that I didn't put in my OP.

First, the guys at Wavosaur wanted me to tell you to download their software straight from the development site, the other sites often have an out of date version of Wavosaur which may lack features or have bugs that have been addressed in the latest version.

The other point I wish to make is that one reason I record at a low setting on the peak meter is that the software does a better job of removing clicks and pops when those clicks and pops are undistorted and unclipped. When the recording volume is turned up, the clicks and pops are both clipped and distorted.

Wave Repair has an excellent noise reduction facility built in. I've tried a number of others and they tend to leave the music sounding kind of "metallic", Wave Repair doesn't do that and I can't hear the difference between the original and the processed signal except the hiss is gone.

Quite a few of my records have come from flea markets, yard sales and thrift stores. I took the worst scratched album I had and cleaned it up digitally, everyone that hears it tells me it sounds like CD quality now.
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JustABozoOnThisBus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-20-07 06:21 AM
Response to Original message
4. If you have a laptop, soundcard upgrades aren't easy ...
I use a Xitel Inport thing. It has two RCA jacks on one side, USB on the other, so it sits between the stereo amp and the computer. It comes with capture software, but I use audacity to clean things up a little. It's slightly perverse, but I like the vinyl clicks and pops on the ipod, when they come from an overplayed stones album. Mine records to .wav files, which I convert to mp3.

Mine is the base Xitel Inport. All I see available now is the "deluxe" version.

I'm going to have to try the winamp with Enhancer. It looks like a good project.
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Jonathan50 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-20-07 07:51 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. Good point about the upgrade problem with laptops..
I found this unit on ebay.. A usb phono preamp..

As for the clicks and pops, you can leave as many or as few as you wish, that's a matter of taste.

There's probably a lot of people who would like at least some clicks and pops to remind them that they are listening to a vinyl record..
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Jonathan50 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-24-07 08:32 PM
Response to Original message
6. Some added hints..
I do have another point or two to make that I have figured out since my original post here..

First, noise removal is an important part of ripping vinyl, you are trying to get rid of hiss and hum from the electronics and the turntable and you are trying to get rid of record groove noise other than clicks and pops.

I have found that the program I recommended for the recording phase of the process, Wave Repair, also does about the best job of noise removal of any software I have tried..

Wave Repair requires a portion of the record groove which has no signal in order to take a "noise fingerprint" of the record groove noise, so leave plenty of inlead and outlead on your recording. In other words start your recording before you cue the turntable and end the recording after you pick the stylus up off the record.

It is best to do the noise removal after the click and pop removal, so you will have to record with Wave Repair, save the resulting file, remove the impulse noise with Click Repair and then load the resulting clickless file back into Wave Repair for denoising.

Don't try to take out every last bit of noise, I have found this will adversely effect the sound quality of the resulting file and make it sound hollow or metallic in the quieter passages. Use Wave Repair's noise reduction in one of the lower settings rather than the higher settings and you will be very pleased with the results.

Wave Repair's noise reduction is also part of the freeware portion of its functionality so don't worry about having to spend more money to get noise reduction.

The noise reduction in Wave Repair is on the slow side because there is a lot of DSP (digital signal processing) going on. It probably runs somewhere around "real time" speed on my box, if you have a more modern and faster computer then you will get faster results. Dual core processors are particularly suited to multithreaded processing like DSP so if you are choosing a computer, look toward something like a Pentium D or other dual core machine.

Another point I would like to make is to leave the computer alone during the recording process itself, doing too much at the same time will lead to skips and gaps in the recording while the processor is off doing something other than recording.

All the DSP portions of the process are not in real time, so you can do pretty much what you want on your box while the DSP runs in the background.

Now on to the results of all our labors..

Quite a few of my records came from yard sales, flea markets and thrift stores for anything from a quarter to two or three dollars for a record I really wanted. This means that a lot of my records are not in very good shape.

I took the noisiest record I have, an album by a band called "Cactus" titled "One Way Or Another". This record sounded like someone was popping popcorn and frying bacon at the same time in the background of the music.

After undergoing the process I have outlined in this mini tutorial, this unlistenable album was approaching CD quality sound. Over headphones with the volume turned up a bit I could tell it wasn't a CD and most of you reading this could tell too. But I guarantee that the average listener who is not knowledgeable about sound techniques and careful listening would swear it was a CD.

There was a fair bit of distortion in the raw signal from this record, the vocals sounded harsh and gritty, particularly on the surprising number of relatively quiet vocal passages for a rock album.

Somewhere in the processing, a lot of the distortion got lost. I suspect that it was in Click Repair using a fair amount of "crackle reduction" mode in addition to "click reduction mode" but I'm not positive at this time.

That's it for now, if I make any other discoveries while I'm ripping my collection I'll be sure to drop back by and let you know.
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mainegreen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-26-07 10:18 AM
Response to Original message
7. I've found SoundSoap a must in my vinyl ripping
It's fantastically easy to use and it's performance in cleaning up all record hiss while leaving the audio untouched is amazing. Between it and Audacity my rips come out with no artifact noise, leaving the music intact.
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Kali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-27-07 06:39 PM
Response to Original message
8. totally bookmarking this!
Wow, thanks. You put some real effort into your post(s). Someday the vinyl WILL be transfered! I swear!

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