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Newbie with analog digital conversion question


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Hello,

 

i am am really new to computer audio. I am looking to convert my analogue collection (records and reels) on to my Macbook pro (mid 2010).

 

will I have better sonic results by using an external a/d converter before goin into the Mac, or does going direct into the Mac anologue inputs with my source be better.

 

sound quality and preservation of the sound is the most important to me.

 

any feedback would be preciated.

 

thanks,

 

Simon

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Hello,

 

i am am really new to computer audio. I am looking to convert my analogue collection (records and reels) on to my Macbook pro (mid 2010).

 

will I have better sonic results by using an external a/d converter before goin into the Mac, or does going direct into the Mac anologue inputs with my source be better.

 

sound quality and preservation of the sound is the most important to me.

 

any feedback would be preciated.

 

thanks,

 

Simon

 

What's your budget for an ADC? A good one will be better than the MAC.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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I started by recording a few albums on my laptop (Windows) and learned; a) what software I liked and how to use it, b) developed a workflow process, and c) upon critical review on my main stereo I learned how crappy of a job the laptop did. Listening at the equivalent of MP3 it wasn't too bad, but once I listened at high res and heard the flaw I could hear it everywhere.

 

The most obvious flaw was in horns, they sounded fuzzy, and a blatt sounded like total crap. But it didn't happen on all tracks equally, that's when I learned something else. The OS is off to its own duties while you are performing your real time recording, and I think that's when I started picking up noise queues.

 

In then end, an outboard ADC was required, which now gets us to Firedog's comment. I tried a couple of the budget sub $200 USB to RCA converter boxes, maybe a little better than the laptop (less computer generated noise artifacts) but now the sound was dull and lifeless - yuck, not sure which was worse.

 

Try your laptop first and then think about it real hard, I'm not sure you can get high quality for under $1000. Now if your lucky someone will stomp on this comment and provide you an awesome $500 ADC :)

Analog: Koetsu Rosewood > VPI Aries 3 w/SDS > EAR 834P > EAR 834L: Audiodesk cleaner

Digital Fun: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (JRMC) SOtM USB > Lynx Hilo > EAR 834L

Digital Serious: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (HQPlayer) Ethernet > SMS-100 NAA > Lampi DSD L4 G5 > EAR 834L

Digital Disc: Oppo BDP 95 > EAR 834L

Output: EAR 834L > Xilica XP4080 DSP > Odessey Stratos Mono Extreme > Legacy Aeris

Phones: EAR 834L > Little Dot Mk ii > Senheiser HD 800

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To Simonml, I can't help you about recommending an external ADC, since I looked at this situation and came across a few dramas.

 

The 2010 MBP (I have one) has firewire and USB as interfaces and the ADC needs to accept either of these. Pro devices are usually multi-channel and more for mic inputs that for our simple line 2CH desires, so it's a bit of a waste. In addition, the availability of Firewire devices are getting rarer by the minute and USB has its own drama.

USB with playback, and I would extrapolate to recording is much the same boat. As Jabs1542 found out, it seems the processor does what it wants to and allocates timing on an "ad hoc" basis, and correspondingly the SQ suffers. I listened to USB for many years, now I can't stand it.

 

Most pro gear has dedicated ADC that fit in the PCI bus direct where direct access and timing are available. But this means a regular DAW or modified desktop with Linux or Windows, or if you can find one of the older MacPro with full height PCI/Express slots.

 

To preserve SACD and since I don't have the SACD ripper, I opted for a pro recorder approach, that does just that, records either digital signals to 192fs or analog to max DSD128. Over the weekend was the first time to experiment with the TASCAM DA-3000 2CH recorder. I tested a CD output from a SACD player using the XLR inputs to the Tascam, recorded the track in DSD64.

 

On playback it was easy to AB the difference between the analog out of the SACD player and playback from the recorder. I would give the edge still to the SACD player, but there's not much in it, the sound stage, definition, and punch were much the same. The differences would be the ultimate AD/DA of the recorder, if I burned the DSF file to a DVD and played it back in the SACD, there would be minimal differences, you would need really sharp ears or electronics, especially the speakers to detect these differences.

 

As time goes on, I will try a few other techniques and advise. Since you have reels, record these in DSD. For vinyl, PCM as high as you can to declick and remove rumble/static/dust and so on. There's Sony Creative Software Sound Forge Studio (what a mouthful) that's a lot cheaper than SoundForge and it includes vinyl restoration tools for about USD60. Use this to edit as well as save as any computer format you like but not DSD (grizzle). For computer playback, for now save to FLAC uncompressed, and metadata support is the main reason for FLAC. Others insist on AIFF, whatever floats your boat.

 

The Tascam currently sells on Amazon for less than USD1000 at the moment. It's more than double your budget, but at least I would recommend this option rather than external ADCs with USB. There's also KORG MR something that I looked at, but found the operation of the Tascam a little easier to come to grips with. The recorder works very much like the old cassette or reels, press record, the pause button lights at the same time, and press play to start recording. Levels are capped or you can adjust to suit. Monitoring is available by switching.

 

Good luck with recording!

AS Profile Equipment List        Say NO to MQA

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Another thought. How many records are you converting? How much time will it all take? Put a price on your hourly labour. Now compare that with buying your albums again on either CD or high-res downloads. Your rips will never sound as good unless using a professional ADC which will cost thousands. Not to mention all the post recording clean-up of crackles, pops, hiss etc.

 

Another option might be a professional studio that does vinyl-to-digital as specialty projects.

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Thank for for the reply, I am willing to spend between 400.00 to 500.00. Would that be an external sound card or a actual a/d converter?

 

I would recommend a Korg ADC. They are external, high quality, do DSD, come with useful software.

 

I found a used MR-1 for a little over $200. It is an old small portable, but has most of the quality and features of it's bigger brothers.

The MR-2 is an later version of the MR-1

The MR-1000 is a studio version with more features and better specs

The MR-2000 was the top of Korg's ADC line. It is discontinued, but available used (listed for $2000). I don't know if they have a new product in this category.

 

There are plenty of cheap ADC's out there, but their quality is questionable and difficult to know. I think that the Korg ADC's will probably give you the most bang for your buck (IMO). I looked for inexpensive ADC's a year or two back, but don't recall some of those early candidates, since once I looked into the inexpensive, used, portable Korgs. the rest was forgotten. You will be able to find one in your budget. Try eBay and Audiogon.

 

They record in DSD, then you use their AudioGate software to convert to any audio file type you prefer.

 

Good Luck,

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compare that with buying your albums again on either CD or high-res downloads.

 

I did a lot of that to easily convert most of my vinyl library. Usually the SQ of an old scratchy record, and the poor mastering of so many rock and pop titles, negates the possible Vinyl vs. CD sound quality. BUT, there are some of those records, and most of my classical (Decca's, EMI's) that I will digitize with needle drops, because some are unavailable on CD, but mostly to preserve the beauty of those fine recordings !

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I would recommend a Korg ADC. They are external, high quality, do DSD, come with useful software.

 

I found a used MR-1 for a little over $200. It is an old small portable, but has most of the quality and features of it's bigger brothers.

The MR-2 is an later version of the MR-1

The MR-1000 is a studio version with more features and better specs

The MR-2000 was the top of Korg's ADC line. It is discontinued, but available used (listed for $2000). I don't know if they have a new product in this category.

 

There are plenty of cheap ADC's out there, but their quality is questionable and difficult to know. I think that the Korg ADC's will probably give you the most bang for your buck (IMO). I looked for inexpensive ADC's a year or two back, but don't recall some of those early candidates, since once I looked into the inexpensive, used, portable Korgs. the rest was forgotten. You will be able to find one in your budget. Try eBay and Audiogon.

 

They record in DSD, then you use their AudioGate software to convert to any audio file type you prefer.

 

Good Luck,

 

I second the Korg recommendation and second hand of you can source a quality piece from a studio or similiar.

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I third the Korg recommendation.

 

I also second the suggestion to go ahead and do at least two or three conversions using the analog input of your Macbook to learn the workflow. It will make more sense what you need to do after you have done it a few times.

 

Also, don't get worried about the results. Would a $1k or $2k ADC do better? It won't be twice as good. It might be 5% better. So it isn't like a unit in your price range is any big hit in quality. Lower price ADC's have gotten quite good these days. I think you will be delighted and surprised with the results you can get.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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As others have said, it really depends on how many albums you want to record. I decided to do all my LP's, about 1,500 titles. After doing a lot of research the Korg MR-2000S was the way to go. It sits in the stereo rack and is connected to the tape monitor loop of the preamp. All I have to do is push record and then pause when flipping over the album.

 

The Korg splits the workload. I can play albums without having to have a connection to a computer. After that, I upload the files to my laptop and convert from 1 bit/5.66 MHz to 24/96 Flac. Then, I import the files into VinylStudio to look up the art work, track information and titles and to do a bit of cleanup with a crackle filter.

 

I don't buy new LP's. As with some of the recent commentary by Neil Young I agree that there's no point in buying an LP that was recorded digitally, and certainly not one that was made from a digital file - meaning all of them.

 

But there is a wealth of high quality, good sounding great albums out there at a good price. The way I look at it, if I'm willing to play an album and listen to it, then I should also be willing to record it and digitize it. Then, I never have to play it again.

 

It really depends what you want to do. Mastering digital files with VinylStudio does have a bit of a learning curve, but it's fast and you can get great results.

 

There are people who do that sort of thing professionaly, and will take more time to do more cleanup, but then there's a cost for that service.

 

Let us know how many LP's you have and we can steer you in the right direction.

 

Edit: At last count I've recorded 800 LP titles.

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As others have said, it really depends on how many albums you want to record. I decided to do all my LP's, about 1,500 titles. After doing a lot of research the Korg MR-2000S was the way to go. It sits in the stereo rack and is connected to the tape monitor loop of the preamp. All I have to do is push record and then pause when flipping over the album.

 

The Korg splits the workload. I can play albums without having to have a connection to a computer. After that, I upload the files to my laptop and convert from 1 bit/5.66 MHz to 24/96 Flac. Then, I import the files into VinylStudio to look up the art work, track information and titles and to do a bit of cleanup with a crackle filter.

 

I don't buy new LP's. As with some of the recent commentary by Neil Young I agree that there's no point in buying an LP that was recorded digitally, and certainly not one that was made from a digital file - meaning all of them.

 

But there is a wealth of high quality, good sounding great albums out there at a good price. The way I look at it, if I'm willing to play an album and listen to it, then I should also be willing to record it and digitize it. Then, I never have to play it again.

 

It really depends what you want to do. Mastering digital files with VinylStudio does have a bit of a learning curve, but it's fast and you can get great results.

 

There are people who do that sort of thing professionaly, and will take more time to do more cleanup, but then there's a cost for that service.

 

Let us know how many LP's you have and we can steer you in the right direction.

 

Edit: At last count I've recorded 800 LP titles.

 

I have over 1500 LP's that I would dub and some very good reel tapes as well.

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Simon,

 

It looks like you're in pretty much the same situation that I found myself a few years ago. I did a lot of research before deciding on the Korg recorder. The MR-2000S or the 2nd and last generation is the MR-2000SBK. If you can find either of those used at a decent price you will have a very capable machine.

 

Some people have mentioned Tascam, they have a new unit, the DA-3000 that is similar in form and function to the Korg. That is, it will record onto a flash card with a backup to a USB drive. The Korg records to an internal PATA drive.

 

I see new or used Korgs going from $1,100 to $1,800 - the Tascam new discounted to around $1,300.

 

I like the idea of the digital recorder because it includes the use of a very high quality ADC without any software or operating system issues that can arise with computer recording.

 

You need a good turntable setup and a preamp that won't color the sound, but that goes without saying.

 

I record at the highest rate possible, 1 bit/5.66 MHz, essentially double the SACD standard. Each LP clocks in at about 3GB. After conversion and breaking up into tracks the FLAC 24/96 file is a bit over 1GB. I do keep the original recorded file so that I don't have to record the LP again.

 

Needless to say, you need multiple copies of your digital data music files at different locations.

 

Let us know how it works out for you.

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The Korg are good.

 

You might want to also check out Mytek. Pro Equipment. Very good reputation. They have a model that does up to 24/96 for $895 new, one that does 24/192 for $1200. You should be able to get a used one for much less.

 

Would you be satisfied with 24/96 for vinyl conversions?

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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The Korg are good.

 

You might want to also check out Mytek. Pro Equipment. Very good reputation. They have a model that does up to 24/96 for $895 new, one that does 24/192 for $1200. You should be able to get a used one for much less.

 

Would you be satisfied with 24/96 for vinyl conversions?

 

 

I would be be very happy with 24/96, however another Audiophile had his Mytek 96 for sale ( used for the exact same purpose), his description of the copies was that they were very nice however, he mentioned that the soundstage was smaller and the midrange detail was a bit recessed. Thus mimics what I have read about Mytek.

 

I had not considered the korg. But it is something I will be actively looking at.

 

thanks everyone!!

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The Korg splits the workload. I can play albums without having to have a connection to a computer. After that, I upload the files to my laptop and convert from 1 bit/5.66 MHz to 24/96 Flac. Then, I import the files into VinylStudio to look up the art work, track information and titles and to do a bit of cleanup with a crackle filter.

 

 

What crackle filter do you use? How do you get it into Vinyl Studio?

 

Thanks. I am also using a MR-2000 and Vinyl Studio.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Simon,

 

It looks like you're in pretty much the same situation that I found myself a few years ago. I did a lot of research before deciding on the Korg recorder. The MR-2000S or the 2nd and last generation is the MR-2000SBK. If you can find either of those used at a decent price you will have a very capable machine.

 

Some people have mentioned Tascam, they have a new unit, the DA-3000 that is similar in form and function to the Korg. That is, it will record onto a flash card with a backup to a USB drive. The Korg records to an internal PATA drive.

 

I see new or used Korgs going from $1,100 to $1,800 - the Tascam new discounted to around $1,300.

 

I like the idea of the digital recorder because it includes the use of a very high quality ADC without any software or operating system issues that can arise with computer recording.

 

You need a good turntable setup and a preamp that won't color the sound, but that goes without saying.

 

I record at the highest rate possible, 1 bit/5.66 MHz, essentially double the SACD standard. Each LP clocks in at about 3GB. After conversion and breaking up into tracks the FLAC 24/96 file is a bit over 1GB. I do keep the original recorded file so that I don't have to record the LP again.

 

Needless to say, you need multiple copies of your digital data music files at different locations.

 

Let us know how it works out for you.

 

thanks for all the advice!

 

i found a used RME ADI 1 to experiment with. It is a 2 channel ad/da.

 

i figure if I really like the conversion I can upgrade but with the research I have done 20bit at 48 MHz will be a good start for me to find if the results work for me.

 

I do not intend to use scratch filters, I am a long time vinyl guy and accept the small ticks for what they are.

 

Thanks again to everyone!

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