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Solution for both input and output?


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Hello everyone,

 

My first post here so go easy on me!

 

Firstly, Chris, kudos on a great site, it fills an online void! I hope it does not degenerate into a slanging match like so many other audiophile sites, but remains a useful knowledge base for this relatively new audiophile frontier.

 

Now to my question - I have read many posts referring to DACs but very few about ADCs.

 

I am looking for an all-in-one solution that combines an audiophile quality DAC with an ADC for recording LPs and tapes, in the same box with USB (or FW) connection to a computer.

 

So far, I have only been able to find the following:

Terratec Producer Phase26

http://www.majormusic.com.au/products/terratec_phase26.php

 

Terratec DMX 6Fire USB (Windows only)

http://www.terratec.net/en/products/DMX_6Fire_USB_2084.html

 

Apogee Duet (Mac only - good ;))

http://www.apogeedigital.com/products/duet.php

 

The Phase26 appears to be around 4 years old now but has phono inputs and RIAA equalisation (a plus)

 

The DMX 6Fire USB is a new model but has no Mac drivers (will it still be usable on a Mac under CoreAudio?) and it also has phono inputs and RIAA equalisation. It also has 192kHz DAC/ADC.

 

The Apogee Duet is targetted specifically to Macs which is a plus to me (I am using a MacBook) but it has no direct phono input, requiring the use of a preamp or reciever (not insurmountable for me), plus it looks good (girlfriend acceptance factor!)

 

Any thoughts on the above or any alternatives?

 

Thanks!

 

Peter

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This one is a little out of my area of expertise. I do know the Benchmark ADC is a great unit and the Benchmark DAC1 is a great unit. But I've never really looked into devices that do both.

 

I'm pretty sure Lavry makes a dual purpose unit, but the price is probably quite a bit higher than the three units listed above.

 

Hopefully someone else will chime in here.

 

And, thanks for the kind words about the site. Don't worry about it becoming an unenjoyable pissing match around here. This is a laid back site now and it will always be a laid back site. People have enough things going on in life, they don't need the fun taken out of an enjoyable hobby by someone with an attitude.

 

Thanks for posting!

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Peter, I also was going to post such an inquiry. No help here from me, but I second your motion for any ideas on this. Would be slick to be able to have one combo box. I plan on ripping whatever I can from CD, but I know it will come down to converting vinyl for whatever is rare or never issued on CD in my collection.

 

TheOtherTim

 

 

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Welcome the Computer Audiophile, TheRocker!

 

Rather than go into personal preferences at this point, let me just point you to some places to go for information. On C/A : http://www.computeraudiophile.com/node/211 - there are some good discussions here. A/D D/A conversations pop up in other spots on C/A too. Explore right here at Computer Audiophile!

 

The most bountiful sources of what is available are the Musician supply websites or your local musicians store. The best source of the details on the specs are the manufacturers websites. There are many, many reviews on the web (some are quite good, some are infomercials) Also be aware that there are a WIDE variety of these units, and that the intended uses range from 'being able to do almost anything' to being quite narrow in their intended usage. These come in PCI/PCIe, USB and Firewire variants. Many of the units operate at a different "operating level (http://www.berkleemusic.com/discuss/message?forum_id=13331&message_id=9014136)' than typical consumer gear. Lot's of them will operate at either level though - to be compatible with consumer gear, you want a unit that will operate at "-10dbv." The physical connections are usually quite different than what audiophiles are used to but quality conversion cables are available (RCA to 1/4" or XLR cables) , and most units DO NOT have phono preamps. When you want to hear what one sounds like, be aware that Musician supply stores are run differently than hi-fi shops. During the day, early in the day (musicians usually sleep late) on a weekday is probably the best time to get some personal attention. You might call ahead to see if you can set up an appointment. That being said, here are just a few links:

 

http://www.sweetwater.com/shop/computer-audio/audio_interfaces/

 

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/navigation/computer-hardware-recording-cards-audio-interfaces?N=100001+304891

 

http://www.guitarcenter.com/Sound---Recording-Cards-Computer-Hardware.gc

 

There are many more, but this should get you started.

 

This is a lot to 'digest' but it isn't impossible to get up to speed quickly. We can help. Happy hunting!

 

markr

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you for the replies everyone, some interesting points in the berkleemusic link markr.

 

Markr, indeed you are correct in saying that very few of the interfaces listed in the links you posted have phono inputs.

 

I came across this one:

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/XP-Sound-XP202-USB-Audio-Interface?sku=187750

which looks quite similar to the Phase 26 I linked to in my first post.

 

Also this unit:

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/USBPhonoPlus2/

which is cheap enough to buy as just an ADC then buy a separate DAC, but I am suspicious of it because I can't find any specs such as the sample rate and bit depth of the ADC anywhere, not even on the manufacturer's website or even in the pdf manual downloaded from there.

 

The lack of a phono input is not a deal breaker, but an all-in-one solution would be neater than a separate ADC/DAC.

 

Could anyone let me know if the DMX 6Fire USB would be recognised under CoreAudio despite not having Mac specific drivers - it is just a USB sound device after all, right?

http://www.terratec.net/en/products/DMX_6Fire_USB_2084.html

 

If so, this one would be my ideal solution due to the phono input and 24/192 AD/DACs.

 

Thanks!

 

Peter

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Hey Peter, Western Australia! That bit of information has sent my mind awandering....... are you 'outback' or are you near a metropolitan area? The reason I as is because I'm just curious.... and I think that you might want to visit the local music store to see what is locally available and (more importantly) SERVICED and supported, if possible. I'll bet the shipping costs are hell for delivery to Australia.

 

Barring that, I would have to say that the Terratec unit looks like it does not support Mac OS X, but I cannot say that for sure. I went to the 'FAQ / Support' tab on the link you sent to ask them a question and all of the support options have phone numbers in the EU only. No email link. They don't appear to have support anywhere else on the planet. I doubt that Core Audio just 'recognizing' the device will suffice.

 

Much (if not ALL) of the functionality and features of a computer based A/D/A box are accessed through the software that you install and run on your computer (notice the lack of shiny knobs for controlling functions on these boxes - they are all in software). The Terratec doesn't seem to have software for Mac. That should be the deal killer. BUT, I suppose that you could run bootcamp and install windows..... not great IMO.

 

The ART unit is indeed vague about its capabilities as well. I think that I would stay away from the ART, I'm pretty sure that it is would 'max out' at 16/44.1 or 48 audio and is probably 'end of life' in its product cycle. I seem to remember seeing this at at least twice the price a couple of years ago.

 

The third unit you have selected (XP-202) I haven't heard of before. It is described as mainly being designed to be a phone preamp that has a A/D/A hung off of it. I'm skeptical here too - unless that is all you want in an A/D/A box. I doubt it will satisfy you for playback purposes, but I could be wrong.

 

I hadn't really thought about purchasing an A/D/A with phono preamp built in before, as I have a capable preamp already - so I'm not fully up to speed on this facet of digital. Please keep looking and posting, and I will see if I can get some time in the next few days to do some research as well.

 

markr

PS- A thought occurs to me: Are there music supply websites like the ones I gave links to in my first post here, that are native to Australia as well? If so, please post some links of the better ones here. That route might be your best bet to ensure that you will be serviced in a timely manner.

 

 

 

 

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Thank you for the detailed reply Mark, yes I am in the 'outback', in fact you can't get much more outback than the Pilbara! This makes it difficult to get to a store so the information provided in this forum is extremely useful for me.

 

I thought it was a long shot that the DMX 6Fire USB would work without Mac drivers, but I wondered about it since the Phase 26 that I linked has Mac drivers. Perhaps at some point Terratec will release Mac drivers for it - other than the driver issue, it ticks all the boxes for me.

 

Re your comment about software controlling the AD/DAC, that certainly seems to apply in the case of the Apogee Duet, it appears to be very well integrated with Core Audio and GarageBand, and it gets very good reviews for sound quality too. It is a pity that the distributor here in Australia puts a $AU200 premium over and above the exchange rate on it! It can't cost that much to ship and warehouse to here?

 

As far as the ART USB Phono Plus V2 unit goes, I suspect that you are correct in saying that maybe 48kHz is as high as it does, otherwise why be so reticent about the specs? I will steer clear of this one.

 

In direct contrast to the ART unit, I have found a Terratec iVinyl Phono ADC which specifies 24/96, and looks good (a bit like a Mac Mini) to boot:

http://www.majormusic.com.au/products/terratec_phonopreamp_ivinyl.php'>http://www.majormusic.com.au/products/terratec_phonopreamp_ivinyl.php

 

I too was a bit concerned about the audio quality of the output on some of these AD/DACs as they are biased toward the pro recording industry, not audiophiles, but I have read a generalisation that the pro recording units have a clean, uncoloured, even 'sterile' sound, albeit detailed, whereas audiophile biased units have a warmer, more musical, and therefore perhaps more pleasing sound.

If that is the case, I would imagine that the sound from pro recording gear can be 'warmed up' by judicious equalisation if desired.

 

There are a few online music supplies here, a quick google turned up:

http://www.onlinemusicstore.com.au/

and

http://www.majormusic.com.au/

They seem to have a reasonable range of gear.

 

 

 

Peter

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... thanks for the links. I will be in research mode after work tomorrow morning if the rumor is true and we get the day off on Saturday. I won't know until later though.

 

Some impressions: while I have heard some pretty good things about Terratec in general, I have no experience with them nor know anyone who does (small cadre of friends who have home studios..). In my opinion, you would be quite happy with the Apogee. I almost bought it, but was looking for something comparable sound-wise at a similar price point that had a larger feature set and was jitter free. I chose RME, and am not looking back.

 

The "sterile pro" vs. "warmer audiophile" A/D box argument is sometimes somewhat out of proportion IMO, but I do need that sterility, as I am hacking at trying to create audio as well as just playing it back. I believe it to be true, as you posit - that the judicious use of 'equalisation' (I type either Oxford or Websters *wink*) can overcome that "sterility" when it is noticed. Personally, I like it flat and clean 97% of the time. Sometimes after a pint or two or when the source material isn't so great, I will 'stoop' to tone control.

 

Later....

markr

It is interesting that you said you live in Pilbara: When I googled 'Western Australia' my eyes went right to the Pilbara region on the map that came up...... I had to search for Perth.

 

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I've got the day off work! After a small amount of research I have found an answer to a couple of things:

 

- It appears that the Terratec iVinyl is an A/D 'only' box. No playback seems to be available judging by the info available.

 

- Your first choice stated in a Terratec - the Phase26 - however, appears to have been updated to include Mac - though they mention the older "PowerBook" and not the new MacBook which uses Intel CPU's rather than the older PowerPC ones. I got this from the Major Music website: http://www.majormusic.com.au/products/terratec_phase26.php . The other link you sent must have been an older one. I really hope that this unit will be satisfactory for you, as you seem to want the ease of the built in phono stage. It very well could be satisfactory, I wish I knew for sure.

 

I would contact Major Music at this point to get some more particulars, re: compatibility with the exact Mac setup that you have, and then look at what software you will want to be using to accomplish your vinyl to digital conversions.

 

Know this: Clean your records well. Then assuming a quality electromechanical chain of devices and short-run quality cable, all of the software available (including free or shareware software) to capture the audio will capture the 'essence' of the audio that is available on your vinyl discs if you are operating on the Mac. One program won't 'sound' different from another as long as you don't 'bung up' the transfer to digital file with a bunch of tone equalization or pop and click removal when you FIRST record to digital. Just try to make the best simple copy that you can -- You will then either have the digital audio file that you will want to keep, or one that you will want to try to 'make cleaner' (eventually - you won't have to clean it up right away). Also know that 'judicious use of these 'cleanup' tools will be necessary as well - you cannot really remove noise artifacts without changing the audio somewhat. The clean up part of the process will be more of an 'adventure', so make a backup of the original before modifying it - just in case. It will save time.

 

As I have not yet begun the serious transfers of my vinyl into the digital domain, I do not have any recommendations for this sort software on the Mac at this point. (When I do it will be on my PC with Sound Forge - because I spent a lot of money on editing software for PC before purchasing a Mac (not because I prefer the PC for that or anything...) I do know that Steingberg's WaveLab and BIAS SoundSoap and SoundSoap Pro are highly regarded for Mac. If you price them, you will see that they regard themselves highly as well....

 

Let us know what you are 'up to' next Peter!

 

Wishing you the Best

markr

 

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Hello Mark,

 

Thank you for both your posts - some good advice there particularly regarding the recording process.

 

My current setup consists of a MacBook with my FLACs stored on a 3.5" FW drive, an old Kenwood amp and Marantz LS360 speakers, so pretty mid-range, and a cheap-arse plastic Sanyo turntable.

 

I would like the next stage of my setup to use a 320GB WD Passport 2.5" USB drive to store the FLACs (bus powered so no 'wall wart'), and an AD/DAC (either FW or USB and also bus powered if possible) to interface between the MacBook and the amp, and a reasonable turntable to either hook up direct to the AD/DAC if it has phono inputs, or if not then via the amp (which has phono inputs).

 

I am using Max ( http://sbooth.org/Max/ ) to rip CDs and transcode from FLAC to other formats when necessary, and Play ( http://sbooth.org/Play/ ) to play the FLACs on the MacBook.

 

I will use Audacity ( http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ ) when it comes to recording vinyl onto the MacBook via the ADC.

 

Terratec generally rate highly for quality from various comments around the web, and they seem to be very popular in Europe (they come from Germany) but not much market penetration elsewhere. The Phase 26 seems to have been around for at least 4 years, whether that is a good thing or not I don't know. At least it supports OSX.

 

I did realise that the iVinyl was only an ADC, I just wondered if it would be better quality than running the phono signal through the analogue pre-amp in the Kenwood first and then into the line inputs on an AD/DAC? Naturally if I went for the iVinyl, I would then buy a DAC only unit for interface between the MacBook and the amp, but that would not be as neat as a single box setup.

 

I do like the look of the Duet and the fact that it integrates well with Core Audio - you mentioned that you decided on a similarly priced RME product that had more features and less jitter, please could you give me some more details on this product?

 

Thanks!

 

(BTW, my Australian English spell checker seems to be biased toward UK English (Oxford?)!)

 

Peter

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For some reason, I find myself spelling things in the 'UK way' often, though I was born and bred in Texas. This used to drive a lawyer that I once worked for crazy.

 

The RME was similarly priced only because it has more than 4X the features of the Duet, It is actually 2X the price of the Duet but only 1/2 the price of the similarly featured Apogee Ensemble. This RME (Fireface 400) doesn't pass jitter: it removes the incoming clock signal and reclocks at the output virtually eliminating jitter. Some would say that the Apogee has better converters in it, but I can not hear that - possibly because of the anti-jitter feature. I don't know. I know I love it though. Here is a link: http://www.rme-audio.de/en_products_fireface_400.php

 

You bring up some questions that I don't have time to answer right now - Off to work on a Sunday - If we work as scheduled, I will have clocked ~ 130 hours for this 2 week pay period (whew!). I will get back to those questions later.

 

markr

 

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Thanks Mark,

 

I appreciate you taking the time to reply, and answer my lame questions!

 

I checked out the RME site and saw the FF400 but it looks rather over specified for what I want, having more inputs than I need etc. and maybe overkill on the sound quality considering my fairly average system. In other words, would I really get any audible benefit over a cheaper solution? I guess I am admitting here that I am not a true audiophile? :-)

 

I did look at some other RME products under the 'converters' section, but the only one that looked like it might be useful to me (the ADI-2) does not have FW or USB interface to a computer.

 

I went back and checked out the XP Sound XP202 again that I linked in a previous post, and I wonder if you could clarify the following for me please?

 

(taken from http://www.xpsound.com/XP202_specs.htm)

......ADC

64x Oversampling

 

......DAC

128x Oversampling

.

.

.

.

De-emphasis for 32kHz, 44.1 kHz, 48kHz sampling

 

I think I understand the rest of the specs.

 

Thanks!

 

This appears to be a similar type of unit to the Terratec Phase26 USB, without the SP/DIF-toslink I/O, and as you mentioned, perhaps biased toward the input side of things.

 

 

Peter

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A good link (IMO) to vinyl to digital conversion: http://www.computeraudiophile.com/node/268. I don't think that the DBX unit is necessary (necessarily....) but that is what I am going to do. I took the author's advice and found one on eBay recently.

 

I always liked the sound of Kenwood power equipment. I still own a small Kenwood integrated amp that my mom purchased in the 1970's that works quite well. Quality construction and really 'good enough' sound IMO. Is your amp a reciever (radio included), an integrated (pre and power amp together without the radio) or a separate preamp/amp setup? Send me the model number so I have a better idea of what you are dealing with. I have also owned (and still own Marantz) equipment, though never any of their speakers. Once again: good enough! This stuff is best done a little at a time - unless you have money to burn. Around here at C/A, if you like (love) it, then that is all that matters.

 

It is really up to you as to whether you want the phono preamp stage in the A/D/A or not. One could make the argument that it is better to have it all in one unit, to reduce the number of connections and cables. If either are done properly though (short, quality cable runs for the A/D/A without the phono preamp), I don't think that there is much difference between the two approaches except for the fact that it is best to get the highest quality A/D that you can afford for this particular purpose. Unless you want to transfer the audio again sometime in the future when you realize that you could have done it better. I wish that I knew more about the particular Terratec unit that we are talking about. But I do not. I'm not trying to get you to spend more money here, just to spend what you are going to spend anyway as wisely as possible. the more I think about this, the more I think that because you are attracted to the Apogee Duet - and that I know it to be a great A/D/A box - that you should probably do that if it isn't way out of your price range. If your Kenwood has tape out jacks, you have your phono preamp already. Though you could probably do better (NOT necessarily though) with a separate phono pre. You might do better by upgrading the turntable or cartridge, or both. Send me that model number for the Kenwood, OK? - the web is a wonderful source for reference, and this is the kind of thing that it does best.

 

markr

 

 

 

 

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... and there are widely varying opinions about it. Suffice it to say that in one version of the theory of the best way to sample, the more oversampling that there is, the closer to the original analog signal the resultant digital signal is supposed to be. If that argument is correct, then what those specs are saying is that the digital to analog conversion (128X over) is better than the analog to digital conversion (64X over). By a factor of 2 to 1. That is oversimplifying it though. If this is true, this box is supposed to play back better than it records. Wikipedia is a good place to start some research: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oversampling -or- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sampling_(signal_processing) **for some reason, I could not get the last link there to be a 'hyperlink'. Try copying and pasting it into the url line to get it to work. It works for me.**

 

- Though I don't agree with the following statement from the latter link: For playback and not recording purposes, a proper analysis of typical programme levels throughout an audio system reveals that the capabilities of well-engineered 16-bit material far exceed those of the very best hi-fi systems, with the microphone noise and loudspeaker headroom being the real limiting factors - My ear finds 24-bit to be closer to the sound of the best hi-fi systems. The 'experts' don't fully agree with me. I don't really care about that though.

 

Deemphasis is a way of saying that they are reducing the signal level of some frequencies to match the levels of other frequencies in order to improve the overall sound. Here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deemphasis

 

BTW: NO PROBLEMO about my taking the time, Chris will tell you that if I CAN'T take the time, I won't. I love this stuff!

 

Re: the FF400: I purchased the FF400 for my home recording studio, for a live keyboard/synth rig having multiple output capabilities, and to be able to take the unit out to record my friends (musicians) in live situations. I also have the desire to do audio pre and post production for video. I have been an audio 'semi pro' (whatever that means *Note to self: It means you don't make any money at it dummy!*) for a long time now. The FF400 has the wonderful benefit of also being a quite nice home playback unit. I did it this way rather than purchase a home (2 channel) DAC unit and a a separate recording unit (multichannel). Sort of like what you are trying to do: get the best for the least outlay of money. I wouldn't expect that you would need most of the capabilities of this unit though.

 

You are right in that RME doesn't seem to provide a 2-channel-only solution for computer recording. I hadn't really noticed that until you pointed it out. Sorry. The Apogee Duet now looks even better for your purpose IMO. BTW, what is the price differential between the Duet and the Terratec and XP sound units you are looking at? I'm not seeing prices on the other two units as they aren't available for purchase on the 'local' websites and they aren't listed on the .au ones.

 

Important point: You CAN get a trial on each of these if you contact the dealer and explain to them that you would be interested in knowing their return policy on this sort of merchandise. Considering your location I think it the smart thing to do to check ahead of time. They will be quite amenable to you if you emphasize that you WILL purchase one of them. I know that the time factor in shipping and returning is a potentially frustrating and costly issue (don't forget the restocking fees), but unless you can devote some travel time and can get some well organized in-store trial time with all of these units within a reasonable distance from each other, what other option do you have? It would be best if we had all three units together and the time to try them all. It would be much less frustrating for you that way, I am sure.

 

re: "lame questons": My father used to say that "There is no such thing as a stupid ("lame") question if you don't already know the answer to it...." I agree with him. Ask away!

 

markr

 

 

 

 

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..... I think I got an extra good dose of ginseng last night ;^) This particular situation that Peter is in is intriguing me. ....

 

I find it hard to believe that this is 'out of your league' though. I've been paying attention on C/A at a pretty high level. Due to 'time available' however, I just have to pick my spots.

 

markr

 

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Re: your statement about not being a true audiophile:

 

An audiophile, from Latin audire[1] "to hear" and Greek philos[2] "loving," can be generally defined as a person dedicated to achieving high fidelity in the recording and playback of music.

**quoted from Wikipedia

 

I believe that you qualify. Else, why would you be pursuing this in the way that you are?

 

markr

 

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just my two cents....

 

i like apogee products in general...

 

ive no experience with the duet [absolutely, it has a very high cute factor]...but i know several folks who swear by their apogee mini DAC's...[which arent so cute...lol]...

 

i personally rely heavily on their ensemble...i find it easy to use, has great sound, and its connectivity is marvelous...but then its 36 channel capability is beyond what most need...so no point in recommending it...

 

i should also say that im very happy with their clock....it solved a number of problems for me...

 

ana...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hello Mark,

 

The amp is a Kenwood KA-87, I have done some googling on it and there appears to be a version with a graphic EQ, mine doesn't have this. It is an integrated amp rated at 100W RMS per channel (which may be optimistic), so it has phono inputs and tape line outs as well as aux/CD and tape and tuner inputs. When I bought it in the 80's it was regarded as a good mid range amp but I guess it would be rated pretty ordinary now. It is probably the weak link in the chain. The speakers are Marantz LS360 3-way Digital Definition Series, which are pretty reasonable. The turntable, well we won't mention that here, :-) suffice to say I will definitely upgrade that component, to what I don't yet know, that will be a topic for another thread, assuming it is OK to discuss an analogue source on a digital forum?

 

Re the oversampling, after reading the Wikipedia article, the conclusion I came to was that it enables manufacturers to use a cheaper DAC say 20 bit and still get 24 bit resolution, although to do this it would need to do 256x oversampling which the XP Sound does not do, so I am still confused as to their purpose of 64x/128x oversampling. After reading the second Wiki link, it seems that oversampling is something to do with sigma-delta convertors, so maybe this is the type of convertor the XP Sound unit is using? I must say that most of what is in those Wiki links goes over my head, especially the maths!

 

I disagree with their statement "the typical consumer is unlikely to see any benefit from 20-bit devices.", I thought that the idea was to have a bit-perfect chain from source to output, so if you were playing a 24/96 download from say Linn Records, it would be best to have a 24 bit DAC?

 

OK, getting down to the nitty gritty of prices, I can get the XP Sound XP202 for AU$350, the Terratec Phase 26 for AU$400 and the Apogee Duet is AU$750 rrp although the distributors website (http://www.sounddevices.com.au/) says call for price. As I mentioned in a previous post, there must be quite a markup on the duet since the US rrp of $495 currently translates to AU$530.

 

I think that any of these units will show up the shortcomings of my amp, the Duet in particular, but I guess that is part of the process of becoming an audiophile - the constant dissatisfaction and upgrading *grin*.

 

Anabella, yes I have heard high praise for the overall quality (build and sound) of Apogee products and I do think the Duet is a great product for that price, I just wonder if it may be too good for my system, and if it would be better to compromise on the Terratec Phase 26 to start with (walk before I run!), and add the difference in cost to my turntable budget to improve the source first?

 

Thanks again Mark.

 

 

 

Peter

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I am glad I decided to LOOK for this thread again. I somehow missed this post when it came in & wouldn't have seen it otherwise!

 

Let me start from the bottom up here, and see if I can do the same 'flip' to your thinking about this issue to get a little bit different perspective going for you:

 

You can approach this issue from different perspectives, none of which would necessarily be wrong. Here is how I am seeing it: Your thread here starts with the premiss of wanting to take analog audio sources and convert (preserve) them in digital form. This seems to be your MOST important goal from what you have communicated here. I will assume that you want the highest quality preservation that you can achieve for a reasonable cost. .... and maybe even not so 'reasonable', given your interpretation of 'audiophile.' More on that later.....

 

First: Analog sources gradually wear out. This is why I have greatly limited my own playback of vinyl and tape until I can do what you are trying to do, as well. The better quality and better cared-for your analog reproduction equipment is, the longer your source material will stay viable for proper digitization. It might make the most sense to upgrade the turntable/cartridge subsystem first *How is the tape machine.....BTW? ;^)* Making this the first step will give you the most amount of 'tries' at achieving your goal, IMO. This will also give you more time to decide on the specifics of the second step.

 

Second: A/D/A - Having done the first step, you may now 'aim lower' when purchasing the digitization hardware, because if you don't like what you hear from the first box, you can then try another and still expect your source material to still be approximately as viable as on the first try with the first box. Rinse and repeat until 'clean'. I REALLY don't want to get into the possible differences between the A/D versus the D/A section of each of these boxes at this point, but any differences will have an effect on your ability to determine if you have IN FACT achieved your goal (as assumed by me...). Suffice it to say that this is a big reason that I would recommend the Apogee. The quality of the phono preamp section will be a significant factor here as well, but if you have done step one well, there is still time and good source material......

 

Question: "How do you eat an elephant?" Answer: "One bite at a time."

 

Third: The amp (speakers too). I saved this for last, because it is **just** what you will be using to play the audio back. I say **just** because it doesn't enter in to the A/D/A digital portion of the process here. EXCEPT to amplify the audio that you have digitized. I still place it last, because both your computer and the A/D/A box will most likely have headphone jacks available for you to get a 'second opinion' of how your A/D work is going. And it (the Kenwood) being 'showed' up by the Duet, won't change the digital files. They will still be there when you have a better amp, and the sound of a bad analog amp is vastly preferable to a bad digital file in my opinion anyway.....

 

Now there was a LOT of other stuff in your post here, but I wouldn't worry too much about most of it. I meant it when I said that sampling/oversampling will take several semester hours of work to understand - "Remember that you must expect to put in 3 to 4 hours of your own work for every 'semester hour' of classes taken here at XYZ College" (said my college counselors). It (the explanation) would also take several websites the size of Computer Audiophile to contain all of the text - I have to get a tooth pulled tomorrow.... There isn't an easy, understandable explanation anyway. I didn't even mention the fact some think that anything more than 'one bit' resolution is not needed. Keep the 'elephant' lesson in mind here.

 

You will never convince some engineering types that anything more than 16/48 KHz sampling is necessary, and a LOT of literature on sampling will reflect that opinion. I don't agree with that opinion, because my ears tell me different

 

- which leads me to the last point for me today: I would NOT say that constant dissatisfaction was in the definition of being an audiophile. I would say that satisfaction is though. If you do things carefully, you will always find a way to just LOVE what you have, and I would not recommend any other way of doing this. The other way eats up way too much money and soul.

 

markr

If I missed something important here - let me know, OK?

 

 

 

 

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Hello again Mark,

 

 

Third: The amp (speakers too). I saved this for last, because it is **just** what you will be using to play the audio back. I say **just** because it doesn't enter in to the A/D/A digital portion of the process here. EXCEPT to amplify the audio that you have digitized. I still place it last, because both your computer and the A/D/A box will most likely have headphone jacks available for you to get a 'second opinion' of how your A/D work is going. And it (the Kenwood) being 'showed' up by the Duet, won't change the digital files. They will still be there when you have a better amp, and the sound of a bad analog amp is vastly preferable to a bad digital file in my opinion anyway.....

 

 

Some wise words there, it makes sense to concentrate on the quality of the source first then the playback later.

 

At this point I have narrowed my options down to two alternatives:

 

1. Buy the Apogee Duet and use the phono preamp in my Kenwood KA-87 amp to deliver a line level signal to the Duet for recording vinyl.

 

2. Buy the Terratec Phase 26 USB which gives me a choice of phono preamps to compare quality,

and put the money saved (could be up to $350) towards my turntable upgrade budget.

 

There seems to be no doubt that the Duet has a better sound quality than the Phase 26, but would this point be potentially offset by being able to afford a better quality turntable?

 

Decisions, decisions!

 

Peter

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Well. ..... I still think that you should try to minimize the damage to your vinyl and tape as much as possible, in order to give yourself the best chance of eventually capturing the essence of what you have already got. This means that only you can tell what needs to be done next.

 

I really don't know anything about the turntable that you mentioned. Sometimes a brand that you wouldn't think could be ANY good is actually more than passable. Here is how I would decide: If the turntable will track reliably at approximately 0.75 - 1.5 grams, the cartridge is new-ish, and you are not having any problems with the turntable, get the Apogee and go. If you aren't having any problems, but the cartridge/stylus is older - get a new cartridge/stylus and the Apogee.

 

If you are having issues with the turntable at ALL, upgrade your turntable and cartridge/stylus, and get the Terratec. ......... or wait a little longer for the digital portion and get the Apogee (or Terratec, if you find yourself spending a big chunk of cash on the turntable/cartridge combo.)

 

That is what I am feeling about this: get the analog portion right first. If this opinion causes you to have some more thoughts about this, please share them. OK Peter?

 

markr

 

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Hello Mark,

 

I wonder if you could clarify the following for me please?

 

The Duet has balanced XLR inputs , and unbalanced Hi-Z instrument inputs (1/4" TS); which (if any) would be suitable to hook up to unbalanced RCA line-level signals from a tape deck or phono preamp (obviously using RCA-1/4" TS or RCA-XLR adapters)?

 

Thanks!

 

Peter

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...more about your Terratec unit - no luck there. No definitive info that I can find to this point.

 

You bring up an issue that I wasn't prepared for, but doing a quick check of the Apogee site (go here & watch the video "Using Duet: Recording", it is about 2/3 of the way through it: http://www.apogeedigital.com/products/duet.php?section=support ).

 

So they are recommending the XLR connectors, but not ruling out the 1/4" ones, going by what the video says (options!). You would not be using them AS fully balanced though. You could only use two of the three connectors in a balanced cable by terminating the cable with and RCA (cinch) connector,

 

There are three solutions that I know of. One that I would not recommend from experience is a simple coverter dongle, like an RCA to XLR connector - every type of these devices that I've used have had issues with physical connection stability that end up in nasty audible artifacts. This doesn't always happen immediately, sometimes you get some use out of the device before it becomes useless. It wouldn't cost too much to prove me wrong though, I haven't tried them ALL!

 

I would most recommend a conversion cable that goes from XLR -->RCA (This will get you started: http://www.sweetwater.com/c861--Unbalanced_Cables__RCA_to_XLR ). I would most recommend the Monster Studio Links at this particular url - other fine brands are out there, & if you are a gear head like I am, you could build your own from components. I cannot determine definitively from Apogee's literature if you would need a Male or Female XLR, but I would assume the male ("MXR") one from what is said and shown there, and from all 'standards' known to me.

 

You could also consider a conversion box like one of these:

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/DTI/

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ProAV2/

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/CleanBox/

There are more out there....

 

Sorry Peter, that ran a bit longer than I had intended. And I didn't even get into the 1/4" part. They hint in the video link provided that that might work well too. Like I said: options!

 

markr

 

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Thanks for the reply Mark.

 

It is looking more and more likely that I will go for the Duet, I have been quoted a reasonable price, a fair bit better than rrp here, I just need to know that I can hook it up to line level unbalanced signals via either the balanced XLR inputs or the unbalanced but high impedance instrument inputs.

 

I am not sure what the impedance of a typical consumer line out is, and whether or not an impedance mis-match would cause problems using the high impedance instrument inputs, since you say Apogee are not definitive on this, but if I can use the XLR inputs (which I think run at about 110 ohms impedance) then that is OK by me!

 

I have not watched any of the Apogee videos, my download limit is pretty sparse here!

 

I appreciate the comment about not using 'dongle' adaptors, a conversion cable with the correct terminations would also give me more flexibility in positioning.

 

I take it that the -10dBV mentioned for the unbalanced outputs equates to a typical line-out signal suitable for directly connecting to an amp, as opposed to a pro-audio (hot) output?

 

Thanks again Mark.

 

Peter

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