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Best route to digitising vinyl


Norton
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My (early) new year's resolution is to digitise some of my LP collection. I have a very good quality vinyl front end and am looking for the highest quality copies within a reasonable budget. Would I be better off 1. getting a good quality adc (maybe PS audio Phono which seems to be on offer at the moment, even though I already have a very good phono stage) and recording via vinyl studio etc; or 2. Tascam 7000 recorder or similar?

 

I'm particularly keen on double or quad DSD. I know neither of the above products do the latter, so interested in other ADC recommendations for quad DSD. Would I be correct in assuming that, if capable of encoding to a chosen digital format, ADCs may not differ in performance to the same extent as DACS do for replay?

 

Thanks

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I use the Tascam DA-3000 which has 192kHz and 5.6MHz capability taking output directly from my phono pre. I monitor with headphones from the Tascam. A shortcoming of this unit is it records to CF and SDHC cards only, which for me is no big deal. A downside of DSD is the difficulty of converting to PCM (impossible?) for use in other applications or other equipment.

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Quite frankly the best way to digitise vinyl to quad DSD is to re-buy quad DSDs of the records you want. Material destined for vinyl is mastered differently - RIAA EQ curves need to be applied, and the mastering needs to be done in such a way that the vinyl is trackable. Basically transferring music to vinyl is on the whole a bit of a messy business, and it means that the signal is optimised for mechanical retrieval, and not for sound quality. Re-buying the LPs that you want in DSD format will ensure that you're getting the best possible sound quality.

 

Ok, if you're hell bent on doing this yourself, then that PS Audio box seems to be a good all in one solution which will get you most of the way to where you want to be, despite not being Quad DSD. However, bear in mind that quad DSD is an immense overkill for vinyl digitisation. In fact, dare I say it, standard redbook is overkill for vinyl digitisation in the vast majority of situations.

 

First thing about vinyl is that although the dynamic range can exceed 100dB theoretically, in practice, even with the best of the best of the best turntables, arms and cartridges, the dynamic tops out at around 65, maybe 70dB. This is well inside the dynamic range of the redbook standard of 16bits.

 

One of the things vinyl can do that redbook can't is store much higher frequencies. However the problem with those ultrasonic components is that they don't last long. After a few plays, even with the kindest of styli, they're gone - worn away, or at least what remains of them is so distorted that they could not be considered part of the original signal anymore. So in effect, unless you have a brand new heavyweight audiophile pressing fresh out of the sleeve, then a sampling rate of 44.1 or 48 is going to capture everything anyway. If the record is new, as in never having been played, then 16/192 will capture everything that the vinyl has to offer.

 

For the capture hardware I'd always look to the pro audio products, and not HiFi related products, mainly because the pro audio manufacturers have years of experience doing ADC products. As you already have a phono stage then take a look at the RME Babyface Pro or the Apogee Duet if you want to spend some money, but the truth is a lot of the cheaper audio interfaces use exactly the same ADC circuitry and pre-amps as the the big studio rackmount equipment on which most commercial music is recorded anyway - so there's a good chance that for 150 - 200 bucks you'll be able to pick something up which will be perfectly fine - I use a Steinberg UR22 which which cost 150 bucks and I have no complaints about it, It's unlikely that the Tascam UH 7000 that you mention would perform any better in truth.

 

As for capture software I'd use Logic Pro, but only in so far as that's my main audio and music production workhorse. Otherwise I'd probably download the free open source Audacity and use that (I'd put a link to it here, but as this is my first post I don't want to appear as a spammer). Personally I wouldn't use Vinyl Studio unless I was going to take advantage the filters, which I wouldn't as they can have an adverse effect on sound quality.

 

Finally don't get to hung up on DSD. For DSD to actually deliver it's claimed benefits, then the whole musical performance has to recorded direct to DSD, and while there are some recording outfits and labels that specialise in this, it's more likely that whatever you've bought on DSD has either been through analog master tapes (around about 13 bits, or 78dB of dynamic range), or was originally recorded in PCM and then converted to DSD.

 

From my personal perspective, and that is mostly related to music production, I see DSD as a bit like the emperors new clothes, and basically a format designed to re-sell you your music yet again, with little or no perceivable benefit. What I can tell you though is that DSD is absolutely useless in the studio until it's been converted to PCM.

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Admittedly investigating 2/4/8 DSD is one of the reasons I joined this site. Not sure vinyl is going to get better using anything larger than 24/192. My understanding is software to clean up the digital transfer goes a lot further towards preserving what is there. That DSD is best left for studio remasters. Wouldn't mind being pleasantly surprised if you find otherwise.

 

Insofar as recording to DSD this may be helpful if you didn't already know about it.

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I've started to do some vinyl rips to DSD5.6 using the Korg DS-DAC-10R and am very happy with the results. VPI Aries Series-1, Zyx Airy-3 MC, Sonic Frontiers SFP-1 phono-stage straight to the Korg, monitored using headphones. Track tagging is done with Korg's Audiogate software on a Win10 computer, files stored and played back as DSD5.6. My main playback system is in a dedicated, treated room, built around Altec 604s, SET amplification and HQPlayer/Roon to various DSD DACs. Roon picks up the rips when they hit my NAS, catalogs them nicely using the tags and seamlessly slide these albums in with the rest of my digital catalog.

 

 

I'm a die-hard vinyl guy and never thought I'd hear digital get close to what I enjoy in hearing my favorite music on a good LP, but these first few rips to DSD5.6 have me really questioning that. All I love about that vinyl front end seems to be captured for the most part on these rips; all the texture, depth and flesh-and-blood presence that pulls me into records, is there. Quite a revelation for me really, and I'd honestly have a hard time picking the vinyl from the rip if I wasn't the one controlling playback.

 

 

I don't really bother with PCM as I just love the HQPlayer/DSD DAC approach so have only converted a few of these rips to wav or flac for playing on other systems (with great results). For me, going to DSD5.6 as the primary vinyl archive format on my network works best; I can play the rip back from within Roon as DSD5.6 in the big system, as hi-res PCM to my home-theater system (using Roon) or make a flac copy for my phone or car if I want something portable (using Jriver).

 

 

It is a lot of work to rip an LP for me (I'm pretty obsessive about the details) but DSD5.6 seems to be the sweet-spot that will get me working through that big vinyl rack – I'm looking forward to seeing all that music start to pop up in the Roon interface.

Roon + HQPlayer on Win10/i7-6700K Skylake > SMS-100 (HQP NAA) > Uptone Regen with benchtop linear PS > Concero HD DAC (sometimes Audionote Kit 2.1). Dedicated room, VPI/Zyx TT, Sonic Frontiers phono, Joule-Electra pre-amp, DIY 2A3 amp, DIY Altec 604-8G & 416A woofers on HK SS amp.

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The PSAudio is on sale for $999 and does double DSD recording. If I was you and interested, I'd grab it before it is no longer available.

 

I don't think there's any need to do quad DSD, and it is a great unit that will make recording easy and give you very high quality rips. As a bonus you get a very good phono stage, even though that isn't what you are looking for.

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: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Welcome to the site Slaphead, that's quite a first post. I would tend to agree with your statements but have no experience with either the Tascam or the Steinberg.

 

I have personally tried a few usb phono preamps and none of them have given me the results of simply capturing the analog signal in audacity. Even when using something like the creative x-fi hd which has a phono preamp built in, the very same device does a better job capturing analog from another preamp. I have also found that recording at a higher sample rate and then down converting yields a better result that capturing in the desired format.

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One big advantage for PCM over DSD is that you can easily do post processing to remove clicks and pops, etc. in PCM, but not in DSD. I have done more ripping than most people - about 10,000 records over a 6 year period, all at 192/24 using pro equipment and software. Not cheap however.

 

Larry

Analog-VPIClas3,3DArm,LyraSkala+MiyajimaZeromono,Herron VTPH2APhono,2AmpexATR-102+MerrillTridentMaster TapePreamp  Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacificMicrosonicsModel2; Dig Play-Lampi Pacific, mch NADAC, Roon-HQPlayer,Oppo105  Electronics-DoshiPre,CJ MET1mchPre,Cary2A3monoamps Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR

Other-2x512EngineerMarutaniSymmetrical Power+Cables Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.7KR2Rtapes,1.5KCD's,500SACDs,50TBripped files

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In fact, dare I say it, standard redbook is overkill for vinyl digitisation in the vast majority of situations.

 

I was hoping to get SQ approaching that of the original vinyl, but if the above really is the case, then maybe this is a pointless exercise for my purposes, as virtually all of my LPs are already available on CD. Where I already have both, in each case the SQ of the CD is vastly inferior to that of the LP in my system. By contrast, HDTT transfers of the same analogue recordings (albeit from different media) in quad DSD for example, sound excellent and very similar to the equivalent LP in my system. Something along those lines is what I was aiming for in digitising my LPs.

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I use a Steinberg UR22 which which cost 150 bucks and I have no complaints about it, It's unlikely that the Tascam UH 7000 that you mention would perform any better in truth.

 

I have a Steinberg UR242 and a Tascam UH-7000. Of these, the Tascam is a much better product, lower noise and a lot less jitter. The one minor issue with the Tascam is that the built-in SMPS causes some ultrasonic noise in the left channel. The Steinberg has considerably higher noise levels and an insane amount of jitter. While actually hearing any difference in a recording is probably difficult (I haven't attempted a proper comparison), I'd still pick the Tascam just for peace of mind.

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I'm a die-hard vinyl guy and never thought I'd hear digital get close to what I enjoy in hearing my favorite music on a good LP, but these first few rips to DSD5.6 have me really questioning that. All I love about that vinyl front end seems to be captured for the most part on these rips; all the texture, depth and flesh-and-blood presence that pulls me into records, is there. Quite a revelation for me really, and I'd honestly have a hard time picking the vinyl from the rip if I wasn't the one controlling playback.

 

Thanks, that's the outcome I'm hoping for...

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I was hoping to get SQ approaching that of the original vinyl, but if the above really is the case, then maybe this is a pointless exercise for my purposes, as virtually all of my LPs are already available on CD. Where I already have both, in each case the SQ of the CD is vastly inferior to that of the LP in my system. By contrast, HDTT transfers of the same analogue recordings (albeit from different media) in quad DSD for example, sound excellent and very similar to the equivalent LP in my system. Something along those lines is what I was aiming for in digitising my LPs.

 

I was gong to recommend Bob Witrak's (HDTT) DSD256 files to you. They all come from tape transfers, mostly 15ips 2 track tapes, using the Merging Technologies Hapi/Pyramix system. I use Merging's Pyramix software for my rips to 192/24. Bob has also done some vinyl rips, but always in PCM so that he can do post processing. You will see that he often will say that there are minor sonic issues in the tapes he is ripping to DSD, but that he cannot edit them. Since they are minor and very infrequent, I don't mind them at all. Bob says this about his "Pure DSD" rips. "Note: Because of the limited editing capability of DSD, to keep it "Pure DSD" with no PCM used, you could hear blemishes from the original tape source that would be normally edited out in a PCM release." However, it is very different for vinyl, especially if you have older records. I have just about all of Bob's classical DSD256 rips and most of his classical DSD128 rips. They are very fine - especially the DSD256 rips. A nice Hapi/Merging set up is close to 5 figures. What some people do is convert the DSD file to PCM to edit and then go back to DSD. Not sure that is an improvement over doing a straight PCM rip.

 

It sounds like you have a very fine vinyl playback system. If you are content to live with the clicks and pops and want to digitize, then getting a Hapi/Pyramix system is a very fine solution, doing everything at DSD256 - though it is not cheap. However, when you consider the amount of time you will spend ripping the vinyl, at least everything in real time plus whatever extra time for labelling, dividing tracks, etc. then it may well be worth the expenditure, given you probably don't want to repeat the process. I chose a Pyramix/Pacific Microsonics Model Two system to do my vinyl rips, and Izotope RX3 Advanced for post processing.

 

Larry (who has spent more than 10,000 hours ripping vinyl and tapes over a 6 year period)

Analog-VPIClas3,3DArm,LyraSkala+MiyajimaZeromono,Herron VTPH2APhono,2AmpexATR-102+MerrillTridentMaster TapePreamp  Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacificMicrosonicsModel2; Dig Play-Lampi Pacific, mch NADAC, Roon-HQPlayer,Oppo105  Electronics-DoshiPre,CJ MET1mchPre,Cary2A3monoamps Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR

Other-2x512EngineerMarutaniSymmetrical Power+Cables Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.7KR2Rtapes,1.5KCD's,500SACDs,50TBripped files

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It sounds like you have a very fine vinyl playback system. If you are content to live with the clicks and pops and want to digitize, then getting a Hapi/Pyramix system is a very fine solution, doing everything at DSD256 - though it is not cheap. However, when you consider the amount of time you will spend ripping the vinyl, at least everything in real time plus whatever extra time for labelling, dividing tracks, etc. then it may well be worth the expenditure, given you probably don't want to repeat the process. I chose a Pyramix/Pacific Microsonics Model Two system to do my vinyl rips, and Izotope RX3 Advanced for post processing.

 

Larry (who has spent more than 10,000 hours ripping vinyl and tapes over a 6 year period)

 

Thanks, that's a very interesting option. It looks like if I went the Hapi route that would give me a very high quality DAC as well as an ADC? I presume I could wire the PC and Hapi directly via Ethernet cable (doesn't seem to have USB) and that I could use different software than the (v. expensive) Pyramix?

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Thanks, that's a very interesting option. It looks like if I went the Hapi route that would give me a very high quality DAC as well as an ADC? I presume I could wire the PC and Hapi directly via Ethernet cable (doesn't seem to have USB) and that I could use different software than the (v. expensive) Pyramix?

 

Not sure about the wiring question. Pro equipment usually doesn't use USB. My Model Two uses dual wire AES for 192/24. I use the Merging Mykerinos card to connect my computer to my Model Two. Not sure whether Hapi can use other software. Clearly Merging designed Pyramix to work together with the Hapi and big brother Horus. You can email Dom Brulhart at Merging to find out whether it works with other software. [email protected].

 

Larry

Analog-VPIClas3,3DArm,LyraSkala+MiyajimaZeromono,Herron VTPH2APhono,2AmpexATR-102+MerrillTridentMaster TapePreamp  Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacificMicrosonicsModel2; Dig Play-Lampi Pacific, mch NADAC, Roon-HQPlayer,Oppo105  Electronics-DoshiPre,CJ MET1mchPre,Cary2A3monoamps Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR

Other-2x512EngineerMarutaniSymmetrical Power+Cables Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.7KR2Rtapes,1.5KCD's,500SACDs,50TBripped files

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I converted 2,400 lps to digital format, PCM and ultimately formatted and processed as FLAC files at 192/24. Sota Star deck with SME V and various LOMC into SUT and then Audio Research Phone pre.

 

I did not fancy buying any expensive hardware so I ended up using an RME Hammerfell 9632 PCI card purchased on ebay for $300 in my ripping desktop computer.

 

Ripping software was VinylStudio by AlpineSoft which also used Discogs (and others) to search for and attach meta data and track splits. It also includes noise reduction software which takes ticks, pops, rumble, etc. out of the recording. Note that processing will result in some trade offs.

 

The recorded files are stored on a couple of WD Red 4tb drives while the processed FLAC files are on a 4 bay Synology NAS. You can figure out your own storage needs based on what you anticipate ripping, sampling rates/bit depth, to determine your storage needs. Storage and back were the biggest outlays for the project.

 

Playback uses JRiver Media software with USB feed into my DAC.

 

I'm currently running W10 Pro but much of the project was done on W7 OEM Pro.

 

All the gear and software aside, here are a few thoughts regarding this sort of undertaking.

 

Key things remain cartridge alignment, clean stylus and record, proper matching of phono cart to phono pre without overloading the recording input and then watching the recording level. Getting all these things right over the period of say a one day 10 disk recording session is going to have a greater impact than the differences in playback between the analog and digital sources and your equipment package. The one surprise over the entire project is the huge difference in output level from record to record and not just dynamics but general output. Distortion from overload is an ugly thing as is recording at levels which are too high in the digital medium. Just my findings over a project that took about 1.5 years in real time and 285 ten hour man days.

 

Good luck. You will find the convenience factor to be excellent and the sonics to be more than acceptable.

 

My (early) new year's resolution is to digitise some of my LP collection. I have a very good quality vinyl front end and am looking for the highest quality copies within a reasonable budget. Would I be better off 1. getting a good quality adc (maybe PS audio Phono which seems to be on offer at the moment, even though I already have a very good phono stage) and recording via vinyl studio etc; or 2. Tascam 7000 recorder or similar?

 

I'm particularly keen on double or quad DSD. I know neither of the above products do the latter, so interested in other ADC recommendations for quad DSD. Would I be correct in assuming that, if capable of encoding to a chosen digital format, ADCs may not differ in performance to the same extent as DACS do for replay?

 

Thanks

FLAC and AIF files mainly 192/24 and lower on Synology DS412 4x4Tb WD Red  in SHR2>direct ethernet to NUC>Intel NUC5PPYH w/JR Media 20 Akasa Newton P fanless case and DIY o11 LPS>Straightwire USB cable>W4S Recovery w/LPS>W4S DAC2DSD V2 w/Femto clock>Kimber Silver Streak balanced>Balanced Audio Technology VK3000SE>Kimber Monocle XL>Sonus Faber Cremona floorstanders

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I was hoping to get SQ approaching that of the original vinyl, but if the above really is the case, then maybe this is a pointless exercise for my purposes, as virtually all of my LPs are already available on CD. Where I already have both, in each case the SQ of the CD is vastly inferior to that of the LP in my system. By contrast, HDTT transfers of the same analogue recordings (albeit from different media) in quad DSD for example, sound excellent and very similar to the equivalent LP in my system. Something along those lines is what I was aiming for in digitising my LPs.

 

One of the things that I do these days is to see if the solution to my problem is already at hand. It's always tempting to splash some cash on a new toy that you think you need, but it may be that an acceptable solution is already within your grasp.

 

You obviously have a computer some sort already, otherwise you wouldn't be here. The chances are high that you have a sound card already built in to the computer either as a separate card, or integrated onto the motherboard, that will accept audio in. Now, some of these inbuilt sound cards are truly awful, some are acceptable, and some are really quite good, at least from a studio point of view.

 

So what I'm suggesting you try before dumping any money is download Audacity, then hook up your turntable kit to the audio input on your computer. Set your computer and/or audacity to record at the maximum bit depth and sample rate that your computer is capable of - I know I previously said 16/44.1 will be plenty to capture vinyl, but there's no harm in going above that for peace of minds sakes. Pick a record that you know well, find the loudest point, and set the levels Audacity to record at -6dB from that point. Ideally when viewing the recorded waveform what you want to see is a waveform that, on average, only swings about half of the maximum distance at the loudest point of the performance - this will help to avoid transient clipping. it may be that surface noise such as pops and crackles may still clip, but don't worry about that as it can be dealt with later, and besides they're probably not part of the signal that you want to preserve.

 

Once you're happy, record a single side onto Audacity, or even single track, and then listen to it through your normal HiFi system, and when listening try to keep the fact that you've done this on the cheap out of your mind - not everything in this game actually needs megabucks spent on it to give a good, or even superb result.

 

The worst case scenario after this is that you're absolutely not happy with the result, and you've lost an hour. However you'll have successfully performed a proof of concept, and you now know that you need to improve your audio capture chain.

 

The best case scenario is that you honestly cannot differentiate between the digitally recorded version and the vinyl original, in which case job done and cash saved.

 

The truth is that whatever equipment you use it's unlikely that the recorded version will sound 100% identical whatever audio capture equipment you use, as there are a lot of variables in play and whatever ADC and DAC you use will impart it's own "flavour" onto the sound. In this case you'll have to decide whether it's better, worse, or just different.

 

At the very least I think this trial run is worth a spin (pun absolutely intended)

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I have digitized hundreds of records. Here are some observations.

 

It is perfectly possible to get your digitized files to sound basically the same as your vinyl. However, as with all audio, you need to use the right equipment. You need the right adc and the right DAC. Right does not necessarily mean expensive, it just has to be at a level comparable to the rest of your system. I was not happy with my initial efforts but when I got the right DAC, then there was little difference between the vinyl and the flac file. I use a Korg MR-2000s at 24/192 and the result is very close to the original. My test is my wife's ears - she is incredible hearing. She hears a big difference between 16/44 and 24/96 and only a minor difference going to 24/192. On our DAC, 2x DSD does not sound better than 24/192. How PCM compares to DSD depends on your playback equipment. Somes DAC are great with PCM but not with DSD and vice versa.

 

You cannot process DSD files beyond breaking them apart. That is why I stopped using it. Removing clicks and pops and hiss really helped the sound. People are often concerned that removing clicks and pops changes the music, but, my view is that damage on the vinyl has already done that, so cleanup is warranted. Sometimes damaged sections cannot be fixed without making things worse, but that is unusual. That usually happens with a long scratch parallel to the tracks. Anything across the tracks is easy to fix.

 

If you want to listen to the effect of click and pop removal, get a decent set of headphones and listen carefully. It is amazing how much detail you can hear with headphones. With Vinyl Studio you can also look at the original waveform and the cleaned up waveform.

 

 

 

Vinyl Studio is great software, for only $29 with a 30 day free trial. As with all software, it takes some getting used to but once mastered it is very efficient. I find it much easier to use than Audacity and it uses online sources to get track names and times - a great time saver.

 

My Korg and the Tascam DA-3000 record to removal cards. So you can record without being connected to a PC. You then move the files to the PC for processing. Other adcs, like the new Korg, connect to the PC for recording. I like recording to disk, since it does not tie up the PC when recording.

 

Handheld recorders like the Tascam DR-05 (24/96, $100) and the DR-100mk111 (24/196, $300) are nice entry level products.

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