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Vinyl to 24 bit FLAC - low budget


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19 hours ago, ChuckM6421 said:

Hi all, forum noob here but I've worked the internet railroads since long before there was a WWW.

I'm musically trained and have a pretty good ear or two so I can appreciate higher resolution audio and I'd like to convert some of my vinyl to 24 bit digital. I know this is a well-worn path of questioning but in this case I have a specific technical question, to wit:


I have a Denon DP-61F plugged into a Denon AVR-2805 receiver and I'm wondering why I couldn't just make a connection between the headphone jack and my PC and have at it?



It would be better if you used the Monitor Out jacks, that's what they're for - to record anything that's being played without the volume control and other processing having any effect.


Without getting into the technical stuff of things, how many LP's do you have and what condition are they in? 


At the end of the day, the quality of your recording is dependent on your turntable, cartridge and phono stage.  


There's nothing wrong with your turntable or receiver, but there's nothing magical about 24 bit digital either.  


Going back to before the Netscape and Mosaic days, remember that sign in every computer room.  GIGO

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10 hours ago, StephenJK said:

It would be better if you used the Monitor Out jacks, that's what they're for - to record anything that's being played without the volume control and other processing having any effect.


Without getting into the technical stuff of things, how many LP's do you have and what condition are they in? 


At the end of the day, the quality of your recording is dependent on your turntable, cartridge and phono stage.  


There's nothing wrong with your turntable or receiver, but there's nothing magical about 24 bit digital either.  


Going back to before the Netscape and Mosaic days, remember that sign in every computer room.  GIGO

Edit:  Sorry, the Monitor Out jacks are for video, no audio.


For audio, use the CDR/Tape Out jacks.  


What you may want to do is pick up something like this NAD unit:  https://www.amazon.com/NAD-PP4-Digital-Phono-Preamplifier/dp/B00DUJRGNC/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8


It's designed specifically for what you want to do.

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16 hours ago, bluesman said:

I have about 2000 albums, dating from my grandparents' single side 3/32" thick Philadelphia Orchestra recordings circa 1920 through all of their 78s to my parents' collection of 78s and LPs plus about 1200 of my own LPs (of which I bought the first ones in 1959, when I was in the 8th grade).  I have some wonderful classics, like early pressings of Kind of Blue, Dark Side (EMI), many of the bebop jazz giants, masters of swing like Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall with Charlie Christian etc, plus classical greats, broadway show albums, soundtracks, my father's Nat King Cole collection, etc etc.  They're all pristine and sound great on my Thorens TD125 / SME.


When I'm in the mood for the vinyl experience, I choose an album, set it up, sit down with the jacket and a suitable beverage, and revel in the whole thing.  This happens a few times a month at most.  The rest of my listening is digital, which is almost constantly playing somewhere in our home.  But when I'm in the mood, there's not much to rival the joy of a complete vinyl encounter, from selecting and handling the record to sipping a fine scotch while listening to my favorite music, enjoying the album art, reading the liner notes for the 500th time, and just forgetting about everything else for a while.


I've ripped some of my vinyl, but to be honest it was easier to just buy good digital versions of those I listen to often.  So the thrill ain't gone, but it has a rival for my affections 😄

I suppose we all came at things from a different angle.  My motivation for recording all of my LPs (about 1,500) was twofold. 


First, as part of a downsizing exercise I didn't want to move them ever again.  


Secondly, sometimes being a bit lazy and not wanting to play an LP I found the convenience of a music server and remote control a highly attractive option.  


I also found that the sound quality from the LPs was better or certainly no worse than a CD of the same title.  From a cost savings perspective, being able to record an LP I already had as opposed to buying the CD or a download just made a lot of sense.  


As an aside, some of my father's 10" Jazz LPs that had been heavily played were made listenable by being able to run a crackle filter to clean them up once they were recorded.  And, of course, a lot of those would not be available as a CD or download.


I do think that anyone contemplating digitizing their LPs should start with how many they need to do and what level of quality they hope to achieve.  That decision making process will determine the budget needed to accomplish that goal. 


I've always had a much better than average turntable and cartridge and have all the tools to do a proper setup.  For me the issue was finding a good recorder - I ended up with a Korg MR-2000S, which was intended for use as a final two-track digitizer in a studio for the plant ready recording.  


That being said, I think it took over 5 years to record everything with a "normal" play schedule.  I did learn not to record everything from the same artist sequentially - after 7 Lou Reed records in a row it wears a bit thin.  I kept track of what was recorded with another field in my LP database, and also did an old school inventory sticker on the LP outer sleeve.  Blue dot?  Already been done.  

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2 hours ago, davide256 said:

I can't say the thrill is gone... its just that I balk at paying over $500 for a cartridge where 1 unexpected sneeze during a track change can make $$$ go up in smoke.


You know, I can't say that I blame most folks for getting rid of their turntable.  And I've always wondered how many of them were ever setup correctly in the first place. 


Over the years I've accumulated all of the test and setup tools that I need to do a proper setup, but it takes time, skill and patience - and a budget.


I despair at the kids buying those cheap $100 turntables and playing their $30 records on them.  One play, and it's likely ruined.  


For me, even with all the albums recorded I can't think of why I would want to get rid of my turntable.  It's still a marketable item but as bluesman stated, there's nothing quite like playing a high quality recording while enjoying your favorite beverage. 


Why, I might even pull out the single malt instead of the everyday blended stuff.  

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In looking through my files I realized that I had written a long winded article on this very topic a number of years ago.  I just posted it up on the Canuck Audio Mart, being Canadian, but it may be of interest here as well.  The photo is outdated, but I'm reluctant to do any edits - just because. 


The Pros and Cons of Buying New LPs

TL; DR:  If you want great sound, maybe buy a CD.  If you like LPs just because, that’s OK.


A bit of background – I’ve been buying and playing LPs since the late 70’s.  I consider myself an audiophile and have a system that is highly revealing, very neutral and with a deep and accurate soundstage. 


I currently have around 1,500 LP titles and play them on a regular basis.  I’ve recorded over 1,200 LP’s to high resolution 24/96 FLAC files and playback from a dedicated music server.  The sound from the LP or the digital playback is virtually identical.  I also have close to 1,000 CDs that have been ripped and added to the music server.


I’ve posted details about my system under a slightly different user name – you can see that here:


Onto the topic at hand - I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade, but here are the facts.  With new LPs, you sometimes may be better off just buying a digital download or the CD. 


Recording LPs went digital in the mid-80’s.  LPs from that era will have a three letter code on them to indicate the Recording/Mixing/Mastering process as either Analog or Digital.  For more information, Google SPARS code (Society of Professional Recording Services). 


People used to look for the AAA code, believing that without the digital process it was a better recording.  Conversely, something with a DDD was to be avoided.  And, in some cases they may have been correct – digital back in the day wasn’t always well done – but of course the same thing can be said about any analog recording as well. 


This brings us to the present day.  There may be a few bands that use an analog board to record with but mixing and mastering will likely be with a Digital Audio Workshop (DAW) and all the tools that provides – that would give you the ADD code. 


In other words, any LP that you buy today was recorded, mixed and mastered digitally to create, hopefully, a high resolution digital file – likely 24 bit and at either 96 kHz or 192 kHz frequency.  Note that many people, including myself, believe that a 24/96 digital signal is capable of capturing the full detail of an analog recording.


That 24/96 or 24/192 file is converted to a lower level signal of 16/44.1 to make a CD.

Note:  to calculate the bit rate for digital audio, multiply the sample rate (44,100) by 2 (for stereo) and by 16 (the number of bits in our digital numbers):

44,100 x 2 x 16 = 1,411,200 bits per second (bps) = 1,411 kbps


This is the bit rate for the standard CD.  A lot of digital music will be much less than this.  The maximum level of information from

an MP3 is 320 kbps.  Of course, if you’re listening to your music with earbuds then it doesn’t matter anyway. 


If you buy high resolution downloads instead of CDs that may not be what you’re getting.  Many are simply up sampled CD signals that are sold for a premium.  You can tell with a sonic analyzer, but that’s a different topic.


The Crossroads

You reach the crossroads when you make a decision as to which musical format you should buy.  The LP or the CD?  Part of that decision should be the type and quality of hardware you have available for playback. 


LP Playback

Let’s say you decide you want to buy LPs.  We’ll ignore the quality of the original recording session and presume that whoever did it actually had a clue. 


Now you need a turntable, a phono stage, a preamp/amplifier or an integrated amplifier or a receiver, which is an integrated amplifier with a tuner built into it – that for when people used to listen to radio.  The preamp/integrated/receiver may or may not have a phono stage built-in.  Obviously, you need speakers as well, but we’ll ignore that because you can always use headphones.

Now, with an LP you theoretically have an advantage over the CD.  The resolution of the analog signal is infinite, whereas from the CD there is a brick wall at 22.05 kHz – above that there’s no more musical signal.  Some people say that once you get into the “dog whistle” range it doesn’t matter; our ears can’t hear it anyways.  Others say that the analog artifacts and blend of a full musical spectrum is appealing and more “life like”. 


But, and a big but – if your LP was made from the same signal used to make the CD, then essentially you have an LP recording of a CD.  Meaning – you may as well buy the CD.  OK, you don’t get the 12 x 12 format with the artwork, and whatever poster/lyric sheet is thrown in but you’re also not paying a premium for the LP.


How do you know what level of digital recording was used to make the two track mixdown for your LP?  You don’t.  You don’t, and you never will.  In fact, many of the premium reissues from top bands like the Beatles or Led Zeppelin are known to have been made from 24/96 digital signals. 


As I mentioned earlier, many believe that 24/96 can fully capture the analog signal.  OK, let’s say that’s true – but if so then why not just buy the high resolution digital files?  I don’t and I don’t buy the LPs either because I can’t justify the cost. 


The labels have people believing that the 24/96 album is worth $25 dollars because it’s better than the 16/44.1 at $12 to $16.  You just need to remind yourself that no music label will ever do anything to benefit you, only themselves.  That’s why I’ll buy the CD and pay the same or less than the digital download for a 16/44.1 - because I know what I’m getting and I like the savings – I can buy more music with the same budget.


That being said, then what advantage could there be in buying the LP as opposed to that digital file or the CD?  Technically speaking, there’s one big advantage.  The accuracy and quality of the Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) used to make that two track tape master for the pressing plant.  For example, if you buy a MOFI album at a premium that was made from a high resolution digital signal, you know that they’re going to use a DAC that you very likely can’t afford.  But you can afford the album. 

But how did you win? 


Now you’ve placed the emphasis on a quality sound playback onto your turntable, cartridge and phono stage.  For high quality sound you’re talking about thousands of dollars, not hundreds.  Yeah, I know, you can get an old direct drive turntable and a cartridge for a few hundred dollars and it will play and it will make sound through your system.  But, here’s the key question.  If you had bought a decent CD player or a laptop and an external DAC for the same money, would you have a better sound?


Before we move on, you need to answer that question.  Is your goal to have the best sound playback system that you can afford?  If your answer is yes, then stick with digital files or CDs.  If the answer is no, I just like LPs because they’re cool and I find it interesting, then let that be the deciding factor.


CD or Digital Playback

If you play a CD at home, you’re using the DAC built into your CD player.  How good is it?  It depends on how much your CD player cost.  If you use a digital player (or even a laptop) and a separate DAC like I do, then you have a better idea of what those components can do and where improvements can be made.  Plus, you have a huge support community of people who have gone through a lengthy evolutionary process. And, used CDs can be found in many stores for a very reasonable price.


With digital components you do have an advantage in that high end CD players are available for a fraction of their original cost as everyone moves onto digital players and outboard DACs.  USB powered DACs costing only a couple of hundred dollars will have a sound that will, in my opinion, be greater than what you could expect from the same money spent on a turntable and cartridge that may or may not be properly setup or even compatible with each other.


And, let’s not forget that CDs became popular for very good reason.  You didn’t have to worry about how to setup a turntable or scratching expensive records.  You could play CDs anywhere and they didn’t wear out.  All of that is still true.



I continue to buy LPs, but in a very limited and specific fashion.  That’s either for music I never had but that now interests me, or with titles I need to fill a gap in the collection.  But the deciding factor is always pre or post digital era.  If before, LP is what I want - if after, I don’t care so much.  I will never buy a new title on LP but will buy a CD of that title.   


If I’m missing an LP to fill out a certain group, such as the Big Six from Black Sabbath, I will buy a reissue, begrudgingly, but only from a known and reputable label.  That’s with the understanding that it will either be from a master tape or a safety tape made from the master, or a high resolution digital file.  If the latter, I’m not happy about it but there’s nothing I can do.  For example, I was missing Black Sabbath – Sabotage and with originals for the first five had to fill it out with a reissue.  Unfortunately, where I live shipping original albums from a site like Discogs is just too expensive.


You do need to be careful with some of the reissue labels – some are known to make LPs from a CD!  It’s like the early days of DVD reissues where you can tell some were made from a VHS tape.  You can’t replace content that wasn’t there in the first place.

For any new music that interests me, I buy CDs.  I never play them, not even once.  I rip them to my music library and then once a bunch has piled up I send them on to my brother.  He still likes to use a CD player.


Best of luck with your musical adventure!  Above all, whether LP or CD, enjoy the music.

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