/ Digitizing vinyl using Audacity

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Pursued by a bear 08 Aug 2019

I'm just - well, tomorrow, and through the weekend - about to start going through the time-consuming business of recording some of my vinyl to digital files using the Audacity program.  I'm expecting the learning curve to be, ooh, about HVS; intimidating at first with multiple false lines before gradually easing allowing more rapid progress to be made.

Has anyone done this, and if so do you have any hints and tips to share?  I'm anticipating a bout of technology-related Tourette's syndrome, along with several threats to the laptop probably involving defenestration and/or a Big Hammer.  I, and probably the neighbours, and definitely my laptop, would be grateful for anything that makes progress more serene.

Cheers!

T.

captain paranoia 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

How good is the audio input on your laptop? And is it stereo...? Or are you using an external ADC?

Re-ripping CDs at 25x is bad enough. The thought of wanting to re-rip vinyl at 1x because I'd used a crap ADC fills me with dread... Get an understanding of the process with the built-in ADC, but consider getting a better one to do your real ripping.

As with tape recording, look carefully at the levels. Digital recording is much less sympathetic to level overload than tape was: digital clips, whereas tape simply compressed into saturation.

Wil Treasure 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

It's probably less hassle to save some pennies packing bags at the local Morrison's and then buying the digital versions.

Otherwise I'd say this isn't too challenging l, and no reason your neighbours should get annoyed. Make sure the vinyl is clean, hit record, hit play, wait.

I would imagine a small amount of noise removal would benefit it. Find an area of silence on the vinyl to sample for your noise and then use a low level on the tool, you can always undo afterwards.

You'll want to record in 44.1k, 16 bit would do. Output to an mp3,I would use 256kbps for decent fidelity.

Pursued by a bear 08 Aug 2019
In reply to captain paranoia:

> How good is the audio input on your laptop? And is it stereo...? Or are you using an external ADC?

The quality of the input should be fine; it's from a decent turntable and will be routed through a Rega phono stage with a USB output.  My concerns are at the computer/software end, but as you point out, it's going to be a blast from the past only being able to do this at 1x.

> As with tape recording, look carefully at the levels. Digital recording is much less sympathetic to level overload than tape was: digital clips, whereas tape simply compressed into saturation.

That's worth knowing.  It's a long time since I recorded anything to cassette but I remember the business of having to find the loudest bit of the record and using that to set the levels (if I remember correctly, the rule of thumb was to look for the bit of the LP where the grooves were spaced more widely).  Time to err to the conservative when setting the levels this time around then.

Thanks!

T.

Pursued by a bear 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Wil Treasure:

> It's probably less hassle to save some pennies packing bags at the local Morrison's and then buying the digital versions.

If only I could! Some of the stuff I have has never been released digitally so if I want it, I have to learn how to capture it.  There's some other stuff where the digital version I have differs from the vinyl version, which I prefer.  

> You'll want to record in 44.1k, 16 bit would do. Output to an mp3,I would use 256kbps for decent fidelity.

Ta for the recording tip.  I'll probably output to FLAC files if I can, since that's how the rest of the library is stored.

T.

Ian W 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

You'll be fine.

You even get the chance to do some sound engineering by eliminating scratches / pops / bangs. I've even managed to rebalance the sounds on really worn old vinyl - it just takes time and patience. You seem to have a decent source so there'll be good quality on the finished track, and you'll be surprised how flexible audiacity is.

captain paranoia 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

> The quality of the input should be fine

It was the quality of the analogue input circuitry and ADC on your laptop I was asking about...

> Time to err to the conservative when setting the levels this time around then.

That's good, but if you get too conservative, you'll lose dynamic range in your recording. Ideally, you really want to be aiming for just below clipping, to maximise the use of the bits in the ADC. If it's a 16-bit ADC, you want to be aiming for at least 15.5 of those bits being used (which would be 70% of full scale) at the peak level on the record.

captain paranoia 08 Aug 2019
In reply to Wil Treasure:

> Output to an mp3,I would use 256kbps for decent fidelity.

Nah. Storage is cheap. Ripping (especially vinyl) is painful.

Rip to lossless FLAC. You can always transcode to a lossy compression format if you really need a smaller version for portable devices.

Wil Treasure 08 Aug 2019
In reply to captain paranoia:

True.

wercat 09 Aug 2019
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

I got good results using a Zoom H2 digital audio recorder, no O/S as such to fight against

I used Audacity just to clean up the WAV files.

mishabruml 09 Aug 2019
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

I would use a bespoke vinyl ripping/digitisation software rather than just Audacity. It's not just the ripping that is time-consuming, its the cataloging and organizing.

Whilst you are forced to physically go through your library one-by-one for the ripping, you may as well do as much as you can per track, at one time.

You'll be kicking yourself if you have to go through every track once to rip it, then again (digitally) to name, label, sort, find album artwork etc. You can probably even find software that will automatically detect the gaps between tracks on an LP and split into multiple audio files for you.

Looks like its going to be a wet Saturday anyway, so enjoy the day indoors! If you get fed up there are paid services that can do this for you too. 

Pursued by a bear 09 Aug 2019
In reply to Everyone:

Thanks all for the advice and suggestions.  I've recorded two albums as a test and am now going through the files to listen and see how it sounds before either doing them again better or, hopefully, filing them in the digital library and doing more.

As a number of you have pointed out, metadata is important and anything that can help with this may speed up the process.  I'll see how I get along with Audacity first before exploring alternatives, but thanks for pointing towards alternatives as I may yet  need them.

Other points I've observed are:

- isn't real time 1x recording slow!  All those mix tapes I made in years past were a proper labour of love.

- putting my LPs on the bottom shelves will have helped considerably in keeping shelf units stable (LPs do weigh quite a bit in large numbers) but it's giving my knees and quads a workout sorting through them.

- I have more records than I realised, some of which haven't been played for 30 years or more.  Some of them will have a decent value for the collector (there's a mint copy of an album by Nik Turner's Xitintoday, complete with insert) but I think musically they're a taste I wonder how I ever acquired and which I'm glad to have lost.  I'm sure that playing others as I record them will be like meeting an old friend I haven't heard from for a while.

- so far, technology has behaved impeccably.  My windows are safe for now.

Thanks again and yes, that's a wet weekend spoken for.  My wife's away which will help too!

T.

captain paranoia 09 Aug 2019
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

> As a number of you have pointed out, metadata is important and anything that can help with this may speed up the process.

I would suggest that you simply label the artist and album, and don't bother entering track names; let Audacity label them with Track #. There's a 'Silence Finder' plug-in for Audacity that should help find the track breaks for you. The video tutorial on Audacity ripping I saw suggested you had to change the track number of each file on side 2, but I'm going to bet there's a way to do that automatically (even if it means pausing the recording, changing sides, and re-starting recording to give the entire album in one recording)...

https://docs.huihoo.com/audacity/2.0.3/man/silence_finder_and_sound_finder.html

https://support.gracedigital.com/hc/en-us/articles/202221210-Split-Recording-into-Separate-Tracks

This is probably a good starting point:

https://docs.huihoo.com/audacity/2.0.3/man/tutorial_copying_tapes_lps_or_minidiscs_to_cd.html

Once you have the tracks ripped and correctly split, you can use any decent media manager to go and find the metadata for you, based simply on the AlbumArtist and Album name; MusicBee seems to use pretty good sources for this, and its GUI is good in that it shows you what metadata it has found, and what changes it will make, highlighting the differences between existing metadata and the new.

Pursued by a bear 10 Aug 2019
In reply to captain paranoia:

That silence finder plug-in will be worth having; I'm already tiring of splitting things up myself.

But learning is a lifelong thing, and I'm learning lots.

T.

mike123 10 Aug 2019
In reply to Pursued by a bear: it's a while ( at least 12 years ) since I had a go at this and in terms of technical advice I can't remember / add anything to what s already been said . As you are ,  I decided to spend a few days dickering around to try and refine the " process " and to try and learn something . I never got to the point where I was happy that my results were any better than just buying second hand cd s off ebay but was convinced that as the hardware /software got better then it would be come easier to at least equal the quality . This may sound odd but after the event I did wonder wether my vinyl source was too good. I was using a PT anniversary , sme iv , koetsu red  into a reasonly  good arcam phono stage ,  into a laptop with an external sound card ( can't rember the details ) and it picked up every imperfection from years of use / abuse. In some cases the digital file sounded awful when played back. When I tried to clean up all the skips , whistles and pops the results sounded completely flat .My conclusion was that the results would be better with a good but more forgiving source . I never got around to it but I have a regal planar 3 , rb300 , k9  that I was going to try . It's all boxed up at the moment but Out of a vinyl collection of 1500 + albums I think there are probably only 20/30 are a) unavailable else where b) I would actually  ever listen to c) are in suuffiently good condition to be worth bothering with . I do however occasionally hear or remember something that I have on vinyl and then find that it's never been digitised so being able to do so without masses of faf would be great . I will interested to hear how you get on , including nerdy info about the hardware . ( I've made the assumption that my nerdy hifi hardware references are useful / meaningfull to anybody interested) . 

Pursued by a bear 13 Aug 2019
In reply to mike123, and everyone else:

Well, so far so good.  I've mastered Audacity sufficiently to have listened to a newly-ripped digital version of an album I haven't listened to in years and it sounds ok.  Better than ok, it sounded good.  Not perfect, but I wasn't expecting it to be, and not beyond improvement: I'm going to try ripping it again with the recording levels a little higher as I was perhaps a bit too cautious first time.

As expected, clean vinyl helped.  When I get to some of the recordings that sound as though they've been made in a crisp factory, I may decide that the work involved is for a very rainy day indeed.  I'm finding that removing pops and crackles to the satisfaction of my ears is quite a long process.  The 'silence finder' plug-in has helped a great deal and saved me lots of time and bother, top tip that (and not the only one, thank you all again).

So, onwards and upwards.  Another rainy day forecast tomorrow, guess what I'll be doing . . .

The technical stuff, for those interested:  the turntable is a Pink Triangle PT One with a custom power supply, a Linn Ittok LVII arm and a Goldring 1042 moving magnet cartridge, being fed into a laptop via a Rega Fono mini A2D phono stage.  It does pick up the detail, unwanted noises included, and if I think the vinyl needs a clean I find playing it and cleaning the stylus is the best way, so some albums are being played twice, once to clean, once to record.  There will be some records for which this just won't be enough, so they'll get a sweep with a carbon fibre cleaning brush too and also be the ones I try last.  Once I'm done, then the turntable and all the LPs will be sold, but that may take a while yet.

T.


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