Ripping Records Question

Hello, I have a question on ripping some vinyl…  I have a decent turntable  and receiver. I was thinking of hooking them up to the computer using a line IN on the computer… But I have found a USB turntable in a catalog… Does anyone know if the USB turntable will be seen by my computer as just another drive?  If so I could use WPM-11 and rip some of my wife’s vinyl collection for her. I do need a new needle and magnetic cartridge for the turntable i have so I would be well into the price of the USB turntable " needle and cartrige about $60" New USB turntable about $118… How is this all done? Thanks!  George

Message Edited by George-W on 11-07-2008 05:06 PM

this is a little more expensive but it sounds like it will do exactly what you want. link

drlucky, Ya thanks for the link!  That looks like very similar USB turntable I mentioned above!  The brand i was looking at was  “Audio Technica” USB LP to digital recording system…  Sounds like it will do the same thing… Just wondering if anyone out there has used a USB turntable and if it works with WMP-11 or if you need to use the supplied software!!  Thanks! George

you will probably need to use the included software. i have never tried to convert records but i dont think WMP11 has recording ability.

There are a few of these USB turntables out there. I even saw one at Costco a couple months back for like $89. I too, have a substantial vinyl collection that I thought about converting to mp3’s. But when I think back about the sound quality of vinyl and the inherent static & pops that you get, I had to step back and think about it some more.

‘Back in the day’ when I was listening to all these LPs I spent more money on 1 cartridge/stylus than what they want for the entire USB turntable! In fact, I had 2 turntables; one for my ‘good’ albums and one for crap records (including those brought over by friends, you never knew what they had been played on before). And even with all the money I spent of high quality stereo gear, I still remember they sounded kinda sh*tty when compared to CD’s (which weren’t even thought of yet). In converting these to cassette tape (the newest technology of the time; 8-tracks were still around) you had to use a separate device, a Dolby B noise supression ‘encoder’ to silence/quiet the dust noise, scratches and pops that naturally resided on this medium. This worked to a point, but also cut out & removed a lot of the high end frequencies.

Truth be told, I have replaced a lot of my old vinyl collection with either CD’s or downloaded from on-line music sources. There’s only 1 or 2 that haven’t been re-mastered onto CD and is available one way or another. I’ve even considered selling off these old 12-inchers on E-Bay but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much of a market for them. There’s a lot of them listed, but you don’t see many being sold, and those that do don’t go for very much. Considering the couple of bucks you’d get for one, and the special shipping carton needed and the risk that it could still be broken in the UPS’s hands, I figured the hassles outweighed the benefits ($).

So in re-recording all these old vinyl albums into digital format (mp3), you’re going to have to play around with additional software to deal with the noise suppression issue, same as having the physical Dolby unit hooked up. You can’t just ‘rip’ it like you can with CD’s; you have to play & record it in real time. And you may not like the results, so you’d have to do it over again. With even a medium-sized vinyl collection, this could run into some time.

And you have to consider what are you going to do with this USB turntable when you’ve finally got all your moldy oldies converted? It’s not like you’re going to use it any more; once converted the files can be stored on a hard drive or burned to CD for archiving. Unless, you like to browse the Goodwill stores for old vinyl or maybe buy a few off of E-Bay. Otherwise, when you’re done, it’s done. It’s just going to sit there collecting dust with no other purpose. Sort of a 1-time use only type of thing. Pretty expensive when you look at it that way.

I’ve done a bit of vinyl-‘ripping’ in the past.  In fact, I’ve bought sealed albums from eBay just to do a decent job ripping them (usually if the album has’t been released on CD or if the CD release was mastered poorly).  With a good turntable (and amp, if required), and more importantly, vinyl that is in good condition, a vinyl rip can sound as good or better than a CD release. 

@george_w wrote:
Does anyone know if the USB turntable will be seen by my computer as just another drive?

I don’t own a USB turntable myself, but from what I’ve read, they DON’T show up as a drive; they’re more like a ‘specialized’ sound card type thing that you can use with audio recording software.  I’ve seen a few that come with a (free) program called Audacity, which is just a simple audio editor/recorder program.  

If you’ve already got a decent sound card, turntable, and amplifier, I don’t see any point to buying a new USB turntable. 

@tapeworm wrote:

And you have to consider what are you going to do with this USB turntable when you’ve finally got all your moldy oldies converted? It’s not like you’re going to use it any more; once converted the files can be stored on a hard drive or burned to CD for archiving. Unless, you like to browse the Goodwill stores for old vinyl or maybe buy a few off of E-Bay. Otherwise, when you’re done, it’s done. It’s just going to sit there collecting dust with no other purpose. Sort of a 1-time use only type of thing. Pretty expensive when you look at it that way.

I dunno if I agree… I ripped my records primarily for portability reasons (so I could put them on my mp3 player/listen to them while driving).  However, if I’m at home, I’d much rather put on the original vinyl. 

If George was to get a USB turntable, he’s not limited to using it just to convert albums.  If he so desired, he could hook it up to a home stereo to use; I haven’t seen a USB turntable that didn’t have regular RCA outputs. 

Paul & jmr,

Thanks for all the input! Where to start…  Ok, If I go a USB turntable I feel if I used it just for making CD copies of our LP’s Then using them to rip mp3 files or any format that can be used on the Fuze. We both feel it would be well worth the cost. “$118” for the turntable I was looking at…  I figure I could re sell it for about $50 bucks when I was done with it…But even if I could not resell it I would be OK with it…  But I do have a good Onkyo receiver and a good turntable " I don’t remember the brand off hand but the cost was $300 about 25 years ago so it is decent. I remember that I had to set the speed with the built in strobe light and it was a single play unit… I have a sound card with a line in. So it may be worth pulling it out and at least hooking it up to see if the needle is usable or not… It may be after a good cleaning… We have around 700 or 800 Lp’s maybe a bit more… My wife has tried to hunt down remastered cd’s over the years “from about 1984” when CD’s started to make there way into the music seen and had replaced a small portion of her collection… I may have about 30 or so Lp’s that I would like for myself and for my stuff I could find then in cd’s I’m sure…  But the wife has stuff that she really wants to preserve. We don’t have the room in our house for the LP collection to be usable and accessible. Myself I like Cd’s I was always far to picky with hiss pops and whatnot… I had always handled “my vinyl” with the greatest of TLC my wife on the other hand has stuff well before we got together that I really didn’t want played on the turntable unless a old needle was used…  Ya that bad… But then again the wife is not that picky so with a little tweaking I’m sure the sound would be good enough for her…

The only program I can remember that we have was something that was on Windows XP media plus I think… I never installed it but if i remember right it was somewhat automatic once setup for pops hiss and rumble… If I can use my old turntable I would like to use it instead of getting a new USB unit… jmr do you remember what programs you used to transfer your vinyl? George

With vinyl it’s not a simple upload. You need to record from the turntable in realtime to a recording program. Audacity is free and is fine for this purpose. But  it all depends on your computer and soundcard. Once you set it up it will be easy as long as you’re willing to put in the time. But it will probably take some tweaks.

[You might as well download Audacity now and take a look at it, maybe record something if you have a microphone.  It’s a great program, especially for the price of $0.] 

This is probably pretty similar to what you’d see in the instruction manual for a USB turntable–after they’ve touted how easy it is and you’ve bought one. 

You need to connect and record, then edit and tag your recordings. 

Desktops often have a both a mic-in jack, usually red, and a line-in jack, usually white, that is made to accept an amplified source like the output of a CD player or a stereo receiver. You could plug a cord into the headphone output of your Onkyo system and into a line-in jack if you had one.

BUT: 

Many laptops only have a mic-in jack. The mic-in jack goes to a little amplifier to boost speech, and that amplifier is usually el cheapo, very noisy. Many mic-in jacks are also mono, because they expect that you are going to use it only for speech. Recording your lovely stereo albums into a bad mono mic-in jack is pointless.

So first look at your computer. Next to the headphone jack, is there one plug (mic-in, red), or two (mic-in and a white line-in)? 

This is the reason for the USB turntables–they can connect to a computer without a line-in jack. 

Yet if you already have a good turntable and receiver, you can also get a gizmo that gives you a stereo line-in jack: the Griffin iMic. It’s not a microphone: it’s an external USB sound card with stereo mic-in and line-in inputs and outputs.  I recently got the Griffin Imic v1, which is a goofy round thing that looks like a UFO, for $14 on ebay. You can find the more sensible rectangular Griffin Imic v2 for around $25. So if you already own a good turntable and receiver, the iMic is a much  better investment than a USB turntable. 

If you ever had a tape recorder, that’s how Audacity works: it shows the incoming level and has controls for volume. You’ve got to make sure you are connected–both via a cord and via software. 

With any luck, the USB (whether Imic or turntable) will be immediately recognized by Audacity. If not, you’ll have to look at the Options and Settings in Audacity and in Sounds and Audio Devices to make sure your USB is the correct input for recording. You also need to get an mp3 encoder for Audacity–which is also free, but for some reason they can’t just include it. Google – Audacity LAME encoder – for easy instructions. Another funny thing about Audacity: It records to its own format, .aup, so instead of Save you have to Export to mp3 or Export to .wav. It’s all easy after the first recording or two.

Then you need to do a test recording and set levels in Audacity. You also need to switch some of Audacity’s default settings, from mono to stereo recording and for high-quality (.wav) recording.  When you hit the big red Record button in Audacity and start the music, Audacity shows the waveform and you may need to play with levels. You want the waveform  to nearly fill the screen but not be flattened on top, which means it’s distorted. 

It sounds complicated, but once you’ve got the connections and levels, it’s not bad. Once you have recorded it, play it back and look at Audacity’s Effects if there are noises you want to suppress. 

Oh, one more thing. You are going to be recording album sides. You’ll have  to cut those into individual songs. There’s a good free program for that: CDwave. It looks at your long .wav file exported from Audacity, checks where silences are between tracks and cuts the file into songs. If you have an album with tracks all segued together, you’re going to have to cut it yourself.  

And then you need to name each file, and use mp3tag to make ID3 tags for all your new tracks.

So it’s going to take time. Frankly, I only think it’s worth it for out-of-print LPs–and I’d look for some of those online too, already recorded by fans. Google–Artist Title .mp3–

But yes, it is possible to record your own albums if you want to put in the time. 

Message Edited by Black-Rectangle on 11-07-2008 08:08 PM

Black Rectangle,

Thank you for the detailed info…  I think I’ll try the turntable I have with the onkyo. I do have a Line in on the wife’s desk top and think I should be able to hook it up from the Onkyo’s tape out to the computers Line in…  I use to do a lot of recording reel to reel long ago, 8 tracks was a bust IMO and cassettes ruled… I understand the real time and how long it will take to do… I’m hoping I can teach the wife to she can spin a few…I 'll download the program you suggested… I think the real thing that keep-ed me from doing this years ago “putting then on CD that is” was space or lack of… We live in a small house…  but the wife will not get rid of the vinyl till we do something with some of them…

You know!!  Follow me with this… I just had a thought…  I have a DVD recorder hooked up to my sound audio system… I should be able to record the Lp’s to DVD’s then maybe convert the format…  May be worth a try…  Thanks!!  George

The output of a phono cartridge is too low to be fed directly into the “line in”, and is unequalized.  A preamplifier is needed for the RIAA equalization and to boost the signal level for recording.

The trick with the “USB turntables” out there is that the analog-to-digital conversion is done within the turntable device, and usually there is software to convert the audio signal to wav or mp3 format.

There are available software tools to analyze, and remove pops and scratches from the audio signal.

Of course, the transcription process happens in realtime, so making compressed digital copies of your LPs will take some patience. 

Adding ID3 tags to your collection afterwards can be done by searching for a comparable CD re-release of the album, for the cover art, and track information.

I have a collection of vinyl recordings that will most likely not see popular release in digital.  These are classical and jazz, where one will find the particular song, but not the same performance.  With classical music, one may find a particular performance that makes the composition come to life, as orchestral pieces are a combination of the conductor, the orchestra, and where the recording was made.  Unlike pop music, where a track is readily available, the interpretations of classical are manifold.

Few listeners today understand exactly what an analog LP recording actually was, beyond images of the clumsy black disc, and thoughts of scratches.  The actual recording is a matrix of the two channels, recorded in three dimensions by the stereo cutting head, as a L+R, L-R (sum and differential) signal.  Mathematically, as a matrix, the recording can capture information in a way that two separate channels could not.  The stereo LP was devised to allow monophonic equipment to be compatible, not requiring two separate grooves.

To hear what analog recordings are capable of, especially recordings made as early as in the 1950s, is a treat.  I have recordings made on a Westrex recorder in the 1950s that are cleaner than their counterparts, recorded in the 1990s.

Bob  :smileyvery-happy:

Bob, Thanks for your input!  Ya I know I’ll have to use my receiver and my old turntable if I decide not to get the USB one… But all this talk has got me thinking of some other ways of doing it…  Like the DVD recorder that’s already hooked up to my audio equipment  idea, there may just be another way.  Yep vinyl sounds great if it’s treated well… Most of the wife’s has not been so some extra work will be needed… I’m going to give a few ways a try and see what I can do… Who knows I may just get overwhelmed with it all and use the LP’s for some skeet shooting!!Come to think of it I do have a bunch of 45’s too… Now there’s a idea! George:smiley:   

It pains me to think of vinyl being used for target practice. The labels of old LPs and 45s are cool graphically even if the grooves are scratched up. I’ve actually seen high-fashion purses with a 45 behind a layer of clear plastic, showing off that famous old hit. Find a collector, or even a Salvation Army store, before you destroy them.

I must say I did think of shooting them up a few times over the years but that statement I made here was just really for a bit of humor. Besides my wife would KILL me!!  I have them taking up space for 25 years now so I don’t see me really doing that!  I would love to one day have the money to buy a house that would actually be big enough to have a room to have a dedicated audio room… I would love to display the LP’s and make use of them as they were meant to be used…George

@george_w wrote:

jmr do you remember what programs you used to transfer your vinyl?

Yep!  I used Audacity to record the vinyl.  I recorded 1 side at a time, at settings higher than CD quality (24-bit / 48 kHz) for archival purposes (I keep the original vinyl recordings on DVD-R)

Before I burned to a CD-R, I used Adobe Audition to ‘clean up’ the recordings.  I used a small touch of noise reduction to get rid of the constant background noise, and I manually selected and repaired any major clicks and pops using the repair transient feature (the name of the feature was changed to ‘auto heal’ in newer versions of the program). Lastly, I split the recording into individual tracks, converted everything down to 16-bit / 44kHz and burned the files as an audio CD. 

If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email; my address is jeffreymr [at] gmail.com .  I’ll be only glad to help.

Message Edited by jmr on 11-09-2008 01:23 AM