Digitizing LPs: General advice wanted

Hi everyone,
I will soon set out to digitize a LOT of LPs.
And given the extensive labor that will involved, I DESPERATELY want to do it right the FIRST time :-).
btw, I am solely concerned with the recording process, as playback issues may always be addressed later.

At this point, I only know that I want to record at a minimum of 24/96 with a PLANAR 3 turntable.

As everything else is undetermined, I am looking for some general advice.
Should I use a PC or an digital recorder ?
If a PC, should I use an INTERNAL sound card or a USB sound card (so as to minimize RF nose) ?
If a digital-recorder, are there any that will record at 24/96 ?
And can they easily share files with a PC (for use with editing software, etc) ?

Any other advice, pitfals, or experiences to share ?

Many thanks for any advice you may offer :-).
I've been transcribing LP's onto CD for the past 6 months, and my personal belief is that you'll get better results with a CD recording machine that allows you to make a direct connection with your preamp (or phono preamp if you have a separate stage). I've been using a Sony RCD-W1 and getting very acceptable results. Other regulars on this forum have been using other brands with good results as well. (I believe that Craig -- aka "Garfish") owns a professional Marantz CD recorder that he likes.

FWIW, I'd go with the CD recorder, because I don't really like using a PC with soundcard. I also think the CD recorder is easier to use, and is more flexible -- for example, you can easily make additional copies at a later time without having to first load the CD onto your computer. There are several good CD recorders that can be bought at discount for $350-400. FWIW, that's my 2 cents worth...

Scott C-
I've recorded at least l00 LPs to CD. It's both easier and harder than you think. I'd forget the 24/96 requirement though. And I'd go with a professional CD recorder like my TASCAM CDRW700 rather than one of the "consumer" units that restrict your ability to do digital dubs and use computer CDRs. The TASCAM goes for $450 at Oade Bros. It's easy to use, but the hard (or time-consuming) part of recording LPs is that you have to manually insert a track marker at the end of every tune if you want to be able to access each tune rather than each side of an LP. This means you have to listen as you record; that's the time-consuming part. Good luck.
Hi Captain and Scott; Yep I own and like the Marantz Pro CDR500, and consider that the easiest way to record LPs, but then I've never used a computer "burner".

As far as I know, there is no recorder that records at 24/96, as there is no player that outputs a 24/96 digital signal. Will computer DVD burners record at 24/96 or 192? I don't think so. So, what you really need is a CD recorder that has an excellent analog to digital to converter.

Several months ago, M. Fremer of Stereophile Magazine compared 3 "consumer grade" CD recorders and found that they all made very good digital to digital copies, but the most expensive one was the only one that did well going from analog to digital (I believe it was a more expensive Denon that Fremer thought did AD conversion quite well-- you might want to look for this review as M. Fremer is a big analog guy).

For your purposes, the key(s) will be the quality of the Analog to Digital converter (in the CD recorder) , ie from your TT (analog) to the CD burner (digital) and the connectors/cable. If you get a CD-Recorder with a good AD converter you should be happy with the results as you'll still have "ticks and pops" to keep you smiling;>). Good Luck. Craig
I was posting at the same time as Dopogue. I agree with his advice. I also considered the TASCAM pro machine-- the Marantz was $675. from BSW in Tacoma, WA. And he's right on about how tedious the recording process is when going from LP to CD. Cheers. Craig
Despite some of the subsequent responses, I believe the original poster is trying only to archive the material in 24/96, not make CD's for convenient playback. If this is the case, it's not something I know much about, but maybe a trip to a pro sound shop would be in order? This seems like a lot of data to be stored, so maybe a hard-disk or tape-based system would be needed (or can the new DVD burners do 24/96 DVD-A?). Whatever is used for data storage, the A-to-D will still have to sound good, so try to audition a couple of solutions at home if possible. Good luck, let us know what you find!
Cap'n, it's important to know how you'll playback your digitized music for there are negative sonic effects associated with sample rate conversion. For instance, if 44.1kHz is your final playback sample rate, then your music will sound better if digitized at 44.1kHz rather than at 96kHz and down converted to 44.1kHz. Avoid SRC if at all possible. Whatever you do, record at a 24bit depth rate.

Despite the above comments which favor stand alone CDRs, computer based systems offer the potential for better sound quality and greater flexibility. The downside is that a good computer setup is fairly expensive. First, you'll need a fast computer (I prefer a Mac because of the better software selection), a pro-quality soundcard (the Lynx Two offers 192kHz A/D conversion) and vast amounts of hard disk space for file storage. For software I use t.c. works Spark XL, but there are others (Sound Forge, WaveLab, Peak). Such a system will approach $3,000, but it will sound better than and be able to do more than a simple CDR machine.
Buzzing around the net, I came across some info about the Terratec Phono Preamp and Studio software. I haven't used it, only read about it.


I've been burning my LP collection to CD's for about 18 Months. I've been using the "Tape Out" on my Receiver to the "Line In" of my Turtle Beach Santa Cruz Sound card on my PC. Then, I record the whole thing using Cool Edit 2000.

I've been using an Ortofon MC20 with the transformer, into a Marantz 2270, so the analog input is fairly accurate.

The whole set up seems to work very weel as I can critique the finished product on my Living Room System with impressive results (a/d/s L1590's driven by Carver TFM 55x's)

If you want to add the ability to edit the digitized copy,I recommend Cool Edits' Noise Reduction add on for another $40.
I don't know the explanation,but i have tried and tested,... that the more emphasis on the type of cartridge has more considerable effect ont the outcome of the recording quality of the cd via recording on external equipment substitutions. Tried substituting a pc to record and from an alternate stand alone recorder...couldn't tell the difference.
But obviously when a cartridge swapping was made...there it was...you could ...tell.

Alesis MasterLink (ML-9600)

Sample rates of 44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96 kHz are available. Word lengths of 16, 20, and 24 bits are available. Any combination of sample rate and word length can be used.

Records to data cdr's or cd-rw.

Can do red-book or cd-24....

checkout their site for more.

Joe T.
there a number of turntables that now have line outs and digi outs and key lock. numark stanton gemini. its by coaxil spdif 16 bit 44.1 if you plan to use the digi in on your cdr unit you better have a semi pro unit that has digital gain as current consumer models do not give that freedom yet. thats the easiest way only 1 cable. also i have a sony cdrw1 and upon quiet passages the unit inputs track #'s becaause either the gain is to low and the unit recognizes that as a blank space. thats not good. i'm debating on either the sonycdrw33 or the tascam cdrw700. i like the marantz but the a/d conversion is only a 20 bit converter and those 631 models need to be updated alltough the large gain dial is perfect and it has balanced xlr inputs.the denon is cheasy and the hhb has a poor layout.
Ncarv, you are correct. I have been using the TerraTec DMX 6fire system for quite some time. It is excellent for recording. It will give you the sampling rate you require.

The software that comes with the system is also very, very good. It has made my LP recording process virtually painless. Once you record your LP to the hard drive, you can use the software to clean up ticks/pops, crackle and surface noise. You can also insert track marks and names easily.

Check it out.

Most audiophiles claim that external audio interfaces will provide the best results for low interference, less noise analog transfers. However, there are some great internal sound cards from M-Audio (Audiophile 24/96), Echo Audio (Mia MIDI), Digital Audio Labs (Card Deluxe) and Lynx Studio Technologies (Lynx 1) that rival the sound of outboard audio interfaces. For affordability, you can't beat the Echo Mia with its balanced inputs and outputs. For greatly improved sound many professional audio engineers will take the Lynx 1 or the next generation Lynx 22 over more expensive outboard DACs. If you have a Rega Planar turntable, I am assuming you have a good preamp which you can connect to the balanced analog inputs of any of the aforementioned sound cards. Using a quality audio editor/recorder such as Bias Peak (Mac), Sony Sound Forge (PC), Adobe Audition (PC, formerly known as Cool Edit Pro) or even the budget-proced n-Track Studio (PC), you can record at 24-bit/96 kHz digital resolution.

Some responses included information about distortion originating from digital jitter. The Lynx 22 has an internal clock that reduces jitter and provides a very clean, quiet and coherent output through its high quality DAC. The Digital Audio Labs CardDeluxe was actually a Sterephile Recommended Component for a while. Obviously, these cards can hold their own. Unfortunately, some people get swept into thinking that everything separate somehow equates to best performance.

Beware of some USB audio interfaces as USB is not the best data bus for high resolution audio. USB 2.0 is definitely an improvement over USB 1.1 for throughput and stability, but they are both shakey for handling large streams of digital data. Firewire is a much better bus for handling music data streams, and there are some really nice Firewire audio interfaces from Mark of the Unicorn and Digidesign, but you must have a Mac for the best driver and software support for these audio interfaces.

Also, you may want to consider a second hard drive to store all your music. Remember that a computer's OS is constantly accessing the system drive during operation. Having a separate media drive should get you away from interference from the OS. A good 80-160 GB IDE drive running smoothly with a rotation speed of 7200 rpms, a memory cache of 8-10 MB and seek times < 10 ms should be a good place to start. You can also add an outboard Firewire drive with similar specs, and get great results.

I know a lot of people have recommended professional CD burners, and these are good units, but some of the AD/DA converters in these machines aren't as good as the converters in the audio interfaces I mentioned. On top of that, they'll only provide 16-bit/44.1 kHz resolution audio (the Alesis CD/HD unit is the only exception here). You'll also have stacks of CDs rather than an excellent collection of higher resolution tunes on your hard drive.

How would the computer access both hard drives, almost concurrently, to record and store the music being copied from vinyl? I know how to do disk to disk copying but cannot figure out your suggestion.
Your computer OS will automatically handle the accessing of multiple hard drives. All the user has to do is specify, via software, where the music files are to be stored.

Thanks. You response is obvious. I will just have to make sure that option with my recording software. I am cautious because a "computer expert" installed the second drive and some software that was supppose to allow "dual boot up option"- XP or 98- by pressing one key at start-up. It has never worked but I did get a big bill. So, whenever I read about a procedure that I have never done, I ask for clarification.
Of course the simple thing to do is put your LPs onto tape cassettes, using a really good recorder.

The only real advantage of digital recording is that you can have a lot of fun on your computer, fixing pops, scratches and other LP woes. If you are not interested in becoming a computer geek, don't bother with digital.
I agree that copying to cassettes is simple and easier. In the 60's and 70's I made dozens of cassettes from LP's and "all music" FM stations. Those cassettes have long since died.

My LP's are 20-40 years old. Most have not been re-issued on CD. So, to preserve the music of my younger days, making CD's seem to be the best option at this time.
I didn't read all of the comments but you can burn to 24/96, however the cost involved may be more than your willing to pay. Here is a good starting point. You would need a computer in order to burn the signal to it's hard drive. You would need an A/D that will convert to that signal. I would suggest Grace designs Lunatec V3 or Appogee's Minime (which) has a USB port. You need a sound card that will allow you to store the data on your computer. M audio make an outboard type, I think it is called the F410. You need a DVD R burner for your computer and then you would need to send a dummy video image to the DVD for the video section of the disc while you are burning to the audio tracks. Many people use a jpeg image.

If this sounds like a pain it is but it will work and you will be able to play back your dicks on DVD R machines. Cost would be around $2000, as long as you have the computer power already available.

Or you could buy Alesis Masterlink and burn 24/96 to their propritary machine. Meaning you will always need their machine to playback. However, you can buy them at around $900.

For more info visit www.Oade.com Taper section and ask questions there.
Eldartford: I haven't recorded any cassettes since getting my HHB CDR recorder. The only advantage with cassettes is the potential for more extended program lengths. CDR's most importantly have random access track selection and programming capability, and are also somewhat more convenient and durable. To me they sound at least as good as cassette when played back through my regular digital playback rig. But though I think the BurnIt is a great-sounding machine for recording, I'm probably gonna wind up getting a MasterLink or something like it with a built-in hard-disk drive anyway, because the ease of compiling tracks at leisure prior to editing, sequencing, and burning is the best argument of all for the newer approach.

BTW, how is that AC outlet experiment going?
Zaikesman...If you have a CDR recorder that is as easy to use as a cassette recorder, I agree it would be better. I was thinking in terms of making the CD on a computer, using some of the editing software that is available to remove noise and generally remaster the sound. It is absolutely astonishing what can be done to restore old recordings, but it is a lot of work. I thought about doing that but in the end I decided that I had only a few good LPs which hadn't been replaced by good CD's, so I decided that the easy way out was to keep the old turntable in service.

Speaking of that, and the Great Cryo'd Outlet test, I have done a quickie test with my outboard phono preamp on the outlet, and (can you bear it) heard nothing. As of tomorrow I am off to New Orleans for a week. Although my purpose there is to see a son get hitched, I note that there is an annual Jazz festival going on, so I may come back favoring Horn speakers.
That computer audio workstation stuff is something I've yet to really get into myself, though I have a little experience on other people's set-ups. My present outdated computer couldn't handle those programs, but I have to upgrade to a new computer to run some work-related graphics software anyway, and there's a project waiting in the wings involving mastering a bunch of beat-up old (but rare) 45rpm tracks, transcribed from my analog system to CDR for eventual compilation release, so I'll be learning...

Enjoy the live music in N.O. - I went to the festival once, around '89 or '90, what fun!
I too am going to be recording LP's to my hard drive, I am only doing this so that I can listen on the road. I'm buying more LP's than I have the time to digest. I'm interested in recording 24/96 and was wondering if MP3 palyers can play these tracks? I know they would be compressed. Do MP3 players play WAV files? If an MP3 palyer could do this it would be a good way to get around CD resolution.
i dont believe mp3 players can play 24/96 files,
check out www.hydrogenaudio.org they talk about
alot of this stuff.
Regarding LP to CD transfers, really, all you need to know and do is as listed below. Ive done it a ton with many of my own, and the sound is wonderful. Really, you dont need to mess with scratches etc. . .If you mess with it to much, you can remove the "life" from the recording as well as the imperfections. Just make sure your record is clean and in good condition before you rip it. It will sound like a record not a CD. This really is a good thing even though some people will try to convince you otherwise. To just do a direct transfer, which I do recomend, this is how I do it, and ANYONE can do this if they put their minds to it. Keeping in mind, Im using a turntable with a built in Pre-Amp. Set up may be slightly different if you have to hook up a pre-amp.
The following is VERY usefull information to have, and wonderful when you figure it out. You can save any and all audio recordings you want, and put them onto your computer and onto CD if you wish:
Making mp3 from LP or any outside source is quite simple really if you have the basics and take a bit of time to figure out the rest. Basicly, you run a cable ( a Y cable, and you can get at radio shack for like 6 bucks) that goes from the audio outs or speakers of the source into the audio in in your soundcard on the computer. Or if you have an amplifier, use the audio outs provided. Then, you have to mess with the volume controlls. You most likely have a speaker picture bottom right of your screen. Click it, go to "Options" then go to "preferences" then go to "recording" then you have to play with the options there till you find one that makes the sound from the source go into your comp speakers. Its usually going to be audio in. That is part of it. I use music match jukebox for the recording part. That can be found from www.musicmatch.com. Open music match. Click "Options". then "Recorder Source". Then "audio in" again, here you have to mess with it till something actually records when you press the record button. When both the master volume speaker control and the mmj settings are set, click record on mmj. Name the file. Then, press record again to start recording, and press play on the source. You will have to mess around with the volume controlls on the master volume. If its not right, the mp3 will be VERY lound. You have 5 volume controll sliders. The first should be 3 notches up, and the second four notches up. All the rest can be left alone. At this point, after you find a good volume, and you find it records right without being "tinny" or weird sounding, you can either leave the file unedited with space at the start and the end, or you can convert the mp3 into a wave file using music match under the "File" then "Convert" option. If you convert it to wave, you can edit the wave file with a freeware program called "GoldWave". Takes a bit of time to figure out goldwave, but after you figure it out, edit the file, you can convert it back again to mp3 with mmj and the convert option. The only other thing to be sure to do when recording, is to set music match to record the file in VBR instead of the default 128. For reasons I dont wish to explain here for lack of space, VBR is the best. In MMJ just go to "Options", "Settings", "Recorder". Near bottom youll see the following: MP3 VBR, MP3 CBR (this will have a 12 after it, and Windows Media. Slide the MP3 VBR slider bar over to 100 percent. You are then set.
This is the basic information for recording outside media to your comp. Given this info, if you play around with it youll figure it out. Im guessing from scratch, combining all the weeks it took for ME to gather and figure out this info, took me probably 4 hours combined. So, it isnt that difficult.
I hope this has been of some help to you.
Alesis' Masterlink doesn't need a computer to work. It has a built in hard drive and audio tools to get your LPs to sound like you want before you burn them; 16/44.1 or 24/96.