Thoughts about digitising vinyl...
by, 02-04-2016 at 08:51 AM (1052 Views)
First off, you have to ask yourself "Why do I want to transcribe my vinyl?" Do you have a collection of vinyl which is rare and unavailable in digital formal, or are you hoping to get better quality than you can get from CD?
If the latter, then you need to start from a point where you have good quality playback equipment and clean vinyl. Anything else is just trying to polish a turnip ... whatever you do it will still be a turnip. So with that in mind, do you have a vinyl playback system which is as good (ideally exceeds) your expectations?
Next you have to decide if you are happy with the record as it plays: pops, clicks and all; or if you will want to edit and correct these distortions. If you are trying to capture the experience and quality of the vinyl playback (without worrying about the distortions) then a DSD capture system would be best, if you want to do editing (beyond simply cutting tracks) then you will need PCM (or to convert DSD to PCM after capture).
Now IF you had an unlimited budget, then you would look at something like a Linn LP12 (or one of the other high end turntables) and a good cartridge, get a good phono stage, a Metric Halo ULN8 or Tascam DA-3000 and a good record cleaner, but this is obviously not an option for you.
So my advise would be (a) look what of your records you can get copies of on CD, buy as many as possible second hand, look at streaming services too for other material. For the material you can't get digitally, then look at transcribing. Start by getting your turntable set up well so that you actually enjoy playing the records and listening; that will be your benchmark. Not sure what is available where you are ... but start with something like Spin Clean Vinyl Washer System - Superfi to clean the records. If you have some in particularly dirty condition which are particularly treasured, try local record shops or hifi stores they may have a record cleaning service.
Now you need some method to get the "music" into your computer. Without spending a lot you can get a pretty decent 24/96 ADC - look at brands such as Focusrite and EMU as well as lower end products from RME and (if you have a Mac) Apogee. A good place to look is a local professional music store. You will need a phono-pre but if you have a integrated amp with phono input you can connect an ADC to the record loop of the amplifier.
One thing definitely to avoid is "all in one" recording turntables. Even if you are buying a new turntable you will get much better results from something like Pro-jects entry level turntable and phono-pre than these.
A couple of other comments - you asked about storage. My thought would be to store a straight recording of the record in WAV (or AIFF). This is your "master" copy and you never alter that (except for topping and tailing the rerecording and possibly splitting it into tracks). Some of this will be dependent on what software you are using of course. This master copy will be in 24/96 (or whatever resolution you feel best). Once you have the master, you can load that into your editing software and do any declicking, altering levels, etc. you need to do, convert it and save as a FLAC, reducing quality down to 16/44.1 if you prefer a smaller CD quality version - but whatever you do make sure you keep the master safe as if you want to go back do different editing you can then easily load it without having to rerecord.