After getting my Emu 0404 USB 2.0 Audio Interface, I have started to rip my vinyl record collection. I want to retain as much as possible of the fantastic sound of vinyl, so I rip everything in 24bit 48khz. Why not use 96khz? Well, my preferred playback device, the Squeezebox only supports 24/48 unfortunately.
Here’s how I do it…
You need an RIAA preamp between the record player and the audio interface if you don’t have an amplifier with a built-in phono input. I use a Cambridge – 640P Outboard Audiophile MM/MC Phono Stage that I have modified extensively. There are cheaper alternatives like this cheap MM preamp. There are even preamps with built-in USB. But I choose to use separate components which make it easier to upgrade later on. Because you always upgrade equipment. Trust me.
My favorite program for getting the audio to the computer is CD Spin Doctor that is bundled with Roxio Toast 9 Titanium. There are excellent free open source alternatives like Audacity, but I like some of the features in CD Spin Doctor like finding the tracks automatically.
If you are going to put the ripped audio onto a CD, choose 44khz sampling rate. If you are fortunate enough to own the excellent SqueezeBox audio player, use 48khz. By using a higher sampling rate, you effectively get a more extensive frequency span on your recorded audio. A CD can produce sound up to 22000 Hz but by using a 48khz you extend this to 24000 Hz (see Nyquist theorem). I’m totally deaf above 16000 Hz but still “hear” that the higher frequencies are there when playing it. It sounds more “airy”. Go figure.
Settings for burning to regular CDs?
Use as many bits as you can. CDs have 16 bits per sample, but if you can, choose 24 bits in your recording software. We just have to downsample later on, after doing our edits.
Settings for a lucky Squeezebox owner?
The bog standard Squeezebox has a maximum on the digital audio of 24 bit – 48khz, so that’s the optimal sampling settings. This will be a good setting for archiving your precious old albums just in case something happens. And playing them out through a Squeezebox sounds fantastic! I would say, Almost vinyl.
I record the complete album, not even stopping between side changes because it’s straightforward to remove it later.
Use the selection tool available in the software you are using to select the songs one by one. Then save (or in some programs, export) them to an AIFF file on your harddisk.
Time to fix the pops and scratches
[update] There’s a better way of doing it. Use ClickRepair instead. More comfortable, faster and better results.
Heres the fun but time-consuming part where we need to remove all the pops and scratches conveniently. My weapon of choice is Apples Soundtrack Pro. It’s bundled with Apple Final Cut Studio 2 If you have Soundtrack Pro already, you are set. Then you could use it to record the whole album and thus not have to go through CD Spin Doctor.
Open up the file you saved from CD Spin Doctor or Audacity.
Drag the horizontal slider together to zoom in closer. This makes it easier to find pops and scratches.
Scroll to the beginning of the file and make sure to select Frequency Spectrum view which makes it a lot easier to find pops and scratches.
Your screen should now look something like this.
Now start playing the song. You should probably use earphones to make it easier to hear pops/scratches. As soon as you hear something, pause by pressing space, and it should be pretty obvious where the scratch is, thanks to the Spectrum view. Scratches usually shows up as distinct white lines.
Select the white line but make sure to add a little extra on both sides of the border.
Now choose the Clicks and Pops filter under the Analysis tab.
Press the Analyze button to let the filter find the scratch. The result will be displayed, but nothing has changed yet.
This shows that it found a click/pop, where and how long the duration and that it’s on both left and right channel. Now let’s fix it.
Press the Fix All button.
Put the marker before the fixed part of the song and press play. Listen if it sounds ok.
Now just continue to go through the song and fix all the scratches.
Why not just select everything and use the click/pop filter? Because you want to do changes to as little as possible to maintain the sound quality, and the filter isn’t good at differentiate between dynamic sounds and click/pops. But when selecting a small part, the filter works like magic!