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Wednesday, 27 July 2011


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I don't understand the point of all this. If you digitize your vinyl, and then sell the vinyl, you presumably no longer have a licence to use (play) the digitized music. So isn't it effectively pirated at that point? Furthermore, given that most of these LPs are probably available in CD form, couldn't you then just download them for free in lossless quality from certain sites that shall remain unnamed, and save yourself all this hassle?

I had perhaps an easier time than you transcribing my tape collection (largely recorded from radio when I studied in Germany from 1980-1986) of some 2700 tapes, but I underestimated the amount of time as well: five years later, I've still got 900 or so to go. :-(

I had a learning curve with the software I used (Magix Music Cleaning Lab) that took me around 40 tapes to get down right (largely hiss reduction and dynamic range expansion: remember, I am dealing with tapes and all their limitations, rather than with records...), requiring re-recording these; I had to set up a separate hiss file for all the tape brands and types I had, as well as different dynamic range expansion files for the IEC tape types. Cutting and saving, renaming, etc etc etc, all took their time.

I used 48KHz sampling with 24 bit resolution for the exact reasons you bring: it also simply works the best. Final output was 196KB/s Variable rate MP3s (again, I wasn't dealing with pristine quality originals, but rather tapes that had been played many times and weren't the most expensive to begin with). I also made the mistake of recording many tapes with dbx: this meant trying used tape decks to find one that decoded well (I had recorded with a Technics RSM-223x, and these aren't generally available), and ended up with a Yamaha K-960 and a Technics RS-T55R that have worked well.

I'll end up with around 5TB when I am done with it all, and at the rate things are going with memory, that should be easily doable with a small portable device by the end of this decade...

Now, about transcribing those family vacation videos...oy! I have massive problems with synchronization between video and tone, and to be honest, the VCR is disconnected and in a box, as are the vacation videos. Someday, someday...

Dare I ask? If you hadn't listened to the records in fives years did you really need to spend all the time, money, and effort to convert them?

Hmm. If you sell the vinyl and CDs you don't have a right to listen to the digitised versions any more, do you?

Ctein, if you sell the media but keep a copy of the music, isn't that a violation of licensing?


I wonder what the legal status of downloading a vinyl rip of a vinyl you own is... because there are high quality rips of almost everything if you know where to look.

How right you are. It takes forever, but it's worth it.

Audition seems to be the best audio editor around, but for vinyl restoration, add ClickFix. This speeds up noise removal considerably, and I find it more effective than Audition's effect. The Big Click remover in Audition is very good for severe clicks.
You can download ClickFix from: http://www.jdklein.com/clickfix/index.htm

Some of the Shure needles are no longer available, so buying a current cartridge may be the only choice.

If you have a spare slot in your computer, I have found that the higher spec SoundBlaster audio cards have very good SN numbers for a reasonable price. The built in audio in most computers is just too noisy, and puts a strain on the CPU.

Please don't ask how many years I've been working through my LP's.

Just use Garageband..great program, and you can interact with itunes nicely..

In light of all the recent copyright discussions, I can't resist asking whether you have any thoughts on that topic as it pertains to digitizing vinyl.

I don't mean to imply that I think you shouldn't do that, of course, but just to observe that if you were copying photos taken by others, rather than copying music written and performed by others, many TOP readers would be seething. I guess the question is, why is copying music different from copying photos?

I remember when Adobe Audition was Cool Edit Pro. The first version still called itself Cool Edit in the Help file and pointed to the Syntrillium forums.

I need to drag out my turntable, the new "remastered" stuff sounds horrible.

I presume you deleted any tracks from your music archive that were on any of the physical media you sold?

Errmm. Isn't it piracy if you sell the physical media but retain digit files? Surely this isn't a plug for law-breaking?!

Ctein and I have had this discussion privately, but what he describes is something I would never do. I see music as essentially a consumable, like food. It needs to be constantly supplied, and food that's already been digested shouldn't (ahem) be eaten again. (Sorry, that metaphor got out of control.)

I'm pretty sure in Ctein's position I would just sell all 500 albums and then re-buy anything I hankered to listen to again as I felt the need to hear it, in digital form. Or, more likely, I'd do that but keep the 10 or 20 physical albums that are most meaningful or nicest or most valuable.

I shouldn't admit this, but sometimes I download music I know I already own. Too lazy to go look for the CD or fish out the vinyl from the closet. Or it's just one cut I want for a mix or something.

I recently revisited some music that was important to me as a teenager and, while it was an interesting nostalgic experience in an armchair-narcissistic way, triggering certain memories, mainly it just pointed out that I'm not the same person any more where music is concerned.

But I know everyone's different, and to each his or her own.


I've used Wave Corrector for over ten years with great satisfaction. It processes only audio but does that well. I would recommend the Pro version since that provides free upgrades. Much cheaper if you need only the audio.

I am somewhat of a philistine when it comes to music, so pardon the gross pragmatism in this question. Wouldn't it have been simpler and far less expensive to just go to half.com and buy CD versions for most of the albums you actually wanted to have digital versions of? Or is it a case of no CD or MP3 exists of anything you had on vinyl?

In any case, when you are far enough along, please do report back to us what the "per vinyl album converted cost" was - both in time and dollars. (Include all fixed costs, etc).


Dear Folks,

To all asking about the IP issues associated with this...

Don't know. Don't care. Let the RIAA come and take me away.

Not gonna engage that aspect of the discussion-- you guys wanna argue it out amongst yourselves, be my guest.

'Sides, contentious copyright comments are soooo last week [grin].

pax / Ctein

These obsequious attitudes towards piracy denote those who deserve a swot about the ears... for that is what you hear with, not the wallet. Amazing that so many people can be conned by rich mega-corporations. Why should you think you should no longer listen to music you've already paid for?

Me, I gave up my entire physical collection a decade ago. The artefacts are worth many thousands, I suppose, but it's the music that's priceless.


Dear Grant,

Alexia was concerned more about timing stability than S/N ratios, so before buying any audio board, I'd look at that spec.

I'm sure there are good ones out there, but it was harder for me to research.


Dear David,

I did use Garageband for a bit, when CuBase got hinky on me. Maybe it was just my unfamiliarity with the program, but the VU meters seemed very inadequate to my needs, it was hard to get the volume set properly because the tracks were so narrow, and I couldn't figure out how to record at anything but 44.1 KHz.

Like I said, could be my ignorance, but I came away feeling that for my specific need, Garageband was even less capable than CuBase.


Dear Paddy,

I thought that was clear, but I guess not. It wasn't that I had no desire to hear that music again, it was that I wasn't doing so, due to physical circumstances. So I fixed the circumstances.

pax / Ctein

Dear Ben

Observe the difference between "prescriptive" and "descriptive;" there is no plugging going on here.


Dear Severian,

As it happens, about half my albums didn't seem to be available as CDs (at least, based on my searches for track/album information to copy into my database).

But more honestly, I did this because three years ago I thought it wasn't going to take very long and I had lots of spare time. One of those "It seemed like a good idea at the time" things.

I consider my adventures as much a cautionary tale as anything else.

pax / Ctein

The longest part of my conversion process of 300 CDs to iTunes was the fact that my musical tastes are sufficiently off piste that the iTunes server would very often not recognise the album and autofill the details, or find the artwork. Lots of typing.

Even a few of my more mainstream CDs - one particular cut of Miles Davies' Sketches of Spain from Columbia Records and some Dinah Washington were not recognised. The artwork for Rush's Exit...Stage Left was also different to my copy of the CD, but that may be a regional difference between the States and Germany, where I bought the CD.

I am not sure if it contributes to the discussion, but it seems to me that life is too short for this. I started to do something similar, but maybe even less persnickety, in dubbing my LPs to digital files. It is a horrendously long process and in my case was not worth it. I can buy CDs or digital files of more recent, better performances, or copies of legendary old performances without taking up a large part of my remaining years. You can go through your existing collection and replace the things you still want to hear, but listen to them and you may find that your taste has grown since you started collecting and that you certainly will not want to reproduce the entire collection. Buy what you are interested in now. Don't spend your time making a monument to your past musical journey.

I wonder how Ctein would feel if somebody bought one of his prints, made a "good enough" copy for their personal use, then sold it ... same thing, no?

As for duping records, I'll pass, thank you. My collection is large enough (it takes up more than 80' of shelf space) that I can't imagine that I would ever be able to finish it, not to mention that I'd be hard-pressed to suffer through "good enough" copies that pale by comparison to the originals.


After spending a number of years sitting at a soundboard, my analog ears pick up on system noise, thus my concern for S/N ratios. This may not be an issue for others.

Timing stability is a problem, and a frustrating one. I have had to scrap hours of work because of it. Interestingly, the problem was not the sound card, but the motherboard chipset. My last two boards have not had this problem, so I assume that the current crop of chipsets are up to the task.

Ah, Cool Edit Pro and Syntrillium; I remember them! I progressed from there to Audacity. And haven't done very much with it. I have original spoken-word recordings I need to digitize, and some LPs I've been meaning to and thinking about, including 78s.

So far as I can tell, the Intergalactic Touring Band album (for example) hasn't been released on CD. I don't know how much of my collection that applies to, though. That's just the first thing that came to mind. (I've rebought a lot on CD already; I converted to CD in 1983, pretty much).

Dear Jeffrey,

The most important reason for not taking an argument "to the man" is not the potential for acrimony, it's that it in no way can illuminate discussion.

Suppose I were to say it wouldn't bother me a bit. How would that in any way advance the IP question, either legally or socially?

(That was a rhetorical question.)

pax / Ctein

There's this which looks interesting:http://www.elpj.com/main.html

A laser LP player. I'd first seen this quite some years ago and it's come down in price as well as gotten an upmarket model.

Ctein has made it clear that he wasn't listening to his records, but what about the rest of you? Have you listened to a record recently? Yes they're rarely defect free, but there is a sound that CD's cannot match. I have a moderate audiophile system (speakers, amp, CD players each costing around $1,000) and my record player knocks the socks off playing CDs, yet costs only $500. With new modern pressings the sound is impressive, and less tiring, even with digital recordings. Older pressings may be more problematic, but try cleaning them before assigning them to the recycling (you are recycling?).

Ah Ctein,

Timing issues on motherboards. I've had the same pesky issue....using a Line6 guitar processor....resulted in pop's (of the deafening variaty) in the audiostream. Had a really hard time figuring it out until I stumbled on a bugfile issued by Intel and it stated a timing error in one of it's IO chips in my chipset, in this case the one controlling the USB bus.....(which my guitar processor used). The result was USB in my computer (incidentally an HP laptop of the top of the range variety back in 2006) was not capable of using a continuous datastream. The Adobe Audition Cool Edit Pro link is quite usefull though, I was wondering what happened to that nice piece of software.

Greetings, Ed

I replaced my vinyl that I listened to the most with cassette tapes so I could create mix tapes and listen in the car and replaced my tapes that I listened to the most with CDs for better sound, but never got rid of anything.
So when I bought an iPod and ripped all the CDs for the iPod, I thought about digitizing some of the vinyl that I did not have on CD. Instead I sold the vinyl for enough to pay for the iPod and most of the tracks I have downloaded from the iTunes store since. Oh, and I donated the CDs and the tapes to the library and took a tax deduction.
I think I broke even over that 50 year period!

Sorry for continuing the IP issue Ctein but I can't help but comment on it. To me the idea of ripping a vinyl collection to MP3 then selling the originals to both free up space and recoup some money is akin to scanning that large Ansel Adams / Cindy Sherman / whatever hanging on the wall, using the JPEG for a computer wallpaper or digital photo frame, then selling the original to free up the wall space and get a bit of cash back into the bank account. There's probably no intention to file share the JPEGs and distribute them (either for free or for money) but the concept, or spirit, of IP violation is there.

I am certainly in no position to cast the first stone (there are MP3s in my library which have originated from, ahem, misplaced sources) but I was quite unsettled by your article and then your subsequent comment regarding IP ("don't know, don't care"). I guess it goes to show that IP principles and concepts are not definitive and will continue to be open to interpretation and debate.

Just enjoy the damn vinyl man! Save so much time and effort as well.

I am not sure if it contributes to the discussion, but it seems to me that life is too short for this.

I agree. I have the same thoughts when I read posts from people asking advice about 'archiving' their collection of 4,000 slides. My usual reaction is "why bother?". It will take forever and the originals will still be around after you have lost the digital files.

In Ctein's case I think I would only digitise the tracks as and when I wanted to hear them rather than set myself the task of doing them all.

You are wrong Ctein. Selling your physical media after ripping & keeping the digital copies (regardless of whether you listen to them or not) is illegal. It's stealing, plain & simple. I am appalled at someone whose own passion (photography) could be plagiarized so easily (and who would likely be quite vocal about it) could be so cavalier about this. I guess most people's ethics are truly situational, and area easily justified in their own eyes as it suits THEM. Sad, very sad. And an irresponsible post, imo.

When LP and tape were what we had, I taped my LPs and played the tapes. The ritual of handling and cleaning the LP every 20 minutes or whatever it was was just too much trouble, as was the risk of damage to the LP.

And as soon as CDs came along, I replaced the LPs I listened to most. Despite claims by others, to me CDs sound immensely better than LPs. I suspect I'm bothered more by the various noise problems LPs have, and perhaps I'm less sensitive to some other issues. But for whatever reason (and I've heard some really expensive stereo systems in my time), CDs nearly always sound not just better than, but MUCH MUCH better than LPs to me.

I haven't listened to music in the room that the turntable and amp is in for 15 years, anyway, except for concert videos; I can't just listen to the LPs.

Ctein. I am saddened by your IP comment. My income is dropping every year due to IP theft. Why not just buy the CD, copy it to your HD and sell the disk? Rent the movie, copy it, and return it to Netflix. You know, just go to the pirates and be done with it!

Be a good guy. destroy the vinyl and recycle the plastic in the blue recycle bin with your other recyclables. Or sell the vinyl and buy the CD or file or whatever.

Here's a 'plus-one' for Audacity, best freebie audio program ever, at least for some stuff, think of it like the PhotoShop Elements for audio...I use it all the time for transferring and cleaning up interviews done on Minidisc (sniff, another great documentary format gone), and my Zoom digital recorder...

Dumped my vinyl years ago...intended to do what Ctein is doing to get jazz discs, but sooner or later even the most obscure and hard to find stuff I had on vinyl appeared in the big cheapie CD catalogs for 4 or 5 bucks, so 'what-me-worry'?

CD's are a mixed blessing for me, yeah, I agree with everyone that says a virgin vinyl LP's in pristine shape, sound unmatched on a high-end system (much higher than I could ever afford), BUT, as 'king of the needle drop', most of my albums had too many pops and clicks to make copying worth the effort, and then there's that 22-25 minute side of music you have to keep running over to flip, bahh! I'm not willing to go to MP3 files, I can hear the difference in that, but CD's are OK enough for my old ears...

Gotta say tho, I know a lot of old timers that have just gone the iPod route and dumped all their albums and CD's; they like millions of hours of music on a tiny little thing, rarely even use it with head-phones, they just like it as a music source for their regular old stereos...

Now if you want to talk limited edition jazz reel-to-reel tapes copied at 7 1/8th instead of 3 3/4, now we're talking!

not to mention that I'd be hard-pressed to suffer through "good enough" copies that pale by comparison to the originals.

Mr. Goggin, perhaps the problem here is your take on "good enough" that others have put forward for example. In my case, "good enough" means I can't tell a song has been compressed. My totally unscientific tests tell me this can happen in an MP3 from a CD at roughly 44kHz and a variable bit rate with a floor set at 192k.

Maybe in your case it means whatever settings create a higher-fidelity copy capturing most of the analog sound of the original.

Regarding the IP comments, I keep the CDs I buy for only two reasons: I have specific memories attached to most of them as individual objects and I have them around to create new files in case of a serious hard drive failure or a better digitizing system.

I'd just keep the vinyl, I guess if you add up all the times you play it, it's still less time consuming.

I really do not see the point about the IP. The copy that Ctein made is NOT A PERFECT copy. He did not clone his LPs! He kept copies for a souvenir that are good enough to remind him of what that music is.

I try to follow a simple rule. I treat music same way as books, same way as photographs. As a photographer, I try to respect copyright as much as I can and is within reason. When I buy a book, I have a right to read it, lend it to a friend and eventually sell it. I do not have a right to make copies of it. In music, I believe I have a right to make a usable copy or conversion of the material for my own use, but I agree that I do not have the right to make copies for sale, or keep a copy and sell the original. If I buy an original Weston print, I can look at it on my wall, I can eventually sell it, but I don't think I have a right to make copies of it. After all, copyright means the right to make copies. I do not have that right for material I buy. Think all photographers should set high enough standards for themselves since we are always at risk of being illegally copied. If we don't follow any rules, or care about them, we cannot really blame anyone for illegally copying our own work.

Illegal isn't always unethical, primarily (but not soley) because neither has to mean stealing---howsoever they may get defined, and linked,  even in their respective vacuums. So I'm with Ctein on that score, at least that's how I read him.

On the other hand, I wouldn't have sold my negatives, er LPs, thereby condeding future ability to improve upon my working prints for whatever unforseen reason. Differing musical priorities, that's all.

Digitizing analog media of any kind is a direct function of how much you care about it and are willing to pursue it. Hey, who wants to digitize their slides? Home movies? VHS tapes? Oh, not today? 

In any case the gurus you select will largely determine your path. Mike, a fellow music lover with enough experience to notice the obvious, instantly knew the Shure cart was probably the weakest link, and in the end a more important consideration than all the computer and A/D hand-wringing.

Think about how that single decision came to be vs. time spent on the rest and the project's success.

After all, computer glitches are obvious issues to be tackled whereas the OM10 recommendation was taken on faith. Something for everyone to consider when declaring that this-or-that design choice or methodology doesn't mean much to themselves prior to actually experiencing it properly.

BTW, Intellectual property rights, when it comes to music in the home, are a very 'gray' area...what the general public never understood from day one, is they weren't buying the 78, LP, 45 for their use, they were buying the ability to listen to the performance at will, and for their personal enjoyment, the record was just the delivery vehicle. In a way, even playing the record at a dance is skirting the issue...

Record companies and artists decided years ago not to pursue IP on records, and it's come back to bite them in the ass. There have been used record stores form the dawn of time, but in theory, they never should have been allowed to exist. The record is sold once to the original user of the music, and the IP rights are covered at that point, but as the record is resold and resold, there are no fees and charges going to the writers and artists for each additional end user.

The record companies and artists rights associations should have gone after used record stores from day one, and either closed them down, or demanded that IP rights be covered and submitted for each additional sale. The fact that records represented an 'ethereal' media, and literally destroyed themselves with usage, probably contributed to the fact that the companies didn't pursue it (and in fact, people that 'wore out' records probably should have been able to turn their old ones in and rebuy a new one for a nominal fee), as well as audio sub-standard cassette tapers, and reel-to-reel jockeys (like myself) were too small a segment to worry about. The record companies always felt that a customer would want a pristine copy!

Interesting to note here, in regard to used record stores, that even before wide spread taping of records, and other digital media, if you just got tired of a record and sold it at the store, it still wouldn't and shouldn't have been legal to do that. Just because you relinquish your IP usage rights on an item, doesn't mean that someone else should get them for free, they still should have been made to pay a fee to the writer, performer, and record company. But as it stands now, decades of unchallenged operation by used record stores makes selling your stuff to them normal operating procedure, and the record companies are swimming upstream on that one.

Just out of curiosity, suppose Ctein decided to throw out the records instead of selling them, and then someone picked them up out of the trash. Who (if anyone) has committed a prohibited act?

Dear Bruce and ikka,

Extreme binary thinking will be the death of you, yet.

Occasinally the world does look better in black and white

But most of the time, continuous tone is usually preferable.

pax / Ctein

Dear Charles and David,

Indeed, I wrestled with the question of making the irrevocable decision to dispose of the source material, not something I'm usually inclined to do.

I also did have to think about what "good enough" would mean, especially in light of my very limited knowledge (I won't even dignify it with the word "expertise").

I satisfied myself on practical grounds. No way I'd ever do such a time-consuming project twice. If somewhere down the line I were to decide that I didn't do as good a job as I might have, it wouldn't matter. I wouldn't eat up another year or so of spare time doing it all over again.

So, might as well get rid of the albums after they're transcribed.

As for "good enough," as I explained that was based on getting something that sounded as good or better than it ever had in my living room. While I'm not really old, at 60 my hearing isn't likely to get BETTER over time, and it's not likely my psychological sense of musical discrimination will take a sudden jump upward, after all these years.

Based on Mike and Alexia's advice, I did get transcriptions that sounded a lot better, TO ME, than what I'd been listening to, old-style. The OM10 cart as definitely better than the Shure I'd been happy with for 30 years (even with a brand-new higher-priced stlus in the Shure). I couldn't hear anything disturbing at 48 KHz transcriptions.

(Yeah, I heard lots of disturbing stuff... but some careful experimentation convinced me that most of what I was hearing was lousy pressings. I'd just never noticed it before.)

That's the meaning of Good Enough for me.

Someone like Jeffrey would have to kick it up a notch. Move into the middle-high four figures, and you can get an A-D converter with rock-solid timing and sampling windows down to a handful of nanoseconds at rates of 192KHz and a clean 24 bits. That really will satisfy anyone but an audio researcher.

With something like 7000 platters, it'd even end up costing Jeffrey about the same per disk as my project.

But. Where's the incentive? For me, it was freeing up space and making music listenable again. If you don't have those, as Jeffrey doesn't, it's hard to see much benefit to doing this.

pax / Ctein

Some here are wondering why people with old vinyl don't just buy the CD/download from iTunes.

Aside from the cost of replacing 500 LPs, one good reason in general may be that the vinyl version sounds better than the shiny new CD.

Many pop and rock records were re-mastered for CDs in a way that seriously eroded their audio quality, for the sake of making the music sound louder. Here's a Wikipedia article on the "Loudness War" that explains some of the technical issues:


I personally experienced this when I bought the CD for an album that I had listened to on vinyl dozens of times: The Who's "Who's Next". On the 2003 CD release, the song "Won't Get Fooled Again" was so compressed that the quiet organ passage in the middle was missing some of the echoes. I was so disturbed by this that I had my hearing tested -- I thought I was going deaf! When I got the "all clear" from the ear doctor, I dug out the 30-year-old vinyl, and the quiet and loud portions now had the correct balance, and the faint echoes I remembered were back. Another notorious example of bad CD mastering is Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run.

In short, along with the dust clicks, there was more musical information on the vinyl than the CD. And iTunes gets its digital files from the same masters used for the CD.

Theoretically, a CD should sound much better than vinyl, but unless you get some audiophile CD mastering, the result may be, and far too often is, worse.

BTW, this intentionally bad remastering doesn't seem to apply to Jazz or Classical music labels, as far as I have been able to determine.


I know I'm a few weeks past the last comment here. But if you are using your MacBook I'd have to suggest you look at PureVinyl. It has customized RIAA Curve Correction based on which company originally pressed the record. There are different curves for an RCA Victor Red Seal versus a more modern pressing. It also has a program to optimize the audio on your MacBook as well.


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