Vinyl Ripping: 24bit 96khz


This is an overview of the equipment you will need, for a guide on the equipment, see Vinyl Ripping: Equipment
- Turntable
- Stylus and Cartridge
- Phono Preamp
- Sound Card/Capture Device
- Cables
- PC

Properly tuning a turntable is a difficult and fairly important bit of maintenance you really should do for the device that probably hasn't seen use in 20 years and likely has a brand new cartridge. I would really recommend taking your turntable to a qualified professional and paying for a proper tuneup, but as always it is possible to do yourself. Improperly adjusting your turntable can damage your records and accelerate wear, as well as affecting audio quality, so please recognize the risks. It's also very helpful to have some fairly expensive tools at your disposal. I won't go into detail on this process here, but you can find a reasonable guide at this site.

It's also important that the turntable is on the most level and stable surface as possible. Any vibrations that transfer to the tonearm or platter will show up in the recording, so try to place the turntable in the most stable place you can.

Your signal chain should be fairly obvious. You will need to connect components such that the signal goes from Turntable -> Phono Preamp -> PC. In most cases this will be simple to achieve, but I will give a few pointers. If you're using a receiver or integrated amplifier as your phono preamp, it probably has a 'tape monitor' or 'preamp' output. You should use this output to connect to your PC, but you may need to enable the tape monitor feature on the amplifier as well. On professional sound cards, the inputs are often not labeled specifically for left or right; generally you would connect the left (white/black) channel to the first input and right to the second. On consumer level cards there is often a mic input as well as a line input. Use the line input only, the mic input is not appropriate for this use.

I recommend using Audacity as your capture software. It's simple and fairly foolproof, and free open source software. If you'd prefer, there are many suitable applications such as Adobe Audition. This guide was written against Audacity 1.2.6.

First we will configure Audacity for 24/96KHz capture with the correct audio device.


-Audio I/O tab
On this tab, make sure the correct capture device is selected under 'Recording', the brand and model should be listed here. You might also want to change the Playback device so you can monitor the recording, the default 'Microsoft Sound Mapper - Output' device will play back to your normal windows sound device. Choose 'Software Playthrough' if you'd like to monitor the output while recording.

-Quality tab
On this tab, follow the settings in the screenshot below. If your sound card is capable of it, you may select 'Other' for the Default Sample Rate, and type 192000 in the box for 192KHz capture.

-File Formats tab
On this tab, you must select 'Other' for the 'Uncompressed Export Format' option; this will give you a box to choose the encoding. Select WAV and 'Singed 24bit PCM' for the encoding. The other options don't matter for this guide.

-Directories tab
If you need Audacity to use a different hard drive during capture, you can change it here.

Restart Audacity after making these changes.

You will also need to configure your sound card itself for the desired sample rate. Usually this is accomplished through a driver control panel for your sound card. It should match the setting you set in Audacity. If you have an option for 'Internal' or 'External' clock (Master/Slave is a term also used, you want Master), you want to choose Internal here.

Record Preparation

It is a good idea to purchase a quality record cleaner and clean your records just before capturing them, and to use the dust cover on your turntable. Even the smallest speck of dust will be audible in a recording; the less dust the better. I don't have any specific recommendations here, but I highly recommend you do some research and purchase a good cleaner.

Also, if at all possible, use records that haven't been played much and that have no visible scratches. Wear is a problem as the vinyl is only good for a certain number of plays before it starts to wear down affecting the quality. Obvious scratches will cause lots of loud pops that are difficult to remove nicely and obviously ruin quality. If you don't have a record in good condition, it's not worth the trouble of recording it.

Capture Preparation
We will first be making a test recording to set levels and make sure everything is working properly, so get everything set up, turned on, and put your record on the turntable. Get it fired up and playing.

To start recording, press the record button in Audacity (red circle), and you should see the waveform being recorded as well as the VU meters at the top jumping around. Now we need to set the levels to ensure there isn't any clipping. The screenshot below shows what the VU meter looks like during recording, with a properly adjusted level (though a bit low).

You should aim for peaks reaching about 75% of the maximum level (the peaks are represented on the VU meter with an extra line showing the highest the signal's been in recent time). Try to play the loudest part of the record while you adjust to make sure it's not going to start clipping halfway through and force you to rerecord.

How you actually adjust the levels depends on the sound card you have. Most external cards will have a knob attached to each input that adjusts the level (as well as an LED-based VU meter) - the best setting for these is at their maximum, minimum or at any spot where there's a detent, as long as this puts the signal at a proper level. It's difficult to match them otherwise between the left and right channels, and the balance of the recording might be off if you adjust them.

If you've got an internal card, the driver control panel should provide a level adjustment slider for the inputs. Make you're not just adjusting the output or one of the S/PDIF channels as they can sometimes be confusing. You want to make sure the 'stereo link' is enabled to adjust the channels at the same time. Most drivers will show a VU meter on this panel as well which you can use in addition to the Audacity VU meter.

The level itself is not critical, but it should be at least 50% of the maximum and should never approach 100% at any time.

Once you've got the levels set, stop the Audacity recording and listen to the few minutes of audio you should've recorded. Make sure it sounds good (don't worry if it sounds a bit quiet) and listen for any audio dropouts (there shouldn't be any).

Finally! Everything is set up and it's time to capture a side. This part is easy.

Create a new project in Audacity and discard your old test one. Stop your turntable.

Now we're ready to start, so press record (red circle) in Audacity and then start the turntable and place the needle in the lead-in area. You shouldn't listen while recording, as the vibrations from speakers can be a contributor to distortion, though if you'd like to monitor on headphones I recommend this.

Once the side is complete, stop Audacity and the turntable. We'll do a side at a time in the guide, once you're done one side, go back and repeat from the Capture step.

Track Splitting

The first thing we're going to do after capturing the audio is to split it into tracks and proof it for quality. Just start playing the audio from the very beginning. When you reach the start of the first track, stop playback and move the playhead (just click in the waveform window) to just before this point. You'll have to use your judgement where to place the track break. Press Ctrl-B (or Project->Add Label At Selection) to create a new label. Your cursor will be in the 'title' for the label at this point, so just start typing the name of the song. Once you've got the label made, press play again and make sure you've got the label in the correct spot and also listen to the track for any problems. Continue for all the other tracks on the side.

Once you've got labels created and properly positioned for all the tracks, we will amplify the signal to a normal level. Select the entire waveform (Ctrl-A or Edit->Select->All) and then choose Effect->Amplify. This will automatically set itself for 0dB maximum output, which is close to what we want. If you see the Amplification (dB) box shows 0.0, you have clipped the input during recording and you'll need to do it over with a lower level. Otherwise, type -0.1 into the 'New Peak Amplitude' box and press OK. It may take a moment, and you should see the waveform become larger.

Now we'll export to WAV files for encoding. Choose File->Export Multiple... and the following dialog appears. Note that unless you check the box and type a name in the box, audio before the first label will be lost - so make sure you labeled the first track.

Post Processing

Okay, the title says 'Complete', but this is one thing I'm not going to go into here. It involves removing clicks and pops, and possibly noise. The problem is that if you've followed the steps up until now, you should have a good quality recording with little noise and rumble that would be easily removed by an automated script. You will need to go through the recording by hand and remove each individual random click or pop. This can be done in Audacity by selecting the problem area and choosing Effect->Click Removal... You can find more detail on this technique at the Audacity wiki.

I do not recommend using the noise removal plugin as many other guides recommend. If you've followed the equipment guidelines and have a reasonable quality setup, the constant noise should be very low. This plugin is not appropriate for removing small vinyl noise which is almost impossible to get rid of. If you've cleaned the record well and the recording is still noisy and fully of pops, chances are that the record itself is just in poor condition and not worth capturing. Please just remove problem clicks and pops as necessary, and try to apply as little processing as possible to your recording.


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