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Ripping

Ripping
September 20, 2012, 10:58:54 AM
The info in the FAQ seems a bit dated. More recently, there have been private trackers popping up with some standards for producing high quality audiophile rips. It is generally accepted in the scene community to rip LAME -V0 mp3 format due to its excellent quality and high compression and less commonly LAME 320kbps CBR mp3 format for lossy encoding. FLAC with libFLAC encoding is the obvious standard for lossless rips.

In most cases, EAC is overkill for lossy files, and takes far too long to rip the CD to be practical. If your goal is to upload or archive, your best bet is to rip once to FLAC and then use a program like dBpoweramp to convert that rip to the other formats. Even if you don't need a FLAC, it'll still be much faster to rip using any other program, and won't produce an audibly different result unless your CD has skips and bad scratches.

Anywho, here's a guide I took from a private tracker, which takes a very methodical approach to ripping CDs and I highly recommend it to anyone planning to upload rare CDs.

Ripping Tools for CD Media

These are the tools that will grant you a highest possible quality FLAC rip for a CD upload here.

Exact Audio Copy (EAC)
A secure ripper for Windows.
Download here: http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/en/index.php/resources/download/

X Lossless Decoder (XLD)
A secure ripper for OSX.
Download here: https://code.google.com/p/xld/downloads/list

EAC - Setting up Exact Audio Copy

This guide was made for EAC version 1.0 beta 3 and will not completely work with earlier versions (which are not recommended any longer). Versions 0.99 or earlier should use the blowfish guide.

Anything with a green outline around it is a required setting. Anything orange is required but depends on your drive. Anything unmarked is optional.

This is meant to be a no-frills guide with little extra info. A more comprehensive (but outdated) guide can be found here:
http://blowfish.be/eac

Step 1: Download and install EAC
Download the installer and fire it up.



Eventually you'll get to a screen like this. Make sure you install AccurateRip, CDRDAO, CTDB and freedb as a bare minimum. FLAC will be useful as well if you don't have it separately installed. GD3 is only useful if you want to pay for metadata results. I assume you don't.

Note: The above screenshot is from Beta 3. The new Beta 3 adds the option to include the CueTools Database Plugin. It is recommended to install it but not required. Full details for installation of the plugin on older versions is located in the appendix at the end of this guide.

Step 2: Start EAC



When you first start EAC, you'll see a screen like this one. Hit "Cancel". Next, put a popular CD into your drive, preferably not one that was recently released (a few months old at least). You'll see a window like the one below appear. If you have an older version of EAC or dBpoweramp installed, it's likely AccurateRip was already configured, and this may not appear.



Hit Configure. It may take a few minutes. Hit "Ok" afterward. Once again, if you have an older version of EAC or dBpoweramp installed, it's likely AccurateRip was already configured, and this may not appear.

Step 3: EAC Options
All of the options dialogs can be found from the EAC menu at the top of the screen.



Start with EAC Options. Any tabs not pictured are completely optional settings, or are irrelevant to ripping.



If your drive is capable of reading UPC/ISRC codes and CD-Text (you can only really figure this out by trial and error), you're welcome to keep the top two options checked. Otherwise, uncheck them.

Other than that, these settings are pretty much ideal. I wouldn't recommend using more than 1 compressor thread even if you have a multicore computer. It doesn't take very long compared to the track extraction anyway. Note that in tests, disabling the queue of external compressors in the background fixed an issue where EAC was generating WAV files instead of FLAC, so I've made that a required option. It should have no bearing on the rip quality. If rip queueing works for you (it does for me), feel free to leave it enabled.




Make sure you set the green highlighted settings as shown. If you're using an older version of EAC, make sure "No use of null samples for CRC calculations is UNCHECKED. The rest is optional, choose as you will. Locking the drive tray during extraction isn't a bad idea though.



These settings are pretty much all optional and self explanatory. I'd recommend using Alternate CD play routines and disabling autostart though.

The "Show status dialog after extraction" option setting has been problematic for some users. This displays the log after the rip is done, and offers you the option to save the log file. If you follow this guide, EAC will do this automatically. Do NOT hit "Save Log". As such I've disabled the setting here. Only turn it on if you know what you're doing.



Do not normalize.



As shown in the screenshot above here is the proper way to name tracks.

Naming Convention : %tracknr2% - %title%

Check 'Use Various Artists Naming Scheme' and use : %tracknr2% - %artist% - %title%

The only difference acceptable here would be perhaps %tracknr2%. %title% if you prefer periods instead of dashes in the filenames. If you need track numbers to go into triple digits for some reason, use %tracknr3% instead.

Using %artist% - %albumtitle% (%year%) [FLAC] for the directory is common.

Step 4: Drive Options



Start by hitting "Detect Read Features...". This will actually take a few minutes. The only feature detection that actually matters is Accurate Stream. If your drive can use it, checkmark the setting (most modern drives have Accurate Stream). If it can't, don't.

Even if your drive doesn't cache audio, just do us a favour and leave that checked. Not only will it stop you from having to have each of your uploads rescored by hand, but it doesn't affect the audio quality at all. Yes, the rips take a bit longer with that setting enabled. Go watch TV or something while you wait.

Do not use C2, even if EAC thinks you can. Most drives have terrible C2 error implementation.



Hit "Autodetect read command now". It shouldn't take long. Leave everything else unchecked unless you're having problems. You can checkmark "CD-Text Read capable drive" if you want to test whether your drive can do it. If it can, great, otherwise, uncheck it. It's unlikely you'll ever use that feature anyway.



If you did the AccurateRip configuration at the start of this guide, the top half here will be greyed out. If not, you'll need to find your read offset correction from this list. Don't use a combined read/write offset.

If you want to figure out whether your drive needs "Overread into Lead-in and Lead-Out" checked, you can check by temporarily unchecking "Use AccurateRip with this drive". Stick a CD in the drive and hit "Detect read sample offset correction...". If you're just doing this for the Overread, see below:

blowfish.be wrote:

"Check "Overread Lead-In and Lead-Out" only if the test result says that your drive can overread from both the Lead-In and Lead-Out, or if it says Lead-Out and your offset correction is positive ,or if it says Lead-In and your offset correction is negative. Otherwise disable (uncheck) it."



Pretty much every drive should work with the settings shown. If yours stalls on detecting gaps or detects gaps that are obviously wrong (like 30 second gaps on a non-live album), try Detection method B or C. If A, B, and C all fail, you can switch "Secure" to "Accurate" and try again.

Step 5: Metadata Options



Here's where you pick your metadata provider. If you did install GD3, it'll be in the list. You can only rip 10 discs before you have to pay for a subscription though. Otherwise, you have a choice between the MusicBrainz plugin (CTDB), freedb plugin and EAC's native freedb support. I'm not really sure what the big difference is, I'm guessing it's the cover+lyrics. Anyway, change those settings above if you wish.



If you use EAC's native freedb instead, the settings should look like this. Make sure you put an email at the top, it doesn't need to be real. Hit "Get active freedb server list". Then checkmark the last option.

Step 6: Compression Options



Set up this tab exactly as shown. You'll have to browse to the path where you have flac.exe, if you installed it with EAC it's in C:\Program Files (x86)\Exact Audio Copy\FLAC\flac.exe. If you installed it separately it's wherever you installed it. The bit rate and high/low quality have no effect on the rip.

The commandline parameters have changed in this version, so this will look new to most of you. The commandline recommended for optimal completeness is this:

-8 -V -T "ARTIST=%artist%" -T "TITLE=%title%" -T "ALBUM=%albumtitle%" -T "DATE=%year%" -T "TRACKNUMBER=%tracknr%" -T "GENRE=%genre%" -T "PERFORMER=%albuminterpret%" -T "COMPOSER=%composer%" %haslyrics%--tag-from-file=LYRICS="%lyricsfile%"%haslyrics% -T "ALBUMARTIST=%albumartist%" -T "DISCNUMBER=%cdnumber%" -T "TOTALDISCS=%totalcds%" -T "TOTALTRACKS=%numtracks%" -T "COMMENT=%comment%" %source% -o %dest%

It takes no extra effort on your part, just copy and paste that into the additional commandline options and you're done.

Note: the %comment% function is broken in version 1.0b2 (it returns the track CRC). Use something like -T "COMMENT=EAC V1.0 beta 2, Secure Mode, Test & Copy, AccurateRip, FLAC -8" instead.

Also, as of Beta 3 you may use the %tracknr1% variable instead of %tracknr% if you would like to have no leading zeroes in the track number field (like XLD does). tracknr1 will use, for example, '1' instead of '01'.

A note on the FLAC commandline in versions prior to 1.0b3:

If you're using EAC 1.0b1, use the following commandline for FLAC:

-8 -V -T "ARTIST=%a" -T "TITLE=%t" -T "ALBUM=%g" -T "DATE=%y" -T "TRACKNUMBER=%n" -T "TOTALTRACKS=%x" -T "GENRE=%m" -T "ALBUMARTIST=%v" -T "COMMENT=EAC V1.0 beta 1, Secure Mode, Test & Copy, AccurateRip, FLAC -8" %s

Anything older than that, just change the version number in the tags.



Leave everything unchecked except the last option.

Congrats! EAC is now properly set up! You may wish to save your settings in a profile by hitting "New" at the bottom of the screen. However, unless you're changing your settings frequently there's no need, EAC will remember all of this on next launch regardless.

EAC - Ripping with Exact Audio Copy

Step 1: Tagging



So now let's look at the main window. Be sure everything is named correctly here, as these will be the tags on your ripped files. If you're ripping a classical CD, you may wish to fill in the Composer/Performer fields.

Drag a cover image into the EAC window. 500x500 is a decent size in most cases. Google images is your friend here.

Note: I've also highlighted the "New" button where you can save your settings. This is not a necessary step each time you rip.

Step 2: Gap Detection and Cuesheets



The pre-rip stuff happens here. Make sure "Append Gaps to Previous Track (default)" is checked. It should be. Next, hit the options in the order shown.

First, hit "Detect Gaps". This is very important, your rip will fail the logchecker if you do not complete this step. If the first track is highlighted in red, you have a hidden track. You'll want to look at this section of the blowfish.be guide.

Next, go to Create CUE Sheet -> Multiple WAV Files With Gaps... (Noncompliant). This is usually where I create the folder for ripping as well. Do NOT rip your tracks to any directory containing your name. You should NEVER edit a log for any reason, especially now that we have checksums. A simple C:\EAC Rips is fine.

I name my directories as follows:
Artist - Album (Year) [Format] {Extra}

Step 3: Ripping



Finally, the rip itself! Make sure all the tracks are checkmarked in the main window unless there are some you don't want to rip.

Test & Copy -> Compressed.

Depending on your drive and whether or not the CD is scratched, this could take anywhere from ten minutes to four hours. Be patient.

There's a known bug in EAC where opening the file select dialog will crash the program on some machines. You can use a temporary work-around by setting a manual directory for each rip in EAC Options->Directories. You can see an example of this below. Pressing "Browse" on this screen will likely crash the program as well, so you may need to type or paste in the path by hand.

Cassette Ripping
September 20, 2012, 11:20:00 AM
Guide to Cassette Ripping

There's no one true method to ensure perfect cassette rips, but there's certainly many things that you can do to ensure your ripping adventures start out on the best footing. This guide lists what I consider to be a good foundation, plus some tips on how I process my ripped audio.

What you will need:

1. A cassette deck or player with line out capability - please do not use the headphone output
A soundcard with line in capability (just about all of them - can you see a socket labelled with a microphone or arrow in? You're good!)

2. An appropriate audio cable to connect the output of the cassette player to the soundcard line-in - this will probably be 3.5 mm stereo jack (soundcard) to RCA plugs (cassette player), but some cassette players will use other connectors such as 3.5 mm stereo jacks or DIN plugs. Check and purchase the appropriate cable.

3. Software to record your rip. This could be as basic as Windows Sound Recorder (though I recommend against it!) to as complicated as a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Audacity is a good compromise.

Ensuring a good rip

There's four main things for a good cassette rip. They are in rough order of decreasing importance:

1. A good cassette. And by good I mean preferably new. Giving a tape a few spins in a hi-fi deck isn't going to destroy it, but the less plays it has had and the less exposure to heat, dirt, and sources of magnetism (like a tape head!) the better the signal on the tape is going to be.

2. A good tape deck. As the vinyl aficionados will tell you, just because you can rip an analogue source with your equipment doesn't mean that you should. Luckily cassettes don't require preamps of matched impedance or fussy selection of deck, tonearm and cartridge - just a single deck of adequate quality.

What counts as a good deck? Opinions will obviously vary, but in my opinion a 2- or 3-head deck made between 1980-1990 is a solid bet. If you want to record tapes, stick to 3-head systems, otherwise 2-head systems are fine for playback. A good deck should list features such as bias/tape selector and Dolby noise reduction, whilst features such as tape auto-reverse are unnecessary and can even be problematic, so try to avoid them. Rather than fussing over particular brands and models, concentrate on getting a deck in good condition, e.g. stored inside and rarely used. Old or well-used cassette decks can suffer from a number of problems. In order of decreasing importance they include: deteriorated rubber belts & rollers; internal dirt & oil build up; head wear; and magnetised heads. Some things like dirt on the heads or head magnetism are easily fixed by you, others (particularly worn heads) may make a deck uneconomical to repair. Buyer beware! My own deck is a Sansui D-550M that I picked up off eBay for about $60 and it came in perfect condition. Sometimes you just get lucky.

3. A good recording environment. What am I talking about? I'm talking about a recording environment that's as free as possible from electrical and RF noise as possible. This is important because as ripping cassettes is an analogue process your recording will pick up whatever electrical noise is around. I was going to rate this condition as being less important than a good soundcard, but trust me, high noise or pops and clicks are much more objectionable than mild distortion or non-linear frequency response!

OK, all well and good, but how do you test how much electrical noise is present and how do you minimise such intrusions? To test for environmental electrical noise hook everything up (cassette deck -> soundcard) and turn them on, then start recording silence (i.e., leave everything on but don't play a tape) for 30 minutes. Have a listen to the resulting recording and check out the spectrogram - there will be a low level constant hiss, but it shouldn't vary much and there should be no pops or clicks. Any variation in the noise recorded means that you're picking up electrical interference from somewhere. To minimise electrical intemperance, avoid setting up your equipment near anything with a motor in it (particularly big motors) such as air-conditioners, fridges, room fans etc., avoid recording whilst there are electrical storms about, and avoid turning on or off electrical equipment near to - or on the same electrical circuit as - your computer and tape deck. If your electricity supply is subject to frequent brown-outs, i.e. your lights often dim for a fraction of a second, then plugging your computer and tape deck into a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) is a good idea.

4. A good sound card. Most soundcards (including onboard sound) released in the last 3 years are OK, but stepping up to something like one of the Creative Audigy or X-Fi cards, or something from the ASUS Xonar range will improve things. These will all record at qualities up to 24-bit 96kHz and greater than 100dB SNR. There are bigger and better cards out there, but any of these are more than enough for great cassette rips.

It's worth getting to know what your soundcard and recording software can support. All soundcards & recording software will support recording at 16-bit 44kHz, but some will allow you to use ASIO (Audio Stream Input/Output), JACK or CoreAudio device drivers, or to record at higher bit-depths. Read your manuals. Note that there's little point in using sample frequencies higher than 44kHz - most cassettes won't exceed this bandwidth.

Remember, in the end just plunking a tape into any player and running the line-out into any soundcard's line-in will give a recordable signal and for rare tapes people may be willing to overlook quite a bit just to hear the music. But that's no reason not to try and do the best job that you possible can! And considering that less than $100 can turn a bad set-up to quite a good set-up that will stand you in good steed for more than just cassette ripping I don't see why you would settle for second best by choice.

Despite new tapes being preferable, it may be the case that you have just discovered a rare classic hiding away in a dusty attic or the like that's twenty years old or more. Look out! Sometimes very old tapes can suffer from mold or oxide shedding. Mold will show itself as discolouration of the tape, and as well as sounding bad it can cause the tape to stick to itself inside the cassette shell - if you try and play such a tape it could very well snap. It's safe to say you should seek another copy if this ever occurs. If you desperately want to rip this, for personal pleasure or for great bounty you should really be talking to a tape restoration professional. Oxide shedding is far less common but has the ability to really gunk up your machine. If the tape seems to be shedding "glitter" or flakes of brown gunk don't play it - again, take it to a restoration professional. These are the worst things that can happen though - your old tapes may play and sound just fine.

Audio processing

Audio processing can be broken into three parts - recording, sound processing, and track splitting. Let's tackle the recording stuff first.

Recording

As alluded to earlier, 16-bit 44kHz is perfectly adequate for ripping cassettes. If you can use ASIO mode (Windows), JACK (Linux), or CoreAudio (Mac OSX) then by all means do so. If your soundcard supports recording 44kHz audio at 24-bits then it will help to do so, just don't worry if you can't. In whatever software you are using to record, set your recording gain sliders to maximum. These may be labelled line-in or microphone. The next bit is important, but once set won't need to be changed again. Using a loud section of tape (the loudest you can find ideally!), adjust your cassette deck's output level so that the recording level meter is as loud as possible without hitting the maximum level (0dB). In a perfect world this level would correspond to about 3/4 of your deck's maximum output level (i.e., dial or slider at 75%), but it's quite likely that like my decks, the maximum output level comes nowhere near 0dB, in which case it's best just to crank it to maximum and be done with it. For those pros keeping track at home, for a half-way decent deck it is most likely that the inherent noise in the system is more objectionable than any distortion caused by cranking the deck output to 100%, so maximum signal to noise is the name of the game. Of course, you should try a range of levels (and noisereduction settings) and see what works best for your system. My Sansui deck sounds best at 100%, my Nakamichi is best at 75%.

Some tapes may display the Dolby symbol, a logo akin to two Ds, one reversed (like this). This means you will need a machine with Dolby noise reduction, and to engage it upon playback. If your machine has multiple options for Dolby noise reduction (e.g. Dolby B, C, or S), then you should set it to Dolby B.

Now to actually start recording! For this, turn everything on, start your program recording, and then after two to four seconds start your tape. Keep recording until the tape comes to a complete stop, then hit stop recording in your recording software. Why do we start recording before we start the tape? So we can have a quick check of how much noise is due to electrical interference and so we have a clear "event" that signifies the start of the tape proper. Your recording software should save the resulting rip as a WAV file somewhere - we now need to process this audio to bring it to an uploadable condition.

Sound processing

Sound processing is the art of making the recorded audio sound as good as it possibly can. This involves things such as maximising the album volume (normalisation) and reducing the level of tape hiss (noise reduction). Technically any audio editing software could be used for these things, but Adobe Audition is recommended.

1. Open your raw audio file in Audition (or editor of your choice) and set your display to waveform (that squiggly line). For the purposes of this guide, Audition will be used.

2. Normalise the music. You can do this manually by applying gain or amplification until the biggest peak in your waveform is at least -3dB but doesn't go above -0.5dB, or you can do it automatically by using the normalise command (Audition - Effects - Amplitude and Compression - Normalize (process)...). I personally like to do it manually as it allows me to use the same gain setting for both sides of the tape. That way if one side was meant to sound louder than the other that dynamic is retained. For me, I generally have to apply 10-12dB of gain to my rips, but a few will need more and a few will need as little as 8dB - it all depends on the tape.

3. Find a section of blank tape at least four seconds long and capture a noise print (Audition - Effects - Restoration - Capture Noise Reduction Profile) of this section. The blank tape I'm talking about can be found at the beginning and end of each tape side, between the audio component of the tape and the tape leader. We want to capture a noise print of blank tape and not of the tape leaders or audio component as this section will allow us to remove the maximum amount of tape hiss whilst disturbing the audio signal as little as possible.

4. Select the entire tape and apply noise reduction (Audition - Effects - Restoration - Noise Reduction (process)...). What settings to use here is the black box of cassette processing. I have mine set to the following: Noise Reduction Level - 75%, FFT Size - 8192, Reduce by - 24dB, Precision Factor - 10, Smoothing Amount - 1, Transition Width - 10dB, Spectral Decay Rate - 65%. This is fairly strong noise reduction and I rely upon capturing a good noise print to ensure it's only removing noise and not music along with the fact that my system has fairly low levels of noise in the first place. For your first rip it pays to try a lot of different settings for this and save each of the results using a good naming scheme that gives details of the noise reduction, this way you can listen to each of the different results and see which suits your style best. The trade off is between tape hiss which may be loud but easily ignored when listening to music, digital artifacts of the noise reduction process (a rapid low level squelch sound) which whilst fairly quiet are very objectionable, and reducing things so hard that the music is damaged.

Track splitting

There's three different possible scenarios here - tapes that contain a single track per side, tapes that contain clear gaps of silence between multiple tracks per side, and tapes that mix tracks together or run different tracks hard up against each other. If you're lucky enough to be ripping a tape that contains a single track per side, then all you need to do is to trim of unnecessary silence from before and after the music. I personally trim things so that there's two seconds of silence before and after the visible spectrogram.

If there's multiple tracks per side but they're clearly separated by silence then after trimming off the leading and trailing silence as above one will need to cut and paste each track into a new separate audio file and save them. If the gap of silence between tracks was less than four seconds I just cut exactly in the middle of the gap, but if the gap is longer than four seconds I trim the silence to a maximum of two seconds before and after the music. A note when saving files in Soundbooth - make sure that when saving you check the bit-depth. Soundbooth automatically sets new files to 32-bit float - change it to 16-bit before saving. If you recorded in 24-bit, now is the time to save to 16-bit WAV.

Tapes that mix tracks together can often be more trouble than it's worth to split into separate tracks, but if your tape lists a tracklist and the mix transitions don't take too long then it's worth a shot at splitting them anyway. Whilst the exact point of splitting will be somewhat arbitrary, with the ultimate choice being wherever you think sounds best, it's important your split occurs at a section where the waveform exactly crosses zero. To do this switch to waveform view and keep zooming in on the section where you want to make the split, then find a suitable crossing to make the cut at. If you don't do this both of the tracks resulting from your cut will terminate with an abrupt thump.

Documentation

Since a quality cassette rip depends on many factors, it is important to support your rips with lineage information for completeness. The more documentation you have makes it that much more reputable.

Vinyl Ripping
September 20, 2012, 11:54:49 AM
Vinyl Guide: Overview

Overview of record technology

Records are recorded by cutting a small groove into a vinyl or acetate disk. The groove is modulated with the audio signal so that its depth and shape records the sound signal itself. During playback, the disk sits on the platter, which is the motor-driven spinning component and spins at a constant rate. Several rates were used, with the most common being 33-1/3 RPM (for 12" LP records) and 45 RPM (for 7" singles). While the disk spins, the stylus (or needle) which is housed in the cartridge rests in the groove. Holding the cartridge and stylus against the record is the tonearm that swings from a pivot as the stylus moves across the record, and has a counterweight to balance the force of the stylus on the record. As the stylus vibrates due to the groove's contours, coils in the cartridge convert the movement to an electrical signal. The electrical signal is of a very low strength, and must be amplified before it's sent to an amplifier or recording device. This task is handled by a dedicated phono preamp (or an integrated one in the speaker amplifier), which also performs another critical task - equalization. Due to the mechanical constraints of the record medium, both low and high frequencies are much quieter on the record than they should be at playback. A special equalization filter must be applied to restore the correct tonal balance; this task is performed by the phono preamp at the same time it is amplifying the signal to a usable level. This signal is then taken into a standard line input and amplified for playback, or recorded.

Equipment

I will discuss the turntable and cartridge/stylus separately here, as they are generally purchased separately. Chances are good that you'll need to purchase at least 3 components - a turntable, cartridge and phono preamp, so I'll spend the most time talking about these. If you need to buy all three, you should budget for at a bare minimum $200 expense (and a lot of time). If you need a quality sound card as well, budget another $100.

Turntable

Turntable quality is often assumed to be of little importance. All it does is spin the record, right? Unfortunately for us, that's not really true. What a record player does is convert physical vibration (of the needle in the groove) to an electrical signal that can drive an amplifier. The problems arise from the fact that the groove might not be the only thing vibrating the stylus - motors and mechanical instability can be huge noise culprits. Furthermore, frequency stability in the motor is extremely important to reduce wow and flutter. You can check this using the strobe built in to most higher-end turntables. Most turntables will have a dot or dash pattern around the outside of the platter. Many also include a built-in strobe, which flashes at a particular frequency. By looking at the dot pattern while the platter is moving with the strobe on, you should see the dots (usually one row for each speed) 'frozen' in place by the strobe. Any movement or wavering indicates an unstable speed.

If you're buying a new turntable, I would recommend looking on the used market for a belt driven model constructed mainly of wood or metal (plastic vibrates much more easily). Some direct drive models are good too, but others are horrible - if you're looking at one of these, be careful. Consistently good belt-drive brands include Dual, AR, Thorens, Linn and others. The best direct-drive brands are the typically in the Technics family, but other brands include Sony and JVC. Aim for models that were top of the line in their day. Beginners should avoid any with a 'linear tracking' mechanism, as these require additional tuning and are not novice-friendly. These are easily identifiable, as they don't have a tonearm -- the cartridge assembly moves on a tube across the record.

This is a place where you really need to research your options and put in the time to get a good turntable. Most of the stuff out there is going to be crap, and you need to sort through it and find the rare gems to get decent quality. Especially with belt-drive and idler-based turntables you may need to replace belts or idler wheels to get stable rotation speeds. Check this before purchase, or expect to invest in the maintenance if buying online. If you can't find anyone praising it on forums and so on, don't buy it.

Because of the difficulty with finding and getting a good vintage turntable tuned up, you may want to consider the new (or less-used) market. Not all are created equal -- the lower tier turntables are usually far better suited for private listening than for producing a vinyl rip.

Here is a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for new, commonly available turntables (prices retrieved from Google Shopper, www.needledoctor.com, and other sources as of March 2010. You may be able to find these for cheaper through other sources, and this is in no way designed to be a comprehensive list of all acceptable turntables. The bulk of the attention was paid to the equipment one will most commonly find in vinyl rip descriptions.

Budget ($60-300) [best suited for listening only, not ripping]

Audio Technica AT-PL50 - $60-90
Audio Technica AT-PL120 - $200-220
Ion / Numark / Gemini USB turntables [entry level models] - $60-80
Ion / Numark / Gemini USB turntables [standard, more feature rich models] - $100-200

Mid-tier ($300-1000) [usually more than suitable for ripping, providing that other elements in signal chain are on par]

Music Hall MMF-5 - $875
Pro-Ject Debut III - $350-380 [not with stock Ortofon OM5E, this cart is an inferior tracker]
Pro-Ject RPM1.3 $499
Rega RP1 - $445
Rega P3 - $895-1095
Technics SL-1200 MK2 / MK5 or SL-1210 - $550-800 depending on exact model
Thorens TD-170 - $550-580

Higher-end ($1000 and up)

Clearaudio Emotion - $1400
Rega P5 - $1400-1500
Music Hall MMF-7 - $1400-1500
Music Hall MMF-9 - $1995
VPI Scout - $1800-2000

High-end ($2000+)

Linn LP12 - $2000-3000
VPI Scoutmaster - $2500-3000
VPI Classic 1 - $2750
Rega P9 - $5000

Cartridge & Stylus

Pairing the right cartridge with your turntable and tonearm is the single most important thing in achieving good sound from your vinyl setup. In some ways, the cartridge you choose is more important than the turntable itself. Personal preference does play a part, but there are important technical considerations that need to be met before preference for a particular sound coloration should be factored in to the decision.

First, if you've bought a used turntable, you should replace the cartridge or more likely the stylus on it (if possible) if you have doubts as to its history or care. They are easily damaged and do wear out with use and over time. You have no way of knowing whether or not the person took care of it.

Some basic info, cut and pasted verbatim from Wikipedia:

There are two common designs for magnetic cartridges, moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC) (originally called dynamic). Both operate on the same physics principle of electromagnetic induction. The moving magnet type was by far the most common and more robust of the two, though audiophiles often claim that the moving coil system yields higher fidelity sound.

In either type, the stylus itself, usually of diamond, is mounted on a tiny metal strut called a cantilever, which is suspended using a collar of highly compliant plastic. This gives the stylus the freedom to move in any direction. On the other end of the cantilever is mounted a tiny permanent magnet (moving magnet type) or a set of tiny wound coils (moving coil type). The magnet is close to a set of fixed pick-up coils, or the moving coils are held within a magnetic field generated by fixed permanent magnets. In either case, the movement of the stylus as it tracks the grooves of a record causes a fluctuating magnetic field which causes a small electrical current to be induced in the coils. This current closely follows the sound waveform cut into the record, and may be transmitted by wires to an electronic amplifier where it is processed and amplified in order to drive a loudspeaker. Depending upon the amplifier design, a phono-preamp may be necessary.

In most moving magnet designs, the stylus itself is detachable from the rest of the cartridge so it can easily be replaced. There are two primary types of cartridge mounts. The older type is attached using small screws to a headshell which then plugs into the tonearm, while the other is a standardized "P-mount" or "T4P" cartridge (invented by Technics in 1980 and adopted by other manfacturers) that plugs directly into the tonearm. Some mass market turntables use a proprietary integrated cartridge which cannot be upgraded.



After learning about what types of cartridges are available and checking what's in your price range, you need to select a good match for your tonearm. A cartridge is a good match if the resonant frequency falls between 8 and 12 Hz. There are a number of resources available to learn about this interaction.

Some basic information on resonance and why getting this number to fall within that range matters:

http://www.gcaudio.com/resources/howtos/tonearmcartridge.html
http://www.theanalogdept.com/cartridge___arm_matching.htm

A giant database of cartridge information is available here:

http://www.vinylengine.com/cartridge_database.php

A tool that helps you evaluate the resonance of a particular tonearm and cartridge pairing on the same site:

http://www.vinylengine.com/cartridge_resonance_evaluator.php

For the mathematically inclined, you need three values: the weight of the cartridge in grams, the compliance of the cartridge, and the effective mass of the tonearm in grams. Be sure to also add any extra weights you are using, including the nuts and bolts used to fasten the cartridge, to the weight of the cartridge.

resonant frequency = 159 / √((tonearm mass + cart weight) * (compliance))

The true best measurement of resonant frequency is obtained by using a test record, but these have their own set of issues that are beyond the scope of this wiki. Checking your information with the tools above should suffice.

As you shop for a cartridge, you will find a large selection of relatively inexpensive moving magnet designs and a fair amount of fairly priced high-output moving coil designs. The more expensive cartridges tend to be the low-output moving coil variety. LOMCs require more amplification at the preamp stage than their HOMC brethren and are generally aimed at the audiophile market. As with most things, you get what you pay for. At What.Cd, the consensus favorite carts for their price / performance ratio are the AT-440MLa and the Denon DL-160. For the budget conscious, the Shure M97xE is the clear favorite. Make sure these carts are a good match for your tonearm and do your homework prior to pulling the trigger on a purchase. If you still have doubts visit the Vinyl forum and we can help you figure out of you're on the right track.

All pricing from http://www.needledoctor.com

Popular moving magnet cartridges:
Shure M97xE - $90
Audio Technica AT-440MLa - $200
Ortofon 2M Blue - $225
Rega Elys II - $295
Audio Technica AT-150MLX - $400
Goldring 1012GX - $450
Ortofon 2M Black - $670

Popular moving coil cartridges:
Denon DL-160 - $180
Denon DL-103R - $380
Audio Technica AT-33EV - $500
Dynavector 10x5 $500
Dynavector 20X - $750
Sumiko Blackbird - $900

Phono Preamp

You may have one already, if you've got a receiver/amplifier with a phono input. The quality may not be the best, but it would certainly be usable. If you've got such a unit, connect the turntable to it and switch the input to 'phono'. It should have a 'tape monitor' or 'preamplifier' output that you can use to record from. I do not recommend this option if you can avoid it though, most modern receivers have cheap, poor sounding and noisy phono preamps. However, some vintage receivers were well equipped to deal with this issue. Stay away from 80's or 90's receivers.

If you're buying, there are lots of options. The used market is a good place to look, try to find reviews by audio magazines or on audio forums for ones you're considering. Excellent new phono preamps can be had for quite a small amount of money and it is the recommended route. The TCC TC-760LC is widely regarded as a good deal - it's only about $75 and reportedly sounds good. Another good option is the Cambridge Audio Azur 540P, also well regarded and available for under $100. For a few more dollars the Hagtech Bugle seems to be universally loved, at $150 (with no case or power supply). If you've got some electronics savvy and would consider a DIY solution, the RJM Audio VSPS is a good choice and can be built for next to nothing, the Phonoclone at the same site is also excellent, as is the DIY version of the Bugle.

Expect to spend $75-100 on the new market, or $25-75 on the used market.

Sound Card/Capture Device

You'll need a good quality sound card capable of 96KHz/24bit or 192KHz/24bit capture. Aim for a device with good analog specifications. Unfortunately onboard audio devices don't meet this requirement, you'll definitely need a separate sound card to get a decent quality capture. If you've already got a Creative X-Fi model card, it will suffice, but I can't recommend these for anyone purchasing a new one. If you've got a PC with a PCI slot available, I recommend the e-mu 0404PCI or e-mu 1212m (about the same price, the 1212m is much better if you can get it), or the M-Audio Audiophile 192. If you can't find these, the M-Audio Audiophile 2496 is an excellent card as well, though it doesn't support 192KHz operation and doesn't have as impressive specifications. Finally, if you need multichannel or a more entertainment oriented card, the Asus Xonar DX2 is probably a good choice.

If you'd like an external unit, I can recommend the e-mu 0404USB or e-mu 0202USB. For Firewire, the M-Audio Firewire Solo is fairly well regarded. Going with external will cost you extra and probably sacrifice some quality too (at this price range), so I'd go with internal if you can.

Spend $100-150 new for an internal, $200-250 for an external.

Cables

You'll also need interconnects, to hook all of this up. You'll need at least one stereo RCA cable to connect the turntable to your preamp (though many turntables have this attached), as well as the correct cable to connect the RCA jacks on your preamp to your sound card. There are three common jacks used on sound cards, and you'll need to get the correct type for your card. Consult the following descriptions to determine what type of cable you need.

RCA jacks appear in pairs colour coded red and white (or black), they're the same type used for most audio equipment. The red jack carries the right channel audio signal, the white jack carries the left channel. If your sound card has this type (Audiophile 2496), you need a standard RCA cable. They look like this:



3.5mm (1/8") 'Mini' jacks are common on consumer gear, and are the type most people are familiar with. They carry both stereo audio signals on the same connector. The same type is used on iPods and other portable devices, and most headphones today use this type of plug. I don't have a good photo of an example, but most people should be familiar with these. The necessary cable is readily available.

1/4" TRS jacks are common on professional gear, and generally carry only a single channel per cable. There are 3 conductors in this jack, tip-ring-shield (TRS), designed for balanced signals. In our application we're going to be using single-ended signals, so a connector with two conductors (TS) is more appropriate. If you have this type of input (All e-mu cards, M-Audio Firewire Solo), you will need a pair of RCA to TS cables (or a stereo set). These are somewhat more difficult to acquire, but should be readily available at professional audio equipment dealers (probably where you bought your sound card anyway). The TRS jack can take on a couple forms, as it is often used in a 'combo' connector that can accept either an XLR jack (microphone) or TRS jack. It looks like one of the two jacks in the photo



Don't waste your money on overpriced cables. You shouldn't spend more than $50 on a 6ft cable, just ensure that you use shielded cables to make sure there is no interference.

PC
Mostly any PC should work fine for this. You'll need lots of disk space (you should have a minimum of 10GB free before attempting a capture), but the performance requirements are not particularly high. USB will use the most processing power, and has the most risk of audio dropouts.

Vinyl Ripping

1. Plug in your turntable, put record on turntable. Hook it up to the IN jacks of your phono preamp.

2. Plug in your phono preamp, Hook it up to the line-in jack of your computer.

3. Open Audacity. Set the drop down box under the Fast-Foward button to "Line In".

Now for the soundcheck:

1. Drop the needle onto a loud spot on the record, and press record in Audacity. Adjust the input levels in audacity, and in your computers volume control application until the waveform has dynamic range (If the waveform is just blue, your music will sound flat and distorted). The waveform should not go past the window it is inside. If so, you have to lower levels and should soundcheck again. The waveform should be close to the edges of the window, but it is better safe than sorry. You can always Amplify a midlevel waveform, but clipping is an uneditable sin. Play back the track to test quality. If there is a lot of crackling, this can remedied by cleaning the vinyl. If the vinyl is old it probably has dust, so you should clean it as well.

2. Now exit out of the "test track". Place the needle on the outer edge of the record, and press record in Audacity.

3. Once the side is done playing, press stop, and remove excess gaps at the beginning and end.

You have a few options at this point:

a) If the album side is one track, just export it as a wav, by clicking File > Export As Wav...
b) If the album side has individual tracks, select the track, and click File > Export Selection As Wav... You will need to repeat this step for each track
c) If the album is a one track flows into the next type deal, export it as one track, and generate a cue file for it. (this will be covered later)
Repeat this step for each side.

Note: Do NOT use Noise Reduction.

Now that you have your files, convert them to FLAC.

If you ripped a side with multiple songs to one big file, you will need to split files, or generate a cue sheet. This can best be done with CD Wave. I'm sorry its shareware but its the best way to separate long files into shorter ones, and it generates cue sheets for you. Here is a short tutorial from the www.etree.org

You can also generate a cue file indirectly by using Audacity labels and a 3rd-party, open-source java applet. You can use the cue file with one large file or, Audacity can also break the audio into separate tracks. See this Audacity wiki article for more information: http://wiki.audacityteam.org/index.php?title=Cue_sheets

Documentation

It is important to support your rips with lineage information for completeness. The more documentation you have makes it that much more reputable. Include sampling rate, bit depth, hardware (turntable, stylus, catridge phono preamp, soundcard, software, etc.)

Re: Ripping
November 22, 2012, 03:23:12 PM
It is generally accepted in the scene community

Perhaps not the best standard.