Originally Posted by 63air
Now that the Airstream is in storage for the winter ,one of my projects to get done is the conversion of my LPs into CDs.... I have been thinking about getting some software from Acoustica called " Spin it Again" supposedly very easy to use and all you need is a turntable to get the job done...
You can't do it with software alone. A turntable/phonograph puts out a very low level analog output. That's why there is a "special" phono input on stereos (Well, there used to be
a phono input on stereos; many modern units have eliminated that input). So, you can't simply plug in the Left/Right stereo output of the turntable into the computer and expect a decent signal.
So, let's look at the computer side of the equation. Most computers have "built in" sound cards. Talking just about the inputs for now there are usually going to be two kinds. One is the "mic in" and one is the "line in". Probably distiguish by an icon that's too small to distiquish
The "line in" can be connected to a "line out" from a stereo with the proper collection of adapters to get from the RCA jacks on the stereo to the 1/8" input jack on the computer.
From there it's a simple matter of software
What about the "mic in" port of the computer. Well, it's for the (relatively) low level input from a microphone. There is a "preamp" connected to this input to boost the signal from the microphone. "Cann't you just plug the turntable into this", you might ask? Well, not likely for several reasons; the preamp doesn't have enough gain, the impedance is wrong and there's this little thing called Equalization or EQ to deal with.
What's this EQ thing? Because the phonograph needle doesn't reproduce all frequencies equally the record is cut to compensate. This requires a special processing step to balance out the sound after it goes through the preamp. Fortunately the recording industry got together years ago and decided on a standard for this called RIAA. In short, if you run the signal through the phono input of a stereo the RIAA EQ is taken care of and you'll get the proper signal for the "line in" jack on your computer.
But what about the USB turntables? These basicly handle all the steps (signal processing) that would be done by the stereo and the sound card. What you're left with is a bunch of "digital information" that represents the sound. From here what you need the computer to do is capture the "bits" and them spit them out in the proper format to create a CD. This is probably the easiest way to go IF
you have the right software that recognizes the USB turntable.
There are a couple of downsides to this approach. The quality of the sound from the USB turntable is what it is and there's little you can do to adjust it. For LPs that are in OK condition that's probably fine. The reason I ruled out this approach is none of the USB turntables I looked at will play 78rpm records
and I wanted the best possible quality going in so that I could "edit" the audio before creating the CD.
Editting or "processing" the sound once it's in a digital format is done for a lot of reasons. While it's true that there is no loss in fidelity when making digital copies like there is in analog (i.e every copy of a copy of a tape is going to sound progressively worse) there is a lose when you change the "sound". The most obvious processing "effect" with a record is removal of the clicks and pops you hear. There's also the ability to correct the pitch and/or speed (they're related). The older the record the more likely it is to benifit from this processing. Most 78's for example were cut before the RIAA standard and many were recorded at speeds other than 78rpm.
If you do go with one of the USB turntables you mights still be able to do some processing. This will depend on the software you use to "capture" the bits coming in from the turntable. If you're lucky they will be saved in something called a .WAV (wave) file. These are a standard "uncompressed" audio format.
As for the "dongles" sold at places like Costco they're doing the same thing the USB turntables do internally. That is they're a combination RIAA phono preamp and Analog to Digital (A/D) converter. For $100-150 you should expect reasonably good quality and if you already own a good turntable are a good route to go.
For editting the music once it's in the computer WaveRepair
comes very highly recommended although I haven't yet had a chance to test drive it for myself.
I've been looking at upgrades to my equipment for playing 78's. The turntable that looks most intrigueing right now is the Audio-Technica AT-PL120
. For playing 78's a special stylus and cartridge is required and the Expert Stylus Company in Surrey England seem to be the go to folks in that department.