Several of my acquaintances and friends have embarked on similar
projects over the past few years; and I will probably be doing so
myself this summer.
Reviewing the information provided by Wrax-ga and Owain-ga, I find
little in their advice to take exception to. Essentially, you have a
primary decision to make (new vs. used) and then some secondary
decisions (which extras, and how many of them).
Used turntables can represent a wonderful bargain. If you live in an
area where DJ's are few and far between, you may have the opportunity
to pick up a very good-quality turntable at a thrift or second-hand
store. Garage sales and pawn shops are also options. Many times
you'll see turntables at yard and garage sales, for next to nothing,
because it "doesn't work anymore." The most common reason for older
turntables to stop working is simply that the belt has broken or come
off the platen (the actual rotating part of the turntable). This is
how I came to own my Technics; I simply replaced the belt and
cartridge ($23.50 Canadian, ten years ago).
New turntables tend to fall into two categories: very high-end heavy
duty models for DJ's and audiophiles; and very low-end models
available from large chains. These latter, as Owain-ga points out,
generally have a built-in preamp which will save you purchasing an
additional component. Bear in mind that although these turntables are
low-end, they are a significant advance on most of the models which
were on the market during the 60's and 70's.
You haven't specified your location, but since most of our clients
live in North America I'll provide you with links to the models widely
available at Radio Shack in the US and Canada:
These units are very similar. As a Canadian resident (and former
Shack guy) I'm familiar only with the latter model. About half of the
people I know who've done a major transfer from LP to CD have used
this specific turntable. The stylus furnished with them is a
perfectly adequate AudioTechnica model, but certainly you may choose
There are a few other factors to consider. As Wrax-ga indicated,
cleaning your LP's is essentially mandatory. I have used the
DiscWasher product for years, with good results, but there are many
other cleaning products which work well. The record-restoration
liquids mentioned by Wrax-ga are of some use, as well. Generally they
will not eliminate pops and clicks from your records entirely; but if
you have albums which are a) irreplaceable and b) unlistenable or
nearly so; they are well worth trying.
Besides, a lot of those older recordings would just sound *wrong*
without a bit of needle noise.
As Owain-ga points out, you may not need to use the USB preamp to get
good results. A turntable with built-in preamp would allow you to
connect directly to your computer's sound board. The cable for this
is readily available at major electronics retailers such as Circuit
City or Radio Shack; it's the same one that allows the connection of a
computer or Discman to your stereo system. Alternatively, if your
turntable has permanently-fixed audio cables, you may purchase a
"Y-adaptor" which will do the same.
One limiting factor will be the capabilities of your sound board. If
your Dell has its sound circuitry integrated into the motherboard, you
may want to try an aftermarket sound board by way of comparison (Dell
should be able to tell you how to disable the onboard audio, it's
generally a bios setting/motherboard jumper or both).
Finally, don't neglect your cables. Wherever possible, buy
good-quality heavy-gauge cables with heavy-duty connectors. Some will
tell you that they don't make a difference, but that's simply not the
case. Oh, and if you're using cables that have extra connections,
definitely ensure that they're not touching your computer's case or
each other. You can get some nasty interference that way, sometimes.
Personal knowledge, primarily, as a former record-store manager and
Radio Shack manager; also my experience in helping friends and
acquaintances with similar projects.
The links to turntables from the American and Canadian Radio Shack
were found by going to the respective sites and searching on
Best of luck with your project, Nuet, and by all means come back and
see us again if you have further questions. Many of us in the
researcher community are music nuts, and would be happy to help.
Request for Answer Clarification by
05 Apr 2004 21:41 PDT
Much good info in Answer and Comments. I live in Tucson, AZ and my
soundcard is Creative SB Live. The reason I thought the expensive
preamp would be useful was that the input was USB (I want to record
and listen later) and that it came with software claiming to remove
noise. I realize that I probably will have better sound than I had
when the records were new. I remain confused as to the differences in
turntables (from the same brand) with prices from $100 to $300.
I read that the S arm is better than a straight arm, is this important?
Thanks for the info on cleaning the records.
Clarification of Answer by
06 Apr 2004 23:38 PDT
I'll respond to your tonearm question first. One of the issues facing
audiophiles during the heyday of turntables was that, as the record
played, the tonearm would make an ever-sharper angle, relative to the
direction of the record's groove. In other words it would be
relatively parallel at first, but quite angled by the time the record
was over. Since the diamond was not perfectly round, this meant that
it played better at some angles than others. Also, the change in
angle would mean unequal wear on the records, over time.
The "S"-shaped tonearm helped compensate for this. Offsetting the end
of the tonearm reduced the angle, as the record neared its end.
Another approach was the "linear-tracking" style of turntable
mentioned by Owain below. Essentially the cartridge was mounted on a
rail on the lid of the turntable, and as the record played it moved
directly across the centre line of the LP to the spindle. No angle,
no change of direction. This approach was never universal, but
certainly had its advocates.
As a rule, turntables with the "S"-shaped tonearm will be of higher
quality than those with a straight tonearm. They will also have a
counterweight (that round knobby at the back), which allows you to
adjust how firmly the stylus sits on the turntable. I did not touch
on this earlier, since it is primarily a concern in the longer term.
Premium-quality styli track at lighter weights, and your stylus and
LPs alike will last longer when you can take advantage of this.
These are a couple of the reasons why turntables vary (varied) so
widely in price. Some turntables also had vibration-damping systems
built in, a notion similar to the antiskip mechanism of a Discman
(record wouldn't skip if you stepped too heavily). An extreme example
was the Oracle turntable made in Canada during the 1980's: the entire
platter was supported by magnetic levitation. Some also paid extra
attention to ensuring a more-constant rotational speed, eliminating
subtle distortions caused by imperceptible fluctuations in rpm. Some
simply had a better stylus bundled with them, which raised the end
As I'd indicated originally, this is essentially a budget issue.
Finding a higher-end turntable, given your budget for this project,
will boil down to finding one used. If you do, by all means go for
it! If not, the lower-priced models I'd linked to earlier will
certainly do an adequate job.
As for the software and pre-amp, that's (again) a budget decision.
Bear in mind that software similar to what you're describing can be
purchased quite inexpensively. A flyer I looked at just yesterday had
one such program advertised at $40 CDN (I can't find the flyer now,
unfortunately, so I am unable to tell you the name of the program). I
have seen shareware products along these lines at Tucows.com and
Downloads.com as well.
I won't have time to track down any titles for you until the beginning
of next week (I've got a 16-hour day starting at 0600, and it's 0030
now...and then I'm driving 2000km to spend Easter with the in-laws).
As soon as I can get back in front of my computer, however, I'll post
up the names of several programs for you to investigate.
One caveat: if at all possible, arrange to have these programs
demonstrated before you use one. They *can* do marvellous things, but
they can also result in a very noticeable deadening of the overall
sound of your recording. This is true even of the software used by
major record companies, not just the home products, so it is something
to be aware of.
Have a happy Easter (or Passover, if applicable) and I'll be back in
touch next week.
Clarification of Answer by
18 Apr 2004 05:20 PDT
I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. Unfortunately, I'd
celebrated Easter by picking up a very nasty "bug", so I've been full
of antibiotics and misery this past week. However, I've taken the
opportunity to get online this morning and track down a few audio
recording options for you.
The software that comes with the USB preamp is a special ("lite")
version of Sound Laundry, by Algorithmix. The bundle is certainly not
an unattractive option, given that even the "Compact Edition" of this
software, sold standalone, retails at $149!
However, it is worth noting that Sound Laundry is really aimed at
people who do a lot of recording. While it is a worthy product, you
don't necessarily need a professional's tool for a one-off project.
First, I'll provide you with a link to a site which provides a
succinct list of directions for recording from LP:
The process is simple enough. Cue the LP, start the recording
software, and then pause it when the LP comes to an end. Some of the
recording programs listed below include the intelligence to start and
stop automatically, as you play your LP's. Some, but not all, will
automatically sense the breaks from one track to the next; others
require you to manually insert the track breaks. This may perhaps be
preferable on some of your jazz LP's, as the software might get
confused on (for example) a live track in which the musicians pause
between portions of the tune.
If the recording software you opt for does record the LP simply as one
large file for each side, you may also download the shareware program
LP Ripper, which will split each "side" into separate tracks for you.
Here, then, is a list of links to suitable programs I've located on
download site TUCOWS, or through a Google search. Note that the links
on TUCOWS are routed through my local mirror. To find the best mirror
for your own downloads, go to http://www.tucows.com and select
Polderbits Sound Recorder
Audio Record Wizard
Audio Recorder Pro
LP Recorder (the same people as LP Ripper)
iSound WMA MP3 recorder
One program, in particular, caught my attention. Audiograbber is a
recording/ripping program with lots of nice features, including the
ability to automatically split your LP recording into individual
tracks. In addition, it can use Sound Laundry's De-Noiser Plug in, if
you wanted to have the audio quality without springing for the full
suite. The download price of the plug-in is $99 (not much of a
saving) but if you pester a few of your local retailers, you may be
able to order it for less. A particularly nice feature with this
program is that it performs a very "clean" installation, making no
changes at all to your Windows registry or other startup files. When
you're finished with it, simply delete the Audiograbber folder and -
poof! - it's gone.
Many of the programs listed have free trial periods, which would allow
you to play with two or three (or as many more as you have patience
for) and see which one you like best. In fact, some of them offer a
generous enough trial that you might just be able to record your whole
collection before it expires...although at an average price of under
$30, I'd certainly recommend registering and paying if one of the
shareware products appeals to you.
Google search strategy:
LP MP3 record