Best A/D Converter for Digitizing Vinyl $500 or Less - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 08-18-2013, 06:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Looking for a recommendation on good audiophile quality A-D converter to rip vinyl to 24/192 bit. There are lots of them with different methods of connecting to PC (PCI, PCIe, Firewire or USB 2) and not many current reviews that I could find. I my current setup includes 2 Turntables that I switch between depending on which cart i want to try, a modded Thorens 145 TT (Stanton 881S) & Technics SL-1800 (Shure V15 type V) with a clearaudio nano phono preamp and an ASUS Xonar Essence ST PCI soundcard (windows 7 x64 OS) using vinyl studio software for recording. Sounds pretty good, but I am thinking it could get better if I could find a better option than the ASUS. Would an external USB 2 or FIrewire ADC provide better quality than the internal PCI card? Something like the E-MU 0404 usb? I would consider spending more (800 - 900) for perhaps a combo box that had a good phono preamp and ADC. Any suggestions, thoughts, etc would be greatly appreciated. Scott

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post #2 of 5 Old 08-18-2013, 08:47 PM
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Hi HTPCat,

I use an E-Mu0404 to digitize my vinyl, using Kristal Audio Engine and Audacity software. Although I really like the E-Mu, I don't think it will be any better than your Xonar. The specifications on the Xonar are quite respectable.

What you need to consider is that almost any A-to-D today has specifications that far exceed vinyl, like 124db SNR for the Xonar as opposed to around 70db SNR for vinyl (If I recall correctly). The dynamic range of vinyl equates to about 13-bits, whereas your Xonar digitizes at 24-bits.

So the vinyl medium itself is the limitation. You already have top-notch gear at the vinyl end, so I don't think you can get much better. There are others here who have really optimized their turntables, and they may be able to offer more informed opinions than I.
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post #3 of 5 Old 08-19-2013, 02:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HTPCat View Post

Looking for a recommendation on good audiophile quality A-D converter to rip vinyl to 24/192 bit. There are lots of them with different methods of connecting to PC (PCI, PCIe, Firewire or USB 2) and not many current reviews that I could find. I my current setup includes 2 Turntables that I switch between depending on which cart i want to try, a modded Thorens 145 TT (Stanton 881S) & Technics SL-1800 (Shure V15 type V) with a clearaudio nano phono preamp and an ASUS Xonar Essence ST PCI soundcard (windows 7 x64 OS) using vinyl studio software for recording.

You seem to already doing a lot of things right.

I've been ripping LPs since the 90s and have tried a lot of alternatives.
Quote:
Sounds pretty good, but I am thinking it could get better if I could find a better option than the ASUS. Would an external USB 2 or FIrewire ADC provide better quality than the internal PCI card? Something like the E-MU 0404 usb? I would consider spending more (800 - 900) for perhaps a combo box that had a good phono preamp and ADC. Any suggestions, thoughts, etc would be greatly appreciated.

No an external Firewire ADC would not necessarily provide cleaner audio. In fact, it might even take things the other way. Both Firewire and USB put an extra layer of communication protocols into the picture. Their inclusion is not necessarily a problem, but they also represent more complexity and opportunity for problems. There was a time when PCI audio cards worked like clockwork, and both USB and Firewire audio cards were problematical for this reason. Those days are largely gone so my intent is not to knock them in a modern context.

The usual argument that is given is that moving the audio circuitry outside the PC is some kind of an advantage. In fact all digital-audio converters are mixed signal (analog/digital) circuits, and necessitate running sharp-edged digital clocking and data signals in close proximity to the audio signal. Think about it - how do you convert signals between analog and digital without putting analog signals in intimate contact with digital signals? It would be like dissolving sugar without bringing it into contact with water! The fact is that some of the quietest audio interfaces around and the most highly regarded audio interfaces around (professional grade) are PCI cards.

The only technical advantage to ripping vinyl to high sample rates (> 44.1 KHz) is that it may sometimes facilitate click and pop removal. Vinyl has bandwidth and dynamic range that is comparable to only about 11 bits and at best 32 KHz sampling. It may seem to go beyond that, but vinyl also has severe dynamic range limits above 10 KHz due to the heavy RIAA premphasis and tracking problems. Vinyl playback can have content going up to 30 KHz and beyond, but is it noise, distortion or music?

It is possible that you might be able to do a better job of ripping LPs, but I recommend taking a technical, rational approach. The first thing you need to do is to find out the actual performance of the the system you already have. The best way to do this is to collect some audio test LPs and analyze the performance you can get out of them. There are some contemporary test LPs such as the Hi Fi News and Record Review disk, and there are some legacy ones such as the CBS Labs test LPs that you may be able to find on eBay for example.

For example your V15 is known to be sensitive to changes in capacitative loading. While your Clearaudio Nano phono preamp has adjustments for resistive loading, I don't believe it has the corresponding adjustments for capacitative loading. (reference http://www.needledoctor.com/Clearaudio-Nano-Phono-Preamp). This is a serious omission, and I can't believe that it has this shortcoming given its price. Capacitive loading can be an issue for any Moving Magnet cartridge, but with the Shures it can be dramatic. There will be a clearly audible difference if you get it right. The best way to tune it is by adjusting the capacitative loading of the cartridge using a reputable audio test LP as a reference.

You can also use test LPs to optimize VTA, anti-skating, and mounting geometry. You can use the PC that you use to rip LPs to run analytical software as the rest of your test equipment suite. You want software that allows you to look at the waves you record off of the LPs which you may already have, and some FFT-based analysis software such as Room Eq Wizard or other audio editing software such as Audacity. This is all freeware so your out of pocket costs are minimal.

I don't know how much reading you have done on this subject, but googling on digitize LPs, brings up a lot of useful references.

http://birdhouse.org/blog/2011/02/20/digitizing-lps/

http://manual.audacityteam.org/man/Sample_workflow_for_LP_digitization

http://manual.audacityteam.org/man/Sample_workflow_for_LP_digitization
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post #4 of 5 Old 08-20-2013, 06:56 AM - Thread Starter
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MarkHotchkiss thanks for the info, when I bought the card I did a lot of research, but that was a couple of years ago so it is good to know that the A/D conversion doesn't need to be changed at least until I upgrade computers.

Arnyk, thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge regading needledrops. To tell you the truth I didn't know too much about loading (resistive or capacitve) when I bought the phono preamp. I still don't fully understand it, but am reading more so hopefully I will get there. Maybe I should be looking to replace the preamp? When I was researching phono preamps ( at $700 or less - new or used), I don't recall any in that price range that had variable capacitve loading. I looked at a lot so maybe I missed some. I looked at clearaudio, graham slee, valabs, rega and several others I can't recall. Do you have any recommendations for a preamp?

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post #5 of 5 Old 08-20-2013, 12:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HTPCat View Post

MarkHotchkiss thanks for the info, when I bought the card I did a lot of research, but that was a couple of years ago so it is good to know that the A/D conversion doesn't need to be changed at least until I upgrade computers.

Arnyk, thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge regading needledrops. To tell you the truth I didn't know too much about loading (resistive or capacitve) when I bought the phono preamp. I still don't fully understand it, but am reading more so hopefully I will get there. Maybe I should be looking to replace the preamp? When I was researching phono preamps ( at $700 or less - new or used), I don't recall any in that price range that had variable capacitve loading. I looked at a lot so maybe I missed some. I looked at clearaudio, graham slee, valabs, rega and several others I can't recall. Do you have any recommendations for a preamp?

Probably the best way to add capacitive loading to a turntable is with a RCA 1x male, 2 x female Y cable, and some RCA plugs with an assortment of capacitors soldered across them.

The usual range of added capacitors is 50-350 pf

You can find appropriate capacitors here:

http://www.parts-express.com/cat/ceramic-disc-capacitors/1377?kg=639|1867

Or a turnkey kit:

http://store.acousticsounds.com/d/60043/DB_Systems-DB_Systems_DBP-6_Phono_Capacitor_Loading_Kit-Turntable_Accessories


Test LP:

http://store.acousticsounds.com/d/10160/Hi-Fi_News-Analogue_Test_LP-Turntable_Set_Up_Tools

http://store.acousticsounds.com/d/35532/Analogue_Productions-The_Ultimate_Analogue_Test_LP-Turntable_Set_Up_Tools
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