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Tech: Best digital recorder?

steve in ottawa 26 Aug 09 - 03:09 PM
bobad 26 Aug 09 - 03:59 PM
steve in ottawa 26 Aug 09 - 04:22 PM
M.Ted 26 Aug 09 - 04:30 PM
Amos 26 Aug 09 - 04:31 PM
treewind 26 Aug 09 - 05:03 PM
steve in ottawa 26 Aug 09 - 07:08 PM
steve in ottawa 26 Aug 09 - 07:18 PM
treewind 27 Aug 09 - 06:47 AM
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Subject: Tech: Which digital recorder?
From: steve in ottawa
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 03:09 PM

Basic Technics turntable to high quality AMP to shielded RCA to stereo mini-jack converter cable to WHICH Digital recorder?

My three main digital recorder choices:
  • 1 year old gaming computer (onboard audio "SoundMax HD Audio" on Asus P5K motherboard, running with Intel Core Duo 2.66 GHz CPU)
  • 5 year old general purpose computer with separate soundcard (SoundBlaster Audigy LS, "SB Live 24 bit", running with AMP Sempron 2600+ CPU)
  • XM MicroMemo iPod nano Voice Recorder, recording 24 bit stereo

Someone suggests the iPod recorder is good enough, because although the attachment would cost a bit, I wouldn't have to move a computer to the stereo with the turntable. Might be neat to try to record some ocean waves with it too. Probably worth it over time.

Digital recording I've done in the far past with computers was good enough, but I DID have to be careful not to run any background programs or a few blips could sneak into the recording here and there. Maybe the newer, faster CPU's don't run into this problem, so long as a virus check (or some such) doesn't start?

I'm thinking about transferring about 100 tracks off of vinyl onto CD-R. Probably more in months to come. First batch pretty much ONLY for my 79 year old Dad, who (I'm pretty sure) can't hear minor imperfections in recordings any more. Note: I did notice someone talking about archival CDs and their limited shelf life.

Any pointers to free or inexpensive programs for cleaning up the recording (can Audacity do this?) would also be most welcome. The free sound-cleaners I used in the past (more than 5 years ago) numbed out the sound so much that I used uncleaned recordings.

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Subject: RE: Tech: Best digital recorder?
From: bobad
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 03:59 PM

When I was having my computer built I was asked if I wanted a sound card for gaming or music. Apparently gaming cards have more of their resources dedicated to speed as opposed to sound quality. This was about five years ago though which is a lifetime in computer technology.

I've digitized quite a bit of vinyl using an older version of Nero for wave editing, it has served me well for my requirements.

Bob (not far from Ottawa)

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Subject: RE: Tech: Best digital recorder?
From: steve in ottawa
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 04:22 PM

I'm inches away from getting the XM MicroMemo iPod nano Voice Recorder. It just looks so easy.

Re: modern computer sound
A year ago in 2008, when I got the gaming computer, the tech said there was no point any longer in getting a separate sound card, unless you went over $100, and that the on-board sound was by then, just as good as mid-range sound blasters of 2004. BUT, I've run into salesmen who were dead-wrong before.

I'm a bit disappointed that Audacity doesn't seem to tell me much about what the gaming comp's on-board sound is capable of. It just happily tells me that it will interpolate the missing data if I try to record at frequencies above what the system can handle. Is there any point in recording in 32 bit float if, in reality, I may only be sampling at 24 bits?

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Subject: RE: Tech: Best digital recorder?
From: M.Ted
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 04:30 PM

I don't exactly have a solution, but I have a couple thoughts--

First, that the quality of your recordings is going to depend more on the turntable (actually the stylus/cartridge) and the AD converter than on the recorder.

Second, recording quality aside, you're going to need some editing capabilities to get the digital files into the form that you want.

A lot of people seem to use Audacity to record--it has a feature that finds the gaps in a single digital file and breaks it into single tracks. iPod seems like a good choice, in fact, the Numark TTi Turntable records directly to an iPod--

I haven't embarked on this journey yet, but I have about 10,000 reasons for doing it, all in boxes in the basement. Apart from figuring out which hardware/software configuration yields the best results, there is the problem that vinyl only plays in real time, meaning that, tightly cued, I've got about 200 days of playing to finish the task.

Then their is the fact next year, I'll probably be able to get a truer rendering my vinyl recordings than this year(and the year after that, and the year after that...) so I need to keep the records, and I'll need to digitize them all over again later.

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Subject: RE: Tech: Best digital recorder?
From: Amos
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 04:31 PM

Go to the gaming computer. You may prefer to use an RCA to USB converter such as the iMic by Griffin. Set your sound in to be captured by a good sound recording and editing program and Bob will become your uncle.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Best digital recorder?
From: treewind
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 05:03 PM

The iPod accessory looks like a good bet. It's 16 bit, not 24, as far as I can see, but that's plenty good enough. Does the iPod connect to your computer and look like a USB storage drive with .WAV files on it that you can simply copy? If so that's ideal.

Gaming sound cards and anything by Creative labs is fine for games but I wouldn't choose them first for audio recording. If you want a good no-frills almost-professional quality sound card go for M-Audio - the Audiophile 2496 is a great card for what you want and doesn't costa fortune. Even if you don't use 24 bits and 96kHz it's a good low-noise card. No mic inputs, but you don't need one and any mic input on a computer sound card is speech quality only.

M.Ted has a point - your turntable could be the weak link.
Audacity will be useful.
So will some specialist software for getting rid of the types of noise that are unique to vinyl records.

Incidentally, it may be worth recording at 96k sampling rate initially - some software for removing phonograph pops and clicks relies on the fact that they contain energy well above the audio band to distinguish then from real loud noises in the music. At 96KHz sampling rate, any burst of noise between 20kHz and 48kHz is definitely not part of the oringinal recorded sound and using it to trigger brief muting (full band) makes an effective click stopper.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Best digital recorder?
From: steve in ottawa
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 07:08 PM

Argh. You're right, Treewind. The iPod thingy is recording in stereo, 44.1 kHz, which is only 16 bit...I thought that was 24. My oldest computer can do 24 bit recording. Sigh. And it makes a lot of sense to keep as much information as possible before doing any software cleaning of the wav files. Hmmm.

Doh! (bangs forehead)

And of course, while I knew I couldn't test recording the turntable easily with each computer's line-in port, it's not too difficult at all to simply test the recording of each computer's line-in port from a nearby stereo (which has no turntable input).

I'll let y'all know tomorrow or Friday.

Thanks for the help. Although, drat, I may have lost a perfectly good excuse to buy another gadget.

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Subject: RE: Tech: Best digital recorder?
From: steve in ottawa
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 07:18 PM

WRT the turntable.

Yeah, the turntable is the weakest link.

But like my 79-year-old Dad's hearing (he can't hear as well as you or I do, but he still benefits a LOT from a better amp and speakers on the TV) - it's always helpful to keep all the links as good one can afford. If you're BUYING all the links, THEN you should try to keep them in the same price range, or you're wasting money on the high end links.

At the same time I wonder: there's an audiophile shop that sells used turntables about 5 blocks away...would they be willing to rent me one of those for a couple of weeks? Hehehe.

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Subject: RE: Tech: Best digital recorder?
From: treewind
Date: 27 Aug 09 - 06:47 AM

A good vinyl record on a good playing system will have a signal to noise ratio of maybe 60-70dB. A 16 bit converter has a theoretical S/N ratio of 96dB and modern ones closely approach that in practice. So your quantization noise is already 20 dB below the noise off the record player/preamp combination, if not tape noise from the original studio recording.

Going from 16 to 24 bits won't "keep as much information as possible", it'll just waste bits on encoding the background noise more accurately. And a 24 bit converter in a computer sound card is probably using the bottom 4 bits to encode its own noise...
This is what I meant when I said the record player is already the weakest link, echoing M.Ted's sentiments.

24 bits are useful when recording in the studio mainly for the convenience of extra headroom so you don't clip when something comes through louder than you expected when originally setting levels, and 24 or more bits are genuinely useful when doing mixing and complex digital processing, but for a straighforward digitization like this you don't need more.

However it might be worth using a higher sampling rate for the reasons I stated to do with click removal software.


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