Ripping vinyl, 16Bit 44.1 kHz vs. 24Bit 192kHz

Of equal importance I think is the software used to do the rips. I use a product called VinylStudio (http://www.alpinesoft.co.uk/) which is the program recommended by PS Audio and others. In conjunction with a good A/D converter I found it easy to use and maneuver through. I use the NAD converter and have been well satisfied with it.

Easy enough but now on to the debatable parts. I also found the program chock full of useful filters and clean up tools. Some people who rip vinyl will find this concept appalling. They want to hear exactly what they do on the vinyl so they want to hear the pops and clicks and sounds of the table itself. I have no interest personally in that, I want my file to sound digital, I have simply ripped them because they are not available on CD.

For that reason I meticulously get rid of the background hiss and many of the pops and clicks and “purify” if you will the sound of the file. I also think 44.1 is more than enough as it already exceeds the dynamic range of vinyl. As you are seeing you will get much much debate over that however.

I honestly think the software is the least important part, but you do need to know that it will get you your desired result. The problem is that you will only know what the software can do when you have used it. You never know how much of a learning curve is required until you have used it, but recommendations can be very helpful. A friend of mine used “Spin It Again”. That software applied ‘click and pop’ removal over the whole of the recording or not at all. The result took away SQ from the recording so he decided to use no click and pop filtering. With Audacity you can select a finite part of the waveform, say several milliseconds, which contains a click and keep trying various parameters of click removal until you are happy with the result. There are limitless ‘undo’ operations available so you can go back to what you had before.

I cannot say how Audacity compares to other software because I only used Audacity, but I can say I was able to record, split the file into individual tracks, check for any clipped parts of the recording, manipulate small sections of audio to filter out clicks, enter tags, and save to flac, all from within Audacity. In short it did all I wanted it to do (and it probably does lots more than I will ever learn in audio editing).

I agree with you that more than 44.1 seems a waste on ripping vinyl.

This thread reminded me to listen to my only vinyl RIP so far. Jim Couza a track called My Old Man from his album Jubulee. This is a difficult track for me to listen to.
Anyways, I recorded it from a cheap 70’s technics deck with th original cartridge and stylus as a WAV 16/44 straight into my computer using a stock audio card.
This was a test to see if it worked. The result is, it sounds amazing through my Meridian set up. If I played it to you you would never know beyond a couple of minor pops. So I don’t believe you have to throw huge resources at this. Try it and see. I am literally amazed as I play this through ROON.

Jeff,

In regard to software, I would absolutely agree that there are a lot of software programs out there, including probably the canned Windows or MAC programs, that let you bring in the raw sound file and for that reason the software does not matter. It’s when you start to get into the tweaking that you describe where I think it makes a difference.

I used the “Spin it Again” software and agree totally that it was very aggressive in the filtering and really did impact the sound. Maybe I didn’t give it a fair chance, but, when I saw that that program had not been updated in years and the VinylStudio software still seemed to be a current product with updates (although not regular ones) I switched to it with better results. I just use a minimum of filtering and for me it has been satisfying.

I have Adobe Audition (being a former Cool Edit Pro user) and it functions in much the same way as Audacity and I agree it is a great professional solution. As with Photoshop however, with images, I sometimes find that the professional software is too much overkill for me. I liked how the VinylStudio was tied into a database where it would automatically find the gaps between tracks, auto-name the files as I saved them separately, and so on. As with any software, my take on the “BEST” one is “the one that you use”!!! I am at work now, don’t have any of my vinyl rips saved to this computer, but might post one later for folks to listen to and give me critique (or lambaste me, whichever is the case, LOL)

I haven’t gone down this particular path myself so I can’t make any comments on available software or methodologies. I do want to interject that there’s a reality to digital processing that needs to be taken into account with respect to resolution.

None of what I’m about to say here has anything to do with the question of whether or not one can hear the difference between X number of bits and Y sampling frequency vs 16/44. That’s up to the individual listener to decide. This is all focused on the unfortunate side effects of the analog to digital to analog conversion process.

Aliasing

Without going into a treatise on sampling theory it’s easier just to say that the minimum sampling frequency (the 44, 48, 96, etc part) must be at least 2x the maximum audio frequency you’re trying to reproduce. 22KHz is 1/2 of 44KHz so all is well, right? Well… no. Due to the way in which sampling works “ghost” images (or aliases) of the original signal will end up getting “recorded” (in the A to D step) or “reproduced” (in the D to A step) at frequency multiples.

Aliases must be removed and this is a standard part of the A to D process (anti-aliasing filter) or the D to A process (reconstruction filter). The problem here is that you want to reproduce up to 20KHz in order to get the complete audio band, but at 44.1KHz you CANNOT have any data that’s at a frequency above 22.5KHz (or really bad things happen). That gives you 2.5 KHz in which to build a filter that has the ability to kill 90 - 140dB of dynamic range. That’s a STEEP filter!!

Simple enough, right? Just cut out all of that extraneous information! Sadly filters don’t work that way. The steeper you make them the more they mess with the adjacent frequencies and the more they have the ability to mess with transient response. In other words the more you try to make a filter that deals with the mathematical realities of digital to analog conversion the more you run the risk of really messing up high frequencies in the audio band. This is one of the many reasons why “early” digital sounded so harsh.

An easy and cheap solution is to bump up the sample rate to a much higher value. At 96KHz you have a much easier task as your filter can operate in a more relaxed manner far away from the audio band and (hopefully) do no damage to the audible frequencies.

Dynamic Range

I’ll be the first one to say that 16/44 digital has the potential for superior dynamic range to vinyl. The key here is “potential.” The reality is that unless you’re using extremely high-quality A to D converters your effective dynamic range is somewhat reduced. In reality, for this particular use case that’s probably not a big deal as the noise floor on vinyl is extremely variable.

A problem arises when you want to do any sort of processing of the digital data. All that you can do here is throw data away. You might make it subjectively better, but that’s going to be at a cost of information. If you’re going to do any sort of pop reduction, volume leveling, equalization (including applying the RIAA curve in the digital domain) then you are going to be shedding (or interpolating) bits. You’re also going to be filtering the digital signal AGAIN which can be problematic with a limited sample frequency.

The difference in dynamic range (and therefore in the amount of actual information) between 16 bit and 24 bit is absolutely HUGE. 65,536 possible representations of analog “levels” in 16 bit and 16,777,216 possible “levels” in 24 bit. Creating a complete audio system that can reproduce that range and having the perfect hearing that’s able to process it is pretty much impossible. The real benefit of 24 bit is having the flexibility in the digital domain to do processing (which is going to effectively shave bits) and not worry about getting into the range of what a typical system and listener can discern. In other words, you have way more headroom in a 24 bit sample in which to do mathematical operations.

There’s a reason why studios don’t record in 16/44. There’s just not enough headroom in which to do post-processing and mixing. Ripping an LP should be looked at as being no different than recording microphone feeds because, ultimately, you’re doing the same thing.

Storage is cheap (and getting cheaper). There’s no difference in time required to record at 16/44 vs 24/96 (or 192, or 384). Even the space requirements are reasonable. Given equal lengths a 24/96 file is only 3.3x larger than the 16/44 file, but the potential benefits are truly exponential.

Finally, while the noise reduction capabilities available today are fairly crude I imagine that with advancements in machine learning they are going to get very powerful in the near future. They’re also going to be mathematically intensive and extreme headroom is going to be a requirement.

I would do the conversion at the highest possible resolution that you can afford even if you end up decimating those files down to a more manageable size for immediate use. 10 years from now you may end up kicking yourself otherwise.

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thank you @AMP, tremendous amount of insight here, highly appreciated!

In terms of software I’ll try to get going with VinylStudio, I’ll let you know how it goes. A/D converter will be the ADL GT40a, probably at 24Bit 96kHz as you guys mentioned. Thanks for all the advise and insights so far!

Just as an FYI I posted up some files I did from ripped vinyl using VinylStudio. There are two songs, one in flac and one in CBR 320kb mp3 for comparison. I employed the filtering in VinylStudio to clean up things (non-agressive filtering, nothing heavy). I think they came out quite well and are virtually indistinguishable from the playback on the turntable (Thorens 145 with Grado Prestige Gold cartridge) other than the background noise. I also find the flac and mp3 files indistinguishable as well, but that is to my ears, yours may be different! Good luck with your rips. http://tinyurl.com/hdjb8wn

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I purchased the ADL GT40 a while back with the intention of ripping my 300+ album collection, something I still haven’t gotten around to yet (it makes a dandy paperweight in the meantime). I have a decent Project turntable which I use occasionally, but I long for the convenience of being able to access music without all of the vinyl hoopla, which is why I WILL start to do the conversions, soon I hope. Of particular interest would be the ability to pull out a particular track ripped from vinyl, as some albums only have a few tracks that really interest me. I also have Audacity to do the track separation and digital cleanup of any surface noise from the old vinyl.

@Larry_Herrett cool, thanks! I will give these files a listen once I’m back home. In the end I think everybody will agree when I say it’s all (and only) about music. If it sound good, perfect!

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Those recordings sound very nice, but Audacity tells me that the signal has been clipped (recording levels set slightly too high). It is nothing that I can tell through listening alone though.

I have uploaded a couple of my files to dropbox and will leave them there for a couple of weeks for anyone interested in hearing results from quite modest gear (see my earlier post #19 for the gear I used). One of the files was sampled at 48kHz, but this was the only album I did at that sample rate IIRC. Here’s the dropbox link :-

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@Jeff_C thank you! I’m really curious if one can hear differences in SQ. Since I’m lacking highly trained ears I don’t think I can :slight_smile:
But as @Ludwig mentioned, it’s always better to have some spare headroom for the future…

I particularly uploaded 2 files with a different sonic spectrum (sounded different). The difference is down to what got cut into those records rather than anything that I did in processing the recording, because I did nothing. Obviously there is going to be some impact from a 37 year old record TT, and 30 year old cartridge (at the time the recording were made). I believe the coloration from that combination is more audible than anything else in the digital recording process including sample rates used etc. And there is more likely errors like clipping going to creep in which may affect the result more that sample rate artefacts. But I do acknowledge @AMP’s advice and suggest people follow it… As it happens Audacity defaults to ‘32-bit float’ for its recording and editing projects, so I only ‘decimated’ the recordings down to 16 bit when I exported finished files to flac.

It is surprising how different the waveforms look between my files and those from Larry. You can literally ‘see’ that Larry’s recordings are going to sound cleaner. This may be down to the EQ used when making the different LPs. I will have to learn how to post pictures and let you see. Failing that I can always share pictures from dropbox. More later.

I really enjoyed these 2 songs. I heard of Wishbone Ash but have not heard of or maybe I did not realize I was listening to Third World.

Thank You…

These are very very good!! Thank you for posting. As for my files I would totally agree they probably got clipped some when recorded, I noticed that on the VU meters that appear in the software (peak clips). I debated re-recording them for this reason I recall but then could not hear the audible difference so left it alone. This process is quite similar to the process I used to go through to take vinyl and record it to cassette in the past to take with me in the car, there was always some happy place where the recording was loud enough, but not so loud that it clipped. The process of lifting and dropping the needle at random places on the record trying to find the peak sounds in order to set recording levels.

It has just occurred to me however that since these new recordings are in the digital domain, and the volume can be manipulated via the software controls, I am probably better off in the future just recording the files at what I know is below any portion of the album that might be clipped, and then boosting the overall volume (not to be confused with dynamically compressing things) in post-record-processing.

I also found it interesting that of the six Wishbone Ash albums I have that none contain “Lorelei”, including the “Best of” compilations. I will now be on a search for this, Amazon says it was a 45 promo not sure which original album it was on. At the end of the day, there are not that many artists I have that I have not been able to find on CD which is why I don’t totally immerse myself in this project, although I will say that the original mixes I oftentimes find much more appealing, as they are not boosted in volume as much via the “remastered for digital” (which is just a fancy way of saying dynamically compressed and made loud as h*ll). Thank you so much for sharing!!

By the way, beyond vinyl, I have assisted some friends in the past with this process who had old cassette recordings that were made of relatives speaking, or in one case a friend’s parents had cut some of those direct-to-vinyl 78s in the 40’s and 50’s and they wanted them preserved. The software in that case was really able to pull out all the background scratches and noise to give them something they could share and keep for the future. That was fun seeing the reaction on their faces when they heard these long lost sounds come back to them.

I am not very good at interpreting these things, but it does seem to me that the ‘Listen’ song looks cleaner than 'Lorelei. Anyone else care to give their interpretation?

Thank you for posting and I would interpret it the same way you did. Now, the fact of the matter is that I did not think your file was all that noisy to start with, although I did not crank it way up. Even the file I did still has background noise and is not perfectly dead quiet when I turn it way up.

The trick with the filtering I think is to find somewhere that it takes out the noise at a moderate listening level without getting into the actual musical information. That is a fine line. I got way aggressive at first with cleaning things and the playback of the sounds were awful, like it was playing in a tin can (or like Sirius radio sounds much of the time) lots of music was lost.

Many vinyl rippers don’t like to employ anything however. The guy at my local shop (and the folks at PS Audio when I asked them as well) said they don’t do anything. They want to capture 100% the sound of the vinyl playing as if it were on the turntable and then let their brains filter out the background noise, just as you do when listening to the record. For this reason others have told me they do not find any of my files acceptable under any circumstances as the first time I did any tweaking, in their mind, I ruined the integrity of the vinyl rip. To each their own as always. I always wanted as quiet of a play as I could get, and invested in rudimentary pop and click machines back in the 70’s (which did sound terrible and I quickly abandoned them) to quiet my vinyl.

I find this a lot of fun and interesting to do these kinds of comparisons, thanks for sharing.

I should have responded to this earlier. ‘Lorelei’ was on the original album ‘New England’ and that is where this recording came from. IMO it is a very good album overall (not much, if any, dead wood)

Thank you for steering me to the “New England” album. I stopped in to one of the used record stores in our area the other day on a whim and sure enough they had a copy in the Wishbone Ash section. $6.00 and it looks like it has hardly been played, the cover was in quite good shape (encased in one of those after-market plastic covers). I few swipes with the Discwasher pad and fluid and it is playing away. I do have a record cleaner (Pro-Ject Spin Clean) but have yet to use it will have to give it a try on this record and some others and then compare the sound. Take care, Happy Thanksgiving.

I use VinylStudio with a Tascam US 2x2 USB interface in 48/24-mode. The microphone input is perfect for use with moving coil cartridges. RIAA (or any other equalization) is applied by software, which gives more precise results than most phono preamps. Results leave nothing to be desired. ViinylStudio is money well spent, and even more so, if you need to digitize historical recordings because of the software eq.

For what it is worth, I have been digitizing my vinyl by using the Channel D Seta+ Model L phono preamp and using the flat (non-equalized) outputs into a Merging Hapi with a AD8DP option card, and using Apple Logic Pro X to record. I apply RIAA equalization in software and also use iZotope RX5 de-click to remove any surface noise that remains after cleaning the record. Logic only supports sample rates up to 192kHz, so that is what I am using, but I am considering using Vinyl Studio to record some albums that would not need post-processing as DSD. In that case, I would need to apply equalization before recording.

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