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Ripping Vinyl - The Basics

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GOS

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A few members have been asking me to shed light on how "I" rip my vinyl. I do it often and have learned some tricks over time. I'm sure others already know...but I'll try to go in a bit deeper.

Basics you will need for bare bones ripping are:
  • Turntable with USB connectivity. (I currently own Pro-Ject Debut Carbon USB, see on AMAZON)
  • PC or laptop to connect your TT USB cable to
  • Audacity - an application that will work directly with your TT where you create your music files from ripped vinyl (link to Audacity download)
If you have considerable money already in an older TT that does not have USB, there is some reading material HERE, though I have not thoroughly read as it's just not applicable to my situation...though it does go into some detail about using Audacity if you want to read that.

More coming....but just for a visual, here is Audacity when I first open the application, but not spinning vinyl yet. You will need to click the HELP button to get into the online Audacity tutorial/manual, which is extremely helpful. It's been too many years, but I'm pretty sure there could be some initial preferences you need to type in first time you use Audacity.

For my setup, notice the taskbar which starts with MME, then MIcrophone, etc. Even though it's not really a microphone, they call it that and in this case, if your TT is correctly connected to your PC, you should see a selection similar to mine. Notice it says USB... Make sure you have 2 (Stereo) selected and then in terms of how you will hear or playback what you are recording or have recorded, the speaker icon can be either your internal PC speakers or in my case it's all routed through my Denon AVR as noted below in the taskbar.

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GOS

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Some basic comments about your vinyl you want to rip.

  • Visually inspect each side of the vinyl. It helps to know what shape it's in, any deep scratches, scrapes, etc. Hold it up to the light on an angle, you'll be surprised what you might see. That all said, don't be alarmed, as most vinyl...even when new, has visual imperfections.
  • Clean your vinyl as best you can with whatever method you are comfortable with. Personally, I like to use my Spin Clean system link to Amazon. It does a real nice job of getting older records in much better shape. No matter what method you use, if it involves a liquid, it is critical to allow the vinyl to completely dry before ripping it or the surface noise from liquid will result in horrible scratchy noise in your "recording"
  • Lightly run your (clean, non oily) finger along the grooves of the vinyl, seeing if you find any "bumps". If the bump appears to be a small speck of dirt, etc. Consider carefully using your fingernail to "remove" it. If you do this, you may eliminate a possible skip that could have been avoided. There is nothing more frustrating than ripping your vinyl, you're on your last song, and the damn vinyl has a skip that just repeats...over and over.... While there are tricks to deal with that, if it happens, I won't go into that detail here as it's more of a trial and error thing.
  • Also, even after cleaning your vinyl, I like to give it one last wipe down with a soft cloth to remove any fuzz or whatever that seemed to fall onto your vinyl as you placed it on your turntable.
  • To state the obvious, and this maybe should have been first point...make sure your TT is level at all angles and doesn't get feedback from "whatever".
Here, I will comment on a very critical step that you need to check before beginning to record in Audacity...as if you don't, you will have rips that are not correct. It's in your PC Sounds settings. Many times, windows updates, or rebooting PC will result in this setting getting changed. I've had it happen half a dozen times and the changed setting will result in an incorrect recording. It will result in a stereo vinyl being ripped as 1 channel (more like mono)...and we don't want that. as it will not sound right. You will find guitars that you know should be heard in the left channel...suddenly missing.... So...

Type "Sound" in your PC search bar and you should see this. Click on the "recording" tab. Go ahead and click (hi-lite) the Microphone USB device, then click Properties in lower right corner.

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Now, you should see this. Click the Advanced tab...

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And ensure it at least, says this below as sometimes it can say 1 channel

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GOS

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Now, your vinyl is clean, you have Audacity open....so let's get started. Since all vinyl is recorded differently.....some louder or softer than others. There is no set it and forget it.

You need to have some indication, how loud is the current vinyl I'm going to rip? Go ahead and click the "pause" button, and then click the red "record button. Once you do that, your Audacity window will change to look like this. So, to generate the visual recording levels as you see below, I just go ahead and lower the needle to the middle of a song or 2 to get an idea of the peaks. You will have to decide at what level you want to record, but don't make it so loud that it's full of clipping. Clipping will show up as a red line in the window where the waveforms will eventually populate as your record. I'll try to show some of that in another picture.

Anyway, if the recording levels are not high enough (too quiet), you can gradually increase them by changing the value inside the little blue "circle" situated next to the microphone icon in the upper right portion of window. I start out at 50 and either increase by a couple points if I want it louder..... Once you are happy with the recording level, let's go to the next picture to see what the waveforms would look like.

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Below, you see now the waveforms populating as it's recording in real-time. Keeping in mind that at some point, you will need to "flag" the starts and stops of each song, you can either do it as each song records (which I do, but means you have to be alert and flag as it plays) or you can simply record the whole first side, not flagging any. In other words, you can wait until the whole album has recorded before you go back and flag the start/stop of the songs. But....you are at the mercy of visually finding what you perceive to be the ends and starts of songs based on the waveform. Most of the time, that isn't too difficult, unless you have a very dynamic song that has lots of quiet passages followed by sharp drum or cymbal crashes. They may look like ends of songs, but are not...

I'll follow up with pictures of the flagging process..but for now...

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Below is a picture where I've hi-lited in yellow, what are little clicks or snaps on the vinyl. Many of them I couldn't even hear, but I know them when I see them. If the line is much larger (taller), that likely is a snap you can hear. So, just imagine that when you done recording, you can scroll through the waveforms, find the snaps, zoom in as far as makes sense......hi-lite the click and either run the click removal option, (click removal can be found under the "effect" tab...you just hi-lite before and after the click and select click removal...but you have to select an area large enough for the algorithm to work) or simply delete out that snippet from the file. But, if you're going to delete a snap, make sure you have zoomed in a lot so that the piece of information you have deleted doesn't take too much music out. But don't worry, I typically delete and cannot tell anything is different other than the click is gone.

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GOS

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Just finished ripping an album, and I want to show you what Audacity looks like with the song labels.... (you can easily put in a "label" tag by clicking "ctrl B") The starts and stops of each song in the picture are designated by the 2 arrows along with a straight line between them. If you take some time to look at the waveforms, you can tell that the ends of the songs often fade out...and in the perfect world, would be a flat line. But because it's vinyl, you see the "wobble" in the waveform between songs. If you are playing your ripped vinyl loud, those quiet moments between songs would actually have some noise or clicks or whatever...that is...unless you remove the clicks. You should also do a "fade in and or fade out" of those quiet between songs sections. That will help clean up the final product. Those functions are also found in the "effect" tab/dropdown. One other thing you can do, if the song ends sharply and then there is a 3-4 second pause before start of next song, is select that 3-4 second area and actually remove all sound. You can do that from the "generate" tab/dropdown, and select "silence" I often do that at the start of an album as that moment when the needle hits the record often makes an annoying "thud". If you do the silence function, you can eliminate that all together. :)

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So, I took the above waveform, zoomed in a few percentages, hi-lited the noisy area between songs I Believe and Rage and first I did a fade out....left it hi-lited and went back and did a click removal and below is what that same area looks like after doing that 10 second fix. :) These are all the finesse things you need to do to have better rips.

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GOS

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So, you ripped your first vinyl, you cleaned up the silent spaces between songs...you placed a tag that shows start and stop of each song and inserted a name of the song in the box....at least for me, that is the extent of tagging I do within Audacity. Yes, you can do more, but I choose to do the detailed meta data in another program......more later on that. (I use Tag&Rename...because I like it and I know how to use it....but...it costs money too...I assume there are some free programs...don't know)

  • If you are paranoid...and I would be if I were a rookie - save the Audacity file as is. Keep that in case you blow something up...you don't want to have to re-rip the vinyl all over again. Once you have a backup, proceed to next step.
  • If you are me, you simply hi-lite the whole file (go to "select" tab/dropdown) click all and it will hi-lite the whole area and turn it white.
  • Go to "file, Export multiple....select where to place the files....decide if you want it Flac or Wav or whatever.....and off it goes.
Now, you have some decisions to make when choosing Flac or Wav. For me, I want to do some additional click repair type stuff and I purchased another application (US $40) called Click Repair. So, I have to choose WAV as Flac will not work with Click Repair....

Anyway, just to show what the Export Multiple looks like...see below.

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GOS

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Hold 7 - updated first 3 posts. Talking about getting your vinyl ready, making sure Audacity is set up and ready to go and what it looks like when you start to record...also what the clicks and pops look like in the waveform...
 

GOS

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Hold 11 - Please be aware that I continually add (potentially) to each post as I find time to elaborate. I think you'll find post 4 interesting as I show a before and after of an easy fix where I deal with noise between songs.
 

GOS

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I think I've got the very basics listed for now. Feel free to comment or ask for any clarity. I should have enough posts on "HOLD" to allow me to add some other stuff as I see necessary. Anyway, I think this could get someone towards the first step. Of course, Audacity is a monster and can do a lot more if you have the patience or need to go that far in the weeds. You can reduce both treble and bass if you want, among a million other things....I think those things you learn as you get the basics down. Repetition creates efficiency and you can then do all these steps pretty fast and know the little tricks that make things easier.

For me personally, I always rip vinyl and listen to the output at same time. It keeps me engaged, and also allows me to efficiently place song tags where they belong and also allows me to understand which songs have noise so I can do some declicking or whatever. Another trick of the GOS trade is to locate the album on WIKI, scroll down to the listing of the songs and keep that in a different browser tab while I'm ripping. Why? Because WIKI nearly always lists the minutes/seconds for each song...which is handy in case your album cover doesn't have that info. Knowing this helps you know when the starts and stops are approaching...as there is a minute/second counter at bottom of Audacity you can watch. Just another tip to make things more efficient and easy.
 

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I have spent hundreds of hours doing needledrops. If you don't want to spend days manually removing each click, I highly recommend a program called "ClickRepair". It is NOT noise reduction. It's basically a pencil tool on steroids. It's the only automated method I've heard that doesn't harm the music around the clicks. It's also pretty cool because it's not from one of the big software companies. It was written by a hobbyist like us who didn't like any of the commercial solutions. It's inexpensive and there is a 30 day free uncrippled trial to decide for yourself. Highly, highly recommended.

http://www.clickrepair.net/
 

The56Kid

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I think I've got the very basics listed for now. Feel free to comment or ask for any clarity. I should have enough posts on "HOLD" to allow me to add some other stuff as I see necessary. Anyway, I think this could get someone towards the first step. Of course, Audacity is a monster and can do a lot more if you have the patience or need to go that far in the weeds. You can reduce both treble and bass if you want, among a million other things....I think those things you learn as you get the basics down. Repetition creates efficiency and you can then do all these steps pretty fast and know the little tricks that make things easier.

For me personally, I always rip vinyl and listen to the output at same time. It keeps me engaged, and also allows me to efficiently place song tags where they belong and also allows me to understand which songs have noise so I can do some declicking or whatever. Another trick of the GOS trade is to locate the album on WIKI, scroll down to the listing of the songs and keep that in a different browser tab while I'm ripping. Why? Because WIKI nearly always lists the minutes/seconds for each song...which is handy in case your album cover doesn't have that info. Knowing this helps you know when the starts and stops are approaching...as there is a minute/second counter at bottom of Audacity you can watch. Just another tip to make things more efficient and easy.
Fantastic tutorial, Gene! I can’t wait to get started but will have to wait until I get myself a USB turntable. Your effort here is much appreciated!
 

markshan

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I didn't see (it may be coming in one of the holds) any mention of SBEs. If you are going to burn your drops to Redbook CDs, you have to cut them on a sector. If you don't do this (or don't know how), there is a free program called Traders Little Helper which can fix the boundaries for you.

http://tlh.easytree.org/
 

markshan

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Fantastic tutorial, Gene! I can’t wait to get started but will have to wait until I get myself a USB turntable. Your effort here is much appreciated!
I don't use a USB table. I use my regular table and an outboard ADC. I recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 as being the best "budget" option. If you already have a table this is certainly a much less expensive way to go, and probably better sounding as well.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
 

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Great thread! I only rip quad vinyl, but my workflow is nearly the same. I have to record in Adobe Audition 3 as Audacity unfortunately doesn't support multichannel recording. Removing the clicks and pops is even more fun with two extra channels...

I've also recently invested in one of those "Spin Clean" record washers and it's worked wonders on some LPs I thought were unsalvageable. It's funny that when you clean a CD-4 LP you can hear the high-pitched noise from the carrier.
 
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GOS

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I have spent hundreds of hours doing needledrops. If you don't want to spend days manually removing each click, I highly recommend a program called "ClickRepair". It is NOT noise reduction. It's basically a pencil tool on steroids. It's the only automated method I've heard that doesn't harm the music around the clicks. It's also pretty cool because it's not from one of the big software companies. It was written by a hobbyist like us who didn't like any of the commercial solutions. It's inexpensive and there is a 30 day free uncrippled trial to decide for yourself. Highly, highly recommended.

http://www.clickrepair.net/
Yes, I use it too and reference it earlier.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

sjcorne

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, (click removal can be found under the "effect" tab...you just hi-lite before and after the click and select click removal...but you have to select an area large enough for the algorithm to work)
There's also a feature in the effects tab called "noise reduction", that lets you sample noise between tracks and then remove that specific sample from the entire waveform. This can work wonders on 8-tracks (as the hiss level is relatively constant) but on vinyl it's hit-or-miss. I've had some success with it, but on other occasions it can really dull the sound.
 
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