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Hardware for ADC of cassette and LPs
Hardware for ADC of cassette and LPs
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Old 18th September 2011, 09:47 PM   #1
ricortes is offline ricortes  United States
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Default Hardware for ADC of cassette and LPs

Last thread I saw on topic was ~years ago. It may be time for an update and I could use one.

Pretty standard situation: 84 year old friend of family wants to convert his stack of LPs and shelf of cassettes to a digital format. Actually some of his vinyl goes back to 78's.

I know 30 year old cassettes and the decks to play them will be pretty dead. Stretched belts, stretched tapes, 70's technology, will pretty much define the distortion. I just don't want to make a bad situation worse.

I'm guessing most microphone inputs on laptops and sound cards are mono. I'd probably get too much noise even if I did find one with stereo. => I will go with line level inputs.

Would any benefit be gained in going to an older sound card like an ISA Turtle Beach or should I just stick with built in or PCI sound cards? I'm guessing the worst PCI card is better then a 20 year old sound card.

It would be best if there is a decent USB ADC if one is available. I have searched fleabay and while they have a lot of USB dongles, most are microphone input. Anyone have a suggestion for a line level input one? I have used an EasyCap for my video/audio needs and I thought it had OK quality but was somewhat unstable. I had to plug it in several times before it would run and it would crash a couple of times a day.

I have used Audacity a bit but IMHO it is just a bit over kill for my app. I just need something to digitize w/o a lot of editing. What would you use given the task?

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Old 18th September 2011, 10:07 PM   #2
sofaspud is offline sofaspud  United States
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Just a few comments... My laptop inputs are stereo. Can't speak for others.
Behringer UCA202 is a low-priced USB ADC that is generally well-accepted. An old TB Santa Cruz card will certainly do the job, though.
Good 30 yr old tapes that are cared for can still sound good. If kept on the sun visor, probably not.
I use Goldwave for recording/editing. You will want to do some editing. Virtually any noise can usually be zapped right out of the wav file. I've had web friends send me bootlegs that were recorded below the noise floor, and it's possible to extract fairly decent music from such a mess without too much difficulty.
Which sort of leads to 78s. They'll likely need the most attention to get a good master.
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Old 19th September 2011, 12:24 AM   #3
ricortes is offline ricortes  United States
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My laptop is an older Dell. I used a 1/8" to RCA plug to test the mic input and only one channel was active using Audacity. Same test on my desktop with built in sound card and its line level inputs worked fine in stereo.

Thanks for the Behringer UCA202 tip, It looks like exactly what I need. The situation can get overly complicated: The old timer does not want to move any of his equipment around so laptop<=>USB is just about the only option. He wouldn't let me set up desktop in his living room and won't let me move his tape or turntable to his computer room. He really has a point since everything is neatly twist tied or cable wrapped and routed like it was made for a space shuttle launch. He was thinking of a combo turntable/cassette/usb copier but the price was a bit high and the reviews mixed. It would end up with the same problem in that it would still need a computer while duplicating a lot of equipment he already has.

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Old 19th September 2011, 03:18 AM   #4
dangus is offline dangus  Canada
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Hardware for ADC of cassette and LPs
Check out this site:
USB Turntable Comparison

The Behringer uses a pretty good codec chip, but it's not the best implementation according to somebody's RMAA loopback tests of one. And there's no phono preamp (although Behringer does have a similar box with one built-in), or gain control for setting the recording level. It is fine if you can work within the limitations (use a mixer or preamp for a phono preamp and level control), but that's not everyone.

It would be wiser to invest in a box like this one: ART USB Phono Plus
You get line and phono inputs, gain control, and even S/PDIF in and out. (The S/PDIF in could be used to record from some satellite or cable boxes, Digital Audio Tape, Minidisc, or DCC, or capture the PCM soundtrack of a laserdisc.) The bundled software (unless it has changed) is open-source, so while it is good and powerful, it may not be the easiest tool for the job. You may already have suitable software like something from Nero that was bundled with a CD/DVD writer or system. I'm sure there's good discussions on what software is best for dealing with vinyl captures. I'd probably stick with Audacity myself, but I wouldn't inflict it on someone who didn't already have a good grounding in audio capture and editing.

There's also the ion "U Record" and "Record 2 PC" which has a gain control and selector switch for phono and line inputs. I'm not sure what the difference is between them, although the U Record costs more (but you can get refurbished ones from ion's web site), is in a bigger box, and has a knob instead of a thumbwheel level control. Larger package may translate to better performance, since there can be better spacing between low-level analog signals and noisy digital, bigger filter caps, etc. Since this is DIY Audio, there may be room in the box to improve things, like adding more capacitance, or a quieter external power supply. Interestingly, it appears that anyone can download the "EZ Vinyl" software from ion., although it may only work in conjunction with iTunes.

I don't think many ISA sound cards were good enough to be worth struggling with the limitations of an older computer (a PC Magazine review I happened to read last night said that most had lousy bass response). While it's possible to capture and edit audio on a Pentium I with a 6.4 gig hard drive, humongous and speedy hard drives and a faster CPU will make it easier. PCI sound cards have been around long enough that older ones are virtually free. Although many have flaws like a penchant for changing everything to 48k samples/sec because of supporting the AC97 PC sound standard. (Not that sampling at 48k is a bad idea; 44.1 (and CDs) are obsolete. 48k audio can be burned to DVD compliant "Audio DVDs", converted to MP3 or FLAC at 48k and played on portables or network media players.) But, I prefer a card which captures directly (and accurately) from an S/PDIF input, since then I can be sure I"m not going to inadvertently record hard-drive power supply noises or system beeps. Finding a suitable outboard ADC without spending kilobucks isn't easy. There appears to be a nice one from the German magazine ELV for about 40 Euros, and it'll capture at sample rates and bit depths far beyond the typical USB codec.

Last edited by dangus; 19th September 2011 at 03:31 AM.
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Old 19th September 2011, 04:23 AM   #5
Ron E is offline Ron E  United States
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Audacity works great, for cassettes or vinyl. Since you have to play back at normal speed, the process takes a looooooonnngg time.

I bought a Sony 3 head deck from a pawn shop for $20 - if you are picky about sound, get whatever tape deck you buy looked at and adjusted. Old cassettes have issues, the pressure pads often fall off, so you will need to repair or replace them. The magnetic material can flake off, so you need to clean the heads, capstans, pinch rollers a lot and demagnetize occasionally.

Vinyl needs to be CLEAN! If you are going to spend the time to record all of the albums, do it right and clean them very well. Needles should be cleaned/inspected frequently and probably should be replaced every few hundred hours, and it is worth making sure all the angles and tracking force are correct.
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Old 19th September 2011, 06:45 AM   #6
sofaspud is offline sofaspud  United States
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Just to let you know, Goldwave has a built-in RIAA filter. I haven't used it, but I don't know why it wouldn't work if and as needed. Especially since you're dealing with 78s to LPs. You can probably program your own RIAA EQ if you wanted to.
Also check your laptop's settings; you may have a 2-channel input that is simply set to mono in software. Same with gain settings.
disclaimer: I have no association with Goldwave. I'm sure other similar programs have similar features. I'm just a satisfied customer... after using it for 10 years I figured I would pay for it.
It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from enquiry. - Thomas Paine
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Old 19th September 2011, 07:46 AM   #7
Zootalaws is offline Zootalaws  New Zealand
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I have had good results with M-Audio's range.

The Fast-Track Pro would do the job 24/96 but it isn't cheap at MSRP ($150). It also does a lot more than your requirements.

M-AUDIO - Fast Track Pro - 4 x 4 Mobile USB Audio/MIDI Interface with Preamps

I have seen a number of them on fleabay for as little as $10.
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Old 19th September 2011, 01:30 PM   #8
geraldfryjr is offline geraldfryjr  United States
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Lots of really good tips here.
Personaly, It takes alot of time to do such work and do it right.
So,when you are going to invest that much time in a project of such you will be better off getting the best and highest quality sample that you can.

That means get a good 24bit 96khz or 192khz card or usb sampler.
There are several out there that are very affordable sach as M-audio,Tascam and Creatives X-Fi and EMU line.
I have an Echo Systems GINA24 and Creatives X-FI Elite Pro and where my first adventure into the new 24Bit Format.

Everything done so far just blows my mind,what goes in comes out exactly the same.
Me being an analog purist found this very hard to believe!

Both of my systems were a bit pricey but well worth the extra $$$ for the quality and the extra software that came with them.
You can get the X-fi Fatality Pro fairly cheap without the audio interface which I rarely use anyway but it does have a built in phono preamp.
But I have not tried it yet and I have had it since it first hit the market.

These cards are pci type and I have no experience with the usb types.
Creative has just came out with a USB X-Fi that I would consider recomending to you at a very affordable $70 at newegg only because I know how the X-Fi system sounds.
They are usaly bundled with wavelab lite and is plenty powerful for such an aplication as yours.
I have had very good results using it the way it is but you can add your own VST effects and filters to suit your needs and work realtime.

As mentioned make sure that your playback device is giving the sound that you want.
I have Tascam 103 cassette deck and I have had it for 20 years and it still sound great with slightly worn heads.
I won't recomond the USB turntables as the ones I have looked at are 16Bit but some do have a line out but I am not sure if it is pure analog back to the cartridge.
Remember what you hear is what your going to get.
Once it is digitised you can tweak and convert all you want,But just remember you can take out information But you cannot put back any if it is not there to begin with.
The very reason to use the highest sample rate that you can as well as the highest resolution either 24bit or 32bit floating point.
Yes, The files will be rather large but they will get smaller when you convert them to different formats.

My last project was I digitization of Deep Purple's Machine Head cassette and it turn out incredible with very little tweaking of the EQ's sampled at 24/96 using the X-Fi.

That was in 2007 and I still enjoy those files to this day and I am awed at the detail that I was able to extract out of the old recording it was Night and day in a big way from my Philips PSC706 card which was one of the highest rated 16Bit cards of its day.

The only bad thing about the recording was a tape drop out that occurd and this could not be avoided (Bad Spot).

I have been doing Professional Recording for quite some time and I have always strived for the best and the best doesn't have to break your wallet.
So, I hope this little bit of advice helps you to excede you to your goals in a promising way.

Enjoy and Good Luck !!! jer

P.S I use Audacity as well I was what I used to do the samplling sometimes then then I use wavelab to do the conversions and editing. Both great programs as I also have Samplitude 2469 as well but it is very intense and has quite a learning curve to it.

Last edited by geraldfryjr; 19th September 2011 at 01:38 PM.
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Old 20th September 2011, 01:48 AM   #9
ricortes is offline ricortes  United States
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Thanks to all of you for the tips! I did a more looking and the Berhinger UFO202 has the phono inputs I need so I will probably get that model. I will talk it over with the guy first since he will in all likelyhood insist on reimbursing me. At 84 he doesn't hear to well but he is a perfectionist. I will use the Berhinger and ART as two ends of the spectrum for what is available.

The weak link at the time will be the old audio equipment feeding the ADC. Specifically my choice of decks will either be his RCA which looks like a rebadged Grundig or resurecting my old circa 1976 Pioneer CT-F7272. If I remember the specs on these decks, frequency response was only something like 30-12k Hz. I tried an old SONY stereo deck from that era and the wow and flutter made it unlistenable: Like someone trying to play a record by spinning the disk by hand! I may just go thrift shopping since new belts for the Pioneer seem to run about $17. I am going on the assumption you need a minimum of 2X over sampling and 4X should be about as good as it gets.

I have a fairly good Technics direct drive turntable with magnetic cartridge from the same time frame as the tape decks. I will see what he has before I get serious about resurecting the turntable.

He should have an interesting collection. He's a Django Reinhardt fan and personally played banjo and guitar before age and arthritis slowed him down. His daughter wants me to bring him fully up to date with an Ipod so we can wean him off his DVD/CD player too.<grin>

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Old 20th September 2011, 03:43 AM   #10
Michael Bean is offline Michael Bean  United States
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For what it's worth I remembered seeing this a while back, I have no idea about quality though. LPs To CDs - LPs to MP3s - LPs To Your iPod - Vinyl To CD Perfection Turntable And Interface Mixer

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