Thursday, March 16, 2006

I Have Succumbed

To this.

And this.

For those of you too lazy to follow the links, that's a 30 GB iPod With Video Playback (Black) and an Altec Lansing InMotion IM7 Portable Audio System. The iPod will be fun, but the little earbud is a serious problem (particularly when you've already got a hearing aid in your ear), so I'm most excited about the iPod cradle/docking station/speakers. First, the contraption looks like a big mortar shell, so if you can't drive particularly annoying people crazy through the music you play, you can actually lob the device at them and cause serious damage. Second, I was amazed by the quality of sound that comes out of that little mortar shell. I compared it to the better-known and higher priced Bose SoundDock, and thought it blew the Bose out of the water.

I'm a happy guy. Anybody know an easy way to convert vinyl --> .wav files --> MP3s --> the IPod?


Karen said...

DUDE. you are gonna LOVE it. i say get new headphones: ones that fit over the hearing aid.

i'm excited for you!

KarlandBethany said...

Vinyl conversion...

Yes, Andy, we can talk.


teddy dellesky said...

welcome to iPoddom. you may want to talk to fred kohn about converting vinyl to MP3. he has a converter that he may let you toy with for a while.

Gar said...

If anyone could just type in some instructions, or equipment needed on how to convert vinyl to mp3 that would be wonderful.


Fred Kohn said...

no easy way to convert vinyl to mp3, but it can be done. I've done it.

You need a turntable (obviously), a phono preamp, adapters for getting the two RCA plugs of a turntable into the stereo 1/8" jack of the typical computer soundcard, some software for recording the output of your phono preamp into wav format, and some software to convert the wav format to mp3.

Piece of cake (NOT!)

I just use itunes to convert the wav files once they are recorded. That part is not hard. I use Sonar to do the recording which is about $100. I'm sure there are lower cost/ free alternatives out there for this process- like maybe audacity.

It's very possible you won't be totally thrilled with the results. Even when normalized the audio files aren't as loud as the typical CD track. One thing that I do that helps greatly is to use Soundforge's (another audio program) vinyl restoration feature which reduces the clicks and the noise. But soundforge is too expensive for most people to be interested in it.

Fred Kohn said...

another note- I saw on the news that some people are damaging their ears with ipods. I can believe it- it's incredibly easy to turn the little guys up higher than you should. The news show also recommended losing the in-your-ear type earplugs and getting headphones that are over the ear.

Fred Kohn said...

Since there seems to be some interest in the process, I've written up one way to rip vinyl. You will need:

Hardware: Turntable, Phono Preamp, Computer, appropriate audio cable or adapter, computer.

Software: Audacity, itunes (these are both free).

Plug the turntable into the inputs of your phono preamp and plug the output of the phono preamp into the soundcard. If you're using a generic PC soundcard, you will have three stereo 1/8" jacks in the back. The green one is for the speakers, the red one is a mic input and the blue one is a line input. Conventional wisdom says not to even bother with the mic input, but I did find one computer on which the mic input was the better sounding one. Typically one will sound horrible and the other one will be pretty good. You will need some kind of adapter or special cable to get the two RCA outs from the phono preamp into the mini stereo jack of the computer. You will also have to pay attention to grounding to avoid hum from the turntable. I have my phono preamp sitting on top of the computer case so that it is grounded. I've heard some people say that you have to unground some turntables to get them not to hum, but I've never had this experience.

Next make sure that your soundcard is set up to receive signal from the jack you've plugged your turntable into. On my onboard soundcard, only one input can be enabled at a time, and the default one is the mic input. This is usually not the one you want, so (in windows XP) go into the control panel-Sounds and Audio Devices. On my computer a window opens up with 5 tabs. The one marked Audio is the one which controls the recording devices on the onboard soundcard. Hitting the Volume button brings up a small mixer on which you can select which input to use.


Get Audacity from Open Audacity and go to File>Preferences and select the correct recording input from the dropdown list. You should also check to see that you are recording at 16 bit depth and 44.1khz (I think that Audacity defaults to this). Hit the record button and let the needle drop. If you've done everything correctly you should see peaks and valleys in the track. If the peaks are going all the way up and down to the limits of the track, the recording levels are too high and your sound will be distorted. If this is the case, you'll need to go back into your soundcard settings and lower the record level.

After the album side is done, you'll want to trim off the stuff at the beginning and the end, unless you really enjoy the sound of the needle dropping. Find the point at which the music starts (better yet, just a hair before this) and single click that point inside the track. A cursor line should appear. Then go to the Edit>Select... Start to Cursor. After this is selected, hit the delete button and the selection should dissappear. To trim off the stuff at the end that you don't want, find the point where the desirable sound stops, click that spot to put the cursor there, select Cursor to End, and hit the delete button.

next go to Edit>Select... all to select everything. Go to Effect>Normalize. A box will appear with two options. Make sure that the first box (Remove DC offset) is checked and the second box (Normalize to -3 dB) is unchecked. Hit OK. This may not appear to do anything, but it may make the track louder if it wasn't recorded very loud.

Next go to File>Export as WAV... a box will appear asking you to indicate a name and location. I have a folder set up on my desktop called "vinyl rips." You can have your folder anywhere, but I don't recommend putting it in the itunes folder because itunes could delete files stored there. I usually just export the entire record side as one file and call it something like "Greatest Hits (side 1)" but if you wish, you can go to the trouble of selecting each song and exporting them separately.

Next I open itunes and go to File>Add file to library... A typical navigation box will appear asking you to specify the location of the file. Navigate to the wav file and add it. The file should appear at the bottom of the library and already be selected. Go to Advanced>Convert Selection to AAC to convert the file to itunes format. After the conversion the original WAV file is still highlighted. Hit Delete to remove the file- you don't want those huge wav files in your library! Go ahead and move the file to the recycle bin- you still have the original wav file on your desktop (or wherever you decided to keep your vinyl rips.)

gw said...

hey fred --

thanks for the writeup. I was just talking about this with Jeff (re: Ronald Koal / various assorted rock-a-billy) this post will come in handy. one thing though -- most folks switch their itunes settings to rip to mp3 as it's a more universal format. to my ears, aac sounds a bit better than mp3 when files of the same size are compared, but a bigger mp3 sounds the same. note: this was not a scientific comparison and a brief search on the net will yeild some passionate debate between geeks with lots of free time.

Andy Whitman said...

Fred, thanks for the detailed instructions. I really appreciate it.

I suspect it will be a while before I get around to the vinyl conversion. For better or worse, I have enough CDs right now to fill up about four of those 30 GB iPods (yeah, 30,000 songs sounds about right), and an equal amount of vinyl if I ever get around to it. This is the product of a now 40+ year music fetish. What can you do?

So I'm trying to be selective, only adding those songs/albums that I genuinely love. Ideally, I'd love to have about a 200,000 song (that would give me room to grow) database of music that I could carry around in my pocket, but that's not going to happen. So I'll need to pick and choose.

This is also an incredibly time consuming process. I spent most of my free time this weekend importing CDs to the computer and then downloading them to the iPod. And I think I made it through about 12 albums. This could take a while. :-)

Andy Whitman said...

One other thing: Fred, have you ever considered a career in technical writing? You're very good at it.

This is what I do every Monday through Friday: write Step 1 through Step n. You've got the routine down very well.

Fred Kohn said...

uhh... never considered a career in technical writing. I find writing kind of stressfull when anything at all is riding on it.

As far as the AAC vs. MP3- you can have both beasts in your ipod at once. I never did a comparison of one to the other- just taking for granted the AAC sounded better. Another thing that I have heard is that playing AAC files will drain the ipod battery slower, but I don't know if there's any truth to that.

The advantages of having just MP3's in your library is that if you ever want to e-mail an MP3 file to somebody you don't have to worry about whether it's in the right format already or whether you have to convert it- and if you want to burn an MP3 disk you don't have to convert anything.

If you do want to stay totally in MP3 format, you can set up Audacity to export MP3 rather than WAV which will save a step. You have to download yet another free program- the LAME MP3 encoder. Instructions on how to set up Audacity and LAME to work together is in the Audacity help files.

Anonymous said...

You should check out the Bose sounddock - I liked it better.