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Starting Needledropping in 2013: Question about Pro-Ject Phono Box USB V

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by spaulding, Dec 31, 2012.

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  1. spaulding

    spaulding Forum Resident Thread Starter

    The Windy City
    So my goal in 2013 is to start moving some of my thousands of lps onto a hard drive.

    I have many questions, but for starters has anyone worked with the Pro-Ject Phono Box USB V for needledropping? Impressions?

    Here is a link at Music Direct:
    http://www.musicdirect.com/search.aspx?searchterm=pro-ject usb

    If you've had problems with it do you have a better recommendation for $200 or less?

    I'll be using the Vinyl Studio Lite software.

    And my next issue is this: where do I store all of this? How much space is enough if I plan on 2-3 needledrops per week (I don't even know if that's realistic having never done this)?

  2. Vocalpoint

    Vocalpoint Forum Resident

    Lots of threads on this. Which leads to lots of questions - but my first is always this:

    What's your end goal with the actual transfers? To be able to just listen to the music - warts and all OR attempting to make the transfer as close to CD quality as possible?

    As the work and quality needs increase - so does the budget.

    Let us know what you are thinking.

    To your storage Q: A single needledrop of a typical album captured @ 24/96 PCM wav - takes about a GB of space. So a single 1TB drive should handle about 925-950 LPs.

    This does not include any space for edits, creating dupe copies of processed (declicked) files etc etc....just the raw drop itself. Again - if you are doing no processing - then no biggie. But if you are intending on editing each drop...you could need a lot more space. In my workflow - I only keep the final edited files...the raw rip files are removed right after the session is complete.


  3. spaulding

    spaulding Forum Resident Thread Starter

    The Windy City
    Thanks VP - I've been reading numerous threads here on this and no mention of the Pro-Ject I can find, and almost too much information on other matters - my head is spinning.

    My goal: not CD sound. I do want to remove any major pops or non-fill issues but the background noise of vinyl is part of it's charm for me.

    Second goal: I want full files of each album/song, but I also want a smaller file size for each to shoot into an ipod for driving. I've got a 1TB drive over half full with just music I've sent from CD's into iTunes.
    So I'm thinking I need something much bigger. And I won't want to keep anything but the final edits.
    Are there 'Cloud' storage options for something like this? By the way thanks for that typical album storage space - very helpful.

    I'm looking forward to this - but hope not to be discouraged by cost or complexity.
  4. Thurenity

    Thurenity Listening to some tunes

    That Pro-ject Phono Box V is 16/48 recording max, FYI - I checked the specs. So keep that in mind.

    I've been doing needledrops pretty steadily for over a year now (about five a week, on average) - like yourself, I have hundreds of LP's that, due to their rarity / price / decent SQ I wanted to digitize.

    My main suggestion, going on my own experience, is this: Buy the best ADC you can afford, and record at the highest sample rate you can. It also goes without saying that your TT / cart / phono stage should be the best you can afford since it's what you will use to record with.

    I currently own a Furutech GT40 - it wasn't cheap at ~$500 USD, but it's a phono stage, an ADC that supports up to 24/96, a DAC and a headphone amp. So it has multiple functions which I use. After I bought this, suddenly all my previous drops sounded inferior so my only regret was that I waited as long as I did to buy the GT40. ;)

    This is a project, don't get me wrong - assuming a minimal amount of declicking / editing on your part, a normal drop will take at least a two hours of your time. An hour to record and requiring your undivided attention to catch any skips, 1o minutes to declick (if it's mostly automated), 20-30 minutes to edit in your software (amplify / EQ as needed) and then export each track as a lossless file. And a few minutes to tag, assuming it's a common album and easy to find in a tool like MusicBrainz Picard. But you want to get it to a point where you don't have to re-do it later if you can avoid it. EDIT: Also, keep in mind the prep work - ie. cleaning the LP as best you can.

    I use a GT40 for my stage / ADC, into a Linux system for recording at 24/96 with Audacity. I save as a 24/96 WAV which then gets washed in ClickRepair and then rechecked again to ensure all large pops/clicks are gone. Lastly it goes back into Audacity for amplification as needed, possibly slight EQ changes if needed and then the tracks are chopped up and saved as 24/96 FLAC's. Lastly I transcode those to 48khz 320kps AAC's for my DAP / media server / local PC usage - the FLAC files are just used as my needle drop "masters" for now.

    I managed five needle-drops a week but it became a bit cumbersome as I started scanning album art as well - so I'm likely going to drop that down to 2 or 3 a week max in 2013.
  5. Thurenity

    Thurenity Listening to some tunes

    I don't mind light surface noise - as you stated, it's part of the charm. But no-fill / pops /clicks bother me. Btw, if you decide to buy ClickRepair I can give you some pointers on how to remove light to moderate no-fill. It's time-consuming but it can be quite effective. Also there's a free VST plugin you can use for reducing sibilance here (Audacity supports VST plugins, as do some other audio editors).

    For "full" files, I use FLAC (saved using Audacity, in my case -- 24/96). I actually just started using the "Master for iTunes" droplet for AAC transcodes for iPods / MP3 players / "on-the-go" but there are plenty of tools you can use for this. iTunes and Foobar come to mind.

    As for the cloud, Apple only has iTunes Match which won't be useful for you since it Matches files in their database, and Amazon also has a "Match" service as well as Google. If you go the MP3 route for lossy, Google also has a free solution for only uploaded MP3's, and I know Android is supported - not sure about iOS though.
  6. spaulding

    spaulding Forum Resident Thread Starter

    The Windy City
    Thanks Thurenity - lots of info.
    I'm going to look into the GT40 though it would mean having to wait a bit. - but I'd like to do this right the first time.
    Is it feasible to do what I mentioned earlier: save a full file and a smaller one for iTunes? Can full files be kept in iTunes?
    And you mention "a few minutes to tag" in first post - what exactly is that step?

    Thanks again everybody.
  7. spaulding

    spaulding Forum Resident Thread Starter

    The Windy City
    Looking into the Furutech I came across this in a review:
    There's no analogue adjustment of input level, but the sensitivity and headroom seem well judged (headroom is quoted plain wrongly in the instructions) and using the computer's input level control can optimise things. The phono inputs will handle pretty much any cartridge and the line input is good for at least 3V input.
    You do need to check level on the recording software's display, though: monitoring via the GT40's analogue outputs suggests there is overload long before it actually happens at the record stage. This also means you can't really use the GT40 as a phono preamp for your line-only integrated.
    From here:

    Is this saying that I can't manually control the input level on the GT40 while recording?

  8. Thurenity

    Thurenity Listening to some tunes

    Some other ideas to throw out at you, besides the GT40:

    - If you have a Mac, look into the Apogee Duet as you might be able to find a v1 (firewire) used for a reduced price. I had looked into this myself, but wanted a cross-platform device.
    - Tascam Dr-40 as the recording device, instead of the Pro-ject Phono USB. I believe several forum members use that for recording drops. $150 and it does 24/96 recording. I believe the only con is that it only has a 2GB capacity OOTB, which means it will only record one album at a time at 24/96. But you can upgrade the SD card, I believe. I might have actually considered this myself, but I wanted a better phono stage as well which the GT40 has.
    - Behringer UCA202. It only does up to 16/48 I believe, but at $30 it's very cheap so it can certainly be a short-term solution. Just an ADC, no phono stage and I believe at least one forum member has used this device in the past.

    As for the full / smaller -- yes, you can certainly do that. I save primarily as 24/96 FLAC, that's my "full" file, or my "master" file as I call it. And then I transcode that to a smaller AAC file, for use with MP3 players for example. It just requires an extra step on your part, and some additional storage.
  9. Thurenity

    Thurenity Listening to some tunes

    The review is correct - you cannot adjust the input level on the GT40.

    I don't consider this is con, however - when I record, it averages about -10db (depends on how "hot" the LP was cut, of course). So at that low a level, the chances of clipping during the recording process is zero. It's also helpful because when I scrub the file in ClickRepair prior to editing, it's a good idea to have the recording at a low amplification level. If the GT40 had an input level adjustment, I probably would have tried to keep it at least -6db max, or possibly lower.

    During the editing stage, I'll amplify per side (not song) to -.4db. I don't use 0db as I want to have just a bit of space near the ceiling, for when I transcode to AAC later. This minimizes clipping, from my experience. And I amplify by side so it generally keeps the "flow" of the side intact. Lastly, if I have any transients that are keeping the max volume generally low, I might fix those. For example, a cymbal crash that spikes all the way up, but the rest of the side is generally a low volume - this is where you have to make decisions on what you think is best for your drop.
  10. spaulding

    spaulding Forum Resident Thread Starter

    The Windy City
    Oy - so much to think about.
    Thanks so much for all of your info - it's been great to get all of this in one spot instead of continuing to scrub all the needledrop threads for kernals of info.
    I'm going to research all of your recs and hopefully start soon.
  11. Thurenity

    Thurenity Listening to some tunes

    One more additional: The Tascam DR2D might be a cheaper option than the DR-40. Again, 24/96 recording -- ie. here: http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audio/tascam-dr-2d-portable-digital-recorder Sounds like you need to supply the SD card (EDIT: It comes with a 2GB card, my bad), although I'm sure 8GB or 16GB cards are fairly cheap.

    No worries on the info - basically doing a brain dump of what I've picked up here and elsewhere over the last year or so. :D
    spaulding likes this.
  12. Vocalpoint

    Vocalpoint Forum Resident

    This is the usually over-looked but most critical element of this whole project. If you are not willing to invest in a pro level record cleaner (VP 16.5 etc) then the essence of the effort is lost before you even start.

    A good cleaning workflow can save you literally weeks of editing, declicking etc if done right and done consistantly over the course of many "drops". In some of my tougher transfers - I spent several hours using multi passes on several tools (GEM Dandy and VPI 16.5) to take a complete beater LP to a very listenable state - while saving myself hours of post time.

  13. spaulding

    spaulding Forum Resident Thread Starter

    The Windy City
    That's not a problem VP - all records are VPI'd and stored in anti-static, etc.
    Though I am becoming a bit overwhelmed by the overall chain of items necessary to get this going at a respectable level.
  14. Thurenity

    Thurenity Listening to some tunes

    It's different levels of necessary, so again I wouldn't let it overwhelm you. You can be very OCD about it or very lax, it's entirely up to you.

    I use one guide for my drops: "Make it better than the CD". If I can do that, then in my mind it's a successful drop. Or, if there is no CD to compare to, then just make it good enough to enjoy upon playback and the drop was a success.

    I've had a few duds - records that are just so badly damaged that they were unfixable, even with ClickRepair and a deep cleaning. And I've had a few LP's that were pressed badly -- so much so that an iTunes remastered lossy copy actually sounded better. Those were failures. They only thing I can do about those is try to catch them early during the recording phase so that way I didn't waste a lot of time on them.
  15. Vocalpoint

    Vocalpoint Forum Resident

    +1. Whatever you want to accomplish is where "necessary" is.

    For me - I am like Thurenity - my goal is to practically remaster my needledrop to the point that it is not noticeable within any given mix of CD tracks. My chain (and workflow) to accomplish this is expensive and exhaustive - but does what I need it to.

    However - unlike folks who drop a lot pf LPs - I am VERY selective about my projects - I focus exclusively on recordings that have never (or will never) be on CD. And of course that I like to listen to.

  16. JohnT

    JohnT Well-Known Member

    I agree with post #2 which suggests to identify your goal(s).

    That said, as my own project evolved it eventually sent me to on a path to a computer server based system. I record new & used vinyl, convert DVD-A & rip SACD all to a minimum of 24/96 flac. I then load it onto a server program (squeezebox) which is my own hi-res jukebox.

    Vinyl: I go from the turntable to a receivers line-out to a Behringer UB502 (to control input level) to the soundcard of my windows 7 machine. I record via Audition 3.0 (perhaps declick), save @ 24/96 then convert to flac via Foobar 2k. I use Mp3tag for metadata & art then run a server refresh program to load the new album.

    I use a 2 tb WD drive which holds it all and maintain a duplicate drive as a backup. I'm considering a 3rd for offsite storage as well.
  17. JohnT

    JohnT Well-Known Member

    I've also been nibbling on 24/96 downloads too but what I've described is pretty much a low budget routine. You obviously can spend a lot but it isn't a requirement.
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