sound editor is an excellent application with many uses.
Your author recently started working on a long-term project to
convert the better parts of his ancient vinyl phonograph record
collection to FLAC
files so that they could be added to his digital audio library.
Audacity was chosen to do the audio recording and processing work.
Prior to undertaking such a project, one must first assemble
the appropriate equipment.
An older desktop computer with an Athlon 2500 processor and
500MB of RAM was used for the computing platform.
Besides a sufficiently powerful CPU, the second most important
piece of hardware is a decent sound card. An
M-AUDIO Delta 44 was chosen.
Standard sound cards should also work, but the Delta 44 has
higher quality A-D converters that are mounted external to the
computer for lower noise.
The Ubuntu Studio distribution
was used on the machine, although any current Linux distribution should work.
The turntable is an ancient Technics SL-D3 and a Pioneer SX-780 receiver
is used as the phono preamp. One of the Tape Record Outputs
from the Pioneer receiver is fed into the Delta 44 sound card with
an appropriate set of adapter cables. The turntable's tracking
weight, anti-skid settings and platter speed should all be adjusted
One of the new USB turntables could probably be used here if you don't
already have access to the legacy hardware.
The Audacity sound editor needs to be set up by entering the
menu, the audio quality was set to 44,100 Hz sampling at 16 bits
(standard CD quality). Depending on your needs, other sample rates
can be used. One of the more important configuration steps
involves making sure the Software Playthrough button in the
preference window is deselected. On this particular machine, enabling
results in audible sample loss on the recording.
Audio monitoring is done through the Pioneer receiver.
The audio meter should be enabled on the main
Audacity window and the GNOME ALSA sound mixer is used to set the
sound card input levels. The machine is now ready to record.
It is a good idea to make a few test recordings on various album
tracks to set the sound card's input level adjustment.
A loud track should be played and the input level should be adjusted
to achieve fairly high readings on the meter without any clipping.
Unless you only need to extract one track, it is best to record an
entire album side in one pass. Recording should be enabled prior to
setting the needle on the record, and disabled after the needle
has been lifted. Be sure to use an appropriate record cleaner
on the disc to get rid of any dust particles.
When an album side has been successfully recorded and the levels look
reasonable, it is time to do some trimming.
Listen to the beginning of the recording with the volume up a bit,
At some point the sound will probably begin with a fade in.
Select the audio
from the beginning of the recording, past the initial pop from the
needle landing in the groove, and ending a few seconds before the
first track starts.
Delete the selection with Edit->Delete.
Next, select from the new beginning to where the sound begins.
Use Effect->Fade In to make a smooth
transition from quiet to the beginning of the audio.
Perform a similar edit at the end of the album side.
Delete everything from a few seconds beyond the last sound to the end
of the recording and put a Fade Out at the end of the side.
If your album has a few clicks and pops, now is the time to remove
them. Select the entire recording with Edit->Select->All
and de-click with Effect->Click Removal. The default click
filter settings seem to work fairly well.
The next step involves putting labels at the beginning of each song,
assuming the album's material is not one long track. First, create
a label track with Tracks->Add New->Label Track.
Hit the << rewind button and type Control-B, this puts a label
at the beginning of the recording. Move through the album side and
put more labels at the middle of each song transition. It is a good
idea to zoom in and put the label on a wave zero-crossing point to prevent
clicks at the beginnings of individual tracks.
If you zoom in, you can often see a change in wave patterns that is left
over from the master tape splice.
The recording should now look something like the first frame of the
It is a good idea to listen carefully to the entire recorded album side.
If the recording has any obnoxiously loud clicks and pops that weren't
removed with the Click Removal step, Audacity can smooth them out.
To smooth out a click, locate the offending waveform
by playing and pausing, then zoom in multiple times until the click is
visible. Select a small region around the click (< 128 samples) and
use Effect->Repair to smooth out the waveform.
Zoom out and play the area where the click removal was performed to
verify the operation. Audacity is very forgiving, if you don't like the results of
the click removal or make another type of mistake,
Edit->Undo will reverse most operations.
An example Repair operation is shown in the
At this point, it is time to split the album side into individual
audio files. Select File->Export Multiple, chose the
desired export format such as WAV, select
Split files: based on labels
and Name files: Numbering consecutively.
Click the Export button and click Audacity will render
the individual track files.
Audacity can create .mp3 and .flac files at this point, or that can
be done at a later time.
At this point, you exit Audacity and save any edit information if
you think you will need to work on the recording later.
The same operations are performed on the B-side of the record.
Your author likes to use a short BASH script to rename the
Audacity-generated file names to his own name scheme.
The track files are all grouped together in one directory,
converted to FLAC format with the command FLAC *.wav.
A meta-data text file is created with digitizing notes,
track titles and any other information that you wish to save.
Lastly, all of the files are played one more time to verify that
there are no problems. The original album side tracks can now
be safely deleted to reclaim some disk space.
With enough editing effort, it is possible to make a digital copy
of a vinyl record that sounds better than the original.
Performing all of the above steps on a large collection of albums
is a big undertaking, but the reward comes in turning a hard to play
discrete music library into an easy to play digital library.
For furthur information on this topic, see the
to post comments)