Author Topic: VS7 - Mac OS X - Outstanding First Vinyl Conversion  (Read 21703 times)

saronian

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VS7 - Mac OS X - Outstanding First Vinyl Conversion
« on: January 25, 2010, 02:46:56 am »
I want to thank all those involved in making VinylStudio 7 available for the Mac OS. Thought it might help others if I relate how well my first vinyl record conversion went.

After spending the last few months getting my analog system setup for converting a 1000+ vinyl disk collection I started looking for the best software solution. The recent release of VinylStudio was a stroke of luck that will streamline the whole process. My source is a Pink Triangle Tarantella turntable, Rega RB300 tonearm, and Clearaudio Virtuoso MM cartridge. The signal is fed to a Bellari VP530 tube preamp with USB output. Output is to a MacBook Pro running OS X 10.6.2. The Bellari is limited to 16/44.1 output and the Mac is configured to capture at that rate. The Bellari has one peculiarity which requires the computer be booted with the VP530 connected, otherwise it is not recognized by the system's Core Audio. This has nothing to do with VinylStudio.

I've been using computers for 27 years, and working with digital audio and video since 1991. At first I found VinylStudio's interface a bit odd, mostly because I'm a longtime Mac user with little tolerance for learning anything new. But the software soon started to reveal how well this specific conversion process had been thought out.

Although the Mac OS doesn't allow VinylStudio to adjust the USB's signal level, this was easily managed by the Bellari's output level control. The meters in VS were very helpful and not so detailed as to cause confusion. For this test I used "All Things Must Pass" by George Harrison. A three disk, six sided album which could be a difficult organizing task if you wanted to maintain the 6-side integrity of the original vinyl, while using the 2-disc CD version for track listing. This is where VS shines! It easily automated the capture of all six sides, then looked up the closest matching track listing online for insertion of both song titles and supposed track separators. As with most vinyl, the track timings don't always match what's officially listed on the disk. This is not a case of my turntable being inaccurate, just the reality of mastering vinyl. Most listed album timings are perfect, but when there's a mismatch, VS made it easy to zoom in and move the separation sliders.

From this point it was easy to select the "Save Tracks" tab and save uncompressed WAV files directly into iTunes. Because I store my digital songs in Apple Lossless format, as a final step I have iTunes convert from WAV to ALC. Very impressive. It would be nice to eventually have FLAC as an alternative to WAV. Best part is the sound quality, which was so much better than the retail CD versions of the same album. VS did an excellent job of burning tracks to CD-R as well.

I understand how some will insist on using higher resolution 32/96 for conversion and storage of their original vinyl collection. I agree that it makes sense if you have the extra time, no doubt the sound quality will be better. But taking time and ease of use into consideration, I highly recommend the combination of Bellari preamp and VinylStudio. At $30 for the software it's a rare bargain.

Scott

Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft)

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Re: VS7 - Mac OS X - Outstanding First Vinyl Conversion
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2010, 05:31:34 pm »
Wow!  What can I say?  I feel a bit overcome.  It is very kind of you to make such a detailed post.  VinylStudio can do 32/96, if you have the right audio hardware.  I think it's overkill, though.  It just chews up  hard disk space and CPU cycles, IMO.

We will support FLAC and (then) ALC, just as soon as we can.  But fixing the bugs must come first.  We're getting there with that.

We're thinking of changing the appearance of the buttons ... it's a bit up in the air at the moment.  Aqua buttons look more Mac-like, but buttons with pictures on have more utility, arguably, in many of the windows in which they are used and we wanted to be consistent.

Oh yes, a little tip: you can move track markers en-bloc by holding down the Option key while you drag them.  This moves the marker you are dragging plus everything to the right of it.  This can be helpful when they are all offset by the same amount, as is frequently the case when you retrieve track times from an online database.

Regards,

Paul Sanders
AlpineSoft
http://www.alpinesoft.co.uk

saronian

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Re: VS7 - Mac OS X - Outstanding First Vinyl Conversion
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2010, 06:09:56 pm »
Oh yes, a little tip: you can move track markers en-bloc by holding down the Option key while you drag them.  This moves the marker you are dragging plus everything to the right of it.  This can be helpful when they are all offset by the same amount, as is frequently the case when you retrieve track times from an online database.

That's very helpful and a perfect use of the Option key.

Thanks,

Scott

IanW

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Re: VS7 - Mac OS X - Outstanding First Vinyl Conversion
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2010, 08:23:29 pm »
My first experience with Vinyl Studio was similarly plain sailing and enjoyable, albeit using a less sophisticated set-up: from a Wilson Benesch Full Circle into a Whest PS.20 phono preamp, thence to a Levinson 383 and from the line out directly into the audio input of a MacBook Pro.  I agree that Vinyl Studio's user interface looks rather un-Mac-like but in practice I found it guided me through the workflow very well.  The output sounds excellent to my ears, with the exception of a very low-level hum (only barely noticeable during silence) which I've got rid of using the hum filter - I wonder if this is a feature of the Mac's audio hardware and would disappear altogether if I used an external ADC?

At the risk of taking the post completely off topic, I have a question about the technique of saving tracks as WAV and using iTunes to convert them to ALAC: is there a way to do this that preserves the tag information (I guess it is lost as soon as WAV is involved)?  In which case, having the option to output directly to ALAC would be a great help.

Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft)

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Re: VS7 - Mac OS X - Outstanding First Vinyl Conversion
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2010, 08:59:02 am »
Yes, saving tracks in WAV format loses all the tags.  It's a shame, but there is no widely accepted tagging standard for WAV files despite the fact that the file format is easily flexible enough to carry them.

http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/lofiversion/index.php/t43135.html

I'm not sure about the hum.  Could be an earth loop perhaps.  You don't hear it on your analog setup, I take it.

casino

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Re: VS7 - Mac OS X - Outstanding First Vinyl Conversion
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2010, 11:46:54 am »
My experience with vinystudio

I have tried a number of times to convert analogue to digital without a satisfactory result, so this Christmas season I decided to try again.  Lets face it, most of us only wish to do this once.  So it follows to capture the vinyl at the highest quality, with properly formatted metadata and then save in a lossless format. 

Congratulations on an excellent product, which has a good balance of instruction and workflow. A few observations:

A very unpleasant part of past endeavours  was finding the metadata and assigning it to an album.  VinylStudio's approach removes the drudgery and the amount of manual editing. Huge plus!

I will use the recording software infrequently, so ease of use is an important consideration. The linking in VinylStudio is great.  It reminds be of Lister's Reunion where that company's aim was no printed manual. Similarly this has been successfully achieved in VinylStudio. 

The non destructive Clean Up functions are a leap forward.

I have three questions.

MP3.  I have been using the opensource LAME encoder with iTunes to convert  CD tracks to MP3s with great success.
Is it possible to use LAME's preset setting called
 --alt- preset insane.
Or is there an equivalent in VinylStudio?

Audio Units or VST.  Any plans to integrate these effects?

Preamp.  The large and heavy amplifier ( in an enclosed cabinet) connected to the home stereo has a preamp, yep it's old, but the idea of disconnecting the mass of wiring, pulling it out and moving to another room was a huge disincentive to transferring vinyl.  Previously, I had tried a $20, 9 volt battery/mains powered preamp a few years ago and the output was noisy, so this time I decided to obtain a small (computer powered i.e. USB or firewire) preamp.  After reading multiple reviews I decided on the ARTcessories USBPhonoplus V2, with the intent to only use its preamp input/output NOT the additional A/D converter and USB output.  I connected the turntable to the preamp side of the ARTcessories USBPhonoplus V2, then to an Apogee DUET and finally via firewire to the MAC.

I have been to the link  www.alpinesoft.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=18.0  concerning the disabled slider but couldn't find an answer to this macintosh specific issue (2.66 GHZ Quad-core Intel Xeon, OS 10.6.2).  The Apogee DUET is mac only.

I have ended up with three scenarios and seek advice on the best option.

Option 1.  As per the direction in the Apogee DUET videos,  I routed  from the turntable through the ARTcessories phono-preamp, then from its RCA line out into the Apogee DUET's XLR input,  set to -10dBV (Apogee don't explain why they use XLR) and then out of the DUET via firewire to become the digital sound input/output for the macintosh.  With this setup the gain trim knob on the ARTcessories USBPhonoplus V2 was adjusted to show minimal clipping on the "Clip Signal LED" (i.e. an occasional flash of red), the slider in VinylStudio was disabled and the VinylStudio "recording level indicators" were peaking at 25% of their maximum. 

Option 2.  I then tried using the ARTcessories USBPhonoplus V2 as both a preamp and A/D converter. While I was using USB to power the device it was also sending a digital output via USB so I switched to the USB codec (bypassing the DUET) and in VinylStudio the input and the slider once again was disabled but now the "recording level indicators" were peaking at 50% of their maximum,  when the ARTcessories gain trim  was increased on the ARTcessories USBPhonoplus V2 to show clipping  on the "Clip Signal LED". (i.e. an occasional flash of red).

Option 3.  Same as Option 1, except I took the ARTcessories USBPhonoplus V2 RCA line out and routed it to the RCA Line input on the Apogee DUET and then I was able to use the Apogee DUET's amp and  increase the DUET's gain control until VinylStudios "recording level indicators" were showing clipping at about 75% of their maximum.

Because option 1 was Apogee's recommendation, I'm hesitant to change, but to the untrained ( i.e. me) it would appear option 3 will give a musical input well above the noise threshold.   From my reading on this matter this gives the best possible input and potentially negates the need for normalising.
Also I cannot find a normalising function in VinylStudio.

Any recommendations on the best option.

Once again, a great product. I wish and you deserve success


Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft)

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Re: VS7 - Mac OS X - Outstanding First Vinyl Conversion
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2010, 06:25:10 pm »
Hi,

First off, thanks for taking the time to comment on the software.  It's early days for us on the Mac (although we have a decent pedigree on Windows) so we are far from sure that we have got things right.

To move on to your questions:

MP3: for best quality, use either VBR 0 or CBR 320 kbps.  CBR 320 kpbs is the ultimate (I think this corresponds to --alt-preset insane), but VBR 0 sounds just as good, to my ears, and saves some disk space by adjusting the compression parameters on the fly according to the 'complexity' of the music being encoded.

VST and similar: We have no immediate plans to do anything about this, not because we think it's a bad idea but purely because we have other priorities (such as FLAC support, as I have been saying for many months now!).

Preamp: well, on general principles, the fewer links in the chain the better so I would go for option 2.  And I would be guided by VinylStudio's recording indicators rather than the light on the ART to detect clipping.  VinylStudio detects when the signal reaches the limit imposed by the A2D converter in the ART (16 bits) and at that point flashes the indicators all-red.  The light in the ART is probably set a little conservatively.  Clipping should only occur in the A2D converter, and nowhere upstream of there so VinylStudio's recording level indicators should paint an accurate picture of what's going on.

Normalisation: quite a lot of people have asked for this and it is on the list.  In the meantime, the preamp slider in the Graphic Equaliser works pretty well, guided by the playback indicators and waveform display.

Paul Sanders
http://www.alpinesoft.co.uk

saronian

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Re: VS7 - Mac OS X - Outstanding First Vinyl Conversion
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2010, 09:06:06 pm »
I have a question about the technique of saving tracks as WAV and using iTunes to convert them to ALAC: is there a way to do this that preserves the tag information (I guess it is lost as soon as WAV is involved)?  In which case, having the option to output directly to ALAC would be a great help.

Ian - For now I'm using Track Parser http://dougscripts.com/itunes/scripts/ss.php?sp=trackparser from Doug's AppleScripts to moving tags from VinylStudio (wav) to iTunes.

You can export the tags from VinylStudio as part of the file's name and this script will convert the name back into tags in iTunes. It only takes a second per album.

IanW

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Re: VS7 - Mac OS X - Outstanding First Vinyl Conversion
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2010, 09:28:48 pm »
Thanks for that, saronian, it's a neat work-around.  The dougscripts.com site has lots of good stuff, I should have known to look there!

Still hoping to see an option to save as ALAC in due course, though...

Ian

Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft)

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Re: VS7 - Mac OS X - Outstanding First Vinyl Conversion
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2010, 09:56:55 pm »
Still hoping to see an option to save as ALAC in due course, though...

We will do what we can, certainly.  Apple lossless seems to be a popular format on the Mac.  In the meantime, you could perhaps save your tracks in MP4 (AAC) format at a high bitrate.  This will keep the tagging information with decent sound quality.  Down the line, as long as you keep your 'raw' recordings (and your 'mcf' file) around, later versions of VinylStudio will be able to save your tracks again in whatever formats we support at that time.  You can then get rid of the MP4 versions.

IanW

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Re: VS7 - Mac OS X - Outstanding First Vinyl Conversion
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2010, 10:16:40 pm »
Thanks Paul, that also seems like a good short- to medium-term solution.  As you say, the great thing is that once the recording is done, the raw data is always there to be re-saved in a different format.