My ULTIMATE Vinyl Ripping Workflow (with pictures + sample clips!)

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tomstephens89
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My ULTIMATE Vinyl Ripping Workflow (with pictures + sample clips!)

Post by tomstephens89 » 15 Sep 2019 16:12

Now obviously sound is subjective but I believe my Vinyl Ripping workflow produces near on unbeatable results and those that hear my rips simply can't believe it came from a vinyl record (but hey ho, their listening experience of vinyl was not with all the obsessive cleaning and high end hifi that we have now).

When I first starting 'ripping' my dads vinyl collection I was using the USB output on an Audio Technica LP5 turntable. Whilst this was acceptable and sounded OK, compared to the set up I have now there is no comparison. The rips from the LP5's built in USB simply did not fill me with a sense of satisfaction. I also only used to give the records a hand wipe with a water/IPA mix, which essentially does nothing compared to vacuum cleaning with proper fluid!

So although music is not about what gear you have, I have to say that unless you are producing results that you would rather listen to over the CD or existing digital versions, then why bother? You'll get bored and give up. So there IS something to be said for the equipment in this case.

1. Cleaning the record is arguably the most important step of the 'ripping process'. I have a Project VC-S Vacuum machine and I clean both sides with either Project Wash-It or Lu'Art D'Son cleaning fluid diluted with pure distilled water. I then do a second round with a spray of pure distilled water, a second brush and vacuum that off as well.

https://i.imgur.com/kXAGFLb.jpg

This will usually be the end of the cleaning step, however if during playback/recording I hear some bad spots or excessive noise then I will lay the record on a mat, apply cleaning fluid and scrub with some force with my tonar wet goat brush to try and remove any more stubborn dirt. I'll follow that with a vacuum off on the project vc-s along with a further rinse and vacuum.

A clean record is by FAR the best way to deal with unwanted clicks/pops/static/hiss rather than trying too hard to remove them after the fact.

2. Recording playback aka 'Ripping'. My turntable is a Technics SL-1210GR with an Ortofon 2M Blue cart running into a Cambridge Audio 640P Phono Pre. This then feeds line level RCA into my Rotel RC-1070 Pre Amp. This Rotel Pre happens to have a couple of tape loops. In one of those tape looks I have a TASCAM SD-20M connected which is a rack mount solid state recorder that saves to SD card.

https://i.imgur.com/My7yYsu.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/BY257oX.jpg

So my signal chain looks as follows:

Technics SL1210GR w/ Ortofon 2M Blue > Cambridge Audio 640P Phono Preamp (Subsonic filter ON) > Rotel RC1070 Pre Amp > TASCAM SD-20M (In Rotel Tape Loop).

https://i.imgur.com/C1WaDI7.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/JBWWpKG.jpg

Before starting the recording process I ensure the stylus is clean, I have a little brush and a Vinyl Passion pot of sticky stuff that removes any dust. Once thats clean I set the record on the turntable, give it a quick brush once round with a normal 'Exstatic' dust brush, engage record on the TASCAM and set the needle down.

Flip to the other side..... Finish that, lift the needle and stop recording.

At this point I have a single WAV file on the SD card in the TASCAM that is the whole album. Its worth noting that I record in 24bit 96Khz WAV format. Yes I have read and heard all the arguments that there is more than enough dynamic range etc in 16/44 but at the end of the day this is 2019... Data storage is cheap as chips and therefore I want to ensure my capture is in the best possible format available, regardless of whether or not it makes a difference.... There's no reason not to so hey ho. I also don't reduce the record level of the TASCAM. I leave it set at 0 (aka unity gain) and take it exactly as it comes off the RCA in. No clipping has ever occurred because its at line level from source, and we are not boosting it. The whole thing regarding monitoring your peaks and dropping input gain to achieve a max peak of say -6 or -9 is based upon the idea that the ADC in most equipment works better at lower levels that it does up to unity gain. Sounds like nerdy bulls**** to me so it stays at 0.

SD Card then comes out of the TASCAM and into a reader on my laptop. I then copy to a 'working' folder with the album name. Everything to do with this rip as I progress goes into this folder.

3. Unwanted noise processing. This is the step I dislike the most and would always advise people lean on the side of caution with noise removal techniques as well. Its a fine balance between removing just enough noise without effecting the music.

The first thing I do is have a quick listen back to the recording at a few places, nothing scientific here, just an audible check. All good so I then run the WAV through some software called 'ClickRepair'. Airing on the side of caution, I reduce the De Click setting to 30 and enable pitch protection. I find this to remove most of the clicks/pops from the record and leave the audio untouched.

Clickrepair is available here: http://www.clickrepair.net/

https://i.imgur.com/zzSRmwK.jpg

This gives me another file, the same recording but with most of the clicks removed. The next step is to open this WAV file in Audacity, which can be found here: https://www.audacityteam.org/

From here on, I will wear a good pair of headphones or have my laptop plugged into the USB DAC connected to my Hifi as I need to hear the track ends for the splitting and also monitor the results of the noise reduction steps.

Once the click repaired WAV is open in audacity, I will proceed to remove the un-needed lead in/lead out space as well as the gap where I turned the record over. My next step is to chop out any subsonic 'turntable rumble'. I know I have my subsonic filter turned on at the Phono Pre, but it can't hurt to do it again. For these steps I took the Audacity Vinyl ripping guide as good advice:

https://manual.audacityteam.org/man/sam ... ation.html

Run a High Pass Filter at 20Hz with a 24dB roll off with the whole recording selected. This deals with unwanted subsonic noise.

https://i.imgur.com/VcURAFd.jpg

The next step, and this one is OPTIONAL based on how much noise there is still on the recording, is some light noise reduction. So I select a second or 2 of noise from the recording (ensuring no actual music is there), and let audacity get the noise profile, after that I will apply reduction to the whole recording using the light handed settings of 9dB Noise Reduction, 6 for Sensitivity and 3 for Frequency smoothing.

https://i.imgur.com/ozJhVCx.jpg

At this point I will have a good listen to several parts of the recording to ensure the noise reduction hasn't killed anything, especially quiet sections if there are any.

The final thing I do for the noise removal process is a visual inspection of the wave form to see if I can identify any sharp near 0dB peaks which are loud pops or clicks. Hopefully theres none but if there are, I zoom in on them really tight and using the amplify tool can effectively attenuate them to nearly nothing. It is important to cut down any unintended peaks as this will prevent volume normalisation from working later on.

https://i.imgur.com/RM8emUG.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/q7ZJY6b.jpg

4. Splitting the recording into multi tracks. By far the most boring bit and I suppose for some of you, optional as well... But I like to have tracks that I can choose, that are listed properly in my digital collection.... and my names not 'half a job tom' :-D.

Anyway, the way I split the tracks is with Audacity's own 'Track Labels'. Its easy really, just click at the start of each track (including the first), hit CTRL+B then enter a name. I work through the length of the recording, usually relying on a track listing from the album or wikipedia to give me a rough clue on the time I should be looking at for each track. Then I do the rest with my eyes and ears to identify the track start/ends.

https://i.imgur.com/NJjl4i6.jpg

5. Normalise the whole recording. Again an optional step but our ears have become used to the loudness offered by digital formats through the use of extreme compression at the expense of dynamic range.... At the end of the day, this is personal preference as we have volume controls that we can crank up to compensate..... BUT..... Most people will notice how your vinyl rip is lower volume straight away...

So I normalise the entire recording to -0.2dB. If we've got rid of any unwanted peaks earlier, this will reward you with a nice little bump in overall volume. It DOES NOT effect the dynamics of the track... This is NOT compression.

Finish up with File > Export Multiple and boom you have split tracks!

Speaking of exporting, I stay in 24/96 all the time, only down sampling/dithering if I am burning to CD.

6. Tagging & converting to FLAC. Now that I have a set of split WAV files with file names as track names in my working folder, I then proceed to set the tags and album art. I use dBPoweramp which comes with a good piece of tagging software accessible via the right click menu in Windows explorer.

https://i.imgur.com/2dRjLW3.jpg

Once all the tags are set, I then use dBPoweramp to convert the set of WAV's to FLAC, using the standard Level 5 preset. Once done, I store them in my FLAC collection under their own folder with my other 24/96 Vinyl rips.

https://i.imgur.com/6Tmm6S1.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/7cYzSIs.jpg

And that's it! I would say the whole process takes about 2 hours end to end, obviously a good chunk of that is the recording itself. I have to say emphasis on the cleaning stage, it will save much pain if you have a good clean record to start with. It's also good to bear in mind that this is an 'imperfect' format, so expect to find some defects from time to time that its simply impossible/not worth trying to remove, a bad record is a bad record and we only polish these recordings so much!

One last thing to mention is that I am aware of software that can help automate big chunks of this process to make it faster. However, in my experience (and being an IT guy by trade), this is a delicate task and letting a computer with no ears make noise reduction and track splitting decisions for you will end up with more bad results than good!

I will look into the rules and might be able to upload some sample clips of my rips later.

Thanks all and I hope this helps some people get great rips as well!

Cheers
Tom

tomstephens89
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Re: My ULTIMATE Vinyl Ripping Workflow (with pictures + sample clips!)

Post by tomstephens89 » 15 Sep 2019 17:13

Here is a 1min 30sec montage comprised of sample clips each no more than 20 seconds in length to demonstrate the results of the above process.

I believe I am within fair usage copyright guidelines by posting this clip. If not, please contact me on here.

Download the sample montage in FLAC format here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/l4moanto8thvi ... .flac?dl=0

Hanuman
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Re: My ULTIMATE Vinyl Ripping Workflow (with pictures + sample clips!)

Post by Hanuman » 30 Sep 2019 05:43

That's a good write-up about an excellent workflow that's clearly working for you. Recording to a stand-alone recorder is a really good approach, the modern equivalent of recording to a cassette deck. In my own workflow I do a couple of things a bit differently and I'll describe them.

Whether I'm recording to a recorder or through an ADC to computer I always take advantage of input level controls. I fact I aim for consistency of level by setting the levels according to a recorded test tone. This is particularly applicable to me because I have 2 decks and 3 or 4 cartridges that I might use for recording.

I don't apply any pre-amp filtration (apart from RIAA) at all because I can't, actually, but I wouldn't even if I could. I have experimented with a parametric EQ in the path but dropped that after a while. The one area of your workflow that I would advise you to change would be the use of the rumble filter on record. I wouldn't do it. That turntable should be very, very quiet and if you do have some unwanted very low frequency energy coming through then the right approach is to find it and fix it. Pretty much any filtering should be better applied in the digital domain. The use of a profile-based broadband NR is a good idea (I always use one) and it alone will remove any unwanted subsonic energy.

Normalising is a fair enough approach but I don't do it. Partly this is because I do the work in a Pro Tools session and seek to avoid creating new media (which an Audiosuite normalise would do). I actually prefer to dynamically compress very slightly (SHOCK! HORROR!) and pass the result through to a mastering limiter, set to a ceiling of -0.5dB. Overall this process increases loudness by around 2-3dB compared to simply normalising. My objective for the digitising is not necessarily to provide a perfect clone of the record because that's of no interest to me - I'm only ever going to listen to the record 'live' at home. I always keep the unprocessed clean recording in any case.

Bob Dillon
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Re: My ULTIMATE Vinyl Ripping Workflow (with pictures + sample clips!)

Post by Bob Dillon » 11 Oct 2019 21:36

I wanted to hear the clips but I don't like having to download stuff. Prefer to stream it. I'll just have to take your word that your workflow is all that and a box of organic cupcakes.

I've used ClickRepair for years, but I rarely set the declick / decrackle beyond about the 10 setting for vinyl. Beyond that point CR starts to sound less transparent, IMO. If it means leaving a couple stray ticks in, to be it. A loud pop I'll manually draw out of the waveform if need be.

tomstephens89
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Re: My ULTIMATE Vinyl Ripping Workflow (with pictures + sample clips!)

Post by tomstephens89 » 12 Oct 2019 13:09

Bob Dillon wrote:
11 Oct 2019 21:36
I wanted to hear the clips but I don't like having to download stuff. Prefer to stream it. I'll just have to take your word that your workflow is all that and a box of organic cupcakes.

I've used ClickRepair for years, but I rarely set the declick / decrackle beyond about the 10 setting for vinyl. Beyond that point CR starts to sound less transparent, IMO. If it means leaving a couple stray ticks in, to be it. A loud pop I'll manually draw out of the waveform if need be.
I will take a look at putting it on soundcloud or something! Dropbox might let you play in browser without you having to download perhaps?

Also, for my new youtube channel, I decided to make a video version of my workflow as well:

https://youtu.be/ZMnjGQWx2AQ

And yeah I understand where you're coming from with clickrepair, the default preset at 50 is too high, I have experienced it removing actual audio at 50. So I worked up from about 10 until 30 which I found gets good results without being over aggressive. So far, the roughly 100 rips I have done with these settings have all come out great. There still might be the occasional loud pop that I 'de-amplify' in audacity though.

Tweak-O-Matic
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Re: My ULTIMATE Vinyl Ripping Workflow (with pictures + sample clips!)

Post by Tweak-O-Matic » 09 Nov 2019 15:36

tomstephens89 wrote:
12 Oct 2019 13:09
Bob Dillon wrote:
11 Oct 2019 21:36

And yeah I understand where you're coming from with clickrepair, the default preset at 50 is too high, I have experienced it removing actual audio at 50. So I worked up from about 10 until 30 which I found gets good results without being over aggressive. So far, the roughly 100 rips I have done with these settings have all come out great. There still might be the occasional loud pop that I 'de-amplify' in audacity though.
I also use clickrepair in a workflow very similar to Toms OP. I use a setting of 20 as I also found that 50 was very high and started to remove audio content.
I use :
Declick : 20
Decrackle : off
Automatic : All
Pitch Protection and Revers checked
Method : .x2

Signal chain is :
Pro-Ject Xtension 10 Evolution deck
Ortofon Quintet Black MC pickup
Rega Fono MC RIAA amp
Motu Ultralite mk4 USB audio interface.

...and an Ifi USB iUSB3.0 in the USB chain.

I record (in 32-bit 192 kHz) via Adobe Audition CC (version 13 now) where I edit end and beginning and levels, and fix stubborn clicks/pops/media imperfections with Izotope RX7 (a wonderful audio restorarion tool).

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