Sunday, February 8, 2009

LP Ripping - Recording to computer - some pointers

Successful LP ripping is usually tedious, time-consuming work. I've often received comments to the effect "I have that LP and I've been meaning to rip it but your LP is better than mine so many thanks". Often, the reality is that I laboured for many hours over the output from some really bad LP to get it sounding something like original and the commenter's LP may well have been of far better quality than mine.

Part of the problem is that sellers of record players (especially pre-amp ones) and promoters of "LP ripping" software make it sound all so very easy - "plug it all in and let it rip!" (pun intended). Actually the hardware connection is the easy bit so I won't even address it. As for those various software packages that automatically clean the sound up as it comes into the computer and perhaps splits the tracks up - don't waste your time.

We'll start with that LP you have. Most times, it has had a hard working life. It has probably been played several times, mishandled very often, and its two grooves have accumulated lots of dust, food particles and beer dregs. There are a few concoctions on the market for cleaning records and I've often tried them but the only really effective way of cleaning an LP is to give it a bath in some warm water with a moderate amount of mild dish-washing liquid. (You might need to protect your label especially if you are an LP collector - I'm not; I'm a music collector) You can use a very soft brush. Rinse it off in cold water and dry it with a lint free cloth. Avoid heat - it's very bad for vinyl and never leave LPs in the sun, even in their jackets, especially in a hot climate like inland Australia. Heat-warped LPs are dead LPs.

Now play your LP savouring the full richness of its crackles, rumbles, pops and hisses and the whatever other extras it may offer. Hopefully, it will not stick in, or jump, any tracks but even these problems can be overcome but get some experience before tackling these latter problems. Seriously, I always play any LP immediately before I copy to computer as that first play after a wash also removes more garbage from the grooves and the LP will play better the second time around.

Now record the LP, blemishes and all, to your computer as a "wav" file . There are a various ways to do this - it's no different to recording any other sounds. If you're copying to send to someone else for editing then you can even use system software, your sound card software, or one of those LP copying programs but make sure that any filters in the software are disabled.  Please check the level of the input volume - if it is too high the recording will be somewhat distorted.  And some of these old LPs have some marked volume variations just to make life more difficult.

But if you want to have a go at editing the sound, then you may as well record the input through sound editing software - I use Adobe Audition CC; others use Goldwave or Audacity and there are surely others.

An important thing is that you commence recording before the LP starts playing and play from as early as possible and only cease recording once the record player finishes off. Editing is far easier if you can identify equipment noise and general track noise throughout the side as this noise may then be used to eliminate the same noise in the music tracks (note the 'may'). Save this track as is without editing. Make a working copy and do all editing on this as you will sometimes need to go back to the original and it's too tedious if you have to record from the LP all over again. A bit of a clue is that don't get too discouraged after listening to track 1 of a side - they are nearly always the worst damaged. If you're a beginner, pick a fairly good track and experiment, experiment and experiment - use the undo feature and save every time you think you've made an improvement. Sometime it can all be done using the wholesale features but, when you're really confident try editing out any remaining faults individually.

Sometimes, you can do lots of automated preliminary editing on a full side e.g. noise removal, click, pop and hiss removal but, generally, the nature of an LP can change from start to finish and then it is advisable for best results, to extract and save the individual tracks but keep the lead-in lead-out silence with each track for potential noise removal use. Always work on "wav" files if practical - conversion to MP3 or other condensed formats happens at the very end. If you wish to record to CD preferably use the "wav" files. If you have limited bandwidth and want to transmit the music to others for editing then consult with the person you are sending it to for an acceptable format. Generally, MP3 at 320kbs CBR should be the minimum although, very occasionally, successful editing can occur at lower levels than that.

Please note that both Gonzo and I are willing to edit suitably prepared material relevant to our interests (that is, virtually any English language folk material). Please also include graphics if possible. Of course we do not want to make a big effort ripping an LP that has been re-released on CD and, yes, we've both wasted hours on LPs that have been re-released on CD under a different name.

I hope this is helpful and all comments and suggestions are very welcome.


  1. What you say about washing is ok provided that the water is "soft". Hardwater - ie with lime particles in - should definitely not be used - you'll get tiny grit in the grooves and end up worse than you started. I filter all water but otherwise do as you do. Dry in a "clean" atmosphere.

  2. Excellent point that you make. Fortunately, it is not a problem in my locality.

  3. I generally agree with your comments, but I offer the following comments for what they may be worth.

    Between Paul Stewart and myself we have ripped a couple of hundred LPs. This is what we use:

    (a) A Nitty Gritty machine and the Disc Doctor's washing fluid, followed by a rinse with 60% distilled water/40% isopropyl alcohol.
    (b) Rip with a transcription turntable and decent cartridge (I use a Stanton 500 which is robust and not too critical)and LPRecorder - a freeware program that does a good job.
    (c) Clean the two files using DC7, which gets rid of more than 90% of the crackles, pops and hiss.
    (d) Use Wave Repair (a shareware program written by an English LP lover) to split the tracks and find and repair remaining faults. With this program, it is easy to split the tracks. When you have split them, you open each one, do the start and finish, and then preview the whole track. If you hear a blemish, press the space bar, and it leaves a "marker". When finished reviewing, you zoom into each marked section (at 25mS/page) and locate the fault. Wave Repair has a number of simple tools to fix the faults you find.

    With these tools I can fully rip a decent album in 3 hours, but a bad one may take a lot longer - I have spent up to 30 hours on an album. Patience, patience!

    Chris from Darwin

  4. Hi
    Just stumbled across the blog.
    Another great program to repair clicks and noise is ClickRepair. It's an Aussie program and it does a great job.


  5. Hi,

    I've recently stepped up to the plate and started digitizing my vinyl. I use Audacity, which has effects for removing noise and clicks & pops, and which works quite well. I must admit that on some live double albums, I've just tracked them out as Side 1, 2, etc rather than separate into different tracks - I rarely seek out individual tracks, especially on live albums, so that's an easy trade off for convenience and saves about an hour per album.

    WaveRepair sounds like a good concept so I'm going to check that one out - thanks Chris.

    When I save individual tracks, I prefix the song title with the track number to make it easier when I burn them to CD.

    When I come to build the cover, I go into Amazon and find the cover art which I save to disk and then insert into a word document. I use the cover art for the front then just type up the track list for the back side.

    I use slim line jewel cases for CDs I burn, which creates a slight integration opportunity since they don't have a spine, as it were. I endde up having a separate section for CDs ripped from Vinyl.

    Another place to go is Wolfgang's Vault. Not for Vinyl, but since you have the Vinyl capability you can copy some of their concert footage to CD - they have an incredible amount of live concerts from Billy Graham Productions and the King Biscuit Flour Hour.

    Cheers, Neil (San Francisco, California).