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Low quality of my cartridge+preamp—can you suggest others? ≤€500
post Feb 15 2012, 00:58
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I currently digitize vinyl working with a technics 1210, an audio-technica at-95e, and the preamps built into my native instruments traktor kontrol s4. presumably, few people here will know what an s4 is. for purposes of this thread, it should be sufficient to note that the s4 is a midi controller (roughly speaking--actually, it uses a different protocol) which includes a 4-in, 4-out audio interface with 2 phono preamps that's geared towards DJs. the audio interface in the s4 might be comparable to standalone 4-in, 4-out USB 2.0 audio interface with 2 phono preamps in the $200 range (again, it would be an audio interface geared towards DJs so it would come with very low-latency asio drivers).

i am unsatisfied with the results i'm currently getting. i record with audacity at default settings (32-bit floating point, 44.1kHz). the gain in windows' volume mixer for the channel to which the 1210 is connected to is at 100%. the peak levels i'm getting during recording are at about -12dB to -15dB. (there's no way in audacity to further boost the volume during recording.) i don't perceive the audio quality as good at all despite the fact that i'm digitizing records in mint condition. (i'm trying to digitize vinyl-only releases so buying digital is not an option. unfortunately, in the genres i listen to--certain areas of house and techno--, vinyl-only release are relatively common.) on some recordings, the kick drum sounds muffled. on most recordings, i feel noise levels are excessive.

now, i certainly don't think the preamps in my audio interface are any good. the at-95e cartridge which i recently bought for EUR 20 is entry-level, too. does anyone have suggestions as to what preamp and cartridge to buy? as for my budget: EUR 500 (~$650) is my absolute max. ideally, i'd like to spend less. so i'd be happier if i can get something reasonable for, say, EUR 300 or so.

This post has been edited by dumdidum: Feb 15 2012, 01:01
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post Feb 15 2012, 13:48
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QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Feb 15 2012, 02:48) *
for cartridges, "Shure's best" (M97xE) can be found for under $100 USD.

thanks for the cartridge recommendation, i'll look into it!
This is my "refernce point". You can spend more... a lot more... but I don't see the point in chasing sound quality that will never equal a CD.


Could it be just because it's analog vinyl? Maybe the recordings (or pressings) are not as good as you expect. The recording is often the weakest link. Have you heard these records on a better system?

unfortunately, i haven't heard these records on better analog systems. today's pressings can be pretty poor but i'm also unsatisfied with my digitization of (supposedly) "audiophile" vinyl (i.e., 180g 12" records, 45rpm speed, only one track per side). however, i have to point out that a few years back i digitized a bunch of vinyl with a different setup (i don't possess it anymore) with better results.

The ADC in your S4 appears to be 24-bit. All audio ADCs(and DACs) are integer, so you can't actually capture in floating point. You can save-as floating point, and Audacity (and most audio editors) work at 32-bit floating-point internally no matter what format you feed-in.

the ADC in my S4 is 24-bit/96kHz indeed. but, afaik, only when using ASIO. i think with WASAPI it only does 16-bit/44.1kHz. and audacity doesn't support ASIO. (on a side note, i was thinking about switching to a software such as sound forge which does support ASIO.) probably my previous post wasn't formulated clearly but i am aware that ADCs are integer and that audacity converts to 32-bit float on the fly.

the peak levels i'm getting during recording are at about -12dB to -15dB. That actually shouldn't be a problem (unless your ADC is noisy). It's common for pros to record at -18dB (24-bits). With 16-bits you may be loosing some resolution, but the analog noise is normally the limiting factor (for resolution & dynamic range).

thanks for pointing this out.

Of course, you can always boost the levels digitally after recording (with Audacity).

i do normalize after recording but don't do any other processing (well, if there a few single loud pops, i might remove them manually.)

Or, if you plug the analog output of the S4 into your regular soundcard's line-in, you should be able to get your recording levels up. But, you'd still be using the S4 preamps. As long as your soundcard's input isn't noisy, you should be able to get a very-good recording (ignoring the noise from the vinyl and preamp that you'll be accurately recording). Although, most regular soundcards are only 16-bits.

tbh, i searched the HA forum a little bit prior to posting. i didn't find much recent insightful discussion about phono preamps. obviously, a google search yields tons of discussion regarding phono preamps. but a good chunk of it is possibly "audiophile" bs. tbh, i lack the expertise to compare and evaluate phono preamps.

but i do suspect that the phono preamps in my s4 aren't good. few DJs play real vinyl anymore. the phono preamps are there mostly to accommodate users of timecode vinyl (i.e., a vinyl containing a special timecode signal with which the user controls a digital audio file sitting on the computer). the audio quality of the preamps obviously don't matter much for that application. they merely need to be sufficiently good for the software to track the timecode signal. for this reason, i suspect the manufacturer views the phono preamps as an area where it can cut costs.
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Posts in this topic
- dumdidum   Low quality of my cartridge+preamp—can you suggest others? ≤€500   Feb 15 2012, 00:58
- - DVDdoug   I can't recommend a preamp. But for cartridge...   Feb 15 2012, 02:48
- - zaentzpantz   I used to have the Audio Technica cartridge, and i...   Feb 15 2012, 11:21
- - RonaldDumsfeld   I had a similar chain as yourself. Technics 1210,...   Feb 15 2012, 13:02
|- - dumdidum   QUOTE (RonaldDumsfeld @ Feb 15 2012, 13:0...   Feb 15 2012, 13:55
|- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (dumdidum @ Feb 15 2012, 07:55) QUO...   Feb 15 2012, 14:36
- - dumdidum   QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Feb 15 2012, 02:48) for ...   Feb 15 2012, 13:48
- - 2Bdecided   I'd have no problem digitising the kind of mus...   Feb 15 2012, 15:54
- - RonaldDumsfeld   I did also consider that maybe the loudest parts o...   Feb 15 2012, 16:21
- - derty2   Comments by a friend of mine who is quite good at ...   Feb 15 2012, 16:44
- - dumdidum   Arnold B. Krueger, derty2: This is good stuff, yo...   Feb 15 2012, 18:31
- - Gretschguy   QUOTE (dumdidum @ Feb 15 2012, 00:58) i a...   Feb 15 2012, 20:52
- - RonaldDumsfeld   QUOTE If you are recording at a peak of -12dB then...   Feb 15 2012, 22:02
|- - DonP   QUOTE (RonaldDumsfeld @ Feb 15 2012, 17:0...   Mar 5 2012, 21:52
- - DVDdoug   QUOTE Dumdidum, I would suggest not normalizing to...   Feb 15 2012, 22:27
- - kraut   QUOTE I would recommend the Denon turntable and DL...   Feb 17 2012, 14:58
- - pdq   The problem with software equalization is that it ...   Feb 17 2012, 15:27
- - dumdidum   ok, it took me awhile, but i have prepared samples...   Mar 4 2012, 16:19
- - db1989   The point of an ABX test is not to compare two pro...   Mar 4 2012, 22:19
- - 2Bdecided   I'm amazed that two supposedly working RIAA pr...   Mar 7 2012, 12:08
|- - cliveb   QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Mar 7 2012, 11:08) May...   Mar 7 2012, 19:35
- - dumdidum   QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Mar 7 2012, 12:08) I...   Mar 7 2012, 13:09
|- - db1989   QUOTE (dumdidum @ Mar 7 2012, 12:09) I...   Mar 8 2012, 15:01
- - pdq   If you think that one channel of the preamp has a ...   Mar 7 2012, 20:23
- - dumdidum   QUOTE (pdq @ Mar 7 2012, 20:23) If you th...   Mar 8 2012, 14:49
- - pdq   QUOTE (dumdidum @ Mar 8 2012, 08:49) QUOT...   Mar 8 2012, 16:09
- - dumdidum   QUOTE (pdq @ Mar 8 2012, 16:09) QUOTE (du...   Mar 8 2012, 17:05

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