Opinions on Reference LP Digitization System ...

I'm considering my options for digitizing my LP collection, and, after doing a bit of research, came up with the following list of components (with current retail prices, noted). Computer itself not included in list. This is all hypothetical.

I'd be aiming for 'reference' but not 'money doesn't matter at all'.

Maybe, rather than choosing/commenting on what *you* would personally choose, think of the following: imagine 100 audiophiles are in a room, including you - what set-up would have the highest average score?

In terms of cartridge, do you think pure neutrality would win out on average (and if so, what cartridge would you suggest) or slightly sweeter/warmer (and again, if so, what cartridge)? Other cartridge thoughts?

Feel free to pick apart the list, but if you substitute something more expensive, that means having to sacrifice elsewhere (the hypothetical list below totals approx. $42,000, so think of approx. $45,000 as your budget, buying new (not from Audiogon)).

Many thanks in advance for any comments received.

VPI HR-X TT + JMW 12.7 tonearm + Valhalla wiring ($15,000)
Air Tight PC-1 Supreme cartridge ($9,000)
Kimber Kable PK14 Palladian power cord for TT ($1,300)
Ginko Cloud 11 (medium) isolation platform for TT ($600)
Ginko dustcover for TT ($400)
Channel D Seta L (rechargeable battery) phonopreamp ($4,100)
Kimber Kable Orchid (preamp-aesb digital connect) ($700)
Lynx AES16 soundcard ($700)
Shunyata Cyclops power conditioner ($2,000)
Grand Prix Audio Monaco 3 shelf stand ($2,900)
VPI Typhoon record cleaner ($2,700)
Furutech DeMag LP demagnetizer ($2,700)
Aesthetix ABCD-1 cartridge demagnetizer ($200)
And you want to spend $45k to digitize your LPs? For Heaven's sake, I think you need to get a grip on reality.

You could *easily* make a superb transfer from LP to digital for *well under* $10k. Take the money you save and buy yourself a really nice car. Or, in So. Fla, a pretty decent home...

Well, I think that $45k for the setup for recording might be just a tad high...

I might think about going with some software that would let you do the computer recording before the RIAA filter has been applied (well, the analog to digital conversion.)


You'd get fine control over the whole process with some software specifically designed for it.
RW - consider me suitably put-in-my-place vis-a-vis reality.

Although I completely understand the reaction, there are considerations re: $/motivation that, in retrospect, perhaps should have had me frame my question differently, so let me try again.

Framed differently (attempt #2): I'd appreciate any input as to building a reference LP digitization system. Normally, anybody considering this would be constrained by financial reality of the average audiophile/consumer/working-person. I'd simply like to remove that (for the most part) from the equation.

The reason I capped it out at $45,000 is that when I was considering a 'reference' system, I came up with the system noted at the beginning of this thread - in other words, I wasn't constrained by my own wallet, but at the other end, I wasn't selecting the most expensive TT, cartridge, etc. on the planet. So instead of pure 'dreaming', I thought of it as a 'dream-with-limits' (if that makes any sense), while still being able to clearly call the system 'reference'.

Maybe imagine I've been hired by a wealthy individual to determine the answer to this question (I haven't, but the mental parameters become a bit different then).

RW - I'm genuinely interested in your comment about making a superb transfer for well under 10K - what would those components be?

If the thread becomes a string of mocking me, I'd understand, but I'm trying to remove $ (for the most part) out of the equation when people are considering their thoughts. By placing a limit of $45,000, someone wouldn't come back with, e.g., 'start with the Clearaudio Ultimate Reference TT' ...

Many thanks, in advance for the thoughts.

Where's the A/D converter?
My understanding is the Lynx AES16 soundcard is acting as the a/d converter, although a stand-alone A/D converter (between the amp and the computer) is another option.


... and Greenkiwi, yes, the software I'd use would be PureVinyl by ChannelD - I was more focussing on getting the signal from the record to the software ...

You might look at the Lynx Hilo A/D - D/A, which Rob from Channel D has been demoing with lately. It should equal or better the AES16.

For the TT/arm/cart part of the equation, I think you need to go for the analog sound YOU LIKE best, though I appreciate why you've posed the 100 audiophiles thought exercise. Based on a recent audition, and if you want to go much less costly, I think the Well Tempered Amadeus with a good Dynavector cartridge would float a lot of those 100 boats.
For that high a budget I'd definitely want to put more money into the AD conversion aspect. That is where it's at if you ask me. I recorded LPs for years and the improvements a wadia 17 AD converter brought was significant. I'm sure there are other great AD converters out there.
The Lynx AES16 does not do A/D conversions.
Many thanks for responses so far.

My 'list' was formed partly after reading the Stereophile article on PureVinyl software, where MF notes: "Whether you use your own phono preamplifier or one of the Setas to rip LPs, you're also going to need a good 24-bit/192kHz-capable soundcard—or, if you're using a laptop, a good outboard A/D converter" which suggested to me (since I have a desktop) that Seta preamp + soundcard = all I need. It seems (maybe I'm wrong) that this is perhaps a typo, and that yes, I'd need to include the A/D converter between the pre-amp and soundcard.

Initial thought just with a quick look on the Net is the Forssell MADC-2 ($3,000).

While I have no directly relevant experience, my strong instinct would be to use an approach that does not involve having a computer (which of course is a potent generator of RFI and digital noise) either directly connected to, or physically close to, the system you would be using for analog playback and digitization.

I would suggest that you consider recording the output of the A/D converter onto a professional recorder that records onto flash memory cards. Or possibly even using the A/D converter that is typically built into those recorders. A very well regarded although perhaps slightly dated example is the Sound Devices 702, which includes an apparently excellent built-in 24/192 A/D.

Subsequent to digitization and capture of the digital file, you would transfer the file to the computer either via a firewire connection between the recorder and the computer, or by removing the flash memory card from the recorder and inserting it into an inexpensive card reader having a USB interface.

Another point to consider is that if you do any necessary monitoring during LP playback using headphones, the vibration immunity of the turntable and its supporting structure become much less critical than if you were listening to the LP's via speakers, assuming, for example, that you don't live directly above a subway line :-). Taking that into account in selecting a turntable setup could result in a savings of many $thousands without sonic compromise, it seems to me.

-- Al
Ejlif and Al - those are insightful comments - thanks.

My investigations leading to the Forssell A/D were directly related to your point, Ejlif.

Al, we were thinking the same thing at about the same time - the 'light bulb' went off for me thinking (what will the a/d feed) 'why a computer?', and those thoughts led me to the Tascam DV-RA1000HD ($1,500).

Further, Al, you've opened up my thoughts to the issue of vibration control and the need for it/extent needed if there's no playback in the system - that is, no loudspeakers creating any vibration - just the components in the system itself/ambient vibration.



The components you've listed, while superb, may not have the flexibility to archive a large vinyl collection. For the sake of clarity I suggest you ignore all the power cords, stands, power conditioners, etc. and just focus upon the turntable, tonearm, cartridge, phono preamp, A/D converter, digital recorder and editing software.

The turntable/tonearm and cartridge should be easily adjustable in all parameters with settings clearly marked. The assumption is that you will optimize playback for each recording which will require VTF, VTA, azimuth, etc. being constantly adjusted. You may want a turntable that supports multiple tonearms. This will make it easier to use a mono cartridge or another cartridge than the AirTight. Some recordings may sound better with different tonearm/cartridge combos.

The phono preamp should have a mono switch and variable load settings accessible on the front panel. Do you need the ability to vary EQ curve? You'll need it if you are going to archive older records with non-RIAA settings.

Are you going to run the phono preamp directly into the A/D or connect them using a preamp? It's important if you want to monitor and compare signals in real time. If the phono preamp doesn't have balanced outputs you'll need to convert to balanced somewhere before the A/D conversion since nearly all high quality converters have only balanced inputs.

The A/D converter should have metering, not just an "over" light. It should also have user adjustable level calibration. Additionally you will need some sort of attenuator at the A/D inputs if the converter doesn't already have one, most don't. Some A/Ds have built-in monitoring capabilities which may be important to your setup.

Your recorder can either be a computer/software combo or a dedicated stand alone recorder. I'd recommend the computer/software route since you'll need it anyway. (The stand alone recorders are basically dedicated computer, so I don't buy the anti-computer argument). However, Korg makes an excellent recorder that will also allow you to record in the Sony DSD format. Don't skimp on the editing software and I strongly recommend you have a noise removal program. If you are going to make CDs from you archives you should note that all SRC programs are not created equal.

A few components you should consider:
Millennia LOC phono preamp
Burl A/D
Mytek AD192
Audiophile Engineering Sample Manager SRC software
Isn't the Channel D phono preamp sans RIAA, which is then applied in software by the computer? I think there's a very good case to be made for going that way. You can choose from different equalizations, use pop and click removal if you want, apply EQ where needed, and so forth. Since you are taking the vinyl into digital, might as well avail yourself of digital's advantages. Which is the whole idea of Channel D and what Rob has been working on for years. Talk to him before you finalize your decisions.
I am in the process of digitizing my albums. You cannot tell the difference between the vinyl and digital copies. Steps include
1. VPI TNT 3.5/rega 600/ Lyra Helikon to Conrad Johnson Premier 15 Series 2 to Korg 2000s
2. Korg to Mac and stored in 96k/24 bit format
3. Play back system: Mac mini to Berkeley alpha usb to Berkeley alpha dac to Conrad johnson et5 to Cary 805C to Wilson Watt Puppy 7.
I would just buy a Barrington portable turntable and carry it and my LP collection in a backpack...

I have been digitizing lps for over 14 years, initially using a Pioneer PDR-609 CD recorder and a B&O TX-2 with MMC2 cartridge in an ADCOM component system. Then I used a Masterlink ML-9600 recorder, another fine machine.

My system has improved to get much better dubs. Now I use a Tascam DV-RA1000HD recorder, Whest PS.30R phono preamp, Rega RP3 with an Ortofon Black 2M cartridge. All of this is powered by Conrad Johnson separates, while I do not need those to record to the Tascam's HD.

Further, I had the Tascam modified by Jim Williams of Audio Upgrades to the A/D-D/A, and other bits. Also, on my Rega, I upgraded to the reference subplatter by Groovetracer, and Frank Smillie's Delrin platter and 110gm counter-weight. In addition, because of the VTA, I installed Rega's height adjustment part under the base of the tonearm.

My routine is to clean every record on a VPI-17, play once or twice, then record to the Tascam, pull those files into my MacBook Pro, process the tracks (I record a side at a time) with ClickRepair, then use Audacity do fade in and outs and to parse and name tracks that I save back to my Mac as WAV files. Typically I record at 24 bits and either 44.1kH or 88.2kH and dither down in Audacity.

I use Taiyo Yuden Watershield CDs exclusively now. But MAM CD are great also. I like the TY CDs since I print artwork on them with an Epsom Photo Stylus printer (designed to print on CDs) that looks quite professional.

There is a lot of controversy in my view about recording settings. I point you to this very thoughtful discussion: http://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html. But I have read just about everything on the internet about what is right and I have done my own listening tests.

Since most of my dubs are for playing in my camper or car, I do not fret too much about it, given the outside noise and medium quality car stereo(s). The other issue is Red Book CD players. You have to end up at 16 bit and 44.1kHz no matter what.

If you are archiving to a storage device for playback, I recommend that you record one or two lps at all the settings available, then after you have done the processing you want, listen to decide what you like best. That will be the acid test.

Good luck.
I am in the process of digitizing most of my 15K LP's and 1K prerecorded tapes, all at 192/24. They are almost all classical - worth in excess of $200K. I am using a VPI HR-X TT with Rim Drive and a Lyra Skala or Helikon mono as appropriate. I am using an ultrasonic Audio Desk Vinyl Cleaner. The phono pre is a custom Bottlehead with variable EQ (for my many non RIAA records including early Decca and EMI). The digital system is Win XP Pro with Pyramix Software and Mykerinos card in a Zalman fanless case feeding a Pacific Microsonics Model Two. Post processing for clicks and pops is Izotope RX2 software. Everything is stored on Raid 6 configured hard drives, with an extra complete back up. I also had installed a dedicated power supply by Art Kelm. The system is very quiet. I was fortunate to have some top notch consultants to help me in the selection process and listening tests as well as teaching me how to use the software and equipment. Very happy with the results so far - about 3000 LP's and 800 tapes ripped. With clicks and pops removed, the vinyl sounds better digitized. Very happy with the results so far.
I've been digitizing LPs for a few years now. Over 2000 digitized. Through the years I've tried/used various equipment and software. The front end should be whatever you like best... like you said with any 100 audiophiles you'll get a 101 answers of what is "best". For the digitizing process I tried to follow the KISS principle. I wanted the ADC/DAC in one box. before a month ago I used the Metric Halo LIO-8 with mic preamps, and doing RIAA in the digital domain. I had to use a SUT (Bob's Devices) into the LIO-8 to get enough gain for the Ortofon A-90 cart. Although the LIO-8's mic preamps have adjustable gain, by the time I had the gain high enough the noise was noticeable. I am now using the Zesto Andros Phono Stage for gain and RIAA correction, into the Placette Active Line Stage and then into the LIO-8. Plenty of gain, VERY quiet, very neutral, and great sound. The LIO-8 is connected to computer (iMac) via firewire.

For recording I use either the recording software that comes with the LIO-8 or Audacity (free). Very difficult to tell any difference between the two... if there is any. Opinions seem to vary on this issue. I generally record at 24/96 mainly due to hard drive space. (Drobo 8 TB, 1/2 filled). If I record/digitize with the LIO-8 software I import into Audacity to edit, i.e. label tracks, remove excess time between tracks, fade in, fade out and make sure the lead in and out are completely silent. Within iTunes I also document the recording equipment used, LP label, number, and any other pertinent info. Click/pop removal can be easily done manually within Audacity although it can be quite time consuming for older LPs with lots of clicks/pops. For noisy LPs I use Click Repair, available online for a modest charge. The effect on the sound is like using Dolby to remove tape hiss. You loose a little air and add a thin veil, but it's worth it for those old treasures that have been played a lot... probably on rather primitive equipment. I tried the Channel D software early on but found it very clunky and time consuming to use compared to what I do now, and did not think it added anything to improve the sound. YMMV. A favorite test is to ask audiophile friends to tell which is which when switching back and forth... analog or digital. Basically they can't tell the difference.

My system is a mix of old and new but brings a smile to my face:
Ortofon A 90 in a Immedia RPM2 arm on a modified SOTA Star Saphire TT > Zesto Andros PS > Placette Active Line Stage > Metric Halo LIO-8 >iMac via firewire. Playback is via same route into Odyssey Stratos Dual Mono (currently ungraded to highest level possible) for mid/highs and a modified Hafler 500 for bass > Infinity IRS Beta (modified) speakers via dual runs of old Polk Cobra speaker cables for the mid/highs, and old Monster M2 speaker wire for bass. Transparent ICs. I know there are many improvements that could be made but things change slowly around here!

Sorry if I got off tangent and did not focus on equipment only. There are many knowledgeable people around here so I know you'll find what works best for you. Another good resource might be Computer Audiophile.com. There has been much discussion over there, especially on the LIO-8.
Best regards, Rod
I did not see an A/D converter. I would upgrade from the Lynx AES16 soundcard ($700) to the Lynx Hilo ($2,400) with both an AD and DA converter. I upgraded recently with stellar results. A unexpected bonus is Hilo's very nice sounding headphone amp section.
It might help to know what equipment you currently have.

On the software front, you might try this: http://www.channld.com/purevinyl/

I have not used it but it has a pretty good reputation. At the moment it is only compatible with Apple OS X
Rod -- great write-up. Could you comment on what differences you heard when you switched from SUT -> LIO-8 to using Andros -> Placette -> LIO-8? RIAA in digital would =seem= to be a good idea when digitizing LPs, but apparently you found differently. Also, why the Placette in there? Output of the Andros is too high for the Metric Halo?
There are services that will do this for you, and because it's a one-time process (once digitized, you don't need to do it again), it doesn't make sense to sink money into the hardware. Also, have you looked at laser-based turntables like the ELPJ?
"Kimber Kable PK14 Palladian power cord for TT ($1,300)"

is it really necessary? did vpi engineers even suggested it?
If you are getting hardware like that whats the point in di gitizing??? Is'nt that a bit like going from a 15 year old fine wine with a real cork, to a 2year old 10$ screw top bottle cuz its more convenient??