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Because right now, when I digitize my vinyl (for use in the car and my server), I have to live with the ticks and pops, and, since I use a pro-sumer CD recorder, inserting the track divisions on the fly is a real challenge. Not to mention the fact that I often have to edit the metadata because dBPoweramp couldn't find it.
The Indiegogo Campaign for the SweetVinyl SugarCube is now live!!!
Just an update - The SweetVinyl folks have made some hardware revisions (including the ability to adjust recording level and balance via the app - yes!), so the release has been delayed. I would rather they get it right than I get it right now, so patience is the word. Once all hardware is ready they will begin production. Software updates can be done in the field via the web.
Well, there have been some setbacks at Sweetvinyl, so the Sugarcube units are still being built and tested. It looks like my SC-2 will ship without a lot of the functionality that was promised. However, all the functionality promised will be available as downloadable software updates, so I don't see the downside to taking delivery before all the features are ready and tested. I will try to post any further news about this product here. Stay tuned!
bondmanp - No I have not. I only have read some posts and Fremer's initial impression. I'm looking for an easy way to digitize my fairly large vinyl collection. The SC-2 is very appealing to me. I just got a Coincident Statement Phono Stage, which has an extra output and a line input, which is perfect for the SC-2. I will be able to compare the click and pop removal feature with the flick of a switch. It's going to be fun!
Sounds like you are all set up for your Sugarcube, thaluza.
One of the cool features on it allows you to listen to the whole, unfiltered signal, the de-clicked signal, or just the clicks being filtered. This is important, because, using the de-clicker adjustment knob, you can easily select a level of click-removal that does not also remove some of the music signal. If you hear any music in the click-only setting, you are overdoing it on the filter. Simply dial it back until the music is gone, and you have the optimal amount of filtering. Brilliant!
vpi - Nope - all the signal paths you can select are full range. You choose from (1) the unfiltered signal, with all the pops and clicks, (2) the filtered signal, which filters out the pops and clicks - more or less filtering as you adjust the rotary filter knob - or (3) just what the Sugarcube is filtering out. IOW, in this last mode, you can hear only the signal that is being removed by the filter. It is full range, so, if you hear any music while listening to just the signal that is being filtered out, you know that you are actually removing some of the music along with the pops and clicks. The trick is to then reduce the level of filtering, on the fly, until you cannot hear any music when listening to only what the filter is removing. That way, you get the maximum amount of pop & click filtering possible without losing any of the music signal. I hope this explains it. This is one case in which a demo is worth 1000 words.
Bondmanp, Reading the posts in this thread, which mostly come from you, I have to wonder whether you are promoting this product or this company. Not that there's anything wrong with that, in my opinion, but you might at least admit to it. You have an intimate knowledge of the product without, supposedly, ever having owned one.
lewm - I understand your concern, but as I think I made clear above, my only connection with Sweetvinyl is that I committed to be a beta tester for the SC-2 during Sweetvinyl’s Indiegogo campaign. As a contributor, I receive regular email updates from Sweetvinyl which I have shared here. Also, I saw the product demonstrated and spoke with two of the principles of Sweetvinyl at the November, 2016 Chester Group audio show in NYC. Everything about the product I have posted here is based on what I have learned from my communications with the folks at Sweetvinyl. Other than being a paying customer and beta-tester, I have no financial interest in or control over Sweetvinyl. Just as I appreciate it when users of new products post their impressions here on Audiogon, I am trying to share my experience and excitement about this product with the audio community.
Perhaps what raises suspicion is my extreme enthusiasm for the Sugarcube. You got me there! After 10 years of using a pro-sumer CD recorder to digitize my LPs, I am only about half way done, and the process is difficult. I currently have to insert track divisions on the fly using the recorder’s remote. If I miss, I can either start over again or live with it. Then there is the process of manually typing in much of the metadata after ripping the CD-R onto my server. And, then there are the clicks and pops that still annoy even after a good vacuum cleaning. The Sugarcube promisses to solve all three of these issues with a turnkey dedicated box that does not require the use of a computer and a handful of applications. If it works, it will speed up the process, produce cleaner, higher-res digital files of my LPs, and make organizing them on a server easier. So, am I excited? Heck yes! Sorry if I come across as a shill, but I am really enthusiastic about this product, which, I feel, is a new product category. I have taken a lot of flak from others who are committed to using a bunch of computer programs to accomplish what the Sugarcube will do, but none of these programs do what the Sugarcube can do without a lot of digital editing of the recorded files. The Sugarcube automates the click & pop removable (and it’s adjustable), automatically inserts track divisions, and automatically pulls down meta data from the web.
BTW, most of this info is on the Sweetvinyl.com web site and the Indiegogo.com web site. At Indiegogo, just search for Sugarcube, and read through the page and the updates.
As for me seeming to be alone in posting, that is likely because there are only 100 SC-2 beta units being produced, and perhaps the other 99 beta testers are not active on Audiogon. Who knows? It does seem that some of the Indiegogo campaign purchasers are located outside the U.S., too.
Hey, it’s an Indiegogo thing, so I might end up with nothing, or with a unit that doesn’t deliver as promissed. That’s the risk I took after seeing/hearing the demo. It is already 4 months overdue, but as I said to Dan Eakins of Sweetvinyl, I’d rather have it right, than right now. So, even though I may end up with a paperweight, or a product that does not deliver what was promissed (and with very little recourse, according to Indiegogo policy), I remain fairly optimistic.
A new update from Sweetvinyl: Some of the SC-1 beta units have shipped. About 60 of the SC-2 units are expected to ship in September. This means I will probably receive mine within the month (I am the 12th contributor for the SC-2 to the Indiegogo campaign). However, the SC-2 will initially ship with SC-1 software. That means it will not have the digitizing functionality or the track division functionality. Bummer. Also, the smart phone control app is not ready yet. So, it will function as a declicker, using the front panel controls, but that’s about it. I will probably insert it in the signal chain prior to my CD recorder, so I can continue to make CD-Rs of my vinyl, but now without the clicks and pops.
All the functionality being left out of the SC-2 can be added via firmware updates over the web, so I am hopeful that these functions will be added soon.
I use declicker software in Wavelab and as a plug in with Cubase. I found they do work but can effect the music if applied universally and is best used only on the wav. segment where the click or pop happens.
I've also found there is never a free lunch but sometimes you have to do what is necessary. I doubt that anyone could tell where I declicker without listening really hard and thus, missing the music.
Thanks, raymonda. So, if I understand it correctly, in order to declick a recording, you have to locate the click on a graphic visual representation of the audio file, and manually remove the click. Is that correct? If so, wouldn't the process be rather time-consuming, depending on how many clicks you want to remove?
Yes, you have to look at the file, listen and determine where the click or pop is, highlight the area and process it. A typical album, which has maybe 2-6 issues may take 2 minutes at best. Generally it can be done in under a minute.
If an album has many issues it is generally not worth, IME, to record it. I would wait until I was able to buy a cleaner copy. I can process the whole album at once but I would rather stay clear of having to process sections that don't require it. I have found that, regardless of claims, there is no free lunch. I also have a Denoiser plug in that I use and which can be fairly effective with tape hiss. But that too has to be lightly used. It will leave finger prints. As with all these things it just a matter of how many finger prints one can tolerate.
I transfer my recordings via 24/96. It affords me great sound on the go plus it leaves me an accurate representation of cartridges and phono amps for future references.
raymonda - Ok, now I see where our applications differ. Most of my LPs are record show and garage sale finds, usually a buck to 3 bucks apiece. So, as you can imagine, they are often in pretty bad shape. With decent new or mint LPs, your method makes a lot of sense (if you don't despise computers like I do). But for me, the amount of work required to clean up a noisy LP would take a really long time.
I know there is no free lunch, but, at least in the demo I heard, the click removal of the Sugarcube seemed completely transparent. This is not a standard filter, but an algorythm-based program. It is also adjustable, on the fly, and you can listen to only the signal being filtered out. If there is no music signal in this disgarded portion of the signal, I think it is safe to say that no music is being lost. We'll see. Of course I will post my impressions of the SC-2 here when (or if) I get mine.
I have to live with the ticks and pops@bondmanp it might interest you to know that many ticks and pops heard on LPs are not the fault of the LP but instead the phono preamp!
If the preamp is unstable, it will make a tick or pop that is otherwise inaudible become quite audible. This is due to a ringing (damped oscillation) that can occur on the amplifying devices (usually transistors) at their inputs. The ringing extends the time of the tick or pop, making them audible.
I've seen this graphically demonstrated- where the same LP, played with the only difference being the phono preamp, made the difference between a perfectly quiet LP and one that you would consider trying to return to the store. That's pretty dramatic.
I don't employ any filtering or processing and am very used to listening to entire LP sides without any audible ticks or pops. This of course is not a cure for an LP that is damaged, but if you routinely experience a lot of ticks and pops as part of the surface noise of the LP you might want to consider what I've written here.
atmasphere - Very interesting post. I can see how the phono pre circuitry could cause such an issue. I suppose a clear sign that this is happening is if the same passage exhibits clicks and pops at different times when played several times.
I don’t think I have an excessive tick & pop problem, as some LPs are extremely quiet through my McIntosh C220’s MM phono section (a tube/SS hybrid). But, I will try replaying passages with loud ticks to see if they repeat at the same spot or not. It’s just that I buy only used records in a wide range of conditions, so I don’t expect very quiet surfaces on many of my LP purchases.
Honestly, the Sugarcube-2 appeals to me every bit as much for the digitizing, track splitting, and meta-data retrieval features as it does for the click and pop filtering. Sadly, my beta unit will ship without those features. Sweetvinyl promises a firmware upgrade that will add these features eventually. There may even be an optional surface noise filter. We’ll see...
Ok - Just heard from Sweetvinyl. The SC-2's will start shipping this week, and many of the desireable features, like the Smartphone control app, will be working when the units ship. Since my Indiegogo commitment for an SC-2 beta unit was number 12, I should be among the first to receive it. Very exciting! I will keep everyone interested posted via this thread.
I really do apologize. I don't mean to be mean. Sometimes I cannot resist a little humor, and I have the mental image that we are all friends sitting around someone's living room, where a little ribbing now and then would be acceptable. But I know not everyone agrees to that scenario.
You have to admit that, were it not for your frequent bumps, this topic would have sunk below the horizon months ago. On the other hand, that is your perfect right, which is why I do apologize. There are a lot of egghead purists here (like me) who would never even think of using a device like the Sugarcube in the vinyl pathway. (Maybe that speaks to a shortcoming of mine.) But that does not justify my sarcasm.
To answer your question, when this thread pops to the top of the list, I read it, because I am thinking/hoping that you finally received your device and are able to report on its effects. I am actually curious.
No problem, lewm. I have very thick skin (and most everything else, too). I share your mental image - just like when I attend our local audio club meetings, and everybody gets a good ribbing. FedEx says it is out for delivery today!!! Very tight schedule this week, and my amplifier is in need of repair, so my ability to put the SC-2 through its paces will be somewhat limited. I also need no decent wires to hook it up. I was too nervous about ever receiving it to actually buy ICs before I was sure I would actually receive it.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS - My SC-2 has arrived!
I unpacked my SC-2 and placed it in my rack. It is a nicely made piece of kit of light weight, but compact, and all metal construction except the knobs. It includes the 7" calibration record, the brick power supply and generic ac power cord. Also included is the USB stick for wifi connection. There is no remote control, but there is an app for iPhone and Android.
While I do occassionally spin vinyl, my main interest is digitizing my vinyl for my server and portable use. I first connected the input of the SC-2 from the output of my Kenwood Graphic/Parametric EQ (let the flames begin!), with the SC-2's output split via Y cables between my McIntosh C220 preamp (tape loop input) and my Marantz CDR-632 CD recorder. For the time being, the SC-2's track-splitting function is not available, so I will continue to use the Marantz to digitize my LPs, but now without the clicks and pops.
I fired it up with a particularly noisy 45 rpm single on my modded Thorens TD-166 MkII using an Ortofon OM-30 Super MM cartridge. The thing works! With the click filtering set to medium (5 out of 10), the clicks were simply not noticeable. I checked this by selecting the front panel's Click Monitor button, which allows you to hear only what is being filtered out, and heard all the clicks, but, importantly, no music.
With my amplifier out for repairs, the SC-2's headphone output was my main choice for listening. I switched between my Grado SR-60s and Audio Technica ATH-M40x cans. The SC-2 highlighted the significant differences between these two headphones, with the Grados sounding pleasantly euphonic next to the brutally honest Audio Technicas. The headphone stage was clean, detailed and smooth, with an upper-mid and treble range that was delicious sounding and very inviting.
Next up was "Don't Give Up" from Peter Grabriel's LP "So". This is a pretty clean copy, so the click filtering didn't have to work so hard. But the sound was excellent, well extended on top and bottom, with a nice soundstage (for cheap headphones), and a very clean sound. I do think that surface noise becomes a bit more obvious with the clicks and pops being suppressed. Sweetvinyl has suggested that a surface noise filter may be offered as a paid software upgrade in the future.
Next up will be installing the Android app on my phone, connecting to my home wifi network, calibration using the test record, and experimenting with the digitization function using a USB stick.
So far, I am quite pleased, although I really hope the track-splitting function gets rolled out soon.
I will happily answer any questions.
Just trying to understand the signal path. Is it from Mac C220 phono stage to Kenwood EQ to Sweetvinyl to headphone, in your temporary set-up? When you have speakers, I gather it will go from Sweetvinyl back to C220 and etc. So, right now you are only using the tick and pop removing function of the SV, correct? Thanks.
lewm - Pretty much you have it correct. The Sugarcube only accepts analog inputs, so I use the tape loop output on the C220 to feed the equalizer. I have a choice of three headphone jacks - the C220, the Sugarcube, and the Marantz CD recorder. So far, I prefer the sound of the Sugarcube’s headphone stage over the other two.
When my amplifier is back, I will feed the tape loop input on the C220 from the Sugarcube, so listening to vinyl will be done through the C220’s tape loop.
Once the Sugarcube is fully functional for recording, including the track-splitting and meta-data functions, I will rearrange the outputs of the equalizer, via Y cables, to feed both the Marantz CD recorder and the Sugarcube, so that the Marantz will not be in the signal path of the Sugarcube inputs.
Separately, I successfully downloaded the Android app for the Sugarcube last night, connected the Sugarcube to my home wifi network, and calibrated the Sugarcube using the test record. It seems that the only function of the calibration is to set the input level on the Sugarcube for optimal recording levels. I also noticed that the Sugarcube received a software update, all on its own. I have not yet determine what was updated.
I am reading your updates with great interest. I have the option of receiving my SC-2 early, without the track splitting functionality, which they said would be automatically downloaded when it is ready to go. I am wondering if your automatic software update was successfully accomplished with wifi, or was it through an ethernet connection?
You wrote, "Once the Sugarcube is fully functional for recording, including the track-splitting and meta-data functions, I will rearrange the outputs of the equalizer, via Y cables, to feed both the Marantz CD recorder and the Sugarcube, so that the Marantz will not be in the signal path of the Sugarcube inputs."
This probably reflects my ignorance of the digital world more than anything else, but why would you want to feed the signal to BOTH the Marantz recorder and the SC2, once the latter has active recording capability itself? To compare?
Thanks for your patience.
thaluza - That could be the case. The update took place last night, but I did not get a chance to see what it was updating. I will keep you posted. I opted to receive my SC-2 early (first shipment), since the hardware is finalized, and all the other stuff is dowloadable software updates.
lewm: If I were evaluating the the digitizing quality of the SC-2 as compared to the Marantz CD recorder, you'd be correct. But I think it's a safe bet that SC-2, which has been designed as a high-end audio component, will be an improvement over the Marantz, which is a pro-sumer CD recorder that is over 10 years old. Also, the SC-2 digitizes up to 24/192, whereas the Marantz is Red Book only. I also can easily digitize something on the SC-2 that I previously digitized on the Marantz, load them onto my server, and compare the results. I may try that at some point, but I am racing against death to complete the digitization of my LPs (in the 12th year of this process, currently), so I mainly want to continnue moving forward with my as-yet undigitized LPs.
thaluza - from an email I received from Dan Eakins at Sweetvinyl:
In the app:
. In the Advanced section on the SC-2 you can also: (top right of app - pull down menu)
a. Change your display – show artist and song info
b. View Album recognition
So, pretty much everything except track splitting, recording level control (promised) and record L-R balance adjustment (also promised).
Bondman, Your response speaks to my question but does not answer it. I agree that the SC2 ought to blow away the Marantz for recording purposes, which is precisely why I asked why you were of a mind to record on both simultaneously, using a Y-adapter. Also, be careful doing that. The SC2 will "look back" to both the Marantz input and the signal source output and see their impedances in parallel. That can sometimes cause frequency response anomalies, depending upon the values of the two impedances "seen" by the SC2 input.
I hope you have a lot of LPs and therefore a long life ahead.
lewm - Oh, sorry. I misunderstood your question. I don't expect to record on both devices simultaneously, but I want to keep the option in case I decide I need a CD-R of whatever I am recording. Also, I do not yet know how the recording function on the Sugarcube will work when recording sources other than LPs. For example, I have numerous singles to digitize, as well as material on DVD, BD, and some soundtrack music I have on my DVR.
Good point about the impedance issues. I could use the Y cables instead to split the output of the SC-2 in order to feed the Marantz and my preamp's tape loop input. Perhaps that would prevent that potential impedance mismatch, and still offer the ability to record a CD-R. Although, would that have the potential to mess up the signal being fed to the Marantz and the preamp? Ugh.
Okay, so I have not had much time to actually use my SC-2. As a beta tester, I expected a few glitches, and there are some. So far, the SC-2 has gotten stuck during updates and required a restart two times. Sweetvinyl says this typically happens around 5% of the time. The pairing of the SC-2 with my Android phone is a little tricky. I thought I had it done, but the app is telling me to re-pair the phone with the SC-2. Sweetvinyl says I should go through the pairing process whenever prompted by the app. Because of this, I have not yet explored the advanced menu, but hope to do so soon. The unit is designed to stay powered on (power switch on the rear). So far, it has never gotten more than slightly warmer than room temperature to the touch, and that is with a plastic sheet covering my equipment rack. Sweetvinyl can actually monitor the internal operating temperature of any SC-2 connected to the web. That's cool, so to speak.
I’ll have to check that out. Currently, it takes me about an extra 15-20 minutes per album to delimit tracks and process using tic removal and normalization once played and digitized. I use free Audacity software for this part.
Then I autotag using free Picard software which usually requires some minimal manual interaction to recognize teh custom digital files I’ve created usually. If Picard doesn’t work due to some one-off recording or release then its manual tagging with DBpoweramp which adds more time. Picard has Shazam like music recognition capabilities that works pretty well overall with more popular commercial sourced digital releases but not as well in general with custom music files you digitize yourself from vinyl.
Overall, I use mostly free software that does a good job and I have a process down pretty well to get things done reasonably fast.
But any product that makes things mostly automated and saves me time has value and I am interested.
Have not found anything yet that can reliably auto delimit the tracks with a file digitized from a side of a record. Audacity has some things that try but its usually faster for me to just go in and delimit in Audacity manually .
Mapman - Sorry for my ignorance, but is "delimiting" computer-speak for track splitting? If so, the Sugarcube cannot do this yet. I did see it demonstrated on a prototype, and it is promised, but so far, it's not available. When it is ready, it will be a software upgrade. It will not split tracks after the digitizing, but on the fly, once the LP is recognized. Sweetvinyl has been building its own LP metadata base, and claims to have over 1 million LPs in it so far.
Bond, yes same thing. Tracks that do not have clean silence between them are very hard for a computer program to do correctly in accordance with what is needed to then auto tag each track correctly. A good example would be progressive rock "suite" like say Suppers Ready by Genesis where the portions of the suite run into each other. You need a really smart program and a very extensive and detailed set of metadata about the track for a computer to have a chance of getting it right with no manual interaction. It can be done I'm sure but I'd be surprised to see it done accurately in many cases. OR teh program might recognize what it does not know and prompt the user to help it. That might still be somewhat fast and efficient if done right. Someday soon I'd bet.
malosuerte: My time with the SC-2 has been hampered by an amplifier failure. Whiile my amp is in the shop, I have been doing little critical listening, instead using the time to digitize more LPs, during which I monitor the process usinfg headphones (Audio Technica ATH-40X).
But here are some early impressions: Fit & finish is excellent. The unit runs cool, and setup (connection to wifi) is pretty easy and simple. Sound from the headphone section of the SC-2 sounds good over my liesure cans, Grado SR-60.
Much of the functionality of the SC-2 has yet to be switched on. I am using the Android app, and it seems to work pretty well. But the track-splitting is not yet available. Neither is the ability to send a digitized file to a server on the network. For now, the only recording that can be done is to an attached USB stick. I tried one recording, and it seems to work fine. I used 24/192 FLAC encoding, but I am waiting for 24/96 FLAC encoding (which is promised) because of limitations elsewhere in my system. Also, the SC-2 cannot yet play back from the attached USB stick, so playback was through a laptop using Foobar2000 and the Grados. Without the track splitting or ability to send files to my server, I am still using my CD recorder to create CD-Rs from my vinyl. I am routing the signal through the SC-2, so I get a nice clean needle-drop. I hope to be able to avoid using the CD recorder once the SC-2 is fully functional.
The album recognition feature is spotty. It has successfully identified a few pretty obscure LPs , but does not succeed often with classical LPs. Sweetvinyl says they are aware of these issues and are working on software fixes.
Other things still being worked on are a way to manually add/edit metadata, and to submit missing metadata to Sweetvinyl's database. More recording resolutions are planned, as are a L-R balance control for recording, and a calibration memory for multiple 'arms/cartridges. A screen dim/off function will also be added.
All that said, the click processing works extremely well, although changing the level of processing seems to have little effect. To my ears, there is little to no difference in the sound whether in bypass, A-D-A but no click removal, or click removal modes. Even on the worst LPs I threw at it, about 95% of the clicks and pops were inaudible. The downside of this is that surface noise is alot easier to hear. Sweetvinyl says they may eventually release a surface noise processing feature, but this might not be a free upgrade because of the complexity and effort required to develope it.
I took the SC-2 to my local audio club meeting yesterday. Only one or two of the those listening claimed to be able to hear a difference in the sound depending on the mode of the SC-2. They felt that the sound was a bit less forward with the processing engaged, and that the highs were just slightly shelved down. But except for them, the rest of those in attendance could not tell a difference between the processed, the A-D-A without processing, and the bypass modes.
I am holding off on a more thorough review pending the SC-2 being fully function. But if you have any specific questions, feel free to ask them here.
I continue to be highly impressed by the dedication of the folks at Sweetvinyl to getting as close to perfection as possible with their products. I reported what a few of the golden ears heard as differences in the processed vs. non-processed sound of the SC-2. I got a reply the same day that one of the developers of the Sugarcube is working on changes to the D-A coding that might remedy what these few people are hearing. They can't hear it, I can't hear it, but knowing some people are hearing it was enough for them to put some serious effort into fixing it.
Bondmanp, I'm a regular production customer, and am wondering how to identify the email used by my Android. I have several email accounts for different purposes. Two accounts are Gmail, but my recovery account isn't. Can you help me determine which they need? I asked Dan, but he doesn't seem to know how to find his own. Thanks!