Vinyl collection, now what?


Hey folks,

Just inherited a really interesting collection of records from my audiophile crazy uncle.
Lots of master and super master pressings, a complete Time Life Records collection, Sheffield track records, etc.

I have never owned a turntable and know very little about them.

Does anyone have experience digitizing tracks to file using a USB turntable?
Any recommendations for or against?
Am I looking at something potentially very expensive?
I haven't looked through everything but saw lots of albums I would like to digitize.

Thanks everyone!
hleeid
Please understand this forum mostly features somewhat fanatical analog lovers. Your request is reasonable in that you wish to copy your uncles collection to a format you know. You may be seen as a heretic to some here so expect a bit of pushback. ;^)
Would you consider buying a turntable and using the LP's as they were intended? Perhaps your uncle had a deck?
If you want to end up digital it’s much easier to find the digital files already edited and declicked or sourced from tape. If you want to archive the real sound of those records you need ~2-3k of record player, an $800 DSD recorder, an editing program and learn how to use it.
You’ll still lose plenty SQ by the time you drop to PCM for editing.
Even Sonoma is not pure DSD editing.
https://www.realhd-audio.com/?p=1235
Not gonna happen. Sell them to someone that appreciates them like your late uncle did. If you have Sheffield Direct To Disc platters they’ll bring in $50 to $100 each. Don’t even get them near a cheap USB table.
Get a GOOD turntable and cartridge (Pioneer PLX1000 and Grado) plus a Schiit Mani phono stage. Far more enjoyable than listening to digital copies!
Appreciate the responses!
I am perhaps an intermediate newbie to audio.
But a rank beginner with vinyl.

@mid40sguy - I have been wanting to get into vinyl for a while. But haven’t gotten around to looking into turntables.
The record collection I’ve been given has really stoked my interest.
Just can’t stop thinking about getting a turntable, especially after my uncle played tracks on the record, then the same tracks on CD.

The difference was very noticeable to me. I kept wanting to hear more records while I was there.

My uncle still has records and is using his turntable.

@ Roberjerman  - I will take a look at the Pioneer PLX1000 and Grado offerings.

@fuzztone - Your response has addressed my "how expensive" question. Thanks!

Seems like 2-3k for a decent turntable is what I should be looking at.

Would my upstream gear (tube vs SS) have anything to do with turntable selection?

I am considering a Clearaudio Concept.

It is not possible to go listen to gear for me right now so any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.




@hleeid  $2-3K for a turntable with decent cartridge is indeed a good place to start.  If you can add $500-1000 for a good preamp as well you'll be hearing that music as it was meant.
That's where I STARTED, LOL.  I love the vinyl sound so much I've upgraded my gear several times now.  Enjoy the new trip.
@snackeyp  - I have a Bryston BP26 preamp.  Would this be ok?
@fuzztone,

Excellent post with some great advice.

"Don’t even get them near a cheap USB table."

Absolutely.

Vinyl has the ability to outlast all digital formats therefore it deserves all the care and good handling you can afford.

Needless to say, it also deserves a cartridge which has excellent tracking properties.

Digitising LPs is not the great sin that some claim it is, but as @fuzztone said, it is quite a specialised job.

Heck, even Michael Fremer has done it.
Does the  Bryston BP26 preamp have the phono board?
@hleeid - based on the turntable you are looking at - you will probably listen to vinyl.

But if you do still want to digitize albums take a look at this unit...
https://www.behringer.com/product.html?modelCode=P0A31
https://mediadl.musictribe.com/media/sys_master/h31/ha5/8849957781534.pdf

You'll need to  have a standard preamp-output on your amp for it to work, but it makes it extremely easy to get great quality recordings at 16bit /44 kHz resolution

I have one and it works great

Regards - Steve
Good advice here. One other argument against digitizing the albums is that it happens in real time, meaning you have to be there and paying attention during the full time it takes to play the record, starting and ending the recording at exactly the right time, saving the file and then doing any necessary editing to the digital file, adjusting start and stop time, attaching or correcting song titles, etc. It can produce good results with the right A/D converter but the effort involved in doing justice to the music wasn't worth it to me.
Keep collection of your uncle, buy yourself a nice Direct Drive turntable like this (with a cartridge and phono stage), listen and enjoy!

I bet all those tracks available for free in apple music or elsewhere.

Owing a collection is not like owing a files or having access to the files online. It’s completely different experience with physical media, especially if it is related to one of your family member.

You can’t properly convert your vinyl without expensive cartridge/turntable and analog to digital converter.


@hleeid I'm not familiar with that preamp but upon looking at the specs online it seems to be pretty high end.  As I understand there is an option to add a phono board to it.  If you already own this preamp you will need to know which board it has, if any.  At any rate, in my journey I tried several phono preamps before landing on the one I have now.  Your ears will tell you what you like best.  As high bang-for-buck preamps go, it will be hard to find anything better than the Parasound JC3 Junior.  I have the JC3+ and have tried upgrading it, but everything else I heard did not best it.  The Junior is supposed to be very close to the JC3+ but at half the price.  What's great about it is it has loading adjustability for a wide range of cartridges, and the adjustments are very easy to make.  All the controls are on the back of the unit.  No opening up a case and configuring dip switches, etc.  This preamp gives you room to grow as you try other cartridges, as you most likely will if you love vinyl as many of us do.  There are others in this price range that are also excellent, but I don't have experience with them.  
i own 4 turntables, and 5 tonearms, and thousands of records. i love vinyl. i do own over 1000 2xdsd digital files ripped from vinyl, with gear exactly like mine. but i did not do any of those rips, and would never take the time to do it.

the wrong reason to get into vinyl is digitizing records. if your goal is to hear good music, sell the records and invest in digital streaming. digitizing records has a very steep learning curve and is a pain the ass to do. and the results are unlikely to be as good as good streaming unless you make a substantial gear investment.

vinyl is a big commitment and don’t even think about it unless you are planning on being all in. dipping your toe into vinyl will never get that music effectively into a digital format.

lastly; 5 years ago a case could be made for digitizing vinyl for music access. but that ship has sailed with high rez streaming. it’s so good that digitizing records is foolish. put the money into better digital gear. if you do go all in for vinyl playback then yes; that can get you better sound than streaming. but the vinyl ’all-in’ threshold is pretty spendy.
vinyl is a big commitment and don’t even think about it unless you are planning on being all in. dipping your toe into vinyl will never get that music effectively into a digital format.

While I agree with that, you have to start somewhere to see if a larger investment is worth it, to you. I reintroduced myself to vinyl after a 35 year hiatus, with basically a ‘re-starter’ set-up. After a year and half, I realized vinyl was worth a larger commitment and recently spent a significant amount on a new rig. Now my digital really can’t compare to my ears, so am now thinking of upgrading my digital front end. The viscous cycle/rabbit hole 😁

But, you never know until you try. If vinyl isn’t for you over the long haul, you can go on and still be happy with a fairly inexpensive set-up. But if you do make a larger commitment, and realize what vinyl is capable of, your current digital set-up may not satisfy you anymore in comparison until you upgrade there as well. Ahhh....the fun we have.
Some good advice here as well as interesting questions. I have no advice but do have a question:

Why did your still-living uncle will you part of a record collection he is still using, knowing that you do not own an analog front end? I do realize you said he is crazy. You also said he is an audiophile. Do you think these terms are interchangeable? Many people do. Sometimes I wonder about myself.
@aewarren - My uncle has been downsizing in anticipation to a move to a retirement home.  He gave me a pair of B&W 801 Matrix S2s, some component racks, MIT2 biwire cables, boxes of turntable stuff.
He hasn't touched the records he gave me for many years.
Says he has no interest in reference track records, or any of the others he gave me.

I meant he was really fanatical about audiophile gear years ago.
He has his smaller "main collection" that he still enjoys.

That makes sense and you are a very lucky nephew. I hope you enjoy the gear and the LPs. Most of all, have fun!
So I decided to not attempt any record digitizing.  At least not for now.

Also decided to take the plunge into vinyl.

Started looking up the many candidate turntables suggested here.  
Wow! 
A whole new world of technical/design here!  A lot of new terminology to get familiar with.

Some serious works of art out there!  Some of these don't even look like turntables!

Guess I never really understood and appreciated what goes into designing and engineering hi end turntables.

Enjoying the search though!
I do not have experience with USB turntables, but do with digitizing records.

Partially good move on not digitizing them. It is a project, it is a chore, and it is time-consuming. If you can find CDs of what you really like, I would strongly recommend it. I did many records I just could not get any other way.
What does your uncle suggest and will he guide you through setting up a deck?
Thanks aewarren!

@yeti42  - My uncle has not kept up with current gear for a few years.  He did say he will help me with setup.
hleeid, nice snatch! You get the lucky guy of the week aware:)

If you have an Apple computer get the Channel D Pure Vinyl program. It will copy your collection to Apple's iTunes library (soon to be called Music) in 24/192 and download album graphics and song details automatically. The program includes digital RIAA equalization so ideally you would get a phono amp w/o equalization. Channel D makes several inexpensive ones of superlative performance. This also negates the need for a USB turntable. As for the turntable, that depends on how critical you are and how much you intend on spending.
As for all you die hard vinyl/analog guys out there I have news for you. If I played back a record and it's 24/192 copy you would not be able tell the difference. The copy will sound just as analog as the real deal unless I turned on Pure Vinyl's pop and click eliminator then the copy would be obviously quieter. 

Hleeid, congrats, you are on your way to a fabulous music collection. One word of caution. Turning these records into digital files is going to take a very long time. Pure Vinyl gives you a head start but still, doing all those records in real time will take you years and you will have to intervene every 20 minutes or so. I would certainly weed out the albums you obviously won't listen to.If you decide to get Pure Vinyl (this is the program Mike Fremer uses) and you need some help with it feel free to contact me. Once you are use to it it is a breeze. As an example it will start recording automatically as soon as it detects a needle drop and stop on reverse. If you put an autolifter on the turntable it will take some of the stress out. 
+1 what mikelavigne said
mikelavigne
... the wrong reason to get into vinyl is digitizing records. if your goal is to hear good music, sell the records and invest in digital streaming. digitizing records has a very steep learning curve and is a pain the ass to do. and the results are unlikely to be as good as good streaming unless you make a substantial gear investment ...
I absolutely agree. And if you don't follow a fastidious approach to digitizing an LP, there's no value in the result. Another issue is that with good playback gear, a properly maintained LP will last for generations.
... 5 years ago a case could be made for digitizing vinyl for music access. but that ship has sailed with high rez streaming. it’s so good that digitizing records is foolish.
Mostly. There's still value sometimes in making a pristine digital copy of some recordings, especially those that are OOP, or those with sonics that really trounce the digital version. Those files can then be put in playlists for convenience but - as Mike noted - it will take a lot of effort to get there.
mijostyn
... If you have an Apple computer get the Channel D Pure Vinyl program ... The program includes digital RIAA equalization ... If I played back a record and it's 24/192 copy you would not be able tell the difference ...
I'm not familiar with that software and process, but I do agree that a carefully made digitized file is audibly indistinguishable from the original LP.

@mijostyn - I appreciate your offer to help with digitizing!
Starting to understand the complexities involved so I will start with looking into a decent turntable.

Found a deal on a Clearaudio Concepts which I am considering.
Also thinking about the VPI Scout.
There are also a few older Rega RP models I saw for sale.

Really wish there was a way to listen to these decks!


@cleeds ,

'There's still value sometimes in making a pristine digital copy of some recordings, especially those that are OOP, or those with sonics that really trounce the digital version.'


Absolutely. 

A good case in point was the work of needledrop artists such as the notorious Dr Ebbetts. 

His digitising of the Beatles LP back catalogue played it's own part in getting Apple/EMI to issue their own official reissues.

For many years his bootleg needledrops were considered superior to the official 1987 CD releases. It appeared that digitising analogue LP was far less harmful than digitising analogue masters at source.

I never had issue with such practices, if one man on his own could supply a better sounding product than a multinational conglomerate...

A similar thing had happened back in the early 70s which prompted the release of the Red and Blue albums. But in that case the bootleg doing the rounds previously was of poor quality.

It's clear that the music industry has largely deaf ears as far as audiophiles are concerned but that was one example where they clearly heard the sound of money talking.
Hleeid, first let me apologize for the rest of them here. Vinyl lovers are by definition nice people but open minds are not a membership requirement. I am the world’s biggest vinyl lover, have been for decades. I am also in the process of (slowly) digitizing a massive record collection. Here I will try to answer your questions while trying to avoid criticizing or waging an analog versus digital war. First, USB is not a requirement for digitizing records but a turntable definitely is. They (USBs) can make the process simpler, more turnkey, but the ’job’ is getting signal from the record surface to the hard drive. Signal leaves the cart as an analog waveform, some equalization (RIAA) and gain (lots) are applied and off it goes to the rest of the sound system. Some of that analog signal can be sent to your computer and converted to bits and stored. The conversion from analog to digital usually happens as a function of the computers sound card. USB tables will do the A/D conversion before shipping the signal to the computer but the process is roughly the same. What I am getting at is that this can be as simple as you like or as complicated as a professional recording session. All up to you. I use pro software like Sound Forge but there are lots of apps available at any price from free to $$$$ that will handle the job for you. Some are quite automated. Try to get as good a table as you can justify, if you get something other than USB you are making a commitment to analog sound reproduction that you are probably unwilling to make. My guess is you plan is to play the LP once to digitize it and then never look at it again? This is where the quality of the playback comes in. A totally faithful recording of someone farting will still stink, meaning you can’t improve poor sound by recording it well. One other point to consider long and hard, all of this occurs in real time. The is no 52X for analog. You can’t automate the process with robots. You can’t go for groceries while it finishes. In short it’s a labor of love and if you don’t love vinyl and the magic that analog brings to audio don’t bother. Decide which LPs are of greatest interest to you and go find digital copies (CD or hi-def download). Less effort and probably superior sound to the majority of DIY conversions. Also don’t let the naysayers discourage you. My digital conversions are probably done at a higher sample rate than used for many of their vinyl reissues. If it sounds like I am encouraging you to digitize the records while also saying don’t, in a way I am. Decide for yourself if you want to make the effort. It’s fun and educational and the results can be surprisingly good but it is also a long slow process so be forewarned. Definitely do not be dissuaded just because somebody shouts ’digital sucks’ in all caps.

For the record :)

VPI Classic w/VTA tower (no! not a Classic II, a special order Classic from before the II actually existed) + Falcon PSU/RoadRunner

Soundsmith Zephyr Star

Moon 310LP/320S

Bel Canto Pre1

Lynx Audio E22 sound card

Sound Forge Pro

No dedicated CD player for music, ever!

Small beer compared to many of the rigs discussed on Audiogon but as a blue-collar system that started out with nothing it has done quite well for itself.

@russashe,

Thank you for your post. That’s a very nice system you’ve put together. I am also in a process of putting together a Vinyl playback system.

Thorens TD 1601
Hana ML, AT ART 7 or ART9, Kiseki Blue (undecided)
Monbrison Pre with built-in phono

Let’s how this pans out 😊

Hey cleeds, I know it's nit-picking but you posted;
I'm not familiar with that software and process, but I do agree that a carefully made digitized file is audibly indistinguishable from the original LP.
I'm sure you meant to type, a carefully made digitized file CAN BE indistinguishable from the original LP.  As any diehard turntable devotee knows there is always just a little more music/detail/resolution to be found in record grooves so absolutes are always dangerous.  Anyway, don't take this seriously, just having a bit of pedantic fun.
@ lalitk

Thanks, yes I really enjoy it and don't worry at all about what might be better.  Sounds like you are putting something special together.  The Shindo sounds intriguing, I often consider a tubed front end and would definitely look at that unit.  I have friends who love their Hana's and for now the price/value ratio is incredible.  I have used AT products for years and have always trusted them.  Kiseki is the one product you mentioned that I have no personal experience with but if reviews and comments are reliable their reputation is well deserved.  I would recommend checking the Soundsmith line but you can't trust me, I am very biased :)  If, however the Kiseki is a serious contender check the Zephyr Star.  The list price is less than the Blue, output is comparable to the 9 or Blue with bandwidth and separation at least equal to any of the others.  I have owned carts from Shure, Stanton, Empire, Grace, Fidelity Research, Grado (cheapos and Siggys), Otofon, Audio Technica, Dynavector (loved them all), Denon, Sumiko and Soundsmith plus whatever else I have forgotten. I have also listened to a host of other brands on friends and dealers systems.  I would love to have a brand new Grace F9e to try in my current rig for curiosity sake but as for the rest I would only bother if someone else set up the entire comparison against the Zephyr.

@hleeid,

The Bryston BP-26 preamp is what I have. I do not have an installed phono stage for it. I recently purchased the Bryston "1/3 chassis" BP2-MM moving magnet phono stage and have it tied in to my Bryston BPS-2 external power supply via a "y-connector". I was having hum from my Linn Sondek LP12 turntable until I found out that they didn't provide the Y connector which allows it to be noise free with the BP-26's external power supply.

As for the fidelity of the BP-26, I would say it represents solid state gear at its finest. Very low noise, excellent detail retrieval, excellent dynamics, etc... very transparent which foretells its ability to guide you on how to optimize the rest of your system (if this makes any sense). With the Bryston MM phono stage I am now experiencing resolution and sound quality with my vinyl collection that I never quite got to back in the day when I used to collect ECM jazz and prog rock and jazz fusion records. I chose to stick with moving magnet as a bit of a cost saving option since my phono stage retailed for $1,000 USD instead of $1800. My revamped Linn Sondek LP12 sounds better than I could have imagined and I now see how analog can be more delicate and musical than even very good digital.



@russashe - I have decided to take the plunge into vinyl and am considering a few tables.
Your post has helped me to solidify this decision.  It just makes sense to look for a decent turntable whether I end up digitizing or not.

So I am now looking into a 2 - 3k table.
My Bryston BP 26 does not have a phono board so will need to find a phono preamp also.

 

@hleeid I am betting Bryston could take very good care of you in that area.
Rega P8 at $3K (list) can't be beat @hleeid, but it doesn't include a cartridge or phono stage. It is much more than a "decent" turntable. There are numerous carts and PSs around. I have a van den Hul One special cart and a Sutherland Insight PS which are excellent (add about another $3K list). It is very hard to compare these things without hearing them in your system in your room - it's kind of a leap of faith. Enjoy your good fortune.
@sokogear - The Rega P8 (used) was one of the first decks I looked into along with the VPI Prime Scout (also used) and the Clearaudio Concept.

Does anyone have any experience with the Rega P8?
Or any other considerations in that price range (used)?
Russashe, the Clearaudio concept will do nicely you just have to put the right cartridge in it which depends on the phono stage. 
No, cleeds was not kidding a 24/192 conversion of a record will be indistinguishable from the record. cleeds and I are not the only ones to say this. Michael Fremer has made the same comment. He also uses Channel D software. 
cleeds, check this out. These guys are on a serious roll. Their Phono stage is one of the best out there. The L20 is the quietest phono stage ever made....if you can afford one :(
I have the pure Vinyl Program. It catalogs all my digital recordings in the iTunes Library, has all the required codecs and up samples everything to 24/192 to keep the anti aliasing filters up out of the way. I only digitize records I am ABing with another source. Just makes it easier. I have no intention of digitizing my entire collection. IMHO you would have to be out of your mind. 
@mijostyn No doubt the Clearaudio would be lovely.  I used one of their phono pre-amps for years and was quite happy.  I mentioned Bryston since @cleeid is using Bryston now.  I have been archiving my collection for years, mostly 24/192 and some 24/96 and I agree, to me they are basically indistinguishable but if someone told me they heard differences I wouldn't automatically assume they couldn't.  I recently got new speakers so think I might have to go PC and say 'virtually indistinguishable' for a while.  One comment, well made transfers seem very revealing of any setup errors but this is probably a psychoacoustical phenomena rather than an actual 'difference'.
Looked up prices on the Technics 1200 GR and might go that route.
Any reason to step up to the 1200 G aside from upgradeability?

@masi61 - Seems like you are happy with the BP2-MM. I have a few MC cartridges so would probably need the BP2-MM/MC.

Also found some used Rega P8s and RP8s.
Been quite an interesting journey learning about turntables and associated gear.
I digitize my records using a free app on my Apple - Garage Band.  Tedious, but works well  I use a cable from the tape monitor loop of the preamp to the mic input of the Mac.
@hleeid If you can get a used P8 for a good price from a Rega (or respected) dealer (local to you would be best so they can set it up and add spacers if necessary), I would jump on it. Not sure if I would buy it (or any turntable or really any amp or speakers) from an individual unless I knew them and they could provide some kind of guarantee. I would buy a used phono stage or power conditioner or maybe preamp from an individual as they would have a far lower chance of having problems with no moving parts.

That being said, I've also heard some good things about the Technics DD model, but I think Rega arms are fantastic and for the money, untouchable. It's almost like the table is a throw in after considering the value of the arm and the power supply unit (PSU).