I don't know what the hell you're talking about. I'm just leaving this post so I'll be notified whan there are some responses :~))
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The answer is, it depends. The quality of the A/D converter is the most important factor in analog to digital conversion, but it is closely followed by the quality of the sample rate conversion/word bit reduction processor. Whether done via dedicated hardware or software there are qualitative differences between competing products. My advice is that unless you are going to use truly professional oriented equipment to perform the SRC/word bit reduction to stay at 16 bit/44.1kHz throughout your conversion process. As a point of reference high quality hardware converter starts at around $1,000 and software goes for about $500.
I've converted approximately 500 albums to digital and the sound quality can be quite good. You won't be able to match the volume level of current commercial releases, but you won't have their squashed dynamics either. It's my experience that the word length is far more critical than the sample rate frequency. This is based upon using iTunes as my software interface. iTunes will only playback 16/44 files. If you're using software that allows for higher sampling rates then your results may vary from mine.
BTW, in the long run it would have been substantially cheaper for me to have purchased CDs of the albums. It's very time consuming to properly convert from analog to digital.
My experience is that the AD converter makes the most difference here. I have done a lot of studio work, and when I bought a Wadia 17 AD converter it really took things up a notch. When you buy an digital interface that does everything and is relatively cheap you don't get much in the way of AD converters. A nice outboard converter like the Wadia can make a world of difference. I just got into LPs and I plan to run from my record out of my pre to the Wadia 17 to a Marantz outboard CD recorder and make some CD copies of the LPs I have. I will have to sit and monitor the LP and insert the tracks to the CD via the Marantz remote, but that is the only work that it will take.
You can get an SACD burner made by Tascam. If you had higher bit rate converter and the right software you could in fact make hi resolution recordings yourself.
Check out an Alesis hard disk recorder new at about 800; has good AD and DA converters. Try to avoid sampling conversions if at all possible. The Alesis allows you to record to the hard drive, apply sound EQ (such as maximizing the levels without crunching), and to change the track order/delete tracks if you like. It is an excellent unit for moving LP, cassette, and DAT to redbook CD.
THanks everyone. I was trying to ask a hardware independent question. I guess the answer I'm hearing is stay with 16/44.1 so you don't have to do any followon conversion. Or maybe 24/44 (if that's possible.)
I also get confused by the disconnect between my world (old audiophile) and the new age computer guys who basically tell me all the good stuff they use to rip LPs etc to listen on an iTunes. I'm not putting down iTunes, its a great convenient way of music listening but I can't conceive of anyone actually considering portable devices even mid-fi. So my question about LP to wave to CD so I can listen to the CD on my high end stereo seems lost. One other point to be honest, I've never listened to an iTunes. Are they really able to distinguish the difference between good and better sound card A to Ds in playback?
Keis, stay away from anything but 16/44 unless you have access to high quality sample rate conversion/bit reduction equipment.
Your link between iTunes and portable/mid-fi devices is erroneous. It is very easy to distinguish between analog to digital conversion processes using iTunes. Unless you've used an iTunes like system, you cannot imagine the magnitude of the increased accessibility to your music collection. After switching to an iTunes system the end result is that I listen to more of my music collection than ever before. Now that's my definition of a good hardware upgrade.