What's new

Digital Music: Sound Cards

Okay, I got a lot of good responses about digital music players and I'm very thankful. If you can stand another question or two about pc music then I would be even more thankful.

Here's the skinny. I can do basic audio ripping of my cds. I'm no music afficianado but do appreciate good sound. I have some vinyl lps I would like to transfer to digital format and would really like some pointers about how to do this in a relatively painless way. Now, I have googled all over the place and there's about a million different views as to how this should/could/would be done. The simplest way is to use the inputs currently in most pc's sound card. Lets say a turntable's L & R rca plugs to one of those mini 1/8" stereo plug adapter cables. Using a freeware program like Audacity you then play the vinyl and capture it as a wav. file and edit or compress later. THEN you get the guys who go and screw stuff up for you by mentioning a very few little secrets about sound cards that are mostly aimed at gaming. The normal sampling rate for a cd is 44.1 Hz(I believe). The trouble is, many cards are locked at 48 Hz and down sample to 44.1 and then upsample back to 48Hz on it's way out of the card. This can cause latency that may sound like mis-timed music. Here's the kicker. I can't really tell from their articles whether this effect is noticed if you are just using the card to capture the music or if at the same time you're using the output as well to listen to it. What I'm saying is that I don't know if it affects the actual recorded file or if you just notice this latency while listenting at the same time. These guys grump about sound cards not having 44.1 supported natively in the card instead of being manipulated by the card at the higher freq. They also beef about the digital to audio converters(DAC)on these cards not being too good either. They really dislike Creative soundblaster stuff. It's super for gamers sounds but evidently not too good for recording.

Okay, have I been confusing enough? I'm still a bit confused myself. While I don't have a problem ponying up for a decent sound card, I don't fully understand the functions of some of them. This one is highly recommended http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/Audiophile2496-main.html
but as you can see, it's geared toward musicians who plug instruments into it. It has RCA jacks in and out and MIDI but if you put this card in your PC, will you need to run all your sound to an amplifier before the speakers? I don't see speaker outs on this card. So as you can see, I'm pretty green with real music editing on a pc. I'm not afraid to try it. I just don't want to get into quasi studio recording. I just need a good way to transfer some vinyl to digital. Before you ask, yes it's because some of what I want to archive isn't available on cd. BTW, specs for my pc are as follows. Dell P4 2.8Ghz with XP Media Center, 160Gig sata hdd, 512Mb ram, dvd player, dvd burner, basic onboard sound with 1/8" jacks for line in, line out, speakers, mic. Very basic and I don't know if it would need to be disabled to keep from conlict with a newer card. After all this, would using the line in jack with an amped turntable give a decent enough recording? Thanks guys and I hope I've been clear in questions. I sense that I'm sounding like I'm going in circles and may be confusing someone(Likely me).

Regards, Todd
From what I can tell in your explanation how soundcards work you wouldn't have any latency issues when dumping from vinyl to digital, only if you were multi-track recording and playing an instrument (it's really hard to record a guitar track when you are hearing what you're playing a second after the fact). I suggest paying a professional to get those records that aren't on CD transfered. I've tried it with a Pro Tools rig, and the amount of noise I got from it was ridiculous. I think you'll probably end up spending roughly the same on equipment as you would if you had someone else do it. That would be fine if you had use for that equipment after copying the records.

So to repeat myself, go find a technician or whatever they may call themselves who own gear specifically made to transfer records to digital. That's my advice and I'm sticking to it.
Records need RIAA equalization to sound right.

This said, any reciever that has a phono in has a RIAA EQ built into that input set. That's why only phonos sound right on it. That EQ was designed to circumvent the weaknesses of the format.

You can buy a 9v battery powered RIAA EQ from Radioshack.com for around $30.

The soundcard is another matter, what you need is a clean input, as well as a card that does not taint the recordings. I heard the Creative cards can do this task well using a 3-rd party driver, but you also can buy task specific soundcards that can do this very well (M-Audio, Emu, and AArdvark just to name a few).

The catch is you will have to add in some recording software. ProTools is the most common. One of my friends back in the day used Sound Forge...his recordings never sounded great, but he did have a really crappy soundcard, and was using a very crappy bookshelf stereo to record it. So keep that in mind, your recordings are as good as your weakest link.

Oh, and DO NOT spend big bucks on cables. Look for an adequately shielded cable of competant build. Monster is pricey, but can fit that criteria. Radio Shack "Gold" is another line that fits the bill. There are others as well....just don't go spending big bucks on cables...I'm not going to start anything about it (audiophiles the world over get into heated arguments over cables...), but just trying to keep things affordable here.
Kyle, Steve. No problemo. I am not trying to becme a quasi music editor. I just want a decent way to archive some analog sources in the pc. If it eventually means paying someone for the most critical(if that caveat really applies)sources then so be it. I would however like a fairly reasonable(dollars and sanity)solution for capturing the odd lps that I'd like to archive. Again, I'm not looking for studio quality, just decent playback.

Regards, Todd
Top Bottom