Recording from amplifier source to computer - how to get levels right
Mar 10, 2006 at 10:00 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 24

batfastad

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Hi guys

I have an Audigy 2 ZS Video Editor that I use for video editing, but apparently it's a fairly decent sound card in there as well.

I want to start using my computer to record. Currently I get my vinyl and record it to my Sony CD recorder deck.
Then rip the resulting CD-RW

I know about Audacity, and how good it is for editing / recording.

I want to be recording at equivalent CD audio volume - how do I get that??
The creative recording software with the sound card has replaced the windows volume control.
Then there's the recording volume in audacity.

Is it just trial and error to get the right volume level, or is there an easy way?

I often find the volume of my records varies, and when recording to my Sony cd recorder, there's a decibel display and a recording level indicator so I can match it up with a similar volume as a CD playing through my amp.

What's the best way to get this right?

Thanks

Ben
 
Mar 10, 2006 at 11:11 PM Post #2 of 24

Sycraft

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There's no such thing as "CD Audio volume". The way digital sound works is on a scale of negatives. 0dBFS is the highest signal possible and means the biggest number that it can store, anything higher is clipping. Anything lower than that is expressed in negatives, so -6dBFS is 6 dB below the highest possible, or about half volume or equivilant to 1-bit of reduction.

The trick is to record things at as high a level as possible without going over, that gets you the most dynamic range. Unfortunately, trial and error is really the only way. Basically, test your input with different records, ones with big peaks preferably, calssic with things like timpanies would be a good choice. Every time it clips, back the levels off. Keep doing this until you can't get ti to clip anymore, then maybe back it off 3-6 more dB for safety. Record there.
 
Mar 11, 2006 at 1:12 AM Post #4 of 24

batfastad

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Thanks for that - I always wondered why you had negative decibels marked on the scales.
What it sucks sound in?? :lol:

Anyway...

Quote:

Originally Posted by labrat
The best hook-up here would be to continue having your turntable connected to your amplifier, then connect one of your free line-outs on your amplifier to the sound-card's line-in.


That's exactly my setup at the moment.

But I have no idea what an RIAA-Transformer is - could you explain some more??
Wikipedia failed on me.

Also, how can I tell if the sound is clipping?
Is there a good program for monitoring the levels of the audio input - something that maximises pretty large?
The one in audacity is a bit too small - my computer's currently running through the TV out and the res is pants.

How do I adjust the input level?
Is the best way to use the one in audacity? Or the one in creative's smartrecorder software that came with it?
Or the creative volume control that replaced the windows volume control in the system tray?

I'm still not sure whether I'll just use audacity, or this creative smartrecorder thing. The creative software will require fewer mouse clicks (which is important considering i'm using my living room tv at the moment).

Questions, questions, questions!!! :lol:

Thanks guys!!
 
Mar 11, 2006 at 2:43 AM Post #5 of 24

RockinOut

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This Audio Level Meter software is cool and freeware:

www.darkwood.demon.co.uk/PC/meter.html

Send him a couple of bucks if you like it; I did.

I used Pinnacle/Clean Preamplifier hardware and software. The software is ok but a bit too complicated for my needs. What's nice about is the hardware: the preamp. I bought the preamp and software for $99 2-3 years ago. I don't know if they still sell it or if you can still find it. But you can use any recording software you want, and record from line in.

Control the audio level on the meter above using the Windows Volume "Line In" slider or whatever driver/software comes with your sound card for recording. For playback, you monitor the audio level with meter using "wave out" slider.

You can also use many types of shareware recording software. I use the following with my preamp instead of the Clean software that came with it:

http://www.xaudiotools.com/

As labrat states, you have to do a bit of experimenting to find the level that you like. But using the meter above, once you know where to record and playback levels are at you can record consistently.

Note: Recording and Playback levels are different when using this audio level meter. You have to note the Recording Line In level that you like after experimenting and adjusting it to your desired volume, BUT, here is the important part, make sure when you playback that the playback level (volume and wave out sliders) are consistently the same during playback.

That may be unclear. I'll try one more time. Play a digital file that you like where the sound record level is set at. Now, while playing back this file, adjust the sound volume and wave out sliders so that 1) it sounds loud enough for you and 2) the wave out display on the audio meter just starts maxing out the red bar (all the way to the top) on the strongest sections of the file.

Now, play your vinyl and start recording the line in and monitor the audio level meter while recording and adjust the line in level at several different heights.

Now playback this recorded file at the preset volume level and see what line in you like it at.

Next time you record any vinyl, all you have to do is set wave out at preset location for playback, then record at the line in level that you find that you like.

I'm sorry if it's confusing, and if i didn't word it right. I didn't sleep last night, and just finished a midterm that kicked my *ss.

Any play around with it enough and it will work. It does take a bit of fiddling with but it worked for me. Maybe there's better software out there. Please use that if there is.

I'm just sharing this 'cause it worked really well for me once I figured it out.
Many of my dance music and remixes are only produced on DJ friendly 12" vinyls. That's how I got started. Most my other old vinyls I just rebuy in CD form or Itunes (128K
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) 'cause i'm too lazy.

Good luck.

Edit: Team UK. Yeah!. . . .I can't wait to go to London again, my favorite city in the world (and i've been everywhere). Cheers mate.
Edit #2:
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Mar 11, 2006 at 2:51 AM Post #6 of 24

RockinOut

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Sorry I forgot to mention, I used the vertical meter at the site above:

meterV.exe

Edit: it's all the way on the bottom of the web page. The exe file is teeny, tiny. Awesome.

I didn't like the others as much. Try it. See which one you suits you.

eggosmile.gif
 
Mar 13, 2006 at 6:55 PM Post #7 of 24

batfastad

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That's awesome.
I'm going to give that another go tonight.

But as far as you guys can tell, there's nothing seriously wrong with my set-up that will result in low quality recordings??

Would you expect the recording quality to be better or worse than using my Sony RCD-W3 hifi cd recorder?

Thanks guys

Ben
 
Mar 13, 2006 at 9:01 PM Post #8 of 24

jiiteepee

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Quote:

Originally Posted by batfastad
That's awesome.
I'm going to give that another go tonight.

But as far as you guys can tell, there's nothing seriously wrong with my set-up that will result in low quality recordings??

Would you expect the recording quality to be better or worse than using my Sony RCD-W3 hifi cd recorder?

Thanks guys

Ben



You can compare it by yourself (hard to say if you have not the same equipments in hands). I suppose, if you're going to record using 16-bit/44.1 kHz with Audigy you get better result with your RCD-W3.

But hey, try recording @ 24-bit/96kHz too with Audigy (this can be recorded using ASIO driver mode too but you need recording software that supports ASIO). You can then later dither to 16-bit and CSR if needed.
I think there are some line-in plugins available for Winamp and Foobar, which both are ASIO compatible players.


jitee
 
Mar 13, 2006 at 9:06 PM Post #9 of 24

batfastad

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Quote:

Originally Posted by jiiteepee
I suppose, if you're going to record using 16-bit/44.1 kHz with Audigy you get better result with your RCD-W3.


Why's that?

Just because the audigy's not the best soundcard?
Or is there a problem in general with recording direct to computers?
 
Mar 13, 2006 at 9:52 PM Post #11 of 24

Geoff Rymer

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It won't work for everybody since I appreciate it is very equipment dependent (and I have no idea of the specs of your soundcard), but for me the easiest way to record vinyl is via an a/d convertor (my minidisc deck in this case, which barely gets any other use these days) and the digital in on my soundcard.

I always found most soundcards distort really badly even at low recording levels on the analogue inputs, so digital was the obvious choice for me.
 
Mar 14, 2006 at 2:30 AM Post #12 of 24

batfastad

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Hi Geoff

You might be on to something there - that might be the easier way, and would guarantee consistent sound quality at least.

I too have a minidisc deck - I love the thing - it's an MDS JB980s from the NetMD days.
Still waiting for Sony to release a selection of Hi-MD decks as recording in Linear PCM mode on my HiMD portable, then exporting from the disc to a wav file is just awesome. So to be able to do that using a deck would be great.

I might experiment with digital again, in that case. I havn't tried it since upgrading my soundcard. Would certainly get round some of my concerns

I've got both digital coax and optical options on both my minidisc deck and my audigy 2 video editor box.
Plus my minidisc deck has a really good level monitor on it which should make things slightly easier.

I'll let you know how I get on.
 
Mar 14, 2006 at 7:52 AM Post #13 of 24

Geoff Rymer

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Hee, my deck is ooold! MDS-JB930 which I bought just after release. The level meter on the decks are really useful if you do a lot of recording to hard disc- being able to bump the levels to +4dB is useful for FM, can't remember what I use on vinyl but somewhere thereabouts. It makes pretty good recordings (I use optical since my soundcard is optical only).

Dunno if your deck is the same but I just press 'rec' when there is no disc in the machine and the input mode is set to analog. "DA-AD" is your friend...
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Mar 14, 2006 at 9:53 PM Post #15 of 24

batfastad

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So I've just tried recording through my minidisc deck - basically using it as a DAC, then an optical cable from the back of there into the optical input of my Audigy 2 Video Editor

Hitting record on my minidisc deck, lets me monitor the selected input without recording, and the sound comes into my computer.

In theory, is recording method going to be better or worse quality than line-in to computer, or to my cd-recorder??

I would have thought in theory it should be the same quality as with the CD recorder - as all that's being received by the computer is a digital signal.

Also my minidisc deck was £300 but my cd recorder was only £120 new, so I'm guessing my minidisc deck might have a better DAC in it.

Also, levels are so much easier to get right now!!!


Regarding the RIAA thing...
I've got my turntable hooked up to a normal amplifier input - not the phono one. Is that right?
When it's connected to the phono one on my amp, the sound's all crackly. To connect it to the phono inputs - is that what a phono pre-amp's for???


Also one bit of confusion I have over the naming of the digital inputs / outputs...
There's coax and optical versions.
But what's spdif and toslink?

My understanding is that toslink is the optical digital variety - being the larger square sockets that the cable clips into.
But what are the smaller optical connections called?
The ones that look almost like a 3.5mm mini-jack connection.

And spdif is just the standard for the transmission of digital audio down either optical or coax cable.
Right?


Thanks

Ben
 

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