What not to do

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It's probably going to take me a long time to get used to the idea of playing my LP's through a DAC - I mean it's just really weird to put the needle down on the LP and hear the ticks and surface noise of that LP coming out of the PWD - but that's where we're going and to the extent we can get exactly the same sound quality through our DAC as we can with a straight analog phono preamplifier, this is a trend that will grow and someday be standard practice.

How is this possible? As I explained in an earlier post, it is quite possible to make a perfect digital copy of an analog recording - but the opposite isn't true. This is because analog recordings have relatively limited dynamic and frequency ranges while digital audio exceeds even the wildest analog copies of recordings.

I think many of us, including me, have misjudged this startling information because of how bad many remastered CD's of analog recordings are. What we've discovered is that the problem isn't in the copying it's in the mastering. In the hands of an expert who cares about sound quality, a digital copy of an analog master handily outperforms the LP version of the same. Again, this is because the LP loses a bit of what's on the master tape - while a proper digital copy captures everything there.

Years ago before digital audio appeared on the scene, those of us who could afford a studio quality tape deck found that getting a first generation copy of a master tape was remarkably superior to even the best vinyl pressings of that master tape. But now, with the advent of digital audio and the trend towards high end companies releasing well designed Analog to Digital Converters (ADC's) a first generation copy of a master tape can sound identical to the master - when copied with care.

And care means you have to have the proper ADC. So here's what NOT to do. Many people just assume that if they use a good computer program like Audacity to RIP their vinyl into a computer that they'll get good results. Not so and please don't waste your time. The ADC's built into computers, even the best sound card versions, just don't live up to high-end audio standards. And the software your computer uses to RIP is entirely dependent on the computer's ADC. Remember, all computers are digital in and out - you must have an ADC to get music into a computer before the software can ever do anything with the music.

To do this properly, you need an excellent ADC. Let's not forget that ripping vinyl is a major time consuming process. Unlike copying a CD, LP's are copied on a 1:1 basis and if you're going to spend the time, don't trust it to the ADC built into your computer.

It is incorrect to assume that once into the computer you can make things right with software. This is wrong and if you cannot convert the analog to digital properly, anything you do afterwards is wasted.

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Paul McGowan

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