Skip to Content
Skip to Table of Contents

← Previous Article Next Article →

ATPM 9.03
March 2003




Download ATPM 9.03

Choose a format:

What’s Under the Hood

by Robert C. Lewis,

Got Vinyl? Converting LPs to CDs Part 1: Terminology & Hardware

If you are of the pre-CD generation, odds are that you still have a collection of vinyl albums, from 78s and 45s to LPs, lying around your home. You probably have many albums that have not made it to a CD. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could transfer your valuable album collection to CDs? New music CDs cost $12 and up; you can use your Mac to record, filter, and then burn a CD for a fraction of the cost. Just bear in mind that the quality of the recording will not be the quality of a store-bought CD. However, it can sound as good as the original album and it beats searching for a copy of a CD you’ll never find.

Although you can record audio onto your Mac using the microphone input, the quality of the sound will not be of CD quality. If you have ever hooked a microphone up to your Mac, think about what your voice and other sounds were like as they came out of your speakers. There is tremendous distortion and signal loss as sound passes from the input device through the microphone input.

The only way around this problem is by the use of a PCI sound card, or sound input devices that plug into your USB port. At this point, there are no devices designed to utilize the FireWire ports on your Mac. Before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a moment and look at some key terms you will need to understand if you want to make a CD-quality transfer of your precious vinyl.


Sound is produced when particles (or molecules) vibrate. If you have ever looked at a woofer on a speaker, you can see this as the woofer moves in and out. Try holding your hand in front of the woofer or a sub woofer and you will feel the air pulse with the rhythm of the sound being generated.

Analog to Digital

As I just said, sound is a series of periodic vibrations. A phonograph takes these vibrations and converts them to electrical impulses. These impulses are an analog signal. Due to this transition between mediums there is always some loss or degradation in the sound quality. An analogy to this is making copies of a non-digital (i.e. VHS) home video. If you take the original and make a copy of it, you would see losses in picture and sound. Now if you take the copy and make a copy of the copy, the degradation becomes very severe. The picture becomes muddy and the sound is muted in quality. This type of degradation is due to noise that is inherent in any analog signal. No matter how well you shield the analog cables, they will still pick up random electrical noise as the signal is passed from one end to another.

When sound is converted into a digital format, it is converted into a series of numeric values by an Analog to Digital Converter, or ADC. Since there is a large amount of information found in sound, the computer takes “snapshots” or samples of the incoming signal at regular intervals. The number of samples per second is called the sample rate.

Sample Rate

The sample rate has a direct effect on the audio quality and the size of the file. The greater the sample rate, the higher the quality of the digitized sound. Since raising the sample rate increases the number of “snapshots” per second, this in turn increases the size of the resulting file. The sample rate is measured in kilohertz (kHz). Professional audio and audio CDs use 44.1 kHz. Although you could set an audio program to a sample rate higher than 44.1 kHz, when it comes to saving your project the sample rate must be re-adjusted to 44.1 kHz, or your CD will not play in regular CD players.

Bits Per Sample

The number of bits per sample is the complement to sampling. As we all know, a bit is represented by a binary code of a zero or a one. The binary coding of an audio signal produces a series of numbers called bits that are organized in a very specific way. All complex sounds contain a great deal of information at any sample interval. Audio CDs operate at 16 bits of data per sample. That adds up to a possible 65,536 values that the signal can take at that sample. Although you can sample at 24 or 32 bits, 16 bits is enough to describe even the most complex sounds.

The advantage of recording at a higher rate is that you are able to spread out the data and get a higher resolution of your recording. This in turn improves the quality of the transfer.


AIFF stands for Audio Interchange File Format. It was developed by Apple as a standard file format for saving sound files of any type. After you make the initial transfer of your LPs into your Mac, you will save your file as an AIFF. AIFF sounds can also be played on PCs.


Gain is similar to the volume of a recording on your stereo. Whereas the changing of the volume level by your stereo is temporary, changing the gain on your recording is permanent. When you adjust the gain of an audio file, you are changing the actual volume of the file. In an ideal recording, the gain should be such that you hear a large dynamic range while keeping your signal-to-noise ratio in check. Increasing the gain will also make noise embedded in your transfer more pronounced.


Filters are special types of software designed to remove frequencies in your recording. An analogy would be the plug-ins that are so widely used in Photoshop to adjust photographs. Some of the most common filters you will need to make CD-quality disks are: Pop, Rumble, Hum, Noise, Equalization, and Normalization. Depending on the program you use, these names may vary but they will still do the same thing.

We’ll discuss these terms further when we get around to editing our audio recording. Now, let’s move away from the science lesson and move on to the type of hardware you will need.

Step One: The Turntable

As with any journey, we must start with that all-important first step. Having a good turntable is probably the most important factor in converting your LPs to CDs. Using a nickel-and-dime turntable will produce poor results when you digitize the sound into your Mac. I had a very good Techniques Turntable that I bought back in 1977. Sadly, the belt on it broke and I made the mistake of not replacing it for several years. When I did have it replaced, the motor had gone bad.

As I soon discovered, buying a turntable is easy; but buying the right turntable is like finding a needle in a haystack. I went to Best Buy, Circuit City, Tweeters, and Fry’s. Finally, the people in a music pawn shop I went to directed me to the Guitar Center. As I soon discovered, this is where most party DJs go for their tools of the trade. As luck also had it, they were having their end-of-year clearance sale.

Jessica (one of the very helpful people at Guitar Center) was very versed on what I would need for a replacement turntable. The first thing I learned was that I needed a turntable with a built-in pre-amp. On older receivers, there used to be phonograph jacks for the right and left channels (plus a ground). Built into the receiver was a pre-amp that would boost the signal that could be used by the stereo. If you already have a setup like this, then you can move onto the next step to moving your sounds into your Mac. The only thing you might want to think about doing is replacing your needle if it is worn. A newer needle will improve the quality of the sound transmitted from the turntable.

Most home entertainment centers that are built today do not have phono jacks except on high-end units. This means that you will have to find another way to boost the signal or you will need a hearing aid to hear your albums.

As I just mentioned, one way to go is to buy a turntable with a built-in pre-amp. The advantage of this is the fact that everything is in one package. You can tell if your turntable has a built-in pre-amp by checking to see if it has a ground wire. If it does, then your turntable does not have a built-in pre-amp, and you will have to buy one separately. These units can cost anywhere from $25 to $100 and up. If you do decide to replace your turntable, then I recommend that you get a turntable with the pre-amp built in.

By doing my homework I was left with the choice between a Stanton and a Technics turntable. Although both companies make good products, I found that Stanton was the clear leader. As I have learned in the past, don’t let the manufacturers’ name guide you to the right product. The top of the line Technics turntable ($750) did not have half the features of the one I got from Stanton ($450).


Stanton STR8-80

Try to set your price range to around $150 to $250. Check to see what type of head and needle cartridge comes with the turntable. If the cartridge head is not removable, and looks cheap, look on. Some more expensive turntables ($300 and up) even offer digital output. If you can find a good deal on a digital turntable, grab it. That is exactly what happened to me.

As I said earlier, Guitar Center was having their end-of-year clearance sale and I wound up walking away with a $450 Stanton STR8-80 turntable for $200 (currently going for $220). It has every bell and whistle I could ask for on a turntable. If you are in need of a new turntable, I highly recommend this model. With that out of the way, we are ready to look at how to import your audio onto your Mac.

Step 2: The Right Connection

Now that you have selected the turntable you are going to use, the next step is deciding the best way to connect it to your Mac. In essence, there are two ways: direct and indirect. Let’s look at the direct way first.

If you have a turntable with a built-in or separate pre-amp set up, then hooking it up to your Mac is a no-brainer. All you need is a set of cables with RCA jacks to go from your turntable to a sound card or USB device. We will talk about these different devices in just a couple of paragraphs. If you got lucky and have digital output from your turntable, the same applies except you will use a digital coaxial cable.

If your turntable does not have a pre-amp, you are probably hooked up to your stereo or home entertainment center that has one for your turntable already. Under no circumstances should you use the headphone jack as an output to your Mac. Using the headphone jack will not send a pure signal to your Mac. The volume, bass, and treble controls will affect the signal coming out of the headphone jack. If, after making your recording, you wish to make changes in the bass and treble frequencies of your music, you can do that with an equalizer software filter.

In most cases, your receiver should have a set of RCA output plugs on the back. If you have a tape deck, you can use the output jacks from it as well. Then all you have to do is run a set of RCA cables from your receiver to your Mac.

Step 3: Plug Me In

If you have followed my instructions up to this point, you probably are holding onto a set of RCA or digital cords. The next step is deciding what you will do with those cables. If you own a tower Mac, then one way to go is with a PCI sound card. I must recommend that you go to a store that is best suited for such a purchase (i.e. an audio store). Once again, I found Guitar Center an ideal place to go. People who do audio work for a living go there for their needs. Thanks to their knowledgeable staff I was able to make the right purchase without breaking the bank.

I wound up buying the Audiophile 2496 PCI card by M-Audio. This card allows me to hook my turntable directly to my Mac by either RCA or digital cords. It offers data paths that are bit-for-bit accurate and supports up to 24-bit/96 kHz performance. It also has a total harmonic distortion of 0.002% and a frequency response of 22 Hz to 22 kHz. What this all means is that whatever your turntable puts out will be completely captured by this card. I must admit that I got lucky at getting this card for $125 since it has now gone up to $180 at Guitar Center.


Audiophile 2496

Unless you plan to go beyond mastering your albums to CD, do not buy a card that goes beyond your needs. If you are going to use RCA plugs, then you do not need a card that supports digital output. There are many cards available for less than $125. Just make sure you do your homework before you put your money down on any audio card. M-Audio does make cards that are designed for those who plan to use only RCA plugs as their connection.

If you own an iMac, iBook, or PowerBook, then the use of a PCI card is not an option. It is also worth bearing in mind that the microphone jack no longer comes built-into current Mac models. If you own one of the newer models without a microphone jack, your only alternative is to use USB input devices. No FireWire devices are available at present.

Griffin Technology offers a great device called the iMic ($35) that plugs right into your USB port. The device works in both OS 9 and OS X and does not need any drivers. You may need to rearrange your USB devices because the iMic tends to work best when plugged directly into your Mac. Control of the iMic is done within your Sound preferences pane. Again, no special software is needed.



Although the iMic can sample at 24-bit, Apple’s audio manager is limited to 16-bit sampling. Because the iMic stays outside your Mac, it eliminates transient noise that is produced by the power source, hard drive, CPU, and other components found in your Mac. The iMic is not perfect, but is a good entry-level way to import your LPs into your Mac.

The iMic also comes with software called Final Vinyl that is hardware-specific and is expressly made for the transfer of LPs to CD. A spokesman from Griffin Technology informed me that Final Vinyl has the ability to boost the signal from your turntable in case you lack a pre-amp.

No matter what device you go with, make sure you read what’s on the box. Does it support OS X? What software comes with it? Although my Audiophile 2496 did boast OS X-native support, the CD sampler of utilities that came with it was all for OS 9. I talked to M-Audio about this, and they have created a new disk with OS X utilities.

I also recommend that, whatever device you do buy for your Mac, you should go directly to the company’s site and check to see if they have a newer driver for your unit. Even as I write this article, M-Audio is in the process of writing a new driver for my sound card.

Wrap Up (for Now)

This concludes the hardware portion of transferring LPs to CD. Now you have a full month to get your equipment in order in preparation for part two of this article. Next month we’ll discuss how to use your Mac as a recorder and the different types of software available. Then we’ll discuss how to remove the pops, hisses, and other unwanted noises with the use of software filters; how to make a play list; and then how to transfer to CD.

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (52)

Toni Seth · March 2, 2003 - 22:36 EST #1
This article comes at just the right time, I'm getting more interested in the music side of the computer now. On January 8, 2003, I made inquiries into Black Cat Systems for their "audiocorder" software, of which I'm still thinking about, and, recently, a friend of mine installed "SoundEdit 16" on my iMac. Now, I've got all this great information from you. Like Tony the Tiger says, "I feel great."
Guy Hatton · March 6, 2003 - 05:33 EST #2
No Firewire audio devices? Er, various MOTU interfaces, Presonus Firestation, Digi 002, anybody? These may be way over the top for the requirements of this particular application, but they most emphatically do exist and have been around some time now!
Ed Hanna · March 6, 2003 - 11:01 EST #3
This is an excellant primer and I thank you for it.

I'd also be interested in learning how best to transfer audio tapes to CD via a Mac using the Griffin iMic. Is it possible, for instance, to play the tapes from a Walkman-like device through the iMic?
Eric Winesett · March 7, 2003 - 10:59 EST #4
In addition to the Firewire devices Guy mentioned above, you could use various DV-based analog-to-digital converters. I have the Sony DVMC-DA1 (now replaced by the DA2), which is designed to take input from analog video sources and convert them to DV. There's no reason you couldn't plug an audio device into the stereo RCA inputs and use it just for audio capture, as long as you have an application that recognizes DV audio input (like Bias Peak). You could even use iMovie. The only extra step would be converting the DV file to an AIFF.
DRMX · March 7, 2003 - 10:59 EST #5

Yes, it's possible. I used a little bookshelf tape player hooked up to the iMic which was then hooked up to my Cube via USB. Griffin even has a nice little utility (Final Vinyl) that will capture the sound coming in from the iMic. Play the whole tape and save it as a large AIFF file. Open the AIFF in a sound editor (Amadeus is good) and start cutting it up into tracks. Use iTunes to covert the tracks to MP3 for your iPod. You can also burn it to CD.

It worked great for me. It still sounds like a tape, but at least it won't degrade any further.
Mike Pickard · March 7, 2003 - 13:30 EST #6
I can't wait for part 2! I have a 30-year-old reel-to-reel recording of my grandfather I want to capture for posterity.
DLF · March 7, 2003 - 13:53 EST #7
Some information about firewire audio would also be cool.
Ernie W. · March 7, 2003 - 19:38 EST #8
I have Audiocorder which I've used with the iMic, and it works quite well.
However, I've found that Coaster (freeware) is even better because it has separate precise level meters and other options for fine tuning your operation (IMHO). The only downside is that Coaster is OS 9 only.

Gary Wenz · March 8, 2003 - 13:24 EST #9
No no no, just buy an RCA to 1/8" stereo jack to transfer from your analog output device (including radio) into your audio in jack (most Macs have one). Download a shareware program like Audiocorder, $20. Configure it (you can figure it out. I did.) and transfer tunes/files to a folder you set. Whenever you open that folder and click an icon, iTunes opens and plays it and/or burns it. So easy and cheap!

You may have to configure iTunes, but I think I just dragged one tune into a new folder in iTunes or used import. Anyway, once that's done, it's automatic afterward.

There are several freeware and shareware downloads, as well, to edit your tunes. Have fun!

If you can't get it done, e-mail me. I will try to help.
James Fencl · March 9, 2003 - 02:37 EST #10
I'm using an iMac 400 with DVD and I have found an M-Audio Quattro USB. What I'm trying to do is save 300 old quadraphonic tapes, bring them into my Mac, clean them up, and save them in DTS format. I'm good with Macs--in fact, I still have my first 128k Mac, but know nothing in the software area I need. This is a retirement project for me. I'm a disabled vet and have lots of time now to listen to my tunes. Any help would be great. By the way, I'm upgrading to OS X 10.2.

Thank you.
Robert Lewis (ATPM Staff) · March 9, 2003 - 05:43 EST #11
Hi all. Wow I cannot believe the response to my article. Instead addressing each letter, I thought I would do this as a group response.

First, in response to the FireWire statement, I did a great deal of research and did not come across any FireWire devices. True, the MOTU is a FireWire device, but it costs $795. It is the type of rack used by professionals. If I was going to discuss products at this price range, I might as well discuss a turntable that goes for $7,000 (sorry, I do not know the brand). I also discovered in my research that you do not need the transfer rate offered by FireWire. The people at M-Audio & Griffin Technology told me that FireWire is just not needed. The transfer rate supplied by USB is fast enough. As far as that rack is concerned, it is just plain overkill for this article.

Next, lets talk tapes. Most of what I will discuss in part 2 will overlap with tapes. The extra filter you will need is one that removes hiss. The point I made about finding a decent turntable is also true about tapes. Yes, you can get away with an inexpensive Walkman or boombox, but, again, bear in mind that you will be moving your sounds through the headphone jack. As I said in my article, the sound leaving that port will be affected by the volume/bass/treble you have set. If you want a clean transfer, you really need a tape deck. Remember, your audio output device is the first link in the chain. If that link is the weakest link, then that is what you will wind up with. Your initial recording is the most important step. There is no way to restore frequencies that are not transferred by boomboxes and Walkman-type devices.

This next one, I must direct at Gary's comment:

Again, I must emphasize that use of the Mac microphone jack is not wise. It is not a well-shielded input device. Why do you think new Macs no longer come with it? If you even hooked a mic to that jack and listened to your voice, then you know how distorted it is. Go to any music store like Guitar Center, and they will confirm this. I just looked at the Feb. issue of MacFormat where they did a similar article to mine. The hair on my neck went straight up when I read that the author of that article said to use the mic jack. I put a great deal of work into getting my facts straight and the first thing I learned was NOT to use the mic jack. The way you connect to your Mac is the second link in the chain. The iMic by Griffin is the cheapest ($35) and cleanest way, for the money, to move your sounds into your Mac. Now I will step down off the pedestal.

With that out of the way, I will clue you into part two. Part two will discuss how to record and clean up your recordings. The programs we will look at will be Amadeus II, iMic/Final Vinyl, Jam/Spin Doctor, and Montage/RayGun. This covers a gambit of $25-$250. Remember, Final Vinyl is product dependent on iMic. At this point, I do not plan to discuss Peek LE or Spark LE because the programs do not have the filters needed to complete the job. Only their full programs include the needed filter and they will cause sticker shock for some of my readers.

I hope this group letter helps answer some of the comments made by all of you. End of line.
Tom M. · March 10, 2003 - 10:32 EST #12
Hi! Great article. Many thanks! I am really looking forward to the 2nd installment.

I'd like to point out that DigiDesign Pro Tools is available free for OS 9. Perhaps that will also be reviewed in the next article.
Stephen DiCenso · March 11, 2003 - 07:53 EST #13
I agree that this article has come at the right time. I am interested in this very subject. There is a firewire device out there that is pretty good. I was in the process of trying various solutions when Formac announced a software upgrade for there Studio DV/TV and Studio TV analog to digital convertors. They also included a piece of software similar to Final Vinyl. I have played with both the iMic and the Studio DV/TV and the quality on the Formac product seems to be far superior. I haven't tried them with a turntable yet, but have with a boombox and a portable Walkman-type tape player. In both cases, the Formac device recorded quality was much better than the iMic. I will try to use the iMic and the Studio to try to record vinyl. If the Studio is better, I plan to return the iMic.
Maurice C. Barone · March 11, 2003 - 09:31 EST #14
Mr. Lewis has the beginnings of a great article set. I think he is wise in eliminating discussion of really high-priced equipment and software. "Sticker shock" is definitely the case with some programs I've reviewed. I can't wait to see his review of Amadeus II. It looks like the ideal program at an unbeatable price, especially if you are using an input device other than Griffin's iMic. Also, M-Audio now has a standalone version of the Audiophile 24/96. For the price (about $199), you get a lot of features. I'm purchasing one myself.

I hope Apple will increase the number of bits the Audio Manager can handle to at least 24 bits. There are advantages to recording your sound at the highest bit level and sampling rate even if you must downsample to 16 bits and 44.1 kHz later. With the higher parameters, you have more information to deal with if you must do noise control and other forms of sound shaping. Thus, you are not as likely to lose information as easily as when you are editing at lower parameter levels. On to the next episode!
Larry Miller · March 22, 2003 - 18:40 EST #15
Maybe I missed something, but I know that most older Power PC Macs (B&W and older) and new mirror door Macs have a line input for audio in. If you have one of these Macs, it's easy to go from the line out RCA connectors from a pre-amp/receiver/amplifier to your Mac (you will need an RCA to mini phono jack that you can get at Radio Shack). There are a number of shareware and freeware tools to handle the encoding to AIFF or MP3.
Tom Moore · March 29, 2003 - 11:37 EST #16
It might be good to point out that the iMic stuff from Griffin only works with OS X 10.2 or higher. I'm going to have to upgrade now that I've bought the hardware.
Ernie W. · March 29, 2003 - 11:47 EST #17
Re: iMic stuff only working with 10.2...

No, I'm using the iMic with iMic Control (v1.5) with OS X 10.1.5. No problems at all.

Also iMic Control is necessary (or certainly recommended) to control the line input levels from the iMic, at least when I'm using it with Audio Hijack Pro.

Tom Moore · March 29, 2003 - 13:37 EST #18
iMic won't work at all with OS X 10.1.5 on my original iMac. No sound comes through the iMac, though the levels are bouncing in Preview mode. I'm not sure if a data file can be created. Final Vinyl quits unexpectedly on attempting that. It does work (sort of) with a PowerBook G4 running 10.2.4. I'm still learning how to use the software, but having what seem to be hardware problems:

1. There is significant line noise with a turntable connected straight into the iMic with the turntable ground line either tied to my receiver case or free. Handling the iMic increases the noise noticeably. The preamp boost is set to 20db and the input level is set to give slight "red" levels at peaks.

2. With the turntable going through the receiver then to the iMic, the signal is saturated (solid full scale levels, a bit of wiggle in the lows, but no red) and the input level will bring down the apparent level, but doesn't bring the signal out of saturation. I don't have a way to reduce the source level in this mode. Looks like a mismatch.

3. I recorded one side of one album and had significant regular dropouts in the data file created along with some apparent scrambling of the tracks. I haven't sorted all that out yet.

I have a ways to go before producing satisfactory MP3s.
Ernie W. · March 29, 2003 - 17:45 EST #19
Tom - re: no sound coming through your original iMac (with iMic), I suspect that would be a function of the software you're using to record. I've found the same situation (no sound) with Coaster (OS 9) and Audiocorder (OS X). Sound Studio has a checkbox for sound 'on' or 'off.' With Audio Hijack Pro (and its 'LineIn' application), the sound comes through, although at way too high a level (your #2 point). I use iMic Control to bring it down out of saturation.

In my situation, I recorded all my favorite songs from my albums to cassettes first. Then, I recorded the cassettes to my hard drive with the iMic. Then, one can use an application like Amadeus II to slice up the recording into individual songs/files.

By the way, I've recently been evaluating Amadeus II vs. Sound Studio vs. Peak, specifically for slicing and dicing big MP3 files of streaming audio. Amadeus is the only one which will read MP3 files, plus it's simple to use and inexpensive, so I will be buying it.
Robert Lewis (ATPM Staff) · March 29, 2003 - 22:59 EST #20
Tom, iMic works with the Apple sound manager. You need to set the input/output to Built-in audio controller. As far as your turntable problems are concerned, could you give me an idea of the age of your turntable? From your description, you apparently do not have a preamp for the turntable. Does your receiver have an output jack on the back? If so, keep your turntable connected to your receiver and feed your sound to the iMic from those feeds. Then you will not have to use the preamp boost in Final Vinyl. Do not use the headphone jack for your feed. Another point about Final Vinyl is that you should not use the equalizer when you record. That may be causing the saturation effect and distortion. Hope these points help.
Robert Lewis (ATPM Staff) · March 29, 2003 - 23:16 EST #21
Ernie, going from LP to tape to your Mac is the worst thing you could do. You are copying from one analog signal to another when you go from your turntable to tape. Doing that results in loss of signal plus the addition of tape hiss. Then, to remove tape hiss, you will have to suppress more frequencies in your recording when you edit. You need to move your sounds directly from your turntable to your Mac. No middleman. If you must use your tape deck, run your feed from the ouput jacks directly to the iMic. Just do not tape first and then do the transfer. End of line.
Brian L. Reimer · April 3, 2003 - 11:09 EST #22
Re: Tom's point #3 of data drop-out.

I use a Roland ED model UA-30 USB box. The UA-30 has in/outs for analogue line, guitar/mic, digital optical, and coaxial. It has been updated/replaced, so I'm not sure what it's called now.

I experience significant data drop-out. I have been encouraged to switch to FireWire because USB is just too slow to keep up. The data loss sounds like ticks, which are common on vinyl, so I did not notice it at first except when there are severe cases. If I use any clean source like a MD through the analogue in, it is very noticeable. I could not remove these ticks with Peak.

Any comments on my experience?
Dan R. · April 3, 2003 - 12:24 EST #23
I have had great success using the FireWire Formac Studio and Felt Tip Sound Studio for OS X to save my extensive vinyl collection. I go to AIFF @ 16-bit, 44.100 kHz from my Technics turntable out of my receiver tape out RCAs. Later, I have used iTunes 3 to burn the CD. The quality is only as good as your original vinyl recording.
Robert Frye · April 13, 2003 - 21:01 EST #24
A call for help!!

Using an old turntable, a pre-amp, and an iMic, in addition to LP signals, i receive a radio broadcast. Has anyone encountered this? Could a new, good turntable be the answer? Any ideas? Much thanks for any help.

Robert Frye
Brian L. Reimer · April 14, 2003 - 10:34 EST #25
Usually the phono pre-amp has a Radio Frequency (RF) filter to block the FM.

I just contacted a radio engineer friend and here's his help to find where the RF is leaking in. At each step, listen for the RF to go away.

  1. All devices need to be grounded to the same power plug. If they're plugged into the same wall outlet with a power bar, that will do it.

  2. Connect everything up and listen for the RF.

  3. Disconnect the turntable from pre-amp.

  4. Connect a cable to the pre-amp to mimic the turntable cables. If you hear RF, then you may have bad turntable cables. This is where your problem is.

  5. Disconnect the pre-amp from the iMic. If you hear RF here, you have a bad RF filter in the pre-amp. This is the most likely the source--a pre-amp with a cheap RF filter.

  6. Disconnect the iMic (highly unlikely since this is an analogue problem). If you hear RF, you've got bad sockets on the iMic, I guess.

In each step, disconnect and reconnect a few times to be sure you are hearing the RF.

Hope this helps.

Robert Frye · April 14, 2003 - 16:19 EST #26
Hi Brian. I believe I have determined that the Radio Shack preamp I was using leaks. I have located a better one. As far as I can tell, the radio signal is gone. Should it fail, I still have the other tests you said to try. Meanwhile, I want to thank you and your engineer friend for your outstanding assistance. It's spared me further anguish and the cost of a new turntable. Please know that it is greatly appreciated.

Robert Frye
Jeff Wagoner · April 21, 2003 - 20:48 EST #27
I recently purchased a Stanton STR8-80 turntable to transfer LP music to my G4. I have a Formac Studio DV converter which works great for converting analog movies to DVD, but I can't get the Formac hardware to convert the analog LP music. I am trying to use iMovie 3 to capture the audio. Any suggestions?
Robert Frye · April 21, 2003 - 21:16 EST #28

I also have a new Stanton STR8-80. I don't know that my setup is of use to you. For one thing, am burning LPs to CDs on an iMac. I'm using a Griffin USB iMic from the turntable to the computer. I'm recording using Amadeus software and burning using Toast 5.2. I am told one can download the latest version of Amadeus II here. I hope this is of use.

R. Frye
Robert Lewis (ATPM Staff) · April 21, 2003 - 22:49 EST #29
Regarding Firewire versus USB transfers:

Hi all. After talking to several audio engineers, I found out that the data transfer rate is quite fine over USB. As a matter of fact, I was told that Firewire is overkill in transfer rate. M-Audio just took the Audiophile 2496 and made an in-the-box version that connects via USB. It is called the Audiophile USB and retails for about $250. If Firewire was needed for audio, then M-Audio would have made it Firewire. Believe me, USB is good enough for audio transfer.
Henry · April 29, 2003 - 19:09 EST #30
Ernie W. wrote that he uses Amadeus 2 to process "big MP3 files of streaming audio."

I would be interested in finding out how he captures the MP3 streaming audio, i.e. from where, and with what.
Ernie W. · April 29, 2003 - 19:56 EST #31

To capture MP3 streaming audio, I use Audio Hijack Pro to capture from any source I choose (iTunes, RealOne, Internet Explorer, etc). AH Pro allows you to choose your source as well as how you want the audio encoded (AIFF, MP3, various sampling rates--you choose). I know it's overkill but, for music, I choose 256 kbps MP3.

Example: I want to capture some high quality hits from the 70s, so I use iTunes. The source is Radio, 70s pop, and I select WOLF FM at 128 kbps. I use AH Pro to target iTunes as the source, set my encoding rate, click "Hijack" and click "Start Recording." I try to keep each recording about two hours maximum because, at this file size, it takes Amadeus 5-10 minutes to load the file.

To process the big MP3 file, I load it into Amadeus and start playing it. If I don't like the song, I click ahead 2-3 minutes. If I come across a song I like in the big stream, I set markers in Amadeus just before the song and just after. You can click into the stream at any point to begin playing the music and set markers. I then save the song selection to another small file. I keep doing this for the whole stream. I reprocess the smaller files (individual songs) with Amadeus to cut out any material before and after the song and then add fade in and fade out, if appropriate, to make the beginning and ending sound better.

Many others at the above web site's forum use AH Pro to capture all-night BBC programs. I find AH Pro and Amadeus to be a powerful combination.

I hope this helps.
Jim Nagle · June 19, 2003 - 11:31 EST #32
Is there a distinction between the mic inputs on older Macs and the so-called audio in on newer Macs? I just bought a new eMac with the audio in and would like to know how essential buying iMic would be. Thanks in advance.

Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · June 22, 2003 - 21:30 EST #33
Jim, I have made recordings using both the iMic and the built-in mic connector (B/W G3). The input on that machine has the same specs as your eMac. While I do not detect a noticeable difference, the iMic is capable of sampling at a higher rate than the built-in port. The company web site has links to some reviews which might be helpful to you, including at least one suggesting better performance with the iMic. Check them out.

The biggest advantage I see is that it gets the sound input outside the case and isolated from potential sources of electrical interference.
Don Sherman · June 27, 2003 - 05:23 EST #34
I came across your three articles today (Google search). They are a godsend to me, as I have been struggling with this analog to digital audio issue for almost a year.

Where my problem differs from some of yours in the forum (very useful, by the way--congratulations to all participants), I have a huge collection of high fidelity audio cassettes containing nearly 50,000 songs. Slicing up the tracks manually will take longer than my projected lifespan, so I'm seeking a program or a script that will run in OS X and find the flat spots in the wave form that represents silence between tracks, then copy the individual tracks to a folder.

Manually keystroking or pasting the titles of 50,000 songs will be labor enough and I realize this is unavoidable, but does anyone here, and especially you, Robert, with all your wonderful research and experience, have a clue as to how I can find such automation?

I'm running OS X 10.2.6 on an AGP Power Mac 450, but will be moving to a dual processor G5 as soon as they ship, then Panther OS when released. I could, if advisable, hold the project until then.
Robert Lewis (ATPM Staff) · June 27, 2003 - 21:20 EST #35
Hi Dan. If you read part three of my article, you will read about CD Spin Doctor and its ability to automatically break your recording into tracks. The only problem with this process is that if there is any sudden drops in sound or false endings, CD Spin Doctor will place breakers there. There's also the problem where one track bleeds into the next track with no drop in sound. Many Beatles albums are like this. An album with 8 tracks could wind up with 24 breaks or no breaks. Classical music is even more difficult. I wish I could be of more help, but I just do not know of any program that can do what you want.
Ronda Z. · August 8, 2003 - 10:17 EST #36
I bought a Stanton STR8-80 based on these articles and discussions. I was disappointed when I actually hooked it up and realized it does not have a built-in pre-amp. Nobody mentioned that. I do not have an amplifier or stereo system to hook the turntable up to. Can anyone recommend a small, inexpensive phono pre-amp I could buy? I tried using Final Vinyl's capabilities of boosting the signal but it seemed to lose a lot of the lows. I think I'd get better quality using a pre-amp.

Also, if I were to buy a sound card for my G4 and use the digital output from the turntable, would that eliminate the need for a pre-amp? I'm new to the audio area on a Mac and would appreciate some advice. Thanks.
Evan Trent (ATPM Staff) · August 11, 2003 - 00:58 EST #37
If you buy a sound card with digital input, you will not need a preamp--you are correct.

Alternatively, you would have to get a phono preamp to boost the output of the phono cartridge from approximately 4 mV to roughly 2 V. FYI, it's not just a matter of boosting the output. This is why people who think they can boost the signal using a program like Final Vinyl or Amadeus or whatever, end up with lousy sounding CD-Rs of their vinyl. Yes, the signal needs to be amplified considerably, but there is also the issue of equalization. Records are cut using an RIAA curve. If you do not run the output from the turntable through an RIAA equalizer, you will end up with improper frequency response (lean bass, among other things). All phono preamps have an RIAA equalization circuit built in. (The digital output from the turntable handles RIAA equalization for you so that's not an issue. I am referring purely to the analog outputs.) A discussion of why RIAA equalization is used gets somewhat involved, but it basically has to do with the fact that lower frequencies require larger grooves which leads to less music on the record and also more problems with groove modulation, etc. So, the RIAA curve allows you to make a smaller groove. Then, it boosts the bass using an equalizer after the signal is picked up by the stylus. As a result, if you don't use an RIAA equalizer, you get mediocre bass response.

So, what you need is an inexpensive moving magnet phono preamplifier. This will both boost the output and deal with the equalization of the RIAA curve. You can find one at Sam Ash or most any other "DJ" or "pro audio" shop. Do a search for "phono preamp" at one of those online web stores and you should come up with some choices.

A solid, audiophile-grade phono preamp is the NAD PP-1 which retails for $110 but can be had for a little bit less (usually under $100). If you do web search for it, you will find it at a variety of shops. A place that sells them at a discount locally here in Chicago is Saturday Audio Exchange.

Give them a call or send them an e-mail. They do sell via mail order and they do stock this item. I have sent a lot of people in your position to them for PP-1s in the past. (I do not sell them at my store and, even if I did, I would not try to sell to a reader because it represents a conflict for me to give advise that financially benefits me.)

The NAD unit is, by far, the best-sounding unit for under $100. In order to beat it, you would have to spend about $250 which makes little sense to me, given the application we are talking about here, but it might make sense to buy a PP-1 instead of, say, a $60 phono stage because it really will sound better and leak less noise into the signal than a less expensive model.

Of course you have to weigh the cost of a sound card with digital inputs and decide for yourself if that makes more sense.
Steven Varner · August 12, 2003 - 00:32 EST #38
I just bought a new iMic. It no longer seems to come with Final Vinyl. Instead, there's a suite of applications for the Mac and PC. On the Mac side, there's a trial version of Peak LE 3.1, a trial version of Deck 3.5 (an 8-track digital recorder/editor), and a demo version of MegaSeg 2.1 (an MP3 mixer and cataloger). I just downloaded the trial version of Amadeus and will give that a try for a while.
May · September 17, 2003 - 11:36 EST #39
I just bought a Technics SL-220 turntable (made in 1978) and I just want to know what receiver/pre-amp thing I need to buy in order to hook it up to speakers. I'm not trying to make CDs at all.

I want the name of the cheapest thing possible! :)

Also, the belt is broken and I'm replacing it. I was wondering if more expensive belts are really better than cheap ones. Also, there is a little black round thing with a hole in the middle that came with my turntable. Where does that go?

I'm so lost!

Thank you, so much!
Evan Trent (ATPM Staff) · October 29, 2003 - 00:35 EST #40
May, go out and buy the cheapest rack system or receiver you can find at Circuit City or wherever you like. Then go to Radio Shack and get a cheap phono preamplifier from them and plug it into one of the "Aux" or "Line" inputs on the back of the receiver. Plug the turntable into the phono preamp, and you're in busness.

There is absolutely no difference between belts. Virtually all of them are made of some sort of rubber that should last an awfully long time. The only thing you should care about is that the belt provides sufficient tension to provide a consistent speed. Make sure the belt fits tightly and there is no slack. Beyond that, a belt is a belt.

The little black round thing is most likely an insert for 45s because many of those have a center cutout and they require a 45 adapter in order to fit onto the spindle.


will adams · December 8, 2003 - 16:41 EST #41
I've just bought a new G4 powerbook 15" and was just woundering if I need to buy the imic to convert my vinyl or if I can connect directy from my mixer? I'm a bit green when it comes to mac's, this is my first one.
I've been given conflicting advice by sales people about what I need to put vinyl onto my powerbook and then my i-pod. please can you help.
ps my set up, if any help is: 2 technics 1200's and a stanton mixer running through a NAD amp.

Matt · December 17, 2003 - 14:34 EST #42
I've been looking all over the web for info on how to record off LPs, and you've everything I need to know in this article! Thanks!

I'm wondering if the microphone jack on the iMic makes the best connection for inputting sound from my stereo. Wouldn't it be better if they had made the iMic with RCA jacks instead?

The "EDIROL UA-1A Audio Capture Interface" looks like a similar audio input device with RCA input. But I haven't been able to find much about it without buying it. Has anyone used this instead of the iMic?

Ziggy · January 3, 2004 - 00:14 EST #43
I have a SL-220 turntable that I just refurbished, but I don't have the manual. Does anyone have a manual that explains how to balance the arm?

Thanks for considering the assist - Zig
DD Turner · May 22, 2004 - 22:55 EST #44
I have been able to record from a cassette deck using iMic. My problem is I am only getting one channel, not stereo. Stereo is checked in the perfs screen. I took the deck to my home stereo and am getting both sides of the tape to play. When recording in Audacity only one track shows any sound, I am getting sound played back through only one speaker. I have double double checked everything and have been unsuccessful in getting both channels recorded.

Thanks for your help.

Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · May 23, 2004 - 03:12 EST #45
DD - check the cable you're using to connect the cassette deck to the iMic. Look at the mini plug tip that plugs into the iMic. Does it have two little black rings (sometimes other color, but rarely) or only one? If you only see one, then you have a cable that's mixing both the RCA jacks on one end to a mono plug. There are pictures on this Radio Shack page. The top two images are 1/4-inch phono plugs, but the ring configuration is the same for a mini plug.
Robert Lewis · July 28, 2004 - 19:48 EST #46
Since I am the original writer of the article, if you have any questions you can direct it to and I will get back to you as soon as possible. It is nice to see that my series still attracts so many even since it was published over a year ago.
arun · November 21, 2004 - 20:33 EST #47

a perfect solyion to those who grew up with a technology...treasure the same ... but are unable to metamomorphose it to the new era technology....
how doi i get to part two!

Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · November 21, 2004 - 21:26 EST #48
Arun - links to parts 2 and three are within the "Also In This Series" box that follows the article, just above the top of these comments.
Maurice Kurtz · January 4, 2005 - 21:18 EST #49
I just got a G4 Digital Sound w/ iMic, Toast 6,etc.
Could not record sound. A brief search revealed that older iMics (version 1056) are not compatible with newer OSX. Griffin will sell an updated iMic fro $15 + shipping if you have this situation. I have 1970s Rotel receiver and turntable w/ newer Shure cartridge, feeding from output to tape RCA jacks into iMic. Looking forward to great results when the new iMic comes in. This article and comments are most informative.

Ziggy - Somewhere you can get tonearm balance kits for your tonearm. Your turntable may also have an anti-skate adjustment which you'd dial in according to how much weight there is on the stylus.

Final Vinyl is available as a download from Griffin.
Ed Butler · July 22, 2005 - 15:41 EST #50
Recently bought a ADS tech, PYRO A/V Link. CompUSA said I could copy vinly records with it. Literature talks about coping movies to DVD and does't comment on vinyl records. Do you think its possible to use this for transferring vinyl records to CD? I have a BSR turntable with RCA jacks and hooked up to an amp and then out to R and L audio in on the Pyro box. My MacMini recogonizes the PYRO software. I also downloaded Amades ll software. Nothing seems to happen when I try to push record button or play button, etc when displayed on computer. I've tried under I Tunes as well. Appreciate any feed back on this situation. By the way your above info was very interesting. Thanks/ Ed
ANDRE DANEAU · May 7, 2006 - 14:40 EST #51

I intend to buy the ION iTTUSB turnatable. Do you think this will solve my problem?
Eric B · October 9, 2006 - 21:27 EST #52
Stanton is terrible for the DJ. For ripping vinyl, it doesn't matter.

Add A Comment

 E-mail me new comments on this article