Windows XP USB soundcard?
August 5, 2011 5:23 PM   Subscribe

I want to record LP's using a Windows XP external soundcard.

I've searched AskMe, and I've found recommendations for external soundcards for music production & recording, but I think this might be different (?). I just got a Pro-Ject Debut III turntable with a native USB output. I'm not happy with the results I get plugging it into my Win XP SP3 laptop and using the onboard SoundMax soundcard. Can anyone recommend an alternative setup? I'm envisioning an external USB soundcard with some software that's well suited to making good-quality WAV or FLAC recordings of LP input via USB. Any clues?
posted by facetious to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total)
Unless I'm misunderstanding how this works, a USB record player essentially IS the soundcard. I don't think the laptop's soundcard would have anything to do with the quality of the recording.

If the record player has an analog line out (not phono out, that'll sound awful), you can try plugging it into the laptops mic/line-in jack. It's possible that will give you better quality than the USB output.
posted by The Lamplighter at 5:27 PM on August 5, 2011

Seconding Lamplighter - You don't want to record "from" your internal sound hardware, you never even want to touch the internal sound device. You want to capture directly from the external device (which may or may not require special software, but probably not).

That said, it may well still sound like crap - Don't buy all the hype about LPs really having higher quality than CDs - In some ways that holds true, but only the very very VERY first time you play it using a physical diamond needle gouging its way down the soft vinyl spiral, thoughtfully smoothing out all those pesky high-frequency bumps.
posted by pla at 5:49 PM on August 5, 2011

I would do some reading on Audio Asylum (warning, audiophiles) in the PC audio and Vinyl sections, there are many archived threads about vinyl ripping. There are an overwhelming number of options but basically: the USB out on your turntable is your current ADC (analog/digital converter), and a higher quality external soundcard/ADC will likely improve results.

There are various products for home studios from companies like Apogee , Presonus, M-Audio and on and on that are used for this, but I am not qualified to make any kind of recommendation. Most of these will have a preamp and in which case the chain would be: turntable's RCA > ADC > USB in. In the case of an ADC without a preamp a phono preamp would be used, or a lineout from an amplifier with a phono in (something that has become more rare over the years).
posted by Lorin at 6:27 PM on August 5, 2011

I should add though that the USB out on a Pro-Ject table is higher quality than something like an Ion usb turntable, so perhaps tinkering around with settings and software would make just as big a difference. VinylEngine is another place with a lot of discussion about software and technique.
posted by Lorin at 6:30 PM on August 5, 2011

Best answer: When recording, the "sound card" is the thing that takes the analogue sound and makes it digital. If you already have digital (USB), you don't need a soundcard.

What might be the issue is the RIAA equalization curve. Does the turntable have a switch for this? Or is it expecting the curve to be applied in software? You can tell if this is (one of the) issue(s) if the resultant sound is thin sounding and lacks bass.

(This is done because record albums are not actually the world's best medium. They are just an amplitude modulated groove. The amount the groove has to modulate for bass is a really big amount compared to how much it has to modulate for treble. (picture near the bottom). So records are mastered with the bass modulated WAY quieter than the treble, with the assumption that this will get corrected on playback. Some USB turntables expect this to be done in the software on the computer.)

Your options are: fix the settings that are making the USB output of the turntable not sound right. (Proper grounding can be an issue with turntables. They need to be grounded, and through the USB cable to the computer may not be optimal.)

Or, use the analogue out of the turntable, pipe it though a preamp if the turntable doesn't have one built in, and then through a soundcard. If you go this route, try using the onboard sound card with the preamp. Set the recording settings to as high as they will go. 48khz 32bit is a good setting. 96khz if you can make it work. This will result in giant files, but gives you some room to work with to do noise reduction and normalizing and whatnot, so that you can end up with good final product files.

If that's still not good enough, try a decent soundcard. However, you'll have to look at specs and reviews, because many soundcards are just based on the same hardware with fancy names and prices.

Your needle might also be shot.
posted by gjc at 7:50 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

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