Friday, January 25, 2013


Ok, so let's make the assumption that you have acquired a half-way decent turntable!  You don't have to spend a ton of money at this point.  Just so long as the table will deliver a relatively good signal, with minimal motor noise, rumble, wow & flutter.
As I've mentioned, an old skool table will do the trick.  Just be careful of a worn stylus, loose belts, uneven speeds.  What I did was take my old Dual 506 in to RING AUDIO and let the boys at 'er.  I asked for a new belt, check out the motor, stylus and cartridge.  Got the table back with a new belt (important, as the belt has probably stretched out of shape if standing around for too long) and was told my stylus was still good, probably an average year's worth left.  Then bring it in for a replacement.  GOOD TO GO!

The next step is getting the signal from your turntable cartridge to your PC.  If you just run your turntable and leave your amp/receiver OFF, you can hear the signals coming off the cartridge but with no amplification.  Excellent!  That is what your amp/receiver does.  Provided you have a phono input, that signal from the cartridge will be amplified AND RIAA equalization put on the signal before it is forwarded to your speaker system.

Whoa....wait...RIAA equalization?  What the heck is THAT?  Well, try to imagine how those sound engineers put 20 minutes worth of music on one side of a 12" hunk of plastic!  To be able to fit all those grooves onto the platter, the low end frequencies were supressed (limited) and the high ends exaggerated a bit.  I'm no expert on this.  Click here, RIAA EQUALIZATION , to better understand what I'm talking about.

One good thing....most of the old receivers/amps have this RIAA EQ built into their electronics via the phono input jack.  But a lot of the newer receivers/amps DO NOT HAVE A PHONO INPUT!!  Running your turntable into anything but a phono input jack will not work, and might even damage your amp/rcvr.

That is where a phono pre-amp comes in.  It will take the place of the old circuitry that was present in the receivers with a phono input.  Also, a phono pre-amp allows you to plug your turntable directly into the pre-amp without having to set up a big, space-consuming rcvr.

There are many different phono pre-amps available.  Costs start at around $200.   I purchased a Rega Mini FONO A2D pre-amp.  (A2D = "Analog to Digital").  See the photo (Front View - Left, BackView - Right):

Simple to use.  On the front, there is a level controller, then the USB outlet, followed by a Earth pin (for ground).   The back view shows white/red INPUT RCA jacks, another set of OUTPUT RCA jacks, an input jack for the charger, and a red LED light to indicate when it on.

Not too hard to set up.  Red and White RCA jacks from your turntable into the pre-amp INPUT jacks.  Then a special cable that runs USB from the output jack to a usb terminal on your PC (I bought gold-plated ones from STAPLES for $30 CDN).

I can put my turntable, the phono pre-amp and my laptop on a regular-sized coffee table.

If you have an old rcvr/amp, you can run your turntable into the phono input jacks, then you can buy a cable that will allow you to run out of the HEADPHONE socket and into the microphone socket on your PC/laptop.  It works, but I found that there was a lot of noise and other issues that made it unreliable.

And that's really what you want.....a solid, reliable signal.  Otherwise, why bother?

You will need software on your PC to be able to further manipulate the music.  The best one out there is a cool program called AUDACITY.  

It's free.  Download it and the manual and any tutorials.  A bit of a learning curve, but not so steep that with a little determination, you couldn't figure it out.  (After all, you got THIS far, didn't you?).

That's it in a nutshell!  If you don't believe how good it sounds, check out my podcast "Rippin' Da Vinyl" elsewhere on my blog.  All the tunes I used for that show were ripped off the vinyl and onto my laptop in this exact fashion.  Even transferring back to mp3 192kbps for broadcasting purposes, the sound still came through.

Good luck. Drop me a line in the comments section if you have any questions or issues.

- Meester Music

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Not too long ago, I was in a downtown record store on Yonge Street.  A young couple were standing next to me and eyeballing the latest in USB Turntables, and they were discussing how they wanted to transfer a lot of their stuff to digital format so that they could put their stuff on their iPod/iPhone.

This turntable retailed for around $80 CDN.  Not bad price, I thought.  Then I took a closer look.  Oh boy.

The whole body of this turntable appeared to made of some kind of plastic.  ANY kind of noise near this unit is going to be transferred right into that tonearm and onto whatever/where ever you are recording.  Besides, plastic is a lot cheaper than the old wood they used. 

But wood must have been good for something other than just nice to look at.  The REASON was that wood does not conduct sound very well.  Turntables TURN because of a motor mounted inside.  Motors are not 100% smooth, so wood dampens the vibration, resulting in a lower wow and flutter value.  Important!!!

Plastic?  Ouch.  Don't have the numbers in front of me, but I'm willing to bet that plastic-body TT's carry all kinds of wow/flutter and turntable RUMBLE.  Not good for those quiet passages, eh?

The tonearm:  not even a counterweight to set the tracking force of the stylus/cartridge.  So we are looking now at something I might have owned when I was a kid.  I've even read stories on the net about these tonearms and their INABILITY to ride out the grooves on some modern releases.

What kind of cartridge/stylus combo are we looking at?  Hmmm...dunno.  Is the tonearm plastic too?  The trend these days is towards carbon fibre material.  No resonance, no extra noise, just the sound off the record.

Needle won't track?  Solution simple, right off the internet (I swear it's true):


This will not be a viable solution in the coming years, as the Canadian Government is not making pennies anymore.  Better start hoarding them NOW.

What is this, 1965?  Mom and Dad's Turntable?  Next thing, you are going to tell me that you want to stack your LPs three or four at a time, and let them drop down to the record below on your platter when you are done. 

Fun to look at when you are a kid.  Do you think it's so much fun to watch a $30 Audiophile Remastered record drop down about 8 inches or so onto ANOTHER $30 Audiophile Remastered record?     Yeah.....didn't think so.

Time out!!

You want to pay $80, OK.  Then please....don't complain when your vinyl sounds like shit when you hear the end result in digital format.  Oh yeah:  "Vinyl sucks, man!"   No.......your TURNTABLE sucks.

So my first word of advice is this:  spend the money on a half-way decent USB turntable.  Audio-Technica makes a nice brand in the $400 range.  Nice and solid.

Or.....find a used "old skool" turntable.  They are available.  And you can get a working one from a place like Ring Audio for around $100 or so.

NEXT UP:  PART TWO - ok, ya got the turntable.  Now what?