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BlackCircleDeathRideOffline
22 Post subject: NASTY DISTORTION and PEAK LEVELS  PostPosted: Jun 25, 2012 - 03:01 PM
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Shocked - AHH MY EARS ARE BLEEDING! >_<

Hi, I am a new user to this site and a first time owner of vinyl records, and a first timer with transferring vinyls to digital format. I have always been interested in owning old vinyls because of their organic sound presence. Nothing sounds better than hearing the crackling of a needle hitting a record IMO. Though lately, since getting this used record player with a composite L&R channel out, I've been having a few sound issues.

1. Some records sound very distorted - some more than others.

- I believe this is due to the fact that some of these used vinyl are either really dirty and need cleaning. I am quite certain that some of my issues stem from the records being in bad condition. For example, I have a used Black Sabbath record that I bought at a goodwill for about a dollar and well, it sounds terrible. Not because of any deep gashes on the surface of the vinyl but because it was so filthy from being stored in a crate for so long. I recently read somewhere that you could clean the surface of vinyls with cleaning solution and photographic liquid used for dipping photographs in red room finishing. I have faith that some of my issues can be solved by doing that.

2. Bad Cartridge and Needle - possible tone arm adjustments?

-I also own vinyl that are in very good condition, and I have problems with distorted audio during playback. I also read that this could be due to the needle being worn out or the weight in the tone arm needs adjusting. I'm sure if I read up on it I'll be able to figure it out and fix it, but the problem is I really don't know what could be causing the problem more. Could the needle be so worn that it could be causing that really bad sounding distortion? or, Could it be that the tone arm, where the needle sits on top of, isn't hitting the surface well enough? I am not sure how I can diagnose this problem.

This leads me to my final problem..

3. Excessive Peak levels and Distortion while in playback in my DAW program.

- I am currently using Apple's Logic Pro 9 to record my vinyls with on a newer model iMac, using a Hosa composite L&R to 1/4" out cable into a Mbox mini preamp with adjustable input levels. Now referring back to my issues before with some of my records being dirty, I used one of my newer vinyls so I could get the best sound possible out of my record player. I tested out the radio on the record player first so i could get an idea with what level each channel should be at inside of the DAW program.

Once I was finished getting a somewhat proper volume level, I turned on the phono, record enabled my left and right channel tracks inside of Logic, pressed the record button, and gave the record a whirl. That is when I heard the most horrible distortion I ever heard in my entire life. No matter how much I tried to lower the levels on the Mbox the levels on the tracks would not stop peaking. Everything was barely distinguishable. The sound of the record was bad even without it being plugged in to a external source, but monitoring it though headphones and trying to adjust the levels was a nightmare. So I just pretty much let the recording go because there was nothing I could do as far as getting rid of the peak level.

I set the input levels on the Mbox back to where they were before I started recording - 12 o'clock on each channel, figuring that would be my best option as far as getting an at least audible recording. After the recording on Side A was finished I noticed something else that was really weird...IT WAS TOO QUIET. The sound was still really distorted all the same, but the sound was so quiet that I had to turn up the volume all the way just to hear anything. How could this have happened when those were set at a level where it was loud during playback? I am really confused.

So just to sum everything up, here are my questions:

1. Would cleaning my records improve the overall sound of the recording, even if the record is in good condition?

2. Do I need to change my needle or adjust my tone arm to get rid of that nasty distortion, in case cleaning my already pristine record does nothing?

3. Would the cable used to plug into the pre-amp, or the pre-amp itself, be causing the recording to come out so bad?

4. AND, in the case of the final recording being so quiet, how can I tell if the recording is going to come out quiet or not?

This is a very complex issue, that I am hoping some of you will be able to answer. I am really unsure of what to do.

Thanks in advance!

BCDR
 
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CactusCowboyOffline
Post subject: RE: NASTY DISTORTION and PEAK LEVELS  PostPosted: Jun 25, 2012 - 05:00 PM
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Welcome to the RCG BCDR.

Sounds like an equipment hookup issue.

1. Yes, cleaning the records can do nothing but improve the sound.

2. If the needle is worn or damaged and is causing the distortion, it should be replaced. However, it may not be the source of the distortion.

3. Normally, cable used would not make a significant difference.

Tell us more about your equipment and set up. Turntable? Cartridge? What are you using for a PHONO PRE AMP? Is there one built in to the turntable? Or do you use the phono section in a vintage receiver? Or a stand-alone phono preamp? Note that the M-Box "preamp" is equipped with mic and line level inputs only. How is the M-Box connected to your Mac?

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alfeizarOffline
Post subject: RE: NASTY DISTORTION and PEAK LEVELS  PostPosted: Jun 25, 2012 - 10:15 PM
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Could it be a recording level issue? Maybe you are recording a signal that is too high

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BlackCircleDeathRideOffline
Post subject: RE: NASTY DISTORTION and PEAK LEVELS  PostPosted: Jun 25, 2012 - 10:29 PM
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Hi, yeah when I refer to the pre-amp I am referring to the M-box - http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MBox2Mini/. The M-box is connected to my iMac via USB 2.0 port. The sound is being sent to that M-box from a composite out on the back of the record player, which would be a Memorex 3-speed record player with an AM/FM radio - its a model sort of like this - http://www.ecrater.com/p/14085624/memorex-unique-record-player-33-45-78-compact?gps=1. My guess is that it is a stand-alone phono pre-amp inside of that thing that I am working with.

The cable I am using is a Hosa Dual 1/4 to RCA Cable, which I attach to the composite out of my record player into the 1/4 inch jacks on the back inputs of the M-box. - http://www.amazon.com/Hosa-CPR202-Dual-RCA-Cable/dp/B000068O17

As far as the needle and the cartridge of the turntable, I am unsure. It is the same one that I believe was possibly built into the turntable when I bought my record player used from a local exchange store about a month ago.
From the look of it, it seems like the needle is detachable

I figured that could be the culprit seeing as its probably the original needle that been on it since it was first manufactured about 10 years ago.

Other than that there isn't too much more to say about my recording set-up. I am a college student educated in digital media, so I set-up the recording session the same way I would with setting mic levels for a studio recording.
But, unlike microphones I could not seem to find a good level at any one volume on the M-box, levels seemed to peak even at the lowest of volume.
 
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GraemeOffline
Post subject: RE: NASTY DISTORTION and PEAK LEVELS  PostPosted: Jun 25, 2012 - 10:42 PM
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You have two separate issues here. The first is getting your records to play properly using a turntable and the second is the transfer into the digital domain.

Before even thinking about the second issue, you have to solve the first one.

Undoubtedly, clean records will be better than dirty ones, but from the description you give, it does not sound as though this is your major issue. Far more likely it's a case of proper set-up of the turntable mechanics. To give you more guidance on this, it would help if we knew what turntable/cartridge combination you are using. As far as cleaning the records is concerned, you will find any number of posts in the archive covering this subject, including formulae for cleaning solutions.

Only when you can get your records to play well, should you start to work on the digital transfer problem. However, I can tell you this much, the Mbox mini is not suitable (by itself) for this work. You need a proper phono pre-amp, with RIAA equalisation. You connect your turntable output to this item and the output from that should go to the line input of the Mbox. Now you should be good to go. Record at 24 bit depth and set the recording levels to peak at around -16 to -12 dB, this will give you plenty of headromm and allow for the odd higher peak from the source recording. When the recording is complete, you can then use the normalising process to bring the peak levels up to just below the 0 db point.

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BlackCircleDeathRideOffline
Post subject: RE: NASTY DISTORTION and PEAK LEVELS  PostPosted: Jun 25, 2012 - 11:20 PM
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Thank you for your help, I figured I needed a little bit more of a filter to nullify some of that signal before it goes to my mbox.

Like i said about the needle though, I have NO idea what kind of needle it is. I am new to vinyl and have very limited knowledge on the working parts of the turntable, only what they do.
 
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GraemeOffline
Post subject: Re: RE: NASTY DISTORTION and PEAK LEVELS  PostPosted: Jun 26, 2012 - 04:44 AM
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BlackCircleDeathRide wrote:
I figured I needed a little bit more of a filter to nullify some of that signal before it goes to my mbox.


There are a couple of issues here, neither of which are solved by simply reducing the signal level.

For good technical reasons, all records, since around 1954, are recorded with a particular sort of equalisation (treble boosted and bass cut) - you'll see this referred to as RIAA. When playing the record, an equal but opposite EQ curve is appled to ensure the overall signal response is flat. Your Mbox can not do this, which is why you need a proper phono pre-amplifier.

A secondary issue is all to do with sensitivity and impedance. On you Mbox, the input sensitivity of the line inputs is way too low to handle the very low signal levels that are produced by the cartridge. Conversely, the microphone input, whilst sensitive enough (maybe too much so) is completely the wrong input impedance.

Leaving aside the technicalities - you *need* a proper phone pre-amp to both listen and transfer your records properly.

BlackCircleDeathRide wrote:
Like i said about the needle though, I have NO idea what kind of needle it is.


Nobody is going to be able to offer any useful advice without knowing what you have. If you take a good look at the cartridge, there should be some sort of identification number on it - that will at least tell us what the nominal tracking weight should be.

The only real way of determining if the stylus is actually worn or damaged is to examine it under a low power microscope - but that assumes you would know what you are looking for.

Since you've only recently got into records, is it that you have just bought a turntable (probably a used one)? If that's the case, I would take nothing on trust and start off by purchasing a new stylus. That way, you are guaranteed it won't be damaging your records and it will remove one variable from the equation.

At the moment, your best bet is to tell us what turntable and cartridge you actually have. With that information, we can advise on the details.

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Rick-TV!Offline
Post subject: RE: Re: RE: NASTY DISTORTION and PEAK LEVELS  PostPosted: Jun 26, 2012 - 07:25 AM
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One useful bit of advice I can give is that if that really is your turntable, you're not gonna get much out of it even with a new stylus. Turntables like that (and the Crosleys you may hear mentioned here once in a while) are strictly for conveneience. If that's what you're after, great. But don't expect miracles. As Graeme said, do get a new stylus from a place like Needle Doctor first and foremost, then evaluate the sound you get out of the Memorex.

Also, don't go ridin' dirty. If the dirt on the record is visible (and isn't just dust), get yourself some record cleaner and do some treatment first. Your stylus will thank you. For everyday dust, a couple spins with a carbon-fiber brush does the trick.

Finally, is there any labeling on the turntable's output? If it specifically says it's a Phono out, then yes, you do need a different preamp to make up for the EQ and level differences, like maybe this one from ART. It's got a few extra non-vinyl bells and whistles, too.
 
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Post subject:   PostPosted: Jun 26, 2012 - 10:02 PM
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No offense, but that turntables and all the ones like it are pure garbage. I know as I had one like it. They have a really low quality ceramic cartridge which have very poor sound quality and are not at all gentle on your records. A phono preamp won't help you at all because ceramic cartridges already have a high output level about equal to what would be coming out of the preamp. You are better off finding an older turntable on craigslist or at a thrift store that at least has a magnetic cartridge because this one is never going to make good sounding digital files. They can be had for relatively little money.

Hope this helps some.
 
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GraemeOffline
Post subject:   PostPosted: Jun 27, 2012 - 01:14 AM
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Quote:

that turntables and all the ones like it are pure garbage. I know as I had one like it. They have a really low quality ceramic cartridge


If that's really the case, I would definitely junk the whole thing and go visit a few yard sales and thrift shops to find something more suitable. There are some here who collect all sorts of stuff and may be able to help you out with something a hundred times better at not too great a cost.

[A ceramic cartridge would explain why you are having so much trouble getting the levels right]

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