I’d like to digitize some vinyl records by recording them to my PC.
I have no problems with recording, everything works as it should work (Amp line-out to soundcard line-in).
The problem is I’d like to record my vinyls as loud as possible without clipping. If I want to determine the maximum
record level, the clipping indicators in Audacity should be a great help. Although, they don’t seem to work.
After some trial & error (and some research) it seems to be a problem with my Audigy 2 ZS card. If I put all volumes at max, the sound
obviously sounds distorted, but the clipping indicators never light up. I tried this with (windows) Audacity stable and Audacity beta, same problem.
If I try to record with my motherboard soundcard, the indicators work without any problem. But since the Audigy 2 ZS card has a
better quality, I’d prefer to use this card to record.
I tried on my brother’s PC (with the same Audigy card), and it has the same problem. So it’s obviously a problem with the Audigy card.
My question to other Audigy 2 ZS users is: are you having the same problem? And does anyone know a possible solution to this problem?
I know that I could just record w/o the necessity of clipping indicators, but I really want my recording to be as loud as possible without clipping.
I was not aware of that limitation with the 2ZS, however a good work around would be to record at 24 or 32 bit (this has greater dynamic range). Set your levels reasonably high, but allow yourself some headroom. After recording, use “Amplify” to bring the levels up to maximum (the maximum is automatically selected when you choose “Edit > Amplify”). Finally, if you are transferring to CD you will want the recording to be 16 bit, so export as 16 bit.
Tip - if you are converting to mp3, leave a little headroom (around -0.2 dB) as some mp3 players will clip at 0 dB.
By far the biggest loss in acoustic quality will be converting to mp3 - in fact, simply recording at 16 bit and leaving a good amount of headroom , then boosting the volume close to 0 dB may be sufficient.
The problem with recording at too low a level is that you get a reduced dynamic range (the range between maximum loudness and the quietest signal). Unless you have very good records, and are using a high quality format for the final recording you will get away with having a bit less than the full 16 bits.
As I mentioned previously, CD quality is 16 bit 44.1 kHz. An mp3 track at 128 kbps has a small but noticeably reduced sound quality if you are listening through a good sound system. If you record at 24, or 36 bit, then you can happily record at a lower level, and still have a dynamic range that is equal to, or better than a 16 bit recording.
(Note for any Mac owners reading this - Macs often have a problem with 24 bit, so it is generally better to stick to 16 or 32 bit).
I’ve noticed that on my SBLive soundcard, I start getting distortion just below 0 dB, so I try to allow a little headroom when I record to avoid this. I get the impression that this is more severe in your case Slash, which is why I suggested using a higher bit depth. In such a case, I would do a few short test recordings (just a few seconds) of a good record, with different recording levels and at different bit depths to find what worked best (after bringing each recording up to the same level). If you want to try this, choose a bit of music with a good range of dynamics and frequencies.