Issues with recording vinyl

I’ve tried to include all the info I think is relevant so I can get an answer well informed by what I’m actually doing…sorry if it’s a long question!!!

I’m trying to record my vinyl and save as MP3’s to use with serato final scratch. I’m using a 1210’s (with brand new needles), into a pioneer 909 into, Behringer Xenyx Z1204USB all connected by the USB interface on the desk to my Macbook pro. I’ve set the gains on both the desk and mixer so that they are all 12 o’clock. They’re tickling +3db on the pioneer which is right in the normal range you’d expect from a vinyl. The levels on the mixer are set so that the gains are 12 O’clock and the faders are set so that they are at 0. The VU meter tickles +10DB but only just and generally flickers +5.

So…when I record the vinyl the input meter on audacity is peaking at just over 0 but generally seems to be safely in the top end of the meter. When I come to play the exported Mp3’s in serato the sound quality is really bad. At first it was just the actual level so I raised it a bit on the desk but that just distorts the recording quite a bit. Then I raised the project rate from 22050 hz to 192000 but it said I couldn’t export as mp3 more than 44100. At no point have I been able to record an mp3 that A.) has a reasonable volume and B.) doesn’t distort when I do raise the volume while playing through serato either with the pioneer mixer gain or the gain on the serato interface.

When I buy mp3’s I always buy 320kbps and they are fine no matter what volume they are played at as long as the speakers are clipping etc

Can anyone provide me with some ideas as to how to get a decent Mp3 recorded that will be suitable for playing out on large soundsystems? I’d really like to not have to buy all my tunes in mp3 again.

Would really appreciate any help!!!

As soon as you get into the digital domain you MUST keep below 0 dB.
To qualify that statement, Audacity works internally in 32 bit float format, which CAN handle over 0 dB, but sound cards (D/A converters) work with integer formats and CANNOT handle over 0 dB without distorting (and digital distortion sounds really bad).

We generally recommend recoding with a peak level of around -6 dB (about half the track height) and then using Amplify (or Normalize) to bring the level up closer to 0 dB (but NOT over 0 dB) before exporting. 0 dB is the absolute highest amplitude that can be reproduced from digital recordings, so the only way to make a recording “louder” than simply amplifying (normalizing) to 0 dB is to “compress” the dynamics so that the peaks are “squashed” and the average loudness is increased. See: Loudness war

Don’t confuse MP3 bitrates with WAV sample frequencies. You should set Audacity Preferences to 44100, 16-bit Stereo. That’s the Music CD sound standard.

MP3 is never perfect, but MP3 sample rate of 320KHz gets close. You set that at the MP3 export step in Audacity. That’s the only place to set it.

For loudness. Well. As a rule, Macs don’t let you adjust digital audio, so you should adjust slider master on your mixer so the Audacity red, peak-reading, Record meter never goes all the way up. It’s recommended to make the Audacity meters bigger so you can see what you’re doing. Click on the right-hand edge of the meters and pull to the right.

That’s what a perfect recording looks like. Don’t make the mistake of putting masking tape on your sliders and volume controls and calling it good. I expect the flashing light meters on your mixer may seem to be off, but the Audacity meters are the ones that count.

The Audacity recording sliders (next to the microphone symbol) should be disabled. let us know if that’s true.


What songs on vinyl can you not possibly get on MP3 now?

Thanks for the helpful tips, I’m out and about at the moment but will try to rerecord over the weekend.

@mybdol lots of them!!! Loads of promo’s, white labels and dub plates or rare 7"s. Obvisouly I can cart the records around when I play out and swap between digital tracks on serato and the vinyl but it’s quite a lot of hassle dragging round loads of vinyl. Plus I don’t want to have to pay for music I already own and won’t use stolen MP3’s, 90% of the music I play isn’t what you’d call mainstream and I don’t steal music. If someone doesn’t pay for it then the chances are the artist won’t make more in the future.

… 192000 but it said I couldn’t export as mp3 more than 44100 …

I tried letting it re-sample at 44100 and the results sounded better to me than a lower project rate.
Also, the playback software (outside audacity) indicated 192000.
Nevertheless, FLAC sounds considerably better than anything I could get on mp3, and WAV sounds slightly better than FLAC. My old desktop chokes above 192000, but I think a higher sample rate will sound better. But nothing I have tried yet sounds quite as good as live vinyl. To me, the live LP mix sound better than the same live CD mix (scratches notwithstanding).

I am new to audacity, but I have tried many things and compared results. I don’t know enough to comment on the technical numbers except that I do not believe the sample rate is the same thing as sound wave frequency because I can hear a difference in the midrange and bass at different sample rates.
I have pretty good results going from the PL-10 turntable to an old Vanco SPA-1 preamp and from there directly to the line-in of my old Sound Blaster card.
I set the volume of the line-input as high as it will go and I set audacity input to .9 and audacity output to .7, and with this setup the audacity monitor goes just about to the top, but the “Show Clipping” shows no clipping except very rarely. I seems to work best when the wave amplitude looks pretty large in the track displays. After exporting the recording as FLAC, the result sounds very close to the same volume listening from the turntable (same connections). The turntable just takes your breath away a little more. Export to mp3 doesn’t sound bad either.
I’m not certain yet, but I think the audacity output affects level of the export result.

Experiment, experiment, experiment is all I can do … I have not thus far been able to predict the result based on any settings, so I make a short test export, check it, then undo the record. When it seems right, then record for real. Consider that the least signal processing between the turntable and the recording might be best. If the recording seems to sound better than the turntable then something must be amiss unless the alteration was intentional. If you have disk space to export to FLAC or WAV, you can later and export to mp3 or something else later.

That is likely to be a psychological phenomena, or there is a fault with your media player. When correctly converted to analogue, a FLAC file is identical to a WAV file. :confused:

"steve wrote
That is likely to be a psychological phenomena

It could be, but …
I was comparing the default level 5 and 16bit. I also tested FLAC at level 6 and 24bit and dicovered a large file size increase which reduced the advantage over WAV and so I didn’t make a judgement at that setting. So, I failed to make the comparison at FLAC’s highest quality. You are right that it is not fair to generically compare one format to another. Even the WAV was not able to be tested on my underpowered equipment at its highest possible quality.

You may find this article interesting: It blows up several of the myths about digital audio.

There is also an excellent video here:

Thanks Steve,
Great article,
A Thing that is widely overlooked:
Even your anolog Equipment has its own “sampling rate”.
And this rate changes with the Age of your gear - the reaction time of the individual parts decreases, you can end up with a sampling rate (average) that is far worse than a CD.
I am of the opinion that this slowness is just the Point that makes analog recordings to some People preferable to digital ones - they simply Sound more pleasing (not as harsh since immediate changes are smoothed).
The Degradation of analog Sound material is not comparaple with the digital one (best example overdrives and distortion).
If you’re lucky, you have a dynamic range of 13 bit from your vynil, but the mor Play time your LP has, the less dynanics are available.
Analog-digital conversion just puts that into 16 bits.
But this doesn’t considers the actual weighting of the different dynamic parts of your Vynil.
If you’ve listn to your Music for a 20 years with nearly the same equipement and you Transfer it now to the digital sphere - it won’t be a wonder that you’re somehow disappointed.

FYI, I suddenly remembered that my $99 Tascam DR-05 can record wav or mp3 up to 320, so I tested it. I plugged turntable preamp into DR-05 mic/ext in and plugged DR-05 line out to sound system (computer). When in record mode on DR-05 it outputs monitor. It was just easy to get good levels and quite good quality mp3 320. I USB transfered DR-05 to the computer and was pleased with result and ease of use. I don’t understand the technical numbers very well yet or audacity’s 44100 warning when exporting mp3’s. Eventually I will understand and I noticed that DR-05 provides sample rates 44.1 and 48k for mp3 and also 96k for wav. So I guess the sample rate is one thing and the output rate is another thing.