LP conversion sound quality, can you recommend improvements?

Thanks to all that developed and support Audacity. Its a great tool, and I really hope it works better for my LPs than I’ve been able to get thus far. My problem is more likely the other elements of the process, and hoping someone can suggest the weak links and likely cause of general poor sound quality. I’m converting LPs for iTunes import, and have the following equipment:

  • ionTT usb turntable (older one but never used until now, seems to be working as designed)
  • usb cable from ion to computer
  • Dell laptop (Latitude, nothing special) with Audacity 2.0.2

No problem with the process, everything worked fine once I turned the turntable gain all the way down and worked thru a couple minor things. Able to record, remove clicks, export to WAV, import to iTunes and convert to AAC as recommended by Audacity documentation. The problem is not a specific sound feature, that I know of anyway, but general poor quality once played back from an ipod. Its bad at any volume really, but increasingly difficult to listen to when the volume is increased. This is far from a good hardware setup I realize, and wondering of the poor quality is largely a result of:

  • original vinyl (tho sound good on my regular turntable)?
  • the iontt capture?
  • the (I presome) poor sound card in the laptop, which is likely just a motherboard processor?
  • the conversion process back to iTunes format?

Is there an obvious weak link here that could be improved? Would an external usb sound card help or is the quality being killed by the turntable? It does have RCA outputs as well. I have a DAC between the normal turntable and receiver, should the audio be captured there? It just has RCA stereo outputs as well of course.

I have a lot of albums and would really like to digitize them, but this setup seems doomed. I would GREATLY appreciate advice on improving this setup, if possible, or hearing what has worked for others to get good quality sound.

How does it sound if you listen to the original capture in Audacity (just press “Play” after recording).

If that sounds OK, try plugging your iPod headphones into the computer and listen to the Audacity playback - how does that sound?

Don’t convert one of the songs to AAC, import the high quality WAV to your iPod and listen to it.

Does the WAV sound good on your laptop?

Are you using iTunes Plus for conversion or regular iTunes. Regular AAC is designed for the maximum number of songs at OK sound. Plus is much better sound with fewer songs.

You can set your iPod for various effects and tools. Make sure they’re all off or minimized. Do you have the equalizer on “Concert Hall?” Do you have any of the “Sound Enhancer” tools running under the Playback menu?


I do use one playback tool. I forget what it’s called (soundcheck?), but it tries to minimize the volume variations in a show. This is handy if you like to listen to podcasts that aren’t too careful with their levels. Koz

Steve and Koz - thanks for the responses, much appreciated.

The audio does sound better right off the computer in the Audacity playback than on the ipods. And the WAV file on the computer sounds better than the AAC version on the ipod, so that conversion in iTunes must be part of the problem. The iTunes AAC encoder is set for iTunes Plus, which says 256kbps, assuming that’s what it is actually doing when you import the WAV file and then convert in iTunes.

But the recordings are still worse than I would have expected even listening to the best version right on Audacity. It sounds like two things - one might be mostly vinyl static/pops, and the other is a stronger general distortion when the songs really kick in (especially with guitars and drums, but even vocals). I noticed on some of the recordings that the meter seemed to be peaking a lot, and the waveform is pretty solid. The input level was well above .5 linear quite a bit. I have the gain all the way down on the turntable and wasn’t able to adjust it on Audacity. Would the recording level introduce distortion and hurt the clarity of the recording?

I suspect that the weak link is the ION TT

I started out with an ION iTT-USB for LP conversions and was so disappointed that I soon junked it. Although the electronics (the onboard soundcard and USB services) seemed very good it was let down by its extremely lightweight plastic platter (which led to wow & flutter) and a very cheap low-grade cartridge. Instead I use my existing hi-fi deck and I have a phono-preamp (ART DJ-Pre11) and an external USB soundcard (Edirol UA-1Ex).

You stated earlier that the sound is good on your existing deck so I would suggest using that and investing in say the ARTcessories USB Phono plus http://artproaudio.com/artcessories/turntable_preamps/product/usb_phono_plus-ps/ which is a combined pre-amp annd USB sound card in the one box (I would probably have bought that at the time had it been available). You may be able to sell the ION on eBay or wherever to cover some of the cost.

The LP recordings I make are converted to AAC 256 and sound truly excellent when played on my iPod either through my hi-fi amp/speakers or on my Sennheiser earphones (but not on the silly little earbuds that Apple supplies).

Tip: have a look at Brian Davies’ excellent ClickRepair software, it costs a little but is well worth it IMHO. The results it produces are a little shy of magical and far superior to the current click removal in Audacity - see this sticky thread: https://forum.audacityteam.org/t/click-pop-removal-clickrepair-software/1933/1


UPDATE: I just read your original post a bit more thoroughly and I’m a bit confused - can you explain a bit more …

You say that tou have a DAC between the normal TT and the receiver - which implies a digital signal from the TT :confused:

Most TTs deliver an analog audio signal to a preamp (necessary for the RIAA Equaliszation that must be applied) and then feed this signalon to an amp.
In some cases the pre-amp is mounted onboard as part of the TT allowing it to deliver line-level RIAA corrected signals to an amp - but more conventionally the phono-preamp is mounted in the amp (or receiver - an amp with a radio built in) and you access it via the inputs labelled “phono”.

The only TTs that I know that deliver digital signals are the USB TTs like your ION that have onboard souncards, ADCs.

If you explain a little more about your existing normal music setup (make and model numbers may help here) we may be able to advise better.


WC - Thank you very much for the advice on the LP conversion gear. And I did rush my first post and misstate the equipment. I have a Musical Fidelity V-LPS phono preamp (not a DAC) with my existing Denon turntable. No phono inputs on either the Marantz slimline 1601 or Denon receivers. I thought I had a separate DAC here, but do not.

It sounds like you’ve had success with taking the signal off your preamp to an external sound card and skipping the iontt approach. Since I already have this preamp, would the ART Phono Plus then be overkill as I wouldn’t need the preamp circuit? Or would you recommend the soundcard like the one you have (Edirol UA-1Ex, if it can be found) in this case or is there an advantage to the combined unit and taking my preamp off line while converting these LPs? Or maybe it also could take the signal off the existing preamp.

I haven’t been able to get much input/gain control off the iontt to see if that helps, I already was recording with the gain on the tt down all the way. But seems to still be peaking. It seems to me if that can’t be controlled in some way, then the iontt isn’t going to work.


Yup the ART would be overkill - all you need then is a simple device like the Behringer UCA 202 http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/UCA202.aspx - this is just a USB soundcard DAC & ADC. It has no gain controls but I assume that your pre-amp has gain controls?


Some of the ION models have gain controls and some don’t - mine did but it was in a very inconvenient place underneath at the back - impossible to adjust whuile a record was playing.