Sound quality bad when ripping albums in to MP3s

Hi. I have Audacity 2.0.6 installed on a Dell Studio 1558 running Windows 7 Home Premium. I have an Intel Core i7 CPU Q720 @1.60 GHz, 8 GB RAM and running 64 bit operating system. I am trying to rip albums from two different sources. The sound of course sounds great when recording, but after doing Noise Removal, Normalize and then exporting to MP3, the sound is “tinny”, low volume, and not great sound.

My first method is to use an ION iTTBUSB turntable plugged into a USB port on the Dell Studio with the supplied cable that came with the ION. In the Windows Sound menu, it shows up as Microphone USB Audio CODEC Default Device. Under the Levels tab under Sound, the Microphone is set to 5. Under the Advanced tab under Sound, the Default Format is 2 channel, 16 bit, 44100 Hz (CD Quality).

In Audacity, it has Microphone (USB Audio CODEC) and 2 (Stereo) Record options set. The Recording Volume is set at 0.05. I play the album on the ION and hit the Record button in Audacity. Upon completion of recording both sides, I typically highlight the last portion of the recording after the music stops and before the end of the album is reached, and then I go to the Effect menu and select Noise Removal and then Get Noise Profile. I then apply the individual song Labels and delete any extra blank space. I then fill out the Metadata info. After doing that, I Ctrl A to select the whole recording, and then Effect, Noise Removal, and then click OK on Step 2. The Step 2 settings are 24 Noise Reduction, 0.00 Sensitivity, 150 Frequency smoothing, and 0.15 Attack/decay time. The Remove button is checked. After that I use Effect Normalize, which is set at -1.0 dB. I Export Multiple to MP3 Files with the following settings: Preset Bit Rate Mode, Insane, 320 kbps Quality, Fast Variable Speed and Stereo Channel Mode. I then save to a folder, Import into ITunes or JRiver, and the sound quality is disappointing as described above. The sound is great coming through the laptop speakers while being recorded, so I’ve got to have some settings not set correctly. Any ideas?

My second method uses a Denon DSP-26F turntable that is connected to a Pioneer VSX-37TX DSP receiver. I have a cable with two connectors plugged into Tape Record jacks on the Pioneer, and the other end of the cable is a single connector that I plug into the microphone/line in jack on the Dell Studio laptop. I then follow the same process as described above, and get the same results.

I am hoping that somebody takes mercy on me and can guide me through what I need to do to get great sounding albums ripped to MP3. This is my first time posting on a forum, so please go easy on me. :slight_smile:

I wish all our first time posters gave all that excellent detail - well done. :slight_smile:

The USB recording level of only 0.05 doesn’t sound ideal. Do you need it as low as that to keep the recorded blue waves around +/-0.5 on the scale on the left? Also there is something not quite right if the slider for the USB microphone is set to 0.5 in Windows but the Recording Volume slider in Audacity is 0.05 - the Audacity and Windows slider should move in tandem (move one slider and the other slider moves to the same level).

Recording into the mic/line-in from the Pioneer is expected to be non-optimal. Dual purpose mic/line-in are usually not very good quality even if it records as stereo and does not distort.

What does it sound like before and immediately after the Noise Removal? My guess is the reduction level in Noise Removal is too high, and also perhaps you could try increasing Frequency Smoothing a little. Press the Preview button in Noise Removal to hear what it will sound like. You can only remove so much noise before the audio is noticeably corrupted.

MP3 is always lossy, but 320 kbps is as high as quality as you can get. Many people cannot distinguish 320 kbps MP3 from the original, so the MP3 encoding should not cause severe deterioration.


Thank you Gale! I look forward to trying this out later tonight or this weekend. I will let you know how it turns out.

I’d start by trying to get a good recording with good levels before getting into noise reduction and MP3 compression.

As Gale says, the waveform should go to at least around 0.5 on the Audacity display. You don’t want to hit 100% (0dB) because if the levels go that high you are most-likely clipping (distorting). If the levels are too loo you get a poor signal-to-noise ratio and when you boost the volume to normal levels, you’ll also boost the noise.

The regular noise reduction filter (“effect”) doesn’t work very well for vinyl “snap”, “crackle”, and “pop”. It’s more for constant low-level hiss & hum, and even then sometimes, The cure is worse than the disease.

There is a Click Removal effect, and there are some special-purpose vinyl noise reduction applications. But again, sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.

MP3 compression shouldn’t be a problem, especially at 350kbps.

I finally had a chance to try this. First of all, the slider in Audacity shows a .05 while the slider in Windows shows 5. When I move one the other changes, so I think Windows doesn’t show the decimal point.

Per DVDdoug, I set Audacity so that the wave form was at least .5. I’ve attached the project (don’t give me grief for The Kiki Dee Band - this is a friend’s album) and you can see what the wave looks like. Maybe I have it too high and should have the peaks at .5? I exported to MP3s without any effects and also with using the Effect Normalize (the attached Audacity file is after Normalize). It seems to me that the second side (starting with Do It Right) seems more distorted than the first side, yet I didn’t change settings - I just flipped the album. So I’m not sure what is the next step. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
I’ve Got The Music In Me.aup (142 KB)

I don’t have XP running at the moment, but on later Windows the scale is 0 to 100. Audacity’s scale is 0.00 to 1.00. Windows half volume or 50 is the same as 0.50 in the Audacity slider.

We can’t see the waves - the AUP is just a text file referencing the audio.

Try taking screenshots of the first side and the second side (zoom out to fit the whole side in the window) and attach the shots. See How to attach files to forum posts.

Be aware that MP3 is lossy! If one side is very much harder to encode than the other, that side may sound worse even if you use 320 kbps bit rate.


Here is a screen shot - the first side of the album on top and the second on the bottom.

You didn’t attach a screen shot. Here again is how to attach files: .


Sorry about that. I didn’t see the error message last night that .docx files are not accepted. I had put the two screen shots in a Word doc. Here they are as .png file for each side of the album.
Side 2.png
Side 1.png

The waveforms in your images look safe to me.

What happens if you View > Show Clipping then View > Fit in Window? Do you see red vertical clipping lines?

If not, you would need to upload the MP3 files somewhere so we can listen. Or export to WAV then the audio you get is the audio in the waveform.


Hi Gale. I think that the sound quality is poor in the Audacity Project, even prior to ripping to MP3. I did the View Show Clipping, and then the View Fit In Window, and there are no red vertical clipping lines. I used Hightail to put a zip file of all the MP3s in it - please follow this link:

I’m very interested in hearing your view point of the sound of these MP3s. I just don’t think they sound very well, but like I said, I don’t think the Audacity project file sounds good. It sounds good when I’m playing the album while recording, but playback just isn’t good.

I look forward to hearing back from you.

I haven’t listened to those yet because I want to ask which method you recorded those MP3’s with - standard turntable to mic input, or the ION turntable?

Also, how tall were the blue waves when you first recorded them? Did you then do Amplify or Normalize, and did you do Noise Removal? Noise Removal at 24 dB reduction will probably degrade the sound such that the artifacts it creates will be worse than the noise you were trying to remove.

Recording into the mic input is quite likely to give degraded sound, as we already said. If you do that, you definitely want to turn off sound enhancements and effects.

If the ION has a line input you are probably better to connect the standalone turntable to the line input of the ION than to the mic input of the computer.

If you record using the USB input (playing the record on the ION or the standalone turntable) such that the waves peak at about +/- 0.5 to +/- 0.1 on the vertical scale, then don’t do any effects processing, just export to 320 kbps MP3, the recording should sound almost indistinguishable from the record (except for any USB noise from the computer that the recording process picks up). Do you have an MP3 that demonstrates doing that?

I notice your Audacity project rate is 48000 Hz whereas you said you have Windows Default Format set to 44100 Hz for at least one of your recording devices. There is potential for resampling loss when the audio is resampled from 44100 Hz to 48000 Hz (all resampling is lossy, even upsampling to a higher rate). But that should not produce major deterioration in sound quality.


Hi Gale,

I recorded from the ION turntable via the USB interface. The blue waves were not huge before I did the Normalize. I did not use Noise Removal or Amplify. I’ll make sure the project rate matches the next time I try. I’m very curious as to your thoughts on the quality of the MP3s.

Try correcting that in a test recording, getting the waves to peak at or just above -6 dB on the meters (+/- 0.5 on the vertical scale).