Vinyl Rip Question: Recording Volume & Channel Setting

I want to digitize my vinyl collection and had some questions.

Recording Volume:

  1. Is there a standard level that the “Recording Volume” has to be to rip vinyl? For example, 0.05, 0.10, etc.
  2. If I put the “Recording Volume” at a low level like 0.03, will it improve dynamic range?

Channel Setting:

  1. If the record is “Mono”, do I have to change the recording channel from “Stereo” to “Mono” in order to record it?

Recording Volume:

  1. Is there a standard level that the “Recording Volume” has to be to rip vinyl? For example, 0.05, 0.10, etc.
  2. If I put the “Recording Volume” at a low level like 0.03, will it improve dynamic range?

It’s not the “setting”, it’s the result which depends on the analog signal and the sensitivity of the analog-to-digital converter.

With digital recording the recording level is not critical* as long as you avoid [u]clipping[/u] which happens at 0dB. Nothing bad happens when you get close to 0dB but it’s usually best to “shoot for” around -6dB to allow for unexpected peaks. Records are somewhat consistent/predictable so around 6dB of headroom is usually plenty. If you are recording “live”, the peaks are more unpredictable and pros typically record at -12 to -18dB.

Then of course, pb]you can boost the levels after recording[/b] with the Audacity Amplify effect.

“Technically” you loose dynamic range at lower levels, but 16-bits has far more dynamic range than vinyl (or any analog source) so it’s not an issue. …And, you loose dynamic range (and you get distortion) if you are clipping.

Channel Setting:

  1. If the record is “Mono”, do I have to change the recording channel from “Stereo” to “Mono” in order to record it?

It’s usually better to record in stereo because of noise… The noise is random and uncorrelated in the left & right channels but the signal is perfectly correlated so if you record in stereo and later combine the left & right channels to make mono you are improving the signal-to-noise ratio.

Or, you may find that one channel is less noisy than the other, so you can keep the best side and throw-away the other. Or, since the clicks & pops often occur in only one channel, or are not time-aligned in the left & right channels, some vinyl repair tools (such as Wave Repair) allow you to copy a short segment from right-to-left or left-to-right to remove a click. This often works with stereo too, since you can’t hear the loss of stereo for a few milliseconds.

Almost every analog & digital format is mono-stereo compatible. A true-mono file will play through both speakers, and if you have a mono playback system the left & right channels of a stereo recording will be combined to make mono. The exception is audio CDs which are always 2 channels, If you have a mono source the CD will contain two identical channels.


  • With analog tape you needed a “hot” signal to overcome tape noise but with digital there is no tape noise. And tape can go over 0dB before it starts to “soft clip” so it was common to allow the signal to go occasionally “into the red”. Digital hard-clips at exactly 0dB,

Recording Volume:
I recorded the same song at different recording levels (0.03, 0.05, and 0.10), then used a dynamic range meter to measure the results (Below are the results). If I got this right, the optimal recording level would be at 0.10?

DR Peak RMS Filename

DR11 -12.39 dB -24.97 dB Side 1 - Volume at 0.03.wav
DR10 -10.91 dB -23.40 dB Side 1 - Volume at 0.05.wav
DR10 -6.41 dB -18.94 dB Side 1 - Volume at 0.10.wav

Volume 0.10.jpg
Volume 0.05.jpg
Volume 0.03.jpg

0.10 looks good.
Given that the signal level is pretty constant, you could perhaps push the setting to 0.15, but 0.10 is OK.
On your set-up, over 0.15 would be too high. Under 0.05 is too low.

Note that changing anything in your recording set-up could have an effect on the recording level (including playing a different record), so don’t just blindly follow the numbers - check to see what level is being recorded. The “0.10” image looks good, or could be a “fraction” higher, but not much higher - you need to retain a bit of clearance between the blue waveform and the top / bottom of the track. So long as there is some clearance, the exact level is not very critical.

The dynamic range measurements don’t make sense and I don’t believe them, or at-least I don’t believe they are meaningful. Maybe there is a click or pop that’s hitting 0dB (1.0 on the Audacity waveform display). That could throw-off the measurements/calculations. Or maybe there’s something else wrong with the measurement/calculation.

If you clip by “trying” to go over 0dB (higher than 1.0 on the Audacity waveform scale) you loose dynamic range. Otherwise, the dynamic range capability of 16-bit audio is more than 90dB and 24-bits is more than 140dB. You loose a little of that rage at lower levels, but adjusting the volume linearly (without distortion) doesn’t change the dynamic range of the program/music.

…One thing about “dynamic range”. It has more than one meaning/definition and depending on how you measure it, you can get “false” results. In musical terms what you are measuring is “dynamic contrast” or “dynamic expression”.

The common method of calculating the crest factor (peak-to-average or peak-to-RMS) will often give a higher reading with vinyl or MP3 than for a CD made from the same master. The vinyl cutting & playback process (and MP3 compression to a lesser extent) changes the wave shape making some peaks higher and some peaks lower. The new highest-peaks are often higher than the original highest-peaks and that gives a higher “measured” dynamic range.

But these are short-term peaks that don’t affect perceived loudness so the changes don’t affect the perceived dynamic range so cutting a vinyl record or compressing to MP3 doesn’t really improve the dynamic range. And of course vinyl has less dynamic range capability than digital, and by another definition (signal to noise ratio) the dynamic range is worse.

I believe the UBU R128 “loudness range” is a more useful measurement than crest factor but vinyl clicks/defects might still throw-off the measurements.

One procedure for measuring the dynamic range of music is described here: (link to pdf file)

Important to note that the above definition is completely different to how the dynamic range of “audio” is usually measured. The above definition is intended to provide a reasonable comparison of how much “loudness compression” has been applied to one music recording compared to another.

No, I got it!

Thank you both for thoroughly responding to my questions. :smiley: