Volume input - new problems


I’ve been using Audacity to rip vinyl for several years. I’ve used a Climax Audio ACAP 100 lead from Hi-Fi to Laptop and have had excellent results. After about 3 years of use, my ACAP 100 started to malfunction, so I purchased another one.

The problem with the replacement, is that it will not allow me to adjust the input volume in any was resulting in very low level recordings of my vinyl (I have the input volume of Audacity up to 10 by default and it’s still way too low).
The older cable allowed me to adjust the input volume via the control panel on my desktop and the ‘adjust the system volume’ option. Now the volume control is frozen and wont move.

I noticed that the my laptops recognised the older cable as a ‘USB PNP Device’ - the newer cable however comes up as ‘Microphone Array’.

So my questions here are:

  1. Is there anyway of getting up to date Climax Audio cables to allow input volume to be adjusted via the control panel like the earlier versions (I did contact Climax Audio initially - they were not particularly helpful/interested)

  2. Are there any good quality alternative phono to USB audio capture cables that work with Audacity that anyone could recommend?

Thanks in advance!!

When I do transfers, I use my commercial grade turntable, a Hafler preamplifier and a plain digitizer system. The Hafler has the physical volume controls and allows me to adjust each record as I go. No doubt that’s what you’re after.

A very common complaint with the “convenient” USB transfer systems is little or no control. They’re built for someone who wants badly to put their vinyl in the trash and how they get there doesn’t much matter.

Did your original cable come with a software package and were special drivers buried in that package? Do you still have the CD? Windows sometimes allows you to adjust a USB device volume in the Windows Control Panels. Did you try that?

As you found, one way to keep manufacturers out of hot water is to do quiet transfers. You can always boost them a little bit to get where you need to go. Too loud is deadly The first time you overload or clip sound, thats the end of the world. It’s sound damage and you can’t recover.

You should be careful while you’re shopping. If you’re digitizing the HiFi and not the turntable itself, then you may not need a Phono Converter. The HiFi has probably already taken care of the RIAA/Phono part of the job. You just need to convert normal sound to binary.

Any reason you couldn’t turn the music system up and make up the difference? Yes it is possible that the speakers will be too loud when you do that. That’s the juggling act.

You should resolve the Phono thing. That determines what kind of digitizer you need if you can’t get yours to work.

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What are your levels like? It might not be as bad as you think… You can quickly check the peaks (after recording) by running the Amplify effect. For example, if Amplify defaults to 6dB, your current peaks are -6dB and that’s OK. You can optionally apply the Amplify to normalize (maximize) the volume or you can cancel if you just want to check.

Anything between -3dB and -6dB is ideal. You want a good signal for a good signal-to-noise ratio, but you don’t want to get too close to 0dB, because if the signal “tries” to go over 0dB, the analog-to-digital converter will clip (distort).

Some records are louder than others and some songs are louder than others. (But, note that the peaks don’t correlate very well with perceived loudness, so don’t be surprised if a quiet-sounding record has some high peaks.)

I wouldn’t worry too much unless your peaks are down around -12dB or less (more negative), and that may be OK too… You can amplify digitally after recording. If your peaks are somewhere around -20dB or so, then I’d be looking for a different interface. But, -12dB might be acceptable.

The danger of the signal being too low is that the resolution is reduced, and when you boost the signal after recording you are also boosting any noise present. But analog vinyl doesn’t have that much usable resolution to begin with (due to surface noise) and most of the noise you get it from the vinyl itself, so boosting the gain doesn’t improve the signal-to-noise ratio. Higher electrical gain only helps if you can boost the signal without boosting the electrical noise. …What I’m trying to say is, recording vinyl at -12dB might not sound any worse than recording at 0dB.

NOTE - If the highest peak in the recording is a loud vinyl “click”, your peak reading isn’t meaningful.

  1. Are there any good quality alternative phono to USB audio capture cables that work with Audacity that anyone could recommend?

I can’t personally recommend anything but [u]here is an example[/u] of an audio interface with line-level inputs and adjustable gain. You generally find these audio interfaces at places that sell musical instruments and sound equipment, rather from “computer stores”. Most of these things have 1/4-inch TRS jacks, so you need an adapter cable for RCA “phono” plugs. Most also have XLR microphone inputs, so make sure you get one that has line-inputs (at least 2 for stereo) or switchable mic/line inputs.

If you have a component turntable with a magnetic cartridge, you can also get interfaces with a built-in phono preamp (and RCA connectors, and maybe adjustable gain). Then you could bypass the rest of the hi-fi system (if you wanted to).

In most cases, the line-input on a regular soundcard in a desktop/tower computer will work. But don’t buy a “USB soundcard”. These are like laptops with only mic-in and headphone-out.

NOTE - If the highest peak in the recording is a loud vinyl “click”, your peak reading isn’t meaningful.

In other words, this technique isn’t reliable with vinyl?

I bet all my vinyl transfers peak at 0. That’s not the music, that’s where the cat hairs are. We also note your favorite records are also the ones least likely to transfer well.

“I had to eventually stop playing the record. I could see through it.”