Restoring LP’s to digital- be careful what you wish for!

If you recently purchased a USB turntable and have been anxious to dive into your old band recordings on LP and start converting them, here are a few words of caution. I titled this post “be careful what you wish for” because there is a price to pay when restoring your prized University of Michigan Revelli recordings…

We have all been spoiled by the pristine audio of today’s digital recordings. Our ears have become extremely sophisticated, and when we listen to legacy recordings, we are often disappointed that they do not sound like what we remember.

This is due to a number of reasons- there are so many variables when we are talking about analog reproduction- however surface noise is probably the biggest distraction. The constant hiss, scrape, and pop of surface noise is certainly ill-tolerated in our digital world!

Aaahhh…but there are sweet promises of restoration- programs designed to scrub away the hiss and surface noise, leaving only the heavenly strains of your one-of-a-kind recording of Trauersinfonie…

Beware, because the quiet comes at a price. It really isn’t rocket science to figure out that when you have Audacity (or any other program for that matter) learn a noise profile, it takes out all of the frequencies in that “fingerprint” from your music!  Remember, even with the improved noise removal from Audacity 1.3.3 (latest distro), software CANNOT “put back” the MUSIC in those frequencies- when they are gone, they are gone.  This can lead to some pretty harsh results as the music can take on a “tinny”, “echo-y” or “shattered” sound (the later is caused by digital artifacts when the noise was removed).

You really need to consider carefully for what situations you will use your recordings made in this way- a reference recording of a tune that is very hard to find so that you can play it for your band is one thing.  You may work very hard on a recording and get it to sound “good enough”.  Expecting that you will “re-capture the magic” of the original recording is quite another matter.  There is a very good reason why ALL analog recordings were not preserved digitally- it is really, really difficult to do this “right”.  The equipment and expertise necessary to really do justice to restoring a classic analog recording is far beyond what we are able to do with a computer, a USB turntable, and Audacity. 

Thank goodness that many classic recordings have been restored and are available again, and great ensembles keep recording great music on great equipment!

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4 Responses to Restoring LP’s to digital- be careful what you wish for!

  1. Hello, i found this blogg on yahoo. I think its very interesting and i will definitely come back to read more. Just want you to now that you are doing a wonderful job.

  2. Thanh Mangubat says:

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  3. vtrick says:

    oh, how very true. thx for the harsh reality check. i will proceed with my plans to digitize vinyl with now a more realistic expectation.

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