Pure Vinyl LP recording & editing software Page 3

Normal playback with Pure Vinyl was always stable. It was only when I was changing configurations, or during rendering operations, that I ran into potentially speaker-damaging problems. According to Robinson, most audiophiles using the software have a dedicated audio computer, which he recommends as the safest way to use his software.

For serious listening, do you really want to digitize analog?
Everything you're about to read needs to be considered in the context of the $675 Lynx L22 soundcard, thought by many to be among the best of its type. However, it's usable in the Intel Macs, some G5s, and some Mac laptops only with the addition of a PCI adapter made by Magma (ca $1000). If you use other A/D and D/A converters, your sonic results may differ.

I started my testing by making a series of recordings using the $1599 Seta Nano phono preamplifier. With the Nano's Flat balanced outputs fed to the A/D converter of the Lynx soundcard and its RIAA-equalized single-ended outputs into the preamp, I could A/B the all-analog, RIAA-corrected "live" playback of an LP with the digitally corrected version. The digital domain version sounded superior—not because digitizing the signal somehow improved it, but because the digital RIAA correction was obviously superior to the analog-domain filter in the less expensive Seta.

Like a high-quality loudspeaker, the digital RIAA equalization's subjective neutrality revealed and resolved far more detail, particularly of low-level information occurring in the same frequency range as high-level information. I could easily hear its superior overall low-level resolution as well—particularly in how it resolved reverberant tails, which extended well beyond what the analog playback produced.

More apparent was the digital version's superior transient response. The analog RIAA version's attack was soft and lacked clarity and definition. Switching to the digital version tightened and clarified the attack and solidified the entire picture. Mush became tightly clarified punch.

If you're going to archive your LPs on your computer's hard drive, I suggest aiming higher than the Seta Nano. In fact, if you already have an accomplished phono preamp, just use that, and carefully set Pure Vinyl so it doesn't add RIAA playback equalization during recording, or you'll double your displeasure with massive amounts of possibly speaker-damaging bass. Switching to Channel D's battery-powered Seta Model L ($4798 with RIAA module) produced far superior results.

Though you'd lose the direct analog feed, if you like your regular phono preamp I'd recommend getting the Seta Model L minus the RIAA section and saving $999, especially if you have a substantial collection of pre-RIAA recordings. You could try recording both ways, and chuck your current phono preamp if you prefer the Seta Model L. And don't be surprised if that's what happens, particularly if you pay attention to the digital RIAA's finesse and robust attacks—particularly in the bottom octaves—and its unerring tonal neutrality. You know the old audiophile chestnut of the lifting of veils from the music? Listen and that's what you're sure to hear, without an additive penalty in terms of the usual digital edge and etch.

I recorded a test pressing of Nat King Cole's Love Is the Thing (45rpm LPs, Capitol/Analogue Productions SW-824); using the Seta Model L and playing it back using the digital RIAA, the sound wasn't exactly soft, warm, and romantic, but it was fundamentally accurate in terms of tonality and space, and its low-level resolution was remarkable. Did it sound "digital"? No, not as analog fanatics normally pejoratively use the word.

I then played the record "live," using the $60,000 Vitus Audio MP-P201 phono preamp. While the sound of the Vitus swamped that of the digital recording made via the Model L's flat outputs and the Lynx soundcard, it wasn't $55,000 better, and the differences weren't in the usual digital-vs-analog sense. The "live" presentation had greater transparency, immediacy, three-dimensionality, top-end air, and musical flow.

An A/B comparison of The Band's second, eponymous album confirmed the same fundamental sonic differences, though surprisingly, the digitized version produced greater bass punch and solidity at the expense of some subtle textures. Pure Vinyl's bottom-end performance was uniformly superb on all of the digitized recordings I made. Missing, though, was the sense of the acoustic space of Sammy Davis Jr.'s pool cabana, where the album was recorded. That's what made the "live" presentation sound more live, and the digitized version sound more like a very good recording. That said, without knowing which was which, I suspect some listeners might prefer the digital versions. (Did I just write that?)

For all but the most well-heeled vinyl fanatics—and not even considering the convenience factor and the ability to play LPs using the correct EQ curve—Pure Vinyl plus peripherals offers a relatively inexpensive way to achieve an extremely high level of vinyl playback. Pure Vinyl will change the musical lives of collectors with large collections of pre-1954 discs.

But wait! There's more!
In addition to Pure Vinyl, your $300 gets you Pure Music, a "parasitic" music server program that acts as a front-end for Apple's iTunes. When you open Pure Vinyl, you'll see an embedded iTunes icon. Click on it and iTunes opens, framed by Pure Vinyl's control panel and metering system.

While iTunes remains the organizing database for your music collection, Pure Music bypasses Apple's less-than-stellar-sounding playback pathway. Most importantly, it changes the sample rate of Apple's CoreAudio engine to match that of the file being played, disabling CoreAudio's real-time sample-rate converter. Using iTunes alone, every time you want to play a file with a different sample rate, you have to quit iTunes, change the default sample rate with the AudioMIDI utility program, then reboot iTunes. Pure Music includes high-quality sample-rate upconversion in real time to resolutions as high as 24-bit/192kHz, as well as a whole host of additional features, including a properly dithered volume control and the ability to play files from memory rather than hard drive (footnote 1).

Pure Music works seamlessly, and definitely improves sound quality over iTunes alone. I didn't compare Pure Music with the Amarra software player, its only competition, but the full Amarra suite alone costs about three times as much as Pure Vinyl, which throws in Pure Music for free. Or you can buy Pure Music separately for $129, and add Pure Vinyl later for the $170 difference.

Even if all you want to do is transfer your LPs to digital for use in your iPod, Pure Vinyl for Mac is a worthwhile purchase. There are less expensive ways to accomplish this, but I doubt any of them will be as ergonomically pleasing or as much fun (yes, fun)—and with the right soundcard, none will likely sound better, especially if you avail yourself of the digital RIAA equalization feature. And as long as you're bothering to do a digital transfer, given how inexpensive 1TB drives have become, why not do it at 24/192?

Beyond that, add a high quality soundcard like the Lynx L22 and either a microphone preamp or a Channel D Seta Model L phono preamp, to take advantage of Pure Vinyl's digital equalization capabilities, and you might find the resulting sound superior to what you hear from playing the LPs directly. Can that be me talking? Yes, based on what I heard.

Expect a steep learning curve, frustrating glitches and malfunctions, program crashes, and mysterious, confusing windows packed with mind-glazing check boxes and pop-up windows. Expect to get no sound, and then speaker-damaging loud sound. Expect upgrades and incompatibilities. After all, computers are involved.

However, once you've got the hang of Pure Vinyl, you'll find yourself saying, "As long as I'm playing this LP anyway, why not archive it? And as long as I'm archiving it, why not listen to it at 24-bits/192kHz, equalized in the digital domain?" I like what I'm hearing.

You can download both Pure Vinyl and Pure Music for 15-day free trials and try them yourself.

Footnote 1: I found Pure Music's Memory playback consistently gave better sound quality, using a USB connection to a dCS uClock and Puccini D/A processor, than playing from hard drive. (This might be because my iTunes library is stored on an external, FireWire-connected drive.) There is a slight delay after you press "Play" while the file is being read into RAM, then a small message beneath the meters at the top of the Pure Music window indicates that the file is being played from RAM. There is also a Hybrid Memory Play mode, where Pure Music commences playback while simultaneously loading each track into memory. As it doesn't have to wait for the track to be completely loaded into RAM, this gives gap-less operation, but with the sonic benefit of Memory playback. For $129, Pure Music is a bargain.—John Atkinson
Channel D
Trenton, NJ.
(609) 393-3600

Stoneholme's picture

I read this article with interest as this has been a passion of mine for several years now.  I have no issues with anything said as it's essentially what I've been doing.

I would like to share a couple of alternatives, however:

The Graham Slee Project "Jazz Club" pre-amp (www.gspaudio.co.uk) allows you to select from a variety of different equalisation curves or just pass the signal through without equalisation.  It's got pretty good performance specs as well.

Sound Studio from Felt Tip Software is a pretty versatile but easy to use program. Support is excellent and the product has never failed to perform to my expectations.  I do high-res transcription at 24-bit, 192kHz and this works a treat.

For post-processing I use wonderful suite of products from Brian Davies called ClickRepair and DeNoise.  The beauty of this product is that it is NOT a set of filters but a sophisticated yet easy-to-use digital signal processing program.  It also has built-in equalisation capability if you wish to use it.  It's also very very affordable.

For storage of the raw files I use the DroboPro.  I mention this simply because I have terabytes of raw files and although I've had some serious HDD problems, this system has not lost a "bit" of any of my recordings.

BTW, really enjoying the site although suffering from technology envy when I read about some of the systems.

Oh, although I haven't done any work in this space, I've heard great things about the OPPO BDP-95 universal optical disc player.  If you have the capability of producing DVD-Audio discs at 24-bit 192kHz, and your mates have an OPPO, it's a great way to share new music.

rl1856's picture

Not everyone owns a Mac computer....indeed approximately 90% of the computing world is non Mac and I suspect the majority of those reading this blog or Stereophile in general are PC users.  So what are the viable NON MAC alternatives for converting vinyl to digital?  For many, the use of Audacity software (free download) and ones's own internal sound card or inexpensive secondary card provides a good starting point, but what are better alternatives?

Joe Crowe's picture

I noticed that the nifty Lynx soundcard mentioned (rally interested in that) requires an adapter to be used in a Mac.

audiot's picture

I'd love to use the Pure Music software but first I have some serious hardware upgrades to consider, mainly a new turntable and cartridge. Mine is just too old and has spent too many thousands of miles in moving vans to be viable for such a huge undertaking. But someday . . . yes!

southroad3's picture

I'm a PC user so the Pure Vinyl is of no use to me. I have been digitising analog sources for a few years now using a Denon DN F650R digital recorder which transfers onto an SD card. I then plug the card into my PC. Using Nero software I chop up the files into the individual tracks, I can also edit any unwanted noise at this stage. The process is somewhat laborious but once you get used to it you can create a digital version of your vinyl/tape etc fairly quickly. The Denon records at 24/96 so SQ is acceptable. During this time I have been upgrading my vinyl playback so I suppose I would need to go back and re-record the early transfers, but I think life is too short !

See Why Audio's picture

...not all of them are equal.

Recording from vinyl is what I do for a living so forgive me if I feel I know more about it than others... but I have also found that I know less and less when it comes to the bewildering selection of software available.
I can't enjoy the 'Pure Vinyl' experience because I am a PC user... but I have been for many years using a venerable and now quite free version of Adobe Audition 3.01

The strengths of this program are difficult to nail down but amount to a great flexibility in choice. Automation of tasks is achieved through scripting and the interface is relatively easy to learn. Frankly I don't know what I'll do if it ever becomes unusable on modern computers!

Irrespective of software, I should stress that you are always going to get better results from a better turntable/arm/cart/pre/sound card than from any software. You can get a decent rip - if that's all you need, from free software such as Audacity.
As always, there is no easy way to make a bad rip sound good in software.

gbougard's picture

I've used this gentleman's services and he is one of the best in the world
I sometimes release content that's often restored from vinyl and See Why Audio is my go to guy. What he did on Bunny Wailer's "Struggle" album is simply stellar

pessoist's picture

I shared the thought of a digital high-resolution rip.
On a very second thought:
- I waste a lot of time to create a copy, that I could use to read a book, ride a motorcycle, or bicycle, meet family and friends, travel. Recording what I listen to, while I listen to? Ok, doable.
- I record what actually has been digital information before? To save some bucks or what? To listen in a compromised environment (mobile)?
- Can I really capture all of it? All information, all emotion?
I decided to buy a second turntable instead for my second location I frequently stay and chose to listen to records I buy there, or move over. I had a good second chain of equipment already (not high high end, but good classic) that I moved there.
I listen to music and feel the emotion.

What do I rip?
CDs, because they're crap, don't age well, less well than my digital files.
Do I listen to them? Yes, in the car and on the train. (.wav)
I'll be deleting all MP3 files, soon, even the ones without a .wav copy.

Nothing against the software approach above, it's really a great idea, just not one that I consider using.

thank you.