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The “I Really Like How These Vinyl Transfers Came Out” Mixtape Volume 1

October 21, 2011

Remastering Vinyl for personal enjoyment is a hobby that I unfortunately don’t have enough time for. Many people (especially those who are die-hard vinyl enthusiasts but don’t have a technical background in audio) believe that vinyl is “superior” to the digital format and that it has “more range” than digital. In fact, the opposite is true; vinyl has a lower dynamic range than digital, so it’s just not physically possible to push audio on vinyl to the same levels that you can push digital, but then pushing digital past its optimal point usually results in a somewhat lifeless listening experience. Once you understand this limitation, you can then find an optimal range in the digital format where vinyl transfers can sound great.

When playing back digital audio, the most important components are the DAC (Digital-to-Audio Converter) and amplifier but with vinyl, you have a few other things to think about. For starters, a Turntable is an instrument. It needs to be tuned to play properly (leveled flat on a surface, proper cartridge and stylus installation, tonearm balancing, the right amount of weight for the cartridge and proper anti-skate mechanism setting), then there’s the RIAA curve (check out this wikipedia article for specific frequency info), amplification and there you have a ton of options, from solid state to tube equipment that can focus on “flat” reproduction of audio to “warm, rich” tones from various combinations of tubes and other components that through the years have been favored over the “cold” (neutral, flat) sound of digital.

I don’t apply any dynamics processing to the transfers, only an Equalization curve that compliments my cartridge’s response. With regards to the format’s noise footprint, I don’t apply any noise reduction processes, only remove any obvious spikes with some spectral editing. Since the EQ curve I came up with seems to work well with my cartridge, I batch process (automate) all my transfers to save time. Loudness and tone will vary from track to track a bit, just like playing back the original vinyl.

You’ll also need a bit of amplification playing back this mix, expect the sound to be pretty low (but listenable) through your laptop’s headphone output. Like listening to vinyl, some notes should stick out a little more and depending on the type of amp and speakers you play this back on,  you’ll hear detail and imaging that won’t sound as “digital” or “boxed in” considering it’s an MP3 (I play vinyl transfers at this quality on my iPod and they sound great through my mobile playback system). I hope you dig it and become re-acquainted with your volume knob (you can also download the mix here). Here’s the track list:

  1. Check the Rhyme – A Tribe Called Quest
    (Low End Theory)
  2. My Little Girl – Bobbi Humphrey
    (Satin Doll)
  3. Honest – Band of Skulls
    (Baby Darling Doll Face Honey)
  4. C.R.E.A.M. – El Michels Affair
    (Enter the 37th Chamber)
  5. Something – Grillade + Big K.R.I.T.
    (The “Wuz Here” Sessions)
  6. You’re A Customer – EPMD
    (Strictly Business)
  7. Ain’t No Love Lost – Curtis Mayfield
    (Got To Find A Way)
  8. One More Time – The Clash feat. Mikey Dread
  9. North-East To Nippon – Breakestra
    (Dusk Till Dawn)
  10. Forever – Marvin Gaye
    (Greatest Hits Volume 2)
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