Sorry, I posted this in the main discussion, hope this is the appropriate spot for it.....
Santa is thinking of delivering a turntable to my teenage son. He has discovered Dad's cherished vinyl collection from the 80's. Goal of turntable would be both playing the old black round things and converting them to digital on either iBook G4 or a Dell WinXP.
Long time Mac user, long time ago turntable user,
just not sure of hardware requirements or how to connect turntable or how where digital conversion would take place
Could be any good quality turntable, but you need a preamplifier to boost the weak signal the cartridge puts out to the "line level" that the Mac needs. The preamp also applies "RIAA Equalization" to the signal. Google it if you're interested in the details.
The preamp might be built into a stereo component, built into the turntable or it might be a separate little box, but you gotta have one.
Your Mac may or may not have a line-in jack - it's usually just the mic jack. Check your owner's manual. If you have one of the models with no line in, you'll need a USB interface like the Griffin iMic.
The software I recommend is Roxio Toast 6 Titanium, or more specifically the CD Spin Doctor 2 app that comes with it. You also get digitizing software with the iMic, should you need to buy one.
Cheers :-> Bill
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The basic technical requirement for ripping is that the turntable signal be passed through a proper phono preamp -- it's not line-level, so you can't just run it to a line-in.
This means having either a conventional stereo amp (with phono input, of course), a standalone phono preamp, or a device such as a Griffin iMic in between the turntable and the computer. Haven't done much ripping myself, so I'll leave others to fill in details on what's best, though the iMic is likely to be the cheapest option unless you have a spare amp/receiver kicking around. (It's also a helpful option for Macs that lack a line-in, since it provides a USB line-in.)
As for turntables, I recommend you look for one with a belt-drive as they tend to have better sonic qualities than direct-drive. If buying used, a new cartridge and/or stylus is probably a good investment. Some manufacturers still in business are Ortofon and Grado.
I'd also advise staying away from anything advertised as DJ gear. This stuff is specially designed for ruggedness and heavy-vibration environments, not necessarily high fidelity. You'll pay a premium for a table that will needlessly put an extra-heavy weight on your records...
I would suggest you look at Rega Planar turntables, well built and very reliable. They are very simple in design. The platter is made of glass, as such it is acoustically "dead." The only thing you may not like about these is that you have to lift the platter off the hub to change the speed. This was never an issue for me though.
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you should consider searching for used audio gear at Audiogon a good place to shop. I do agree with IMatt that a belt drive will be more musical. If your looking for a entry level turntable, look for models from Thorens & Dual - both offer great value and can often be found at a decent price point. If your budget allows, you can also consider a Rega or a Linn Axis.
If your serious about your analogue playback, then the Linn Sondek LP12 is a clear winner for the money spent.
Obviously, the preamp/phono stage is also a crucial element in accurate musical reproduction.
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I think a Linn or a Rega would probably be overkill, unless we're talking about a teenager who's already a serious hi-fi nut. Otherwise, I'd put a Thorens at the upper limit. Great and incredibly durable machines (and my personal faves), but possibly a little pricey (you're looking at about $150-200 on the low end). If there's a chance of the recipient quickly losing interest in dad's LP collection, a sub-$100 Dual would be worth looking into.
Its a fully digital turntable which can be hooked up to a phono level, which you will need a phono pre-amp, as well as a line level which you can hook up to a laptop or desktop with the proper RCA - 1/8" input adapter.
Thats if you dont mind spending 400-500 for one.
Here's a link from an american site where I buy most of my dj equipment from. It'll have details about this turntable and what its capable of.
I would agree that belt drive turntables transfer less subsonic noise to the playback system, and are preferred for serious listening.
If you already are a serious vinyl listener and have a serious sound system at home (I don't mean expensive sound system; there is plenty of expensive junk at Best Buy; I mean one chosen with your ears alone as the judge), you probably already know what you want in a TT, and you might even disagree with my recommendations.
I'm not trying to "convert" anyone into being an audiophile; I'm trying to help people get what they need, not what they "should" do.
My comments are to those who would like to be able to play records and don't want to fuss too much about it.
As for belt vs direct drive, the Denon AC motor is inherently superior to belt drives for speed stability and belt drive motors need heavy platters to match it.
It then comes down to isolating the motor, which can be done better with belt drive, but not at budget or even modest HiFi prices. The REGA turntables are not better than Denons because they are belt drive; they are better because the base and tonearms are better, and they are made to address the needs of a specific kind of customer.
The DC motor (all other brands of Direct Drive TT) is probably the least preferable, but it too is quite good, with the best torque, ease of use, and reliability of the three.
Unless you are looking at better tables, the choice of motor is the least significant factor in overall performance.
If you are spending towards the low end, or buying used, the common DD turntables you will find are quieter, have better torque and are easier for occasional turntable listeners to use.
Dual turntables are a fair example; belt drive but strictly for the indifferent; they are very noisy structurally and are mechanical nightmares; springs, levers, gears, you name it. To make matters worse, the tonearm is strictly low-fi. Much, much poorer than a Technics DD turntable.
A REGA Planar 2 (belt drive) is an excellent starter turntable, but at any level below that a belt drive system, in and of itself, is not a feature you need to worry about. The other problems are bigger deals.
Certain parts of a turntable need to be precisely machined and made from very specific materials. You can't hire a CNC machinist to make the 3 to 7 bearings used in a turntable platter, motor and tonearm when you need to sell a turntable for a few hundred dollars, plain and simple. Bearings have a significant effect on noise, speed stability, rumble, etc.
Nor can you expect inexpensive turntables be made from heavy, sonically "dead" materials, which add $40 to the cost every time the thing ships in a box somewhere before it got to you.
The people at Technics and Denon did very good jobs making high performance turntables out of lighter materials, which could be sold at reasonable prices to the consumer. (All Direct Drive motors were made by one of these two companies, the patent holders for AC and DC DD technologies).
Although Belt drive tables could be bought for similar prices, they are sought after and really aren't any less expensive when bought used than they were 20 years ago. So, the value buy is in DD, which are 5 or more times cheaper used than new.
The Technics SL-1200 series is sought after by DJs and rappers, so they actually sell for a premium similar to belt drive tables. However, any of the SL-1000 series tables are made the same way; bargains can be had there.
If you're curious and want to evaluate the noise factors in a turntable that are not related to the drive method, this is what you do:
Unplug the power cord from the wall for the turntable (semi and automatic tables) or turn the motor off (manual turntables). Turn the volume control of your system all the way down.
Place a record on the table, and place the stylus on the record about midway from beginning to end.
If you're doing this right, the player is in the same mode it would be when playing an LP, but the platter is not moving.
You are going to listen to the sound the turntable itself adds to the system through the speakers, without all that glorious music masking it and making it difficult to hear.
Turn up the volume a bit, and using your fingernail, tap around the table base and on the record itself. Be careful: do not tap the tonearm, or bump it. Especially do not let the platter move backwards; hold it if necessary. Go easy.
It helps if you can remove the grill cloth of the speakers and look at the bass driver, but it's not critical; you can use your ears alone.
Have one hand on the volume control so you can turn it down quickly if you get feedback or the speaker cones look like they're going to fly out of the enclosure.
The clumsy can damage the stylus doing this test, but you will be OK if you're reasonably careful and take it slow with increasing volume between raps.
What you hear will be the mechanical noise the construction method adds to the sound, every time you play a record. The motor and drive system isn't affecting this test at all. However the design, the quality of the bearings, and the materials used will be evident in this test.
Get the one that makes the "deader" sound, and doesn't ring (ie the noise is sharp and stops quickly, not goes on or fades out slowly. Although in very broad terms a deeper tone is preferable to a high one, the maker may well have carefully chosen the frequency for reasons that have to do with the compromises he was forced to make; so it's not a deal killer and may be better overall).
A "good" sound is more like what you get when you rap on a heavy table or countertop with your knuckle, a "bad" sound is more like knocking on an aluminum storm door or the side of your monitor.
This is an excellent method to quickly evaluate a turntable's overall worthiness, if you're considering a purchase and you really aren't familiar with brands or turntables in general.
By turning the volume up (carefully) you may get a point where you begin to find feedback. Either look for a suspended-chassis type table or else sturdy up the shelf or whatever the TT is sitting on to reduce or eliminate feedback.
Suspended chassis TT's (some better Technics, Thorens) are better at reducing feedback than unsuspended tables (inexpensive tables in general as well as many very good ones; eg REGA).
One is not necessarily "better" than the other, but if you can't keep the floor from bouncing when you walk, you pretty much have to go suspended or spend time and effort mounting the table on a sturdy base or perhaps a wall mounted shelf.