MonadLUG notes, 13-Sept-2007, Charlie Farinella on digitizing analog vinyl albums

Ten people attended the September meeting of the Monadnock Area Linux User Group, MonadLUG, one of the LUGs of the Greater New Hampshire Linux User Group, held as usual on the second Thursday of the month at the SAU 1 Administration offices on Hancock Road in Peterborough.

Charlie started off the meeting with a round of introductions, and we welcomed several new members and shared our interests and backgrounds. We covered a bit of news about upcoming events; I mentioned that we try to keep all upcoming meetings on gnhlug.org and plugged upcoming meetings by other LUGs as well as the Manchester Tech North conference, the GBC/ACM meeting with Guy Steele, and the SWaNH infoeXchange conference.

Charlie covered upcoming MonadLUG meetings, a record number of them:

  • October 11,. Ben Scott, DNS
  • November 8, Ted Roche, Cascading Style Sheets
  • December 13, Tim Wessels, Revolution OS
  • January 10, Ray Côté, something tbd
  • February 14, Tim Wessels, SuSE Linux Enterprise 10

On to the main presentation, Charlie talked about his project of digitizing his collection (he estimates 800) of vinyl records. (For those not familiar with Charlie’s background, he spent 30 years as a piano technician, and some of his favorite recordings include pianos that he had tuned.) Charlie was not focused on high-fidelity, high-fiddling recordings; rather, just burning CDs he could listen to in the car, so quick, efficient, simple and good quality was the focus. Charlie talked about how he hooked up a consumer-grade turntable and stereo receiver to the computer’s sound card line in (you need to go through the receiver because phono output needs pre-amplification and the signal has a specific profile). Folks in the audience offered that pre-amps were available as standalone units inexpensively on eBay.

Once the sound arrived at the sound card, it needed to be digitized. Charlie talked about how it worked on his Slackware machine, but he could never figure out how to un-mute the sound inputs in Ubuntu. Several folks offered sympathy and similar stories of getting tangled up in the various sound systems (OSS, ALSA) and not getting incoming sound to work well. This is a topic where a local expert could make a very popular meeting, I expect!

Having failed to get the sound mixers and Audacity to record directly, Charlie used the rec command line (from the sox package) to record instead. Charlie provided a handout (which I hope to post to the LUG wiki here) with the commands he used and some additional notes.

Once the sound was captured as a WAV file, he brought the sound into Audacity and used the filters and trimming facilities to amplify the sound to the full dynamic range, remove (or at least reduce) clicking, get rid of background noise, and split the recording into separate tracks. Charlie would save these separately and burn them all to an audio CD to play on the home or car stereo.

It was great to see someone actually use Audacity and understand what many of the buttons and options are used for. I was inspired to try to digitize some of my old fogey music.

Thanks to Charlie for organizing the meeting and doing the presentation.This is one I would encourage the other LUGs to consider asking Charlie to repeat.

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