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Audio Restoration Primer

So you have a collection of recordings and you want to archive them to CD for both convenience and piece of mind?  We've designed this Primer to stop your head from spinning...eliminate confusion and make this the enjoyable experience that it should be.  We've split it into sections and tried to make it as easy as possible to understand.  If you are new to this, read this in exactly the order we present it, but if you see things you're already familiar with, just skip ahead to the various sections we've included.  

Equipment Checklist
Wiring it up (turntable system)
Wiring it up (tape system)
Setting Your Sound Card's Mixer
Choosing Your Software
Your First Recording


Equipment Checklist

Much of this will depend on the results you want, how good your ears are, and what you already have on board.  

At it's most basic, recording to your computer from your turntable (in the case of vinyl) is not really much different from the recordings you've made in the past to cassette tape.   You'll plug the output of the source to the input of your computer's sound card, you'll check your levels, make your adjustments, and hit the record button.  So let's get to that point and we'll take it from there.

Requirements to dub your cassette or reel-to-reel tapes is similar, but we'll cover that below:

To Transfer your classic vinyl recordings to the computer, you'll need:
A computer Our products only support Windows IBM-type clones (no Macs).  Any computer that's been purchased in the last 2 years will support fully, the realtime processing and playback of our flagship DC SIX product and any computer purchased in the last 5 years will easily support our DC Millennium product.  Speed of computer and speed of hard drive are the main components in the processing power of our software products.  RAM (Random Access Memory) and other factors are less important...but with computers...more is always better.  Because audio recording and processing don't require the horsepower of today's video recording-enabled machines, you should have no worries.  If you have a question about your PC's ability to handle these tasks, simply call us toll free at 866 260 6376 and we'll have actual humans answer the phone and answer your question.  (novel idea, eh?)
A sound card A sound card is your audio interface to your computer.  It takes the analog signal from your turntable, digitizes it, and records it to the PC in a language that your computer can understand.   To your ears...all of this fancy stuff will sound no different than if you'd wired up to a tape deck.  It will simply sound like you've recorded to Tape when you play back.  Your computer calls these audio files .wav files.  In order to edit your audio on the computer, it must be in this format.  Our recording software makes this job easy and happens under the covers, so all you know is that you can now hear what you've recorded playing off of the hard drive.  The transport controls in our system are identical to the familiar transport controls from your favorite Cassette tape deck.  Play, Record, pause are all identical symbols which you will recognize.  

Your sound card is probably second on the list of importance for guaranteeing excellent sounding CDs(behind your restoration software).  It is important to know that your favorite Dell, Compaq or other brand name machines will not bundle a very good sound card with your system.  Whether you pay $500 or $5000 for your computer, chances are, you have the equivalent of about a $10 sound card for your recordings.  Even if you get the sound card 'upgrade', that probably just means that you've gotten a better card for game-play than the standard.

Let your ears be the judge.  We don't want anyone to buy something they don't really need, but if you make recordings and you hear noise, chances are good that your sound card is not one that is designed for high end audio recording.  We sell several incredible sound cards for reasonable money at our sister site, Tracer Technologies.  For more info on sound cards, click here.

A turntable Finally something that you're familiar with.  You've got one, you know how to use it.  The outputs of this go into either your stereo system or a phono preamp and the outputs of that secondary device will be plugged into the Line Inputs on your sound card.  You will need either a Phono preamp or the Tape Output of your stereo system because a standard turntable does not generate the Line Level signal that you need in order to record to your computer's sound card.  You can't plug a turntable directly to a sound card because you will not get enough levels to record successfully.  There are newer turntables available that have the phono preamp built in.  If you're interested, you can click here to see what's available.
A stereo system or phono preamp IF plugging your stereo system's outputs into your sound cards line inputs are not convenient in your household setup,  (you can't move the computer to the stereo or vice-versa), then you might want to investigate a separate phono preamp.  This is just a device that adds gain to the signal to boost it to line level and make it possible to record.  We sell a variety of these units and the cost and features vary.  For a more detailed explanation of our Phono Preamp entries, simply click here.
Recording software This is our specialty.  We design products that are specific to recording, enhancing, restoring and improving audio recordings.  You will launch one of our products, hit the record button, check your levels and begin recording.  Rather than using tape, we are storing the audio on the hard disk of the computer.  When you're finished, you hit the stop button and within a few seconds, you are now seeing your audio on the screen.   With our tools you can remove the clicks, pops, hiss, surface noise, hum, buzz and other continuous disturbances that are associated with older analog recordings.  After removing the noise, we have a series of sophisticated enhancement tools that can breathe new life into older recordings.  Our tools have the ability to allow you to do as much or as little restoration and enhancement as you choose.  Each individual has their own idea about this type of work.   Some painstakingly strive to have their music sound as close to the day it was released as possible.  Others want to enhance this experience and make the recordings sound like today.  Whatever your tastes, our software allows you to get the job done.  We also are well aware that not everyone was born with a computer in their hand, so we provide the world's best tech support via either email or directly on the phone with humans...not answering machines.  When you call our office, we answer the phone and your questions in as little time as possible.  Need help with something?  You call, we'll take the time necessary to make sure you're happy and better understand the product.  
*CDR or DVDR Recording drive This, of course, is optional, but obviously, if you're restoring your treasured recordings, you're going to have to restore them to something.  Almost all modern computers of the last few years have either a CD recorder or a DVD recorder.  These drives allow you to put in a blank CD and then record your restored audio to the CD.  This process has become very easy to perform and Windows XP even does this automatically for you.  If you don't have XP, but you did have a CDR or DVDR drive in your computer, it's almost a lock that your computer has some sort of CD or DVD mastering software included.  These are generally very easy to use and self explanatory.  Usually, they have some sort of a Wizard front end that asks you if you want to make a DATA CD or an Audio CD.  The DATA CD can only be read by your computer.  It will still have .wav files on it.  Most home or car stereos will not be able to play this format.  Rather, they are looking for what we call Redbook audio.  If this is what you want to do, simply tell your CD or DVD recording program that you want to make an Audio CD.  It will then ask you to simply copy the .wav files to it in the order you want on the CD.  It will then convert these to Redbook audio and copy them to the CD...making them available for your home or car CD player.

 Wiring It Up! (Turntable System)

Now that you've got all of the equipment you need, let's make sure that we wire it up correctly.  Your turntable, in most cases will have an RCA left and right cable.  

RCA Cables

RCA Cables are probably the most common connectors used in consumer audio equipment.  

If you're using your stereo system to output to your sound card:

You can probably leave it hooked up as is.  You just want to run an extra RCA cable from the Tape Output on your stereo system to the Line Input on the sound card.  Sound cards, depending on their quality will probably offer one of three different sets of inputs and you'll have to get a cable that matches these inputs.  

1/8 " Sony Mini Jack Stereo This is a very common plug used in all walkman-type portable devices.  This is probably the most common input you'll see on a standard bundled consumer sound card.  Most common uses of this plug have it on one side of a cable with RCA jacks on the other.
RCA The standard stereo system cable.  Not as common on sound cards, but found on some prosumer-type cards.  
1/4" Instrument  This is the standard musical instrument-type cable.  This plug is found on more professional equipment and these cables are a little more durable than the other choices.  

Most of the cables you need can be found at our sister site 

Once you've determined your cable needs, then it is time to make sure that you've selected the correct input on your sound card.  All sound cards and computers are different, but in most consumer computer products, you'll find an 1/8 receptacle and will need the RCA to 1/8 connector shown above.  That cable will normally look like this and is readily available.  

RCA to 1/8" Plug

Most consumer sound cards have several sets of "holes".  If you're lucky, they'll have writing underneath the "hole" that tells you what you should plug in.  One or two will say "Speakers"...some split these up to Front and Rear...etc.  Some have pictures, some have nothing.  Hopefully you'll have your manual handy and you can figure out what goes where, but you can also do the old Trial and Error technique, where you just plug everything in until you hear something.  

Most sound cards will offer 2 for a microphone and one for Line Input.  Again, these are usually labeled in some way.  If you have 3 holes and pictures, usually the speaker and the microphone are easier to identify...a good guess tells you that the remaining input is the Line Input.  Also, usually the speakers are easier to find because most people will hook them up and listen to CDs MP3s, games or Internet audio right out of the box...less are usually interested in making their own recordings. 

If your speakers are wired up correctly, when you play a CD, you'll hear it.  If you don't have pictures on your "holes". you can test for this simply by turning on a CD...having it play and then plugging in your speaker plugs until you hear sound.

If you have a phono preamp...

Things will not really be much different.  You simply plug the RCA outputs of your turntable to the RCA Inputs on the phono preamp.  Then you tale and RCA cable and run it from the RCA Outputs on the phono preamp to the Line inputs on your sound card.  

Well worry more about setting your levels and working with your sound card's mixer in the next session.  For now, lets assume you've found the correct inputs and outputs and plugged working cables into them.  Well test this soon.

Wiring It Up (Tape System)

Wiring up your tape deck is a slightly easier process than wiring up a turntable, simply because most tape decks put out a line level signal.  As this is the signal your sound card is looking for, you can now simply plug directly into the sound card without the need of some sort of pre-amplification like a stereo system or a phono preamp.  

You simply take and RCA cable from the Line Output on your tape deck and then match the plug you need for the input on your sound card.  Click here for an explanation on plug types and cable types.

Setting Your Sound Card's Mixer

This is one of the pot holes that many first time customers fall into.  This can be confusing, but after about 5 minutes, you'll be amazed that you're now an expert.  Keep in mind, that like all good things PC, nothing is ever uniform and you'll find exceptions to every rule we're about to spell out, but this should help the majority of you a majority of the time.

Launching your sound card's mixer

Your mixer is usually located in your system tray (lower left...where your clock lives on most machines).  In XP, your tray will look like this most times:

This means that it's really set to idle.  If you click on the arrows pointing to the left, you'll see everything that's currently running.  

Notice the little gray speaker icon that is showing 3 icons in from the left?  That's your sound card's mixer.  Simply double click to activate it and you'll see something that looks like this:

This shows you the various options that are active for Playback.  This is not the mixer we'll worry about first, but it is normally the default mixer on most systems.  This is where we adjust the output of the system.  Now click on the Options menu located in the upper left hand side of the screen.

It will open the menu and offer you the Properties selection.  Click on that as well and you'll now be given the Properties selection window that looks like this:

In this window, we can select either the Playback or Recording mixers and also configure what elements of each we want to show.  Because we're interested in the Recording mixer, let's first click on that...this will change the elements shown in the window below titled "Show the following volume controls:"  It will now look like this:

We're now looking at the setup window for the Recording Mixer.  Make sure that Line Input is selected and then click on OK.  You are now looking at the Input control mixer for your sound card.  It is here that we'll make adjustments to recording levels.  This is no different that when you used to record your records to tape and adjusted the input levels on your cassette deck.  Here is your input mixer: 

Notice that Line In is "Selected". You must select this by clicking on the small "Select" box at the bottom of the Line In Slider.  We'll refer back to this section when we're ready to set our levels en route to our first recording.

Choosing Your Software

We offer 3 different products for audio restoration and enhancement.  Audio Mentor ($29) and DC Millennium at $59 and EIGHT at $159.  All of these products are excellent at restoration and enhancement.  You'll be hard-pressed to find a better solution on the planet.  All will remove clicks, pops, hiss, surface noise and other noise associated with classic recordings.  We also offer our legendary technical support to all of our customers...whether you own a $29 product or a $1500 product, we treat you the same.  You get a human to talk to who will spend whatever time is necessary to get you working.  You won't pay for technical support like some of our competitors.  

Audio Mentor is the newest product in our ongoing war against noise.  It is designed to be the easiest product on the planet going from vinyl or tape to CD.  It has a wizard that guides you through the entire process...from hooking up your stereo to writing your first CD.  It also works hand and hand with our more expensive solutions when more detailed work is required.  It is only $29!

So why spend $100 more for DC EIGHT? 

These products are simply easier, faster and better than our older versions and more powerful than Mentor.  In the "Easier" department, in the 10 years since DC Millennium was released, we have spent a great deal of time working on making audio restoration and enhancement easier.  Our new EZ Clean system is the most complex filter we've ever designed.  It can remove clicks, pops, hiss, surface noise, hum and buzz...usually in one pass automatically with little input from the user.  This filter is extremely popular with our users and in some cases is used exclusively.  In the "Faster" department, we've added a software interface that speaks directly with your CPU chip...making many of our most math intensive filters anywhere from 10-80% faster.  And, with 5 years of development time between Millennium and DC SIX, we've improved virtually every aspect of the product to make it better.  DC EIGHT takes these features to new levels with vast improvements designed to let you push filters even further and make restorations and enhancements even better!

All of our products record, edit, enhance, clean, and split your album side recording into the various single tracks you'll need to make a CD.  Demos of all are available on this site under the Free Demo Downloads listing on the left hand menu.  When you download the demo, you should also download the specific Getting Started Guide that goes with it.  That will take you by the hand and lead you through the product in easy to understand terms.

Your First Recording

So now we've wired things up, we've set up our mixer, we've even chosen a recording platform.  Now lets try a recording and see what happens.

Launch an of our products by clicking on the icon that probably placed itself on your desktop when you installed the software.  

If you don't see one of these icons on your desktop, you can also launch the program by going to your Start button then going to Programs then Diamond Cut Audio and then launching DC SIX, Millennium or Audio Mentor.

Once you've launched the program (in this case, DC SIX), you'll see the following screen:

Now let's click on the record button.   It's a Red circular button that looks like this at the top of the screen.

This will launch the Record screen (seen below)

As stated before, you're now looking at something that should seem fairly familiar to you.  You'll see transport controls like Stop, Pause, Rewind and Fast Forward along with Record.  To make ready for your first recording, simply click on the Pause button.  You have now activated your recording VU meters.  Now start your record playing.  If you've followed instructions to the letter, you should be seeing activity in these meters.

Note On Recording:

We now live in a digital world and you have to think a little differently than you did with analog recording.  For example...your VU meters.  In the good old days when we recorded from Record To Tape, we let those VU meters bounce in and out of the red to get the maximum gain on the tape.  With a digital system, that red means distortion and you don't want your recording that hot.  As a matter of fact, when doing this type of recording, your plan is to both remove noise and enhance the're better off recording at about -4 to -10 so that you have some headroom for your enhancement gain.  Also, we have several gain normalization tools in DC SIX and Millennium that allow you to maximize your file before you finish it to CD, so don't worry about making the maximum recording right off the bat.   

You're now ready to make your own recordings.  As mentioned before, to become familiar with the tools, it's probably best to start with the tutorials based on both Millennium and SIX and go from there.

Also, most importantly, feel free to call us if you have one is born an expert at these things, so don't worry about feeling stupid.  We've heard any question you can conceive.

Try us toll free at 866 260 6376


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