Channel D Pure Vinyl 3.1

Software Type: Digital LP playback, editing and archival; high-resolution digital music server for OSX
Price: $279.00
Website: www.channld.com

Ripping Vinyl
Channel D's Pure Vinyl is software for ripping and listening to your records digitally. I don't know about you, but my LP-buying habits differ from my download-buying habits. The former is more varied and daring partly based on the fact that there's about one million times more LPs that interest me as compared to downloads. So my LP collection does not mirror my hard drive collection and sometimes, many times, I'd love to have access to my LPs from my computer. Channel D's Pure Vinyl to the rescue!

You can consider this review a follow-up to Michael Fremer's review that first appeared in Stereophile and as such I highly recommend reading Michael's review too (and check out his AnalogPlanet!). The notion of ripping vinyl only really works if the ripped results can stand up to the original. And I'll state right up front that sonically, 24/192 vinyl rips using Pure Vinyl sound lovely. They sound in a word marvelous and are the equal of or better many HD downloads in my digital library as long as you begin with a good-sounding piece of vinyl. But that's the easy part in my experience.

The Setup
For the purposes of this review, Channel D's Rob Robinson kindly loaned me his TC Electronic Impact Twin and some nifty converters to allow my Rega P3 to connect to the Twin's front-mounted Neutrik combi jack/XLR sockets (these converters also supply resistive loading for my Denon 103 phono cartridge), and also to convert the 3.5mm jacks around back to standard RCA outputs which I connected to my Leben CS-300XS integrated amp. The Twin connects to your Mac via FireWire and performs the all-important task of taking the analog signal from the turntable and converting it into digital bits that your Mac will recognize (there are no phono inputs on a Mac). Since I'm going to use Pure Vinyl's RIAA EQ to unpack the digital signal, I do not need a phono stage in the loop. This is an important point—the idea that RIAA Equalization is best handled in the digital domain is something that Rob Robinson believes in wholeheartedly.

The physical connections are a snap, and the software side of the Impact Twin is also fairly basic and Channel D provides an instructional PDF to assist in this setup. If you've ever used a USB DAC, you can easily handle this task.

the TC Electronic Impact Twin is a pretty handy A/D, D/A device for a street price of around $400

I'm going to glaze over I mean gloss over the myriad setup options offered by Pure Vinyl and get to ripping but if you are interested in all that Pure Vinyl (PV) can do, head on over to the Channel D website. I will mention that I used Pure Vinyl's RIAA correction set to the Standard RIAA Curve but there are many more pre-RIAA curves available (over 60) for 78s and mono records and more. I also chose to rip and save to the default 24/192 resolution because it sounds best, to me. Since you can also rip to 16-bit and 44.1kHz, 88.2kHz, or 96kHz, Pure Vinyl allows even those who doubt their ears the ability to rip to an inferior format (smile).

Pick a record, put it on your record player, open Pure Vinyl, click "Record", and once you've selected your preferences (I went with the defaults) and entered the Artist, Album, and Label information, click "Record". If you allow Pure Vinyl to auto-sense the needle drop (Recording Trigger in PV parlance), you just need to drop the needle and recording will start. If you opt for a manual approach click "Record" and drop the needle. If you selected the "Enable Recording Trigger" option, Pure Vinyl will pause recording at the end of side one when you lift the needle and automatically ready the second side of your virtual vinyl while you flip the real thing. Click "Click When Ready to Continue Recording", drop the needle and PV begins recording side 2. When its done, lift the needle and click "Stop Recording". That's it! You've just ripped a record. Simple, no?

There are essentially three options for playing back your virtual vinyl. The simplest is to drag and drop or load the entire .CAF file into PV and just play away. Another option is to create "iTunes Bookmarks" which creates virtual track markers so you can play individual tracks in Pure Music which uses iTunes for music library management. The third option is to "Render" the tracks which creates individual files for each song. Channel D recommends saving rendered tracks in Apple Lossless format and again you have the option of saving to any of multiple bit/sample rates from 16/44.1 to 24/192. Rendering the tracks also applies RIAA compensation (or whatever EQ you specified) to the saved file so you can play it back as a normal music file in any media player whereas the first two options require Pure Vinyl/Pure Music for playback.

Creating HD Digital Masters
What is a Digital Master Copy? This question bears more thought and space than is appropriate here but to my mind a good-sounding record is about as good as analog gets short of the analog master tape. Of course tape to HD digital (PCM or DSD) can sound great too as long as the transfer doesn't muck things up. But a good-sounding record can sound pretty damn good. And if we can digitize this, we have created what is for all intents and purposes a digital master that is, and here's the part that raises all kinds of problems, infinitely reproducible. My rips of The Doors' self-titled first album, The Stooges Funhouse, Robert Pete Williams' outstanding collection from The Legacy of the Blues Vol. 9, Bob Marley's superb-sounding Trench Town from Tuff Gong, and Jimi Hendrix's live version of "Gloria" on 12" 45rpm from Polydor sound pretty freaking amazing as vinyl rips. I would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between playing back the vinyl version and the 24/192 rip blindfolded.

Just for fun, I also converted the master rip of the The Stooges Funhouse to 16/44.1 to see if I could hear a difference. And I could. The CD-"quality" version sounded less open and airy, harsher and more congested and something like cymbals sounded flatter with 16/44.1 as compared to 24/192. The HD version also sounded more like vinyl. Again, you can rip to whatever format you'd like and if your ideas tell you that 16/44.1 is good enough, then good enough is what you'll get!

I actually enjoyed reading how Channel D talks about the importance of higher bit depths and sample rates and suggest you give it read. To paraphrase, "it sounds better!". And if you dare peak at your vinyl rips in a program like Audacity, you'll see plenty of musical information above the 20kHz CD limit (if you ripped to anything above CD-"quality").

More on Pure Vinyl's Features
Pure Vinyl can do a lot more than make an excellent-sounding HD digital copy of your LPs. The associated manual is 47 pages long and includes sections on Editing your rips to remove pops, an adjustable low-cut rumble filter, why you should enable "Sloppy Cueing" (exactly why you think you should), function as a Virtual Line-Level Preamplifier for additional line-level sources (if your attached device can handle it), connect a turntable and let Pure Vinyl handle RIAA in the digital domain, and you can even overlay custom artwork over your virtual vinyl!

A Powerful Tool
One of the most impressive (and fun) features of Pure Vinyl is the interface which makes me miss my records less. While I find the physical act of playing a record to be worth the effort and an enjoyable event in and of itself, Pure Vinyl is obviously a powerful tool for those serious about ripping their vinyl as well as for those interested in leveraging its built-in RIAA and other EQ compensation that occurs in the digital domain. To find an equal phono preamp with 60 or so pre-RIAA curves is no mean feat and its going to cost you a heck of a lot more than Pure Vinyl's 279 smackers.

Considering the task of ripping vinyl occurs in real time, the old maxim—do it once, do it right —applies and with Pure Vinyl you can rest assured you're doing it right.

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COMMENTS
CG's picture

This is a great way to go...  Thanks for the review!

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Cheers

firedog55's picture

I have similar experiences ripping vinyl. My vinyl rips sound "just like" the LPs to me - they sound like the analogue sound we associate with LP.

 

So clearly the problem with most digital playback isn't the digital aspect, but something else: 16/44 (instead of hi-res) or bad recording, bad transfer from tape to digital, or just bad mastering.

I can also confirm from my experience that a properly done digital RIAA curve will sound better than just about any built in curve on phono preamp. And it should: a software applied curve can be perfect and perfectly repeatable, whereas hardware applied one as in most phono preamps by definition won't be.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I don't think we can over-emphasize the importance of the original recording in all of this.

CG's picture

Mr. McGuire: "I just want to say one word to you. Just one word."

Ben Braddock: "Yes, sir."

Mr. McGuire: "Are you listening?"

Ben Braddock: "Yes, I am."

Mr. McGuire: "Filters."

I may be slightly off in the quotes, but it's the thought that counts.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

There's a great future in filters.

Steven Plaskin's picture

Now this looks easy and fun! All I need is the Impact Twin and time. If I had a soft job like CG, I would have digitzed my entire LP collection cheeky

Thanks Michael

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Listening to records & digitizing & enjoying & drinking (optional) &....

My pleasure.

Cheers

CG's picture
Wcwc's picture

Michael,

Are you going to spend time recording all of your LPs or was this more of a proof of concept? You were lent a A/D converter for the review, so are you going to buy one to digitize your records?

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I simply do not have the time but I can see converting more LPs, especially those that have never made it to CD (and there a ton of them). Considering the price of the Impact Twin, its a very tempting proposition so the answer to the unanswered question is a solid...maybe.

paxjen's picture

but it would be nice to have a pristine digital version handy after the inevitable occurence of vinyl scratches and divots.  I miss the old turntable.

I am enjoying your work, Michael.

CG's picture

There's an interesting aspect to that.  The RIAA equalization filter is a low pass filter of a kind, which means that impulse events - like ticks and pops from boogers or scratches in the vinyl - are elongated in time.  If you remove just the samples where the clicks occur in the digital domain, prior to applying RIAA equalization, they will be far less audible.  

It never ends, does it?

deckeda's picture

I knew Rob had selected it as a lower-cost ADC and was looking to reduce the number of variables getting started ripping LPs. No regrets. I leave mine on 24/7, it's reliable and its Sabre DAC is no slouch either. It's got regular line out RCAs by the way.

[Correction: the line outs are 1/4" jacks.]

I bought mine from ProAudioStar in Brooklyn, NY for about $300 more than a year ago via eBay. Checking today I see they now offer it for $260 and yes they are still listed on tc electronics' site as being a legit place to get it. 

Only ripped a couple LPs with Pure Vinyl so far. The automatic track identification that happens as part of the track naming processs you do after the rip can be remarkably accurate --- not just with identifyng the spaces in between songs but also with trimming away the initial needledrop at the start.

johndarko's picture

Hey Michael.  Did you have a phono stage sitting between Rega TT and Impact Twin?  Or was the connection direct?

Also, got any more info on the unbalanced-->balanced adaptors?

Thanks in advance.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Direct from the Rega to the Impact Twin, thus allowing Pure Vinyl to take care of RIAA EQ.

I don't have any more info on the adapters - they were provided by Rob Robinson of Channel D for the reivew. What would you like to know?

deckeda's picture

johndarko, Rob offers PureVinyl customers a $40 discount on custom-made cables. He uses very good, professional microphone cable and puts the loading resistors and (optionally, if needed) capacitors inside.

These adapters ML got are the same idea but without the cabling. They are standard RCA-to-XLR adapters but with the resistor and cap soldered inside.

The type of adapters/cabling you use depends on the ADC's inputs, whether or not you want to retain your turntable's cabling (or if you must retain it) and if you want to retain your phono preamp and so on.

This is some good reading: http://www.channld.com/computeraudio.html and hidden in one of the drop-down links is one where he shows some of the available options: http://store.kagi.com/cgi-bin/store.cgi?storeID=UUJ_LIVE&page=Custom_Cables&action=new

johndarko's picture

.....many thanks for the extra info deckeda.  

tresaino's picture

Hi Michael, thanks for the review and for addressing the topic of digitizing vinyl. I used Pure Vinyl for a couple of years but it crashed several times and the editing part was too complicated for me. Michael Fremer also pointed out how technical and complicated the manual was.. I recently discovered Vinyl Studio software, costs only 30 dollars and is spectacularly easy to use.  I find it much cheaper, and it works much better. 

Greetings from Brussels,

Roberto

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